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(en) UK, Manchester, Ananarchist Federation - the role of the revolutionary organisation http://www.af-north.org/roro.htm I. (1/2)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 13 Apr 2003 17:21:12 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

> the role of the revolutionary organisation
Anarchist Communists have a vision of a revolutionary
organisation very different from State-orientated parties and
groups. But there is also something wrong with the idea of
informal groupings as advocated by some Anarchists. To
understand why a revolutionary individual needs to be part of
a revolutionary organisation it is necessary to first describe
the thing itself: its structure, its relationship with the working
class and the theoretical basis of that relationship coupled
with a precise understanding of class spontaneity.

The first fifty years of the 20th Century saw a sea change in
the nature of capitalism. Traditionally capitalism was
governed by the iron laws of supply and demand. Now what
is produced matters less and less so long as marginal
increases in profit are achieved. Economic necessity and
technological inevitability mean increased investment and
production no longer mean more jobs - they increasingly
mean fewer jobs.

With the end of the age of antagonistic nation states and
blocs that existed between from 1875 to 1995, the capitalist
powers can now manipulate the global economy, shifting
finance and production as opportunity dictates. Statist parties
and groups have long proclaimed the solution
nationalisation. But since investment does not increase jobs
there is no argument for seizing the ?commanding heights of
the economy?, only abolishing them and finding new ways to
organize work. Growth as a means of full employment is
self-defeating since growth under capitalism is only achieved
through increased competitiveness, competitiveness through
productivity and productivity by shedding labour.
Unemployment cannot be solved by increasing the amount of
non-working since it depends on lower incomes and
inevitable inequalities. Capitalism may have created wealth
but it was stolen from the past (the ideas, knowledge and
technics accumulated by pre-capitalist societies) and filched
from the future (irreplaceable future commodities, gene pools,
environmental degradations and so on).

Work and employment are not neutral. Work reproduces
work?s social relationships. A person?s activity is productive
only if it can be sold. If it can?t be sold it has no ?worth?, nor
do we. It is sometimes argued that employment would be
okay if work was pleasurable but it isn?t. Why? Industrialists
discovered it was easier to control a machine than a person
and easiest of all to control people by subjugating them to a
machine. The technology of production has been
systematically applied to de-skill and make workers docile.
This is being repeated in the process of consumption where
we compulsively consume, but only what we are fed and for a
clever reason: to balance production and consumption. The
area of freedom within work is narrowing, matched by a
narrowing of freedom out of employment. Attacks on the
welfare state, dole scroungers and stay-at-home mums
mirrors increased coercion at work and for the same reasons;
we are being compelled to work in order to have the means
to consume (however little we can afford to buy). Employment
is seen as a socialising force, which no one should escape,
and places where there is no work are feared as
commodity-free deserts populated by junkies, criminals and
deviants. Dehumanised and alienated, we face a future in
which technology and the operation of society will be used to
produce what the founders of modern industry wanted all
along - weak people, easily controlled. Alongside this
degradation, rationalisation and intensification of work
causes massive amounts of illness, mental aberration and
stress. These will inevitability increase as modern
technologies compel greater productivity from workers. The
fetishisation of work and consumption has a crushing effect
on our minds and bodies when we become unemployed and
cannot buy things. Forced to work, forced to consume, we are
trapped in a system in which inequality and social division
persist because the hierarchy of labour creates a socially
destructive hierarchy.

>From workplace to revolution

The historical argument that the factory would provide the
means to create a revolutionary proletariat or source of social
mobilization was false from the start and proved a disaster for
humanity. How could industrial workers alone, in tightly
managed workplaces and offered only the choice of
alienated labour or enforced leisure, ever be capable of
carrying through a libertarian revolution? Without freedom,
industrial development has simply led to managerialism,
technological control of the workplace - managing the
unmanageable - and to social compulsion or catastrophe.

