Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Anarchism and The State

The state is a central concept in the political philosophy of Anarchism. Anarchism is often defined as being an anti-state ideology. While this is sometimes a useful way to distinguish anarchists from other state socialists it also leads to a fair bit of confusion. We will look at the source of this confusion with the aim of showing that anarchism is in its essence opposed to rulers and is not a naive or idealistic form of anti-statism.

What is the State

Anarchism emerges in Western Europe, in the dark times of the mid to late 1800s. The state is, at this time, of a quite brutal character. The welfare state is almost entirely absent. The institutions that exist are almost entirely either military in character (the police often not being distinguished from the military) or designed to adjudicate conflicts amongst the rich. While there were parliaments and courts, they served a function which is perhaps best described by James Madison:

Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.

Here we see expressed in no uncertain terms the role of the state as seen by the ruling class in this period. It is therefore not surprising that the content of anarchist writing in this period is preoccupied with the elimination of the state. In this context, anti-statism is clearly an opposition to an institution whose purpose is to stop the majority from having a fair share in society.

The form of the state, has however, not stood still. The massive wave of socialism that occurred in the late 1800s and early 1900s had a transformative effect. The state found itself in a position where it had to change character in order to ensure its very survival against a revolution of the majority. Republics were made more democratic, institutions were made more egalitarian, and the welfare state was created.

This transformation, which can perhaps be called the rise of Social Democracy has important implications as to how we conceive the state. The state of the early anarchists really is largely concerned with the coercive arm of the modern state. This view of the early socialists is summed up nicely by Engels:

Further, in most historical states the rights conceded to citizens are graded on a property basis, whereby it is directly admitted that the state is an organization for the protection of the possessing class against the non-possessing class.

The state, as describe here, is nothing more than a "special coercive force" (also Engels) meant to keep the majority from power. Anarchists generally share Madison and Engels view of the state.

A Difference without a Distinction?

Anarchists want a radical restructuring of society along democratic lines, a democratisation of all organs of governance and importantly the productive forces of society. Because Anarchists speak favourably of democratic polity, or self governance, we are sometimes accused of playing linguistic games when we say we are opposed to the state. Yet the distinction between self-governance and the state is not arbitrary. It is a useful analytic tool that allows us to differentiate two very different states of affairs (if you'll excuse the pun).

Weber, famously described the state as a "monopoly of violence". In fact the monopoly on violence being held collectively by a population in order to protect themselves is not something that should be opposed. Indeed the Anarchists during the Spanish revolution were not willing to allow the fascists to run about with armed forces in Madrid and Catalonia. This is hardly surprising, but it has sometimes been used to show that anarchists are actually statists. Under this definition of statism, they in fact would have to be classified as such.

This description of the state, is however of almost no value at all. The types of situation that fit "statelessness" in this description of the state are places like Iceland in 1000 or recent Somalia. They tend to be enormously violent, and are not generally considered desirable by anyone (save some really strange Anarcho-Capitalist types).

Anarchists are not opposed to the wielding of power as long as it is done collectively, with an absence of a ruling class, and in an inclusive society. The definition of state as given by Engels lets us clearly distinguish a situation in which we [the working class] are collectively guiding the development of society, from a situation of tyranny, guided by a limited "opulent" minority.

The many forms of state socialism are without this analytic distinction, and to their great detriment. They find themselves unable to distinguish the seizure of the coercive arm of the state by a cadre of self described socialists who then declare a workers state, from the real development of a free inclusive and socialist self rule.

The anarchist definition of the state is therefore concerned with the functionality. If it is democratic, inclusive, accumulation has been abolished and the productive forces are wielded democratically, it is a system of self-governance. If it is not, it is still a state.

What Lies Beyond

The state in modern form is no longer merely a coercive force intent on guarding the accumulation of the wealthy, and the institutions that they hold. It is far more democratic now than it was in the past, and has all sorts of auxiliary institutions that serve the interests of the majority including everything from mass transit to the dole.

So when anarchists say they want to eliminate the state, what can they mean? Are they intent on destroying our social welfare programs? Is the military industrial complex and health care all in the same class, both being equally reprehensible? Such an analysis would rightly be viewed as absurd by most people.

The mechanism of transformation of the early republics towards social democracy in the 20th century was largely the result of the majority of people organising in unions and other mass organisations and forcing concessions from the state. They fought, through strike and other means, for the franchise, democracy, the 8 hour day, the 40 hour week, the social programs that we know today and many things besides.

It is this expression of our own power, a power of people when organised amongst themselves that we are able to build the institutions of the new society. The mass movement of people, in opposition to the ruling class, is both the means and the ends. It is not just the mechanism by which democracy will come into being, it is itself inchoate democracy. The softening of the state was a transformation wrought by this power.

The knowledge of self-organisation, of how to cooperate amongst ourselves, has been heavily eroded since the 1970s. Indeed, we face a situation where the state hopes to recede from the costly social welfare programs that were necessary concessions in former times. Times in which radical unions and a strong working class were present. It may succeed in doing so if the populace finds itself unable to muster forces.

What Might We Do?

It is imperative that we work to ensure that we don't lose further ground, but push forward until the state is truly laid to rest for good. Concretely, this should mean retaking or remaking organisations that represent us in such that they reflect the things that matter to us now.

Democratic reforms were a big part of what socialists called for in the early part of last century. As those were given, the call for democracy receded into the background, while calls for wages remained.

While clearly many people among the working poor, which constitutes up to a 1/3 of the population, are concerned with wages, as they should be, many wage earners are fairly comfortable. Instead, they are worried about other issues, such as official corruption, education, the environment and human rights. Recognising this change is important if we are to find a way to cooperate with each other to move forward.

The most powerful tool that we as wage earners posses is our work. We are able to withdraw our labour. If we want to see a real impact on areas such as human rights and the environment, we should not look to the ruling class to do it for us. We should not focus our time on appeals to justice, to a ruling class which have shown themselves fixated on war and hardly lift a finger for the environment.

Instead we should be using the power we have to ensure that it takes place. If a company is polluting, its employees could bring it to a halt. If a company is supplying arms or material assistance to those who violate rights, they can be brought to account. In other words, democratic assemblies of workers can help to bring about the changes we want to see, and in doing so, make the society itself more democratic.

It is up to ourselves to create these organs, or to transform what exists already into a form that this is possible. If we don't do it ourselves, it will not be done.

Where we are

The Irish political landscape is dominated by three political parties. Of the three political parties only the Labour party purports to anything approaching an ideological stance and this is quite weak and malleable. Instead the political establishment functions on a sort of patronage system. Politicians function essentially as technocrats, attempting to maximise their outcomes in elections. In practice this comes down to a simple calculation: who is capable of giving the most support or trouble and what do they want. The end outcome of this is that the largest monetary interests can quickly dominate political decisions.

The current economic situation in Ireland is bleak. Between 80 and 90 billion euro are expected to be poured into a failing banking sector. This sector which experienced a huge boom during the years of the Celtic Tiger, now has its losses being covered by public funds. Due to this huge transfer of wealth from public to private hands, the Irish Republic's credit rating was downgraded from AA to AA- reflecting the fear of even greater spending on the banks.

The crisis results from a chain of events going back to the early 1990s. During this period the Irish government took a policy of creating conditions extremely favourable to foreign direct investment. This included extremely low corporate taxes and very lax financial regulations. This policy had the intended affect of increasing foreign direct investment, especially from US and UK companies.

By the late 1990s the success of this policy had caused immigration to climb and emigration to decline to the extent that the net population was increasing [1]. At the same time, land in Ireland was monopolised by a fairly small number of wealthy landowners and this conspired with rising demand to produce a housing price boom. While some measures were taken in terms of tax restructuring, the political establishment, being beholden to the immediate economic interests of their patrons, did little to change the course. The ability to allocate land development by County Councillors became a valuable asset and helped reinforce the interest in political sponsorship by developers and bankers.

