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<HTML>
<HEAD>

<TITLE>J.1 Are anarchists involved in social struggles?</TITLE>
</HEAD>
<BODY>

<H1>J.1 Are anarchists involved in social struggles?</H1>
<p>
Yes. Anarchism, above all else, is a movement which aims to not only
analyse the world but also to change it. Therefore anarchists aim to
participate in and encourage social struggle. Social struggle includes
strikes, marches, protests, demonstrations, boycotts, occupations and so
on. Such activities show that the <b><i>"spirit of revolt"</i></b> is alive and well,
that people are thinking and acting for themselves and against what
authorities want them to do. This, in the eyes of anarchists, plays a
key role in helping create the seeds of anarchy within capitalism.
<p>
Anarchists consider socialistic tendencies to develop within society, 
as people see the benefits of co-operation and particularly when mutual 
aid develops within the struggle against authority, oppression and
exploitation. Anarchism, as Kropotkin argues, <i>"originated in everyday
struggles."</i> [<b>Environment and Revolution</b>, p.58] Therefore, anarchists 
do not place anarchy abstractly against capitalism, but see it as a 
tendency within (and against) the system -- a tendency created by struggle
and which can be developed to such a degree that it can <b>replace</b> the 
dominant structures and social relationships with new, more liberatory 
and humane ones. This perspective indicates why anarchists are involved
in social struggles -- they are an expression of this tendency within but
against capitalism which can ultimately replace it. 
<p>
However, there is another reason why anarchists are involved in social 
struggle -- namely the fact that we are part of the oppressed and, 
like other oppressed people, fight for our freedom and to make our
life better in the here and now. It is not in some tomorrow that we
want to see the end of oppression, exploitation and hierarchy. It is
today, in our own life, that the anarchist wants to win our freedom,
or at the very least, to improve our situation, reduce oppression,
domination and exploitation as well as increasing individual liberty. 
We are aware that we often fail to do so, but the very process of 
struggle can help create a more libertarian aspect to society:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Whatever may be the practical results of the struggle for immediate
gains, the greatest value lies in the struggle itself. For thereby
workers [and other oppressed sections of society] learn that the
bosses interests are opposed to theirs and that they cannot improve
their conditions, and much less emancipate themselves, except by
uniting and becoming stronger than the bosses. If they succeed in
getting what they demand, they will be better off: they will earn
more, work fewer hours and will have more time and energy to
reflect on the things that matter to them, and will immediately
make greater demands and have greater needs. If they do not
succeed they will be led to study the reasons of their failure
and recognise the need for closer unity and greater activity
and they will in the end understand that to make victory
secure and definite, it is necessary to destroy capitalism.
The revolutionary cause, the cause of moral elevation and
emancipation of the workers [and other oppressed sections of
society] must benefit by the fact that workers [and other
oppressed people] unite and struggle for their interests."</i>
[Errico Malatesta, <b>Life and Ideas</b>, p. 191]
<p></blockquote>
Therefore, <i>"we as anarchists and workers, must incite and
encourage them [the workers and other oppressed people] to
struggle, and join them in their struggle."</i> [Malatesta, 
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 190] This is for three reasons. Firstly, struggle 
helps generate libertarian ideas and movements which could 
help make existing society more anarchistic and less oppressive.
Secondly, struggle creates people, movements and organisations
which are libertarian in nature and which, potentially, can replace 
capitalism with a more humane society. Thirdly, because anarchists 
are part of the oppressed and so have an interest in taking part in
and showing solidarity with struggles and movements that can improve
our life in the here and now (<i>"an injury to one is an injury to all"</i>).
<p>
As we will see later (in <a href="secJ2.html">section J.2</a>) 
anarchists encourage direct action
within social struggles as well as arguing anarchist ideas and theories.
However, what is important to note here is that social struggle is a sign 
that people are thinking and acting for themselves and working together to
change things. Anarchists agree with Howard Zinn when he points out that:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"civil disobedience. . . is <b>not</b> our problem. Our problem is civil
<b>obedience.</b> Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world
have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have
gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. . .
Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face
of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our
problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty
thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country.
That's our problem."</i> [<b>Failure to Quit</b>, p. 45]
</blockquote><p>
Therefore, social struggle is an important thing for anarchists and we
take part in it as much as we can. Moreover, anarchists do more than 
just take part. We are fighting to get rid of the system that causes the
problems which people fight again. We explain anarchism to those who are
involved in struggle with us and seek to show the relevance of anarchism to 
people's everyday lives through our work in such struggles and the popular
organisations which they create (in addition to trade unions, campaigning 
groups and other bodies). By so doing we try to popularise the ideas and
methods of anarchism, namely solidarity, self-management and direct action.
<p>
Anarchists do not engage in abstract propaganda (become an anarchist, 
wait for the revolution -- if we did that, in Malatesta's words, <i>"that
day would never come."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 195]). We know that our ideas will 
only win a hearing and respect when we can show both their relevance to 
people's lives in the here and now, and show that an anarchist world is 
both possible and desirable. In other words, social struggle is the 
"school" of anarchism, the means by which people become anarchists and 
anarchist ideas are applied in action. Hence the importance of social 
struggle and anarchist participation within it.
<p>
Before discussing issues related to social struggle, it is important to
point out here that anarchists are interested in struggles against all
forms of oppression and do not limit ourselves to purely economic issues. 
