Anarcho-Corbynism and Support for Labour

The following article by a sympathiser of the CWO is printed as a contribution to debate.

It is a fact that lately certain anarchists have placed themselves in the Corbyn camp. As Freedom News admits, "lots of anarchists have decided they’re going to vote to try and get rid of the Tories".(1) Lest we be accused of taking seriously a few insignificant UK internet dabblers(2) and Class War sensationalists in order to take a stick to a serious political movement for our own gain, let us include the case of a globally known anarchist, whose weighty contributions have added to the prestige of that political tendency. “Professor Noam Chomsky has claimed that any serious future for the Labour Party must come from the left-wing pressure group Momentum and the army of new members attracted by the party’s leadership. In an interview with the Guardian(3), the radical intellectual threw his weight behind Jeremy Corbyn, claiming that Labour would be doing far better in opinion polls if it were not for the “bitter” hostility of the mainstream media.

If I were a voter in Britain, I would vote for him,” said Chomsky, who admitted that the current polling position suggested Labour was not yet gaining popular support for the policy positions that he supported. [...] But ahead of what could be a bitter split within the Labour movement if Corbyn’s party is defeated in the June election, Chomsky claimed the future must lie with the left of the party. “The constituency of the Labour party, the new participants, the Momentum group and so on … if there is to be a serious future for the Labour party that is where it is in my opinion,” he said.

This does not mean that we are necessarily condemning all anarchists as if one or two fractions represented the whole, and we can be encouraged that certain anarchist organisations (like the Anarchist Federation and the Solidarity Federation) have condemned in no uncertain terms what they see to be the error of lining up behind the Labour Party in any shape. However, there are grounds for saying that the general anarchist movement in the UK and elsewhere has done little to clarify the attitude to be taken to the reformist labour movement, one which we have unhesitatingly called a capitalist prison. Also, a little examination of highly visible anarchist groups like Class War and others reveals a highly biased perspective against the Tory party which fails to cast all bourgeois factions as equally reactionary, cogs within a machine which exploits and oppresses the working class. In their own words, directed at the present author;

Class War has a solidly 'They are all wankers' position my friend... but we reserve particular bile for the Tories... So you are mistaken if you think that this is "anarcho -social democratic necrophilia....

And then we have the issue of the Class War Party which has in the past appeared on BBC television, breaking the abstentionist tradition by standing in the 2015 General Election. The move obviously opens the door to further non-principled actions of which the recent Vote Corbyn calls are a manifestation.

So even if the open call for a Labour vote, based on the supposed left credentials of J. Corbyn, is a step beyond what we usually are served up through the anarchist groups, the track record regarding the wider reformist Labour Movement and the attitude to the capitalist democratic process is not at all identical to that we uphold. Some, like the relatively prominent self-proclaimed anarchist David Graeber, have no issue with electoral participation. For him, it is merely individual and situational, he openly says it could be a good decision.(4)

However, we are not simply content with condemning everything that moves. We can applaud those anarchists and others who have squarely rejected the Corbyn bandwagon. Even some clarity emerges from the Class War camp, on this matter anyway, “For us the Labour Party is a party of the System. Full stop. Therefore, as anarchists we totally oppose it as much as we oppose the Tories. Our task is to prepare for a long overdue revolutionary upheaval.“(5)

We can only encourage such elements to further examine the flimsiness of the positions they hold, not least regarding the capitalist left, the reformist labour movement and electoral participation in general. Theoretical clarity is no mere bauble. It is essential.

So, to reiterate, we are not at all saying that the anarchist movement in toto is simply an appendage of the capitalist state. It is a diverse arena whose healthiest elements may well play decisive positive roles in the struggle to come, but only if they can escape the pull of those forces which tie us to capitalism, its parties, trade unions, its theoretical confusions. Special mention could be made of the Anarchist Federation who have consistently rejected the Corbyn phenomenon and electoral participation in general, just to illustrate the point with a real example.

In one sense, the desire to play some sort of a role within the movements which attract significant working class support and channel the very real discontent which the trajectory of the capitalist crisis is brewing is one we can identify with. However, that participation, that intervention, can only be within precise limits which concede nothing to the snares and illusions hiding behind sugared phrases and “old men bearing gifts”.

For revolutionaries, withdrawal into isolated theoretical work (if that) is no solution. The point however, is not to commit political suicide, kneeling before the five-minute fashions and the momentarily popular, but to find ways to intervene as revolutionaries, defending revolutionary perspectives, on the difficult terrain which is presented to us by capitalism's trajectory. This may not yield immediate numerically significant victories but it can spread awareness that revolutionary organisation exists and sow a seed which may sprout when the next capitalist crash smashes against the conditions which maintain passivity and the safety nets of welfare and the ability to sleep walk through life are definitively jettisoned by a profit desperate capitalism.