By 2001 the Foreign Direct Investment cooled as a result of the Dotcom crash [2] and by 2005 was strongly negative. The property market became the most desirable place to invest funds and not just for the extremely wealthy. The professional classes and those who made significant enough incomes to obtain bank loans also attempted to cash in on the fantastic rise in property prices. The fact that the wealthy, the intelligentsia and the professionals had, themselves, largely become invested in property meant that all parties had an interest in a rise in property price value.

Of course it is now well known that the meteoric rise in property prices was a bubble, leading to the current situation where there are over 300,000 [3] unoccupied houses and where the housing market has collapsed with prices falling by about 40% with no sign of abating. Of course, other industries of importance exist in Ireland outside of property: everything from medical devices and pharmaceuticals to airlines. Some of the very richest have even managed to maintain their fortunes by having diverse assets in countries less affected by the decline. However, the richest 250 in Ireland lost €43.7 billion to make their total worth approximately €41.7 billion [4]. This is, by any measure, a rather staggering loss.

The wealthiest have quite predictably focused on retaining the value that they have left. The National Assets Management Association (NAMA) is part of this strategy, as it not only helps failing banks to move rapidly falling assets off the books, it also avoids a glut of property entering the market all at once as the result of bankrupt banks. Raising the funds necessary for the bank bailouts requires massive cuts to the public budget which would attack services, wages and jobs. The programme has been widely sold as being a necessary social cost with such slogans as "we are all in this together".

The real opportunities for the rich in Ireland to jump-start the economy are, in fact, quite limited. Talks of Keynesian programmes, regardless of whether they are desirable, are completely infeasible. The domestic economy is simply too small. The banks are beholden to foreign bond investors and there is no local currency which can be devalued to fund such an endeavour. This means that the only feasible line of action is falling in line with international investors and the European banks, specifically the Germans. Practically this means a programme of austerity. With the continuing need for bank bailouts, the realisation that the property market has not ceased to sink and the ever increasing dole queues - This austerity programme will have to be quite deep indeed.

At the same time the political establishment which supports the extremely wealthy has become quite brittle. In the polls, the political fortunes have wavered wildly. For a short time the Labour party was the largest party in Ireland, an historic first, only to recede again. A poll conducted by the Sunday Independent showed that 51% of respondents said that a new political party is needed in Ireland [5]. Clearly there is discontent, but none of the political parties can make a strong case for a better direction then the one already being carried out.

Where we want to be

Our task is to create a new inclusive and democratic approach to politics which eliminates gross economic inequalities. This approach must provide us with the tools to deal with the global environmental problems. It will require an egalitarian system with a scale capable of dealing with the scale of our environmental and economic problems. A social system which scales from the very local to the global with the principle that each decision be made at the most local competent authority for that decision. In the immediate term it is too difficult to tell concretely how such a thing will be carried out as it is both too far in the future and we have not had sufficient success at a smaller scale to know what will be possible. But we must keep this vision in mind in order to know at least the vague direction in which we are to move.

Working backward

Working backward from this end goal to what might plausibly proceed it, it is evident that such a restructuring will require a region with sufficient economic muscle to avoid being decimated by the whims of international markets. The region will need the strength to display some level of leverage over other players who do not share the same vision. The possibility of a simultaneous world restructuring is just too far fetched to be believable. It will necessarily happen in stages of unfolding - even if it happens quite quickly.

From our perspective, being in Europe, it is most sensible to focus on the European region, with an eye to changing this first and quickly extending it to those movements most parallel in the global south. We therefor need to aim to at least capture the imagination of Europe and use this as a base from which to move forward. Moving beyond Europe will require a very international vision embedded deep within the project such that the movement is not retarded by Euro-centric currents. The concepts of human rights, anti-war sentiment and the environment, all of which are necessarily global, are the principles most likely to engender such a world encompassing view.

The project of a popular democratic and egalitarian restructuring of Europe is an old one. However, some things have changed in our favour. The European state, while weak, creates an apparatus which we can use as a locus. It is a point on which demands can be placed, and it represents the most likely organ through which any concerted effort by the European wealthy to stop a popular progressive movement will be exercised. Already legal battles against workers are being elevated to the EU institutions, a move which seeks to avoid the inconveniences presented by the more democratic and less technocratic national political systems and to avoid coming into conflict with national movements.

A concerted attempt to remove the reins from the European elite, however, can not yet be done as the idea to do so is not yet present in the general population. An alternative European vision has not been offered and not many practical steps have been made in this direction.

European level solidarity for trade unions has been far and few between. This is partially because of the very different legal climates in which they operate and partly because a lack of vision. In fact the activist alter-globalisation movements have been much more international in both vision and practice.

In Ireland the unions have been in retreat since around the time of Thatcher. The steady decline of industrial action in Ireland has been very marked culminating in a near total stop by the early 90s [6]. At the same time the density of the unions in the work place has declined and shifted quite heavily to the regions most easy to organise, especially the public sector.

In our immediate period, in Ireland with unemployment at 13% and rising, unions become a generally less powerful option. The fear of joblessness and imminent replaceability make fights against employers difficult to impossible to carry out effectively. A one legged focus on the unions in a down-turn is unlikely to reap much in the way of immediate benefits. As such there is a need for a broader approach.

Our tasks

The process of the decaying legitimacy of the Irish political establishment will have some endpoint. This will result either in a re-establishment of legitimacy after some time or the displacement with some new constellation of ideas and foci of power. Ideally we would use this time to promote a new current within the intelligentsia which would promote an agenda of equality - rather than allow this vacuum to be filled with other ideas.

A recent poll by TASC showed that 87% of the people surveyed believed there was too much economic inequality in Ireland. Nearly half believed that there should be a maximum wage. Such revelations are quite shocking when one thinks about how dominant the current economic programme is imagined to be.

In order to make a progressive movement successful in Ireland, it will be necessary to achieve some concessions. In order to capture the national imagination, they will have to be national in scale. While a fight in the trade unions can stave off wage decreases it has proved to result in very little support outside of the trade unions, which no longer carry the sort of general legitimacy in the population that they once did. While the trade unions will be a necessary ally and therefore need to be convinced of any programme to move forward, we will need a broader scale for a successful movement on the scale of Ireland. The alternatives would be to both reduce unemployment and increase union density significantly or to change perceptions of the trade unions in the general population. Those later alternatives are likely to be larger hurdles.

The wealthy can not avoid attacking the conditions of the majority of the population if they are to protect their winnings and there are few financial solutions to our predicament: we are still beholden to international capital investment and must keep multinational corporations by keeping corporate tax competitive. It seems therefor that any progressive movement will have to come squarely on the side of dispossessing the native rich of some of their assets. How this dispossession happens concretely is hard to foretell because we have only a weak grasp of what is possible given our lack of information about attitudes.

In general resistance to the cuts have often been only reactive, choosing to fight each attack as it comes. Waiting for the axe to fall in the current situation and then trying to fight each cut individually will be a losing battle. It will be much easier for the political establishment to divide people against each other, each group fighting in the hopes of getting their own concessions. Even worse, waiting around allows arguments that if stated in juxtaposition to reasonable solutions, would be irrelevant. Anti-immigrant sentiment and attacks on the weakest sections of society are often enticing to the middle sections of society when under pressure, as they can see clearly that a moderate push can shift the burden further down, without having to come into conflict with the political establishment. Much better would be to take an offensive stance and attempt to side-step these divisions as much as possible.

As a supposition, a movement for a wealth tax or wealth max seems a sensible demand on which to pitch battle. It seems a reasonable option to many and it would not be too far fetched to believe that it could be implemented. A restructuring of income tax would not be capable of raising very significant funds and would be quite hard and expensive to assess. Property tax is too indiscriminate in its application and would make suffer many who are nominally owners of expensive properties, but which are not presently salable. In addition it is not really possible even in principle to value land in the current climate with the tremendous rate of decline and it would not be popular with many in the sociologically middle class. A wealth tax could start with the richest and work its way down - incurring an overhead that was not too great in proportion to the funds which could be appropriated. In addition it may be largely ignored by international investors, as it does not affect corporate profits. This could insulate such a movement from too direct interference before the movement was capable of weathering it.

