Potemkin wrote

I've always thought that rural, agricultural people (the peasantry historically), in particular, got a bad wrap from authoritarian communists, who labeled most of them Kulaks and dismissed them as reactionary. Yet history shows that, while rural people are often more conservative (as in the US today), there is a rich history of proud, radical, anarchic sentiments among rural and agricultural people (Makhno's movement is perhaps the most prominent example).

In fact, Murray Bookchin observed that most of the revolutionary agency of the industrial proletariat was a result of first-generation proletarians, whose radicality was the result of having been peasants and being forced (economically, etc) from the fields to the factories. This first generation was always the most radical, because they had direct experience of a different way of life. Fast forward a generation or two and, contrary to Marx's idea that industrial discipline would also discipline workers for revolutionary struggle, it overwhelming broke their spirit and integrated them into the system, rather than set themselves against the system.

Given this, I've always maintained a supportive, rather than dismissive, attitude toward the revolutionary potential of rural, agricultural peoples. They haven't received enough credit historically for carrying the revolutionary torch to the extent that they have.


Potemkin wrote

Hmm... I originally thought not, but then more thoughts followed. Haha.

If the statement "classical logic is to paraconsistent logic" is synonymous with the statement "analytic logic is to dialectical logic," then I think we have problems in formulation before we even begin. My understanding is that it is controversial, even among dialecticians, to suggest a dialectical logic separate from, or in violation of, formal logic.That being said, theorists like Murray Bookchin have suggested or implied that a dialectical logic was separate from the analytic. I guess also I'm wondering if we mean the broader "formal logic" of which "classical logic" is a part, or if we can juxtapose a "dialectical logic" to a "classical logic" without violating the larger "formal logic?"

That being said, I think there is a substantive sense in which we can see parallels between the breakdown in the relation between classical and quantum physics with that of the difference between analytic and dialectic modes of investigation. If things like Schrodinger's cat are explanations of quantum mechanical processes, this can obviously be seen as parallel to a dialectical method of inquiry. And definitely there is a dialectical approach to science that can be pursued (and has been, see particularly Levins & Lewontin's The Dialectical Biologist, for instance).

So on the other hand, yes, there are definite parallels between the "logic" (I use this here in a general, informal sense) of dialectic and quantum physics. And I think we can see parallels in the classical senses of logic and physics. Without looking it up, I would imagine both of these "classical" concepts came about in the West at around the same time, perhaps from the same "logic" or ideology.

In conclusion, I'm not sure. Haha. This particular area isn't my expertise, so this could all be incorrect, but I think I understand what you're asking. And I think, dialectically, there are substantive senses in which we can say it is a valid analogy, and substantive senses in which we might not. Maybe we should just put it in Schrodinger's box, with his cat, and all will be satisfied. Until it's opened.


Potemkin wrote

Yes, I agree. I think that's at the root of action and movement-building. For me, it starts individually--trying to develop myself in ways that give me a good basis and get my own house in order. From there, I have a solid foundation for neighborly or community-based action, and from there out into national and international solidarity and mutual aid. I envision it a bit like concentric circles. We have to start where we are, but I don't even think that's from selfishness. It's just the natural starting place for anyone to become a contributing and beneficial neighbor or community member or human generally.


Potemkin wrote

I think anarchists especially are not nationalists, and generally practice an internationalism rooted in "modernist" concepts of unity and solidarity. I think this position is also a natural extension of anarchism's utopian elements, as well as in the belief of a need for revolution (which ideally would be global and coordinated, though not necessarily simultaneous).

I don't think that acting locally while creating international solidarity are mutually exclusive. I think that it would be a problem if local action was at the expense of international solidarity--these two concepts need not be opposed or antagonistic to one another. The phrase "think global, act local" embodies this complementarity.


Potemkin wrote

(All links go to Wikipedia for reference)

Yes, I think that both idealism and materialism are equally important and basically two sides of the same coin.

As for introductory texts regarding some of these topics, I would start with the small book titled, Hegel, as part of the Past Masters series from Oxford University Press. It's written by Peter Singer, perhaps the foremost Utilitarian philosopher living. I would pair this with another book in the same series, Marx, also written by Singer.

