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review

A Flame to Extinguish Capital

Book Review of Black Flame: The revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism. Oakland, CA: AK Press. By Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt.
by Deric Shannon

At the outset, after reading Black Flame, it's impossible not to reflect on the massive amount of research that such a work must have entailed. The book is a narrative about anarchism and, with interest in anarchism on the rise worldwide, it could not have come at a better time. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, we need new narratives of the anarchist tradition to understand where we've been. Secondly, Black Flame contains critiques of the ways that "radical" circles contemporarily have too often turned away from the radical class politics that have always defined the socialist movement.

Ironically enough, this is both a major strength of the book, but also, in my opinion, one of its weaknesses. As Schmidt and van der Walt state their case early in the book, "'(c)lass struggle' anarchism, sometimes called revolutionary or communist anarchism, is not a type of anarchism; in our view, it is the only anarchism" (19--emphasis theirs). This essentially leads to the authors deciding throughout the beginning of the book who the "real" anarchists are and who gets defined out.

Again, there are strengths and weaknesses with this approach.

Review of “Capitalism: A Love Story”

by Abbey Volcano

Michael Moore’s latest documentary is a critique of capitalism- in mainstream theaters- pretty big deal. “Capitalism: A Love Story” starts off comparing the US to the Roman Empire- a fairly easy task. In addition to other commentary, the documentary seems to be focused on the anti-capitalist stance of various Catholic priests, the consequences of the housing crisis, corporate bailouts and, finally, some alternatives in the form of worker-run workplaces.

BOOK REVIEW: A People's History of Iraq: The Iraqi Communist Party, Workers' Movements, and the Left, 1924-2004

This slim volume focuses almost exclusively on the activities of the Iraq Communist Party (ICP) and is a powerful antidote to the patronizing orientalism many leftists and anti-war activists have towards Iraq.

Parecon and the Nature of Reformism

The second most important problem for anticapitalist radicals is how to get from here to there; that is, how to get from a capitalist society to a good society. The first problem is where do we want to go--what we mean by a good, noncapitalist, society. Working together with Michael Albert, Robin Hahnel has spent years on this first problem, developing a model of what a good society might be like, or at least how its economy might work. In a series of books and essays (e.g., Albert 2000, 2005; Albert & Hahnel 1983, 1991), they have thought out how an economy might function which is managed by its people rather than by either private capitalists or bureaucrats--an economy managed through bottom-up democratic cooperation, rather than by either the market or centralized planning. They call this "participatory economics," or "parecon" for short. Their model involves coordination by councils of workers and consumers to produce an economic plan. I will not go into it now; it is further discussed in Hahnel’s current book. In my opinion, their model has enriched the discussion of what a socialist anarchist society might look like.

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