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on the statism of small things:
A long time ago someplace pretty far away a certain Noam Chomksy was visiting with the MST of Brazil from whom he learned a particular metaphor, "expanding the floor of the cage" - meaning in that instance the use of the state to act against corporate agribusinesses on behalf of MST land "invasions" - a phrase and a particular tactic he has on various occasions since spoken highly of, making of it an example of how various anti-political movements informed in part by anarchism(s) of the sort evolving in Latin American have used politics as a form of defense against private and state armies (over 1,000 landless workers were assassinated between 1985 - the return to civillian rule - and 2000), in this case their endorsement of and subsequent relationship with President Lula's Workers Party and the passage/enforcement of laws allowing the transfer of land ownership according to occupancy and use.
Kevin Carson, among others, sees this as an endorsement of "statism":
Chomsky's position, it seems to me, is essentially Marxian (albeit of the SocDem, not the Leninoid kind): the state has to be used to break the power of the capitalists, before it can be allowed to wither away. ... The only way to prevent centralized machinery from being taken over by a ruling class is not to have centralized machinery. The state sometimes responds to intense public pressure, but it cannot be directly or sustainably controlled by the public.
One could suggest in all fairness that Carson's basic conclusion here, reducto, is that the MST was wrong (statist, or SocDem/Marxian, or some such - and there are anti-statist marxists and social minarchists that ought not be disparaged so much as "statist" in their leanings) to involve themselves in the government and according to anarchist principles should have alternatively lined up to be gunned down, or surrender to their landless fate. Perhaps someone more clever than me might see the alternative method of defense against mercenary armies for otherwise defenseless peasants. Kung fu? As to the source of disagreement it seems to be just some conflation between law and state that's the problem, since what they did was get laws passed that hindered the operation of the state in ruling class interests, thusly expanding the state against them, but whatever.
The MST and a workers movement in Brazil, among others - e.g. worker controlled operations in Argentina had to fight prolonged political struggles to prevent the state from destroying them - thusly demonstrate that the republican state can be used against the ruling class, and in fact can help undermine state enforced neoclassical property relations by simply limiting the scope of their enforcement. Entirely dependent on direct action outside the political realm, so far as I understand: all the MST has done politically, really, was vote in some elections for people they expected to enforce a constitutional provision regarding land rights.
Is this a "statist" tactic? What about it's sustainability? Too soon to tell there, but here many anarchists were active within the abolitionist movement; would they have considered the emancipation proclamation - ending the state-created system of wageless slavery - a statist, authoritarian law? The bill of rights, and the 1st ammendment that anarchists flooded jailcells not just to defend but to expand, to make a reality of it? The enfranchisement of women? The civil rights acts? If we were to pass laws that prevented the use of state and private violence against democratic industrial unions persuing the peaceful takeover of their work, let alone allowing democratic unions at all (for which there's not nearly enough direct action), or unemployed movements (do we have any?) to commandeer unused private/public land for their own food production, would that really be nothing more than democratic socialism? It would be strange to win concessions from a state successfully without the state signing its defeats into law.
It's hard to understand what's hard to understand about such political victories that make the state more into the kind of organization that anti-statists of whatever stripe would like to see generally, and that would allow those institutions we do see to actually operate freely without interference, giving the more optimistic end statelessnesses of history some opportunity to self-organize and act.
Like usual beyond that small point NC doesn't say anything interesting, just the boilerplate recitation of particular factoids and 'truisms', declaring amid his obscurantist cloud of rationalized opinion that he can't imagine himself or anybody else really understanding any of it particularly well enough to say anything meaningful about the future and what it should look like. And thus ends any discussion with Chomsky.
:: posted by buermann @ 2005-09-14 01:30:28 CST |
To be fair, it must be noted that Carson's post on Chomsky makes no mention of this particular issue. His post seems to just make note of Chomsky's willingness to use the state to smash capitalism in a more general sense. While Chomsky does point out at times that the economic system in place today is not actual free enterprise, he never mentions actual free enterprise as a potential way to fight capitalism. Instead, he seems more comfortable aligning with social democrats and other statist lefties. That is what seems to puzzle Carson, and myself.
With that in mind, what about Carson's post in praise of Venezuelan land reform? That is also an example of working through the state, but he doesn't condemn it as being statist.
posted by freeman
@ 2005-09-15 00:43:37 | link
"it must be noted that Carson's post on Chomsky makes no mention of this particular issue"
When Chomsky talks about strengthening the state that's generally the context.
Free markets: I would dare say most anarchists don't support free markets (usually they have something similar that they call something else). I'm reminded of this. The more irritating ones would call Carson is a statist for advocating them. :P
"aligning with social democrats"
Tactical alliances are tactical alliances.
posted by buermann
@ 2005-09-15 17:12:37 | link
<i>Free markets: I would dare say most anarchists don't support free markets (usually they have something similar that they call something else). I'm reminded of this. The more irritating ones would call Carson is a statist for advocating them. :P</i>
True, but I think that their definition of free markets is just different than mine. Like you say, many have something similar in mind that they call something different. Personally, I consider any voluntary, non-coercive organization to be free market based. That would include communes, syndicates, federations, or any other form of organization desired by left anarchists. Rather than focus on one in particular and condemn the rest, I keep my options open and approve of all of them.
<i>Tactical alliances are tactical alliances.</i>
True, and there's nothing wrong with that. I just wish that, for once, he'd acknowledge the existance of non-vulgar, non-capitalist free market advocates and say something positive about them, regardless of how few people actually fall into that category.
posted by freeman
@ 2005-09-16 17:42:04 | link
we apologize for not allowing this tag previously, or having a
- noting that
blockquotes are allowed
- as well as: blockquote|li|ul|ol|p|br|b|em|i and links, all case insensitive.
- and not including all of these in the helpful note regarding such.
posted by buermann
@ 2005-09-19 17:13:11 | link
"I just wish he'd acknowledge the existance of non-vulgar, non-capitalist free market advocates"
posted by buermann
@ 2005-09-19 17:16:16 | link