you are the smartest person ever so.. can you briefly describe the difference between communism and anarchist communism? because every time i read a description of "anarcho-communism" im like... sounds like regular old communism to me. is it just an attempt to distance the movement from the popular misconception of communism as an authoritarian statist's wet dream or are there legitimate differences?
I think the key point of difference is that people who label themselves “communist” (especially when Marxist) typically favor a transitionary period of socialism where the state still exists, being run more democratically by the working class, continuing to help build upon the productive forces, and suppressing reactionary elements that seek to reestablish the dictatorship of capital; anarcho-communists/libertarian socialists/anarchists/etc typically favor abolishing capitalism and the state in one fell swoop, which they argue are codependent institutions that get in the way of direct democracy and rule by the people. Essentially, communists view the state in a functionalist context, with it being a “neutral” apparatus that maintains the status quo and benefits those with power in society (the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie under capitalism, and the population at large under socialism), while anarchists view the state as an oppressive institution in and of itself, with its monopoly of violence and its tendency to produce a ruling class of bureaucrats and coordinators. It’s also worth noting that communists usually also argue that the state under socialism will naturally have a very different and less oppressive quality to it than the state under capitalism has (since it would maintain the status quo relations of a flat democratic economic base), and anarchists usually also argue that coordinating institutions ought to still exist, just in an ultra-democratic fashion where participation is absolutely voluntary. You bring up a good point – communism as traditionally-understood is a post-scarcity stateless socialism, while anarchism as traditionally-understood is, well, a stateless socialism guided by direct democracy and autonomous organization. They’re mainly different in one of those “agree with the endgoal, disagree with the method” kind of ways.
And thanks a ton for the support! You’re very kind, comrade! 😄
big industry, and the limitless expansion of production which it makes possible, bring within the range of feasibility a social order in which so much is produced that every member of society will be in a position to exercise and develop all his powers and faculties in complete freedom.
“The Enduring Solidarity of Whiteness” (the bargain at the foundation of class is between Mr Rich White Man and Mr Poor White Man)
All these attacks on Ta-Nehisi Coates for supporting reparations are poor and problematic. It’s driven by campaign politics, of course, as the whining is coming from Sanders supporters. Yet the attacks are old-school rude, too. Doug Henwood egging on Adolph Reed in a recent discussion is particularly shit. Adolph Reed believes intersectional class struggle serves neoliberalism, which is a garbage claim.* And Cedric Johnson’s “open letter” in Jacobin is shit, too. Coates handled that quite well, I think. The title of his response to the open letter is in my title above. I don’t think I need to be jumping in this debate, but I do think the attacks are on behalf of an old (van)guard from within the left that for some reason believes it can compose class struggle without recognizing that workers are socially different. Black poverty is different than white poverty. We can recognize this in class struggle without straining credulity with a structural insistence that class is primary while race (or sex and gender because patriarchy) is secondary.
*Reed’s worry, when not being an asshole, seems reasonable. He is worried about mystification. Marxism is supposed to be that which demystifies. Reed believes dialectical materialism can demystify race as a social relation. And perhaps it can. I don’t think Coates would disagree. Reed would argue he believes struggle should be focused on material conditions rather than social constructs. Again, I don’t think Coates would disagree.
It’s not about ideas and concepts. It’s about organization and conditions. That’s the basic gist of the Marxist argument against identity politics. We have seen this debate repeatedly play out on tumblr and reddit, with orthodox Marxists supporting something akin to Reed’s claim. Remember Mark Fisher’s attempt to decry identity politics in Jacobin?
In the end, though, I find the claim weak. I don’t believe the Fishers and Reeds in organized class struggle actually are interested in antiracist, feminist Marxism at all. For them, the pejorative phrase “identity politics” is a convenient/efficient means to round up bad subjects within leftist discourse and action and punish them for stepping out of line.
It’s a means to organize from without. In other words, it’s a means for members of elite institutions and for individuals who find themselves leaders to justify a stasis within social organization that, fortunately for them, preserves their statuses while condemning new “liberal” elements within struggle that challenge orthodoxy and hierarchy. I’ve seen this as a problem, particularly with the way black people and women are treated, since the mid90s. So, I’m keen to fight it. Authentic cooperation would permit social difference in class struggle.
David Harvey: reclaiming the city from Kobane to Baltimore
this interview with ROAR, the leading Marxist geographer reflects on
Rojava, Baltimore and urban life as the terrain of contemporary class
struggle.(from May ‘15)
David Harvey is the
Distinguished Professor of Anthropology & Geography at the Graduate
Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He was in Diyarbakir
for a visit to the region and also to participate in a panel at the 1st
Amed Book Fair on his latest book, Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, translated in Turkish by Sel Publishing.
ROAR contributor Sardar Saadi sat down with him for an interview.
Sardar Saadi: Professor Harvey,
welcome to Kurdistan! Thank you so much for accepting our interview
request for ROAR Magazine. It was very difficult to arrange a time for
this interview. You have a very busy schedule. Would you tell our
readers what brought you to Kurdistan? I heard you have been to Kobane
David Harvey: Well, this is my
third visit to this part of Turkey, and I have some strong personal
connections with some of the people teaching at the Architecture Faculty
of Mardin Artuklu University. Mardin is a very beautiful place to
visit, so I found a way to combine pleasure and some work. But I’m also
here because of the general situation in Turkey and particularly also in
Rojava. The Syrian side is fascinating. At the same time, it is pretty
horrific. So I have taken a bit of interest in that lately.
