Authoritarian Socialism and the Anarchist Alternative

This is the second of two essays I submitted for university this week. For this one the question prompt I chose was “Does socialism always tend towards authoritarianism?” Short answer was no, but I had to write about 1799 more words so this is the long answer talking about the State, Russia, Spain, and anarchism and a bit of democratic confederalism. Title is iffy and unimaginative because screw putting effort into that. All references are down the bottom. Enjoy

Socialism is a school of thought most simply defined by its opposition to capitalism (Heywood 2021: 75). This is, however, an extremely broad range of ideas and there has been much conflict within and between nations, parties and movements about what, and who, constitutes true socialist ideals. Perhaps the greatest of these is the antagonism between democratic and authoritarian visions of socialism. The Twentieth Century saw the rise of authoritarian socialism, manifested primarily through the Russian Revolution in October 1917 and the horrors of the Stalinist regime, and in China under Mao’s Communist Party.

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Objectivity Requires Evidence and Context

15/09/2021

I’ve written a number of pieces over the years about objectivity, whether that be reporting in the media, the recording and study of history, or relying on science for truth. As usual, something I have read and stuff I have heard puts my own ideas in much clearer language than I have so far achieved, this time in the case of journalism. John Pilger’s 1998 book, Hidden Agendas, that came out the year I was born, basically says truly objective journalism needs one key thing – context.

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The Abolition of Borders Requires Abolishing the State

02/05/2021

It has become a bit of a cliché in movies, TV shows, games, etc. when in or around some walled off or secure location to suggest, “what if it was not meant to keep us out, but to keep something in”. The Flood in Halo, for some reason, is the first that comes to mind. I recently finished reading Against the Grain by James C. Scott about the earliest history of whar we would now call “States”, the beginnings of “civilisation”. When we think of walls and borders, it’s usually in relation to keeping things or people out. But it has the inverse effect too – borders keep us in thrall to the State.

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Different Arenas, Same Tactics

06/02/2021

Drifting in and out of online political discourse as an observer (rarely bothering or daring to get swept up in Twitter threads with self-righteous mobs of any persuasion), I have noticed that there is a common thread between some unlikely groups. Pro-China, Russia, DPRK, Assad, etc. “communists” (read: people who think anything anti-US imperialism is amazing), and “right-wing” conspiracy nutcases come up with similar stories to justify their positions – it’s all fake!

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My 2020 Reading List

30/12/2020

As this rather wretched and exhausting year comes to a close, I looked back at my list from 2019 and laughed sadly at my optimistic plans to read more in 2020. Perhaps I did when you count news, analysis, etc. online, but in terms of books it was disastrously minimal. However, the books I did read offered brilliant insights or just fascinating bits of knowledge. So, in no real order:

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Historical Amnesia Goes Both Ways

07/12/2020

The first time I heard the term historical amnesia, it was in relation to a discussion about American exceptionalism and the masses “forgetting” the more bothersome parts of their history of involvement (ironically, I can’t recall the specific source or case I first came across). But, rereading Noam Chomsky’s On Anarchism (again, ironically because at the time I read it, I did so without any real focus or retention), the now seemingly obvious opposite is also true: that the true victories and battles fought by the masses themselves are also victim to this international blank slate.

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Reality is Conspiracy Without the Flair: QAnon

06/09/2020

Conspiracy theories have pervaded discourse for decades, from the assassination of JFK to the 9/11 terror attacks being an inside job carried out by the Bush administration. Regardless of the facts and implications one can draw from history and events as they happen, new theories and ideas are added to the pile frequently, particularly with the advent of the internet. These ideas – much like the rhetoric of despotic figures like Donald Trump – are alluring because they offer explanations to those blindly searching for answers. While the questions that led to those answers might be genuine, reality often offers less “fantastic” answers that nonetheless have the benefit of truth.

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Qassem Soleimani Dead in Iraq

03/01/2019

Update: It has indeed been confirmed as a US strike.

Baghdad airport was hit with an airstrike earlier today, with numerous sources quoting Iraqi state TV that Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC Quds Force, and others were killed. So far there has been no clarification about who ordered and carried out the strikes, but it’s the latest in a string of growing tensions in the region between Iran, Israel, and the US.

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My 2019 Reading List

31/12/2019

Admittedly, I thought I had read more books than the ones on this list, but alas it is much smaller than anticipated when I compiled it. I wasn’t expecting anything huge, and 16 books is still a reasonable feat, in my view, but I can’t help but feel a tinge of disappointment that I didn’t get through more. I would, however, suggest that finishing university and keeping up with news events and analysis probably makes up for that. Nevertheless, these are the books I read this past year, with a few thoughts looking back on them and links to piece that refer to them.

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Media Hasn’t Really Changed: Colonial Tasmania

28/12/2019

I am currently reading The Vandemonian War by Nick Brodie. As always, when I learn more about Australia’s history involving the Indigenous peoples, I grow more and more disappointed with the shallow understanding that our education system throws at countless disinterested students. But I’ve written about that already, and there was a small point Brodie made about the press coverage that made me chuckle – rather cynically – at the parallels to today.

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