The implementation of such a tax would need to be looked at in detail. In order to be successful it would need to avoid conflict with the small enterprises such as rural pubs and the like which might have nominally large assets but fairly small revenues. If it negatively impacts people who do not seem rich to their neighbors and who are influential, it could likely be defeated as unfair. Research into an appropriate scaling of cut-off would need to be done in order to ensure that the majority of the population was not only in favour, but could be convinced that action was necessary.

While it is true that giving over funds from the richest to the incompetent political regime might seem a hollow victory, it will provide a modicum of protection to the working class from some of the cuts. More importantly it would attack the logic of the assault which hinges on the premise that there are no alternative to diminishing conditions for the general population. If deeper cuts are sought, deeper taxation might be forced into effect which could lead to a chain reaction. A wealth tax would "place the tail of the snake in its mouth". If successfully achieved, a deepening of cuts could cause the burden to fall more greatly on the wealthy.

A democratisation of corporate management should also be advocated. This on the basis that the current economic crisis is at least partly due to a failure of accountability by those in charge of the allocation of investment. The massive over-production of housing and the over-heating of the property market at the cost of investment in other projects much more important to the health of the economy are strong indicators that another direction should be taken. This demand is quite unlikely to be adopted as it would represent a profound break with the independence of investors from public responsibility. However it is useful in promoting the general idea which we hope eventually to implement.

There are of course other demands and tactics which should be assessed. They should be reflected upon according to the criterion of timeliness and impulse. Timeliness means that the demands will not result in disaster if they are achieved, something which must be viewed in relation to our current position vis-รก-vis the rest of Europe. The demands themselves may later become reasonable but are dependent on the environment. Demands which would cause a capital flight in the immediate period should be discouraged, though the populace is quite cognizant of the dangers of such demands and would be unlikely to accept them. The demand must also have impulse, in the sense that the satisfaction of the demand, its partial satisfaction, or indeed its failure to be satisfied should all be capable of providing a movement with momentum. Failure to achieve a maximum wealth demand in the face of a popular movement need not result in a collapse, but could be used as a further demonstration that the political regime is unresponsive and could be outlet into a more direct expropriation. Similarly, a satisfaction of a wealth maximum would in fact lead to a weakening of the ability of the wealthiest to direct policy autocratically and could start the ball rolling on further moves towards democratisation.

An approach making use of a non-partisan volunteer organisation, seems the best vehicle through which to start such a movement. It can present itself as a reasonable political alternative, while bearing a programme which seems plausible. It need not become embroiled directly with electoral politics, but can act independently of the political consensus, while still putting pressure on it. It can avoid the competition over constituents which necessarily arises from the creation of a political party - cross cutting the usual conflicts the electoral approach presents.

In order to gain support we can use organising techniques from union organiser models. The organiser model relies on the capacity to take quite wide grievances and direct them into a unitary solution. In the Union case this solution is a group of fellow workers deciding together on the solutions to their problems. In the case of a progressive economic movement, it should be the wide range of general benefits of equality [7] which will cover grievances relating directly to the cuts, but extends also to crime, health, education and many other factors. With careful training of volunteers and practice it should be possible to quickly develop an active base using these techniques.

Such a volunteer organisation would have to start with quite small exercises of power. Legitimacy would be the key factor to allowing the demand to get some currency. This means that each step has to be taken with only a short lead on public perceptions. Likely the first steps will be fairly soft activities such as polls, petitions, letter writing campaigns and "equality compliance" score cards for politicians. As it becomes apparent that the politicians have no interest in actually doing what the general population wants it will be possible to move to more direct applications of power. The appropriation of unused property in conjunction with sympathetic community groups would be one possible activity. Even if it was unsuccessful, it could serve to further erode confidence in the political establishments sense of good will.

The organisation would also need to cultivate links with prominent journalists, authors and cultural figures. Successfully achieving deep social changes, it is important that there be a network of sympathy amongst the more socially prominent. Without these people, the political establishment will find itself without a voice. The development of contacts and engendering of sympathy by presenting an alternative which is palatable is key to being able to get this group on board. People in the spotlight are unlikely to risk their reputations on something that sounds crazy - so presenting a message in the most palatable fashion is critical.

A broader popular movement might also serve to give some teeth back to the unions. The argument that union members are simply trying to protect their own becomes harder to make if they were being spurred on by a wider group. Creating an environment in which the trade unions feel capable of acting is at least as important as their objective capacity. This is important because the capacity to withdraw labour still represents one of the greatest potential forces that the population possesses.

At the same time we need to be looking at how to push parallel organisations in other localities. If the approach is even moderately successful, it should be possible to get some cooperation for such a movement in the UK or abroad in other areas of Europe. Replicating the model relatively quickly will be important for taking any further step - which really can not be done without a European scale - so it should not wait lest momentum be lost.

There are no guarantees that any strategy can be made to work. The approach described here has the advantage however of being both plausible and appealing to a wide audience. It retains the core aims with an eye to the eventual goal while simultaneously putting them in a form that can be accepted by the general population and which has some chance of being achieved.

World Bank, World Development Indicators
[3] Based at NUI Maynooth, Prof Rob Kitchin the Director of the State-funded academic study

Science and a Fair Society

Since very early times, humans have wondered about how best to live together. What we now call political philosophy was initiated millenia ago. There have been many schools of political philosophy, many of which have given tacit support and justification of the present social order. Political philosophies of this type have always been popular with rulers, the nobility and the rich. They have for this reason enjoyed a great deal of financial and even legal support.

However, there are also those who have sought to question whether the status quo is indeed the best manner in which humans might live together.

In 300 CE Bao Jingyan wrote a treatise entitled "Neither Lord Nor Subject" [1].

"As soon as the relationship between lord and subject is established, hearts become daily more filled with evil designs, until the manacled criminals sullenly doing forced labour in the mud and the dust are full mutinous thoughts, the Sovereign trembles with anxious fear in his ancestral temple, and the people simmer with revolt in the midst of their poverty and distress; and to try to stop them revolting by means of rules and regulations, or control them by means of penalties and punishments, is like trying to dam a river in full flood with a handful of earth, or keeping the torrents of water back with one finger."

This idea that our social structure itself is responsible for many of the conflicts that we experience has enjoyed resurgence periodically throughout history. Indeed, people are still investigating these questions.

Science has provided us with powerful tools which allow us to systematically investigate phenomenon in the natural world. Psychology and Sociology have turned these tools towards the investigation of ourselves and how we relate to each other. Using these tools we now are in a better position to investigate these question than at any time in history.

Equality And a Healthy Society

Equality has been an important feature of political thought in Europe since the Enlightenment period and gained widespread popularity during and after the French revolution.

The republican revolutions of Europe removed the greater portion of the systems of nobility and privilege that separate people into various distinct legal classes. Feudalism is largely a thing of the past, and has been replaced with a legal equality. Over the course of the 20th century, legal equality has been extended to include nearly everyone (though citizenship is still restricted on grounds of foreign birth or sometimes even more restrictive rules about origin).

However, there are still large material inequalities. In fact, income and wealth inequality in the US and UK has been on the rise for the last three decades.

But why should we care? Is inequality something we should worry about or is it a good thing? Brian Griffiths, former adviser to Margaret Thatcher and an adviser for Goldman Sachs mentioned at a panel discussion in London in 2009:

"We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all,” [2]

This is a bold thesis, however it is also one which does not stand up to scrutiny. Recently, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have gained some notoriety for a popular book, The Spirit Level [3] detailing their investigations into the question of the impact of inequality using statistical methods.

Their findings give a staggering indictment of the above statement. In fact, increasing equality leads to huge benefits across the board. These benefits are so widespread that even some of the richest people in society benefit from the increase in equality.

Based on the strength of the correlations between equality and improvement in social welfare a decrease of inequality by half in the UK would lead to a huge list of improvements:

- Murder rates would halve
- Mental illness would reduce by two thirds
- Obesity would halve
- Imprisonment would reduce by 80%
- Teen births would reduce by 80%
- Levels of trust would increase by 85%

Although the study has been attacked on the basis that it has derived the correlations by looking at different European countries with different social structures - effectively comparing apples and oranges - the results are so robust that extending the study to look at the various US states in terms of the economic inequality by state showed essentially the same features. It is rare that statistical studies on the scale of society are re-targeted to a new data set this way and retain so much predictive power.

