What we are concerned with here is the appearance of a modern anarchist ideology within the left. Anarchism by definition opposes all government but this is the end of the agreed-on definition. Within the "anarchist movement", many individuals are sincerely working for proletarian revolution. Our critique is not aimed at denying the good these people do or even at showing all their mistakes. It aims to show how accepting anarchist ideology can negate their efforts.
Contrary to popular opinion, ideology is not original sin. It is not something that everyone inevitably has a little of. It is phenomon of capitalism; "ideas of power/ideas in the service of power". The spectacle, society's total lie, rests on the balance of class power. While any kind of distortion supports the spectacle, the system only propagates ideas that play a definite role in its total lie. Just as with our critique of marginalism, we aim to show the precise role that anarchism plays within the spectacle's dialogue with itself.
Unfortunately for these rationalizers, the interests of the managerial sector in escaping from its contemptible history as the left has not been as strong as its interest in being united as the left. Leftists, from the Communist Party to the welfare state liberals, have been the most "rational" sector of the bourgeois, that sector most oriented toward state capitalism (This makes it the most hated sector in the US also, since it is made the representative of all the state capitalist innovations that are most visibly repressive; from taxes to welfare).
Even in America, one of the most reactionary societies in the world, this desire for anonymity is not sufficient to stand in the way of the real common interest that unionists, social workers, graduate students and priests have in coming together as the owners of the image of the transformation of society. Even more, the left in the US has had enough solidarity with total capitalist interests in the US to keep playing the game of punching bag for the right; witness the campaign of Michael Dukakis and Walter Mondale.
The left has many forms. Whether "radical" or "reformist", the unions exemplify the leftists' role on a day to day basis. The association of unions with the mafia is unfortunately quite natural, since both groups are basically protection rackets. The unions function most of the time as a labour brokerages, asking for more money only when the capitalist market requires them to but always asking for dues. What separates the unions from a simple scam is their ability to "represent" the workers. When workers remain isolated within their cubicles and within their roles as workers, the unions can appear to be expression of their "aspirations"; the desire for slight changes that is natural once people accept the total misery of the system. This is most blatantly repressive when workers become too militant to accept the demands of the market. It allows the unions act to control these struggle and defuse any radical actions that workers might take.
The protection system is equally present in social work, religion, or "progressive" politics. Without needing any bad conscious, the leftist stands up for the justice of the system. Consumers, Tax-payers or small bussinesspeople are given a right to perform their function within society. Each demand of the average reformer boils down to the right to `quality television programing'" or the right to work.
While the left is a servant and justifier of the state, the lefts' rhetoric is oriented toward change in society. This natural since many varieties of leftism were formed as a way of a bureaucracy surviving changes in society. The example lefts think of first of all is the Bolsheviks leading (and destroying) the Russian revolution. However, the left appears as the manager of working class militancy only during a crisis in society; on a day to day level it depends on a role of sub-boss in society for it power.
In America, the domination of the ideology of free enterprise and democracy is so complete that it gives the illusion that ideology created the state. The real state of affair can be seen with the creation of the "official state ideology" of Malaysia. This is a pseudo religion now openly being created as an adjunct to the continuation of the Malaysia state.
The opposition between any two radical factions is more apparent than real. Like competing capitalist firms, each grouping maneuvers to destroy it's competitors while all factions unite to keep the "marketplace of ideas" open.
The only practice open to extremist groups in the US is challenging the groups above them in the hierarchy of the political legitimacy. Thus each group implicitly tails after another group that is slightly more "main stream". The Sparticus League tries to replace the SWP. The SWP tries to take over the democratic party. While all the various Leninist groupings are committed to have forums, discussions and exchanges of letter, on "Lessons of The October Revolution" etc.. These efforts remain on an imbecilic level since they are done only to recruit followers.
The association of radical groups, from the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) to ACORN with main stream politicians would be as embarrassing to these group as would an association of the Democratic Party with communism or Noam Chomsky with the Communist Party USA. At the same time, all the leaders of the various radical groups could easily fit with an average academic cocktail party. The unity of all these groups is in their pathetic practice and not on a united program. They are united as bureaucratic worms trying to carve holes for themselves.
