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(en) Italy, MARXISM AND ANARCHISM - Anarchist Communist Criticism of "Real Socialism" I. (1/2)

Date Fri, 05 Aug 2005 08:11:38 +0300

The Bolshevik model for the construction of communism
already showed signs of crisis with Lenin's introduction of the
NEP. This was no sudden, unexpected crisis. It had been
presaged by certain political and governmental choices in the
wake of October 1917, in particular:
1. the liquidation of the governing coalition of all those forces
which supported the revolutionary transformation of the
country. The consequence of this act was the suppression of
the institutional environment which hosted the dialectic and
debate between the various political forces representing the
various groups and classes that were allied in the revolutionary
process. This "simplification" of the political scene was
achieved thanks to military strength and well before the
structural conditions of the presence of such forces were
2. the consequent liquidation, by force of arms, of the
anti-institutional forces and therefore of the "social
movements" of which the Anarchists had always been one of
the components (the Makhnovshchina, Kronshtadt),
movements that were capable of creating social models and
alternative, revolutionary practices;
3. the liquidation through repeated police action of the
organized forces which were capable of coming up with
projects and programmes in competition with and further left
than the Bolsheviks' conduct of the revolution - the various
revolutionary political groups that operated at the time in
Russia (Social Revolutionaries, Anarchists, etc.);
4. the liquidation of the workers' opposition within the
Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik), the final act that sealed
the definitive affirmation of the party centre led by Lenin and
the creation of an autocratic management of the revolutionary
5. the loss of authority, by decree of the 28th June 1918, of
the Factory Committees, organs which were capable of directly
exercising workers' control of the productive process, achieved
by transferring power to the Soviets, knowing well that the
electoral system and the structure of the Soviets gave the party
a greater possibility of taking them over.

These choices, which were the result of the Leninist concept
of the role of the party during the revolutionary phase, had the
(well-known) effect of reducing mass, popular participation in
the revolutionary process and made it necessary for
management of the economy and production to be aimed at
developing accumulation and the management of production
by small owners and by a class of bureaucrats who were
comparable in every way with those who manage the means of
production under a capitalist system.

The transfer of property of the means of production from
capitalist groups to the "socialist" State did not result in an
automatic overturning of relations between capital and labour.
On the contrary, labour remained totally subordinate to the
new State institution into which the ownership of the means of
production was concentrated after its expropriation from the
capitalists. The "socialist state" rapidly became the legal form
through which economic development was achieved. The
accumulation of profit became the task of the State, which
used its capital according to the economic directives of the
Communist Party. In the late 1920s in Soviet Russia and in
most Communist parties, there was an increasing conviction
that the concentration of ownership of the means of production
in the State, together with the responsibility for planning it,
would considerably reduce the "anarchy of production" which
afflicted the Western capitalist regimes, thereby avoiding the
short-term risk of economic crises. Instead, in Soviet Russia,
typically capitalist production relationships were slowly
returning, even though the ownership of the means of
production was controlled by the State.

The reasoning behind this choice can be seen in the
mechanistic application of the principle according to which
once the ownership of the means of production changes, then
there is a consequent change in the social structure. Add to
this the fact that State and party were considered equivalent
and that the party was considered to be equivalent with the
proletariat, and you have shown the communist nature of the
society: the proletariat is politically represented by the party
and the party controls the State. Hence, it follows that the
society in which this is the situation and in which the State is
the "owner" of the means of production is therefore a
communist society. The clumsy reasoning is obvious, yet
Trotsky (who developed it) was never able to go beyond this
apparent syllogism and continued to sustain up to the end that
the Russian State was indeed a proletarian one, albeit
bureaucratically degenerated. As early as 1924, the classes that
held control of agricultural production attempted to regain the
power which was de facto theirs, if only because they
materially possessed the means of production.


In this context, the successful emergence of Stalin's line was
the response that the party bureaucracy and what was left of
the revolutionary forces to the attempt from within the party
(but with solid structural bases in the productive and social
fabric of the country) to lay the groundwork to restore, also on
an institutional level, the representative power of the classes
which had the possession and management of the means of
production, with "economic democracy". With the defeat of
Bukharin's line, the solutions proposed by Stalin met with
unexpected support from the international economic
community and from the crisis that was at the time afflicting
the mechanisms of accumulation throughout the capitalist
world (the 1929 crisis).

