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anarchism 9.5-1
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<html>
<HEAD>

<TITLE>J.4 What trends in society aid anarchist activity?
</TITLE>
</HEAD>
<BODY>
<h1>J.4 What trends in society aid anarchist activity?</h1>
<p>
In this section we will examine some modern trends which we regard as
being potential openings for anarchists to organise. These trends are 
of a general nature, partly as a product of social struggle, partly 
as a response to economic and social crisis, partly involving people's 
attitudes to big government and big business partly in relation to the communications revolution we are currently living through, and so on. 
We do this because, as Kropotkin argued, the anarchist <i>"studies human 
society as it is now and was in the past. . . He [or she] studies 
society and tries to discover its <b>tendencies,</b> past and present, 
its growing needs, intellectual and economical, and in his ideal 
he merely points out in which direction evolution goes."</i> [<b>Anarchism 
and Anarchist Communism</b>, p. 24] In this section we highlight just a 
few of the tendencies in modern society which point in an anarchist 
direction.
<p> 
Of course, looking at modern society we see multiple influences,
changes which have certain positive aspects in some directions but
negative ones in others. For example, the business-inspired attempts
to decentralise or reduce (certain) functions of governments. In the 
abstract, such developments should be welcomed by anarchists for they
lead to the reduction of government. In practice such a conclusion is
deeply suspect simply because these developments are being pursued 
to increase the power and influence of business and capital and
undermine working class power and autonomy. Similarly, increases 
in self-employment can be seen, in the abstract, as reducing wage 
slavery. However, if, in practice, this increase is due to corporations 
encouraging "independent" contractors to cut wages and worsen working 
conditions, increase job insecurity and undermine paying for health 
and other employee packages then is hardly a positive sign. Obviously 
increases in self-employment would be different if such an increase 
was the result of an increase in the number of co-operatives, for 
example. 
<p>
Thus few anarchists celebrate many apparently "libertarian" developments 
as they are not the product of social movements and activism, but are the 
product of elite lobbying for private profit and power. Decreasing the 
power of the state in (certain) areas while leaving (or increasing) the 
power of capital is a retrograde step in most, if not all, ways. Needless 
to say, this "rolling back" of the state does not bring into question its 
role as defender of property and the interests of the capitalist class -- 
nor could it, as it is the ruling class who introduces and supports these 
developments.
<p> 
As an example of these multiple influences, we can point to the economic
crisis which has staggered on since 1973 in many Western countries. This
crisis, when it initially appeared, lead to calls to reduce taxation 
(at least for the wealthy, in most countries the tax-burden was shifted 
even more onto the working class -- as was the case in Thatcher's Britain). 
In most countries, as a result, government "got off the back" of the
wealthy (and got even more comfy on <b>our</b> back!). This (along with
slower growth) helped to create declining revenue bases in the advanced 
capitalist nations has given central governments an excuse to cut 
social services, leaving a vacuum that regional and local governments 
have had to fill along with voluntary organisations, thus producing a
tendency toward decentralisation that dovetails with anarchist ideals.
<p> 
As Murray Bookchin points out, a sustainable ecological society must
shift emphasis away from nation-states as the basic units of administration
and focus instead on municipalities -- towns, villages, and human-scale
cities. Interestingly, the ongoing dismantling of the welfare state is
producing such a shift by itself. By forcing urban residents to fend
for themselves more than ever before in meeting transportation, housing,
social welfare, and other needs, the economic crisis is also forcing
them to relearn the arts of teamwork, co-operation, and self-reliance
(see his <b>Remaking Society: Pathways to a Green Future</b>, p. 183).
<p> 
Of course the economic crisis also has a downside for anarchists. 
As hardships and dislocations continue to swell the ranks and 
increase the militancy of progressive social movements, the 
establishment is being provoked to use ever more authoritarian 
methods to maintain control (see D.9). As the crisis deepens over 
the next few decades, the reactionary tendencies of the state will 
be reinforced (particularly as the neo-liberal consensus helps
atomise society via the market mechanism and the resulting 
destruction of community and human relationships). However, 
this is not inevitable. The future depends on our actions in the
here and now. In this section of the FAQ we highlight some developments 
which do, or could, work to the advantage of anarchists. Many of 
these examples are from the US, but they apply equally to Britain 
and many other advanced industrial states. 
<p> 
In this section, we aim to discuss tendencies from <b>below</b>, not
above -- tendencies which can truly "roll back" the state rather than
reduce its functions purely to that of the armed thug of Capital. The
tendencies we discuss here are not the be all nor end all of anarchist 
activism or tendencies. We discuss many of the more traditionally 
anarchist "openings" in <a href="secJ5.html">section J.5</a> (such as industrial and community 
unionism, mutual credit, co-operatives, modern schools and so on) 
and so will not do so here. However, it is important to stress
here that such "traditional" openings are not being downplayed -- 
indeed, much of what we discuss here can only become fully 
libertarian in combination with these more "traditional" 
forms of <i><b>"anarchy in action."</i></b>
<p>
For a lengthy discussion of anarchistic trends in society, we 
recommend Colin Ward's classic book <b>Anarchy in Action</b>. Ward's
excellent book covers many areas in which anarchistic tendencies 
have been expressed, far more than we can cover here. The
libertarian tendencies in society are many. No single work 
could hope to do them justice.
<p> 
<a name="secj41"><h2>J.4.1 Why is social struggle a good sign?
</h2>
<p> 
Simply because it shows that people are unhappy with the existing
society and, more importantly, are trying to change at least some part 
of it. It suggests that certain parts of the population have reflected
on their situation and, potentially at least, seen that <b>by their own 
actions</b> they can influence and change it for the better.
<p>
Given that the ruling minority draws its strength of the acceptance 
and acquiescence of the majority, the fact that a part of that 
majority no longer accepts and acquiesces is a positive sign. 
After all, if the majority did not accept the status quo and 
acted to change it, the class and state system could not survive. 
Any hierarchical society survives because those at the bottom follow 
the orders of those above it. Social struggle suggests that some people 
are considering their own interests, thinking for themselves and 
saying "no" and this, by its very nature, is an important, indeed, 
the most important, tendency towards anarchism. It suggests that
people are rejecting the old ideas which hold the system up, 
acting upon this rejection and creating new ways of doing thinks.
<p>
<i>"Our social institutions,"</i> argues Alexander Berkman, <i>"are founded
on certain ideas; as long as the latter are generally believed,
the institutions built upon them are safe. Government remains
strong because people think political authority and legal
compulsion necessary. Capitalism will continue as long as such
an economic system is considered adequate and just. The 
weakening of the ideas which support the evil and oppressive
present-day conditions means the ultimate breakdown of
government and capitalism."</i> [<b>The ABC of Anarchism</b>, p. xv]
<p>
Social struggle is the most obvious sign of this change of
perspective, this change in ideas, this progress towards freedom.
<p>
Social struggle is expressed by direct action. We have discussed 
both social struggle and direct action before (in sections <a 
href="secJ1.html">J.1</a> 
and <a href="secJ2.html">J.2</a> respectively) and some readers may wonder why we are 
covering this again here. We do so for two reasons. Firstly, 
as we are discussing what trends in society help anarchist 
activity, it would be wrong <b>not</b> to highlight social struggle 
and direct action here. This is because these factors are key 
tendencies towards anarchism as anarchism will be created by 
people and social struggle is the means by which people create 
the new world in the shell of the old. Secondly, social struggle 
and direct action are key aspects of anarchist theory and we 
cannot truly present a picture of what anarchism is about 
without making clear what these are.
<p>
So social struggle is a good sign as it suggests that people are
thinking for themselves, considering their own interests and
working together collectively to change things for the better.
As the French syndicalist Emile Pouget argues:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Direct action . . . means that the working class, forever 
bridling at the existing state of affairs, expects nothing from 
outside people, powers or forces, but rather creates its own 
conditions of struggle and looks to itself for its methodology . . . 
Direct Action thus implies that the working class subscribes to 
notions of freedom and autonomy instead of genuflecting before 
the principle of authority. Now, it is thanks to this authority 
principle, the pivot of the modern world - democracy being its 
latest incarnation - that the human being, tied down by a 
thousand ropes, moral as well as material, is bereft of 
any opportunity to display will and initiative."</i> 
[<b>Direct Action</b>]
</blockquote><p>
Social struggle means that people come into opposition with the boss
and other authorities such as the state and the dominant morality. This
challenge to existing authorities generates two related processes: the 
tendency of those involved to begin taking over the direction of their
own activities and the development of solidarity with each other. Firstly,
in the course of a struggle, such as a strike, occupation, boycott, and 
so on, the ordinary life of people, in which they act under the constant
direction of the bosses or state, ceases, and they have to think, act and
co-ordinate their actions for themselves. This reinforces the expression
towards autonomy that the initial refusal that lead to the struggle 
indicates. Thus struggle re-enforces the initial act of refusal and 
autonomy by forcing those involves to act for themselves. Secondly, in
the process of struggle those involved learn the importance of solidarity,
of working with others in a similar situation, in order to win. This
means the building of links of support, of common interests, of 
organisation. The practical need for solidarity to help win the
struggle is the basis for the solidarity required for a free society
to be viable.  
<p>
Therefore the real issue in social struggle is that it is an attempt by 
people to wrestle at least part of the power over their own lives away 
from the managers, state officials and so on who currently have it and 
exercise it themselves. This is, by its very nature, anarchistic and 
libertarian. Thus we find politicians and, of course, managers and 
property owners, often denouncing strikes and other forms of direct 
action. This is logical. As direct action challenges the real 
power-holders in society and because, if carried to its logical 
conclusion, it would have to replace them, social struggle and 
direct action can be considered in essence a revolutionary process.
<p>
Moreover, the very act of using direct action suggests a transformation
within the people using it. <i>"Direct action's very powers to fertilise,"</i>
argues Pouget, <i>"reside in such exercises in imbuing the individual 
with a sense of his own worth and in extolling such worth. It marshals 
human resourcefulness, tempers characters and focuses energies. It 
teaches self-confidence! And self-reliance! And self-mastery! And 
shifting for oneself!"</i> Moreover, <i>"direct action has an unmatched 
educational value: It teaches people to reflect, to make decisions 
and to act. It is characterised by a culture of autonomy, an 
exaltation of individuality and is a fillip to initiative, to 
which it is the leaven. And this superabundance of vitality 
and burgeoning of 'self' in no way conflicts with the economic 
fellowship that binds the workers one with another and far 
from being at odds with their common interests, it reconciles 
and bolsters these: the individual's independence and activity 
can only erupt into splendour and intensity by sending its roots 
deep into the fertile soil of common agreement."</i> [Pouget, <b>Op. Cit.</b>]
<p>
Emma Goldman also recognised the transforming power of direct 
action. Anarchists, she argues, <i>"believe with Stirner that 
man has as much liberty as he is willing to take. Anarchism
therefore stands for direct action, the open defiance of, and
resistance to, all laws and restrictions, economic, social and
moral. But defiance and resistance are illegal. Therein lies the
salvation of man. Everything illegal necessitates integrity,
self-reliance, and courage. In short, it calls for free 
independent spirits. . ."</i> [<b>Red Emma Speaks</b>, p. 61-2] 
<p>
Social struggle is the beginning of a transformation of the people
involved and their relationships to each other. While its external 
expression lies in contesting the power of existing authorities, its 
inner expression is the transformation of people from passive and
isolated competitors into empowered, self-directing, self-governing
co-operators. Moreover, this process widens considerable what 
people think is "possible." Through struggle, by collective action,
the fact people <b>can</b> change things is driven home, that <b>they</b> have
the power to govern themselves and the society they live in. Thus
struggle can change people's conception of "what is possible" and
encourage them to try and create a better world. As Kropotkin argued:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"since the times of the [first] International Working Men's Association,
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, they say, . . . permits the worker to obtain some
temporary improvements. . ., while it opens his [or her] eyes to the
evil that is done by capitalism and the State. . . , 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>Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets</b>, p. 171]
</blockquote><p>
In other words, social struggle has a <b>radicalising</b> and <b>politicising</b> 
effect, an effect which brings into a new light existing society and
the possibilities of a better world (<i>"direct action"</i>, in Pouget's words, 
<i>"develops the feeling for human personality as well as the spirit 
of initiative . . .  it shakes people out of their torpor and steers 
them to consciousness."</i>). The practical need to unite and resist the 
boss also helps break down divisions within the working class. Those 
in struggle start to realise that they need each other to give them 
the power necessary to get improvements, to change things. Thus 
solidarity spreads and overcomes divisions between black and
white, male and female, heterosexual and homosexual, trades, 
industries, nationalities and so on. The real need for solidarity 
to win the fight helps to undermine artificial divisions and show 
that there are only two groups in society, the oppressed and the 
oppressors.
<p>
Moreover, struggle as well as transforming those involved is also
the basis for transforming society as a whole simply because, as 
well as producing transformed individuals, it also produces new 
forms of organisation, organisations created to co-ordinate their
struggle and which can, potentially at least, become the framework 
of a libertarian socialist society.
