Anarchism or socialism?

In recent years, I have repeatitively been asked to whether I am an anarchist or a socialist – and I’ve always had a hard time answering it. When my French discussion partner came by last night it was there again: “How can anything work, if everybody has to decide upon everything?,” he initiated the conversation, “won’t that just be total chaos?”.

Well, yes, of course I do believe in organizing thing and my political socializisation process happened inside political parties. And I haven’t really changed my mind about parties either: I am quite sure that itis the high amount of organization in socialist political parties as well as in their youth organizations in the Scandinavian countries as well as Germany that have contributed enormously to the high level of consciousness of what’s going on – in the country side. While you can find anarchists mainly in the centers of large urban complexes thinking relatively freely and organizing locally, socialist parties tend to have more of a structure that can accomodate actvists and people with interests in what’s going that live furhter apart, on a day to day basis. Parties send snail amisl to the entire country, have people emloyed at offices (as far as possible spread out throughout the country) and actively try to built up local groups by outside intervention in those areas that they’re not present yet.

Traditionally though, parties have been quite hierarchical, and as the flow of information to a large extend was controlled by those leaders on various levels who had the means to travel around the country (now all that is done through a whole web of different email lists, both party-internal and others crossing party lines, that noone really can control), the whole structure and the day to day politics could be manipulated by a handful of central leaders – and therefore it is questionable how different a system ruled by these guys would have been (or has been in those countries with succesful socialist revolutions) compared to today’s rather hierarchical capitalism.

And that’s where the my anarchist streak comes in: the fundamental believe in having flat structures to as large a degree as possible and not having to follow various party lines that one fundamentally disagrees with. However, as someone who has seen the inside of several parties I can tell you that the parties I know in Scandinavia/Germany are a lot more anarchist in the way they organize themselves in the internet age -no matter what the official party doctrine might be. For example the way campaigns are planed at the Red Voting Alliance of Norway (RV), for whom I fixed computers and built up the previous web page for severals years, is not that one makes a central plan that one expects activists in the entire country to follow through as one might assume. Yes, the plan might be there, but all those sitting at the central office know exactly that all they can give is just suggestions of how to do things (well, the party web site is under their direct control), but in reality it’s local activists around the country that determine what will actually happen. Some things will happen as one suggested, some things will not happen, and some locals always manage to surprise the activists in downtown Oslo with local initiatives around the country that noone here had known about before they see it in the media.

Now today I stumbled upon the following defence of communist anarchism by Murray Bookchin in the old SDS Newspaper New Left Notes back from 1969, but I think it seems surprisingly applicable to today’s situation – take not of the remark of the current technological level of innovation in the US. Read it here

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