How to deal with the police is a point of dispute between Social Democratic Anarchists and Communist Anarchists (photo: Thomas Good/NLN, Creative Commons)
'Social Democratic Anarchists',
'Communist Anarchists' and the
Occupy Wall Street Movement
By Left Eye on Books
SolidarityEconomy.net via lefteyeonbooks.com
Oct 23, 2011 - A division exists within the leaderless communities at the heart of the Occupy protests. I would describe this as a split between Social Democratic Anarchists and Communist Anarchists.
I use these two terms provocatively, knowing that most of those I refer to would not describe themselves as either. Neither the terms Social Democrat or Communist are especially popular in the U.S., and the latter is often associated with small left-wing sects that those I describe as Communist Anarchists have a low opinion of.
It also lately seems that the term “anarchist” is becoming unfashionable again. The terms are meant to indicate both continuity and rupture with the historical left. Since 1917, Social Democracy and Communism referred to two different paths of change. Social Democrats believed in reforming capitalism, so that its benefits would be shared more equitably. Communists believed in overthrowing capitalism. Both created disciplined, bureaucratic organizations to achieve their goals. Both believed attaining state power was crucial, either through elections — usually the path of Social Democrats — or armed struggle — more associated with Communists. Although they often vituperatively denounced each other, they could sometimes work together, as was the case in the 1930s in the U.S., when New Deal reformers, who closely resembled Social Democrats, were strengthened by the organizing efforts of Communists.
Today, we see similar splits, in the U.S. and all over the world, in the context of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and related movements. Some — undoubtedly the majority of participants in the U.S. — wish to reform capitalism. Others would like to destroy capitalism.
However, in two crucial respects the participants in the movement–reformers and revolutionaries alike — differ from the old left. They all eschew bureaucratic forms of organization in favor of leaderless modes of organizing. And they all believe that building power from below is more important than strategizing about how to attain and exercise state power. That is why I describe them as “anarchists”, even if they might not adopt that label themselves. Over the next five to ten years, some of these movements may develop electoral wings, but it is difficult to imagine them attaching to these wings the same lofty hopes and dreams that characterized the old left.
So how do these divisions play out in the current movement?(more...)