<p>
Thus anarchists argue that social struggle opens the eyes of those
involved to self-esteem and a sense of their own strength, and the 
groupings it forms at its prompting are living, vibrant associations 
where libertarian principles usually come to the fore. We find 
almost all struggles developing new forms of organisation,
forms which are often based on direct democracy, federalism
and decentralisation. If we look at every major revolution, we
find people creating mass organisations such as workers' councils,
factory committees, neighbourhood assemblies and so on as a
means of taking back the power to govern their own lives, 
communities and workplaces.  In this way social struggle and 
direct action lays the foundations for the future. By actively 
taking part in social life, people are drawn into creating new 
forms of organisation, new ways of doing things. In this way 
they educate themselves in participation, in self-government, 
in initiative and in asserting themselves. They begin to realise
that the only alternative to management by others is self-management 
and organise to achieve thus.
<p>
Given that remaking society has to begin at the bottom, this finds 
its expression in direct action, individuals taking the initiative,
building new, more libertarian forms of organisation and using the 
power they have just generated by collective action and organisation
to change things by their own efforts. Social struggle is therefore a
two way transformation -- the external transformation of society
by the creation of new organisations and the changing of the power
relations within it and the internal transformation of those who take
part in the struggle. And because of this, social struggle, <i>"[w]hatever
may be the practical results of the struggle for immediate gains, the
greatest value lies in the struggle itself. For thereby workers 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 . . . and immediately 
make greater demands and have greater needs. If they do not succeed 
they will be led to study the causes of their failure and recognise 
the need for closer unity and greater activism and they will in the 
end understand that to make their victory secure and definitive, it 
is necessary to destroy capitalism. The revolutionary cause, the cause 
of the moral elevation and emancipation of the workers must benefit by 
the fact that workers unite and struggle for their interests."</i> [Errico 
Malatesta, <b>Life and Ideas</b>, p. 191]
<p>
Hence Nestor Makhno's comment that <i>"[i]n fact, it is only through
that struggle for freedom, equality and solidarity that you reach 
an understanding of anarchism."</i> [<b>The Struggle Against the State
and other Essays</b>, p. 71] The creation of an anarchist society is
a <b>process</b> and social struggle is the key anarchistic tendency 
within society which anarchists look for, encourage and support. 
Its radicalising and transforming nature is the key to the growth 
of anarchist ideas, the creation of libertarian structures and 
alternatives within capitalism (structures which may, one day, 
replace capitalism and state) and the creation of anarchists and 
those sympathetic to anarchist ideas. Its importance cannot be 
underestimated! 
<p>
<a name="secj42"><h2>J.4.2	Won't social struggle do more harm than good?</h2>
<p>
It is often argued that social struggle, by resisting the powerful 
and the wealthy, will just do more harm than good. Employers often 
use this approach in anti-union propaganda, for example, arguing that
creating a union will force the company to close and move to less
"militant" areas.
<p>
There is, of course, some truth in this. Yes, social struggle can 
lead to bosses moving to more compliant workforces -- but, of course, 
this also happens in periods lacking social struggle too! If we look
at the down-sizing mania that gripped the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s,
we see companies down-sizing tens of thousands of people during 
a period where unions were weak, workers scared about loosing their
jobs and class struggle basically becoming mostly informal and 
"underground." Moreover, this argument actually indicates the 
need for anarchism. It is a damning indictment of any social 
system that it requires people to kow-tow to their masters 
otherwise they will suffer economic hardship. It boils down to 
the argument <i>"do what you are told, otherwise you will regret 
it."</i> Any system based on that maxim is an affront to human 
dignity!
<p>
It would, in a similar fashion, be easy to "prove" that slave 
rebellions are against the long term interests of the slaves. 
After all, by rebelling the slaves will face the anger of their 
masters. Only by submitting to their master can they avoid this 
fate and, perhaps, be rewarded by better conditions. Of course, 
the evil of slavery would continue but by submitting to it they 
can ensure their life can become better. Needless to say, any 
thinking and feeling person would quickly dismiss this reasoning 
as missing the point and being little more than apologetics 
for an evil social system that treated human beings as things. 
The same can be said for the argument that social struggles within 
capitalism do more harm than good. It betrays a slave mentality
unfitting for human beings (although fitting for those who desire
to live of the backs of workers or desire to serve those who do).
<p>
Moreover, this kind of argument ignores a few key points. Firstly,
by resistance the conditions of the oppressed can be maintained or
even improved. After all, if the boss knows that their decisions will
be resisted they may be less inclined to impose speed-ups, longer
hours and so on. If they know that their employees will agree to 
anything then there is every reason to expect them to impose all
kinds of oppressions, just as a state will impose draconian laws
if it knows that it can get away with it. History is full of examples
of non-resistance producing greater evils in the long term and 
of resistance producing numerous important reforms and improvements
(such as higher wages, shorter hours, the right to vote for
working class people and women, freedom of speech, the end of
slavery, trade union rights and so on).
<p>
So social struggle has been proven time and time again to gain 
successful reforms. For example, before the 8 hour day movement 
of 1886 in America, for example, most companies argued they could not 
introduce that reform without doing bust. However, after displaying 
a militant mood and conducting an extensive strike campaign, hundreds 
of thousands of workers discovered that their bosses had been lying 
and they got shorter hours. Indeed, the history of the labour movement 
shows what bosses say they can afford and the reforms workers can get
via struggle are somewhat at odds. Given the asymmetry of information
between workers and bosses, this is unsurprising. Workers can only
guess at what is available and bosses like to keep their actual
finances hidden. Even the threat of labour struggle can be enough
to gain improvements. For example, Henry Ford's $5 day is often 
used as an example of capitalism rewarding good workers. However,
this substantial pay increase was largely motivated by the 
unionisation drive by the <b>Industrial Workers of the World</b> among
Ford workers in the summer of 1913 [Harry Braverman, <b>Labour and
Monopoly Capitalism</b>, p. 144]. More recently, it was the mass
non-payment campaign against the poll-tax in Britain during the 
late 1980s and early 1990s which helped ensure its defeat (and
the 1990 poll-tax riot in London also helped and ensured that the
New Zealand government did not introduce a similar scheme in their
country too!). In the 1990s, France also saw the usefulness of
direct action. Two successive prime ministers (Edouard Balladur
and Alain Juppe) tried to impose large scale "reform" programmes
that swiftly provoked mass demonstrations and general strikes
amongst students, workers, farmers and others. Confronted by
crippling disruptions, both governments gave in. Compared to
the experience of, say Britain, France's tradition of direct
action politics proved more effective in maintaining existing
conditions or even improving on them.
<p>
Secondly, and in some ways more importantly, it ignores that by 
resistance those who take part can the social system they live in
can be <b>changed.</b> This radicalising effect of social struggle can
open new doors for those involved, liberate their minds, empower 
them and create the potential for deep social change. Without 
resistance to existing forms of authority a free society cannot 
be created as people adjust themselves to authoritarian structures 
and accept what is as the only possibility. By resisting, people 
transform and empower themselves, as well as transforming society. 
In addition, new possibilities can be seen (possibilities before 
dismissed as "utopian") and, via the organisation and action
required to win reforms, the framework for these possibilities 
(i.e. of a new, libertarian, society) created. The transforming 
and empowering effect of social struggle is expressed well by the 
ex-IWW and UAW-CIO shop steward Nick DeGaetano in his experiences 
in the 1930s:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"the workers of my generation from the early days up to now had
what you might call a labour insurrection in changing from a 
plain, humble, submissive creature into a man. The union made
a man out of him. . . I am not talking about benefits . . . I am
talking about the working conditions and how they affected the
man in plant. . . Before they were submissive. Today they are
men."</i> [quoted in <b>Industrial Democracy in America</b>, Nelson 
Lichtenstein and Holwell John Harris (eds.), p. 204]
</blockquote><p>
Other labour historians note the same radicalising process 
elsewhere (modern day activists could give more examples!):
<blockquote><p>
<i>"The contest [over wages and conditions] so pervaded social
life that the ideology of acquisitive individualism, which
explained and justified a society regulated by market
mechanisms and propelled by the accumulation of capital, 
was challenged by an ideology of mutualism, rooted in 
working-class bondings and struggles. . . Contests over
pennies on or off existing piece rates had ignited 
controversies over the nature and purpose of the American
republic itself."</i> [David Montgomery, <b>The Fall of the House 
of Labour</b>, p. 171]
</blockquote><p>
This radicalising effect is far more dangerous to authoritarian 
structures than better pay, more liberal laws and so on as they 
need submissiveness to work. Little wonder that direct action is 
usually denounced as pointless or harmful by those in power or 
their spokespersons, for direct action will, taken to its 
logical conclusion, put them out of a job! Struggle, therefore,
holds the possibility of a free society as well as of improvements
in the here and now. It also changes the perspectives of those
involved, creating new ideas and values to replace the ones of
capitalism.
<p>
Thirdly, it ignores the fact that such arguments do not imply
the end of social struggle and working class resistance and
organisation, but rather its <b>extension.</b> If, for example, your
boss argues that they will move to Mexico if you do not "shut 
up and put up" then the obvious solution is to make sure the 
workers in Mexico are also organised! Bakunin argued this basic
point over one hundred years ago, and it is still true -- <i>"in
the long run the relatively tolerable position of workers in
one country can be maintained only on condition that it be
more or less the same in other countries."</i> If, for example, 
workers in Mexico have worse wages and conditions than you do,
these same conditions will be used against you as the <i>"conditions 
of labour cannot get worse or better in any particular industry
without immediately affecting the workers in other industries,
and that workers of all trades are inter-linked with real
and indissoluble ties of solidarity,"</i> ties which can be ignored
only at your own peril. Ultimately, <i>"in those countries the
workers work longer hours for less pay; and the employers 
there can sell their products cheaper, successfully competing
against conditions where workers working less earn more,
and thus force the employers in the latter countries to
cut wages and increase the hours of their workers."</i> Bakunin's
solution was to organise internationally, to stop this
undercutting of conditions by solidarity between workers. As
recent history shows, his argument was correct [<b>The Political
Philosophy of Bakunin</b>, pp. 306-7]. Thus it is <b>not</b> social
struggle or militancy which is bad, just <b>isolated</b> militancy,
struggle which ignores the ties of solidarity required to
win, extent and keep reforms and improvements. In other
words, our resistance must be as transnational as capitalism
is.
<p>
The idea that social struggle and working class organisation 
are harmful was expressed constantly in the 1970s. If we look 
at the arguments of the right in the 1970s, we also find evidence 
that the "struggle does more harm than good" viewpoint is flawed. 
With the post-war Keynesian consensus crumbling, the "New Right" 
argued that trade unions (and strikes) hampered growth and that 
wealth redistribution (i.e. welfare schemes which returned some 
of the surplus value workers produced back into their own hands) 
hindered "wealth creation" (i.e. economic growth). Do not struggle 
over income, they argued, let the market decide and everyone will 
be better off.
<p>
This argument was dressed up in populist clothes. Thus we find 
the right-wing guru F.A. von Hayek arguing that, in the case of 
Britain, the <i>"legalised powers of the unions have become the 
biggest obstacle to raising the standards of the working class 
as a whole. They are the chief cause of the unnecessarily big 
differences between the best- and worse-paid workers."</i> He 
maintained that <i>"the elite of the British working class. . . 
derive their relative advantages by keeping workers who 
are <b>worse off</b> from improving their position."</i> Moreover, 
he <i>"predict[ed] that the average worker's income would rise 
fastest in a country where relative wages are flexible, and 
where the exploitation of workers by monopolistic trade union 
organisations of specialised workers are effectively outlawed."</i> 
[<i>"1980s Unemployment and the Unions"</i> reproduced in <b>The Economic 
Decline of Modern Britain</b>, p. 107, p. 108, p. 110] 
<p>
Now, if von Hayek's claims were true we could expect that in the 
aftermath of Thatcher government's trade union reforms we would 
have seen: a rise in economic growth (usually considered as <b>the</b>
means to improve living standards for workers by the right); a
decrease in the differences between high and low paid workers;
a reduction in the percentage of low paid workers as they improved
their positions when freed from union <i>"exploitation"</i>; and that
wages rise fastest in countries with the highest wage flexibility.
Unfortunately for von Hayek, the actual trajectory of the 
British economy exposes his claims as nonsense.
<p>
Looking at each of his claims in turn we discover that rather
than "exploit" other workers, trade unions are an essential 
means to shift income from capital to labour (which is way 
capital fights labour organisers tooth and nail). And, equally 
important, labour militancy aids <b>all</b> workers by providing a 
floor under which wages cannot drop (non-unionised/militant 
firms in the same industry or area have to offer similar 
programs to prevent unionisation and be able to hire workers) 
and by maintaining aggregate demand.  This positive role of 
unions/militancy in aiding <b>all</b> workers can be seen by 
comparing Britain before and after Thatcher's von Hayek 
inspired trade union and labour market reforms.
