Thursday, 4 April 2013

Surviving Political Hypocrisy in Hard Times!

Chris Draper in 'Anarchist Voices' Calls for More Cuts 

IN his editorial for the Autumn/ Winter edition of 'Anarchist Voices: A Journal of EVOLUTIONARY ANARCHISM', Johnathan Simcock writes about possible alternatives to current conventional politics but claims that this is more likely to be found in the pages of small publications such as Peace News, The Land, Positive News and though the internet, than in the mass media. He accepts that '... many have been sidetracked ... into automatically supporting the protests against Conservative/ LibDem government cuts to welfare state services', and he encourages us to read a leading article in AV by Chris Draper, challenging the position of the conventional left and some anarchists on the recent government cuts. 

As an antidote to standardised left-wing thinking Mr Draper's article 'Don't Vote for Christmas' is well worth reading. It starts by asking

'Question: How many anarchists does it take to change a light bulb?'

'Answer: None, because they claim it's the State's responsibility until after the revolution!' 

'An absurd joke perhaps but it's a bizarre reality when all across England anarchists are taking to the streets to oppose government cutbacks! Anarchism is defined by a core belief that government in any form is the enemy of the people, a veiled conspiracy of powerful interests operating to exploit and control. I response to Jefferson's observation that “the best government is that which governs least” Thoreau joyfully asserted, “That government is best which governs not at all”!' 

Chris Draper points out that while 'Socialists recognise the State's similarity to Frankenstein's monster but think they can replace Doctor F. and retrain his monster to be kind and caring... Anarchists know the State can never be reformed (and) at best it promotes passivity, engendering in its citizens unending demands for “something to be done”.' Then '(i)n responding the State reaches ever deeper into the lives and conciousness of its citizens.' 

Mr. Draper addresses the proportion of Britain's annual income spent by the State:
'Government currently spends around 47% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and that even if Cameron's “vicious” programme of cuts continues until 2017 UK State spending will then dip just below 40% of GDP (it was 38.1% in 1964-5).' Too high for Draper's taste, but he asks what level 'would satisfy those ardent defenders of State spending, perhaps Cuba's 78.1%, or maybe Zimbabwe's 97.8%?' 

Comrade Draper then gives us a real life illustration, which may explain why many English anarchists inconsistently end up calling for more State aid:  a Tory acquaintance of his had moaned about the previous Labour régime and he had said 'Well, at least you didn't vote for them!', but 'I did!,' she said because she had, according to Draper, got herself 'one of those imaginatively titled non-jobs in local government created by Tony Blair's administration so she felt she owed him a favour.'  Many anarchists, like many if not most trade unionists these days are employed in the public sector, as teachers and civil servants. Many of them like the Tory lady described by Chris Draper are pragmatic, prudent, and full of rich self-centred insight as to their best interest. 

We mustn't expect the average English anarchist to be too self-sacrificing in his political commitment, they're only human like any other English politician, and when examined closely, we will find hypocrisy, inconsistency and caution.  People like the poet Shelley, Buenaventura Durruti and even the blacklisted electrician, Steve Acheson, are remarkably rare in England.

ANARCHIST VOICES: £1.25 (+ 50p pp) from J.Simcock, 47, High Street, Belper, Derby DE56 1GF. 


Anonymous said...

Any decent anarchist worth his or her salt supports those in receipt of government welfare in the absence of us owning and controlling the whole pie.

Austerity and the attack on welfare is a direct attack on the w/c and as such has and will continue to immiserate hundreds of thousands of people. To support sanctions, the expansion of workfare, cuts to benefits and our living standards means aligning oneself with and further empowering Iain Duncan Smith, the DWP, ATOS, Conservatives, Labour, so on and so forth. For this, Chris Draper and yourself for promoting his filfth are my enemies and I hate you.

Stop with the prolier than thou attitude and show some basic solidarity jabroni.

Numb dole scum

Anonymous said...

Chris Draper is not an anarchist: at least of the only variety of anarchist worthy of taking seriously, i.e. class struggle or anarchist communism. Rather, he is some kind of individualist anarchist, many of whom seem to have more in common with right-wing libertarians.

Despite his call for more cuts, he was very much against the cuts to his local library service when he lived in North Wales.

