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

Date Wed, 07 Sep 2005 09:35:35 +0300

2. Events
As we have done with the Anarchist Communist thinkers, so will we
do with the history of the class-struggle Anarchist movement. We
will limit ourselves simply to summarizations of some important
events, above all in relation to their relevance for the development of
our theoretical guidelines. For the founders of the theory we have
just indicated a few representatives without denying the importance
of other contributions, consistent as they may be. We have only
dealt with those that seemed to us to be the most relevant to the
development of a theory which became more and more self-consistent,
and have left it to other specific works to engage in a
methodical treatment of the theoretical systems of the individuals
examined and also those others who, over the space of a century and
a half, have contributed, often in an extremely important way.

History, too, is replete with significant episodes which absolutely
must not be forgotten. Even the few events which we will take into
consideration deserve much better, much deeper treatment. What
we intend to do here is only to highlight the most significant stages
of the historical evolution.

But first, a premise: all the historically relevant events in the
Anarchist movement in general are the fruit of its class component
and not of those who presume to distribute certificates of orthodoxy
and hand out excommunications to anyone who does not remain
within the boundaries of supposedly sacred principles (which, as we
have seen, do not even have a historical basis in the birth of
Anarchism). From the often decisive presence in key moments of
the struggle by the exploited for their emancipation to the creation of
their instruments of resistance, from the struggle for freedom from
various oppressors to the most advanced experiments in the building
of a society which is not based on the exploitation of one man by
another, Anarchist Communists have left traces of their presence
and their activity while others thrashed out the purity of their ideas
and their rigorous adherence to what they considered to be
unalterable precepts, thereby saving their souls without providing
any real contribution to the em

From a different point of view, it was exactly this constant presence
in the struggles of the exploited which gave rise to the collection of
experiences, later reflection on these experiences and on their
concrete results, and consequently the origin of the theory itself,
making Anarchist Communists the acting vanguard and historical
memory of the proletariat.

2.1 The Paris Commune (1871; an improvisation)

At the time when the Parisian proletariat gave birth to the
Commune, there was no political organization which had elaborated
a plan of action. It was the difficult situation of the period following
the war with Prussia, the existing social conditions which contrasted
with the hope aroused by the birth of the First International, and the
tradition of vanguard that the French workers' movement had
enjoyed for decades which created the mix that sparked the first
authentically self-managed proletarian experiment on a vast scale.

When Adolphe Thiers moved all the structures of the French State
to Paris from Versailles, a vacuum was created which the Commune
filled, without almost any plan. Even the Blanquists, the strongest
and least heterogeneous group within the Commune, did not have
clear ideas on what to do, apart from creating the most centralized
revolutionary government possible. They had no social plan. The
others (Jacobins, Proudhonians, Internationalists, etc.) were few and
divided amongst themselves and were swamped by the elected
representatives of the people who had no political direction. The
Jacobins had their heads in the past and had nothing to say about the
future. The Proudhonians were practically inexistent, as their
traditional representatives were against the Commune. The
Internationalists were split between a few Marxists, some
Syndicalists and a section of militants or Anarchists (Louise Michel,
Louis-Jean Pindy) or people very close to Bakuninist ideas (Eugène
Varlin), but none of these had a stable relations

This was how the Paris Commune proceeded for a few months
before being drowned in blood (there may have been 30,000 dead
and 45,000 taken prisoner). It took no precise direction and did not
therefore foreshadow any complete social model. The surprising
thing, and its greatest legacy to the workers' movement, is that
despite the quarrels inside the Commune, the dangers from outside,
the state of war in which it found itself operating and despite the lack
of a politically mature element, the daily life of the Commune was
organized, services worked well or badly as may be, production
continued. Even a fairly respectable military defence organization
was set up.

