Monday, June 29, 2009

Trip to a Digital Info-Shop

Finding good anarchist propaganda is not always easy. It helps that fellow travelers tend to have a healthy disregard for copyright law. (Copyright? More like copywrong.) This usually goes both ways: people also release their own work under various copyleft licenses.

I found a corner of the Internet called Zabalaza Books. It is the website of a South African anarchist bookstore. I use store in a loose sense, because their website seems to have more books and pamphlets available for download than one could read.

This week I downloaded nine pamphlets from them. Here's a picture:

Anarchism: What it Really Stands For, by: Emma Goldman

Anarchist Economics, an alternative for a world in crisis, by: Abraham Guillen
I didn't get this one from Zabalaza, and mentioned it in an earlier post.

Collectives in Spain by: Gaston Leval

Community Control of the Poor Community: An Organising Manual for Community Activists, by: Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin

Digger Tracts, 1649-50, edited by: Andrew Hopton
I also didn't get this from Zabalaza. About The Diggers.

The Freedom to Succeed: The Anarchist Collectives in the Countryside during the Spanish Civil War, by: Deirdre Hogan

How to Fire your Boss: A Workers' Guide to Direct Action, no author indicated
This short pamphlet explains the shortcomings of strikes, and outlines other industrial actions that can be taken. My favorite is the "good work strike," in which workers give customers better treatment, without charge. The pamphlet says "Workers at Mercy Hospital in France, who were afraid that patients would go untreated if they went on strike, instead refused to file the billing slips for drugs, lab tests, treatment, and therapy. As a result, the patients got better care (since time was being spent caring for them instead of doing paperwork), for free. The hospital's income was cut in half, and panic-stricken administrators gave in to all the workers' demands after three days."

Principles of Libertarian Economy, by: Abraham Guillen
This is excerpted from a different section of the same book, Economia Libertaria, as Anarchist Economics.

So, You're Out of a Job!, by: The IWW
This 1933 pamphlet encourages workers to join the IWW to organize a general strike, the goal of which is to have a 4 hour day and a 4 day work week, at the same pay as before. Interesting at least as an historical document, if not as an organizing platform. The argument is, in part, that mechanization of labor makes people obsolete, but it doesn't need to. If a machine makes a worker 12 times more efficient, the employer lays off 11 workers. The IWW thinks all workers should stay on, and work 12 times less, for the same pay, since they are producing just as much as before. I think instituting this regime may involve overthrowing capitalism.

The Spanish Revolution: Anarchism in Action, by: The Direct Action Movement (now Solidarity Federation)

Workers' Councils and the Economics of a Self-Managed Society, by: Cornelius Castoriadis
This pamphlet, originally published in 1957, lays out the groundwork for a self-managed society. Everyone would determine the conditions and means of their own job, plants would be run cooperatively, and industry delegates would coordinate the economy as a whole.
My favorite idea is the Plan Factory. In the Soviet Union's bureaucratic style of communism, planning was entirely not participatory. Stalin, using some form of fortune telling, determined the economy's goals. Under the system of workers' councils, the job of the Plan Factory would be to collect as much data about the economy as possible, and use computers to figure out a number of possible ways to meet people's priorities. Priorities would be voted on, as would the plan that was followed. The difference between the Soviet model and this one is that the Plan Factory has no authority over anyone, they serve the people (although the means and operation of the factory itself would be determined by its workers.) Castoriadis emphasizes throughout the pamphlet that an economy can be participatory only if people make decisions "in full knowledge of the relevant facts." So each plan would have to indicate what its implications are for the consumption levels and production targets of all workers.
A simplified exampled of a plan might say that in order to produce X cars, the steel plants would have to run Y shifts. Another plan might have few cars, and less work for steelworkers. Another plan might have fewer cars, but invest more in building new steel plants, so in the future they could produce more cars without undue burden on steel workers. And, in full knowledge of the relevant facts, the people choose which plan to follow.
There is also a complicated federal system of governance. Each factory elects a Factory Council and a General Assembly, as well as sends delegates to the Delegates Assembly and the Delegates Council. Importantly, delegates can be recalled at any time, and they remain at their jobs while serving. The Assembly makes the big decisions, while the Council makes the everyday decisions. Any decision of the Council can be overridden by the Assembly. Every individual department conducts their own affairs, however. For more details, read the book. It is very good.
Amusingly, it contains three sets of end notes. One written by the author in 1957, one written by Solidarity (London) in the 1970's when they translated it into English, and one written in 2006 by Lust for Life when it was posted to the Internet.
There exist many ideological conflicts. Naturally, between the capitalists and the anti-capitalists, but also between authoritarian anti-capitalists (Stalinists and the like) and libertarian anti-capitalists (anarchists). This author often contrasts his philosophy of "rational," left, anti-capitalism, with "Utopian," left, anti-capitalism. Consider the following passage, "Many absurdities have been said about money and its immediate abolition in a socialist society, and there is a great deal of loose thinking about the subject... People will probably receive a token in return for what they put into society. These 'tokens' might take the form of units, allowing people to organise what they take out of society... As we are seeking here to get to grips with realities and not fighting against words, we see no objection to calling these tokens 'wages' and these units 'money.'" Over three end notes in this passage, it is added "All the preceding talk of 'wages,' 'prices,' and 'the market' will, for instance, undoubtedly have startled a certain group of readers. We would ask them momentarily to curb their emotional responses and to try to think rationally with us on the matter... One could also invent new words, if it would make people happy, but this would not change the underlying reality."

Those are the books I downloaded. I encourage you to download books that seem interesting to you.

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