I was trying to get to Kobani, too, but the Turkish government has basically closed the border.
As you know, the governments of
Turkey and the Kurdish region of Iraq have imposed an ongoing embargo on
Rojava. How do you connect this to what is going on in Rojava?
I can only speculate that nobody
wants whatever is happening in Rojava to be given any prominence
internationally, and nobody wants whatever is happening there to
succeed. That would be my guess. It is the most obvious one.
There are so many initiatives
for rebuilding Kobane. The airstrikes and bombings have left the city
almost entirely destroyed. What is your perspective on reconstructing
Kobane, and on the possibilities of creating anti-capitalist
alternatives in the area?
I saw this map with satellite
data of the level of destruction, and clearly Kobane is about 80 percent
destroyed. Reconstruction is essentially going to revolve around
surface buildings and bringing the people back in. This offers a range
of opportunities to think creatively about an alternative urbanization.
One of the big difficulties, I
think, is going to be facing the existing property rights to a degree
that the existing population can re-establish itself. They probably want
to build their property rights in the way things were before, so they
will get back to old-style urbanization, and that is maybe what will
happen — in which case the question will be where the resources will
Still I think the opportunity
exists to explore anti-capitalist alternatives. Whether this opportunity
has been taken, I don’t know. But to the extent that Kurdish thinking
has been influenced by somebody like Murray Bookchin,
I think there is a possibility for the population to explore something
different. I was told there are assembly-based forms of governance in
place in Rojava, but I haven’t seen anything yet. I worry a little bit,
you know, the left sometime has this romanticism. The Zapatistas said
“revolution” and everybody got romantic about what they were doing.
I actually made a comparison between the revolution in Rojava and the Zapatistas. I raised the question if Rojava is becoming like the Chiapas of the Middle East. Do you think there is a similarity between these two struggles?
Not so much of a similarity — in
the sense that the Zapatistas were organized, took control of their
territory and managed to protect it in a particular way and at a
particular time. They were not devastated by war. They did not have many
of the problems that the people of Rojava are facing. But they had a
pre-existing communal structure in place, so there was a form of
governance there already — they didn’t have to implement everything from
scratch. So I think there are a lot of differences.
I think the similarity is the
romance that some people on the left in Europe and North America may
have that, ‘oh well, this is the place, finally!’ And I always say to
them that the place we should be constructing revolutionary socialism is
in the United States, not hoping that something in Chiapas or in
Northern Syria will rescue us from capitalism [laughs]. It’s not going
How do you think the international solidarity movement can be productive in helping Rojava?
There are some basic things, I
would say. No matter what happens there, I think the emancipation of the
Kurdish people — to the extent that there is a level of self-government
— is something worth supporting. I am happy to support it myself. To
the extent that these communities are experimenting with new forms of
governance and they want to experience new forms of urban development, I
think I will be very interested in talking to them. I am glad that
people are thinking about doing something different, and to the extent
that I can help or help mobilize help, I would want to be able do it.
Of course, what we are seeing is
that there are going to be barriers to that. We are going to have to
find ways to circumvent those barriers. For instance, there is an
alternative group of people from Europe and North America who are
actually trying now to re-design urbanization in Gaza…..
It is no accident that the basic ideas of modern imperialism can already be found in the writings of two fathers of German socialism and of modern socialism in general, namely, in the works of Engels and Rodbertus. From the statist outlook of a socialist it seems obvious, because of geographic and commercial necessities, that a state must not let itself be shut off from the sea. The question of access to the sea, which has always directed the Russian policy of conquest in Europe and in Asia and has dominated the behavior of the German and Austrian states regarding Trieste and of the Hungarian state regarding the South Slavs and which has led to the infamous “corridor” theories to which people want to sacrifice the German city of Danzig, does not exist at all for the liberal. He cannot understand how persons may be used as a “corridor,” since he takes the position from the first that persons and peoples should never serve as means but always are ends and because he never regards persons as appurtenances of the land on which they dwell. The free-trader, who advocates complete freedom of movement, cannot understand what sort of advantage it offers to a people if it can send its export goods to the coast over its own state territory. If the old Russia of Czarism had acquired a Norwegian seaport and in addition a corridor across Scandinavia to this seaport, it could not thereby have shortened the distance of the individual parts of the Russian interior from the sea. What the Russian economy feels as disadvantageous is that the Russian production sites are located far from the sea and therefore lack those advantages in the transport system that ease of ocean freight transport assures. But none of that would be changed by acquisition of a Scandinavian seaport; if free trade prevails, it is quite a matter of indifference whether the nearest seaports are administered by Russian or other officials. Imperialism needs seaports because it needs naval stations and because it wants to wage economic wars. It needs them not to use them but to exclude others from them. The nonstatist economy of trade free of the state does not recognize this argumentation.
support communists and leftists that don’t read theory and aren’t at all well-versed! support communists and leftists that don’t understand many terms and need help with terminology! support communists and leftists that avoid discussion and debate because it’s intimidating/stressful for them!
not everyone has the willingness or ability to sit down and properly research and read up on topics that aren’t often well-condensed for a mainstream eye. as long as they have the willingness to defy reactionaries and capitalists, they are your comrades all the same. support them!
Socialism will not and cannot be created by decrees; nor can it be established by any government, however socialistic. Socialism must be created by the masses, by every proletarian. Where the chains of capitalism are forged, there they must be broken. Only that is socialism, and only thus can socialism be created.