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

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 13 Apr 2003 17:21:15 +0200 (CEST)


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> Building the revolutionary organisation
The ultimate goal of Anarchists, including members of the
Anarchist Federation, is to achieve Anarchism or, in our case,
Anarchist Communism. But how is this to be achieved given
the small number of anarchists and the weakness of their
organisations? Obviously, the main priority must be to build
mass movements and organisations and to increase the
awareness and acceptance of the ideas and methods of
Anarchism. But this commitment to recruiting can lead to
passive, paper memberships and degeneration. What is
needed is a movement based on self-organisation (which
may in fact be many movements): active, aware and
voluntary. If equality is to mean anything then education and
communication cannot be the prerogative of leaders but must
be a group activity, coming from within the working class and
in which there is as much ?learning? as there is ?teaching?.
We need to be vocal as anarchists, when possible, in all our
daily struggles as well as within broader-based, ?political?
campaigns. Anarchist Communists believe in fighting to win
as quickly and as effectively as possible. If it?s struggle in the
workplace we push war with the bosses, if it?s in the
community, we work for the best possible outcome with no
compromises. What we suggest and propose must be honest
and come from our beliefs, possess some integrity. As
anarchists we are generally respected for our principled
positions even if people disagree with us; we win people to
the struggle by exposing the lies and manipulations of the
Left. Even if people don?t join revolutionary organisations, as
long as they accept and practise some of our ideas this can
help build a culture of resistance.

Where do we start?

But where are these people to come from? Where do we
start? Firstly, with friends or people we meet who may be
sympathetic to our ideas, starting with discussion and
gradually working towards joint activities. Secondly, where
we work, in community groups or associations, or at political
events where people disaffected with contemporary and left
politics may come to-gether. From these actions a small
group may develop that can then start to widen the network,
build up a picture of who is prepared to work and struggle
towards similar ends. This group must try to involve as many
people as possible and to build strong contacts with isolated
people and groups or those in other countries with similar
aims and tactics. If the group is functioning well it will
generate enthusiasm. It will balance the joy of successful
action with the need for thought and careful planning.
Mobilisations and mass demos can be very energising,
reminding us that resistance is always going on and
providing an opportunity for getting our ideas across to a lot
of people. It is also the opportunity for us to demonstrate to
others the strength and practicality of our ideas while at the
same time developing those ideas through practical
experience. The propaganda we produce should have the
strength that comes from honesty and truth, giving practical
solutions to social questions and struggles, soundly based in
theory and ideology. It should also meet the needs of the
moment: sometimes we need to fire people up, to agitate and
mobilise. At other times we need to prepare for action by
discussing ideas in depth. Similarly when we try to put our
ideas across in written form, we need simple, straightforward
bulletins to reach a large audience and at other times more
detailed and focussed pamphlets, going into greater detail.

The culture of resistance

Consider where we are today. What community there is is
artificial, based on hated workplaces, our rank in the pecking
order, the family, alienation, consumerism and corrupting
ideas like patriotism, sexism, xenophobia, selfseeking
individualism. Our true sense of community and culture only
comes to life when we resist, when our class acts for itself.
The more we resist the stronger our culture and community
become and the more rebellion and social revolution become
possible. This is seductive. Many degenerated leftist parties
confuse activity with progress. They get drawn helplessly into
single-issue politics, becoming parasites feeding off
exploitation and struggle. Anarchists should work to link up
various struggles not merge solely with one cause. Building
links is an important task, links between cause and effect,
between struggles and campaigns, between ideas and
theories, between people. If there is a local anarchist or
libertarian communist grouping, you should be involved,
individually and collectively. Don?t try to force your ideas
onto people as you will either split the group, exclude
yourself or create de-energised and bored people, alienated
from the idea and practice of revolution. Don?t be rigid or
push forward rigid formulas. People?s views change through
struggle not by being harangued or having deadly theory
shoved down their throats.

In the workplace

As we all know, the basis of work is EXPLOITATION and the
bosses have no mercy for those who rock the boat. Yet
spreading anarchist ideas and organising in the workplace is
vital. Here, more than anywhere else, resistance and
rebellion can and will have the most effect on the boss class.
Be careful. Get to know the job but get to know your
workmates better - friendships at work are a more reliable
source of support than any temporary alliance with workplace
activists. People don?t have to call themselves
revolutionaries to be good class fighters. As a rule, unionised
workplaces offer a better working environment but remember
that during disputes the union is NOT on the side of the
workers. And it?s this message that needs to be put across to
those we work with. Anarchists don?t get involved with union
politics (although some anarchosyndicalists do!); our job is to
push ideas of resistance and the most effective tactics among
those we work with and that often means challenging and
exposing the leadership of the union.