However not all is lost. Urbanization continues to create a
vast, displaced, hungry, dispossessed and desperate
working class across the globe. The way capitalism works,
life is a red-in-tooth-and-claw struggle for survival where the
"least successful" are swept to the margins of society where
they can be ignored (if they work), despised (if they don?t)
and punished for being different or in anyway resisting.
?Progress? constantly replenishes the margins with newly
obsolescent humans - an ever-present strata of alienated and
isolated people, less and less likely to escape economic and
social exclusion. The State constantly raises the spectre of
invasion by the marginalized who are demonised by the
media. These ghettoised communities are always described
as ?threatening? while actually being subject to vicious
divide and rule and law-and-order experiments. Prime targets
are those who can be made out to be different, for instance
refugees and asylum seekers. Other bogeys are those who
deny ?modern? moralities. Visible, different, recognisable:
you?re likely to be a victim of hatred and violence whipped
up by the bosses to keep the masses occupied, a class apart,
separate from the rest of society, to be feared but also a
convenient scapegoat.

But oppression takes subtle forms. The ruling class tinkers
with the benefit system, offers ways for a person to ?rejoin?
society, intensifies education around bourgeois norms, beefs
up its police force and builds more prisons. Measures such
as welfare-to-work carry a set of moral, ethical and political
values and imperatives to do solely with the middle class?s
fear of the impoverished sections of the working class and
ruling class distrust of anything not completely under its
control. At times this class is indeed marginalized, inert,
trapped by circumstance and culture, rejecting bourgeois
notions of work and value, a class which grudgingly accepts
authority and is prone to any marketing hype or hysteria,
including the exploitative cant of politicians or priests
because it is uneducated, unknowing, naive. At other times its
anger and thirst for justice bursts free of these constraints and
it is then that resistance and revolution become possible.
Therefore we should not attempt to ?reverse the process of
marginalisation? but accelerate it. This is not understood by
all ?revolutionary? groups. The crisis of market capitalism in
the West and collapse of state capitalism in Eastern Europe,
China and Cuba on every level (economic, social, cultural
and sexual) is reflected in the crisis of the organisations of the
so-called revolutionary left. These organisations duplicate
ruling class values in their authoritarianism, their high degree
of centralisation, their worship of hierarchy and the sheep-like
submission of the rank-and-file to omnipotent and all-wise
lead-erships. As the crisis in capitalism deepens,
revolutionary organisations should increase in strength and
numbers but instead the related crisis in the Left parties and
groups becomes more extreme, with splits, opportunism and
collaboration with the social-democratic agents of the bosses
such as New Labour. The Socialist Party (ex-Militant) seeks
to show its respectability, denouncing anarchists to the
police, while the once influential Workers Revolutionary Party
has splintered into a dozen fragments. Corruption, shady
financial support from authoritarian regimes, turncoat politics
and policies have become commonplace. It is vital that a
strong libertarian movement in all areas of social life is
created so that working people can defend themselves
against the capitalist onslaught and create a free
selforganised society. To assist in the building of such a
mass movement, a libertarian revolutionary organisation is
necessary: an organisation that fights for the co-ordination of
all anti-capitalist struggles. Such an organisation must have a
structure that ensures permanent political debate and must
be controlled by the whole membership.

Class spontaneity

'The emancipation of the workers must be brought about by
the workers themselves.' Declaration of the First International.

'The working class by itself can only attain trade-union
consciousness.' Lenin, What Is To Be Done.

A vast abyss of theory and practice lies between these two
statements. Leaders from the managerial strata and
intelligentsia often proclaim as fact that workers need leaders
or centralised parties. This is true of fascists,
?revolutionaries? like Lenin and even social democrats like
the Blairites. They try to incorporate the workers into a
totalitarian state, a quiescent mass or a moral majority,
claiming mandates and support but not legitimacy (since
power needs none): the idea of the Worker?s State may be
discredited but it has been replaced by it?s capitalist
equivalent, the Consumer Society. They do this because they
want or need to believe that the working class cannot itself
bring about revolutionary change and has no (as it is called)
working class spontaneity. This concept of working class
spontaneity has been distorted and misunderstood for so