<p>
As far as economic growth goes, there has been a steady fall since
trade union reforms. In the "bad old days" of the 1970s, with its 
strikes and "militant unions" growth was 2.4% in Britain. It fell 
to 2% in the 1980s and fell again to 1.2% in the 1990s [Larry Elliot 
and Dan Atkinson, <b>The Age of Insecurity</b>, p. 236]. So the rate of 
"wealth creation" (economic growth) has steadily fallen as unions 
were "reformed" in line with von Hayek's ideology (and falling 
growth means that the living standards of the working class as a 
whole do not rise as fast as they did under the "exploitation" of 
the "monopolistic" trade unions). If we look at the differences 
between the highest and lowest paid workers, we find that rather
than decrease, they have in fact shown <i>"a dramatic widening out
of the distribution with the best-workers doing much better"</i> 
since Thatcher was elected in 1979 [Andrew Glyn and David 
Miliband (eds.), <b>Paying for Inequality</b>, p. 100]
<p>
Given that inequality has also increased, the condition of the
average worker must have suffered. For example, Ian Gilmore 
states that <i>"[i]n the 1980s, for the first time for fifty 
years. . . the poorer half of the population saw its share of
total national income shirk."</i> [<b>Dancing with Dogma</b>, p. 113]
According to Noam Chomsky, <i>"[d]uring the Thatcher decade, the
income share of the bottom half of the population fell from
one-third to one-fourth"</i> and the between 1979 and 1992, the 
share of total income of the top 20% grew from 35% to 40% while
that of the bottom 20% fell from 10% to 5%. In addition, the
number of UK employees with weekly pay below the Council of
Europe's <i>"decency threshold"</i> increased from 28.3% in 1979 
to 37% in 1994 [<b>World Orders, Old and New</b>, p. 144, p. 145] 
Moreover, <i>"[b]ack in the early 1960s, the heaviest concentration
of incomes fell at 80-90 per cent of the mean. . . But by the
early 1990s there had been a dramatic change, with the peak
of the distribution falling at just 40-50 per cent of the mean.
One-quarter of the population had incomes below half the average
by the early 1990s as against 7 per cent in 1977 and 11 per
cent in 1961. . ."</i> [Elliot and Atkinson, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 235]
<i>"Overall,"</i> notes Takis Fotopoulos, <i>"average incomes increased
by 36 per cent during this period [1979-1991/2], but 70 per
cent of the population had a below average increase in their
income."</i> [<b>Towards an Inclusive Democracy</b>, p. 113]
<p>
Looking at the claim that trade union members gained their
<i>"relative advantage by keeping workers who are <b>worse off</b>
from improving their position"</i> it would be fair to ask whether
the percentage of workers in low-paid jobs decreased in Britain
after the trade union reforms. In fact, the percentage of
workers below the Low Pay Unit's definition of low pay (namely
two-thirds of men's median earnings) <b>increased</b> -- from 
16.8% in 1984 to 26.2% in 1991 for men, 44.8% to 44.9% for
women. For manual workers it rose by 15% to 38.4%, and for
women by 7.7% to 80.7% (for non-manual workers the figures
were 5.4% rise to 13.7% for men and a 0.5% rise to 36.6%).
If unions <b>were</b> gaining at the expense of the worse off,
you would expect a <b>decrease</b> in the number in low pay, 
<b>not</b> an increase. [<b>Paying for Inequality</b>, p.102] An
OECD study concluded that <i>"[t]ypically, countries with
high rates of collective bargaining and trade unionisation
tend to have low incidence of low paid employment."</i> [<b>OECD
Employment Outlook</b>, 1996, p. 94]
<p>
Nor did unemployment fall after the trade union reforms.
As Elliot and Atkinson point out, <i>"[b]y the time Blair
came to power [in 1997], unemployment in Britain was
falling, although it still remained higher than it had
been when the [the last Labour Government of] Callaghan 
left office in May 1979."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 258] Von Hayek
did argue that falls in unemployment would be <i>"a slow
process"</i> but over 10 years of higher unemployment is 
moving at a snail's pace! And we must note that part of
this fall in unemployment towards its 1970s level was
due to Britain's labour force shrinking (and so, as 
the July 1997 Budget Statement correctly notes, <i>"the 
lower 1990s peak [in unemployment] does not in itself 
provide convincing evidence of improved labour 
performance."</i> [p. 77]).
<p>
As far as von Hayek's prediction on wage flexibility leading
to the <i>"average worker's income"</i> rising fastest in a country 
where relative wages are flexible, it has been proved totally 
wrong. Between 1967 and 1971, real wages grew (on average) 
by 2.95% per year (nominal wages grew by 8.94%) [P. Armstrong, 
A. Glyn and John Harrison, <b>Capitalism Since World War II</b>, 
p.272]. In comparison, in the 1990s real wages grew by 1.1 
per cent, according to a TUC press release entitled 
<b>Productivity Record, how the UK compares</b> released
in March 1999.
<p>
Needless to say, these are different eras so it would also 
be useful to compare the UK (often praised as a flexible 
economy after Thatcher's "reforms") to France (considered 
far less flexible) in the 1990s. Here we find that the 
"flexible"  UK is behind the "inflexible" France. Wages 
and benefits per worker rose by almost 1.2 per cent per 
year compared to 0.7% for the UK. France's GDP grew at a 
faster rate than Britain's, averaging 1.4 per cent per year, 
compared with 1.2 per cent. Worker productivity is also 
behind, since 1979 (Thatcher's arrival) Britain's worker 
productivity has been 1.9 per cent per year compared to 
France's 2.2 per cent [Seth Ackerman, <i>"The Media Vote for 
Austerity"</i>, <b>Extra!</b>, September/October 1997]. And as Seth 
Ackerman also notes, <i>"[w]hile France's dismal record of job 
creation is on permanent exhibit, it is never mentioned that 
Britain's is even more dismal."</i> [Ibid.]
<p>
Moving further afield, we find von Hayek's prediction falsified
yet again. If we look at the USA, frequently claimed as a 
model economy in terms of wage flexibility and union weakness, 
we discover that the real wages of the average worker has 
<b>decreased</b> since 1973 (the weekly and hourly earnings of 
US production and non-supervisory workers, which accounts for 
80% of the US workforce, have fallen in real terms by 19.2% and 
13.4% respectively [<b>Economic Report of the President 1995</b>, 
Table B-45]). If we look at figures from U.S. Bureau of the 
Census (Current Population Survey) we can see how increased
flexibility has affected income:
<p>
<center>
<b>Income Growth by Quintile</b>
<TABLE BORDER=5>
<TR ALIGN = center VALIGN=TOP>
<th>Quintile</th> <th>1950-1978</th><th>1979-1993</th>
<TR ALIGN = center VALIGN=TOP>
<td>Lowest 20%</td><td>	138%</td>			<td>-15%</td>
<TR ALIGN = center VALIGN=TOP>
<td>2nd 20%</td>		<td>98</td>			<td>-7</td>
<TR ALIGN = center VALIGN=TOP>
<td>	3rd 20%</td>		<td>106</td>			<td>-3</td>
<TR ALIGN = center VALIGN=TOP>
<td>	4th 20%</td>		<td>111</td>			<td>5</td>
<TR ALIGN = center VALIGN=TOP>
<td>	Highest 20%</td>		<td>99</td>			<td>18</td>
</table>
</center>
<p>
As can be seen, flexible wages and weaker unions have resulted 
in the direct opposite of von Hayek's predictions. Within the
US itself, we discover that higher union density is associated
with fewer workers earning around the minimum wage -- <i>"the 
percentage of those earning around the minimum wage are both
substantially higher in right-to-work states [i.e. those that
pass anti-union laws] than overall and lower in high union
density states that overall"</i> and <i>"in right-to-work states . . .
wages have traditionally been lower."</i> [Oren M. Levin-Waldman, 
<b>The Minimum Wage and Regional Wage Structure</b>] If unions <b>did</b>
harm non-union workers, we would expect the opposite to occur.
It does not. Of course, being utterly wrong has not dented his 
reputation with the right nor stopped him being quoted in 
arguments in favour of flexibility and free market reforms.
<p>
Moreover, the growth of the US economy has also slowed down as 
wage flexibility and market reform has increased (it was 4.4% 
in the 1960s, 3.2% in the 1970s, 2.8% in the 1980s and 1.9% 
in the first half of the 1990s [Larry Elliot and Dan Atkinson, 
<b>The Age of Insecurity</b>, p. 236]). In addition, inequality
in the US has dramatically increased since the 1970s, with
income and wealth growth in the 1980s going predominately
to the top 20% (and, in fact, mostly to the top 1% of the
population). The bottom 80% of the population saw their 
wealth grow by 1.2% and their income by 23.7% in the 1980s,
while for the top 20% the respective figures were 98.2%
and 66.3% (the figures for the top 1% were 61.6% and 38.9%,
respectively). [Edward N. Wolff, <i>"How the Pie is Sliced"</i>,
<b>The American Prospect</b>, no. 22, Summer 1995]
<p>
Comparing the claims of von Hayek to what actually happened
after trade union reform and the reduction of class struggle
helps to suggest that the claims that social struggle is 
self-defeating are false (and probably self-serving, 
considering it is usually bosses and employer supported 
parties and economists who make these claims). A <b>lack</b> of 
social struggle has been correlated with low economic growth, 
stagnant (even declining) wages and the creation of purely 
paid service jobs to replace highly paid manufacturing ones. 
So while social struggle <b>may</b> make capital flee and other
problems, lack of it is no guarantee of prosperity (quite
the reverse, if the last quarter of the 20th century is anything
to go by!). Indeed, a lack of social struggle will make bosses 
be more likely to cut wages, worsen working conditions and so 
on -- after all, they feel they can get away with it! Which 
brings home the fact that <i>"to make their [the working class'] 
victory secure and definitive, it is necessary to destroy 
capitalism."</i> [Errico Malatesta, <b>Life and Ideas</b>, p. 191]
<p>
Of course, no one can <b>know</b> that struggle will make things 
better. It is a guess; no one can predict the future. Not all
struggles are successful and many can be very difficult. If
the <i>"military is a role model for the business world"</i> (in the
words of an ex-CEO of Hill & Knowlton Public Relations [quoted
by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton in <b>Toxic Sludge Is Good 
For You!</b>, p. 47]), and it is, then <b>any</b> struggle against it
and other concentrations of power may, and often is, difficult
and dangerous at times. But, as Zapata once said, <i>"better to
die on your feet than live on your knees!"</i> All we can say
is that social struggle can and does improve things and, in
terms of its successes and transforming effect on those
involved, well worth the potential difficulties it can create.
Moreover, without struggle there is little chance of creating
a free society, dependent as it is on individuals who refuse
to bow to authority and have the ability and desire to govern
themselves. In addition, social struggle is always essential,
not only to <b>win</b> improvements, but to <b>keep</b> them as well.
In order to fully secure improvements you have to abolish 
capitalism and the state. Not to do so means that any reforms
can and will be taken away (and if social struggle does not exist,
they will be taken away sooner rather than later). Ultimately,
most anarchists would argue that social struggle is not an option --
we either do it or we put up with the all the petty (and not so 
petty) impositions of authority. If we do not say "no" then the
powers that be will walk all over us. 
<p>
As the history of the last 20 years shows, a lack of social
struggle is fully compatible with worsening conditions. 
Ultimately, if you want to be treated as a human being you
have to stand up for your dignity -- and that means thinking 
and rebelling. As Bakunin often argued, human development
is based on thought and rebellion (see <b>God and the State</b>).
Without rebellion, without social struggle, humanity would
stagnant beneath authority forever and never be in a 
position to be free. We would agree wholeheartedly with 
the Abolitionist Frederick Douglass:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"If there is no struggle, there is no progress.  Those who 
profess to favour freedom and yet deprecate agitation are 
people who want crops without plowing up the ground.  They 
want rain without thunder and lightning.  That struggle might 
be a moral one; it might be a physical one; it might be both 
moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes 
nothing without a demand.  It never did and never will. People 
might not get all that they work for in this world, but they    
must certainly work for all they get."</i>                                 
</blockquote><p>
<a name="secj43"><h2>J.4.3 Are the new social movements a positive development for anarchists?</h2>
<p>
When assessing the revolutionary potential of our own era, we must 
note again that modern civilisation is under constant pressure from 
the potential catastrophes of social breakdown, ecological destruction, 
and proliferating weapons of mass destruction. These crises have drawn
attention as never before to the inherently counter-evolutionary nature
of the authoritarian paradigm, making more and more people aware that
the human race is headed for extinction if it persists in outmoded forms 
of thought and behaviour. This awareness produces a favourable climate for 
the reception of new ideas, and thus an opening for radical educational
efforts aimed at creating the mass transformation of consciousness which
must take place alongside the creation of new liberatory institutions.
<p>
This receptiveness to new ideas has led to a number of new social
movements in recent years. From the point of view of anarchism, the four
most important of these are perhaps the feminist, ecology, peace, and
social justice movements. Each of these movements contain a great deal 
of anarchist content, particularly insofar as they imply the need for
decentralisation and direct democracy.  Since we have already commented
on the anarchist aspects of the ecology and feminist movements, here 
we will limit our remarks to the peace and social justice movements. 
<p>
It is clear to many members of the peace movement that international
disarmament, like the liberation of women, saving the planet's
ecosystem, and preventing social breakdown, can never be attained 
without a shift of mass consciousness involving widespread rejection 
of hierarchy, which is based on the authoritarian principles of 
domination and exploitation. As C. George Bennello argued, <i>"[s]ince 
peace involves the positive process of replacing violence by other 
means of settling conflict. . . it can be argued that some sort of 
institutional change is necessary. For if insurgency is satisfied
with specific  reform goals, and does not seek to transform the
institutional structure of society by getting at its centralised
make-up, the war system will probably not go away. This is really
what we should mean by decentralising: making institutions serve
human ends again by getting humans to be responsible at every
level within them."</i> [<b>From the Ground Up</b>, p. 31]
<p>
When pursued along gender, class, racial, ethnic, or national lines,
these two principles are the primary causes of resentment, hatred, 
anger, and hostility, which often explode into individual or organised 
violence. Therefore, both domestic and international peace depend on
decentralisation, i.e. dismantling hierarchies, thus replacing domination 
and exploitation by the anarchist principles of co-operation, sharing,
and mutual aid. 