On an economic level, Stalinism was an original and adequate
response to the problem of the moment. Economic planning,
ruthless use of military control over the workforce, the shifting
of revolutionary enthusiasm onto the processes of
accumulation (the work ethic, the Stakanov syndrome, and so
on), a daring foreign policy for the import of civil and military
technology, all this made it possible to build the basic
structures of the country's heavy industry, the infrastructure,
and allowed Russia to move on from a phase of structural
economic underdevelopment. But the corollary of this policy
was the transformation of the party bureaucracy into a class.

The war, with the rapid acceleration of the productive
processes that it brought, the promotion once more of
consensus from and the participation of the masses (stimulated
through the tactical and strategic conduct of the conflict to the
extent of encouraging national reconciliation) gave Stalinist
policies an enormous boost. They also ensured that the
profound contradictions within the model of development and
in the economic and political choices that were made would
not be able to nourish the political opposition which was
deprived of a mass base, because of the war.

But the war (thanks to the acquisition of other territories and
peoples by the Union) did accentuate one very serious problem
that the Bolshevik power inherited from Czarist times:

Stalin deluded himself into thinking that he could wipe out the
basis of this problem with forced migrations and the
deportation of entire populations, and tried to effect a
"re-mixing" nationalities by destroying territorial homogeneity,
seeking to uproot the centuries-long traditions and habits of
various populations. This was supposed to have brought about
a sort of equalization which would, by alternatively supporting
the various ethnic groups, enable power to be exercised by the
central government. The system would make everyone feel so
"insecure" as to encourage cohesion and unity in the country
over separatism and nationalisms, despite the existence of
these sentiments.

It was there not a new policy, but an indication of the
continuity of the old Czarist regime which conceded the right
of settlement to various ethnic groups during the frequent
migrations in order to contain demands for autonomy by the
various peoples who were subjects of the empire. This
vassalage established between the central power and new
arrivals was now carefully planned. This was the only
difference with the past, as the various communities
throughout the country (both then and now) do not
communicate with each other, do not join together to become
one. Instead, they accentuate their attachment to their own
languages, religions, cultures and traditions. This lay at the
root of the separatist movements that are today causing
difficulty within the USSR. During the second world war, the
various contenders tried to exploit the presence of populations,
distinct from each other and often in conflict, all along the
confines of Great Russia, from the Baltic to the Urals. Backed
by the Allies, Stalin once again opted for the destruction of
entire ethnic groups by means of forced emigrations, the
dispersion of populations in the immense territories of the east
and even extermination. The policy of ethnic mixing was not
applied in the Baltic republics as these were not acquired by
the USSR until later. Having acquired them, however, and this
being immediately followed by a war which decimated the local
populations, it was possible to engage in a "Russification" of
the area by promoting emigration by Russians and people from
other republics. For this reason, the problem today of respect
for nationality in these countries is, at least in some ways,
different than in the rest of the USSR.

Left Marxism

But the great failure of Stalinist policy (and one which actually
caused its downfall as a method, style and political theory of
government) was principally its inability to link the
management of those European countries where the Red
Army had imposed socialism to the management of the USSR
in an organic way. The centralist, bureaucratic vision of the
role of the party, the subordination of the various national
parties to the hegemony of the Soviet communist party,
destroyed the strength, the credibility, the mass base of
communist parties with a solid, vast presence in the various
countries. This led to the revolts of 1956, a clear signal of
dissatisfaction with the "Russian" management of the
revolutionary process, due to the bureaucratic nature of the
forms of government and the political, economic and social
policies which typified it. These insurrections were
characterized by the marked political hegemony of left
communism, often of council communist inspiration. This
should also be seen in the workers' revolts of 1968-70, part of
the long wave of leftist revolts in 1956. They contain the
embryo of the rejection of the running of society along Marxist
communist lines. This rejection also on the part of wide
sectors of the workers and peasants arose from the failures and
from the repression which followed any uprising of a
progressive, revolutionary nature. In fact, popular revolts ended
with increasingly more "right-wing" solutions to the problems
raised. The leading class of these states has as its prime
objective the preservation of the strategic balance and is
therefore willing to make alliances with whoever can guarantee
it and is ready to make concessions on a structural level. Here,
more so than in the USSR, there are therefore the structural
conditions to choose the path suggested long ago by Bukharin,
with the result that, due to the changes in the political and
economic management of society, there is a rebirth (even in
the economic and productive structure of these countries) of
the domination by classes whose power is based on the
management of the means of production and on the
bureaucratically-exercised control of the processes of
accumulation. In this way, the structural and superstructural
bases for the re-introduction of private ownership of the means
of production and the market were recreated.