Corrosion of Democracy

It has been known since the time of the Athenian city-state, that large accumulations of wealth can have corrosive effects on democracy. Indeed this underlies the reasoning behind having a system of lots for many of the official positions, so as to avoid the influence that would-be oligarchs would have on the society [4].

The ever increasing inequality in the UK and the US has lead to an erosion of what democratic principles existed. Thomas Ferguson undertook to study the impact of money on elections in the US in his book "Golden Rule" [5]. In his investigations he found that in 9 out of 10 US elections, the outcome could be predicted by campaign spending.

Of course the impact of campaign contributions would be much less of a problem in a system in which individuals were much closer to material equality. The extraordinary inequality present in the US and UK mean that a very few people will have tremendous influence on who gets elected.

While this means that those politicians who are most favourable to moneyed interests are much more likely to be elected, it does not necessarily prove that the money turns into policy decisions. Figuerdo Edwards’ investigation into this question showed that in fact money does buy policy. The study evaluates regulation with regards to telecommunications companies [6]. In his research he found a strong correlation between campaign contributions by telecom companies and favourable policy decisions made in proportion to the contributions given.

Democracy becomes little more than a farce when policy is driven by the tyranny of the dollar and the only function of elections is to provide a veneer of respectability. A properly functioning democracy requires a substantially more equitable distribution of resources.


Those who claim the need for inequality often claim that without the material incentives given by unbounded income, people would cease working harder when they reached the top. In addition those who are at the very bottom wouldn't bother working at all if they weren't in permanent threat of poverty.

This wisdom is widely accepted, but does it stand up to systematic investigation? Dan Pink wrote a popular survey of literature on the subject of motivation entitled Drive [7]. In this work he shows that a large body of research over the course of many decades has lead to evidence that material incentives often do not result in improvements in performance. Indeed, in a large number of cases they have the opposite effect.

The tendency for an outside incentive to reduce the capacity to solve a problem is known as the overjustification effect. Perhaps the earliest demonstration of the effect was with children in the 3-5 year old range which were offered a ribbon for drawing with felt-tipped pens. A second group was given an unexpected reward of a ribbon. A third group was a control and was given no reward. Later, in a free-play setting the children who had been given a reward for the pens were less likely to play with the pens further [8]. The most widely accepted conclusion is that expected rewards undermine intrinsic motivation.

Sam Glucksberg performed a similar experiment testing the ability to solve cognitive tasks on adults with monetary incentives. He found that again, the extrinsic rewards actually diminish the capacity to solve the problem. Since that time the effect has become very well established [7].

So what serves as intrinsic motivation? As it turns out non-tangible rewards, such as verbal praise, do not appear to undermine intrinsic motivation. Praise can in fact reinforce intrinsic motivation [9]. People want to know that their work is both appreciated and socially important.

If monetary incentives do not increase the ability to solve complicated problems then the question must be asked: why is that they we are paying huge amounts of money to CEOs, bankers and others who are supposed to be dealing with the complex problems of organising society?


The connection between material wealth and well being has been the subject of argument for a long time. It has often been claimed that material wealth does not lead to happiness.

Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton performed a study of 450,000 responses to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index [10]. Their finding was that, indeed money does improve self reported emotional well being up to an annual income of approximately $75,000.

Not only is inequality depriving a substantial number of people of emotional well-being, it is also of no benefit to the rich who horde it. In 2004 the mean income in the US was $60,528 [11], this is about 40% larger than the median income [12]. A 40% increase in income to most Americans would, according to this study, lead to a very substantial improvement in emotional well-being. This is without even accounting for the fact that there are even greater disparities in wealth than there are in income.


Many of these ideas have been folklore among socialists for over a century. Of Course, folklore is not a sufficient basis for a fair and egalitarian society. However, it appears that the intuition behind this folklore stands up to scientific scrutiny, while the widely expressed myths of the usefulness of inequality do not. None of these investigations will ensure that we can construct a society that is at once focused on improving the conditions of humanity and base on a very realist, scientific and rational approach to the problems of humanity. However, they do lend powerful evidence that such a world is possible.

[1] Anarchism: a documentary history of libertarian ideas, volume one, From anarchy to anarchism (300-1939) edited by Robert Graham. KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library (Kate Sharpley Library) (46-47). July 2006.

[2] Caroline Binham, “Goldman Sachs’s Griffiths Says Inequality Helps All”. Bloomberg, October 21, 2009.

[3] Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. London, Allen Lane, 5 March 2009

[4] The Democratic Experiment, Paul Cartledge Retrieved Oct 5th 2010

[5] Thomas Ferguson, Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Politics. University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (June 15, 1995)

[6] de Figueiredo, Rui J.P. Jr., & Edwards, Geoff. (2005). Does Private Money Buy Public Policy? Campaign Contributions and Regulatory Outcomes in Telecommunications. UC Berkeley: Institute of Governmental Studies. Retrieved from:

[7] Pink, Daniel H., Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Riverhead Hardcover; 1 edition (December 29, 2009)

[8] Lepper, M.R., Greene, D., & Nisbett, R.E. (1973). Undermining children's intrinsic interest with extrinsic reward: A test of the "overjustification" hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 28, 129-137.

[9] Deci, E., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R.(1999). A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 627-688.
[10] Kahneman, Daniel and Deaton, Agnus (2010), High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 107 no. 38.

[12] "US Census Bureau, mean household income". Retrieved 2006-06-29.

[11] "US Census Bureau news release in regards to median income". Retrieved 2007-08-28.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Alice: Where Art Thou Going?

I had heard that Alice, the new film directed by one of my favourite directors, Tim Burton, wasn't very good. That admonition doesn't come close to describing how I felt as I watched the film.

It's fairly unusual for me to think about writing a review of a film while I'm watching it, since I have a tendency to become totally absorbed in even relatively vapid movies. I also don't tend to get put off too much by regressive political tendencies when watching films. For instance, I quite enjoyed Star Trek, despite the fact that it was sometimes a relatively obvious allegory for US "peace keeping" missions. It's therefor telling that I spent the entire film thinking about the scathing review I would write of it.

Firstly, there was never a suspense of disbelief. Ironically, this is reflected by the main character, Alice, who also fails to have a suspense of disbelief while in wonderland, consistently reiterating that she believes it to be a dream and remains detached.

The entire plotline follows follows a purely deterministic path, set by an oracle which is revealed to us at the beginning of the film. The world is clearly divided into "good" and "evil". All of the "good" characters are aware of this oracle. While not always beliveing that Alice will be the hero given in the oracle, they neverthless are steadfast in their knowledge that everything is pre-determined. It's hard not to be reminded of Calvinism while watching it.

The tyrannical Red Queen has laid waste to vast swaths of wonderland. It is only by the heroic efforts of a single messiah, Alice, that the masses will rise up against the Red Queen. Or, as the white queen puts: "When a champion steps forth to slay the Jabberwocky, the people will rise against her." After overthrowing the Red Queen, Alice will transfer power and dominion to the White Queen, who can't do the dirty work directly because of her "vows".

This presents us with a sort of bizarre bourgeois fantasy, where the corrupt rulers are replaced by the actions of a saviour. The correct order of ruler and ruled is maintained, but everything is better because we've got the "good" queen in now. To end things, we have Alice going back to her real life, and promoting herself as an effective entrepreneur, helping to expand the British trade empire into China. This final act is a vague gesture to bourgeois feminism and a rejection of Victorian virtues.

Alice reflects the widespread revolutionary impulse that is presenting itself in our current socio-political climate. In both Avatar and Alice, we see a reflection of the distress that most people feel with the current social order. While Avatar pays tribute to primitivism and religious backwardness, at least it presents a collective struggle against the domination of coercive forces. Alice presents us instead with a trite, cliche and amazingly safe outlet for fantasies of changing society for the better.