The hierarchical and exploitative nature of the capitalist system is only 
part of the story -- other forms of oppression are needed in order to keep 
it going (such as those associated with the state) and have resulted from 
its workings (in addition to those inherited from previous hierarchical 
and class systems). Like the bug in work, domination, exploitation, hierarchy  
and oppression soon spreads and infests our homes, our friendships and our 
communities. They need to be fought everywhere, not just in work.
<p>
Therefore, anarchists are convinced that human life (and the struggle against
oppression) cannot be reduced to mere money and, indeed, the <i>"proclivity
for economic reductionism is now actually obscurantist. It not only shares
in the bourgeois tendency to render material egotism and class interest
the centrepieces of history it also denigrates all attempts to transcend
this image of humanity as a mere economic being. . . by depicting them as
mere 'marginalia' at best, as 'well-intentioned middle-class ideology' at
worse, or sneeringly, as 'diversionary,' 'utopian,' and 'unrealistic.' . . .
Capitalism, to be sure, did not create the 'economy' or 'class interest,' 
but it subverted all human traits - be they speculative thought, love,
community, friendship, art, or self-governance - with the authority of
economic calculation and the rule of quantity. Its 'bottom line' is the
balance sheet's sum and its basic vocabulary consists of simple numbers."</i>
[Murray Bookchin, <b>The Modern Crisis</b>, pp. 125-126]
<p>
In other words, issues such as freedom, justice, individual dignity, quality
of life and so on cannot be reduced to the categories of capitalist economics.
Anarchists think that any radical movement which does so fails to understand
the nature of the system they are fighting against. Indeed, economic
reductionism plays into the hands of capitalist ideology. So, when anarchists
take part in and encourage social struggle they do not aim to restrict or
reduce them to economic issues (however important these are). The anarchist
knows that the individual has more interests than just money and we consider
it essential to take into account the needs of the emotions, mind and spirit
just as much as those of the belly. Hence Bookchin:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The class struggle does not centre around material exploitation alone
but also around spiritual exploitation. In addition, entirely new issues
emerge: coercive attitudes, the quality of work, ecology (or stated
in more general terms, psychological and environmental oppression). . .
Terms like 'classes' and 'class struggle,' conceived of almost entirely
as economic categories and relations, are too one-sided to express the
<b>universalisation</b> of the struggle. . . the target is still a ruling
class and a class society . . . but this terminology, with its
traditional connotations, does not reflect the sweep and the
multi-dimensional nature of the struggle . . . [and] fail to 
encompass the cultural and spiritual revolt that is taking place
along with the economic struggle." 
<p>
[. . . ]
<p>
"Exploitation, class rule and happiness, are the <b>particular</b> within the 
more <b>generalised</b> concepts of domination, hierarchy and pleasure."</i> 
[<b>Post-Scarcity Anarchism</b>, pp.229-30 and p. 243]
</blockquote><p>
As the anarchist character created by the science-fiction writer Ursula
Le Guin (who is an anarchist) points out, capitalists <i>"think if people have
enough things they will be content to live in prison."</i> [<b>The Dispossessed</b>,
p. 120] Anarchists disagree, and the experience of social revolt in the
"affluent" 1960s proves their case. 
<p>
This is unsurprising for, ultimately, the <i>"antagonism [between classes] is 
spiritual rather than material. There will never be a sincere understanding 
between bosses and workers. . . because the bosses above all want to remain
bosses and secure always more power at the expense of the workers, as well 
as by competition with other bosses, whereas the workers have had their fill
of bosses and don't want any more."</i> [Errico Malatesta, <b>Life and Ideas</b>,
p. 79]
<p>
<a name="secj11"><h2>J.1.1 Why are social struggles important?</h2>
<p>
Social struggle is an expression of the class struggle, namely the struggle 
of working class people <b>against</b> their exploitation, oppression and
alienation and <b>for</b> their liberty from capitalist and state authority.
It is what happens when one group of people have hierarchical power over
another. Where there is oppression, there is resistance and where there
is resistance to authority you will see anarchy in action. For this reason
anarchists are in favour of, and are involved within, social struggles.
Ultimately they are a sign of individuals asserting their autonomy and
disgust at an unfair system.
<p>
When it boils down to it, our actual freedom is not determined by the law
or by courts, but by the power the cop has over us in the street; the
judge behind him; by the authority of our boss if we are working; by the
power of teachers and heads of schools and universities if we are students; 
by the welfare bureaucracy if we are unemployed or poor; by landlords if we 
are tenants; by prison guards if we are in jail; by medical professionals if
we are in a hospital. These realities of wealth and power will remain unshaken
unless counter-forces appear on the very ground our liberty is restricted 
- on the street, in workplaces, at home, at school, in hospitals and so
on.
<p>
Therefore social struggles for improvements are important indications of
the spirit of revolt and of people supporting each other in the continual
assertion of their (and our) freedom. They show people standing up for
what they consider right and just, building alternative organisations,
creating their own solutions to their problems - and are a slap in the
face of all the paternal authorities which dare govern us. Hence their
importance to anarchists and all people interested in extending freedom.
<p>
In addition, social struggle helps break people from their hierarchical
conditioning. Anarchists view people not as fixed objects to be classified
and labelled, but as human beings engaged in making their own lives. They
live, love, think, feel, hope, dream, and can change themselves, their
environment and social relationships. Social struggle is the way this
is done collectively.
<p>
Struggle promotes attributes within people which are crushed by hierarchy 
(attributes such as imagination, organisational skills, self-assertion,
self-management, critical thought, self-confidence and so on) as people
come up against practical problems in their struggles and have to solve
them themselves. This builds self-confidence and an awareness of
individual and collective power. By seeing that their boss, the state
and so on are against them they begin to realise that they live in a
class ridden, hierarchical society that depends upon their submission
to work. As such, social struggle is a politicising experience.
