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(en) Italy, FdCA theoretical pamphlet: "Anarchist Communists: A Question Of Class", Part I of VII

Date Tue, 06 Sep 2005 18:58:49 +0300


ANARCHIST COMMUNISTS: A QUESTION OF CLASS Preface to the English edition
The Federation of Anarchist Communists (FdCA) was founded in 1985 on the principle
of the theoretical and strategic unity of its members, a principle which it still
holds to and will continue to do so. This principle means that the FdCA is based
on its positions which are shared by the entire federated membership.
These positions are set out in a number of original Theoretical
Documents which represent the unity of the Federation and its
policies. They also represent the unity of its militants, federated into
a single political organization and individually and collectively
responsible for the political life and the political decisions of the FdCA.

Our Theoretical Documents are divided into Theory, Basic Strategy,
Political Strategy and General Tactics.

The documents which go to make up our Theory represent the
unique, united and characteristic identity of the Federation. They set
out the Federation's revolutionary role and its political function as
historical memory and active minority, a role which has been
indicated by the experience of the revolutionary proletariat
throughout the history of the class struggle.

Our Theory currently consists of two documents: "Teoria dei
Comunisti Anarchici" and "Comunisti Anarchici: Una questione di
classe". This booklet is a translation of the latter of these documents
which was first published in 2003.

Basic Strategy consists of those documents which set out the
long-term strategic role of our class enemies the role of the mass
organization and the political organization and the tasks of these
organizations during the transition to communism. Political Strategy
consists of documents which set out in the short term the social,
political and economic context of the class struggle and the strategic
role of the mass organizations and the political organization, while
our General Tactics are concerned with the immediate role of these
organizations within the current context of the class struggle.

This system of Theoretical Documents was conceived so that the
FdCA would always be in a position to understand the nature of its
role and its actions and so that it can engage in a continuing process
of strategic reflection and analysis, learning always from the class
struggle, promoting internal debate and thereby avoiding ideological
rigidity.

On our website at www.fdca.it you can find most of our Theoretical
Documents in Italian and several documents of Basic Strategy and
General Tactics also available in English.


Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici
International Relations Office
June 2005

* * * * * * * * * *

Anarchist Communists: A Question of Class

Contents:


1. Theoreticians

Anarchist Communism is not the pure fruit of some intellectual
adventure. It is not the result, happy as it may be, of certain
individuals who, sheltered from history, have meditated on
humanity's destiny. It is not the (generous) answer of a few utopians
to the ills of contemporary society and to its patent injustices. It is
not the search for an ideal of perfection which can satisfy the need
for harmony of minds requiring abstract ponderings. Anarchist
Communism was born both from and within the struggles of the
proletariat and has therefore little to do with the innate aspirations of
man towards less iniquitous forms of social organization. Hence, we
will not be searching for its roots in the philosophical systems of
more or less ancient times (even though they may have provided
food for thought, as is also the case with certain other forms of
political thought born around the same time, such as Marxism or
liberal ideology). We will concentrate only on the stratification of
ideas laid down in one componen

All this, however, does not mean that there have never been
individuals whose reflections have made a fundamental contribution
to the development of the ideological corpus which bears the name
of Anarchist Communism and we will be dedicating brief sections to
them, with three premises. The first is that none of them was simply
a thinker who observed the evolution of events in the class struggle
from without or who held a directing role, giving him the sole task of
furnishing policies and analyses. All were politically active full-time
in the daily goings-on of the movement and for this reason their
contribution is often fragmentary, consisting of one-off articles or
pamphlets hurriedly written in the heat of the moment, with the train
of thought in progress and often not brought to a conclusion. Their
thinking, therefore, although it may not always be systematically
presented in broad works resulting from years of planning, is
nonetheless coherent in its own way, with a thread which needs to
be established w

The second premise is that those who we remember here are not the
only thinkers which Anarchist Communism can boast. Others have
contributed greatly to the development of our ideas and analyses. We
simply wish to underline the fact that these three names each
represented a significant turning point in the evolution of Anarchist
Communist theory.

Finally, the third premise is that we ask the reader not to be shocked
by the absence from this brief collection of certain classic names
which appear in every history of anarchism (William Godwin,
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Pëtr Alekseievich Kropotkin, etc.) or
comrades who have been so valuable to the Anarchist Communist
movement in particular (Émile Pouget, Errico Malatesta, Nestor
Ivanovich Makhno, etc.). The former are not included as they
represent trains of thought which are often distant from Anarchist
Communism. The latter are omitted because, although their system
of thought may have been rigorous, they did not represent
milestones to the extent that we wish to emphasise here. We will
leave to another moment a systematic study of the evolution of
Anarchist Communist theory, one where every influence can be
examined and evaluated more fully.