<p>
But direct democracy is the other side of decentralisation. In order for
an organisation to spread power horizontally rather than concentrating
it at the apex of hierarchy, all of its members have to have an equal
voice in making the decisions that affect them. Hence decentralisation
implies direct democracy. So the peace movement implies anarchism,
because world peace is impossible without both decentralisation and 
direct democracy. Moreover, <i>"[s]o long as profits are tied to defence
production, speaking truth to the elites involved is not likely to
get very far"</i> as <i>"it is only within the boundaries of the profit
system that the corporate elites would have any space to move."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 34] Thus the peace movement implicitly contains a 
libertarian critique of both forms of the power system -- the 
political and economical.
<p>
In addition, certain of the practical aspects of the peace movement
also suggest anarchistic elements. The use of non-violent direct
action to protest against the war machine can only be viewed as
a positive development by anarchists. Not only does it use effective,
anarchistic methods of struggle it also radicalises those involved,
making them more receptive to anarchist ideas and analysis (after all,
as Benello correctly argues, the <i>"anarchist perspective has an 
unparalleled relevance today because prevailing nuclear policies 
can be considered as an ultimate stage in the divergence between
the interests of governments and their peoples . . . the implications
when revealed serve to raise fundamental questions regarding the
advisability of entrusting governments with questions of life and
death. . . There is thus a pressing impetus to re-think the role,
scale, and structure of national governments."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 138]). 
<p>
If we look at the implications of <i>"nuclear free zones"</i> we can detect 
anarchistic tendencies within them. A nuclear free zone involves a
town or region declaring an end of its association with the nuclear
military industrial complex. They prohibit the research, production,
transportation and deployment of nuclear weapons as well as renouncing
the right to be defended by nuclear power. This movement was popular
in the 1980s, with many areas in Europe and the Pacific Basin 
declaring that they were nuclear free zones. As Benello points out,
<i>"[t]he development of campaigns for nuclear free zones suggests a
strategy which can educate and radicalise local communities. Indeed,
by extending the logic of the nuclear free zone idea, we can 
begin to flesh out a libertarian municipalist perspective which can
help move our communities several steps towards autonomy from both
the central government and the existing corporate system."</i> While
the later development of these initiatives did not have the 
radicalising effects that Benello hoped for, they did <i>"represent
a local initiative that does not depend on the federal government
for action. Thus it is a step toward local empowerment. . . Steps
that increase local autonomy change the power relations between
the centre and its colonies. . . The nuclear free zone movement
has a thrust which is clearly congruent with anarchist ideas. . .
The same motives which go into the declaration of a nuclear free
zone would dictate that in other areas where the state and the
corporate systems services are dysfunctional and involve
excessive costs, they should be dispensed with."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
p. 137, pp. 140-1]
<p>
The social justice movement is composed of people seeking fair and
compassionate solutions to problems such as poverty, unemployment,
economic exploitation, discrimination, poor housing, lack of health
insurance, wealth and income inequalities, and the like. Such concerns
have traditionally been associated with the left, especially with
socialism and trade-unionism. Recently, however, many radicals have 
begun to perceive the limitations of both Marxist-Leninist and
traditional trade-unionist solutions to social justice problems, 
particularly insofar as these solutions involve hierarchical 
organisations and authoritarian values. 
<p>
Following the widespread disillusionment with statism and centrally
planned economies generated by the failure of "Communism" in the
ex-Soviet Union and Eastern European nations, many radicals, while
retaining their commitment to social justice issues, have been searching
for new approaches. And in doing so they've been drawn into alliances
with ecologists, feminists, and members of the peace movement. (This has
occurred particularly among the German Greens, many of whom are former
Marxists. So far, however, few of the latter have declared themselves to
be anarchists, as the logic of the ecology movement requires.) 
<p>  
It is not difficult to show that the major problems concerning the
social justice movement can all be traced back to the hierarchy and 
domination. For, given the purpose of hierarchy, the highest priority 
of the elites who control the state is necessarily to maintain their 
own power and privileges, regardless of the suffering involved for 
subordinate classes. 
<p>
Today, in the aftermath of 12 years of especially single-minded pursuit 
of this priority by two Republican administrations, the United States, 
for example, is reaping the grim harvest: armies of the homeless 
wandering the streets; social welfare budgets slashed to the bone 
as poverty, unemployment, and underemployment grow; sweatshops 
mushrooming in the large cities; over 43 million Americans without 
any health insurance; obscene wealth inequalities; and so on. This 
decay promises to accelerate in the US during the coming years, now 
that Republicans control both houses of Congress. Britain under the
neo-liberal policies of Thatcher and Major has experienced a social 
deterioration similar to that in the US. 
<p>  
In short, social injustice is inherent in the exploitative functions 
of the state, which are made possible by the authoritarian form of 
state institutions and of the state-complex as a whole. Similarly, the authoritarian form of the corporation (and capitalist companies in
general) gives rise to social injustice as unfair income differentials 
and wealth disparity between owners/management and labour. 
<p>
Hence the success of the social justice movement, like that of the
feminist, ecology, and peace movements, depends on dismantling
hierarchies. This means not only that these movement all imply 
anarchism but that they are related in such a way that it's 
impossible to conceive one of them achieving its goals in 
isolation from any of the others. 
 <p>
To take just one example, let's consider the relationship between
social justice and peace, which can be seen by examining a specific
social justice issue: labour rights. 
<p>
As Dimitrios Roussopoulos points out, the production of advanced 
weapons systems is highly profitable for capitalists, which is why 
more technologically complex and precise weapons keep getting 
built with government help (with the public paying the tab by way
of rising taxes). 
<p>
Now, we may reasonably argue that it's a fundamental human right 
to be able to choose freely whether or not one will personally 
contribute to the production of technologies that could lead to 
the extinction of the human race. Yet because of the authoritarian 
form of the capitalist corporation, rank-and-file workers have 
virtually no say in whether the companies for which they work will
produce such technologies. (To the objection that workers can always
quit if they don't like company policy, the reply is that they may not 
be able to find other work and therefore that the choice is not free but
coerced.) Hence the only way that ordinary workers can obtain the right
to be consulted on life-or-death company policies is to control the
production process themselves, through self-management. 
<p> 
But we can't expect real self-management to emerge from the present
labour relations system in which centralised unions bargain with 
employers for "concessions" but never for a dissolution of the 
authoritarian structure of the corporation. As Roussopoulos puts it, 
self-management, by definition, must be struggled for locally by 
workers themselves at the grassroots level: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Production for need and use will not come from the employer. The 
owners of production in a capitalist society will never begin to 
take social priorities into account in the production process. 
The pursuit of ever greater profits is not compatible with social
justice and responsibility."</i> [<b>Dissidence</b>]
</blockquote><p>
For these reasons, the peace and social justice movements 
are fundamentally linked through their shared need for a 
worker-controlled economy.  
<p>  
We should also note in this context that the impoverished ghetto
environments in which the worst victims of social injustice are forced
to live tends to desensitise them to human pain and suffering -- a
situation that is advantageous for military recruiters, who are thereby 
able to increase the ranks of the armed forces with angry, brutalised,
violence-prone individuals who need little or no extra conditioning to
become the remorseless killers prized by the military command. Moreover,
extreme poverty makes military service one of the few legal economic
options open to such individuals. These considerations illustrate
further links between the peace and social justice movements -- and 
between those movements and anarchism, which is the conceptual 
"glue" that can potentially unite all the new social movement in a 
single anti-authoritarian coalition.
<p> 
<a name="secj44"><h2>J.4.4 What is the <i>"economic structural crisis"</i>?</h2>
<p>
There is an ongoing structural crisis in the global capitalist
economy. Compared to the post-war "Golden Age" of 1950 to 1973,
the period from 1974 has seen a continual worsening in economic 
performance in the West and for Japan. For example, growth is 
lower, unemployment is far higher, labour productivity lower 
as is investment. Average rates of unemployment in the major 
industrialised countries have risen sharply since 1973, 
especially after 1979. Unemployment <i>"in the advanced capitalist 
countries (the 'Group of 7'. . .) increased by 56 per cent 
between 1973 and 1980 (from an average 3.4 per cent to 5.3 
per cent of the labour force) and by another 50 per cent since
then (from 5.3 per cent of the labour force in 1980 to 8.0 per
cent in 19994)."</i> [Takis Fotopoulos, <b>Towards and Inclusive 
Democracy</b>, p. 35] Job insecurity has increased (in the USA,
for example, there is the most job insecurity since the
depression of the 1930s [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 141]). In addition, 
both national economies and the international economy have 
become far less stable.
<p>
This crisis is not confined to the economy. It extends into
the ecological and the social. <i>"In recent years,"</i> point out
Larry Elliot and Dan Atkinson, <i>"some radical economics have
tried to [create] . . . an all-embracing measure of well-being
called the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare [ISEW] . . . 
In the 1950s and 1960s the ISEW rose in tandem with per
capita GDP. It was a time not just of rising incomes, but of
greater social equity, low crime, full employment and expanding
welfare states. But from the mid-1970s onwards the two measures
started to move apart. GDP per head continued its inexorable
rise, but the ISEW start to decline as a result of lengthening
dole queues, social exclusion, the explosion in crime, habitat 
loss, environmental degradation and the growth of environment-
and stress-related illness. By the start of the 1990s, the
ISEW was almost back to the levels at which it started in the
early 1990s."</i> [<b>The Age of Insecurity</b>, p. 248] Which indicates
well our comments in <a href="secC10.html">section C.10</a>, namely that economic factors 
cannot, and do not, indicate human happiness. However, here we
discuss economic factors. This does not imply that the social
and ecological crises are unimportant or are reducible to the
economy. Far from it. We concentrate on the economic factor
simply because this is the factor usually stressed by the 
establishment and it is useful to indicate the divergence of
reality and hype we are currently being subjected to.
<p>
Ironically enough, as Robert Brenner points out, <i>"as the 
neo-classical medicine has been administered in even stronger
doses [since the 1960s], the economy has performed steadily 
less well. The 1970s were worse than the 1960s, the 1980s worse 
than the 1970s, and the 1990s have been worse than the 1980s."</i> 
[<i>"The Economics of Global Turbulence"</i>, <b>New Left Review</b>, 
no. 229, p. 236] This is ironic because during the crisis 
of Keynesianism in the 1970s the right argued that too much 
equality and democracy harmed the economy, and so us all in the
long run (due to lower growth, sluggish investment and so on).
However, after over a decade of pro-capitalist governments, 
rising inequality, increased freedom for capital and its owners 
and managers, the weakening of trade unions and so on, economic
performance has become worse! 
<p>
If we look at the USA in the 1990s (usually presented as an 
economy that "got it right") we find that the <i>"cyclical upturn 
of the 1990s has, in terms of the main macro-economic indicators 
of growth -- output, investment, productivity, and real compensation 
-- has been even less dynamic than its rrelatively weak predecessors 
of the 1980s and the 1970s (not to mention those of the 1950s and 
1960s)."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 5] Of course, the economy is presented as 
a success because inequality is growing, the rich are getting 
richer and wealth is concentrating into fewer and fewer hands. 
For the rich and finance capital, it can be considered a "Golden 
Age" and so is presented as such by the media. Indeed, it is for 
this reason that it may be wrong to term this slow rot a "crisis" 
as it is hardly one for the ruling elite. Their share in social 
wealth, power and income has steadily increased over this period. 
For the majority it is undoubtedly a crisis (the term <i>"silent 
depression"</i> has been accurately used to describe this) but for 
those who run the system it has by no means been a crisis.
<p>
Indeed, the only countries which saw substantial and dynamic
growth after 1973 where those which used state intervention to 
violate the eternal "laws" of neo-classical economics, namely 
the South East Asian countries (in this they followed the 
example of Japan which had used state intervention to grow 
at massive rates after the war). Of course, before the economic 
crisis of 1997, "free market" capitalists argued that these 
countries were classic examples of "free market" economies. For 
example, right-wing icon F.A von Hayek asserted that <i>"South 
Korea and other newcomers"</i> had <i>"discovered the benefits of 
free markets"</i> when, in fact, they had done nothing of the kind 
[<i>"1980s Unemployment and the Unions"</i> reproduced in <b>The Economic 
Decline of Modern Britain</b>, p. 113]. More recently, in 1995, the 
<b>Heritage Foundation</b> released its index of economic freedom. Four 
of the top seven countries were Asian, including Japan and Taiwan. 
All the Asian countries struggling just four years latter were 
qualified as "free." However, as Takis Fotopoulos argues, <i>"it 
was not <b>laissez-faire</b> policies that induced their spectacular 
growth. As a number of studies have shown, the expansion of the 
Asian Tigers was based on massive state intervention that boosted 
their export sectors, by public policies involving not only heavy
protectionism but even deliberate distortion of market prices
to stimulate investment and trade."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 115] After 
the crisis, the free-marketeers discovered the statism that 
had always been there and danced happily on the grave of what 
used to be called <i>"the Asian miracle."</i>
<p>
Such hypocrisy is truly sickening and smacks of a 
Stalinist/Orwellian desire to re-write history so 
as to appear always right. Moreover, such a cynical 
analysis actually undermines their own case for the 
wonders of the "free market." After all, until the 
crisis appeared, the world's investors -- which is to 
say "the market" -- saw nothing but blue skies ahead 
for these economies. They showed their faith by shoving 
billions into Asian equity markets, while foreign banks 
contentedly handed out billions in loans. If Asia's problems 
are systemic and the result of these countries' statist 
policies, then investors' failure to recognise this earlier 
is a blow against the market, not for it. 