In non-unionised workplaces there are usually fairly high
levels of discontent and resentment with many opportunities
to fan the flames of resistance but also less solidarity and the
danger of being grassed-up to management. Its relatively
easy to get people worked up but the danger is that there will
only be two options to taking the struggle forward: joining a
union and negotiating or launching an isolated strike likely to
end in defeat unless the bosses have been thoroughly
softened up. What is needed is for the potential battlegrounds
to be broadened and strong links made with local
communities and other workers. This tends to require forming
a workplace resistance group. Don?t confuse this with
rank-and-file groups that emerge for short periods where the
leadership is particularly bad or there are ambitious leaders
or factions who encourage resistance from below and then
defuse dissent when their own agendas have been achieved.
Workplace resistance groups work outside the union though
you may all be members. They are anti-work, anti-boss,
anti-union, anti-capitalist organisations advocating class war
and practicing direct action. They are not ?revolutionary
unions? but a way to band together the most militant workers
for direct action. They aren?t the machinery of collective
bargaining but a way to make things hot for the bosses. They
aren?t interested in radicalising unions or pushing the
leadership leftwards. They are not legal and definitely
semiunderground. Their membership is defined not by theory
but by the desired end - the destruction of the power and
authority of the owners and bosses.

Collective action

Contrary to popular prejudice, fostered by both media
caricatures and by the antics of a small number of
self-proclaimed ?anarchists?, anarchism is neither ?rugged
individualism? nor individualistic rebellion. Whilst anarchists
argue that the realization if individual freedom is central to
any authentically revolutionary politics, we don?t equate this
fundamental freedom with the right of individuals to manifest
their ego without regard for social totality. More importantly, it
is our belief that it is collective action which creates change
and is essential to anarchism rather than the activity of
isolated and atomised individuals. This is such common
sense that it should not require comment but so often
individualism is regarded as the bedrock of anarchism rather
than its actual opposite. That is not to say, of course, that
social anarchists, especially anarchist communists, are
opposed to individuality - far from it - but that in capitalist
society individualism is at best an excuse by some to selfishly
indulge themselves and at worst an ideology which
encourages the most horrendous competitiveness and
exploitation. Capitalism loves (and sings the highest praises
of) individualism while crushing real individuality. Capitalism
fears, however, collective action. A trade union?s strength is
founded upon the potential of its members to take for
collective action. The union?s ability to mobilize and control
this action is crucial to its credibility and position as a
mediating influence between worker and boss. If the
possibility of collective action is removed, trade unions tend
not to be taken seriously by either employers or members any
more.

The individual can be compared to the finger of a hand. On
it?s own it is not particularly strong or effective but in unison
with the other fingers it can become a fist. The working class,
in whatever context whether community or workplace, is more
easily dominated and exploited when it is divided and,
because divided, powerless. When it organises itself
collectively, it has the potential to act in a concerted manner
against capital. The workplace provides opportunities for
individual action such as sabotage, absenteeism and ?theft?
but these activities, even when organised clandestinely, can
be more effective when done collectively. Individual actions
may alter relations and conditions within a class but not
between classes or permanently. And it is far more likely that
the actions of the ruling class in manipulating social relations
to its advantage will bring about change far more easily than
the efforts of one or more individuals.

If not mutuality, what then? As Malatesta says, ? My freedom
is the freedom of all .?

Collective action also creates a spirit of combativeness as
people realize that, far from being powerless, they do have
the power to bring about change. The most outstanding
example in recent years was the Anti-Poll Tax movement of
the late 1980s and early 1990s. If resistance to that tax had
been purely in terms of individual non-payment, of individuals
separated from others refusing to pay, rather than in the form
of a community of collective struggle, then it would have
rapidly collapsed as isolated individuals were picked off by
the State.

Mutual aid as a basis for human society and all forms of
social relationships and organization is vastly superior as an
organizing principle than competition or regulated interaction
(contract). Kropotkin showed conclusively that mutual aid was
the rule amongst the most successful species (of all kinds,
including predatory ones and humankind): "Those species?.
which know best how to combine have the greatest chance of
survival and of further evolution". Success for the individual is
always bought at the expense of the group and is both
destructive and energy consuming. At the same time
?species that live solitarily or in small families are relatively
few, and their numbers limited? - and the energy required for
them to live at any other than a rudimentary level is great. A
simpler life for some means less life for others. The social
relation that activates and extends mutuality in time and
space is solidarity. It is what changes the natural impulse to
co-operate and to share into a force governments fear. It is
the means by which the potential new social relations acquire
the strength to change society and which enable relations
and institutions based on mu-tual aid to retain their strength.