<p>
Struggle allows those involved to develop their abilities for self-rule
through practice and so begins the process by which individuals assert
their ability to control their own lives and to participate in social 
life directly. These are all key elements of anarchism and are required 
for an anarchist society to work (<i>"Self-management of the struggle comes 
first, then comes self-management of work and society,"</i> in the words of 
Alfredo Bonnano [<i>"Self-Management"</i>, <b>Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed</b>, 
no. 48, Fall-Winter 1999-2000, p. 35-37, p. 35]). So self-activity is a 
key factor in self-liberation, self-education and the creating of 
anarchists. In a nutshell, people learn in struggle.
<p>
A confident working class is an essential factor in making successful
and libertarian improvements within the current system and, ultimately, 
in making a revolution. Without that self-confidence people tend to just
follow "leaders" and we end up changing rulers rather than changing
society.
<p>
Part of our job as anarchists is to encourage people to fight for
whatever small reforms are possible at present, to improve our/their
conditions, to give people confidence in their ability to start taking
control of their lives, and to point out that there is a limit to whatever
(sometimes temporary) gains capitalism will or can concede. Hence the 
need for a revolutionary change.
<p>
Until anarchist ideas are the dominant/most popular ones, other ideas will
be the majority ones. If we think a movement is, all things considered, a
positive or progressive one then we should not abstain but should seek to
popularise anarchist ideas and strategies within it. In this way we create
<i><b>"schools of anarchy"</b></i> 
within the current system and lay the foundations of
something better. Revolutionary tendencies and movements, in other words, 
must create the organisations that contain, in embryo, the society of
the future. These organisations, in turn, further the progress of radical
change by providing social spaces for the transformation of individuals
(via the use of direct action, practising self-management and solidarity,
and so on). Therefore, social struggle aids the creation of a free society
by accustoming the marginalised to govern themselves within self-managed
organisations and empowering the (officially) disempowered via the use
of direct action and mutual aid.
<p>
Hence the importance of social (or class) struggle for anarchists (which,
we may add, goes on all the time and is a two-sided affair). Social struggle
is the means of breaking the normality of capitalist and statist life, a
means of developing the awareness for social change and the means of
making life better under the current system. The moment that people refuse 
to bow to authority, its days are numbered. Social struggle indicates that
some of the oppressed see that by using their power of disobedience they
can challenge, perhaps eventually end, hierarchical power.
<p>
Ultimately, anarchy is not just something you believe in, it is not a cool 
label you affix to yourself, it is something you do. You participate. If you 
stop doing it, anarchy crumbles. Social struggle is the means by which we 
ensure that anarchy becomes stronger and grows.
<p>
<a name="secj12"><h2>J.1.2 Are anarchists against reforms?</h2>
<p>
No, we are not. While most anarchists are against reformism (namely the
notion that we can somehow reform capitalism and the state away) they 
are most definitely in favour of reforms (i.e. improvements in the here 
and now).
<p>
The claim that anarchists are against reforms and improvements in the here
and now are often put forth by opponents of anarchism in an effort to paint 
us as extremists. Anarchists are radicals; as such, they seek the root causes
of societal problems. Reformists seek to ameliorate the symptoms of societal
problems, while anarchists focus on the causes.
<p>
In the words of the revolutionary syndicalist Emile Pouget (who is 
referring to revolutionary/libertarian unions but whose words can be 
generalised to all social movements):
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Trade union endeavour has a double aim: with tireless persistence, it
must pursue betterment of the working class's current conditions. But,
without letting themselves become obsessed with this passing concern,
the workers should take care to make possible and imminent the 
essential act of comprehensive emancipation: the expropriation of
capital.
<p>
"At present, trade union action is designed to won partial and gradual
improvements which, far from constituting a goal, can only be considered
as a means of stepping up demands and wresting further improvements
from capitalism. . .
<p>
"This question of partial improvements served as the pretext for attempts
to sow discord in the trades associations. Politicians . . . have tried
to . . . stir up ill-feeling and to split the unions into two camps,
by categorising workers as reformists and as revolutionaries. The 
better to discredit the latter, they have dubbed them 'the advocates
of all or nothing' and the have falsely represented them as supposed
adversaries of improvements achievable right now.
<p>
"The most that can be said about this nonsense is that it is witless.
There is not a worker . . . who, on grounds of principle or for
reasons of tactics, would insist upon working tend hours for an
employer instead of eight hours, while earning six francs instead
of seven. . .
<p>
"What appears to afford some credence to such chicanery is the
fact that the unions, cured by the cruel lessons of experience
from all hope in government intervention, are justifiably 
mistrustful of it. They know that the State, whose function is
to act as capital's gendarme, is, by its very nature, inclined
to tip the scales in favour of the employer side. So, whenever
a reform is brought about by legal avenues, they do not fall
upon it with the relish of a frog devouring the red rag that 
conceals the hook, they greet it with all due caution, especially
as this reform is made effective only of the workers are
organised to insist forcefully upon its implementation.
<p>
"The trade unions are even more wary of gifts from the government
because they have often found these to be poison gifts. . .
<p>
"But, given that the trade unions look askance at the government's
benevolence towards them, it follows that they are loath to go
after partial improvements. Wanting real improvements . . . instead
of waiting until the government is generous enough to bestow them,
they wrest them in open battle, through direct action.