<p>
Still more perverse is that, even as the supporters of 
"free-market" capitalism conclude that history is 
rendering its verdict on the Asian model of capitalism, 
they seem to forget that until the recent crisis they 
themselves took great pains to deny that such a model 
existed. Until Asia fell apart, supporters of "free-market" 
capitalism happily held it up as proof that the only 
recipe for economic growth was open markets and 
non-intervention on the part of the state. Needless 
to say, this re-writing of history will be placed 
down the memory-hole, along with any other claims 
which have subsequently been proved utter nonsense.
<p>
So, as can be seen, the global economy has been marked by an 
increasing stagnation, the slowing down of growth, in the 
western economies (for example, the 1990s business upswing 
has been the weakest since the end of the Second World War). 
This is despite (or, more likely, <b>because of</b>) the free 
market reforms imposed and the deregulation of finance capital 
(we say "because of" simply because neo-classical economics 
argue that pro-market reforms would increase growth and improve 
the economy, but as we argued in <a href="secCcon.html">section C</a> such economics have 
little basis in reality and so their recommendations are hardly 
going to produce positive results). Of course as the ruling 
class have been doing well in this New World Order this 
underlying slowdown has been ignored and obviously 
<p>
In recent years crisis (particularly financial crisis) has become 
increasingly visible, reflecting (finally) the underlying 
weakness of the global economy. This underlying weakness has
been hidden by the speculator performance of the world's
stock markets, whose performance, ironically enough, have
helped create that weakness to begin with! As one expert on
Wall Street argues, <i>"Bond markets . . . hate economic strength
. . . Stocks generally behave badly just as the real economy
is at its strongest. . . Stocks thrive on a cool economy, and
wither in a hot one."</i> [<b>Wall Street</b>, p. 124] In other words,
real economic weakness is reflected in financial strength.
<p>
Henwood also notes that <i>"[w]hat might be called the rentier
share of the corporate surplus -- dividends plus interest as
a percentage of pre-tax profits and interest -- has risen 
sharply, from 20-30% in the 1950s to 60% in the 1990s."</i> [<b>Op.
Cit.</b>, p. 73] This helps explain the stagnation which has
afflicted the economies of the west. The rich have been
placing more of their ever-expanding wealth in stocks, 
allowing this market to rise in the face of general economic
torpor. Rather than being used for investment, surplus is
being funnelled into the finance markets, markets which 
do concentrate wealth very successfully (retained earnings
in the US have decreased as interest and dividend payments 
have increased [Brenner, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 210]). Given that 
<i>"the US financial system performs dismally at its advertised
task, that of efficiently directing society's savings
towards their optimal investment pursuits. The system is
stupefyingly expensive, gives terrible signals for
the allocation of capital, and has surprisingly little 
to do with real investment."</i> [Henwood, 
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 3] As most
investment comes from internal funds, the rise in the
rentiers (those who derive their incomes from returns
on capital) share of the surplus has meant less investment
and so the stagnation of the economy. And the weakening
economy has increased financial strength, which in turn 
leads to a weakening in the real economy. A viscous circle,
and one reflected in the slowing of economic growth over
the last 30 years.
<p>
In effect, especially since the end of the 1970s, has seen
the increasing dominance of finance capital. This dominance
has, in effect, created a market for government policies as 
finance capital has become increasingly global in nature.
Governments must secure, protect and expand the field of
profit-making for financial capital and transnational 
corporations, otherwise they will be punished by the global
markets (i.e. finance capital). These policies have been
at the expense of the underlying economy in general, and 
of the working class in particular:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Rentier power was directed at labour, both organised and 
unorganised ranks of wage earners, because it regarded rising 
wages as a principal threat to the stable order. For obvious 
reasons, this goal was never stated very clearly, but financial
markets understood the centrality of the struggle: protecting
the value of their capital required the suppression of labour 
incomes."</i> [William Greider, <b>One World, Ready or Not</b>, p. 302] 
</blockquote><p>
Of course, industrial capital <b>also</b> hates labour, so there 
is a basis of an alliance between the two sides of capital, 
even if they do disagree over the specifics of the economic 
policies implemented. Given that a key aspect of the neo-liberal
reforms was the transformation of the labour market from a 
post-war sellers' market to a nineteenth century buyers' 
market, with its effects on factory discipline, wage claims
and proneness to strike, industrial capital could not but be
happy with its effects. Doug Henwood correctly argues that
<i>"Liberals and populists often search for potential allies
among industrialists, reasoning that even if financial
interests suffer in a boom, firms that trade in real, rather
than fictitious, products would thrive when growth is strong.
In general, industrialists are less sympathetic to these
arguments. Employers in any industry like slack in the labour
market; it makes for a pliant workforce, one unlikely to make
demands or resist speedups."</i> In addition, <i>"many non-financial 
corporations have heavy financial interests."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 123,
p. 135]
<p>
Thus the general stagnation afflicting much of the world, a 
stagnation which has developed into crisis as the needs of 
finance have undermined the real economy which, ultimately, 
it is dependent upon. The contradiction between short term
profits and long term survival inherent in capitalism strikes
again.
<p>
Crisis, as we have noted above, has appeared in areas previously 
considered as strong economies and it has been spreading. An 
important aspect of this crisis is the tendency for productive 
capacity to outstrip effective demand (i.e. the tendency to 
over-invest relative to the available demand), which arises in 
large part from the imbalance between capitalists' need for a 
high rate of profit and their simultaneous need to ensure that 
workers have enough wealth and income so that they can keep 
buying the products on which those profits depend (see <a 
href="secCcon.html">section 
C</a>). Inequality has been increasing in the USA, which means that
the economy faces as realisation crisis (see <a href="secC7.html">section C.7</a>), a
crisis which has so far been avoided by deepening debt for 
working people (debt levels more than doubled between the 
1950s to the 1990s, from 25% to over 60%).
<p>
Over-investment has been magnified in the East-Asian Tigers 
as they were forced to open their economies to global finance.
These economies, due to their intervention in the market
(and repressive regimes against labour) ensured they were
a more profitable place to invest than elsewhere. Capital 
flooded into the area, ensuring a relative over-investment
was inevitable. As we argued in <a 
href="secC7.html#secc72">section C.7.2</a>, crisis is
possible simply due to the lack of information provided
by the price mechanism -- economic agents can react in
such a way that the collective result of individually 
rational decisions is irrational. Thus the desire to
reap profits in the Tiger economies resulted in a squeeze
in profits as the aggregate investment decisions resulted
in over-investment, and so over-production and falling
profits.
<p>
In effect, the South East Asian economies suffered from a
problem termed the "fallacy of composition." When you are
the first Asian export-driven economy, you are competing
with high-cost Western producers and so your cheap workers,
low taxes and lax environmental laws allow you to under-cut
your competitors and make profits. However, as more tigers
joined into the market, they end up competing against <b>each
other</b> and so their profit margins would decrease towards
their actual cost price rather than that of Western firms.
With the decrease in profits, the capital that flowed
into the region flowed back out, thus creating a crisis
(and proving, incidentally, that free markets are 
destabilising and do not secure the best of all possible 
outcomes). Thus, the rentier regime, after weakening the 
Western economies, helped destabilise the Eastern ones too. 
<p>
So, in the short-run, many large corporations and financial
companies solved their profit problems by expanding production 
into "underdeveloped" countries so as to take advantage of the 
cheap labour there (and the state repression which ensured that 
cheapness) along with weaker environmental laws and lower taxes. 
Yet gradually they are running out of third-world populations to 
exploit. For the very process of "development" stimulated by the 
presence of Transnational Corporations in third-world nations 
increases competition and so, potentially, over-investment and, 
even more importantly, produces resistance in the form of unions, 
rebellions and so on, which tend to exert a downward pressure on 
the level of exploitation and profits (for example, in South Korea, 
labour' share in value-added increased from 23 to 30 per cent,
in stark contrast to the USA, Germany and Japan, simply because
Korean workers had rebelled and won new political freedoms).
 <p>
This process reflects, in many ways, the rise of finance capital
in the 1970s. In the 1950s and 1960s, existing industrialised
nations experienced increased competition from the ex-Axis powers
(namely Japan and Germany). As these nations re-industrialised,
they placed increased pressure on the USA and other nations,
reducing the global "degree of monopoly" and forcing them to
compete with lower cost producers (which, needless to say, 
reduced the existing companies profits). In addition, full
employment produced increasing resistance on the shop floor
and in society as a whole (see <a href="secC7.html#secc71">
section C.7.1</a>), squeezing 
profits even more. Thus a combination of class struggle and
global over-capacity resulted in the 1970s crisis. With the
inability of the real economy, especially the manufacturing
sector, to provide an adequate return, capital shifted into
finance. In effect, it ran away from the success of working
people asserting their rights at the point of production and
elsewhere. This, combined with increased international 
competition from Japan and Germany, ensured the rise of
finance capital, which in return ensured the current 
stagnationist tendencies in the economy (tendencies made 
worse by the rise of the Asian Tiger economies in the 1980s). 
<p>
From the contradictions between finance capital and the real
economy, between capitalists' need for profit and human needs,
between over-capacity and demand, and others, there has emerged
what appears to be a long-term trend toward <b>permanent</b> stagnation 
of the capitalist economy.  This trend has been apparent for several 
decades, as evidenced by the continuous upward adjustment of the 
rate of unemployment officially considered to be "normal" or 
"acceptable" during those decades, and by other symptoms as
well such as falling growth, lower rates of profit and so on.
<p>
This stagnation has recently become even more obvious by the
development of crisis in many countries and the reactions of
central banks trying to revive the real economies that have
suffered under their rentier inspired policies. Whether this
crisis will become worse is hard to say. The Western powers
may act to protect the real economy by adopting the Keynesian
policies they have tried to discredit over the last thirty
years. However, whether such a bailout will succeed is 
difficult to tell and may just ensure continued stagnation
rather than a real up-turn, if it has any effect at all. 
<p>
Of course, a deep depression may solve the problem of 
over-capacity and over-investment in the world and lay 
the foundations of an up-turn. Such a strategy is, however,
very dangerous due to working class resistance it could
provoke, the deepness of the slump and the length it
could last for. However, this, perhaps, has been the 
case in the USA in 1997-9 where over 20 years of one-sided 
class war may have paid off in terms of higher profits 
and profit rate. However, this may have more to do with 
the problems elsewhere in the world than a real economic 
change, in addition to rising consumer debt (there is now
negative personal savings rate in the US), a worsening
trade deficit and a stock market bubble. In addition, 
rising productivity has combined with stagnant wages to
increase the return to capital and the profit rate (wages
fell over much of the 1990s recovery and finally regained 
their pre-recession 1989 peak in 1999! Despite 8 years
of economic growth, the typical worker is back only where
they started at the peak of the last business cycle). This
drop and slow growth of wages essentially accounts for the 
rising US profit rate, with the recent growth in real wages 
being hardly enough to make much of an impact (although it
has made the US Federal Reserve increase interest rates to
slow down even this increase, which re-enforces our argument
that capitalist profits require unemployment and insecurity
to maintain capitalist power at the point of production).
<p>
 Such a situation reflects 1920s America (see
<a href="secC7.html#secc73">section C.7.3</a> for details) which was also marked by
rising inequality, a labour surplus and rising profits
and suggests that the new US economy faces the same
potential for a slump. This means that the US economy
must face the danger of over-investment (relative to
demand, of course) sooner or later, perhaps sooner due
to the problems elsewhere in the world as a profits-lead
growth economy is fragile as it is dependent on investment, 
luxury spending and working class debt to survive -- all 
of which are more unstable and vulnerable to shocks than 
workers' consumption.
<p> 
Given the difficulties in predicting the future (and the
fact that those who try are usually proven totally wrong!), 
we will not pretend to know it and leave our discussion at 
highlighting a few possibilities. One thing is true, however, 
and that is the working class will pay the price of any 
"solution" -- unless they organise and get rid of capitalism 
and the state. Ultimately, capitalism need profits to survive 
and such profits came from the fact that workers do not have 
economic liberty. Thus any "solution" within a capitalist
framework means the increased oppression and exploitation
of working people.
<p>
Faced with negative balance sheets during recessions, the 
upper strata occasionally panic and agree to some reforms, 
some distribution of wealth, which temporarily solves 
the short-run problem of stagnation by increasing demand 
and thus permits renewed expansion. However, this 
short-run solution means that the working class gradually 
makes economic and political gains, so that exploitation and
oppresion, and hence the rate of profit, tends to fall (as
happened during the post-war Keynesian "Golden Age"). Faced 
with the dangers of, on the one hand, economic collapse and, 
on the other, increased working class power, the ruling class 
may not act until it is too late. So, on the basis that the 
current crisis may get worse and stagnation turn into depression, 
we will discuss why the <i><b>"economic structural crisis"</i></b> we have 
lived through for the later quarter of the 20th century (and its
potential crisis) is important to social struggle in the 
<a href="secJ4.html#secj45">next 
section</a>.