It is wrong to ignore history or, studying it, to draw the false
conclusion (as some anarchists do, for their own reasons)
that the working class springs into revolutionary activity with
no memory of or connection with previous struggles and no
previous agitation by revolutionary minorities. On the
contrary, the work of revolutionaries over many years to
clarify and co-ordinate struggles in the working class greatly
helps the revolutionary process. Working class spontaneity is
the ability of that class to take direct action on its own behalf
and to develop new forms of struggle and organisation. This
happens in every great revolutionary upsurge where working
people have formed committees and councils independent of
"vanguards". In this country the flying picket and mass
picketing were developed as weapons of struggle. ?Pit
commandos? emerged during the 1984-85 Miners Strike.
Road blockades and reclaiming the streets are all forms of
struggle developed independently from the Revolutionary
Party (whichever one that happens to be). The activities of
the working class have taken place regardless of and
sometimes against the urgings of the revolutionary elite.

Why should we be organised?

'Anarchism is organisation, organisation and more
organisation.' Errico Malatesta

WHAT IS ?ORGANISATION?? It?s a vast subject so let?s
think about one kind of organisation relevant to anarchists.
This is the ?Revolutionary Organisation?. Each kind of
organisation has its own purpose enabling people to
accomplish what they cannot individually, harnessing energy
and resources in productive ways. However organisations
are not pure rational constructs. They have their own culture,
often obscured by formal structures. Strip away the theoretical
organisation of states, corporations and political parties and
you reveal the hierarchy, authority, fear and greed that is true
organisation in a capitalist society.

Because of this some anarchists reject not only the
?ordering? imposed on our minds by capitalist society but all
forms of organisation. We in the Anarchist federation
recognise the problems of organisation but accept that it is
necessary both in and in achieving a libertarian society. What
is important is to make organisations that reflect the ideas of
anarchist communism in their own practice.

To create effective organisations we must know our own and
other?s minds, therefore there must be a high degree of
communication, of sharing. We must set about creating
aspiration, setting achievable targets, celebrating success,
rededicating ourselves again and again to the reasons why
we have formed or participate in the organisation. And
because organisation is a mutual, sharing activity these
things cannot be contained within one mind or merely
thought but acted out and given a tangible existence through
words and actions. At the same time, we must remain
individuals, capable of independent and objective appraisal,
not cogs in some vast machine. What then is the purpose of
?revolutionary organisation?? Can it be described? Given
that the need for revolution already exists, revolutionary
organisation must increase the demand for revolution. It must
increase the measurable ?weight? or ?force? of the
resources joined to demand revolution. The structure must
increase the ability of the organisation to perpetuate itself
while its ends remain unrealised. It must increase the ability
of the organisation to resist attack, by increasing the
determination and solidarity of members and by so arranging
itself that damage caused to it (from external attacks,
defections, internal conflicts and so on) are minimised. It must
be flexible, be able to absorb or deflect change or challenges
to it, have the ability to change or cease as circumstances
dictate and the self-knowledge to initiate change when
change is required. High levels of positive communication,
mutual respect and celebration, shared aspirations and
solidarity all describe the revolutionary organisation.

Creating a revolutionary structure

Anarchists in a free society will be self-ordering and society
will be self regulating. The organisations we construct will
arise out of the needs of the moment, filtered by our
knowledge and perceptions. Organisations, whether free
associations, collectives, federations, communes or
?families?, will be fluid and flexible but retain the ability to
persist. They will be responsive to individual and social need.
They will have a structure and culture matching the needs,
beliefs and purpose of members. They will not have the
super ordered, monolithic or divergent cultures of
competition, fragmentation, subordination or conflict that exist
within organisations today. Creating organisations that have
a revolutionary structure is an act of revolution itself. The
more we do it, successfully, the better we will be at making
the revolution and the closer we will be to achieving
revolution. But to be successful we have to learn far more
about the nature of organisations, what is effective
communication and how we respond to demands for change.
The Anarchist Federation is one attempt to put these ideas
into a practical form. We do not claim to have all the answers,
but we are convinced that anarchist communism can only
hope to make real progress as the leading idea in a united
revolutionary movement. Working as an organisation has
made our interventions in the class struggle stronger and our
ideas clearer than they could be alone or in local groups, and
though we still have a long and hard road to travel, ever
increasing co-ordination is unmistakably the way forward. A
powerful revolutionary organisation will not come about by
people simply agreeing with each other. Only through the
dynamics of working together can we achieve the unity of
activity and theory necessary to bring about a free and equal

Questions of consciousness

Let us put it quite bluntly: the errors committed by a truly
revolutionary workers movement are historically far more
fruitful and valuable than the infallibility of even the best
central committees.