The rebirth of capitalism

Today, in certain countries such as Hungary and Poland, this
process is more advanced and so we can see the introduction
of reforms in structure and institutions of political democracy
of a Western type. In others, like the German Democratic
Republic, the call of national unity seems to be forcing the
pace of change. In Czechoslovakia, Romania and Bulgaria, the
political situation is moving according to the particular
conditions of each country. We will look at the characteristics
and consequences of all this further on. What we would like to
point out here is that in the USSR, the communist party is
playing the most difficult card.

In fact, there is an attempt to constitute the control of power by
the single party (so-called communist) with the restoration,
albeit gradual and partial, of the market, introducing
guarantees similar to those in the liberal state. In other words,
there is a search for an original way to find a new
(neo-communist) solution that quietly draws on the experience
accumulated by the social democratic parties and is gradually
introduced into their programmes, in the conviction that the
Soviet State can only benefit from a policy of
debate/competition with other States. Today, the USSR is a full
member in its own right of the international community and a
wholly legitimate one. As a military power, as a State that can
offer an immense, receptive market attractive above all to those
European countries which are in a phase of strong, steady
productive growth, the USSR is looking for something in
return on the level of security and economic development, and
seeks solidarity from Western (above all, European) countries
in order to contain the separatist tendencies of its peoples, as
only a central Russian power can guarantee the conditions of
stability which provide the market with security and balance.

There is much to be said on the new phase of European and
world history that is opened up thanks to this choice. It is
sufficient to think of the "Balkanization" of the whole of
Eastern Europe right up to the borders of the Russian republic
and of certain situations in Asia in order to understand that we
are embarking on a phase of great instability. And we can be
sure that in this situation the processes in progress will not be
without their difficulties or without consequences for peace.

The failure of Marxism

It is necessary to point out that at the end of this long road,
there is nothing communist left in the USSR and in Eastern
Europe and that the much-vaunted superiority (as a political
theory) of Marxism over Anarchism is now seen to be without
any basis. We now see the inconsistency of those who based
this superiority on Marxism's ability to provide positive,
concrete solutions to the "transitional phase", providing as an
example the realization of socialism in Eastern Europe. In the
wake of what has happened, we can happily say that nothing is
as it was before, even though the problems of the exploitation
of man by man and the need to build a communist society
remain, in fact the urgently concern the whole world. The
increasing gap between the north and south of the world,
between rich countries and poor, the ecological and
environmental emergency, the explosion of nationalism and
religious and ethnic conflict are all indication of a deep crisis
which requires the urgent adoption of global solutions. The
Marxist hypothesis, which is also undergoing an identity crisis
in China and in other parts of the world, no longer offers sure

We must re-launch the debate leaving behind us the ruins of a
historic defeat, strong in the knowledge that, although capital
continues to grow stronger, although exploitation is on the
rise, although the refinement of the techniques of domination
is ever greater, at least a theory on which we have been divided
is now seen to be a failure, thus opening the way to
revolutionary unity, the unity that characterized the
International in its earliest days.

Today, finally, behind the walls of the Kremlin, the heirs of the
London Secretariat of the First International have taken their
last breath. Once again, the masses become the leading actor
in the revolutionary process. But in order that they can have
the instruments for political action, communist anarchism
must get back to carrying out its political action, anarchist
communist organizations must make their contribution by
constantly updating their theory, by setting out a strategy
which is managed by international connections and brought
into the workplace and among the masses by means of a
tactical articulation which allows for the maximum
participation and constant verification.

We invite those revolutionary comrades who have been or still
are members of Marxist organizations to debate with us and
work with us, starting with the work among the masses and
with a first verification of the results achieved.

The strategic proposals of Anarchist Communism

Even at the time of the preparations for the revolutionary
uprisings in Russia, Anarchists had their own original
proposals which at times held sway within the revolutionary
movement. The development in 1905 of the soviets as a means
for the self-management of the struggles, as organs of
revolutionary democracy in substitution of the institution and
forms of bourgeois democracy and the nobility, was the direct
result of their political theory. The soviet, in fact, gathers the
active forces which are really involved in the revolutionary
project in progress and allows for the participation of all,
irrespective of their political beliefs, their labour union or
religion, on the basis of total equality. This original instrument
of proletarian democracy and mass participation does not deny
the role of parties and political organizations, but achieves the
political objective of mass participation by presenting itself as
the only real and functional (original) instrument of
participation. The full approval by the masses of the soviet as
an instrument of political participation in the revolutionary
process is evidenced by the fact that even the Bolsheviks were
forced by the movement to adopt as their own the slogan "All
power to the Soviets!". Even in the early phase of the
revolutionary process of 1917 (the insurrectional phase),
Anarchism had laid the groundwork for leaving bourgeois
representative democracy behind and had created the basic
nucleus for building a new type of system for participation, also
on an institutional level, by finding a positive solution to the
problem of power and of the State in the phase of transition to