<p>
"If, as sometimes is the case, the improvement they seek is subject
to the law, the trade unions strive to obtain it through outside 
pressure brought to bear upon the authorities and not by trying
to return specially mandated deputies to Parliament, a puerile
pursuit that might drag on for centuries before there was a
majority in favour of the yearned-for reform.
<p>
"When the desired improvement is to be wrestled directly from the
capitalist, the trades associations resort to vigorous pressure
to convey their wishes. Their methods may well vary, although the
direct action principle underlies them all. . . 
<p>
"But, whatever the improvement won, it must always represent a
reduction in capitalist privileges and be a partial expropriation.
So . . . the fine distinction between 'reformist' and 'revolutionary'
evaporates and one is led to the conclusion that the only really
reformist workers are the revolutionary syndicalists."</i> [<b>No Gods,
No Masters</b>, pp. 71-3]
</blockquote><p>
By seeking improvements from below by direct action, solidarity and the 
organisation of those who directly suffer the injustice, anarchists can 
make reforms more substantial, effective and long lasting than "reforms" 
made from above by reformists. By recognising that the effectiveness of 
a reform is dependent on the power of the oppressed to resist those who 
would dominate them, anarchists seek change from the bottom-up and so make
reforms real rather than just words gathering dust in the law books. 
<p>
For example, a reformist sees poverty and looks at ways to lessen the
destructive and debilitating effects of it: this produced things like the
minimum wage, affirmative action, and the projects in the USA and similar
reforms in other countries. An anarchist looks at poverty and says, "what 
causes this?" and attacks that source of poverty, rather than the symptoms. 
While reformists may succeed in the short run with their institutional
panaceas, the festering problems remain untreated, dooming reform to
eventual costly, inevitable failure -- measured in human lives, no less. 
Like a quack that treats the symptoms of a disease without getting rid of 
what causes it, all the reformist can promise is short-term improvements 
for a condition that never goes away and may ultimately kill the sufferer.
The anarchist, like a real doctor, investigates the causes of the illness
and treats them while fighting the symptoms.
<p>
Therefore, anarchists are of the opinion that <i>"[w]hile preaching against
every kind of government, and demanding complete freedom, we must support 
all struggles for partial freedom, because we are convinced that one learns 
through struggle, and that once one begins to enjoy a little freedom one
ends by wanting it all. We must always be with the people . . . [and] get
them to understand . . . [what] they may demand should be obtained
by their own efforts and that they should despise and detest whoever is
part of, or aspires to, government."</i> [Errico Malatesta, <b>Life and Ideas</b>
p. 195]
<p>
Anarchists keep the spotlight on the actual problems, which of course
alienates them from their "distinguished" reformists foes. Reformists are
uniformly "reasonable" and always make use of "experts" who will make
everything okay - and they are always wrong in how they deal with a problem.
<p>
The recent "health care crisis" in the United States is a prime example of
reformism at work.
<p>
The reformist says, <i>"how can we make health care more affordable to people? 
How can we keep those insurance rates down to levels people can pay?"</i>
<p>
The anarchist says, <i>"should health care be considered a privilege or
a right? Is medical care just another marketable commodity, or do living
beings have an inalienable right to it?"</i>
<p>
Notice the difference? The reformist has no problem with people paying for
medical care -- business is business, right? The anarchist, on the other hand,
has a big problem with that attitude -- we are talking about human lives, 
here! For now, the reformists have won with their "managed care" reformism, 
which ensures that the insurance companies and medical industry continue to 
rake in record profits -- at the expense of people's lives. And, in the end,
the proposed reforms were defeated by the power of big business -- without
a social movement with radical aims such a result was a forgone conclusion.
<p>
Reformists get acutely uncomfortable when you talk about genuinely bringing
change to any system -- they don't see anything wrong with the system itself,
only with a few pesky side effects. In this sense, they are stewards of the
Establishment, and are agents of reaction, despite their altruistic
overtures. By failing to attack the sources of problems, and by hindering
those who do, they ensure that the problems at hand will only grow over
time, and not diminish.
<p>
So, anarchists are not opposed to struggles for reforms and improvements
in the here and now. Indeed, few anarchists think that an anarchist society 
will occur without a long period of anarchist activity encouraging and
working within social struggle against injustice. Thus Malatesta's words:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"the subject is not whether we accomplish Anarchism today, tomorrow or
within ten centuries, but that we walk towards Anarchism today, tomorrow
and always."</i> [<i>"Towards Anarchism,"</i>, <b>Man!</b>, M. Graham (Ed.), p. 75]
</blockquote><p>
So, when fighting for improvements anarchists do so in an anarchist way,
one that encourages self-management, direct action and the creation of
libertarian solutions and alternatives to both capitalism and the state.
<p>
<a name="secj13"><h2>J.1.3 Why are anarchists against reformism?</h2>
<p>
Firstly, it must be pointed out that the struggle for reforms within
capitalism is <b>not</b> the same as reformism. Reformism is the idea
that reforms within capitalism are enough in themselves and attempts 
to change the system are impossible (and not desirable). As such all 
anarchists are against this form of reformism -- we think that the 
system can be (and should be) changed and until that happens any
reforms will not get to the root of social problems.
<p>
In addition, particularly in the old social democratic labour movement,
reformism also meant the belief that social reforms could be used to
<b>transform</b> capitalism into socialism. In this sense, only the Individualist
anarchists and Mutualists can be considered reformist as they think
their system of mutual banking can reform capitalism into a co-operative
system. However, in contrast to Social Democracy, such anarchists
think that such reforms cannot come about via government action, but
only by people creating their own alternatives and solutions by their
own actions.
