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(en) US, San Jose, California Building a Revolutionary Movement: Why Anarchist-Communist Organization?

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 25 Mar 2004 11:56:30 +0100 (CET)

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Over the past few years anarchist-communist organizations have been
budding across the globe from South Africa South America to North
America. Yet few people, even within anarchist and revolutionary
circles, have a good grasp of the beliefs, motivations and purposes
behind this movement. Often times with an emerging movement it is not
until the egg hatches, producing concrete and visible results, that
people begin to give it its name and tell its story.
This article aims to give a brief outline the lessons to be learned
from our revolutionary histories and show the roots from which the
current movement of Anarchist-Communists in North America and
world-wide stems from and further argue the case for this movements
vision of a coherent Anarchist-Communist organization based on a
strategic orientation towards social movements of the working class and

While hard to believe now, the ideas of anarchism once held center
stage in the mass revolutionary movements during the turn of the
century on every continent. Through labor unions, cultural centers,
women’s groups and popular newspapers, the libertarian ideal of a free,
horizontal socialism created by the people inspired millions of people
across the globe. Anarchism and expressed through revolutionary and
anarcho-syndicalism were the dominant revolutionary ideology of mass
movements in most countries, while the vast majority of the Marxist
current was organized into reformist social democratic parties that
were oriented towards electoral change, or, "socialism at the ballot
box". Marxist writer Eric Hobsbawm notes that:

"It became hard to recall that in 1905-14, the marxist left [sic] had
in most countries been on the fringe if the revolutionary movement, the
main body of Marxists had been identified with a de facto
non-revolutionary social democracy, while the bulk of the revolutionary
left was anarcho-syndicalist, or at least much closer to the ideas and
mood of anarcho-syndicalism than to that of classical Marxism. Marxism
was henceforth [after the Russian Revolution] identified with actively
revolutionary movements... Anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism entered
upon a dramatic and uninterrupted decline." [1]

But as history has shown in numerous countries, despite the popularity
of anarchist ideas and the high level of involvement and even
leadership of anarchists in the popular struggles of their day,
anarchists were not able to effectively organize themselves during
important revolutionary moments. The loosely knit anarchist movement
was not able to develop the strategic and tactical unity necessary to
deal with massive state repression, moves toward state accommodationism
of social movements (such as advent of the welfare state or government
mediation of workplace struggles) or the rise of Bolshevikism. Together
these forces sounded the decline of anarchism and the role of
anarchists in mass movements, along with a number of anarchist
militants who were swayed into the forming Communist Parties of the
early 20’s.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 profoundly swayed the orientation of the
global revolutionary movements towards the statist politics of
Marxist-Leninism. Many began to see Russia, under Lenin, Trotsky and
later Stalin’s leadership, as the leading hope of revolution. The new
soviet state opened up training institutes, offered advisors and
contributed financial resources to emerging Communist Parties
throughout the global south, vastly expanding the once small role that
Marxism held throughout the world.[2] This factor of Marxims growth has
unfortunately yet to be sufficiently examined and taken into
consideration in looking at the origins of Marxism globally.

By the early 1930’s the majority of the revolutionary movements, with
the great exception of Spain, were strongly influenced if not in the
hands of the Communist Parties. The Communist Parties affiliated with
the Third International, or Comintern, with Stalin at the helm,
directed or created strong poles in the ideology of the oppressed and
working class movements in numerous countries through the popular front
strategy which led to their historic defeat. Where the CP’s were
"successful" in erecting Marx’s idea and Lenin’s model of dictatorship
of the proletariat, the result was dictatorial state-capitalist regimes
that oppressed workers, ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples.

Now that the dust has settled on the great struggles of the 20th
century, the weight of Marxist and reformist narratives of history have
buried most of the spectacular history and struggles of anarchists
worldwide. But now as a new epoch of 21st century struggle is
beginning, signs of resurgence are surfacing in response to new crises
and popular movements are again bursting forth with new examples of
popular rebellion and organization. In this climate a few dedicated
individuals have begun to brush off the dust and bring these stories of
anarchism and popular movements to light again.