Rosa Luxembourg, Organisational Questions of Russian
Social Democracy. The experiences of working class life
constantly lead to ideas and actions that question the
established order. This leads to "working class
consciousness" but different sections of the working class
may reach different degrees of consciousness. At the same
time, the ruling class seeks to keep the working class divided,
undermining solidarity based on culture and common
experience through its control of the media and education
and by perpetuating racism and sexism. The working class is
never wholly atomised nor, at the moment, solid and united,
conscious of itself and its power. The anarchist organisation
must always be part of the working class. This creates a
tension. While on the one hand it?s consciousness is more
developed ("in advance"), it?s ability to develop and extend
its influence in the class depends on not being too far in
advance. If it is, it will fall into the trap of ignoring or rejecting
the new forms of struggle and organisation which, as we
have said, can benefit other workers and which workers
everywhere must learn. There are dangers in this
contradiction and the revolutionary anarchist organisation
needs to develop ways of acting based on an awareness of
the contradiction. We must always be ready to learn from the
class and constantly revise our tactics with the unfolding
situation. The revolutionary organisation is transformed as
the working class is transformed in the revolutionary process.
Theory and practice must be rooted in concrete conditions.

The anarchist revolutionary organisation understands this. It
also realises that the only possible working class revolution is
one where people use mass action to smash the apparatus of
the ruling class (the police, courts, bureaucracy etc) and the
class itself. Any other revolution leads only to the formation of
a new ruling class. To bring the working class revolution
about, the anarchist organisation has several tasks to

Tasks of the Organisation

Accepting that the revolution can only be made by the
self-activity of the working class, the anarchist revolutionary
organisation still has a number of tasks to perform. It must act
as a propaganda grouping, untiringly putting over the
message that the working class must destroy capitalism and
establish a libertarian communist society. It must also show
how this can be done by giving examples of self-activity. It
must search out the history of past struggles and share the
lessons to be learned with the rest of the class as part of the
development of class-consciousness. When important
developments occur, the revolutionary organisation must
spread the news through its links with organisations in other
countries. But the organisation is not just a propaganda
group: above all it must actively work in all grassroots
organisations of the working class such as rank and file
groups, tenants associations, squatters and unemployed
groups as well as women?s, black and gay groups. It must try
to link unionised and non-unionised workers, building a
movement at the base.

Reclaiming ourselves can only occur in areas outside the
main focus of capitalist control: our neighbourhoods,
campaigns of resistance or protest, areas of greater freedom
(such as squats) and libertarian initiatives. This is where we
reconnect with the ?unemployed?, the ?underclass?, the
?socially excluded?. Since work does not depend on
employment and freedom is about what we do not how much
money we earn, there should be no boundaries between
revolutionaries and those laying the foundations for a
self-organized society. The need to control our lives, to use
our skills in a ?good? cause, to choose who we transact and
interact with, to achieve a balance between giving and
receiving, to entrust our lives to others, all are central to us as
human beings and all can be experienced through work only
on a personal or local level, never within a mass society.
Inevitably smaller-scale production will spread throughout the
free society. The revolution may be led by an awakened
proletariat breaking out of the prison of the workplace but is
just as likely to begin with a radicalised populace calling the
workers out to join them. The true test of the revolutionary
potential of a situation will be the extent to which workers
struggling within the workplace connect with those acting
outside. The revolution will re-connect workers and
non-workers as people, not classes, it will be made and led
by affinity groups sharing common values about work, the
environment and social relations, rather than trade unions.
These groups will be free associations built on mutual
respect rather than associations created by economic
necessity. The free society will be a society where there is no
social coercion compelling the individual to work. But it is
also one where the work that needs to be done will be done
because it must be done. The boundaries between what we
call work and play will disappear until all we are left with are
the things we choose to do. There will never be a moment in
our waking lives that we are not individuals expressing
ourselves through our activity and our leisure and members
of a society contributing who we are and what we do to it. And
we will know that what is true of ourselves will be true of all