Anarchism not only supported but promoted the liquidation of
the last State structures and the bourgeois democracy (the
revolutionary vanguards that physically closed down the Duma
were Anarchists and the Bolsheviks ratified the operation). But
it must not be forgotten that in the soviets, not only the
Bolsheviks and Anarchists were represented, there were also
the Mensheviks, the Social Revolutionaries and, even more
important, those without party, proving the extent of the
soviets' comprehensive capacity for representation.

The liquidation of the left-wing and right-wing opposition by
the Bolsheviks, hegemonized by the Leninist area, went hand
in hand with the subjugation of the soviets and their total
domination by the Bolsheviks. The rise to power of the party
and the emergence of the bureaucratic class in the USSR
necessarily meant denying the pluralist nature and the
enormous mass popular participation in the revolutionary

Instead, by affirming "All power to the soviets, not to the
party", as the sailors of Kronshtadt did in 1921, it would have
been possible to preserve the genuinely communist and
revolutionary nature of the class struggle in the USSR.

Later events demonstrated that when there is no more
dialectics with forces outside the party and when the social
opposition is required to carry out its role exclusively within a
single party, then popular mass participation and the
participation of revolutionaries disappear and even the leftist
forces within the party succumb. In fact, they gain sustenance
only from the revolutionary movement which, deprived of its
instruments (the soviets and the political debate between the
various forces), inevitably disappeared.

The events of the first four years of the Russian Revolution
taught the revolutionary movement that there is no
communism without democracy and that democracy is not
expressed through the bourgeois forms of parliamentarianism
and the electoral delegate, but through the direct participation
of everyone in all the political decisions and all the decisions of
government. The main characteristic of such a system is not
the absence of the delegate (even the members of the soviets
were delegated and elected), but constant grassroots control of
the delegates by those who delegated them. Delegates must
always be subject to their mandate being recalled by those who
delegated them.

The presence of the soviet with elected, recallable delegates
was part of the general strategy and political proposals for the
management of the transition to communism set out by the
Anarchists with regard to the running of the economy. Only a
society based on soviets of producers (by which it is intended
the factory workers, peasants, intellectuals, etc.) could permit a
new form of management at a political and institutional level of
the economy by means of the self-management of production
and services. Rejecting the positivist cause and effect
relationship between structure and superstructure as
expounded by the Leninists, the Anarchists instead considered
the two to interact with each other. It follows that the element
of political management (superstructural) interacted with the
structural element of the management of the economy. In
other words, one was a condition for the other, to the point that
the soviets and the self-management of the means of
production and services were two sides of the same problem:
the communist management of society.

Stalinism and the government of the economy - reflections on

The victory of Stalinism in the USSR greatly affected
Anarchism's theoretical and strategic development. The
profound strategic re-examination that involved Anarchist
organizations throughout the world resulted in:

1) the strengthening of the right-wing positions which had
always been present in Anarchism, matched by the Social
Democratic deviation within the Marxist movement. The
individualists of various tendencies found arguments to create
and strengthen organizations which revolved around certain
publications which had been established in order to influence
public opinion. They abandoned communism and the
Bakuninist tradition, only to return to the liberal-inspired
proto-anarchism of mainly Anglo-Saxon origin. These
elements took inspiration from a re-examination of the
neo-positivist ideas of Kropotkin and came up with the
messianic idea of the inevitability of Anarchism. As it was
impossible to achieve an Anarchist society then, they chose to
introduce it "religiously" into the private sphere of their daily
lives, to serve as an example. Thus, from being a political
ideology, Anarchism became first and foremost an existential
choice and met with some success among certain cultural and
intellectual movements, fulfilling the messianic need that is
always present, above all in the social layers which are
removed from the productive process.

2) The radicalisation of the communist choice by a large
section of international Anarchism leading to an intensification
of labour action and to the creation of an anarchist-inspired
syndicalist international (the IWA).