Leftist politics is supported by an impoverished specialization of activity, with radicals and liberals feeding off each other in a mystified manner. Like good children, "U.S. out of El Salvador" demos etc. primarily appeal to "policy makers" in Washington while the more liberal of these policy makers use zealous radicals as a vanguard on election day; radical groups provide the man (or woman) power to register voters while corporations provide the money. Today, it is not simply a matter of saying that the nationalized medicine "is bolshevism in disguise" but that bolshevism has become nothing but extreme nationalized medicine in disguise.
Naturally anarchism versus Leninism debates have gone on forever without result, to the benefit of the specialists in ideology of each grouping. Leninists present a theory for creating a society with dictatorial program for getting to this communist society. Anarchism (at its best) presents a desire for immediately creating a communist society but has no understanding of how the present society could put this program into effect (It is not any change in the debate but an actual movement of the real world, the start of the conversion of China and The Soviet Union from state monopoly capitalism to more a competitive capitalism, that has now left Leninism looking more discredited now).
The various debates of Leninism and Anarchism, on violence, the state, self-management etc., have defined all the entire dialogue within the left since they boil down to nothing but a-historical, moral arguments that can be repeated about any subject. "Will central control or autonomy solve this problem", "Do the ends justify the means?", "Does heredity or environment determine a persons' actions", "Can government improve peoples lives or should they be left to their own devices", worthless arguments that appear for any administer and which never have a general solution, just ideologies to abstractly justify one choice.
While these two groupings have held a monopoly on the image of change in this society, liberals have been limited to popularizing their theories as a way of administering the present society; using cooperatives, unions, welfare, and the forty hour work week etc., as ways to run capitalism more smoothly.
Since 1917, the Left has been dominated by the governmental system that triumphed in the Soviet Union. The Stalinist possessors of the absolute state were naturally the most admired group among all would be bureaucrats. Bureaucracy could show its "scientific inevitability" on a very crude level. The communist parties the world over conceived themselves as the beneficiaries of this inevitability.
At present, however, the obvious conversion of the Soviet Union to western style capitalism has removed the basis for Stalinism's domination of the left. Capitalist domination of the world has become more obvious as it goes deeper into crisis. With the removal of the basis for the domination of Stalinism, the left has had to find a further bag of tricks, suitable to the present world of austerity and free trade. Stalinism is not being removed but augmented. Anarchism is now appearing as Stalinism's loyal opposition, just Stalinism is free market capitalism's loyal opposition.
The new brand of hypocrisy needed by the left is exemplified by Noam Chomsky. Although Stalinism, in the form of third world nationalism, is now an established way of developing capitalism in "third world" nations, it is losing its ideological luster in America and Western Europe. So this self-proclaimed "Anarchist sympathizer" is needed to defend various Stalinist national liberation gangs around the world (Vietnamese government etc.). Chomsky remains simply the most advanced of the partial truths defending the total lie of capital. Chomsky has an unblemished record of documenting each atrocity committed by western sympathizing governments while never speculating about any cause other than the moral bankruptcy of American Intellectuals (big story).
Today, from Trotskyism to Maoism, the doctrines of the party leading the people magically to communism have a hollow ring. This has caused many Leninist groups, such as Solidarity (Against The Current), The Revolutionary Socialist League, the RCP and many others, to adopt an anarchist or "situationist" veneer, to stay credible to the mass of leftists.
Revolutionary anarchists can see the opportunity to become a stronger force by taking advantage of the chaos in Leninism and showing "why Leninism is wrong and anarchism is right". Of course anarchism's understanding of these groups is completely wrong; the Leninist leftist is not simply mistaken. Instead his view point serves his interests, as a member of the educated elite, perfectly; if the revolution succeeds he can gain a higher position in the new bureaucracy regardless of whether the party does any real good while his position as leader of a micro-group gives him enough arbitrary power now satisfy his lust for sadomasochistic relationships, regardless of the success of the revolution.
Just as much, anarchism misunderstands itself. Anarchism now has no possibility of forming the type of mass organizations that once existed in Spain or Italy. The reason for this is not even based on the betrayals that anarchist ideology made (Spanish anarchists becoming part of the Spanish Republican government etc.) but because more advanced means of social deception have arisen since 1936. At present, anarchism in America is not a subsector of the working class but a subsector of the marginal left.