The new world in our hearts

We are standing at a moment of historic juncture, a moment that
promises to bring ever more frightening realities. Yet, with this
frightening reality comes the opportunity for new movements to resist
imposed social crises and reshape society in a new image. Following the
Cold War and the collapse of the communist ‘alternative’, the US was
left as the sole world superpower. It has now begun to enact, through
treaty or tank, the globalization of hyper-exploitative capitalism and
US hegemony into every corner of the world. Globally the economy is in
shambles. Following Asia’s economic crises, a typhoon has carried
across the pacific, hitting South America. Now reaching America,
millions are jobless or being squeezed into the low wage service and
retail sector, while the economy is floated by massive military
spending and an accompanying national debt. Further, the extremist
leadership of President Bush, has expanded America’s agenda to one of
empire building through neo-colonial militarism abroad and US
protectionism at home, putting the US into potential conflict with
other emerging powers such as the EU and China. Important reforms of
previous struggles such as welfare, social security, accessible public
education and affirmative action are being slashed or nearly

The years ahead will likely see a growth in massive social movements
challenging these crises of unemployment, war, public services,
economic restructuring and concurrent repression and serious anarchists
will be challenged to put their beliefs into practice and turn these
coming rebellions into international social revolution. Already we can
some of this in new Anarchist-Communist organizations that have formed
and in the syndicalist unions in Europe and the US that are reviving
out of dormancy.

This requires not only a new analysis of our current world and the
realities of the oppressed and working classes, but a strategy of how
the revolutionary forces will act as catalysts towards social
revolution, which inevitably leads to the question of how these forces
will organize themselves as a vehicle to implement and undertake this

Traditionally the movement of Anarchist-Communism within anarchism has
defined itself by fighting for a positive vision of social revolution.
They have avoided the pitfalls of moving into reformist mutualism and
while involved in the social movements, rejected "pure"
anarcho-syndicalism that denied any necessity for separate anarchist
organization. Within the FAI of Spain, the Makhnovistas of the Ukraine,
the PLM of Mexico and the anarchist federations of South America,
Anarchist-Communism represents the leading ideological force of these
social revolutionaries.

While classic Anarchist-Communist beliefs were built on the simple
theorem of, "From each according to their ability, to each according to
their needs," the new emerging movement of Anarchist-Communists is
expanding their framework of analysis. While anarchism offers timeless
principles, much of its political, social and organizational theory is
outdated and thus serious anarchists have begun the process of
historical revision and reexamining concepts of race, gender, social
oppression, nationalism and imperialism.

The Basis of Organization

Based on these historical conclusions and assessment of the current
situation emerges the rising Anarchist-Communist movement within
anarchism based around two central themes: 1) the organization of
militants into a coherent federation and 2) the interaction and active
participation of anarchists within the social movements. While these
ideas have only recently come into North American anarchism, they are
historically rooted in the anarchist movement and have formed
independently in different countries. For example the same concept was
called "organizational dualism" in the Italian anarchist movement of
the 20’s and a similar concept has emerged in the South American
anarchist movement they call “especificismo.” [3]

Today’s current borrows loosely from the Platformist current in the
belief of rejecting an anarchist catch-all federation combining
different tendencies within anarchism, called a "synthesis federation",
and instead advocating an organization based on common ideological
belief. This type of federation interacts in ideas with the broader
anarchist movement and may work with similar minded anarchists, but
does not seek to speak for, represent or recruit the whole anarchist

In the "Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists", a
document written by Nestor Makhno and the Dielo Trouda (Workers Cause)
group after the Russian Revolution, the term they coined to describe
their proposal for anarchist federation is one based on "theoretical
and tactical unity". This does not mean having a rigid, all
encompassing ideological hegemony within the organization (as many
Marxist-Leninist and especially Maoist parties do), but rather the
organization brings its members together to develop a common strategy
towards building a revolutionary movement. This important strategizing
work can only occur in an organization with a high degree of trust,
commitment and political unity. Theoretical and tactical unity is not
something imposed, but is an ideal that is always strived towards and
developed out of a process of critical thinking, strategizing, action
and evaluation. It is a concept born out of necessity as
revolutionaries realize that a successful revolution requires a
strategy along with dedicated work. Of course the way particular groups
implement a strategy may be different because of local circumstances
and different approaches.