<p>
So, anarchists oppose reformism because it takes the steam out of revolutionary
movements by providing easy, decidedly short-term "solutions" to deep social
problems. In this way, reformists can present the public with they've done
and say "look, all is better now. The system worked." Trouble is that over
time, the problems will only continue to grow, because the reforms did not
tackle them in the first place. To use Alexander Berkman's excellent
analogy:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"If you should carry out [the reformers] ideas in your personal
life, you would not have a rotten tooth that aches pulled out all
at once. You would have it pulled out a little to-day, some more
next week, for several months or years, and by then you would
be ready to pull it out altogether, so it should not hurt so much.
That is the logic of the reformer. Don't be 'too hasty,' don't
pull a bad tooth out all at once."</i> [<b>What is Communist Anarchism?</b>, 
p. 53]
</blockquote><p>
Rather than seek to change the root cause of the problems (namely in 
a hierarchical, oppressive and exploitative system), reformists try 
to make the symptoms better. In the words of Berkman again:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Suppose a pipe burst in your house. You can put a bucket under the
break to catch the escaping water. You can keep on putting buckets
there, but as long as you do not mean the broken pipe, the leakage
will continue, no matter how much you may swear about it . . . the
leakage will continue until you repair the broken social pipe."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 56]
</blockquote><p>
What reformism fails to do is fix the underlying causes of the real
problems society faces. Therefore, reformists try to pass laws which
reduce the level of pollution rather than work to end a system in
which it makes economic sense to pollute. Or they pass laws to improve
working conditions and safety while failing to get rid of the wage
slavery which creates the bosses whose interests are served by them 
ignoring those laws and regulations. The list is endless. Ultimately,
reformism fails because reformists <i>"believe in good faith that it is
possible to eliminate the existing social evils by recognising and
respecting, in practice if not in theory, the basic political and 
economic institutions which are the cause of, as well as the prop
that supports these evils."</i> [Errico Malatesta, <b>Life and Ideas</b>, 
p. 82] 
<p>
Reformists, in other words, are like people who think that
treating the symptoms of, say, cholera is enough in and of itself.
In practice, of course, the causes that create the disease as well
as the disease itself must be combated before the symptoms will
disappear. While most people would recognise the truth of this in 
the case of medicine, fewer apply it to social problems. 
<p>
Revolutionaries, in contrast to reformists, fight both symptoms <b>and</b> 
the root causes. They recognise that as long as the cause of the evil
remains, any attempts to fight the symptoms, however necessary, will
never get to the root of the problem. There is no doubt that we have
to fight the symptoms, however revolutionaries recognise that this
struggle is not an end in itself and should be considered purely as
a means of increasing working class strength and social power within 
society until such time as capitalism and the state (i.e. the root
causes of most problems) can be abolished.
<p>
Reformists also tend to objectify the people whom they are "helping;" they 
envision them as helpless, formless masses who need the wisdom and guidance 
of the "best and the brightest" to lead them to the Promised Land. Reformists
mean well, but this is altruism borne of ignorance, which is destructive over
the long run. Freedom cannot be given and so any attempt to impose reforms
from above cannot help but ensure that people are treated as children,
incapable of making their own decisions and, ultimately, dependent on 
bureaucrats to govern them. This can be seen from public housing. As Colin Ward argues, the <i>"whole tragedy of
publicly provided non-profit housing for rent and the evolution of this
form of tenure in Britain is that the local authorities have simply taken
over, though less flexibly, the role of the landlord, together with all
the dependency and resentment that it engenders."</i> [<b>Housing: An Anarchist
Approach</b>, p. 184] This feature of reformism was skilfully used by the 
right-wing to undermine publicly supported housing and other aspects of 
the welfare state. The reformist social-democrats reaped what they had
sown.
<p>
Reformism often amounts to little more than an altruistic contempt for 
the masses, who are considered as little more than victims who need to
be provided for by state. The idea that we may have our own visions of
what we want is ignored and replaced by the vision of the reformists
who enact legislation <b>for</b> us and make "reforms" from the top-down.
Little wonder such reforms can be counter-productive -- they cannot
grasp the complexity of life and the needs of those subject to them.
<p>
Reformists may mean well, but they do not grasp the larger picture -- by 
focusing exclusively on narrow aspects of a problem, they choose to believe 
that is the whole problem. In this wilfully narrow examination of pressing 
social ills, reformists are, more often than not, counter-productive. The 
disaster of the urban rebuilding projects in the United States (and similar 
projects in Britain which moved inter-city working class communities into 
edge of town developments during the 1950s and 1960s) are an example of 
reformism at work: upset at the growing slums, reformists supported 
projects that destroyed the ghettos and built brand-new housing for 
working class people to live in. They looked nice (initially), but 
they did nothing to address the problem of poverty and indeed created 
more problems by breaking up communities and neighbourhoods.
<p>
Logically, it makes no sense. Why dance around a problem when you can 
attack it directly? Reformists dilute social movements, softening and
weakening them over time. The AFL-CIO labour unions in the USA, like the
ones in Western Europe, killed the labour movement by narrowing and 
channelling labour activity and taking the power from the workers 
themselves, where it belongs, and placing it the hands of a bureaucracy. 
The British Labour Party, after over 100 years of reformist practice, 
has done little more than manage capitalism, seen most of its reforms
eliminated by right-wing governments (and by the following Labour 
government!) and the creation of a leadership of the party (in the 
shape of Tony Blair) which is in most ways as right-wing as the 
Conservative Party (if not more so). Bakunin would not have been 
surprised.