Since it does not even see its position in the left, it can not prevent its recruitment of generic leftists and the even more reformist use of Anarchist ideology by these leftists. When anarchists think they are expanding their appeal, they are actually moving more of leftism into anarchism. Main stream anarchism has reached the point where its revolutionary theory often reduces revolution to a purely moral question, one that does not require any thinking besides the self-sacrificial attitude of upper-class youth.
Anarchism becomes more and more important on the left as the left itself weakens. As the bureaucratic class declines, it can no longer protect itself with science, with the myth of its progress, but must instead uses morality, the remnants of secular religion. It is hardly chance that main stream protestant churches today are bastions of liberal social policy.
What we are actually looking at is not a increase in anarchism but a transformation of the bureaucratic class. Moralizing serves its purposes once the authority of science been has eroded. Anarchism can serve the left perfectly but only once it is hammered into a shape that allows leftist intellectuals to have an easier existence within it. A purely moral tone are the tool that allows an appeal for social revolution to be transformed into an appeal to attend the next demonstration. "Well you want to do something don't you!"
Now that the possibilities for Leninist revolution in the first world seem exhausted, the hardened leftist intellectual has as his first interest the defense of third world "revolutions" (native bureaucrats taking power away from American controlled despots). This is primarily a matter of unified class interests, from Vietnam to Nicaragua, the bureaucrats of the third world are part of the same petit-bourgeois "managerial" class that leftists are primarily drawn from. This can be seen in the arguments that are used by leftist to defend the sandinista revolution, "what would else could the Sandinistas do, how else could they have organized a revolution".
Moralism is the rhetoric that allows anarchism to recruit the more confused or emotional students (confusion is not used as an insult, since a confused student is less explicit about his or her capitalist role). "Since there is not a revolution, we must act now to improve the world" (by supporting one set of bureaucrats that we calculate will be better than the existing capitalists).
Anarchism replaces the scientific certainty of Marxism-Leninism with a complete agnosticism about the outcome of any action. From Noam Chomsky on the right to "Animal Rights", pacifist actions on the left, a purely moral view point allowed leftist intellectual the possibility of dominating through the metaphysic of what is right. In "affinity groups", spirituality allows the calm of the upper to dominated the agitation of the working class. The main effect is to dress up idiotic and reformist actions in veneer of the "most radical possible actions".
As the left has moved to get more of its blessing from morality rather than science, the artistic and philosophical movements have created an ideology of confusion to supplement it. By increasing the reign of terror within the intelligentsia, the most confused elements can effect a regrouping of forces on the most base level, the moral level.
The cleverest radicals these days are trying to find a philosophical basis for their radically incoherent practice. One obvious candidate for kind of justification is the "deconstructionist movement". Deconstruction's shape can be understood by looking at the situationists' failure in the sixties. Just as present day unions present an aura of militancy while making no mention of their past crushings of wild-cat strikes and autonomous workers' actions, the present day artistic and philosophical movements make pretenses of vague radicality while suppressing any awareness of the actual radical action that has taken place on and against the artistic plane.
The degeneration of culture and the spectacle is no longer a new story for those who know how to look. It is especially evident to the artistic milieu, the milieu that has most often read the works of the Situationist International. If there is not a general discussion of this degeneration it is because it in the interest of this milieu to make these conclusions part their works and make them appear to be their insights. The artistic milieu is able to do this because of the failure of the upheavals of the sixties. The sixties did not reach a sufficiently revolutionary point to be able to supersede the present culture and allowed the creators of culture to cover-up the SI's critique of the artistic speciality.
The method of the SI involved a willingness to attack, to make show the flesh and blood involved in normally bloodless academic musings. "To bring the violence of hoodlums to the plain of ideas". The SI knew this method could involve either going beyond the present expert control of knowledge or making the realm of ideas more purely spectacular.