Hegel's work is known to be dense, obscure, and difficult. I was in a group with three others to read Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. It was very slow going, but felt profound. It was laced with frustration, but once understanding was reached about what he was trying to say, it was very rewarding. To help us, we paired it with Alexander Kojeve's Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit. The Phenomenology is seen as Hegel's largest work in terms of impact.

As for other work, I don't have specific titles, but I would try to find books or discussion about the Young Hegelians generally, and the ideas they explored.

Anarchism owes a bit less to Hegel and his dialectic than does Marxism. Indeed, many anarchists I find aren't keen on dialectical methods of investigation. Anarchists such as Peter Kropotkin rejected dialectics as pseudo-scientific. However, Mikhail Bakunin, whose ideas won Kropotkin over to anarchism, was at least peripherally a Young Hegelian and would've had a dialectical orientation. And some of the most interesting anarchists today utilize a dialectical understanding, it's just less prevalent. It should be noted that there are also Marxists that reject dialectics, making them "analytical Marxists," I guess. I find it all very interesting, as I'm interested in radical thought and philosophy generally.

In western philosophy, Hegel basically created a split. Philosophy that rejects dialectical notions and Hegel's work is typically considered "analytic" philosophy, practiced primarily in the United States and the UK. However, Hegel still is a prominent figure in so-called "continental" philosophy, or philosophy practiced on the continent--Germany, France, etc. These distinctions weren't made clear to me at first, and caused a great deal of confusion for me.

For more information on the dialectical method generally, which will probably always include discussion of Hegel, I would look at the work of philosopher John P. Clark from Loyola University. He has posted almost all of his work for free to Academia.edu.

I would also look into the Frankfurt School, which were a group of German unorthodox Marxists with a heavy interest in philosophy. Martin Jay wrote a great overview and history of the Frankfurt School titled, The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950.

Pretty much anything involving early Marx, such as his Philosophical and Economic Manuscripts of 1844 most acutely show the intersection of Hegel and radical political theory, so that would be a good focus, as well.


Potemkin wrote

Due to the nature of Stirner's thought and argumentation style, he can be difficult to place. Indeed, John Clark and others have seen Stirner's work as "a process of egoistic enjoyment for the author." Yet, Stirner does at times make metaphysical claims that can open themselves to discussion and critique.

If you're interested in this sort of discussion on Stirner, I would highly recommend John P. Clark's essay from the 1970s called "Max Stirner's Egoism." It is a critique, but NOT a polemic, of Stirner's work.

In searching for a link for that essay, I also found an article by Jason McQuinn reviewing Clark's critique of Stirner. I haven't read this second work yet--I didn't know it existed until a moment ago-- but I think that would give you a pretty good view of both sides of the philosophical debate surrounding Stirner.

Lastly, I would argue that, as metaphysics is "the branch of philosophy which deals with the ultimate nature of things and seeks to formulate the most basic categories of explanation" (from Clark's essay), that nothing would ultimately fall outside of the metaphysical. Though Stirner may be primarily concerned with the aesthetic and the pleasurable, "being" and "nothing," material and immaterial, materialist and idealist are the basic, fundamental contradictions into which all thought falls. To me, as Stirner's thought, and the conception of ego itself, are inherently abstract, I would consider Stirner to be within the broad container category of "idealism." But this is just my understanding. I'm certainly no expert, and certainly not regarding Stirner. I always thought he had interesting things to say, though!


Potemkin wrote

Some interesting thoughts! I think I can understand some of what the OP is getting at. I'd like to address a couple of the points.

Firstly, we need to draw out some unspoken ambiguities. Corporate, monocultural crop production has many problems, some of which were already named--chemicals, destruction of land for monocultures, genetic engineering, etc. However, when comparing the ecological affects of corporate agriculture when compared to the corporate meat industry, agriculture is always MUCH less polluting and resource intensive.

The next thought is the difference in ecological impact and ethical consideration of the individual versus these large industries. One of the issues we should have with moderate liberalism generally is a lack of class consciousness. Liberal environmentalists will fault individual working-people for environmental degradation without holding corporations to account. Yet, even the most polluting individual has less environmental impact than one CEO that can choose to dump industrial waste into freshwater systems, for example.