We need to win over significant numbers to the revolutionary organisation because it is key to the success of the revolution and recognise that the numerically weak forces of today are insufficient.

We need an effective revolutionary organisation, one which has a clear perspective of rejection of all capitalist options and the goal of class wide proletarian organs, the workers own councils which can put our class firmly in the driving seat.

We need this organisation to be rooted in the class before the decisive confrontations that the crisis of capitalism is brewing. We communists are not daunted by the momentary condition of the working-class response. We know the capitalist class has no answer to the contradictions of its system and its resorting to massive debt along with attacks on our conditions is finite.

We cannot say when the dam will burst and the tables will be overturned, but we know there is only mounting crisis in store for us under capitalism and that the pre-constructed revolutionary organisation, fruit of patient intervention, has an essential role as a solid political reference point for a class driven by desperation into a fight back. A class dominated by illusions and misconceptions carefully grafted onto them by a ruling class. Amongst these misconceptions is the snare of democracy under capitalism, the parliamentary road to socialism, confidence in trade unions and the Labour Party which the NE anarchists and any others who have abandoned the abstentionist position to vote for the class enemy are fortifying.

Given an intense level of class struggle, we can get our message through to the class in general. But the precondition is we have a significant organisation built up in the preceding period.

We call on anarchists and others to abandon their support for the capitalist labour movement.

We call on all those who recognise the validity of the central revolutionary message, the one that contained all that was healthy in the previous revolutionary assault on filthy, blood sweating capitalism, the power of the workers’ councils. All who subscribe to revolution, to the impossibility of parliamentary socialism and such traps must consider smashing down the ideological prejudices and the past errors which divide us and make common cause in a revolutionary organisation that offers no support whatsoever to any capitalist faction, party or war and has no ambition to set up any separate power, but rather aims at empowering the clear majority of non-exploiters through the absolute power of the workers’ councils. Then we can build a society fit for humanity.


June 7 2017


(2) We could include here North East Anarchists and Sabcat the Anarchist Workers Co-op


(4) Anarchist anthropologist and academic David Graeber talks about the choices in the upcoming UK General Election;

DAVID GRAEBER: I'm an anarchist, so for me, that means not telling people what they have to do. I think it's really your call. [...] I haven't voted but I'm not going to tell people not to. In fact, I think that often it can be a perfectly legitimate call.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017


We call on anarchists and others to abandon their support for the capitalist labour movement.

We should call on proletarians that are part of anarchist organizations to abandon anarchism and join revolutionary marxism. Fraternization of left communists with anarchist organizations is simply a step towards dissolution and muddying the waters, in the misguided belief that this is a shortcut to constructing a political organization that is rooted in the class.

Federalism, rejection of the specifically political organization of the working class, support for syndicalism, localism, an analysis based on formal identity categories (liberty vs tyranny, authority vs antiauthoritarianism, etc), continuing to refer to anyone who self-identifies as a communsit a communist, support for national liberation struggles, have nothing to do with the revolutionary program of the working class and would have objectively counterrevolutionary results if the working class ever seriously attempted to implement them.

As an anecdotal aside, I have many times heard so-called "class struggle anarchists" refer to other anarchists (e.g. radical liberal/intersectional anarchists, nihilist anarchists) as comrades, but I have never heard of left communists refer to maoists or other stalinists as comrades. The point is that simple formal identification with a label is not enough for left communists to consider a "marxist" as a comrade, but it apparently is enough for many anarchists.

As at General Elections there are secret ballots, it seems to me that it is unwise to answer questions put by various organisations hovering at polling stations as to which way one is (or is not) going to vote. Answers might be put on one or more databases, with all sorts of possible repurcussions, beyond just junk mail. That is different from not concealing one's political views in other circumstances. Over 60 years ago I heard many talks at the Malatesta Club and Marble Arch by prominent anarchists, and was grateful for a lift in Philip Sansom's small car.and to hear his partner talking too. Somewhere in the Holborn area a small group urged people to 'Vote for Joe Soap'! The pacifist and anarchist Sid Parker published a journal called 'Minus One', but I decided not to go with him to an anarchist gathering at Carrara in Italy. Lenin once called anarchism 'tinsel and fuss'.