The individual anarchist can only do so much on her/his own.
The feeling of isolation which capitalism imposes on the
individual rebel can often lead to disillusionment and despair.
Collective action in the shape of an anarchist group can
accomplish far more whilst a national network constantly
keeping militants informed and motivated?.. well, who knows
what we could achieve? Why not take the individual decision
to take collective action with the Anarchist Federation?

The power (and weakness) of direct action

Direct Action may be a protest designed to draw attention to a
grievance or injustice. It may be designed to stop actions
such as destruction of the environment or attacks by the
ruling class. It may be an act of solidarity with a community or
individual under attack. But unless it is part of a political
strategy for fundamental change it can only be defensive and
transient, overwhelmed by the capitalist response and the
much greater resources of the ruling class. Direct Action can
have positive outcomes even within the framework of
capitalism. Forcing the State to bear higher and higher costs
(economic, political, social) as it tries to ram a roads-only
policy down people?s throats has had an effect. But it has not
led to sensible and sustainable transport policies. As a type
of political protest, Direct Action may be growing but because
it is not part of a generalised class struggle it is unlikely to be
a real threat to the ruling class in the long-term. It is unlikely to
break out of the marginalized and embattled ghetto the media
and police state are busy creating for it.

The strength of Direct Action is that it is based on ACTIVITY
and not simply ideas. It requires higher levels of co-operative
communication and interaction, the development of
consensus and agreement on the target, the tactic, outcomes
and organisation. Based on ideas like autonomy and
empowerment, Direct Action avoids disputes and divisions
among leadership groups which weaken the struggle and
result in a lowest-common denominator approach: leaders
make assumptions about what people can and should do in
the pursuit of a sterile and entirely fictitious unity. This is most
often seen on marches and demos today. No collective
consciousness develops because no collective action takes
place. No change occurs because the crowd does not act
against that which keeps it divided, it remains an assembly of
atomised individuals. This is not true if the march comes
under attack from the State: then people acting together to
defend themselves and each other, out of the control of the
leadership, working together, often develop new levels of
consciousness and emerge from the fight energised and
empowered. The weakness of Direct Action is that
co-operation is rarely sustained or sustainable because there
is no generalised opposition or resistance - there is no
CULTURE OF RESISTANCE.

Without a political strategy that makes Direct Action one
weapon in a rising tide of anti-State protest it will fail. The
measure of this weakness is the relative strength of the
Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) movement. This offers no
challenge to Power, proposing instead a principled pacifism
that allows and encourages the police to run riot instead of
paralysing their will to act through fear. The danger of
single-issue campaigning is that people in struggle remain
alienated from the struggle for general emancipation and are
inevitably either marginalized or reincorporated into
capitalism.

Direct Action has limited aims and if those aims are achieved,
however partially or temporarily, all the energy and rebellion
dissipates. Some anarchists argue that as capitalism
increasingly demands we become passive producers and
consumers, rights and freedoms will constantly decrease and
that, in consequence, the rights-based struggle (human
rights, freedom, anti-discrimination) will continue to grow. In
fact the lack of a coherent program and the basic disunity of
those who put forward an individualistic, moral and liberal
version of rights compared to those who are resisting
collectively and on a broad front will keep the movement
fragmented.

Successful Direct Action requires a comprehensive analysis
of the enemy?s weakness. Particular types of Direct Action,
chosen to exploit these weaknesses, must be flexible enough
to meet changing conditions. This flexibility is a tactic and
must not become an end in itself - this leads to ?stunt-ism?.
Each day of action, each campaign, each new point of
confrontation must be understood to be part of a growing and
expanding sphere of resistance. But this needs sustaining
and prolonging. Local social and mutual aid centres create
the space for people actively engaged in resistance to meet
and interact on a PERMANENT, ONGOING BASIS.

Such interaction helps overcome the artificial divisions
capitalism creates. Creating a culture of resistance in which
Direct Action would be more effective requires changes of
consciousness (for instance people becoming more radical)
and permanent change in social relations. Does participation
in a squat or roads campaign fundamentally and permanently
overcome alienation and atomisation? Does the change in
consciousness lead to a more generalised resistance?
Therefore, while we get involved in struggle because very
often the struggle is ours as well, anarchists always try to
raise consciousness and transform social relations through
education, building bridges, positive communication, creating
trust, empowering people in ways that (hopefully) leads to an
increase in the numbers of people committed on a wide front
to permanent struggle.