I choose to not eat meat, and I don't think that will ever change for me, as a personal choice. However, I would not advocate this to people that have worked out their own, sustainable, relationship with the natural environment. I would never preach veganism to Native Americans, for instance, as they already have a working relationship with nature. So therefore, I don't see a problem with someone choosing to hunt for subsistence--it certainly is less impacting on the environment than any big corporate polluter. I personally would never do this, however.

When discussing issues like these, I think it's very important to keep these distinctions in mind and not get lost in ambiguity. We can't say, for example, that "humans" are polluters. Of course we are, but we must be more specific. The fact is, there are certain people in our society that have more power, and more ability to impact the environment than most working-people will ever have. It's not humans per se that are the issue, it's primarily CEOs making decisions for shareholders and profit. Not the wage worker that tosses their candy wrapper on the ground (though out of personal responsibility, I would argue we should still try to throw away and recycle and all that).

Corporate agriculture will always be better than the corporate meat industry. Individual horticulture will always be better than individual animal slaughter. However, an individual that chooses to hunt for subsistence will always have a lower environmental footprint than buying corporate meat. It's all a matter of degrees.

My argument is that, until the corporate agriculture and meat industries are done away with (in favor of alternative, sustainable methods), we should not point our fingers at the subsistence hunter, especially at the expense of holding these hugely polluting corporations to account.


Potemkin wrote

This is a very interesting question that I think radicals of all stripes should discuss.

The way I see it, to oversimplify a bit:

In the West at least, materialism and idealism are the two basic categories into which everything known and unknown, actually existing or abstract and conceptual, falls.

Philosophically, and particularly for western radical thought, all roads lead to Hegel. In fact, western philosophy as such is either an attempt to further Hegel's work or to refute it. For our concern, Hegel was an idealist of a kind that he termed "absolute idealism," which was a way to establish a kind of "concrete" idealism versus otherwise abstract idealism. Hegel's work emphasizes spirit and carries a lot of mystical/spiritual/religious connotations. Hegel's work was dialectical in its method of inquiry (more on that in a moment).

Enter Marx and the Young Hegelians--these were students of Hegel's thought out of which several smaller branches developed. Marx, of course, wanted to take Hegel's dialectical methods and observations and strip them of the mystical and idealist notions altogether, famously stating that he had turned Hegel on his head. Meaning that, instead of coming from an idealist base, Marx took Hegel's dialectical method and some of his thought and gave it a materialist outlook. (As a side note, there were some conservative/authoritarian interpretations of Hegel that developed his religious thoughts and were later known as the Right Hegelians.)

This act of turning Hegel on his head is also the origin of so-called "scientific" versus "utopian" socialism. This is in reference to the materialist/idealist divide. Marx claimed his Dialectical Materialism was scientific exclusively due to the materialist nature of his thought (Marx became more materialist over time, with his early Economic and Philosophic manuscripts being more humanist in orientation). I always found this claim a bit ironic, as for Marxists, something was "scientific" to the degree in which it aligned with a Dialectical Materialist outlook.

Yet, the so-called "utopian" socialists--which start from ethical conceptions about how society should be organized--were often highly regarded scientists. This included the anarchists Peter Kropotkin and Elisee Reclus. This doesn't mean that, because of their idealism, they ignored material information or tried to make reality fit some abstract ideal. It just meant that the beginning of their thought and action are rooted in ethical notions about how society should be organized.

It should also be pointed out that Stirner, the father of Egoism, was a Young Hegelian and would be considered an idealist, as his thought stems from the supremacy of the individual "ego." It's an abstract concept which places it on the idealist side of the divide. This is not meant to be attacking in any way, this is just how most of western philosophy views Stirner's ideas.

Bakunin was, though more peripherally, a part of the Young Hegelian group.

So, through Hegel's idealism and his dialectical method, and through Marx's use of this method and his emphasis on materialism, is where we get the historic divide within radical political philosophy. So-called "utopian" socialists, which for the most part are libertarian socialists and anarchists, would be considered idealists. Marxist socialists would be known as "scientific" socialists. However, "scientific" socialism was a term propagated and used exclusively to identify with Marxism---any other socialist therefore automatically became "utopian" in a pejorative sense.

Now, I believe that a dialectical method of investigation, as a way to understand the dynamic processes of both thought and reality, is helpful and powerful. Dialectics emphases the processural (though not linear) nature of things, that things can be what they are not and not what they are, that opposition and relation are both important elements of things under investigation.