Unfortunately for Alice, however, the regressiveness of it's political dimension isn't it's only failing. It also presents idiotic dialog, poor acting and an obnoxious dance sequence at the end. Characters repeatedly quote the original text completely out of context and with no understanding of the logical inconsistencies they were meant to provoke. You can definitely safely give this one a miss.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Power to Do

The Cathars were a Christian sect popular in parts of Europe during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. The most popular strain of Catharism had a dualist theology, which posited a fundamental incompatibility between love and power. The god of the present world was material, and was named Rex Mundi. This god controlled material manifestation which was identified with power and evil. Another god, who was worshiped by the Cathars was a god of pure principle and untainted by material existence. Catharism defined itself to a great extent in opposition to a Catholic church which it identified with materialism and corruption. It saw the cause of the spiritual degeneration of the Catholic church as related to its power.

The Cathar movement has interesting parallels with various strains of anarchism and council communism. Anarchism and council communism have posited themselves an antidote to the corruption present in the Leninist acquisition of power, thereby defining itself to a large extent as an oppositional tendency. This opposition, however, has largely been defined in the same way that the Cathars responded to the Catholic church. That is, rather than dealing with the concrete manifestations, it instead attempts to divorce itself from responsibility by adhering to a principle of inaction and the complete absence of power.

As the Cathars discovered, power can not be ignored. The Albigensian Crusade of (1209-1229) fairly well eliminated the Cathar threat to the Catholic church. Anarchism has suffered a similar fate, once in the Russian revolution, falling finally and terminally at Kronstadt and again in Spain being crushed between the Hammer of Fascism and the anvil of Stalinism. These failures are of course tragic, but this does not absolve us of a study as to how they occurred, but rather entreats us to find out how they might not have occurred.

Transcendence was the goal of the Cathar movement. That is, they viewed God, Love and the desirable qualities of purity as completely outside of and beyond the world. Immanence is the contrasting philosophy of what is material, that God is manifested in the world.

The idea that we can simply remain uncorrupted by power if we simply fail to wield it is a theology of transcendence. In fact we necessarily exist in the material world, and any theory of power which will make real anarchist communism viable, must be entirely immanent to the material world. It must learn, itself, to be a theory for the weilding of power, rather than an abdication.

The Perfecti

The Cathars were broadly divided into two camps. The first group, the Perfecti, styled themselves the "true Christian Church", adhering unyieldingly to the ascetic denouncement of the material world. This group was always small, yet it formed a pole of a attraction that existed throughout the time of Catharism's popularity.

Within capitalist social relations it is inevitable that the vast majority of people will continue to engage in selling their wage labour to capitalists and buy goods from capitalists. However, periodically anti-capitalists invent some strategy which attempts to avoid the problem.

The most obvious example of the anarchist Perfecti are those who posit a drop-out lifestyle, involving squatting, dumpster diving as a way to escape the social relations of capitalism. While of course, this does in fact work, especially in the rather richer countries, to escape wage labour and the purchase of commodities, it is unable to provide a challenge to capitalism, and it can only ever exist as an adjunct. Just as the Perfecti were only ever a tiny minority of the Cathar movement, so too is the drop out lifestyle.

A recurring theme in utopian socialism is to make a commune of some form in remote location. The antiquity of this idea can be shown by Kropotkin's treatise "Advice to those about to Emigrate"[1]. This strategy shares the problem that it can only ever be an answer to a small minority, and does not challenge the basis of capitalism.

Primitivism also is a tendency with a similar ideological stance. It posits that the basis of capitalist social relations are in technology itself, and hopes for an extreme form of ascetism which at times even rejects language itself.

Clearly, any method that requires extreme ascetism and the complete rejection of capitalist social relations by individual or small group disaffiliation, rather than a collective struggle to overcome them, is doomed by design to remain marginal. Only the primitivists have some hope of having their dreams realised, if we are in fact nuked into the stone age by war mongering lunatics, or hit by a comet or some equally horrific disaster takes place.

No Solution - Revolution

The tension between reform and revolution has two poles which are reconciled in a number of ways. The most conservative and popular model is the typical liberal model of reforming the system from within. This of course is in the interests of the capitalist class to promote, and is thereby the dominant ideological tendency throughout society.

Anarchists have been the most consistent in objecting to parliamentarian approaches. Of all revolutionaries ideology, few have managed to remain so staunchly in opposition to electoralism.

However, this adherence has often come at a price. The simplest way to defend such a position is to say that reform is impossible. Hence this argument itself has often come to define anarchism. Revolution is viewed in some sense an instantaneous transcendence, not an achievement of struggle.

In fact, the rejection of electoralism should not be found on these grounds at all, but rather the pragmatic difficulties which electoralism represents. Reform is in fact possible, something shown by the 8 hour day, the 5 day work week, the improvement in living standards, the civil rights movement and the feminist movement.

The problem with electoralism is not that reform is impossible, but rather that electoralism is fundamentally antagonistic to a more positive conception of the mechanism of revolution. If reform comes via parliament it is 99 times out of 100 because of the power of a mass movement. The legitimacy of the change is only later formally recognised through some act of parliament. In the 1 time of the 100 that it comes from within parliament itself, without a mass wielding of real power, it serves no purpose. It serves no purpose because it has not allowed us to build power, but has wielded power in our stead.

When concrete demands are made of the capitalist class, some purists will cry out that capitalism can not provide such things. Again this mistakes the world we seek as being the pure transcendent, and not something we immanentise. A call for a maximum on wages for bankers could in fact be enacted with a sufficiently strong union movement. The power to do that should be a part of the world we seek.

If this power doesn't exist, and the demand is purely aspirational, then such a demand may in fact not be reasonable. However, the demand should not be rejected on the basis of being a reform of capitalism, or one to manage capitalism for the capitalists.

The Trade Unions

The Credentes were the other section of the Cathars. While they weren't required to live the pure ascetic lifestyle of the Perfecti, they were to refrain from eating meat, dairy or from swearing oaths. The failure to swear oaths in a time when most people could not read meant that no contracts between people could be made for the vast majority of population. Purity becomes a form of isolation.

It's almost a universally accepted fact among anarchists that the Unions are hopelessly reformist. The three most commonly articulated strategies to deal with this problem are rejection of workplace struggles, anarcho-syndicalism and informal workplace organising.

The total rejection of workplace struggles finds greatest currency in the United states. The tendency does, however, exist elsewhere, including Europe. This is partly based in the internalisation of anti-union propaganda and to some extent based on the relative conservatism of the current trade union movement. Some sections of the post-left even go so far as to claim that syndicalism is inherently authoritarian.

More interesting are the approaches to workplace struggle advocated by the modern anarcho-syndicalists and those who push for informal methods.

Many anarcho-syndicalists effectively ask that people join a revolutionary syndicalist organisation. This of course is not going to attract the majority of people in a work place in the present climate. While some percentage may join, it's hard to imagine very many workplaces becoming instantly revolutionary. Thus, anarcho-syndicalism generally reduces to attempting to organise people at the unit of a workplace with only a minority in the anarcho-syndicalist union.

This approach of minority unionism means that the resources of a union, with its strike funds, full time staff and publications are not really available. In essence the anarcho-syndicalists are advocating a specific political group rather than a union properly and are thereby not really syndicalist at all.

Again, some of this is because of the truly deplorable state of the unions currently, after having been smashed by neo-liberalism, we have gone into a long period of low class struggle. The residual substance is left in the union seems to be some admixture of business unionism and Trotskyists who have been involved in entryism since time immemorial. The current state of the unions should not however be taken as a permanent situation that is dictated by objective circumstances. We appear to be entering into a period of increased class struggle, and further global crises seem likely to many in even the established economic community. It would be a mistake to assume this period will be like the last.

While the real problems existing in the unions should not be ignored, we can not afford to avoid oaths. We must not confuse what does exist with what must exist.

Vaccination against the Transcendental Virus

Anarchism has certain strengths that make it an important political ideology. It is the original libertarian socialism with a continuous lineage which has accumulated both negative and positive experiential knowledge. The critique of electoralism has not been as deeply established in any other strain. The extension of democracy to all aspects of society which confront us makes it the most radically democratic movement in existence.