Deconstruction is naturally the tendency that has moved furthest into the terrain of the purely spectacular. There are many who would argue against rejecting a tendency until the entire depth of its possibilities have been exhausted. The problem we have is that the domination of experts, one of the strongest methods of authority in our society, is held up by the immense volume of specialized information that is produced in our society (more words are published in any academic field than one person could read, even they read a page/a second, 24 hours a day). With this situation, a number of incoherent tendencies can fortify their position simply by making very difficult to know exactly what they are talking about.
Deconstruction/postmodernism is the product that this decade takes advantage of this obscurity. It positions itself as the newest, most radical, and the most profound thinking that has come up. Deconstruction only allows itself to be approached on its own terms. This requires the earnest-while critic to become a deconstructionist. The author of Against Deconstruction describes how Derrida's On Grammatology begins with the assertion of the primacy of written language over oral language. Not only is this assertion absurd both in terms of history and terms of fullness of expression, it is unnecessary for most of Derrida's further arguments. The assertion serves mainly to soften up the reader. He knows that a series of specious assertions will follow, he is clued in that this is not logic but a kind of theater of radically. Assertions are best made with emphatic, quality, dismissing all opposition. But it is also important to be vague about who the opposition is.
Deconstruction is concerned with building a deeper swamp. We are thus obligated to make "unfair" attacks on such confusionist movements. For us, when a tendency uses the most idiotic tools to accomplish the most reactionary aims it is sufficient to condemn it out of hand.
Just as capital has stagnated during the last ten years, the method of recuperation have not managed to increase their stock in trade. The present spokesmen of vague radicality (deconstructionism), turn the degeneration of the spectacle into the spectacle of degeneration but can only recuperate the most hack-kneed ideas, building up the dead-end of skepticism into a dead-end of philosophy and a dead-end of radicalism. The fact that the language of philosophy has become meaningless to todays thinkers, "that they can only see it as a series of disproved systems" [paraphrasing Nietzsche], is their only insight. This is paraded as a great triumph of insight (not by these thinkers themselves but by their erst-while followers).
There can be no doubt that Baudrillard together with the entire "deconstructionist movement" comes as a response to a current of actual radicality, most represented by the Situationist International. It was revealed by the SI that the boundaries of the current society have not yet fully been guarded, that ideas could still threaten the foundation of even the academic section of capital. To counter this, academics felt a need to create a kind of abstract radicality, competing against the existing perceived radicalities. Hegal,Marx, and Nitzschie are the most useful philosophers in the search for this implied radicality.
By inverting Marx, Baudrillard can return to Hegal's perfection of philosophy; everything that exists is justified by the falsity of the philosophy of action. Once the market economy is proven to vanish, Baudrillard does nothing but sell coffee-table books.
The important part of the movement is that it is not able to directly recuperate the SI in same way they academic Marxists have recuperated Marxists, allowing a "Marxism for everyone". SI is still too dangerous since it was explicit about it's method. Baudrillard's search for a "political economy of the sign" is a confused effort to rework Society Of The Spectacle without the society. The capitalism can then create its own cryptic "situationationism". If "A whole conception of a class strategy is conceived around the possession of material and cultural goods", it is a matter of conceiving a strategy for capitalists. It is well known that Baudrillard was concerned with escaping the view of Marx from within the Marxist paradigm. Baudrillard develops a way of blaming your "creator" for your own misery, a way of blaming Baudrillard's Marxism on Marx.
To paraphrase Nietzschie to these Nietzschie fond "radicals", if in N's time, "the world [had] become small" so that a free spirit had "to stoup to get into" the house of philosophy, now the house of philosophy has become too small for a free spirit to gain entrance at all.
The radical action of the poststructuralists, deconstructionist and postmodernist is only radical if the world is excluded. It is radicality utilized for the definition of a new specialty. The insights of philosophy have been reworked with a fools cleverness to refer only to other branches of philosophy. The poststructutalists give themselves away when they are loudest in their claim to have created "a fundamentally new theory".
As celebrities, these philosophers are approaching the ironic nihilism of modern painters or rock musicians who adopt an attitude of indifference or contempt to whole of their publicity industry while they position themselves to appear as the most advanced part (their publicity industry is the university which produces mundane intellectuals who consume these "radical" theories).
The stars of the new milieu have even less excuse than those of the old to claim an innocence to their activity and can hardly escape the fate of the old world.