Dialectically, materialism and idealism are simultaneously distinct and inseparable. I don't think one can be only a materialist or only an idealist without running into concrete absurdities.

That being said, however, I proudly identify my thought (which is anarchist-communist and social ecological) as part of the idealistic and utopian tradition. This does not mean an exclusive reliance on idealism or dismissal of the material. What this means for me, simply, is that the beginning of my intellectual framework starts from an idealist orientation, from which material issues and analysis can fit within it.

Some may take the opposing view. But this is the dialectical interplay of forces. For me, I am a humanist concerned with ethical notions about how society should be organized, and that is my starting place, which would make me an idealist.

However, like Hegel, I think we should differentiate between abstract idealism and something only slightly different from Hegel's "absolute" idealism. People dismiss as "utopian" good ideas that they believe could never exist in reality. But there are different types of conceptions. We can imagine fire-breathing dragons, for instance, and know that these creatures could never exist in reality. This is MUCH different than envisioning a rational society that has no material barriers to prevent its existence. So often these two types of idealist thought are conflated and "utopian" becomes an abstract pejorative.

Anyway, I hope this helped a bit. I'd be interested to know others' opinions.


Potemkin wrote

What's the general thought about Venezuela at this point? It seems as though, even if radicals were somewhat supportive of Chavez and his government and movement, that none of that really exists anymore under Maduro. How much longer can Maduro blame the opposition (at this point there HAS to be a left opposition to him, and not just the pro-capitalist right opposition) without taking any action? It seems he's only tried to strengthen his power internally, without trying to address the institutional and economic issues plunging the country into insolvency. In my opinion, Maduro is either grossly incompetent or simply uncaring and must go. Hopefully his replacement would be on the far-left, but at this point, even a center-right government would improve things for the people, and it would stop the world from identifying socialism with the bankruptcy of Maduro's regime.


Potemkin OP wrote

Thanks ziq! I may reach out. I just thought I'd try to support this site and maybe run into some people for discussion. I've fallen out of the loop a bit, and honestly have found many Communalists to be a bit rigid. I think the ideas of social ecology are pretty compelling, and lend themselves to anarchist-communist and even unorthodox Marxist interpretations. Of course, this is blasphemy to some, but I think an "open" social ecology is really the only (and most exciting) way for it to move forward. It seems that, for all the coverage of the Kurdish stuff (which I find incredibly exciting and inspiring) and talk of Bookchin and social ecology, very few seem to be actively engaging with the ideas at more advanced levels.


Reply to Cactus! by supernice

Potemkin wrote

Cacti are awesome, but they can get defensive! It sounds like you probably have a kind of cholla. I'm sure they appreciated the replanting! Once in the soil, they should be fairly easy to maintain. I really enjoy succulents, and cacti in particular. Being from the desert, I came to appreciate the different varieties, their histories with indigenous peoples, and interactions/mutualisms with other plants and animals. Some, like the saguaro, can live hundreds of years (pretty cool, I think!). I have been on the receiving end once or twice and can definitely sympathize. No matter how cautious, they can still find a way through! I hope you develop an appreciation for these awesome plants!


Potemkin wrote

I think these are all helpful suggestions. Having a political or ethical analysis is often fraught with feelings of isolation, frustration, a sense of urgency, and perhaps feelings of helplessness or lack of agency. I think many of us often feel alone or isolated, as well. Day to day, it can be difficult, but a few things that help me are:

  • History: I love learning about history. This helps me keep a sense of perspective, allowing me to see that things were different once and can be different in the future, that revolutions can and do happen, and gives me a sense of connection and continuity to humanity generally and those workers and revolutionaries that came before. Also, it helps to immerse myself in the political ideas I enjoy when unable to find a community to discuss with.

  • Community: Obviously, it really helps to have even a small community of like-minded people. Virtual or real-world, it's really nice to be able to talk with others of like-mind for sanity and motivation.

  • Friendship: Whether political or non-political, just having a friend or two that accepts you and your positions, and that you have more in common with than just politics, helps immensely.

  • Projects/agency: It's also helpful to be able to work on projects that are a manifestation of your political analysis. This helps us be and stay active in bringing about the world we wish to see, and helps build a sense of agency and working toward the goals that we value.

