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About Myself

A Brief Autobiographical Sketch

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Selected Papers, 1968 to 1997

Prefatory Notes for Selected Papers: 1968-1997

In my Draft Constitution of November 1970 I arrived at a definition of communism which formed the backdrop of all my writings of the 1970s. I thought of a free society as "a network of workers councils united on the basis of direct democracy." Coming into radical social philosophy from mainstream social science, I was most influenced by council communism, and especially by Anton Pannekoek. I was attracted to workers councils and studied up on them. However, in my Draft Constitution, I took an idiosyncratic turn and combined workers councils with direct democracy. I don't recall where or when I became committed to direct democracy, but because this principle was so central for me, most of the reasoning in these essays from the 1970s is more or less relevant also to the task of establishing "an association of democratic autonomous neighborhoods," which is how I now picture a free society (as written up in my book Getting Free). It was not until the mid- to late-eighties that I shifted away from a strict focus on the workplace as the key arena for the revolution (that is, away from a strict anarcho-syndicalist orientation). It was then that I met for the first time real, live anarchists, in Workers Solidarity Alliance. Although I had read Kropotkin and other anarchists, of course, I had not really absorbed anarcho-communism.

Here are some other points to keep in mind when reading these essays from the 1970s:

In scattered passages throughout these essays I had unwittingly passed on the marxist misuse of the word anarchism as a term for fanatic individualism. I've edited those out, and substituted the terms individualism, fanatic individualism, egoism, or simply liberalism, which is what I was actually talking about. The meaning was not affected at all. I think this is fair and warranted. There is no sense perpetuating the century-old Marxist disparagement of anarchism and needlessly alienating contemporary revolutionaries, most of whom are anarchists.

By "proletarian," as in "proletarian democracy," I meant practically everyone, since I believe most people in the United States are in the working class (minus 30-35 million petty bourgeois and 5-10 million ruling class people). So I was actually writing about "majoritarian" issues. I eventually stopped using the term proletarian, however. It's too loaded. But you should not let its usage here prevent you from understanding these essays. I was not using it to refer to the much more limited "industrial working class."

*  During those years I often called myself a "third road radical."  By "third road" I meant neither Bolshevism nor Social Democracy, neither Lenin nor Kautsky – not what later in the 1980s came to be called the Third Road in European politics, namely, a kind of reformist communism.

*  Here are explanations of some of the most frequently used acronyms: NLR = New Left Review; YAWF = Youth Against War and Fascism; SWP = Socialist Workers Party; IWA = International Workingmen's Association; SDS = Students for a Democratic Society; RYMII = Revolutionary Youth Movement II; CRV = Committee of Returned Volunteers; Mobe = New Mobilization Against the War; OL = October League; RU = Revolutionary Union; PL = Progressive Labor; CP = Communist Party.

Date Sort by date, descendingSort by date, ascendingTitle Sort by title, descendingSort by title, ascending
August 1968A Seminar on Restructuring American Society
August 1969Cuba Notebook
September 1969Statement of Purpose
April 1970Is There a Ruling Class in the United States?
May 1970Hierarchy, the Socialist Revolution, and Problems of Strategy
July 1970Three Interlocking Strategies
August 1970A Case Study of Elitism
November 1970Draft Constitution
January 1971How Commercial Films Contain the Radical Movement
July 1971Who Defines the National Interest? The Dispute about the Pentagon Papers
October 1971On Sectarianism and Splits
November 1971Some Thoughts on the Telos Conference
November 1971Letter to the Liberated Guardian
November 1971On the Question of How the Left Can Function on the National Level
June 1972Toward a Proletarian Theory of Democracy
October 1972Establishing the Network. Three Working Papers
November 1972The Presidential Election of 1972
April 1973The Nationalities Question
April 1974Four Way Criticism
July 1974The Merits and Limitations of Sartre's 'Materialism and Revolution'
October 1975The Fight at Unitron
July 1979A Note on the Problem of Evil
February 1980That's Your Opinion
August 1982Notes on the Idea of Direct Democracy
July 1985Comments on the Boston Typographical Union