The stance of the anarchists is of great interest, and this factor made plain is highly useful (it was not quite clear to outsiders who supported the movement what they were supporting).
This rare moment when anarchism got a hearing was refreshing but immediately begins to generate its own dialectic. The issue is obvious: anarchism didn’t get a large result, and its moment was brief. I think, as I have said many times here, that the OWS forced a lot of activists to do a double take and ask what they are doing. The old bolshie diehards repeating marxist clichés were all upstaged, briefly.
At this point I think this ‘dialectic’ is moving on rapidly to a new perspective on radical organization and leadership. The arguments over the state and revolution are essential, but they are not conclusive. The reason is not hard to find: the state is not an absolute evil. To think so will paralyze all effort. States in history were a great advance over the Neolithic, at a price, of course.
There are three broad phases:
The Neolithic, which was, who knows, more or less anarchist…
The rise of the state in the great formations of Egypt and Sumer at the breaking front, ….
The rise of the state was the first phase of the revolutionary process: a revolution for the state, not yet against…
It is worth looking up Narmer’s Palette (google it), a classic image of Egyptian state formation, …
The onset of the revolution against the state, the case of Axial Age or Archaic Greece being the best known example zone.
This revolution against the state took many forms, but the one glorious outcome we know and celebrate is the birth of Athenian democracy. And there were multiple republican experiments of varying types throughout the Greco-Roman oikoumene, until the coming of the Hellenistic, then Roman empires.
This phase was very brief, and democracy died out within a few centuries.
Thus the modern phase of revolution attempted to reclaim the lost ground by fomenting the rebirth of democracy.
It was at this point that the various critics of capitalism, with Marx et al. coming to dominate the spectrum, pointed to the contradictions in the rights revolution at the core of the democratic revolution. Not complicated: the Lockean rights of property soon became the tyranny of Capital against the rights of the rest, etc… It was at this point that democratic theory, in the hopes of correcting its flaws mutated into its various communist experiments, with the Marxist brand taking the lead, due to its elaboration of theory. But the seeds of confusion emerged in, for example, the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat. That latter was destined to erupt into the sophistical meanings of the Leninist dictatorship of the Bolshevik bourgeoisie.
It is possible, we must note, to have a revolution for the state that is authoritarian and class based, obviously. There is no inherent reason the revolution for the state should be communist. But we can see the way in which the attempt to create the revolution for the state and against the state might well come to rest on communist assumptions: the real achievement of a State requires the balance of democracy and statism that was impossible in, say, the degenerate formation of the Roman Empire.
One of the creative confusions, at great cost, and waste of effort nonetheless, lay in the misperceived contradictory character of the communist idea, clearly visible in the Russian fiasco: the stages one and two of our list, the revolution for the state, and the revolution against the state were forced to blend and become ambiguous: the result of the revolution of the second kind was a revolution of the first kind, and one that was stripped of the rights gains of the modern democratic revolution.
We can see the attraction of anarchism here, but in the final analysis the history suggests the need for a new synthesis: we need to complete the revolution FOR the state begun with pharaohs to create a global ‘state’ or meta-state. Nothing less can enforce economic sanity as the anarchist capital flow seems no contradiction in destroying the Amazon basin to produce hamburgers for the great American burger idiot. Only a global state can enforce that movement against capital flows. Mr. Narmer at the level of global state formation (which may or may not be world government), and at the same time complete the revolution AGAINST
the state, with a probable recalibration of the meanings of the rights revolution. For here the communist idea suggests that this new synthesis should be communist: an abrogation of the rights of property turned capital, the abstract domination of both state and civil society by economic factors, as clearly depicted by the legacy marxist canon. It is possible that this new synthesis could fall short of its true potential by creating an oligarchic hybrid. The Roman Empire fantasy realized by Pentagon jerkoffs.
In any case we can see that debates over anarchism are misleading: the mechanics is clearly visible in the Russian revolution, but the result was abortive. We can see the elements of the synthesis better in the American Revolution, where the revolution for the state, and against the state came into a reasonable combination. That had the advantage of being a colonial rebellion. But the result has degraded over time into the kind of economic domination we see now: the economic/capilatist anarchy ideology is not the gross parody of state formation in the abstract pseudo-state of capitalist ‘bribery government’, K-street oligarchy. We have therefore not one success propagandizing against one failure, American democracy versus Russian so-called communism, but two failures in the ongoing search for the new synthesis. But the American experiment at least shows the ability to carry through a revolution to the level of a republic, thence granting the potential of a rights context.
So we can see the complexity of the newly globalized ‘problem to be solved’, with one experiment, the Bolshevik, considered a failure. But many of the elements of the solution were present in that experiment, with the same to be said for the American revolution. We can see then that the issue of anarchism in isolation isn’t the answer. We should nonetheless consider that a global state or meta-state should be wise enough to allow a high degree of inner anarchism, and not be totalitarian obsession. But it seems that private property at the Industrial level is in failure mode and has to go, as the first communists understood well.
It is hard to see the agent now for such a global revolution, in the demise of the old communism. Instead the system is degrading as the American experiment becomes an imperialist power. Being a captive of global economic interests, that experiment is destined to fail also. But such a failure, like the Roman empire, can fail over centuries. The system thus seems to be moving to the worst case: a global elite uncontrolled by any government, able to exploit transnational anarchism to its own advantage.
The ‘obvious’ solution is to recreate a new global communism, that can bypass the stale marxist-bolshevik legacy (recycling no doubt some of its basics), one that can fight the revolution for the state and against the state, probably with a state annexation of capital flows (within intelligent limits and understandings of laissez-faire: industrial property). But the impulse to move beyond private ownership was the inevitable requirement sensed by the early communists. And it is hard to see how the global anarchism of capital can ever be managed short of the abolition of private property, that is, false property created by privatized plunder of the Commons.
In any case, the required synthesis requires more than partial pieces of the puzzle.
We have to wonder at this point if the collapse of the Bolshevik ‘meta-state’ (in reality a totalitarian monstrosity) wasn’t a mistake by such as Gorbachev. Please note the misery of the Russian outcome, now in nostalgia mode for the old system. So much for American hype over ‘democracy’. A tremendous, if flawed, effort to create the combined revolution for and against the state was suddenly thrown away. forcing the hope a generation later for the opportunity to start over!
Now we have a degenerate American culture of Iphone diddllers living off the exploited labor of Chinese ‘coolies’, if I may use a term as offensive as possible to slap the American consumer in the face. Such a system is coming to the state of being completely rotten, and what will happen next is by no means clear.
We should note that the OWS was in the wake of the Arab Spring, and that the elements of a global movement are again forcing a recompute.
I think that the legacy of marxism needs to leap out of its skin, and recreate the bourgeois/proletarian revolutions as one hybrid in a mirror to the global action of capital flows. The result will have to recover the ground lost in the fall of the Bolshevik mess. Perhaps that was inevitable, but at this point the sacrifice of so much blood in vain tokens a degenerate future of American capital fascism and fancies of a neo-Roman empire of American storm troopers, all in thrall to the anarchist capital elite, destined to wreck a whole planet, the ruin of the Amazon basin being a mere trifle.
It is hard to see how the American Iphone diddlers could wake up to see the middle class exploitation of Chinese ‘coolies’ at Foxcon, but miracles are always possible.
A new communist left, alert to the anarchist/statist poles, needs to be able to play the bourgeois/proletarian revolution cards with intelligent sophistication.