I think radical communities haven't done well to support one another and address things like depression that naturally arise out of compassion and the want to change things for the better. We should be kinder to one another, especially online (since we haven't gotten to the point of being completely rude to people in person all the time, as we do online--the general "we" as in humans, no one in particular). We should also try to join together to help each other through the unprecedented craziness that is the global socio-political situation at present.

I think the most important thing in coping is to understand that you're not alone, and that others see and feel the same things you see and feel, and are struggling with them as well. Life generally can be rough and difficult, but love and solidarity and friendship and comradery help.


Potemkin wrote

Greetings! Not sure if anyone is here much anymore. I've been getting back into political reading and trying to move forward and organize locally and things. It would be nice to find some social ecologist-types to discuss things with. Social Ecology and Communalism can indeed be an exciting read!

I remember how excited I was to read Post-Scarcity Anarchism. Its discussion of "preconditions" and how to identify them as a basis for moving concretely toward the world we wish to see was compelling, along with the critique of authoritarian Marxism. Its advocation for "study" or "affinity" groups seemed to provide a pipeline from the theoretical directly to social action.

Currently, I'm reading Biehl's biography of Bookchin, Ecology or Catastrophe, and re-reading works such as Damian White's Bookchin: A Critical Appraisal. If anyone is reading this, maybe we can get this Communalism forum a little more active again?


Potemkin wrote

Greetings all! I'm new here and still familiarizing myself. I'm looking forward to comradely discussion.

The statement above is a good one, and contains some unstated premises that I also agree with.

Understanding that we live in contradiction, while helpful to those who analyse through a dialectical frame, helps us realize that the world we wish to see can only be fully attained through (social) revolution and the removal of the capitalist economic system. It also implies that while we should have discipline and attempt to prefigure and embody our values and society to the greatest extent possible under capitalism, we should not kick ourselves for being imperfect in theory or action, as the system we are fighting necessarily brings everyone into economic, social, and ethical contradiction.

However, this does not mean we should give up entirely. Nuance is important, and coming as close to our ideal as is possible under the given system weakens capitalism, giving a view of the new society in the shell of the old. Our work can provide for the needs of our communities in less commodified and alienated ways, helping working people to the greatest extent possible now and developing the consciousness and solidarity to sustain large opposition movements.


Potemkin wrote

A good article! Obviously, the state of labor in the US is pretty deplorable relative to similar economies. The bourgeois coverage of economic news here, has for the last several years made me feel crazy. We see Wall Street being as profitable as ever, unemployment at record lows, the housing market (at least in my area) recovering and exceeding the highs prior to the last crash. Yet, my wages have been flat for about three years, while the cost of living increases. It's very disheartening how rosy the economic propaganda is at the moment, when none of it reflects the realities of myself, my friends, or other working people.

I think it's as difficult as ever for working people in the US, with the gutting and corruption of organized labor and the subsequent massive wealth accumulation of the top one percent. The rosy propaganda (where wage stagnation and other indicators that more directly apply to regular working people are ignored) hides an alarming deterioration in work and working conditions here.

I believe in the power of organized labor (indeed, the only force historically that has improved the conditions of labor), and the economic squeezing of the working class creates the material conditions for struggle and resistance. However, especially in the Trump era but existing for decades, the main barrier to collective action is a lack of class consciousness. In the most advanced capitalist economy, workers now are disillusioned and apathetic, even cynical. There is a pronounced lack of imagination and historical context. Paradoxically, we find ourselves in a situation where, not only is capitalism seen as the "end of history" (or that this economic system and these social relations, are seen as all that ever was, is, and will be) but is so hegemonic that, as Zizek has pointed out, its easier to envision the end of the world than the collapse or even moderate reform of capitalism. An unfortunate situation, indeed!


Potemkin wrote

For those interested in contemporary reworkings of anarchist-communist, social ecology, or similar ideas, I highly recommend the work of John P. Clark. Most of his essays are available online.

I recommend his Anarchy, Geography, Modernity: Selected Writings of Elisee Reclus. About half of the book contains translated essays by Reclus, and half are essays from Clark that contextualize and advance Reclus' ideas.

I also highly recommend Clark's, The Impossible Community: Realizing Communitarian Anarchism. Both of these works were published in 2013, so fairly recent. I'd love to discuss any of this with anyone.