<p>
Reformists say, <i>"don't do anything, we'll do it for you."</i> You can see 
why anarchists would loathe this sentiment; anarchists are the consummate
do-it-yourselfers, and there's nothing reformists hate more than people 
who can take care of themselves, who will not let them "help" them.
<p>
Also, it is funny to hear left-wing "revolutionaries" and "radicals" put
forward the reformist line that the capitalist state can help working people
(indeed be used to abolish itself!). Despite the fact that leftists blame 
the state and capitalism for most of the problems we face, they usually
turn to the state (run primarily by rich - i.e. capitalist - people) to
remedy the situation, not by leaving people alone, but by becoming more
involved in people's lives. They support government housing, government
jobs, welfare, government-funded and regulated child care, government-funded
drug "treatment," and other government-centred programmes and activities. If
a capitalist (and racist/sexist/authoritarian) government is the problem, 
how can it be depended upon to change things to the benefit of working class
people or other oppressed sections of the population like blacks and women? 
Surely any reforms passed by the state will not solve the problem? As
Malatesta pointed out, <i>"[g]overnments and the privileged classes are
naturally always guided by instincts of self-preservation, of 
consolidation and the development of their powers and privileges;
and when they consent to reforms it is either because they consider
that they will serve their ends or because they do not feel strong
enough to resist, and give in, fearing what might otherwise be a
worse alternative"</i> (i.e. revolution) [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 81] Therefore,
reforms gained by direct action are of a different quality and
nature than reforms passed by reformist politicians -- these latter
will only serve the interests of the ruling class as they do not
threaten their privileges while the former have the potential of
real change.
<p>
Instead of encouraging working class people to organise themselves and
create their own alternatives and solutions to their problem (which can
supplement, and ultimately replace, whatever welfare state activity which 
is actually useful), reformists and other radicals urge people to get the 
state to act for them. However, the state is not the community and so
whatever the state does for people you can be sure it will be in <b>its</b>
interests, not theirs. As Kropotkin put it:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"We maintain that the State organisation, having been the force to
which the minorities resorted for establishing and organising their
power over the masses, cannot be the force which will serve to 
destroy these privileges . . . the economic and political liberation
of man will have to create new forms for its expression in life,
instead of those established by the State.
<p>
"Consequently, the chief aim of Anarchism is to awaken those
constructive powers of the labouring masses of the people which
at all great moments of history came forward to accomplish the
necessary changes . . .
<p>
"This is also why the Anarchists refuse to accept the functions of
legislators or servants of the State. We know that the social
revolution will not be accomplished by means of <b>laws.</b> Laws only
<b>follow</b> the accomplished facts . . . [and] remains a dead letter
so long as there are not on the spot the living forced required
for making of the <b>tendencies</b> expressed in the law an accomplished
<b>fact.</b>
<p>
"On the other hand . . . the Anarchists have always advised taking
an active part in those workers' organisations which carry on
the <b>direct</b> struggle of Labour against Capital and its protector,
-- the State.
<p>
"Such a struggle . . . better than any other indirect means, permits
the worker to obtain some temporary improvements in the present
conditions of work [and life in general], while it opens his [or
her] eyes to the evil that is done by Capitalism and the State
that supports it, and wakes up his thoughts concerning the
possibility of organising consumption, production, and exchange
without the intervention of the capitalist and the State."</i> 
[<b>Environment and Evolution</b>, pp.82-3]
</blockquote><p>
Therefore, while seeking reforms, anarchists are against reformism
and reformists. Reforms are not an end in themselves but rather a
means of changing society from the bottom-up and a step in that
direction:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Each step towards economic freedom, each victory won over capitalism will
be at the same time a step towards political liberty -- towards liberation
from the yoke of the state. . . And each step towards taking from the
State any one of its powers and attributes will be helping the masses to
win a victory over capitalism."</i> [Kropotkin, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 95]
</blockquote><p>
However, no matter what, anarchists <i>"will never recognise the institutions;
we will take or win all possible reforms with the same spirit that one
tears occupied territory from the enemy's grasp in order to keep advancing,
and we will always remain enemies of every government."</i> Therefore, <i>"[i]t 
is not true to say . . . [that anarchists] are systematically opposed to 
improvements, to reforms. They oppose the reformists on the one hand because 
their methods are less effective for securing reforms from government and 
employers, who only give in through fear, and because very often the 
reforms they prefer are those which not only bring doubtful immediate 
benefits, but also serve to consolidate the existing regime and to give 
the workers a vested interest in its continued existence."</i> [<b>Life and Ideas</b>, 
p. 81 and p. 83]
<p>
Only by working class people, by their own actions and organisation, getting 
the state and capital out of the way can produce an improvement in their 
lives, indeed it is the only thing that will lead to <b>real</b> fundamental 
changes for the better. Encouraging people to rely on themselves instead 
of the state or capital can lead to self-sufficient, independent, and, 
hopefully, more rebellious people -- people who will rebel against the 
real evils in society (capitalist and statist exploitation and oppression, 
racism, sexism, ecological destruction, and so on) and not their neighbours.
<p>
Working class people, despite having fewer options in a number of areas in 
their lives, due both to hierarchy and restrictive laws, still are capable 
of making choices about their actions, organising their own lives and are 
responsible for the consequences of their decisions, just as other people 
are. To think otherwise is to infantilise them, to consider them less fully 
human than other people and reproduce the classic capitalist vision of
working class people as means of production, to be used, abused, and
discarded as required. Such thinking lays the basis for paternalistic
interventions in their lives by the state, ensuring their continued 
dependence and poverty and the continued existence of capitalism 
and the state.