When revolution comes

Traditionally Left groups called for the General Strike to
overcome capitalism. By this they meant a mass, economic
general strike, arising during one of the periodic crises of
capitalism. So long as a vanguard party or, in the case of
syndicalists, a politicised union stood ready to convert this
war of economic grievances into a political general strike
against the power of the ruling class, all would be well, we
were told. But the dangers of taking the working class down a
road they are not yet prepared to travel themselves are -
sadly - well known by now. That way lies the disaster of
authoritarianism or counter-revolution. This does not mean
revolution is impossible, only that a set of objective conditions
must apply beforehand. It is possible to imagine a rising tide
of land and road occupations, students on strike, factories
paralysed, mass consumer boycotts and demonstrations
choking the streets of our major cities, which may, possibly,
break the will of the ruling class to resist. The Sem Terra and
Chiapas movements are modern examples of the landless
and rural poor rising to reclaim an economic future. Such
movements are finding allies among the urban proletariat,
among workers being pulverised by capitalism?s juggernaut.
All over the planet there is growing disenchantment over
wealth inequalities, the corruption of political and social
elites, privatisation of basic utilities and public services and
pressure on the means of life: water, land, shelter and
energy. In some countries economic failure is the foundation
for conservative or reactionary movements that seek to create
or perpetuate the myth of national unity. But in many other
places the revolt is by workers of all kinds, in alliance with the
angry and dispossessed, and against the ruling class and
international capitalism. Mass general and social strikes,
boycotts, ?invasions? of major cities or other symbolic places
of power, rent strikes and the expropriation of capital through
the occupation or destruction of factories, theft of electricity,
food or fuel, all suggest that the power of capitalism and the
ruling class is by no means secure.

The danger in such a revolution is that, because the
revolution is the means and not the end, it will not be a
unified or unifying process. Some groups may balk at certain
actions or have less determination. They may be satisfied
with partial outcomes and resist further development of the
struggle. No successful revolu-tion can arise out of the
unification of either means or programmes amongst the
multitude of protest and agitational groups involved in
resisting attacks by the ruling class without the development
of a generalised revolutionary consciousness in which the
focus of action shifts from short-term goals towards achieving
the revolution. If this consciousness does develop all sections
of the working class who recognise the need to overthrow
capitalism and who want to create an anarchist communist
society may coalesce in one or a relatively few organisations.
Elements of other classes and strata who see the need for the
victory of the working class will also be gathered alongside
these organisations and their aim must be to bring about the
conditions for and the organisation of a general political
strike, using both mass industrial action and mass social
protest, strikes and boycotts to first paralyse the will of the
ruling class to fight and then, through the means of
occupation and expropriation, deny it the means to resist.
Without a mass organisation or federation, anarchist groups
will be just one tendency in the revolutionary movement,
existing with other tendencies. Anarchist communists in the
new, autonomously organised workplaces and
neighbourhoods will need to fight against authoritarian
groups and tendencies. They will act within the working class
to ensure that the new structures function with the full
participation of all on an equal basis. They will fight against
any party or organisation that aims to take power in the name
of the working class. If they try to use force to destroy the
gains of the working class then anarchist organisations must
be fully prepared to combat them on a physical level. It
follows from this that in the revolutionary period the anarchist
organisation must call for and assist in arming all working
people for defence and for the formation of workers militias.
Anarchist organisations should not dissolve immediately after
the initial insurrectionary phase of the revolution. Anarchist
communists will continue to struggle until anarchist
communism is fully achieved. As this ideal is realised, the
organisation becomes looser and eventually disappears
completely.

End Note

This short pamphlet sets out some of our ideas about how a
revolution against capitalism may come about and the role
individuals, communities and organisations could play in
helping to bringing it about. It is one of the few pamphlets
produced by the Anarchist Federation that intends to be
authoritative and prescriptive. Here, more than anywhere, we
mean what we say. We judge the importance of people
committing themselves to a life of resisting power and greed,
and joining groups and organisations with a revolutionary
aspiration, as being fundamental to our ambition to one day
live free in a free society. It is our hope that these words
contribute to a general understanding of the need for
organisation among all people seeking to be free, and of the
importance of building a mass revolutionary movement
throughout the world. We do not advocate a single party, a
single organisation or even a single movement to do this,
recognising the diversity of resisting groups and cultures. But
these movements must have one aim - to abolish capitalism
and the state - and one means: the expropriation of the ruling
class by taking over the productive forces of society and
putting them to our own use, on our own terms. On that road
lies freedom.


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