The organisation seeks to work inside single-issue groups to
help radicalise them and to argue for a break with reformism
and authoritarian revolutionaries. At the same time it respects
the independence and autonomy of working class
movements and (unlike others) does not try to subordinate
them to the revolutionary organisation. This does not mean
that it does not seek to spread its ideas in these movements.
The organisation works to bring about mass participation
inside all these groups and the class as a whole, working for
self-activity and self-organisation in every struggle and
aspect of life. These ought to be working class organisations
as cross-class movements hide class differences and imply
that the working class have shared interests with the ruling
class. Full emancipation cannot come about without the
destruction of capitalism. Only by building such organisations
in the course of struggle can the working class hope to
achieve liberation. To make revolution more likely, working
class communities must be united in both thought and action.
The creation of self-managing and autonomous groups
within society will make the revolution more likely as we see
what life might be like outside state control and the iron logic
of profit and competition. Agents and apologists of the ruling
class will resist us. Neighbourhood groups will clash with
local councils, workers with trade unionists, artists with the
cultural elites who control funding and so on. Activity that is
unofficial, unsanctioned and independently organised is
more likely to build the self-confidence and skills of people
than initiatives that are bureaucratised or led by reformists
from the start. Campaigns that set out forthright demands and
are fuelled by people?s anger avoid the danger of partial,
negotiated solutions. Movements that can count on a high
degree of solidarity or which strike a chord among many
communities will exert far more pressure than isolated

The revolutionary organisation itself must have mass
participation and decision-making. It must also be organised
federally as only federalism can hinder bureaucratic
degeneration and encourages active participation by all
members in the organisation. The anarchist organisation
realises that the social revolution cannot be won without
struggle at the point of production and the seizure of the
means of production. However, it does not relegate struggles
in other areas of life (unemployed, sexual, anti-racist,
environmental and cultural) to a secondary role. All these
struggles within capitalism are closely intertwined. The
questioning of one facet of capitalism can lead to a total
rejection of the system. The militants of the revolutionary
organisation who are involved in these groups must seek to
pinpoint in what ways the class system causes and/or
perpetuates the problems different sections of society are

It is vitally important that a ?libertarian front? of all these
movements and groups is built. Thus, revolutionary work
consists in part of linking each area of struggle, bringing out
all latent anti-capitalist and libertarian tendencies.
Revolutionary anarchist militants seek to unite all those
whose struggle is global and act as a driving force of this
unity, constantly drawing in radicalised elements and
building a mass movement. The revolutionary organisation is
a means of communication and a weapon to be used by the
working class, not how anarchists take over mass
movements. In opposition to authoritarian and leftist ideas of
leadership, the anarchist organisation fights for the
leadership of ideas within the class through example and
suggestion. In a non-revolutionary period people will
generally accept conservative ideas and values. In this
period the organisation keeps revolutionary ideas alive.
Interested only in control, left organisations are often taken by
surprise by the speed at which revolutionary activity develops
and the audacity and imagination of the revolutionary
masses. The anarchist organisation must be aware of this
danger and not act as a brake on revolution or resistance. If
the revolution progresses, counter-revolutionary forces will
press for statist or piecemeal solutions; the revolutionary
organisation has to defend the advanced ideas of the
masses. With its clearer understanding of hierarchical
society, the concept of self-organised society and
authoritarianism, the revolutionary organisation is well placed
to resist ?revolutionary? parties based on authoritarian
notions of power and elitism. It will be a struggle at the grass
roots, a war of ideas and tactics against authority and
bureaucracy, using revolutionary anarchist theory and

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