It has however, periodically dissolved and dissipated as a movement. During the period following the first international and leading up to the syndicalist period, anarchism lost its traction and descended into a marginal current, even as Marxism began growing to grow. During the syndicalist period we see anarchism playing catch up in almost every revolutionary situation, excepting perhaps for Spain in Catalonia. Since then things have only been worse. Anarchist ideas have had virtually no influence for over a half of a century.

This oscillation around a pole of disorganisation doesn't reduce simply to anti-organisational sentiment, though this does appear as a manifestation. Often there are anarchist organisations in the lulls between struggles. However, when these organisations exist, they have a tendency to exist purely as propaganda organisations.

The root of the problem is in the fear of immanence. This fear is rooted, as the Cathar's fear in a horror and revulsion at what actually exists. Rather than have to cope with the very real problematic realities of the material world, it instead accepts a transcendent revolutionary moment which will in some singularity transcend all of the problems of the material world and the exercise of power. This does not mean accepting those things which are currently immanent, but, instead, actualising immanence.

If Anarchism is again to be a force in the world, we need to find a way to dislodge ourselves from an orbit around the pole of transcendence. In order to do this, I propose that anarchism must start taking power seriously, not just in the sense of critiquing those in power, but in developing a theory of how we can exercise power. Not just in creating distinct groups of Perfecti, but how we can be fully immersed in the material as a process of becoming. We can not afford to reject all oaths, but must rather have ways of making oaths that bring us closer to the society we want to see.

[1] Advice to Those About to Emigrate - Kropotkin

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Assessment of the Uruguayan Tupamaros

This is an excerpt from Problems of Revolutionary Strategy by Abraham Guillen

To the credit of the Uruguayan Guerillas, they were the first to operate in the cement jungles of a capitalist metropolis, to endure during the first phase of a revolutionary war thanks to an efficient organization and tactics, and to confound the police and armed forces for a considerable period... With its failures as well as successes, the Movement of National Liberation (Tupamaros) has contributed a model of urban guerrilla warfare that has already made a mark on contemporary history - the scene of a struggle between capitalism and socialism with its epicenter in the great cities. The lessons that can be learned from the Tupamaros can be summarized in the following ten points.

(1) Fixed or Mobile Front? When urban guerrillas lack widespread support because of revolutionary impatience or because their actions do not directly represent popular demands, they have to provide their own clandestine infrastructure by renting houses and apartments. By tying themselves to a fixed terrain in this way, the Tupamaros have lost both mobility and security: two prerequisites of guerrilla strategy. In order to avoid encirclement and annihilation through house-to-house searches, the guerrillas can best survive not by establishing fixed urban bases, but by living apart (from each other) and fighting together.

(2) Mobility and Security. If urban guerrillas rent houses for their commandos, they are in danger of leaving a trail that may be followed by the police who review monthly all registered rentals. Should most of their houses be loaned instead of leased, then the guerrillas should refrain as a general rule from building underground vaults or hideouts which would increase their dependence on the terrain. To retain their mobility and a high margin of security they must spread out among a favourable population. Guerrillas who fight together and then disperse throughout a great city are not easily detected by the police. When dragnets are applied to one neighborhood or zone, guerrillas without a fixed base can shift to another neighborhood. Such mobility is precluded by a reliance on rented houses or hideouts in the homes of sympathizers, heretofore a major strategical error of the Tupamaros.

(3) Heavy or Light Rearguard? Urban guerrillas who develop a heavy infrastructure in many rented houses commit not only a military error, but also an economic and logistical one. For a heavy rearguard requires a comparatively large monthly budget in which economic and financial motives tend to overshadow political considerations. Lacking enough houses, the guerrillas tend to upgrade to positions of command those willing to lend their own. Among the Tupamaros detained in 1972 was the owner of the hacienda "Spartacus," which housed an armory in an underground vault. At about the same time the president of the frigorific plant of Cerro Largo was detained and sentenced for aiding the Tupamaros. He may well have embraced the cause of the Tupamaros with loyalty and sincerity; but as a businessman he responded as any other bourgeois would to his workers' demands for higher wages. Thus when promotion through the ranks is facilitated by owning a big house, a large farm or enterprise, the guerrillas become open to bourgeois tendencies. When guerrillas rely on cover not on a people in arms but on people of property, then urban guerrilla warfare becomes the business of an armed minority, which will never succeed in mobilising in this manner the majority of the population.

(4) Logistical Infrastructure. Although a mobile front is preferable to a fixed one, there are circumstances in which a fixed front is unavoidable, e.g., in the assembly, adjustment and adaptation of arms. These fixed fronts, few a far between, must be concealed from the guerrillas themselves; they should be known only to the few who work there, preferably one person in each, in order to avoid discovery by the repressive forces. In the interest of security it is advisable not to manufacture arms, but to have the parts made separately by various legal establishments, after which they can be assembled in the secret workshops of the guerrillas.

It is dangerous to rely on a fixed front for housing, food, medical supplies and armaments. If the guerrillas are regularly employed, they should live as everybody else does; they should come together only at a designated times and places. Houses that serve as barracks or hideouts tend to immobilise the guerrillas and to expose them to the possibility of encirclement and anihilation. Because the Tupamaros immobilised many of their commandos in fixed quarters, they were exposed in 1972 to mass detentions; they lost a large part of their armaments and related equipment and were compelled to transfer military supplies to the countryside for hiding.

In abusing control over their sympathisers and keeping them under strict military discipline, the Tupamaros had to house them together. But they were seldom used in military operations at a single place or in several simultaneously, indicating the absence of a strategical preparation. If urban guerrillas cannot continually disappear and reappear among the population of a great city, then they lack the political prerequisites for making a revolution, for creating the conditions of a social crisis through the breakdown of "law and order." Despite their proficiency during the first hit-and-run phase of revolutionary war, the Tupamaros have failed to escalate their operations by using larger units at more frequent intervals for the purpose of paralysing the existing regime.

(5) Heroes, Martyrs and Avengers. In revolutionary war any guerrilla action that needs explaining to the people is politically useless: it should be meaningful and convincing by itself. To kill an ordinary soldier in reprisal for the assassination of a guerrilla is to descend to the same political level as a reactionary army. Far better to create a martyr and thereby attract mass sympathy than to lose or neutralise popular support by senseless killings without an evident political goal. To be victorious in a people's war one has to act in conformity with the interests, sentiments and will of the people. A military victory is worthless if it fails to be politically convincing.

In a country where the bourgeoisie has abolished the death penalty, it is self-defeating to condemn to death even the most hated enemies of the people. Oppressors, traitors and informers have condemned themselves before the guerrillas; it is impolitic to make a public show of their crimes for the purpose of creating a climate of terror, insecurity and disregard for basic human rights. A popular army that resorts to unnecessary violence, that is not a symbol of justice, equity, liberty and security, cannot win popular support in the struggle against a dehumanised tyranny.

The Tupamaraos' "prisons of the people" do more harm than benefit to the cause of national liberation. Taking hostages for the purpose of exchanging them for political prisoners has an immediate popular appeal; but informing the world of the existence of "people's prisons" is to focus unnecessarily on a parallel system of oppression. No useful purpose can be served by such politically alienating language. Morover, it is intolerable to keep anyone hostage for a long time. To achieve a political or propaganda victory through this kind of tactic, the ransom terms must be moderate and capable of being met; in no event should the guerrillas be pressed into executing a prisoner because their demands are excessive and accordingly rejected. A hostage may b usefully executed only when a government refused to negotiate on any terms after popular pressure has been applied; for then it is evident to everyone that the government is ultimately responsible for the outcome.

So-called people's prisons are harmful for other reasons: they require several men to stand guard and care for the prisoners; they distract guerrillas frmo carrying out alternative actions more directly useful to the population; and they presuppose a fixed front and corresponding loss of mobility. At most it is convenient to have a secure place to detain for shore periods a single hostage.

To establish people's prisons, to condemn to death various enemies of the people to house guerrillas in secret barracks of underground hideouts is to create an infrastructure supporting a miniature state rather than a revolutionary army. To win the support of the population, arms must be used directly on its behalf. Whoever uses violence against subordinates in the course of building a miniature counter-state should be removed from his command. Surely there is little point in defating one despotism only to erect another in its place!