I agree it is not simply a case of anarchists and communists joining forces and papering over the cracks.

if you read the final paragraph it is clear that the revolutionary organisation upholds the absolute power of the workers councils. This means decisions are binding, not a choice for individuals and localities.

I think Stavros raises valid points. I think that anarchism is not necessarily anything over than an aspiration for a stateless society which we can share, but there are many other aspects, including those Stavros lists, which I would consider fatal flaws.

I think the attempt to synthesise anarchism and Marxism (which I think was the project of "the commune" and the "Free Communist") will flounder.

However a centralised revolutionary organisation which has its prime goal of the absolute power of the workers' councils is not advancing a petty-bourgeois individualist perspective.

"Smashing down the ideological prejudices and past errors which divide us" means that we have to reject what is not revolutionary, not simply politely look the other way when there is contradiction.

Quite a while ago I questioned this CWO statement;

Anti-state and anti-capitalist revolutionaries share a similar vision of a communist society. It is time that revolutionaries recognised this distinction and recognised each other. What we don’t share is the way that might be arrived at but that is up for debate (and until there is a real class movement worthy of the name then it is an open debate). To finish with something appropriate from the Solfed pamphlet they quote an alleged remark of Bismarck in the 1870s: “Crowned heads, wealth and privilege may well tremble should the Black and Red ever again unite."

There is benefit in dicussing with those who declare themselves anarchists but is it really the case that we share a vision of the future?

Briefly, quoting Bukharin again

Our ideal solution to this is centralised production, methodically organised in large units and, in the final analysis, the organisation of the world economy as a whole. Anarchists, on the other hand, prefer a completely different type of relations of production; their ideal consists of tiny communes which by their very structure are disqualified from managing any large enterprises, but reach "agreements" with one another and link up through a network of free contracts. From an economic point of view, that sort of system of production is clearly closer to the medieval communes, rather than the mode of production destined to supplant the capitalist system. But this system is not merely a retrograde step: it is also utterly utopian. The society of the future will not be conjured out of a void, nor will it be brought by a heavenly angel. It will arise out of the old society, out of the relations created by the gigantic apparatus of finance capital. Any new order is possible and useful only insofar as it leads to the further development of the productive forces of the order which is to disappear. Naturally, further development of the productive forces is only conceivable as the continuation of the tendency of the productive process of centralisation, as an intensified degree of organisation in the "administration of things" that replaces the bygone "government of men".

I too thought too much was conceded to the anarchists, but would agree that both tendencies, Marxist and anarchist, have a past history which cannot simply be defended without critique and the more recent perspective of the absolute power of the workers' councils ( not playing second fiddle to a party dominated cabinet) has to take centre stage.

I hope the debate continues.

Looking again all through the main article and all comments so far, it seems to me that the following concepts are necessary, if and when proletarian progress can be made. Whereas the history of anarchism raises questions and prompts doubts, anarchism is a side-show so far as the mass of society is concerned, whereas socialism needs to be taken as a need for the mass of the population. That said, whilst it is still argued that socialism cannot be gained by parliamentary means, then if and when numerous workers councils are formed, there is surely a case for general elections for the whole of a regional society to reach necessary and popular agreement as to the direction it is going to take. It is precisely because it will not be bourgeois, that proletarian democracy will be revolutionary.

It's very welcome to see responses from other Left Communists such as Stavros.

There's a number of formulae particularly in the first pararaph of his post which perhaps need to be explored.

In S's first sentence the concept of "join[ing]revolutionary marxism" is not well-defined. Certainly, we call on all those interested in revolutionary marxism to talk with us and study our postions. Where such individuals and nucleii achieve a sufficient degree of political convergence then we look to achieve joint working within agreed parameters. Ultimately, we seek to attract new committed and fully class conscious militants to affiliate to the ICT. Where individual anarchists feel able to start that journey then such a decision is a positive step. One of our many tasks to extend the influence of ICT is to attract such interested indiviuals from anarchism, or indeed any other political position.That task involves, without altering our politics or programme, engaging with many people who do not currently consider themselves Left Communists. Indeed, that category of potential militants is by a large magnitude much bigger than the numbers in the "Left Comunist milieu".

Moving onto S's secod sentence it is that engagement (not sure whether the word fraternising encompasses it) that is indeed part of the process of "constructing a political organisation that is rooted in the class".

I hope that clarifies the approach that the CWO takes towards individual anachists, councilists and others who are prepared to discuss with us. The most obvious examples include our presence and interventions at the Anarchist Book Fairs in London and Sheffield and in our ongoing participation in the Midlands Discussion Forum.