<p>
<a name="secj45"><h2>J.4.5	Why is this <i>"economic structural crisis"</i> important to social struggle?</h2>
<p>
The <i><b>"economic structural crisis"</i></b> we out-lined in the 
<a href="secJ4.html#secj44">last section</a>
has certain implications for anarchists and social struggle. 
Essentially, as C. George Benello argues, <i>"[i]f economic conditions 
worsen. . . then we are likely to find an openness to alternatives 
which have not been thought of since the depression of the 1930s. . . 
It is important to plan for a possible economic crisis, since it
is not only practical, but also can serve as a method of mobilising
a community in creative ways."</i> [<b>From the Ground Up</b>, p. 149]
<p>
In the face of economic stagnation and depression, attempts to
improve the rate of exploitation (i.e. increase profits) by 
increasing the authority of the boss grow. In addition, more 
people find it harder to make ends meet, running up debts 
to survive, face homelessness if they are made unemployed, and 
so on. Such effects make exploitation ever more visible and tend 
to push oppressed strata together in movements that seek to mitigate,
and even remove, their oppression.  As the capitalist era has worn 
on, these strata have become increasingly able to rebel and gain
substantial political and economic improvements, which have, in
addition, lead to an increasingly willing to do so because of 
rising expectations (about what is possible) and frustration
(about what actually is). This is why, since 1945, the world-wide 
<i>"family"</i> of progressive movements has grown <i>"ever stronger, ever 
bolder, ever more diverse, ever more difficult to contain."</i> 
[Immanuel Wallerstein, <b>Geopolitics and Geoculture</b>, p. 110] It 
is true that libertarians, the left and labour have suffered a 
temporary setback during the past few decades, but with 
increasing misery of the working class due to neo-liberal 
policies (and the "economic structural crisis" they create), 
it is only a matter of time before there is a resurgence of 
radicalism. 
<p>
Anarchists will be in the forefront of this resurgence. For, 
with the discrediting of authoritarian state capitalism 
("Communism") in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the 
anti-authoritarian faction of the left will increasingly be 
seen as its only credible one. Thus the ongoing structural 
crisis of the global capitalist economy, combined with the 
other developments springing from what Takis Fotopoulos calls 
(in his book <b>Towards and Inclusive Democracy</b>) a <i>"multidimensional 
crisis"</i> (which included economic, political, social, ecological 
and ideological aspects), could (potentially) lead over the next 
decade or two to a new <b>international</b> anti-authoritarian alliance 
linking together the new (and not so new) social movements in 
the West (feminism, the Green movement, rank-and-file labour 
militancy, etc.) with non-authoritarian liberation movements 
in the Third World and new anti-bureaucracy movements in 
formerly "communist" countries. However, this is only likely 
to happen if anarchists take the lead in promoting alternatives 
and working with the mass of the population. Ways in which
anarchist can do this are discussed in some detail in 
<a href="secJ5.html">section J.5</a>.
<p>
Thus the "economic structural crisis" can aid social struggle by
placing the contrast of <i>"what is"</i> with what <i>"could be"</i> in a clear 
light. Any crisis brings forth the contradictions in capitalism,
between the production of use values (things people need) and of 
exchange value (capitalist profits), between capitalism's claims
of being based on liberty and the authoritarianism associated with
wage labour (<i>"[t]he general evidence of repression poses an ancient
contradiction for capitalism: while it claims to promote human
freedom, it profits concretely from the denial of freedom, most
especially freedom for the workers employed by capitalist 
enterprise"</i> [William Greider, <b>One World, Ready or Not</b>, p. 388]) 
and so on. It shakes to the bone popular faith in capitalism's 
ability to "deliver the goods" and gets more and more people 
thinking about alternatives to a system that places profit 
above and before people and planet. The crisis also, by its 
very nature, encourages workers and other oppressed sections 
of the population to resist and fight back, which in turn 
generates collective organisation (such as unions or 
workplace-based assemblies and councils), solidarity 
and direct action -- in other words, collective self-help
and the awareness that the problems of working class people
can only be solved by themselves, by their own actions
and organisations. The 1930s in the USA is a classic example 
of this process, with very militant struggles taking place 
in very difficult situations (see Howard Zinn's <b>A People's 
History of the United States</b> or Jeremy Brecher's <b>Strike!</b> 
for details). 
<p>
In other words, the "economic structural crisis" gives 
radicals a lot potential to get their message across,
even if the overall environment may make success seem 
difficult in the extreme at times!
<p>
As well as encouraging workplace organisation due to the
intensification of exploitation and authority provoked by
the economic stagnant/depression, the "economic structural 
crisis" can encourage other forms of libertarian alternatives.
For example, <i>"the practical effect of finance capital's 
hegemony was to lock the advanced economies and their
governments in a malignant spiral, restricting them to bad
choices. Like bondholders in general, the new governing 
consensus explicitly assumed that faster economic growth was
dangerous -- threatening to the stable financial order -- 
so nations were effectively blocked from measures that might
reduce permanent unemployment or ameliorate the decline in
wages. . . The reality of slow growth, in turn, drove the
governments into their deepening indebtedness, since the
disappointing growth inevitably undermined tax revenues
while it expanded the public welfare costs. The rentier
regime repeatedly instructed governments to reform their
spending priorities -- that is, withdraw benefits from 
dependent citizens. . . "</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 297-8]
<p>
Thus the "economic structural crisis" has resulted in the
erosion of the welfare state (at least for the working class,
for the elite, state aid is never far away). This development
as potential libertarian possibilities. <i>"The decline of the 
state,"</i> argues L. Gambone, <i>"makes necessary a revitalisation 
of the notions of direct action and mutual aid. Without 
Mama State to do it for us, we must create our own social 
services through mutual aid societies."</i> [<b>Syndicalism in Myth
and Reality</b>, p. 12] As we argue in more depth in 
<a href="secJ5.html#secj516">section J.5.16</a>,
such a movement of mutual aid has a long history in the working 
class and, as it is under our control, it cannot be withdrawn
from us to enrich and empower the ruling class as state run 
systems have been. Thus the decline of state run social services
could, potentially, see the rise of a network of self-managed,
working class alternatives (equally, of course, it could see the
end of all services to the most weak sections of our society -- which
possibility comes about depends on what we do in the here and now.
see <a href="secJ5.html#secj515">section J.5.15</a> for an anarchist analysis of the welfare state).

<p>
<b>Food Not Bombs!</b> is an excellent example of practical libertarian
alternatives being generated by the economic crisis we are facing.
Food Not Bombs helps the homeless through the direct action of its 
members. It also involves the homeless in helping themselves. It 
is a community-based group which helps other people in the community 
who are needy by providing free food to those in need. FNB! also 
helps other Anarchist political projects and activities.

<p>
Food Not Bombs! serves free food in public places to dramatise 
the plight of the homeless, the callousness of the system and 
our capacity to solve social problems through our own actions 
without government or capitalism. The constant harassment of 
FNB! by the cops, middle classes and the government illustrates 
their callousness to the plight of the poor and the failure of 
their institutions to build a society which cares for people 
more than money and property (and arms, cops and prisons to 
protect them). The fact is that in the US many working and 
unemployed people have no <b>feeling</b> that they are entitled 
to basic human needs such as medicine, clothes, shelter, 
and food. Food Not Bombs! does encourage poor people to make 
these demands, does provide a space in which these demands can 
be voiced, and does help to breakdown the wall between hungry 
and not-hungry. The repression directed towards FNB! by local
police forces and governments also demonstrates the effectiveness 
of their activity and the possibility that it may radicalise 
those who get involved with the organisation. Charity is 
obviously one thing, mutual aid is something else. FNB! as 
it is a politicised movement from below, based on solidarity, 
is <b>not</b> charity, because, in Kropotkin's words, charity <i>"bears 
a character of inspiration from above, and, accordingly, 
implies a certain superiority of the giver upon the receiver"</i> 
and hardly libertarian [<b>Mutual Aid</b>, p. 222]. 
<p>
The last example of how economic stagnation can generate 
libertarian tendencies can be seen from the fact that, 
<i>"[h]istorically, at times of severe inflation or capital
shortages, communities have been forced to rely on their own
resources. During the Great Depression, many cities printed
their own currency; this works to the extent that a community
is able to maintain a viable internal economy which provides
the necessities of life, independent of transactions with
the outside."</i> [C. George Benello, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 150]
<p>
These local currencies and economies can be used as the basis
of a libertarian socialist economy. The currencies would be
the basis of a mutual bank (see sections <a href="secJ5.html#secj55">J.5.5</a> and <a href="secJ5.html#secj56">J.5.6</a>), 
providing interest-free loans to workers to form co-operatives 
and so build libertarian alternatives to capitalist firms. In 
addition, these local currencies could be labour-time based, 
eliminating the profits of capitalists by allowing workers to 
exchange the product of their labour with other workers. 
Moreover, <i>"local exchange systems strength local communities by 
increasing their self-reliance, empowering community members, 
and helping to protect them from the excesses of the global 
market."</i> [Frank Lindenfield, <i>"Economics for Anarchists,"</i> 
<b>Social Anarchism</b>, no. 23, p. 24] In this way local 
self-managing communes could be created, communes that 
replace hierarchical, top-down, government with collective
decision making of community affairs based on directly democratic
community assemblies (see <a href="secJ5.html#secj51">section J.5.1</a>). These self-governing 
communities and economies could federate together to co-operate
on a wider scale and so create a counter-power to that of
state and capitalism.
<p>
This confederal system of self-managing communities could also
protect jobs as the <i>"globalisation of capital threatens local 
industries. A way has to be found to keep capital at home and 
so preserve the jobs and the communities that depend upon 
them. Protectionism is both undesirable and unworkable. But 
worker-ownership or workers' co-operatives are alternatives."</i>
[L. Gambone, <b>Syndicalism in Myth and Reality</b>, pp.12-13] Local
communities could provide the necessary support structures
which could protect co-operatives from the corrupting effects
of working in the capitalist market (see 
<a href="secJ5.html#secj511">section J.5.11</a>). In
this way, economic liberty (self-management) could replace
capitalism (wage slavery) and show that anarchism is a practical
alternative to the chaos and authoritarianism of capitalism,
even if these examples are fragmentally and limited in nature.
<p>
However, these developments should <b>not</b> be taken in isolation
of collective struggle in the workplace or community. It is in
the class struggle that the real potential for anarchy is 
created. The work of such organisations as Food Not Bombs! 
and the creation of local currencies and co-operatives are 
supplementary to the important task of creating workplace
and community organisations that can create effective resistance
to both state and capitalists, resistance that can overthrow
both (see sections <a href="secJ5.html#secj52">J.5.2</a> 
and <a href="secJ5.html#secj51">J.5.1</a> respectively). <i>"Volunteer 
and service credit systems and alternative currencies by 
themselves may not be enough to replace the corporate capitalist
system. Nevertheless, they can help build the economic strength
of local currencies, empower local residents, and mitigate some
of the consequences of poverty and unemployment. . . By the
time a majority [of a community are involved it] will be well
on its way to becoming a living embodiment of many anarchist
ideals."</i> [Frank Lindenfield, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 28] And such a community
would be a great aid in any strike or other social struggle 
which is going on!
<p>
Therefore, the general economic crisis which we are facing
has implications for social struggle and anarchist activism.
It could be the basic of libertarian alternatives in our
workplaces and communities, alternatives based on direct 
action, solidarity and self-management. These alternatives
could include workplace and community unionism, co-operatives,
mutual banks and other forms of anarchistic resistance to 
capitalism and the state. We discuss such alternatives in
more detail in <a href="secJ5.html">section J.5</a>, and so do not do so here.
<p>
Before moving on to the <a href="secJ4.html#secj46">next section</a>, we must stress that 
we are <b>not</b> arguing that working class people need an 
economic crisis to force them into struggle. Such 
"objectivism" (i.e. the placing of tendencies towards 
socialism in the development of capitalism, of objective 
factors, rather than in the class struggle, i.e. subjective 
factors) is best left to orthodox Marxists and Leninists 
as it has authoritarian underpinnings (see 
<a href="secHcon.html">section H</a>). 
Rather we are aware that the class struggle, the 
subjective pressure on capitalism, is not independent 
of the conditions within which it takes place (and 
helped to create, we must add). Subjective revolt is 
always present under capitalism and, in the case of 
the 1970s crisis, played a role in creating it. 
Faced with an economic crisis we are indicating what 
we can do in response to it and how it could, 
potentially, generate libertarian tendencies within 
society. Economic crisis could, in other words, provoke 
social struggle, collective action and generate anarchic 
tendencies in society. Equally, it could cause apathy, 
rejection of collective struggle and, perhaps, the 
embracing of <b>false</b> "solutions" such as right-wing 
populism, Leninism, Fascism or right-wing "libertarianism." 
We cannot predict how the future will develop, but it is 
true that if we do nothing then, obviously, libertarian 
tendencies will not grow and develope.