1.1 Bakunin (or, Origins)

In the history of anarchist ideas, Mikhail Aleksandrovich Bakunin
(1814-1876) represents a fundamental stage and is without doubt the
basis for every form of class-struggle anarchism. His adventure-filled
life, together with a distinct lack of any systematic approach, means
that what was said above regarding the necessity for tiresome
reconstruction of trains of thought is completely true where he is
concerned, coherent and organic though his thought may be. Clues
spread here and there throughout pamphlets, articles, letters, notes
and so on are normally what consititute his analysis of the moment
and are therefore destined to be used for the most disparate
purposes, given the fact that they have never been arranged into one
collection which could serve to clarify them one and for all. Even so,
careful reading of his work should not lead to excessive
misunderstandings (unless that is what one wants). As we have said,
though, that job will be for another time. Here, what we are trying to
do is simply trace th

His work, in fact, already included some of the distinctive elements
of this theory, such as what the new society should be like, the role
of the vanguard, organizational dualism and the need for a
revolutionary strategy which grows from consciousness of the
economic and class relations of the current situation at any time.
Each of these topics will be dealt with later. At this point, we are
simply emphasising Bakunin's contribution to their definition.

It is thanks to him that Anarchism was able to move on from the
proto-Anarchist wastelands of Godwin and Proudhon, free itself
from the myth of the individual and his freedom guaranteed by
possession, and become genuinely collectivist and, later still,
communist. The future society which he imagined was federalist,
based on the free union of local communes and productive
communes and which was anti-hierarchical but which was no longer
(as under Proudhon) centred on the nucleus of the artisan family,
proud of its skills and the owners of the necessary means of
production. Instead, these means were to become considered to be
under collective management through the workings of producers'
and consumers' associations.

The role of the vanguard in the revolutionary process was a constant
source of worry for Bakunin. "If the popular risings in Lyons,
Marseilles and other cities in France were failures, it is because of a
lack of organization [...]". For him, the organization must be
composed of individuals who were conscious of their aims, who
were in agreement and who were therefore much more united. His
taste for conspiracy, which was part of his impulsively romantic
nature, combined with the need for clandestinity (something which
was clearly essential given the times in which he lived) led him
towards an almost too rigid conception of organization, one which
was unacceptable not only to most Anarchists, but even to the most
hard-bitten Marxists one could hope to meet. If any convincing is
needed, just read a few pages of the pamphlet "To the Officers of the
Russian Army". But even though these extreme positions
(conceived as they were under the influence of Sergei Gennadievich
Nechaev) may seem almost folkloristic, the f
mirror it in any way, but must simply respond to its tasks in the most
efficient way possibly.

Which leads us to the third basic characteristic of Bakuninist
thought - the strict separation between the political organization and
that of the proletariat. The former, conscious of its aims, organized
and disciplined, is at the heart of the revolution, directing its
evolution, promoting and supporting it. The latter, gathering all the
exploited masses to it, is the one which actually makes the
revolution and builds the society of free equals by following an
arduous path through the inevitable initial chaos. In making this
distinction, there is no hint of leaderist Blanquism (or, as we would
call it today, Leninism), as the organization of the revolutionary
vanguard has no role to play unless it is within the larger workers'
organization. It does not take their place when decisions are to be
made, it simply limits itself to trying to guide, to steer the masses
along their revolutionary path.

In order to do this, the political structure of the revolutionary
vanguard must not only enunciate principles, as sterile as they are
correct. It must set forth concrete proposals relevant to the time and
place where it acts. This means analysing the historical context
wherever it operates as Bakunin himself did admirably when he
analysed the situation in Italy and suggested what he thought would
be useful in his letter to the Italian internationalists addressed to
Celso Ceretti. All this without underestimating some aspects which,
although they may seem peripheral, are in fact fundamental if the
organization is to be properly effective, such as financing and
making available resources which will allow it to exist.

These four principles, proposed clearly for the first time by Bakunin,
will always be part of the evolution of Anarchist Communist theory
and represent its permanent framework.


1.2 Fabbri (or, Maturity)

Luigi Fabbri (1877-1935) had a much less adventurous life than
Bakunin, but spent his militant life in both the specific Anarchist
movement and in the organizations of the workers' movement. His
name, even among Anarchist old-timers, is often shadowed by that
of his contemporary, Errico Malatesta.