<p>
Ultimately, there are two options:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The oppressed either ask for and welcome improvements as a benefit
graciously conceded, recognise the legitimacy of the power which is over
them, and so do more harm than good by helping to slow down, or divert . . .
the processes of emancipation. Or instead they demand and impose improvements
by their action, and welcome them as partial victories over the class
enemy, using them as a spur to greater achievements, and thus a valid
help and a preparation to the total overthrow of privilege, that is,
for the revolution."</i> [Errico Malatesta, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 81]
</blockquote><p>
Reformism encourages the first attitude within people and so ensures the
impoverishment of the human spirit. Anarchism encourages the second
attitude and so ensures the enrichment of humanity and the possibility
of meaningful change. Why think that ordinary people cannot arrange
their lives for themselves as well as Government people can arrange it
not for themselves but for others?
<p>
<a name="secj14"><h2>J.1.4 What attitude do anarchists take to <i>"single-issue"</i> campaigns?</h2>
<p>
Firstly, we must note that anarchists do take part in <i>"single-issue"</i>
campaigns, but do not nourish false hopes in them. This section
explains what anarchists think of such campaigns.
<p>
A "single-issue" campaign are usually run by a pressure group which
concentrates on tackling issues one at a time. For example, C.N.D.
(The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) is a classic example of
"single-issue" campaigning with the aim of getting rid of nuclear
weapons as the be all and end all of its activity. For anarchists,
however, single-issue campaigning can be seen as a source of false
hopes. The possibilities of changing one aspect of a totally
inter-related system and the belief that pressure groups can
compete fairly with transnational corporations, the military and
so forth, in their influence over decision making bodies can both
be seen to be optimistic at best.
<p>
In addition, many "single-issue" campaigns desire to be "apolitical",
concentrating purely on the one issue which unites the campaign and
so refuse to analyse or discuss the system they are trying to change.
This means that they end up accepting the system which causes the
problems they are fighting against. At best, any changes
achieved by the campaign must be acceptable to the establishment
or be so watered down in content that no practical long-term good
is done.
<p>
This can be seen from the green movement, where groups like
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth accept the status quo as a given
and limit themselves to working within it. This often leads to them
tailoring their "solutions" to be "practical" within a fundamentally
anti-ecological political and economic system, so slowing down (at
best) ecological disruption.
<p>
For anarchists these problems all stem from the fact that social
problems cannot be solved as single issues. As Larry Law argues:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"single issue politics . . . deals with the issue or problem in
isolation. When one problem is separated from all other problems,
a solution really is impossible. The more campaigning on an issue
there is, the narrower its perspectives become . . . As the perspective
of each issue narrows, the contradictions turn into absurdities . . .
What single issue politics does is attend to 'symptoms' but does
not attack the 'disease' itself. It presents such issues as nuclear
war, racial and sexual discrimination, poverty, starvation, pornography,
etc., as if they were aberrations or faults in the system. In reality
such problems are the inevitable consequence of a social order based
on exploitation and hierarchical power . . . single issue campaigns
lay their appeal for relief at the feet of the very system which
oppresses them. By petitioning they acknowledge the right of those
in power to exercise that power as they choose."</i> [<b>Bigger Cages, Longer
Chains</b>, pp. 17-20].
</blockquote><p>
Single issue politics often prolong the struggle for a free society
by fostering illusions that it is just parts of the capitalist system
which are wrong, not the whole of it, and that those at the top of
the system can, and will, act in our interests. While such campaigns
can do some good, practical, work and increase knowledge and education
about social problems, they are limited by their very nature and can
not lead to extensive improvements in the here and now, never mind a
free society.
<p>
Therefore, anarchists often support and work within single-issue
campaigns, trying to get them to use effective methods of activity
(such as direct action), work in an anarchistic manner (i.e. from
the bottom up) and to try to "politicise" them into questioning
the whole of the system. However, anarchists do not let themselves
be limited to such activity as a social revolution or movement is
not a group of single-issue campaigns but a mass movement which
understands the inter-related nature of social problems and so the
need to change every aspect of life.
<p>
<a name="secj15"><h2>J.1.5 Why do anarchists try to generalise social 
struggles?</h2>
<p>
Basically, we do it in order to encourage and promote solidarity. This
is <b>the</b> key to winning struggles in the here and now as well as creating 
the class consciousness necessary to create an anarchist society. At its
most simple, generalising different struggles means increasing the chances 
of winning them. Take, for example, a strike in which one trade or one
workplace goes on strike while the others continue to work:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Consider yourself how foolish and inefficient is the present form of labour
organisation in which one trade or craft may be on strike while the other
branches of the same industry continue to work. Is it not ridiculous that
when the street car workers of New York, for instance, quit work, the
employees of the subway, the cab and omnibus drivers remain on the job? . . .
It is clear, then, that you compel compliance [from your bosses] only when
you are determined, when your union is strong, when you are well organised,
when you are united in such a manner that the boss cannot run his factory
against your will. But the employer is usually some big . . . company that
has mills or mines in various places. . . If it cannot operate . . . in
Pennsylvania because of a strike, it will try to make good its losses by
continuing . . . and increasing production [elsewhere]. . . In that way
the company . . . breaks the strike."</i> [Alexander Berkman, <b>The ABC of
Anarchism</b>, pp. 53-54]
</blockquote><p>
By organising all workers in one union (after all they all have the same
boss) it increases the power of each trade considerably. It may be easy
for a boss to replace a few workers, but a whole workplace would be far
more difficult. By organising all workers in the same industry, the
power of each workplace is correspondingly increased. Extending this
example to outside the workplace, its clear that by mutual support between
different groups increases the chances of each group winning its fight.