<p>
<a name="secj46"><h2>J.4.6 What are implications of anti-government and anti-big business feelings?</h2>
<p>
According to a report in <b>Newsweek</b> (<i>"The Good Life and its Discontents"</i>
Jan. 8, 1996), feelings of disappointment have devastated faith in
government and big business.   Here are the results of a survey in which
which people were asked whether they had a <i>"great deal of confidence"</i> in
various institutions:  
<p><center>
<TABLE BORDER=5>
<TR ALIGN = center VALIGN=TOP>
<td> </td><th>
                        1966</th>           <th>1975</th>           <th>1985</th>            <th>1994</th>
<TR ALIGN = center VALIGN=TOP>
<td>Congress</td>              	<td>42%</td>            <td>13%</td>          </td>  <td>16%  </td>            <td>8%</td>  
<TR ALIGN = center VALIGN=TOP>
<td>Executive Branch</td>       	<td>41%       </td>     <td>13%           </td> <td>15%   </td>          <td>12%</td>   
<TR ALIGN = center VALIGN=TOP>
<td>The press         </td>     	<td>29%</td>          <td> 26%         </td>   <td>16%           </td>  <td>13%</td>  
<TR ALIGN = center VALIGN=TOP>
<td>Major Companies     </td>   	<td>55%            </td><td>19%    </td>        <td>17%   </td>          <td>19%</td>
</table>
</center>
<p>
As can be seen, the public's faith in major companies plunged 36% over a
28-year period in the survey, an even worse vote of <i>"no confidence"</i> than
that given to  Congress (34%).  
<p>
Some of the feelings of disappointment with government can be blamed 
on the anti-big-government rhetoric of conservatives and right-wing
populists. But such rhetoric is of potential benefit to anarchists as
well. Of course the Right would never dream of <b>really</b> dismantling the
state, as is evident from the fact that government grew more bureaucratic
and expensive under "conservative" administrations than ever before.  
<p>
Needless to say, this "decentralist" element of right-wing rhetoric
is a con. When a politician, economist or business "leader" argues that 
the government is too big, he is rarely thinking of the same government
functions you are. You may be thinking of subsidies for tobacco farmers
or defence firms and they are thinking about pollution controls. You may 
be thinking of reforming welfare for the better, while their idea is to 
dismantle the welfare state totally. Moreover, with their support for
"family values", "wholesome" television, bans on abortion, and so on 
their victory would see an increased level of government intrusion in
many personal spheres (as well as increased state support for the power
of the boss over the worker, the landlord over the tenant and so on). 
<p>
If you look at what the Right has done and is doing, rather than what 
it is saying, you quickly see the ridiculous of claims of right-wing
"libertarianism" (as well as who is really in charge). Obstructing pollution 
and health regulations; defunding product safety laws; opening national 
parks to logging and mining, or closing them entirely; reducing taxes for 
the rich; eliminating the capital gains tax; allowing companies to fire 
striking workers; making it easier for big telecommunications companies
to make money; limiting companies' liability for unsafe products-- the 
program here is obviously to help big business do what it wants without 
government interference, and to help the rich get richer. In other
words, increased "freedom" for private power combined with a state
whose role is to protect that "liberty."
<p>
Yet along with the pro-business, pro-private tyranny, racist, 
anti-feminist, and homophobic hogwash disseminated by right-wing 
radio propagandists and the business-backed media, important 
decentralist and anti-statist ideas are also being implanted 
in mass consciousness.  These ideas, if consistently pursued
and applied in all areas of life (the home, the community, the
workplace), could lead to a revival of anarchism in the US -- but 
only if radicals take advantage of this opportunity to spread the 
message that capitalism is not <b>genuinely</b> anti-authoritarian (nor 
could it ever be), as a social system based on liberty must entail. 
<p>
This does not mean that right-wing tendencies have anarchistic 
elements. Of course not. Nor does it mean that anarchist fortunes
are somehow linked to the success of the right. Far from it (the
reverse is actually the case). Similarly, the anti-big government 
propaganda of big business is hardly anarchistic. But it does 
have the advantage of placing certain ideas on the agenda, such 
as decentralisation. What anarchists try to do is point out the 
totally contradictory nature of such right-wing rhetoric. After 
all, the arguments against big government are equally applicable 
to big business and wage slavery. <b>If</b> people are capable of 
making their own decisions, then why should this capability 
be denied in the workplace? As Noam Chomsky points out, while 
there is a <i>"leave it alone"</i> and <i>"do your own thing"</i> current
within society, it in fact <i>"tells you that the propaganda system 
is working full-time, because there is no such ideology in the 
U.S. Business, for example, doesn't believe it. It has always 
insisted upon a powerful interventionist state to support its 
interests -- still does and always has -- back to the origins 
of American society. There's nothing individualistic about 
corporations. Those are big conglomerate institutions, 
essentially totalitarian in character, but hardly individualistic. 
Within them you're a cog in a big machine. There are few 
institutions in human society that have such strict hierarchy 
and top-down control as a business organisation. Nothing there 
about 'Don't tread on me.' You're being tread on all the time. 
The point of the ideology is to try to get other people, 
outside of the sectors of co-ordinated power, to fail to 
associate and enter into decision-making in the political 
arena themselves. The point is to atomise everyone else 
while leaving powerful sectors integrated and highly
organised and of course dominating resources."</i> He goes 
on to note that:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"There is a streak of independence and individuality in 
American culture which I think is a very good thing. This 
'Don't tread on me' feeling is in many respects a healthy 
one. It's healthy up to the point where it atomises and keeps 
you from working together with other people. So it's got 
its healthy side and its negative side. It's the negative 
side that's emphasised naturally in the propaganda and 
indoctrination."</i> [<b>Keeping the Rabble in Line</b>, pp. 279-80]
</blockquote><p>
As the opinion polls above show, must people direct their dislike 
and distrust of institutions equally to Big Business, which shows 
that people are not stupid. However, the slight decrease in distrust 
for big business even after a period of massive business-lead class 
war, down-sizing and so on, is somewhat worrying. Unfortunately, as 
Gobbels was well aware, tell a lie often enough and people start 
to believe it. And given the funds available to big business, its 
influence in the media, its backing of "think-tanks," the use of
Public Relations companies, the support of economic "science," its 
extensive advertising and so on, it says a lot for the common sense 
of people that so many people see big business for what it is. You 
simply cannot fool all the people all of the time!
<p> 
However, these feelings can easily be turned into cynicism and a
hopelessness that things can change for the better and than the 
individual can help change society. Or, even worse, they can be 
twisted into support for the right, authoritarian, populist or 
(so-called) "Libertarian"-Right. The job for anarchists is to 
combat this and help point the healthy distrust people have 
for government and business towards a real solution to societies
problems, namely a decentralised, self-managed anarchist society. 
<p>
<a name="secj47"><h2>J.4.7 What about the communications revolution?</h2>
<p>
Another important factor working in favour of anarchists is the 
existence of a sophisticated global communications network and a 
high degree of education and literacy among the populations of 
the core industrialised nations. Together these two developments 
make possible nearly instantaneous sharing and public dissemination 
of information by members of various progressive and radical 
movements all over the globe -- a phenomenon that tends to reduce 
the effectiveness of repression by central authorities.  The 
electronic-media and personal-computer revolutions also make 
it more difficult for elitist groups to maintain their previous 
monopolies of knowledge. In short, the advent of the Information 
Age is potentially one of the most subversive variables in the 
modern equation.
<p>
Indeed the very existence of the Internet provides anarchists with a
powerful argument that decentralised structures can function effectively
in today's highly complex world.  For the net has no centralised
headquarters and is not subject to regulation by any centralised
regulatory agency, yet it still manages to function quite effectively.
Moreover, the net is also an effective way of anarchists and other
radicals to communicate their ideas to others, share knowledge and
work on common projects (such as this FAQ, for example) and co-ordinate
activities and social struggle. By using the Internet, radicals can 
make their ideas accessible to people who otherwise would not come 
across anarchist ideas (obviously we are aware that the vast majority
of people in the world do not have access to telephones, never mind 
computers, but computer access is increasing in many countries, making
it available, via work, libraries, schools, universities, and so on
to more and more working people). In addition, and far more important
than anarchists putting their ideas across, the fact is that the net
allows everyone with access to express themselves freely, to communicate
with others and get access (by visiting webpages and joining mailing
lists and newsgroups) and give access (by creating webpages and joining
in with on-line arguments) to new ideas and viewpoints. This is
very anarchistic as it allows people to express themselves and start
to consider new ideas, ideas which may change how they think and act.
Of course most people on the planet do not have a telephone, let alone 
a computer, but that does not undermine the fact that the internet is a 
medium in which people can communicate freely (at least until it is 
totally privatised, then it may prove to be more difficult as the net 
could become a giant shopping centre).
<p>
Of course there is no denying that the implications of improved
communications and information technology are ambiguous, implying 
Big Brother as well the ability of progressive and radical movements to
organise. However, the point is only that the information revolution in
combination with the other new social developments we are considering
<b>could</b> (but will not <b>necessarily</b>) contribute to a social paradigm
shift.  Obviously such a shift will not happen automatically.  Indeed, it
will not happen at all unless there is strong resistance to governmental
attempts to limit public access to information technology (e.g. encryption
programs) and censor citizens' communications. 
<p>
How anarchists are very effectively using the Internet to co-ordinate
struggles and spread information is discussed in <a href="secJ4.html#secj49">section J.4.9</a>.
<p>
This use of the Internet and computers to spread the anarchist message
is ironic. The rapid improvement in price-performance ratios of 
computers, software, and other technology today seems to validate 
the faith in free markets. But to say that the information revolution 
proves the inevitable superiority of markets requires a monumental 
failure of short-term historical memory. After all, not just the 
Internet, but the computer sciences and computer industry represent 
a spectacular success of public investment. As late as the 1970s
and early 1980s, according to Kenneth Flamm's 1988 book <b>Creating the
Computer</b>, the federal government was paying for 40 percent of all
computer-related research and probably 60 to 75 percent of basic research.
Even such modern-seeming gadgets as video terminals, the light pen, the
drawing tablet, and the mouse evolved from Pentagon-sponsored research
in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Even software was not without state 
influence, with database software having its roots in US Air Force 
and Atomic Energy Commission projects, artificial intelligence in 
military contracts back in the 1950s and airline reservation systems 
in 1950s air-defence systems. More than half of IBM's Research and
Development budget came from government contracts in the 1950s and
1960s.
<p>
The motivation was national security, but the result has been the creation
of comparative advantage in information technology for the United States
that private firms have happily exploited and extended. When the returns
were uncertain and difficult to capture, private firms were unwilling to
invest, and government played the decisive role. And not for want of 
trying, for key players in the military first tried to convince businesses 
and investment bankers that a new and potentially profitable business
opportunity was presenting itself, but they did not succeed and it was
only when the market expanded and the returns were more definite that
the government receded. While the risks and development costs were
socialised, the gains were privatised. All of which make claims that 
the market would have done it anyway highly unlikely.
<p>
Looking beyond state aid to the computer industry we discover a 
<i>"do-it-yourself"</i> (and so self-managed) culture which was essential 
to its development. The first personal computer, for example, was 
invented by amateurs who wanted to build their own cheap machines. 
The existence of a "gift" economy among these amateurs and hobbyists 
was a necessary precondition for the development of PCs. Without this 
free sharing of information and knowledge, the development of computers 
would have been hindered. In other words, socialistic relations between developers and within the working environment created the necessary 
conditions for the computer revolution. If this community had been 
marked by commercial relations, the chances are the necessary
breakthroughs and knowledge would have remained monopolised by a 
few companies or individuals, so hindering the industry as a whole.
<p>
The first 20 years of the Internet's development was almost completely
dependent on state aid -- such as the US military or the universities --
plus an anti-capitalist "gift economy" between hobbyists. Thus a
combination of public funding and community based sharing helped create
the framework of the Internet, a framework which is now being claimed
as one of capitalism's greatest successes!
<p>
Encouragingly, this socialistic "gift economy" is still at the heart
of computer/software development and the Internet. For example, the
<b>Free Software Foundation</b> has developed the <b>General Public Licence</b>
(GPL). GPL, also know as <i><b>"copyleft"</i></b>, uses copyright to ensure that
software remains free. Copyleft ensures that a piece of software is
made available to everyone to use and modify as they desire. The only
restriction is that any used or modified copyleft material must remain 
under copyleft, ensuring that others have the same rights as you did when
you used the original code. It creates a commons which anyone may add
to, but no one may subtract from. Placing software under GPL means that
every contributor is assured that she, and all other uses, will be able
to run, modify and redistribute the code indefinitely. Unlike commercial
software, copyleft code ensures an increasing knowledge base from which
individuals can draw from and, equally as important, contribute to. In
this way everyone benefits as code can be improved by everyone, unlike
commercial code.
<p>
Many will think that this essentially anarchistic system would be a
failure. In fact, code developed in this way is far more reliable and
sturdy than commercial software. Linux, for example, is a far superior
operating system than DOS, for example, precisely <b>because</b> it draws
on the collective experience, skill and knowledge of thousands of
developers. Apache, the most popular web-server, is another freeware
product and is acknowledged as the best available. While non-anarchists
may be surprised, anarchists are not. Mutual aid and co-operation are
beneficial in evolution of life, why not in the evolution of software?
<p>
For anarchists, this "gift economy" at the heart of the communications
revolution is an important development. It shows the superiority of
common development and the walls to innovation and decent products
generated by property systems. We hope that such an economy will 
spread increasingly into the "real" world.