However, without wishing to take away from the importance the
latter played as the spark - theoretical, too - of the movement (think,
for example, of the clarity with which he approached the debate on
the role of the unions with Pierre Monatte at the 1907 Amsterdam
Congress), Fabbri's position was more coherent, not as heavily
veined with generic and tendentially inter-class humanism, and
more thorough with regard to the role of the political organization.
Fabbri can be said to have brought those ideas which Bakunin had
elaborated during his work in the First International to their logical
conclusion, providing Anarchist Communist theory with a complete
and self-consistent, almost definitive framework.
The role of the mass organization (or labour union) was always
clearly defined for Fabbri as the sole, irreplaceable agent of
revolution, but it is also necessarily the only possible place where the
proletariat can spend its revolutionary apprenticeship. For this reason
it cannot distance itself too much from the levels of consciousness
expressed by the real masses, or it risks turning into the virtual
image which the vanguard makes of the revolutionary movement, in
other words the fruit of a desire and not of the reality of class war.

"Those among the workers who have determined convictions [...]
within the class organizations must realize that there are those in
there with them who do not share their ideas and that therefore, out
of respect for the opinions and freedoms of others, they are obliged
to maintain the pact for which the organizations were created,
working around common goals without wanting to lead them
towards special goals (even apparently good ones) which do not
correspond to the desires of others". From this the workers'
organization is doomed to split (for example the split that led to the
creation of the Unione Sindacale Italiana, even if this was the work
of the "reformists' evil plans"). Side by side with the mass
organization, he foresaw the presence of a cohesive, structured
political organization and, in fact, after World War I was one of the
promoters of the Unione dei Comunisti Anarchici d'Italia (UCAd'I -
Union of Anarchist Communists of Italy), before Malatesta's drive
for unanimity led to the formation of the

In 1926, when the international Anarchist movement was jolted by
the organizational proposals which had been set forth by a group of
Russian refugees in Paris (Makhno, Ida Mett, Piotr Arshinov, etc.),
the "Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists -
Project", and many prestigious militants cried scandal because of
what they considered to be its overly leaderist tones, Fabbri took a
most responsible position and recognized that it placed "in the arena
of discussion a number of problems regarding the Anarchist
movement, the place of Anarchists in the revolution, the
organization of Anarchism in the struggles, and so on, which need to
be solved if Anarchist doctrine is to continue to respond to the
growing needs of the struggle and of social life in the present-day
world".

Lastly, we should remember that it was his lucid analyses which
allowed him to be the first to clearly foresee developments in the
Russian Revolution (which had just taken place) and the
counter-revolutionary nature of the coming Fascist regime.


1.4 Berneri (or, Innovation)

Camillo Berneri (1897-1937) is representative of the latest
generation of the theoreticians of militant Anarchism, anarchism at
the height of its development. The losses incurred from the Spanish
War through the loss of a good many active members of the
movement, from the Fascist regimes through the dispersion of a
century of accumulated experience and from World War II through
the emergence of the bipolar world order and the disappearance of
every alternative to Capitalism except Stalinist Communism, have
had the effect of not allowing a new Anarchist Communist theory to
develop. Few original thinkers have emerged (perhaps the only ones
were Daniel Guérin and Murray Bookchin, though the latter starts
from positions which have nothing to do with class-struggle
Anarchism). The re-elaboration of theory suffered an enormously
grave interruption, to the point where even the memory of basic
points of that theory which is Anarchist and Communist at the same
time was lost and required a long and laborious recovery.

In his thinking, Berneri demonstrated intolerance for dogmas at an
early stage, above all where they came from a collection of assertions
which were superficially accepted and were not sufficiently
examined for their truth. His was, then, a strongly innovative
contribution which was not tied to any preconceived systems which
would anyway end up creating barriers for the development of the
idea. Unfortunately, his premature death in revolutionary Barcelona
at the hands of hired Stalinist thugs put an end to his theoretical
development (and, as we have seen, to that of the entire movement).
It is therefore easier to understand the potential in his original
elaborations (original, though within the definition of class-struggle
Anarchism) than to point to a complete corpus of doctrine. The most
interesting elements are to be found in his analysis of
post-revolutionary society, of its possible methods, of the
contradictions which it will encounter and resolve. Berneri's
theoretical exploration heralded positive d

Lastly, he was also the bearer of what could be called possibilism, or
a willingness to confront and to consider the conquests of the day,
something which distinguishes him from that mass of automatons,
his contemporaries (still appreciated today by their many imitators).
This even taking into account the total intransigence of his basic
principles which frequently led him into conflict with the Stalinists to
such extent that they felt forced to eliminate him physically - any
adversary who interfered in their matters was dangerous for them.

[to be followed by Part 2]

This text is available to download as a pamphlet in PDF format from
the website of the FdCA, at http://www.fdca.it/fdcaen

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