FARJ and Class

I’ve been reading the recent english translation of FARJ‘s 2008 document, Social Anarchism and Organisation. There’s much to recommend, but their section on class is odd to say the least. It contains a rather strange attempt to define “the exploited classes” in terms of the dependency theory notion of “the periphery”.

Core-periphery provides a useful framework for understanding aspects of the geography of the capitalist world-economy, but attempting to use this framework to identify “the exploited classes” can only result in vague, imprecise and in key places, wrong conclusions.

This strikes me as an example of anarchists going to great lengths in order to arrive at a formulation different to that of classical Marxian political economy, simply to differentiate Anarchism from Marxism.

There is also a sense that the authors might be arguing with a common caricature of Marx, in particular where they quote Rudolf de Jong:

The anarchist conception of the social forces behind social change is much more general […] than the Marxist formula. Unlike Marxism, it does not afford a specific role to the industrialised proletariat. In anarchist writings we find all kinds of workers and poor, all the oppressed, all those that somehow belong to peripheral groups or areas and are therefore potential factors in the revolutionary struggle for social change

Any modern application of a Marxian definition of class would surely arrive at the same conclusion; the modern working class extends well beyond the factory!

Something else to note are their references to ‘peasants’. I seriously question the idea that ‘the peasantry’ still exist. The term seems to be used to lump together two groups (with very different class interests), landless agricultural workers, and the most vulnerable and tenuous of the agricultural petit bourgeoise.

Anarchists critically appropriate and use a great deal of Marx’s political economy. Attempting to deny this for sectarian reasons will only leads us into this kind of odd theoretical cul-de-sac. Where Marx is right, let’s just say “and here we agree with Marx” and move on!

Recommended: Wayne Price, Marx’s Economics for Anarchists: An Anarchist’s Introduction to Marx’s Critique of Political Economy.

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