I hear he votes UKIP, and has spoken warmly of the workhouse. Also, that he is persona non-grata amongst anarchists in his new home, York, for ridiculous pronunciations such as displayed in this blog.

Most of the cuts being made by this government must be opposed by all anarchists for reasons that hardly need stating other than to the plainly thick or terminally confused such as Draper. The welfare state etc was a concession made by a capital faced with rising class struggle, afraid of a revolution. In his call for dismantling vital services, Draper presumably believes conceding *everything* to capital.

Is Draper seriously saying that countries without a welfare system, health service etc are somehow *closer* to anarchism? That anarchism is more likely to flourish there? What do his politics actually amount to, other than surrendering everything to the State? What is he actually fighting? Whose side is he on?

I suggest Draper reads the following and catches up with the rest of us *sincere* anarchists (or fucks off to join UKIP)

barry said...

Chris Draper is to be congratulated for opening up a debate in the anarchist movement about the nature of the state. The sine qua non of anarchism is the abolition of the state. In this context it is fair to say that Chris is following in a long tradition of anarchism which is encapsulated in 19th century american anarchism of the individualist strand eg Josiah Warren, Henry David Thoreau and Benjamin R Tucker. Thoreau held to the view "that government is best which governs not at all".

One can make a cogent case for cuts in several areas of state expenditure such as Defence spending, the police, prisons etc.
This is in no way inconsistent with anarchist philosophy.

Indeed the anarchist movement consists of several different elements such as anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-collectivism, anarcho individualism, and anarcho communism to name but a few. The arrogance of the class struggle anarchists implies an ideological rectitude which contains within it the dangers of authoritarianism. Indeed the humourist Dorothy Parker once commented that "you cannot teach an old dog new tricks".

In conclusion one doesnt have to agree with Chris views on the cuts but to slavishy adhere to the statist model as the anonymous contributors appear to do is strangely myopic. As anarchists we should perhaps discuss the ideas of "The Big Society" as enunciated by that distinguished anarchist Colin Ward. He presented an alternative to top down fabian socialism in terms of grass roots self managed organisations based on principles of solidarity and mutual aid. Incidentally mutual aid was an important part of the anarchist communist thesis of Peter Kropotkin. Chris has thus stated an important discourse within the anarchist movement with his views which challenge much of the reactive rather than proactive thinking of most of the British Left including many anarchists.

barry said...

In fact Dorothy Parker said " You cannot teach an old dogma new tricks" to be entirely accurate.
The problem with anarchist -communists is that they are contemptuous of any thinking by anarchists outside of the formers narrow ideological parameters.

Anonymous said...

Chris Draper has put his finger on an inherent problem for many anarchist lefties which is often ignored. If the state is the enemy then anything that takes services out of the hands of the state must be good. But of course, it would be erroneous to think that by cutting state services it leads to some sort of anarchist society be stealth or by the back door. On the contrary, it can clear the way for the triumph of the market.

The anarchist Edward Carpenter thought that both Tolstoy and Kropotkin were over "over-conscious of government evil" and he thought there was a charming naivete about Kropotkin in his belief that all human evil could be summed up in the fatal word government. This he thought was easy but misleading.

However, Mr. Draper hardly seems to be consistent in his beliefs. One minute he's demanding more public cuts and the next he's campaigning to keeps his library open in Penryhn. Seesm to me it's ac ase of I'm all right Jack fuck you!

barry said...

In the interminable discussion re Thatchers legacy 2 positions have emerged. 1. Fulsome praise of Thatchers Neo=liberal agenda encompassing the market and privatisation. 2. The labourist view that is a statist/fabian perspective which is enshrined in Keynesian economics.

This seeming conflict is in fact bogus and is essentially positing state/bureaucratic capitalism against a free market model. Interestingly enough privatisation often embraced large private monopolies rather than state ones. It could be argued that genuine free competition was a chimera and what happened was a form of monopolistic competition.

In this whole debate the anarcho-sndicalist perspective is sadly missing. As demonstrated by the CNT in Spain during the 1930s this is based on an implacable opposition to state structures and the institution of workers control and self management both of the economy and within society in general.

The political bankruptcy of the British Left including many anarchists is manifest by their apparent unqualified suport for the labourist statist position which is essentially a defence of the status quo and entirely reactive to a political agenda set by those in power.