Monthly Archives: March 2013

Democratic Centralism in Practice and Idea: A critical evaluation

166968585450272133-S. Nappalos

The terrain is changing beneath our feet. Since the collapse of the majority of the “official Communist” regimes, the world has witnessed both events and ideas that have undermined the former dominant thinking within the left. The Zapatistas, Argentina in 2001, South Korean workers movements, Oaxaca in 2006, the struggles around anti-globalization, and Greece’s series of insurrectionary moments have increasingly presented challenges to traditional left answers to movements and organization. In previous eras Marxist-Leninism was the nexus which all currents by default had to respond to either in agreement or critique. Today, increasingly anarchist practices and theory have come to play this role.

As a member of an anarchist political organization, a friend once told me I in fact was practicing democratic centralism. This was perplexing, because the group had no resembling structures, practices, or the associated behaviors of democratic centralism. However, I was told that since we debated, came to common decisions, and acted on that collective democracy, we were in fact democratic centralist. This kind of productive confusion led to questions about the concept, and why the target of democratic centralism has shifted. This move, the shifting conceptual territory of core concepts of a certain orthodoxy, comes up repeatedly not only with democratic centralism, but also surrounding ideas like crisis, dialectics, the State, and class. The resulting cognitive dissonance caused me to investigate attempts at reinvigorating the concept of democratic centralism (democratic centralist revisionism), and understand truly what it is, where it came from, and how it has been practiced. Continue reading

From Theory to Practice, Taking a Critical Look at Leninism

lenin1This is a piece we’re sharing originally posted to Machete 408 by Adam Weaver. It is a review/summation piece is being released in conjunction with a forthcoming piece by Scott Nappolas which presents an extensive discussion of Lenin’s concept of democratic centralism. (soon to be linked)

From Theory to Practice, Taking a Critical Look at Leninism

A Look At Leninism by Ron Taber. 104 pp. New York , New York : Aspect Foundation, 1988

Where can those looking for a critical understanding of Lenin turn? How can we better understand how the Russian Revolution begin as the first modern anti-capitalist revolution from below with workers taking over and running their workplaces, peasants seizing the land, and the creation of democratic soviets (worker committees)? And then in less than a decade its devolution into the brutal dictatorship of Stalin? Is there a continuity between the ideas of Lenin and his particular brand of Marxism that reshaped the Marxist movement in the 1920’s and the number of revolutionary parties that would later achieve state power and claim the Bolshevik party and Lenin as their model and inspiration?

Little known and barely circulated now over two decades since publication in 1988, A Look At Lenin by Ron Taber is perhaps the only systematic and thorough critique of Leninism as examined through the writings and work of Lenin and the Bolshevik party. For this reason it has been a favorite of mine since I picked it up as a teenage reader of the late Love and Rage magazine. When I came across the book I was someone struggling with and questioning my relationship with anarchism at the time and looking in other directions such as the Leninist tradition. While Taber’s piece did not answer many of the larger political questions I was grappling with at the time (no matter where I’m at politically I don’t think that itch will ever go away), it did help me think deeper about Leninism as a tradition as well as with understanding better the problems I saw in many Leninist inspired political organizations that I was beginning to come into contact with at the time. Continue reading

MAS 2013 International Women’s Day Statement


Today we celebrate International Women’s Day.  The history of International Women’s Day dates back to the struggles of working women in the United States and Russia in the early 20th century.   Although many advances have been made since this time in fighting against gender oppression, patriarchy not only still exists but fundamentally influences every aspect of our lives.  The fight against patriarchy in all of its forms is a central part of any true struggle for revolutionary change; and it is integrally linked to the struggle against capitalism, the state and all other forms of oppression.  The struggle against gender oppression is not about women gaining access to, and utilizing, the positions and tools of oppression that have been used to oppress them; the struggle is a struggle to abolish these positions and tools of oppression in order to liberate both the oppressed, as well as those benefiting- however unhealthily- from oppression.  The struggle has developed, identifying more sources of gender oppression rooted in an all-pervasive and intersectionally-linked patriarchal system.  Just some of these fronts of struggle include confronting the gender binary system, essentialization of roles and expectations, disempowering socialization processes, repressive dominant cultural mores, elite control of the body, objectification and commodification of the body, gender restrictions around sexual practices, and so much more.  However, it is essential to remember that development of these early struggles of working women does not and should not mean development away from such struggles.  In the United States and around the world the centrality of the struggle against capitalism and other forms of oppression to the struggle against gender oppression remains fundamental to a truly liberatory movement against patriarchy. So on this International Women’s Day, we stand in solidarity as, and with, the gender oppressed and the many global struggles that centrally challenge the various forms of patriarchy in our lives as part of a broad movement against capitalism, the state and all forms of oppression!

Building Power and Advancing: For Reforms, Not Reformism

4361288370_9847ef4023_zBy Thomas (Miami Autonomy & Solidarity)

“We shall carry out all possible reforms in the spirit in which an army advances ever forwards by snatching the enemy-occupied territory in its path.” – Errico Malatesta[i]

As anarchist communists, we are against reformism.  However, we are for reforms.  We believe that fundamentally the entire system of capitalism, the state and all systems of hierarchy, domination, oppression and exploitation of humans over humans must be abolished and replaced with a direct democracy, egalitarian social relations and a classless economy that bases contribution according to ability and distribution according to need.  However, such a social revolution can only occur through the power of the popular classes themselves from the bottom-up.  In advancing towards such a social revolution and a free and equal society, we must build our power in preparation for this fundamental transformation of the world, building on struggles along the way.  Ultimately our demands will be too threatening to the elite classes for them to bear; and their resistance to our drive for freedom will be too much for us to tolerate any longer. Continue reading