This process of developing a revolutionary strategy and ideological
discussion within the organization allows the members and groups who
make up the federation to constantly be engaging themselves in the
process of revolutionary theory and practice. Then by taking their
discussions, reflections and conclusions into media forms, such as the
federation publication, it creates more discussion and influence within
the larger revolutionary and social movements. Further, the federation
can act as a historical well of experience for new militants brought
into the movement and allow the members to hold themselves accountable
to the mistakes they make.

Based on the analysis and strategy of the organization, day-to-day work
is focused around working within broader social movements. While social
movements are broadly defined as movements of affected groups of people
brought together for social change, the social movements that
Anarchist-Communists specifically refer to are movements of oppressed
people that seek not only social change, but a breaking down of
existing structures and oppression. They must have the potential to
counter pose oppressed people’s own collective power and vision (also
called dual power). The movements should be horizontal, participant led
and democratic in structure as much as possible. They should be
oriented towards direct action and more importantly create the type of
conditions that transform the participants into self-conscious thinkers
and organizers amongst their peers. The classic example of social
movements is radical labor organizing, but contemporary examples could
also be working class student and community organizing.

The Brazilian FAG (Federação Anarquista Gaúcha or Gaucha Anarchist
Federation) describes their view on anarchists involvement in social

"On the political-ideological level (political groups, including the
FAG) should enhance the social and popular movements, but without
trying to make it "anarchist", more militant. The social movement[s]
should not have a political ideology, the role should be to unite and
not belong to a political party. In social movements it is possible to
unite militants and build a unified base, which is not possible in an
ideological level." [4]

This is counter posed to the work that most of the US left is engaged
in of cyclical activist work which lacks strategy and is divorced from
everyday experience and relevance to oppressed and working class
people. Most of this work amounts to issue based advocacy by small
groups of political activists that orient themselves to other political
activists. The Anarchist-Communist vision of social movements is also
counter-posed to those movements that while seemingly popular and
seemingly based on struggles of oppressed and working class people, are
leadership orchestrated, top-down movements where participants are
passive actors of their own fate or where a movements true function is
acting as a conveyor belt of electoral or party politics. Unfortunately
too many anarchists find themselves plowing every garden but their own
and doing this very type of work.

The role of the Anarchist-Communists is not to wrestle the leadership
of movements into their hands, which assumes a presumptuous leadership
of the masses or vanguardist role, but to work as a catalyst of ideas
and action within. Like baking soda to vinegar, a catalyst works to
create a reaction when it interacts with something else.
Anarchist-Communists would play key roles as active participants,
helping push the social movements forward in organization, strength and
militancy. They would also work to maintain the popular character by
arguing against electoral politics, their accompanying party
organizations and vanguardist elements.

In Conclusion

Just as history is putting everyday people into the line of fire, it is
forcing them to step up to the plate to resist the attacks of
capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy. But these attacks and the
growing resistance are neither isolated events, but are all elements of
historical forces at work. These forces are also calling forth the
ideals inspired by anarchism and Anarchist-Communism: that of a society
reshaped in the image of a popular, horizontal socialism created by the
people. As revolutionaries our moment is now and we cannot afford, nor
can all of our people and communities, to abdicate our responsibility
and ignore the lessons of our histories. We must accept this challenge
by coherently organizing ourselves and putting our ideal into practice
of mass, popular and militant social movements that will have the power
to bring about the social revolution.


1. As quoted by Arif Dirlik, Anarchism and the Chinese Revolution
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 2

2. Citing just a few examples of China, Vietnam and Cuba: John King
Fairbank, The Great Chinese Revoltuion (San Francisco: Harper Perenial,
1987), 208, 212 William J. Duiker, Ho Chi Minh, A Life (NY, Hyperion:
2000), 89 Frank Fernandez Cuban Anarchism (Tuscon, AZ: See Sharp Press,
2001), 55

3. The Global Influence of Platformism Today (Johannesburg, South
Africa: Zabalaza Books, 2003), 24 (Interview with Italian Federazione
dei Comunisti Anarchici for Organizational Dualism), 50 (Interview with
Brazilian Federação Anarquista Gaúcha for especificismo) www.nefac.net
or www.zabalaza.net/zababooks

4. Ibid, 50

by Adam Weaver of the Furious Five Revolutionary Collective in San
Jose, California
Copied from the Autonomy & Solidarity (the new anti authoritarian
social class struggle network of canada's electronc journal
at http://auto_sol.tao.ca

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