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What is the Difference between Anarchism and Socialism anyway?
Food, Society and the Environment - 2003
What is the Difference between Anarchism and Socialism anyway?

Question:

If there was a revolution in Australia, why not get a revolutionary government to continue to coordinate the armed forces to put down any right wing rebellions and allow a more democratic localized control to be set up? Wouldn’t this be more efficient than turning over military control to local committees? What objections would anarchists have to this procedure and how would they organize things differently?

Comments:

  1. Anarchist revolutions typically do not take place in the way that this scenario envisages. e.g. Spain, Russia, Hungary, Albania. There is no seizure of government, either electorally or by armed force. Instead, local committees or a social movement composed of local activists, gain the support of the vast majority of the population in an anti-government coalition. The majority of the armed forces and the police actually join this movement and turn over their weapons or armed support to the local committees that also take over the functions of government and production. So there is no point at which a government could in fact intervene and instruct the army. Legitimate authority, in Weber’s sense, passes directly to local committees. Coordination of these committees is achieved by sending delegates to joint meetings or by large open air meetings of the whole population.
  2. Is it actually more efficient to organize armed resistance through an authoritative central command? Within the context of anarchist theory, coordination of committees is achieved by lateral communication and delegation to federal bodies. If local committees want to go against the majority vote, their only responsibility is to hear arguments against this from the federal council and to give replies to say why they are going ahead. In fact, anarchists would argue that this is more efficient than top down control because a central body, even one composed of delegates, cannot be as well informed about local conditions, as the local groups are. For example in Spain the revolution in Catalonia was actually defeated precisely because local committees went against anarchist ideals and gave up their control to a central body because it included anarchist representatives. The end result of this abdication was that the revolution was defeated by Franco. 
  3. It is not logical to see functionalism as an ideology of class societies and then to turn round and say that it is more efficient to let a state authoritatively coordinate military resistance. In other words, it has always been an ideology of class since the time of Aristotle to say that hierarchical organisation is more efficient because those who coordinate society become expert in organising society as a whole. The same argument is used to show why doctors should be better paid than nurses and have authority over nurses etc. To allow that military coordination is better achieved from above is to concede the key argument of the functionalist justification for class society.
  4. A state always depends on a body of enforcers who will do whatever the state decides regardless of their personal opinion. In other words, the state represents legitimate, in this case, democratic, authority, and the enforcers are there to carry out the will of the state; that is their role. To get this kind of loyalty and obedience, the enforcers must be either wage labour or slaves. In other words, they have to have some kind of serious inducement to do what they are told, regardless of what they personally think. Otherwise, they would just turn round at the sign of the first unpleasant command and go and get employment, in the broadest sense, somewhere else. Because of this, an army of enforcers is not compatible with an economy in which producers have genuine control over the means of production and distribution. In such an economy, decisions about distribution cannot be controlled from a central point and disaffected enforcers always have somewhere else to go — for example to other groups who are disaffected with the state’s decision The state and alienated labour go together; you can’t have one without the other and vice versa. On the other hand, in a stateless society, there is no doubt that certain policies would be seen to get majority support and to have the backing of an effective military coalition.

So what is the difference between anarchist structures of coordination and the combination of representative democracy and social ownership that has always been proposed by "socialist democrats"?

In a sense this is a difficult issue because both imply that elected delegates may serve on various coordinating committees.

  • In the representative democracy model, local bodies send representatives to a central government.

The general consensus of the population is that everyone agrees to abide by the decisions of the central government, regardless of what their own group wants to do. This becomes the first priority.

As a result, coordination through the central government becomes legitimate authoritative command.

To implement this command, the state employs a body of enforcers who work to its direction regardless of their personal feelings about the decisions that they enforce.

  • In the anarchist model, the local bodies send delegates to a coordinating council. These coordinating bodies are not necessarily permanent, nor does any one council have pre-eminence over decisions affecting a particular territory.

People do not agree to automatically follow the decisions of any federal council but may decide to do the opposite of what such a council recommends. They may or may not be sanctioned by other groups for their wayward decision. That would depend on the circumstances and local decisions.

There is no command but only coordination.

Enforcement is always an outcome of local decisions and enforcers, like everyone else, are not alienated labour but act to produce what they themselves think is useful to and necessary for society.

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