<p>
As the I.W.W. put it, <i><b>"An injury to one is an injury to all."</b></i> 
By generalising
struggles, by practising mutual support and aid we can ensure that when
we are fighting for our rights and against injustice we will not be
isolated and alone. If we don't support each other, groups will be picked
off one by one and if we are go into conflict with the system there will
be on-one there to support us and we may lose.
<p>
Therefore, from an anarchist point of view, the best thing about generalising
different struggles together is that it leads to an increased spirit of
solidarity and responsibility as well as increased class consciousness.
This is because by working together and showing solidarity those involved
get to understand their common interests and that the struggle is not
against <b>this</b> injustice or <b>that</b> boss but against <b>all</b> injustice and
<b>all</b> bosses.
<p>
This sense of increased social awareness and solidarity can be seen from the
experience of the C.N.T in Spain during the 1930s. The C.N.T. organised all 
workers in a given area into one big union. Each workplace was a union branch
and were joined together in a local area confederation. The result was that:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The territorial basis of organisation linkage [of the C.N.T. unions] brought
all the workers form one area together and fomented working class solidarity
over and before corporative [i.e. industrial] solidarity."</i> [J. Romero Maura, 
<i>"The Spanish Case"</i>, in <b>Anarchism Today</b>, D. Apter and J. Joll (eds.), p. 75]
</blockquote><p>
This can also be seen from the experiences of the syndicalist unions in Italy
and France as well. The structure of such local federations also situates
the workplace in the community where it really belongs (particularly if
the commune concept supported by social anarchists is to be realistic).
<p>
Also, by uniting struggles together, we can see that there are really no
"single issues" - that all various different problems are inter-linked. For 
example, ecological problems are not just that, but have a political and
economic basis and that economic and social domination and exploitation 
spills into the environment. Inter-linking struggles means that they can 
be seen to be related to other struggles against capitalist exploitation 
and oppression and so encourage solidarity and mutual aid. What goes on in 
the environment, for instance, is directly related to questions of domination
and inequality within human society, that pollution is often directly
related to companies cutting corners to survive in the market or increase
profits. Similarly, struggles against sexism or racism can be seen as
part of a wider struggle against hierarchy, exploitation and oppression in 
all their forms. As such, uniting struggles has an important educational
effect above and beyond the benefits in terms of winning struggles.
<p>
Murray Bookchin presents a concrete example of this process of linking
issues and widening the struggle:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Assume there is a struggle by welfare mothers to increase their
allotments . . . Without losing sight of the concrete issues that
initially motivated the struggle, revolutionaries would try to
catalyse an order of relationships between the mothers entirely
different from [existing ones] . . . They would try to foster a
deep sense of community, a rounded human relationship that would
transform the very subjectivity of the people involved . . . Personal
relationships would be intimate, not merely issue-orientated.
People would get to <b>know</b> each other, to <b>confront</b> each other;
they would <b>explore</b> each other with a view of achieving the
most complete, unalienated relationships. Women would discuss
sexism, as well as their welfare allotments, child-rearing as
well as harassment by landlords, their dreams and hopes as
human beings as well as the cost of living.
<p>
"From this intimacy there would grow, hopefully, a supportive
system of kinship, mutual aid, sympathy and solidarity in
daily life. The women might collaborate to establish a rotating
system of baby sitters and child-care attendants, the co-operative
buying of good food at greatly reduced prices, the common cooking
and partaking of meals, the mutual learning of survival skills
and the new social ideas, the fostering of creative talents, 
and many other shared experiences. Every aspect of life that 
could be explored and changed would be one part of the kind 
of relationships . . .
<p>
"The struggle for increased allotments would expand beyond the
welfare system to the schools, the hospitals, the police, the
physical, cultural, aesthetic and recreational resources of the
neighbourhood, the stores, the houses, the doctors and lawyers
in the area, and so on - into the very ecology of the district.
<p>
"What I have said on this issue could be applied to every issue --
unemployment, bad housing, racism, work conditions -- in which an
insidious assimilation of bourgeois modes of functioning is
masked as 'realism' and 'actuality.' The new order of relationships
that could be developed from a welfare struggle . . . [can ensure
that the] future penetrates the present; it recasts the way people
'organise' and the goals for which they strive."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp.
231-3]
</blockquote><p>
As the anarchist slogan puts it, <b><i>"Resistance is Fertile."</i></b> 
Planting
the seed of autonomy, direct action and self-liberation can result, 
potentially, in the blossoming of a free individual due to the
nature of struggle itself (see also <a href="secA2.html#seca27">
section A.2.7</a>) Therefore, the 
generalisation of social struggle is not only a key way of winning
a specific fight, it can (and should) also spread into different 
aspects of life and society and play a key part in developing free
individuals who reject hierarchy in all aspects of their life. 
<p>
Social problems are not isolated from each other and so struggles 
against them cannot be. The nature of struggle is such that once 
people start questioning one aspect of society, the questioning
of the rest soon follow. So, anarchists seek to generalise
struggles for these three reasons -- firstly, to ensure the 
solidarity required to win; secondly, to combat the many social 
problems we face as <b>people</b> and to show how they are inter-related; 
and, thirdly, to encourage the transformation of those involved into 
unique individuals in touch with their humanity, a humanity eroded 
by hierarchical society and domination.
<p>

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