(6) Delegated Commands. In a professional army the leadership is recruited from the military academies within a hierachical order of command. In a guerrilla organisation the leaders emerge in actual revolutionary struggles, elected because of their capacity, responsibility, combativity, initiative, political understanding and deeds rather than words. However, at pain of forfeiting the democratic character of a revolutionary army and the function of authority as a delegated power, not even the best guerrilla commander can be allowed to remain long at the helm. A rotating leadership is necessary to avoid the "cult of personality"; powers should be alternately exercised by those commanders with the most victories, by those most popular with their soldiers and most respected by the people. Inasmuch as guerrilla warfare takes the form of self-dense, tis success depends on the exercise of direct democracy, on guerrilla self-management and self-discipline - a far cry from the barracks discipline typical of a bureaucratic or professional army...

The people have more need of many revolutionary heroes than of a single outstanding leader like Julius Casesar or Napoleon Bonaparte. Epominondas, the Theban general who defeated the Spartan, held a command that lasted only two years. Although the greatest strategist of his time, he became and ordinary soldier when his command expired. Only because of his extraordinary skill was he made a military adviser to the new commander-in-chief. Guerrillas can benefit by his example.

A delegated command is unlimited except for the time determining its delegation. The responsibility of subordinates is to discuss in advance each operation, to make recommendations, etc. But the discussion ends when the supreme command assumes responsibility for the outcome of a particular battle or engagement. If the commander is mistaken in his judgment, if the result is defeat rather than victory, his duty is to resign. Should he succeed in a vote of confidence he may retain his command; but to successive defeats should make his resignation irrevocable.

One of the most common errors of Latin American guerrillas is to make legends of their leaders as they did of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. The resulting messianism conceals the incapacity of many guerrilla commanders who take their troops into the countryside - like the Tupamaros in 1972 - without revising mistaken strategies. Perhaps the leaders of the Uruguayan guerrillas have come to believe in their providential powers, thereby reducing the ordinary guerrilla to a political and military zero, to the status of a soldier in a conventional army.

(7) Revolution: Which Revolution? Youthful Leftists without a proletarian praxis, without having suffered directly the effects of capitalist exploitation, aspire to liberate the workers without the workers' own revolutionary intervention. When revolutionary action is limited to a series of military engagements between guerrillas and a repressive army, armaments ar of little use in mobilising the people for national liberation. The corresponding foquismo [exaggerated reliance on guerrilla focos, armed encounters and military tactics to spark a mass insurrection] is petty bourgeois in origin as well as outlook - evident in the token number of workers and peasants in the guerilllas' ranks. Actually it is an insurrectional movement of piling up cadavers, for giving easy victories to the repressive generals trained by the Pentagon.

In the case of the Tupamaros the commanding cadres and the greater part of the rank and file have come from the universities, the liberal professions and the rebellious petty--bourgeois youth who have learned how to disobey. They long for a revolution. But what kind of revolution? Since there are few workers or peasants in the columns of the Tupamaros, it is understandable that the struggle is limited mainly to engagements between the guerrillas on one side and the army and police on the other. In these encounters the people are caught in the middle, leaving a political vacuum which only a different kind of guerrilla movement can fill: one providing support for all popular acts of protest, strikes, demonstrations, student rebellions, etc. Only through the intermediary of the people, in other words, can urban guerrillas pass from the first phase of revolutionary war to a generalised state of subversion leading to a social revolution.

In their endeavor to create a state within the state through highly disciplined guerrilla columns, secret barracks, "prisons of the people," underground arsenals and a heavy logistical infrastructure, the Tupamaros have become overly professionalised, militarised and isolated from the urban masses. Their organisation is closer to resembling a parallel power contesting the legally established one, a microstate, rather than movement of the masses.

(8) Strategy, Tactics and Politics. If the tactics adopted are successful but the corresponding strategy and politics mistaken, the guerrillas cannot win. Should a succession of tactical victories encourage a strategical objective that is impossible to attain, then a great tactical victory can culminate in an even greater strategical defeat.

The kidnappings of the Brazilian consul Dias Gomide and the CIA agent Dan Mitrione are instances of tactical successes by the Tupamaros. But in demanding in exchange a hundred detained guerrillas, the Tupamaros found the Uruguayan government obstinate, in order not to lose face altogether. Here a successful tactic contributed to an impossible strategical objective. In having to execute Mitrione because the government failed to comply to their demands, the Tuparamaros not only failed to accomplish a political objective, but also suffered a political reversal in their newly acquired role of assassins - the image they acquired through hostile mass media.

The Tupamaros would have done better by taping Mitrione's declarations and giving the story to the press. The population would have followed the incidents of his confession with more interest than the interminable serials. Mitrione's confessed links with the CIA should have been fully documented and sent to Washington in care of Senator Fulbright. With this incident brought to the attention of Congress, the operation against the CIA would have won world support of the Tupamaros. Once the Uruguayan government had lost prestige through this publicity, the Uruguayan press might be asked to publish a manifesto of the Tupamaros explaining their objectives in the Mitrione case. Afterwards his death sentence should have been commuted out of respect for his eight sons, but on condition that he leave the country. Such a solution to the government's refusal to negotiate with the guerrillas would have captured the sympathies of many in favour of the Tupamaros. Even more than conventional war, revolutionary war is a form of politics carried out by violent means.

With respect to Dias Gomide the Tupamaros lost an opportunity to embarrass politically the Brazilian government. They should never have allowed matters to read the point at which his wife could appear as an international heroine of love and marital fidelity by collecting sums for his release. Every cruzerio she collected was a vote against the Tupamaros and indirectly against the Brazilian guerrillas. In exchange for Dias Gomide, a man of considerable importance to the military regime, the Tupamaros should have demanded the publication of a manifesto in the Brazilian press. Its contents might have covered the following items: a denunciation of the "death squad" as an informal instrument of the |Brazilian dictatorship; a demand for free, secret and direct elections; the legalisation of all political parties dissolved by the military regime; the restitution of political rights to Brazil's former leaders and exiles including Quadros, Kubitschek, Brizola, Goular and even reactionaries like Lacerda; the denunciation of government censorship of the press; and a demand that popular priests be est free. With such a political response the revolutionary war might have been exported to Brazil. Guerrilla actions should not be narrowly circumscribed when they can have regional and international repercussions...

The Tupamaros are perilously close to resembling a political Mafia. In demanding large sums of money in ransom for political hostages they have sometimes appeared to be self-serving. It matters little to the average citizen whether bank deposits pass into the hands of "expropriators" who do little directly to lighten the public burden - not because they do not want to but because they cannot do so in isolation from the people and without popular support. There is an historical irony about these would-be liberators who indirectly live off the surplus of the people the liberate.

(9) OPR-33 and the Tupamaros. Enormous losses were suffered by the Tupamaros in 1972 through more than 3000 detentions, including those of persons guilty by association. Popular hatred against the government has intensified because of its house-to-house searches and disregard for fundamental rights. If the Tupamaros had as much political and strategical sense as they have tactical skill, they might have achieved in 1972 a new polarization of forces culminating in a truce, a virtual recognition by the government of a situation of dual powers.

But the political and startegical mistakes of the Tupamaros, their rigorous centralism and hierarchy of authority led instead to internal divisions and split-offs that further weakeneed the organisation. The deliberately mislabeled "Microfaction" broke with the movement. This group politically responseive to the Urguayan Revolutionary WOrkers' Party (PRT) - a political affiliate of the Argentine People's Revolutionary Army (ERP) - would hardly have been permitted to split peacefully were it not for the ERP. The "22nd of December" guerrillas likewise split with the leadership: a group concentrating on operations designed to mobilise the trade unions and other mass organisations without the military centralism of the Tupamaros' general staff..