<p>
<a name="secj48"><h2>J.4.8 What is the significance of the accelerating rate of change and the information explosion?</h2>
<p>
As Philip Slater points out in <b>A Dream Deferred</b>, the cumbersomeness 
of authoritarian structures becomes more and more glaring as the rate 
of change speeds up. This is because all relevant information in
authoritarian systems must be relayed to a central command before 
any decisions can be made, in contrast to decentralised systems where
important decisions can be made by individuals and small autonomous 
groups responding immediately to new information.  This means that 
decision making is slower in authoritarian structures, putting them at a
disadvantage relative to more decentralised and democratic structures.
<p>
The failure of centrally planned state-capitalist ("Communist") 
economies due to overwhelming bureaucratic inertia provides an 
excellent illustration of the problem in question.  Similarly, under
private-property capitalism, small and relatively decentralised companies
are generally more innovative and productive than large corporations 
with massive bureaucracies, which tend to be nearly as inflexible and
inefficient as their "Communist" counterparts.  In a world where the
proliferation of information is accelerating at the same time that 
crucial economic and political decisions must be made ever more quickly,
authoritarian structures are becoming increasingly maladaptive.  As Slater
notes, authoritarian systems simply cannot cope effectively with the
information explosion, and for this reason more and more nations are
realising they must either "democratise" or fall behind.  He cites the
epidemic of "democratisation" in Eastern Europe as well as popular
pressure for democracy in Communist China as symptomatic of this
phenomenon.
<p>
Unfortunately, Slater fails to note that the type of "democracy" to 
which he refers is ultimately a fraud (though better than state-capitalist
totalitarianism), since the representative type of government at which it
aims is a disguised form of political domination by the corporate rich. 
Nevertheless, the cumbersomeness of authoritarian structures on which he 
bases his argument is real enough, and it will continue to lend credibility 
to the anarchist argument that "representative" political structures embedded 
in a corporate-state complex of authoritarian institutions is very far from 
being either true democracy or an efficient way of organising society. 
Moreover, the critique of authoritarian structures is equally applicable
to the workplace as capitalist companies are organised as mini-centrally 
planned states, with (official) power concentrated in the hands of bosses
and managers. Any struggle for increased participation will inevitably
take place in the workplace as well (as it has continually done so as
long as wage slavery has existed). 
<p>
<a name="secj49"><h2>J.4.9 What are Netwars?</h2>
<p>
Netwars refers to the use of the Internet by autonomous groups and social 
movements to co-ordinate action to influence and change society and 
fight government or business policy. This use of the Internet has steadily
grown over the years, with a Rand corporation researcher, David Ronfeldt,
arguing that this has become an important and powerful force (Rand is, and 
has been since it's creation in 1948, a private appendage of the military 
industrial complex). In other words, activism and activists power and 
influence has been fuelled by the advent of the information revolution. 
Through computer and communication networks, especially via the 
world-wide Internet, grassroots campaigns have flourished, and the 
most importantly, government elites have taken notice.
<p>
Ronfeldt specialises in issues of national security, especially in the areas 
of Latin American and the impact of new informational technologies.
Ronfeldt and another colleague coined the term <i><b>"netwar"</i></b> a couple years 
ago in a Rand document entitled <i>"Cyberwar is Coming!"</i>. "Netwars" are 
actions by autonomous groups -- especially advocacy groups and social 
movements -- that use informational networks to co-ordinate action to 
influence, change or fight government policy.
<p>
Ronfeldt's work became a flurry of discussion on the Internet in mid-March
1995 when Pacific News Service corespondent Joel Simon wrote an article about
Ronfeldt's opinions on the influence of netwars on the political situation
in Mexico after the Zapatista uprising. According to Simon, Ronfeldt holds 
that the work of social activists on the Internet has had a large influence -- 
helping to co-ordinate the large demonstrations in Mexico City in support 
of the Zapatistas and the proliferation of EZLN communiques across the 
world via computer networks. These actions, Ronfeldt argues, have allowed 
a network of groups that oppose the Mexican Government to muster an 
international response, often within hours of actions by it. In effect, 
this has forced the Mexican government to maintain the facade of 
nnegotiations with the EZLN and has on many occasions, actually 
stopped the army from just going in to Chiapas and brutally 
massacring the Zapatistas.
<p>
Given that Ronfeldt is an employee of the Rand Corporation (described by 
Paul Dickson, author of the book <i>"Think Tanks"</i>, as the <i>"first military think 
tank. . . undoubtedly the most powerful research organisation associated with 
the American military"</i>) his comments indicate that the U.S. government and 
it's military and intelligence wings are very interested in what the Left and
anarchists are doing on the Internet. Given that they would not be interested
in this if it was not effective, we can say that this use of the "Information
Super-Highway" is a positive example of the use of technology in ways 
un-planned of by those who initially developed it (let us not forget that
the Internet was originally funded by the U.S. government and military).
While the internet is being hyped as the next big marketplace, it is being
subverted by activists -- an example of anarchistic trends within society
worrying the powers that be.
<p>
Ronfeldt argues that <i>"the information revolution. . . disrupts and erodes 
the hierarchies around which institutions are normally designed. It diffuses
and redistributes power, often to the benefit of what may be considered
weaker, smaller actors."</i> He continues, <i>"multi-organisational networks
consist of (often small) organisations or parts of institutions that have
linked together to act jointly... making it possible for diverse, dispersed
actors to communicate, consult, co-ordinate, and operate together across
greater distances, and on the basis of more and better information than
ever."</i> He emphasises that <i>"some of the heaviest users of the new
communications networks and technologies are progressive, centre-left, 
and social activists... [who work on] human rights, peace, environmental,
consumer, labour, immigration, racial and gender-based issues."</i> In other
words, social activists are on the cutting edge of the new and powerful
<i>"network"</i> system of organising.
<p>
All governments, especially the U.S. government, have been extremely
antagonistic to this idea of effective use of information, especially by
the political Left and anarchists. The use of the Internet may facilitate
another "crisis in democracy" (i.e. the development of <b>real</b> democracy
rather than the phoney elite kind favoured by capitalism). To fight this
possible use of the internet to combat the elite, Ronfeldt maintains that 
the lesson is clear: <i>"institutions can be defeated by networks, and it may 
take networks to counter networks."</i> He argues that if the U.S. government 
and/or military is to fight this ideological war properly with the intend 
of winning -- and he does specifically mention ideology -- it must completely 
reorganise itself, scrapping hierarchical organisation for a more autonomous 
and decentralised system: a network. In this way, he states, <i>"we expect 
that. . . netwar may be uniquely suited to fighting non-state actors"</i>.
<p>
Ronfeldt's research and opinion should be flattering for the political
Left. He is basically arguing that the efforts of activists on computers
not only has been very effective or at least has the potential, but more
importantly, argues that the only way to counter this work is to follow the
lead of social activists. Ronfeldt emphasised in a personal correspondence
that the <i>"information revolution is also strengthening civil-society actors
in many positive ways, and moreover that netwar is not necessarily a 'bad'
thing that necessarily is a 'threat' to U.S. or other interests. It depends."</i> At 
the same time, anarchists and other activists should understand the important
implications of Ronfeldt's work: government elites are not only watching
these actions (big surprise), but are also attempting to work against
them.
<p>
This can be seen in many countries. For example, in 1995 a number of 
computer networks, so far confined to Europe, have been attacked or 
completely shut down. In Italy, members of the Carabinieri Anti-Crime 
Special Operations Group raided the homes of a number of activists -- 
many active in the anarchist movement. They confiscated journals, 
magazines, pamphlets, diaries, and video tapes. They also took their 
personal computers, one of which hosted <i>"BITS Against the Empire"</i>, 
a node of Cybernet and Fidonet networks. The warrant ridiculously 
charged them for <i>"association with intent to subvert the democratic 
order"</i>, carrying a penalty of 7 to 15 years imprisonment for a conviction.
<p>
In Britain, Terminal Boredom bulletin board system (BBS) in Scotland was
shutdown by police in 1995 after the arrest of a hacker who was affiliated 
with the BBS. In the same year Spunk Press, the largest anarchist archive 
of published material catalogued on computer networks faced a media barrage
in the UK press which has falsely accused them of working with known 
terrorists like the Red Army Faction of Germany, of providing recipes for 
making bombs and of co-ordinating the <i>"disruption of schools, looting of 
shops and attacks on multinational firms."</i> Articles by the computer trade 
magazine, <b>Computing</b>, and the <b>Sunday Times</b>, entitled <i>"Anarchism 
Runs Riot on the Superhighway"</i> and <i>"Anarchists Use Computer Highway 
For Subversion"</i> respectively, nearly lead one of the organisers of Spunk 
Press loosing his job after the firm he works for received bad publicity. 
According to the book <b>Turning up the Heat: MI5 after that cold war</b> 
by Lara O'Hara, one of the journalists who wrote the Sunday Times 
article has contacts with MI5 (the British equivalent of the FBI).
<p>
It is not coincidence that this attack has started first against anarchists
and libertarian-socialists. They are currently one of the most organised
political grouping on the Internet. Even Simon Hill, editor of <b>Computing</b>
magazine, admits that <i>"we have been amazed at the level of organisation of
these... groups who have appeared on the Internet in a short amount of
time"</i>. According to Ronfeldt's thesis, this makes perfect sense. Who best
can exploit a system that <i>"erodes hierarchy"</i> and requires the co-ordination
of decentralised, autonomous groups in co-operative actions than anarchists
and libertarian-socialists?
<p>
These attacks may not be confined to anarchists for long. Indeed, many
countries have attempted to control the internet, using a number of 
issues as a means to do so (such as "terrorism", pornography and so
on). Government is not the only institution to notice the power of the
Internet in the hands of activists. In America, the Washington Post 
(<i>"Mexican Rebels Using a High-Tech Weapon; Internet Helps Rally 
Support"</i>, by Tod Robberson), Newsweek (<i>"When Words are the Best 
Weapon: How the Rebels Use the Internet and Satellite TV"</i>, by Russell 
Watson) and even CNN have done stories about the importance of the 
Internet and network communication organisation with respect to the 
Zapatistas.
<p>
It is important to point out that the mainstream media is not interested 
in the information that circulates across the Internet. No, they are
interested in sensationalising the activity, even demonising it. They
correctly see that the "rebels" possess an incredibly powerful tool, but
the media does not report on what they either are missing or omitting.
<p>
A good example of this powerful tool is the incredible speed and range at
which information travels the Internet about events concerning Mexico and
the Zapatistas. When Alexander Cockburn wrote an article exposing a Chase
Manhattan Bank memo about Chiapas and the Zapatistas in Counterpunch, 
only a small number of people read it because it is only a newsletter with a
limited readership. The memo, written by Riordan Roett, was very important
because it argued that <i>"the [Mexican] government will need to eliminate
the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory 
and of security policy"</i>. In other words, if the Mexican government wants 
investment from Chase, it will have to crush the Zapatistas. This 
information was relatively ineffective when just confined to print. But 
when it was uploaded to the Internet (via a large number of List-servers 
and the USENET), it suddenly reached a very large number of people. 
These people in turn co-ordinated protests against the U.S and Mexican 
governments and especially Chase Manhattan. Chase was eventually
forced to attempt to distance itself from the Roett memo that it
commissioned.
<p>
Anarchists and the Zapatistas is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Currently there are a myriad of social activist campaigns on the Internet.
From local issues like the anti-Proposition 187 movement in California to a
progressive college network campaign against the Republican <i>"Contract [on]
America,"</i> the network system of activism is not only working -- and working
well as Ronfeldt admits -- but is growing. It is growing rapidly in numbers
of people involved and growing in political and social effectiveness.
There are many parallels between the current situation in Chiapas and the
drawn out civil war in Guatemala, yet the Guatemalan military has been able
to nearly kill without impunity while the Mexican military received a
co-ordinated, international attack literally hours after they mobilise
their troops. The reason is netwars are effective as Ronfeldt concedes, 
and when they are used they have been very influential.
<p>
It is clear than Rand, and possibly other wings of the establishment, are
not only interested in what activists are doing on the Internet, but they
think it is working. It is also clear that they are studying our activities
and analysing our potential power. We should do the same, but obviously
not from the perspective of inhibiting our work, but the opposite: how to
further facilitate it. Also, we should turn the tables as it were. They are 
studying our behaviour and actions -- we should study theirs. As was 
outlined above, we should analyse their movements and attempt to 
anticipate attacks as much as possible.
<p>
As Ronfeldt argues repeatedly, the potential is there for us to be more
effective. Information is getting out as is abundantly clear. But we can do
better than just a co-ordination of raw information, which has been the
majority of the "networking" so far on the Internet. To improve on the work
that is being done, we should attempt to provide more -- especially in the
area of in-depth analysis. Not just what we are doing and what the
establishment is doing, but more to the point, we should attempt to 
co-ordinate the dissemination of solid analysis of important events. In 
this way members of the activist network will not only have the advantage 
of up-to-date information of events, but also a good background analysis of
what each event means, politically, socially and/or economically as the
case may be.
<p>
Thus Netwars are a good example of anarchistic trends within society, the
use of communications technology (developed for the state and used by
capitalism as a means to aid the selling process) has become a means of
co-ordinating activity across the world in a libertarian fashion.
<p>
(This section of the FAQ is based on an article by Jason Wehling called
<i>"'NetWars' and Activists' Power on the Internet"</i> which has appeared
in issue 2 of <b>Scottish Anarchist</b> magazine as well as <b>Z Magazine</b>)
<p>

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