Through these means, this area of Anarchism succeeded for a
decade in keeping the class struggle alive and in opposing the
vast restructuring of production which followed the First World
War within the framework of a new international division of
labour. Crushed by the 1929 depression and by the rise of
Nazism, Fascism, Rooseveltism and Stalinism, they survived
within the workers' organizational structures in the various
countries which kept the class struggle on a genuinely
revolutionary footing during the following decade and, in part,
also during the Second World War. The revolutionary
component of Anarchism was also responsible for the creation
in certain areas such as Latin America and South-East Asia of
class-struggle unions and political organizations which paved
the way for future anti-imperialist struggles.

But there is no doubt that the most mature revolutionary
experience was Spain, thanks also to the particularly
favourable conditions created by Anarchism and by the
Spanish proletariat over decades of struggle. Reflecting on the
failure of the Anarchist strategy in the USSR, but also in Italy
and Germany (where the workers' councils in Bavaria and the
unrest in Berlin were to finish tragically), Spanish Anarchism
developed a more elaborate theory and strategy of Anarchist

The experience in Spain

The Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) adopted
"organizational dualism", by which it left the task of
coordinating and leading mass action to the labour union,
while it worked on the development of theory, strategy and a
programme. The two organizations were linked by a constant
dialectic rapport, carried out through continual verification
(theory-practice-theory) involving every militant who was at
the same time member of the political organization and of the
mass organization. In this way, the theorizations of the political
organization were presented to the mass organization, where
they underwent a democratic examination by all the members
of the movement in struggle and came back, confirmed, to the
political organization, enriching not only its political, strategic
and programmatic work but also its theoretical baggage. It was
therefore a dynamic vision of the theory and the revolutionary
project and allowed the organization to struggle in order to
create the conditions for realizing communism by sparking off
a genuinely revolutionary, pluralist and libertarian process.

Despite the international coalition against it, as seen in the
military intervention of the Fascist regimes, despite the
disturbing action by the Stalinists which affected the
revolutionary unity and despite the guilty indifference and
complicity of the bourgeois democracies, the Spanish
Revolution was an exemplary revolutionary experience by
reason of the many positive results it saw with respect to the
economy, to mass popular participation in production and
distribution, to the creation of structures for self-management,
to the formation of new institutions of producers and citizens
which led to a different, more advanced concept of the State, of
rights, of social welfare, of cultural enrichment, the quality of
life, the rights of individuals and in particular of women,
freedom from religious enslavement, while at the same time
achieving full liberty of conscience. Simply put, the conditions
were created to enable an original and efficient model for the
transition towards a communist society.

In response to the Stalinist policy of planning and the
militarization of the workforce; in response to autarchy, the
depression of wages and consumption and the policy of
re-armament sought by the Fascists and which would
inevitably have led to war; in response to a greater role for the
State in the economy and the draining of resources away from
wages, through a massive devaluation in order to re-launch
consumption (after an unequal and forced re-distribution of
resources), as foreseen by the New Deal and Keynesian
policies; in response to all this, Anarchism proposed and
achieved in Spain (despite the civil war) an economy with the
people at the centre.

The most was made of the country's resources by mobilizing
the energies of the people. By eliminating company profit,
resources were directed into the development of
collectivisation. In agriculture, efforts were concentrated on
modernization while collectivisation allowed companies to
return to competitive and economically desirable dimensions.
Distortions in the system of distribution were eliminated, as
were parasitic profits, gains, benefits and ecclesiastic
privileges. The whole operation was so efficient that, despite
the state of civil war, the farms which had been collectivised
ended the year in the black, thereby ensuring employment,
produce and food supplies. In the industrial sector, and despite
being penalized by the war effort, there was investment and
technological innovation, company accounts were in the black
and the restructuring of distribution through the elimination of
intermediaries had a positive effect on profits and

In services, despite the repeated damage caused by the war,
there were notable successes. Services were extended and
made accessible via a policy of lower tariffs leading to greater
company profits and also ensuring higher standards of
services. There was also great development in health and
social services, thanks also to the availability of resources such
as those of parasitic elements like the Church, the religious
orders and the nobility.

The action of Anarchist Communists in Spain was proof of
Anarchism's ability to achieve results. It therefore had to be
eliminated. This was the task which both the Fascists and the
Stalinists set about with great gusto, ably assisted by the
democratic regimes.

(First published by the FdCA (Italian Federation of Communist
Ananarchists) in "Quaderni per la lotta di classe", n°3, CP,
Lucca 1991)

Note: The following document is currently under consideration
for inclusion as a document of Basic Strategy

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