Politically the Tupamaros follow an ambiguous line promising something of interest to everybody. On the other hand, the Tupamaro Courier, a bulletin of the organisation, has carried in its pages extracts from the speeches of conservative nationalists like Aparicio Saravia. On the other hand the Tupamaros' leadership forobids its cadres from criticising the pro-Moscow Communists. This political irresolution, indefiniteness and ambivalence have hurt the Tupamaros in their efforts to gain a foothold in the Communist-controlled trade unions. Although they penetrated and won over the leadership of the Union of Sugar Workers (UTA) and the workers of the Frigorifico Fray Bentos, they have been unsuccessful in pressing for immediate reforms because they anticipate that seizing political power will resolve everything.

Unlike the Tupamaros, the anarcho-syndicalist Revolutionary Popular Organisation (OPR-33) uses armed struggle to support the workers' immediate demands without directly challenging the government and armed forces. Neither OPR-33 nor the "22nd of December" contributed to the 1971 electoral struggles of the Broad Front against the established political parties. While the Tupamaros supported the Broad Front, OPR-33 used its armed units to win the strike at the Portland Cement Company, where workers with anarcho-syndicalist tendencies demanded higher wages. Rodney Arismendi, secretary-general of the Communist Party, denounced the anarcho-syndicalists as adventurers for allegedly playing into the hands of reactionaries and ignoring the principal task of electing a new president, senators and deputies. But the Broad Front lost the elections, while the workers at Portland Cement won the strike. Moreover, the railroad workers also triumphed against the bosses, thanks to the armed backing of OPR-33 with the support of the Workers-Student Resistance (ROE) and the Uruguayan Anarchist Federation (FAU).

OPR-33 and ROE also spurred a series of successful strikes in the metallurgical, rubber and clothing industries. The strike at SERAL, a footwear manufacturer, lasted more than a year. Where the Communist-controlled unions failed, OPR-33 and ROE succeeded. The anarcho-syndicalists initiated the strike at SERAL: they endured in hunger, asked for collections in the streets of Montevideo and mobilised popular support. But the owner, an ex-worker, could not be moved. Finally his son disappeared. OPR-33 was apparently behind the operation but, unlike the Tupamaros, admitted to nothing. No ransom was asked; words were unnecessary. In view of the circumstances it was tacitly understood that the owner, Malguero, could recover his son by negotiating with the workers. In this way the most difficult strike in Uruguay was won: the workers were compensated for lost pay; their union was recognised as the only legal bargaining agent. Thus during the first six months of 1972, when the Tupamaros were being detained by the hundreds, Malaguero's son was lost but reappeared with the resolution of the strike at SERAL. Despite the success of the repressive forces in uncovering the people's prisons and hideouts of the Tupamaros, the boy could not be found. Here was an altogether different style of guerrilla warfare from that of the Tupamaros' - and also more effective.

The strike against the Frigorifico Modelo was won through a similar operation. In the midst of the strike the firm's president Fernandez Llado, disappeared. Thus a second company was coipelled to negotiate. In no instance has OPR-33 been pressured to execute hostages. For it has not made demands of its own, but has applied force only to obtain what hundreds of exploited workers have already been asking for. In this way, little by little, it may continue to win support from the workers until even the reformist trade unions fall into revolutionary hands. Once revolutionaries are in command of their own house, then they are ready for revolutionary action in depth: the occupation of factories that operate at less than full capacity; the transformation of these into producer's cooperatives or self-managed enterprises;p and a preparation for the seizure of political power. For what purpose? To establish a new kind of socialist society in which the people rather than bureaucrats or guerrilla leaders are the beneficiaries.

(10) MIR, ERP and the Tupamaros. The Tupamaros were the first group of urban guerrillas to teach the world how to initiate an insurrection in the cities with few supporters and modest means. But their superb tactics have been nullified by a mediocre strategy and a questionable politics.

Like OPR-33, the Chilean Movement of the Revolutioanry Left (MIR) and the Argenitine People's Revolutionary Army (ERP) offer new models of urban guerrilla warfare in which strategy and politics combine to reinforce the Tupamaros' tactics. The Chilean and Argentine organisations show great initiative in combat, a clar-cut program of national a social liberation, the capacity to mobilise large masses and a virtual absence of petty-bourgeois tendencies. They are openly critical of Right-wing nationalism and the opportunism of Social Democrats and Communists. Without such criticism, without liberating themselves from a naroow professional outlook, urban guerrillas can succeed in tactical engagements; but they cannot develop a revolutionary movement capable of winning power, if not for themselvs as bureaucrats, then for the people they represent.

In 1972 MIR had the most effective revolutionary organisation in Latin America. Its leading cadres are directly responsible to the rank and file through a system of direct democracy; its politics are clear and unambiguous; it proposes at any moment only what it can actually accomplish. Nothing escapes the political analysis and synthesis of the MIR cadres. They are Chile's major revolutionary reserve. In the event Allende's government is overthrown, only they are presently equipped to fight for liberation under conditions of repression. They are acid critics of demagogy and adventurism. Their proposals are well reasoned and concrete with respect both to immediate issues and the future.

The ERP is another model worth imitating. In Rosario it seized the British consul and the manager of Swift for the purpose of settling a major strike. IT has prepared the ground for surmounting the traditional trade-union tactics of the Peronist labor bureaucracy, the pro-Moscow Communists and genteel socialists. Even the tragic finale of Sallustro, president of Argentine Fiat, is an example of blood spilled not so much by the ERP as by the Argentine military. For the dictatorship countermanded the negotiations between the Fiat managment and workers as the price of his release.

The Tupamaros faced their gravest crisis during the first havelf of 1972, when the repressive forces detained several hundred of them. That so many fell was due not to lack of secrecy, but to absence of autonomy. Their supreme command is centralised: it knows all, says all, does lal. Nothing can be more fatal to a guerrilla organisation than lack of self-direction under conditions in which the guerrillas cannot be continually united and in which each group or command has to adapt to the tactical situation at hand without waiting, as a conventional army does, for orders from above. Excessive centralisation of authority makes an organisation rigid and vulnerable: once the repressive forces discover a single thread they can begin looking for the spool.

The Tupamaros acted precipitately in attacking the newly elected government of President Bordaberry. They provoked the as yet untested government to declare a state of war. Repression was escalated in the crudest forms: punitive expeditions, legalised terrorism, physical tortures. A formal democracy gave way to dissimulated dictatorship. Far better had the Tupamaros waited for the economic and social crisis to discredit the new regime. The prime necessities are in scarce supply; there is not enough meat, milk, sugar, kerosene to satisfy demand. Nonetheless, the government is strong because the revolutionaries' rhetoric is weak, and they have not mastered the art of mobilising popular discontent on these basic issues.

A revolutionary organisation must demonstrate that it knows more that its bourgeois rivals in power. To displace the bourgeoisie and bureaucracy, it must convince the public of their incompetence, a task which cannot be done overnight. It must show how greater levels of productivity can be achieved compatible with human freedom, how the scientific-technological revolution can be advanced, how agriculture can be fully mechanised and electrified, how industrial integration can be achieved, how culture can be made to serve economic and technological growth, how atomic energy can be utilised, how the socialism of self-management can be introduced. If a revolutionary leadership fails to demonstrate humane qualities, scientific knowledge and social, political and economic skills, it may commit blunders by initiating an insurrection before fully mobilising popular support. Then is the time for military intervention. Thus in Peru the guerrillas were exterminated by the developmentalist generals who now pass for revolutionaries; and in Brazil the military waged a preventative coup, mortgaged their country to foreign capital, reduced corporate taxes, outlawed industrial unrest and depressed real wages in order to stimulate economic growth.

From the Tupamaros we can learn from both their exploits and mistakes - magnifying their strengths and concealing their weaknesses can be of service to dogmatists and sectarians, not revolutionaries. The Tupamaros have served as the best revolutionary academy in the world on the subject of urban guerrilla warfare; they have taught more through actions than all the revolutionary theories abstracted from concrete situations. But their brilliance in matters of tactics has not been matched by their strategy and politics. Thus the revolutionary ideal must combine the tactical proficiency of the Tupamaros with the mass strategy of OPR-33 and the politics of Chilean MIR - a synthesis most nearly approximated by the Argentine ERP.