China could not now be described in any way as a liberal democracy. At present, no more than 20 percent of its economy has been marketized, and most importantly it continues to be ruled by a self-appointed Communist party which has given no hint of wanting to devolve power. Deng has made none of Gorbachev's promises regarding democratization of the political system and there is no Chinese equivalent of glasnost. The Chinese leadership has in fact been much more circumspect in criticizing Mao and Maoism than Gorbachev with respect to Brezhnev and Stalin, and the regime continues to pay lip service to Marxism-Leninism as its ideological underpinning. But anyone familiar with the outlook and behavior of the new technocratic elite now governing China knows that Marxism and ideological principle have become virtually irrelevant as guides to policy, and that bourgeois consumerism has a real meaning in that country for the first time since the revolution. The various slowdowns in the pace of reform, the campaigns against "spiritual pollution" and crackdowns on political dissent are more properly seen as tactical adjustments made in the process of managing what is an extraordinarily difficult political transition. By ducking the question of political reform while putting the economy on a new footing, Deng has managed to avoid the breakdown of authority that has accompanied Gorbachev's . Yet the pull of the liberal idea continues to be very strong as economic power devolves and the economy becomes more open to the outside world. There are currently over 20,000 Chinese students studying in the U.S. and other Western countries, almost all of them the children of the Chinese elite. It is hard to believe that when they return home to run the country they will be content for China to be the only country in Asia unaffected by the larger democratizing trend. The student demonstrations in Beijing that broke out first in December 1986 and recurred recently on the occasion of Hu Yao-bang's death were only the beginning of what will inevitably be mounting pressure for change in the political system as well.
And I thought it important to state what these might be. Looking more closely at the organizational forms that were animated in the revolutionary upsurges in El Alto in the early 2000s, I suggested that we might need to look at a variety of intersecting organizational forms, including those favored by the “horizontalists”, which cut across other more confederal and in some instances vertical structures. I ended up with a fairly utopian sketch of intersecting organizational forms – both vertical and horizontal – that might work in governing a large metropolitan area such as New York City (2013a: 151-153).
| | | | | | | | | | | |
Historically, mutual aid societies (whether anarchist inspired or not) had, like the commons, codes and rules of behavior that had to be followed as part of the membership pact and those who did not conform to these rules found themselves excluded (a problem which marks the problematic boundary between individualistic and social anarchism). Perpetually questioning authority, rules and codes of behavior and disobeying stupid or irrelevant rules is one thing: disobeying all such mandates on anarchist principle, as Springer proposes, is quite another. No anarchist commune I have ever known would tolerate such behaviors. It would not survive more than a day if it did. The standard anarchist response is that rules and exclusions are ok provided they are freely entered into. The myth here is that there is some sort of absolute freedom that exists outside of some mechanisms of exclusion and even, sorry to say, domination. The dialectic of freedom and domination cannot be so easily set aside in human affairs (see Harvey, 2014: Chapter 14).
Graeber D (2002) The new anarchists. New Left Review 13: 61-73.
For Kojève, as for all good Hegelians, understanding the underlying processes of history requires understanding developments in the realm of consciousness or ideas, since consciousness will ultimately remake the material world in its own image. To say that history ended in 1806 meant that mankind's ideological evolution ended in the ideals of the French or American Revolutions: while particular regimes in the real world might not implement these ideals fully, their theoretical truth is absolute and could not be improved upon. Hence it did not matter to Kojève that the consciousness of the postwar generation of Europeans had not been universalized throughout the world; if ideological development had in fact ended, the homogenous state would eventually become victorious throughout the material world.
Graeber D (2009) Direct Action: An Ethnography. Oakland: AK Press.
I have neither the space nor, frankly, the ability to defend in depth Hegel's radical idealist perspective. The issue is not whether Hegel's system was right, but whether his perspective might uncover the problematic nature of many materialist explanations we often take for granted. This is not to deny the role of material factors as such. To a literal-minded idealist, human society can be built around any arbitrary set of principles regardless of their relationship to the material world. And in fact men have proven themselves able to endure the most extreme material hardships in the name of ideas that exist in the realm of the spirit alone, be it the divinity of cows or the nature of the Holy Trinity.