This period is not only essential in order to understand the
development of the international workers' movement and the
emblematic role that the Commune of 1871 has always played in it,
but it is fundamental in the development of Anarchist Communist
theory. Karl Marx was, to say the least, surprised by the events in
Paris and was rapidly forced to revise some of his conceptions of the
workers' state, which he did by publishing "The Civil War in
France". For Bakunin, everything that happened was natural and
formed part of his theory - even, to a certain extent, the errors of the
Commune and its defeat. It was not, in fact, surprising that the
proletariat was able to organize itself spontaneously and efficiently.
Speaking with the benefit of hindsight (in the light of experiences of
later revolutions), neither was it surprising that the path of
post-revolutionary society followed the correct way towards ever
more self-managing structures, searching for federative alliances
with similar groups. This is the natu

On the other hand, it was the very absence of a conscious vanguard
(which, according to Anarchist Communist theory, must orient the
revolution, not direct it, and must protect it from deviations, not
impose its own beliefs) which constituted the weakness of the
Commune and stopped it from acting resolutely thereby isolating it
from the rest of France. By then, France was resigned to defeat and
was firmly under the control of reaction. Revolution either expands
and contaminates or it perishes!

2.2 Ukraine (1917-1921; an idea)

The revolution in Ukraine has remained an unknown episode to this
day thanks to the thick veil of disinformation which Soviet
propaganda draped over it and thanks also to the complicity of
official Western historiography. The real facts of the matter have so
far escaped serious historical analysis. The vastness of the event
(around two million people were involved) and its duration (its
fortunes waxed and waned over a period of about four years) make
it, however, a key episode in the history of Anarchist Communism.
Any reflection on its development and final results can only provide
an enormous font of practical and theoretical stimuli for Anarchist
Communist theory. The reader is, as usual, advised to study the
texts specifically regarding this event in order to find detailed
accounts of the events and information on how they fitted into the
immense and complicated panorama of the 1917 Russian
Revolution. We will limit ourselves here to reflecting on its
theoretical influences.

The first point of reflection is in fact its size and duration. What
happened was not due solely to the "immense libertarian soul" of the
Ukrainian people, for their atavistic intolerance of any sort of
dominator (something already noted by Bakunin), or for their
peasant traditions and their strong ties to the earth, the font of all life.
All this obviously had an influence but they are conditions which
have historically existed in other times and places without producing
the same results. Instead, there was a detonator, a catalyst of
confused aspirations, something which channelled the people's
unheeded needs. That something was an organization of comrades
who had already been militants for a long time, who were well versed
in the practice of struggle and in theory and who had a firm point of
reference in the personality of Nestor Ivanovich Makhno

The Makhnovist experience provides us with two distinctive points
for consideration. The first is the particular role which the
revolutionary vanguard played. Secondly, there are the ideas that
resulted from contemplation of its defeat.

We have said that Anarchist Communism does not see the role of
the vanguard in the revolutionary process as one of direction or
management, but as one of orienting the process from within,
guarding against any deviations it might fall victim to either through
any lack of clarity on the part of the masses involved or, and above
all, those caused by erroneous recipes introduced from without
which might poison the whole process. In the case of the Ukrainian
revolution, the Anarchist Communist vanguard placed great
emphasis on this second aspect, even to the point of taking on that
most thankless of tasks of all time - the creation of an army of
defence. This choice, which was nonetheless unavoidable, was
responsible for the more expert comrades (such as Makhno) being
seen more as an ideal point of reference rather than as a real part of
the social evolution which was taking place. On the one hand, this
confirmed that idea that the spontaneous development of the
masses, not deviated by ideologies which propose m

Unfortunately, the external difficulties (civil war - the main theatre
of which was in Ukraine itself, the sacrifice of the region by the
Bolshevik government as part of the peace of Brest-Litovsk and the
consequent arrival of German troops, the hostility of the Bolsheviks
towards an experiment which challenged their theories on the
workers' state and the guiding party) placed the possibility of
revolution in doubt along with any territorial or chronological
continuity and threatened the chances of success. The treaties
between the Makhnovist army and Lev Davidovich Trotsky's Red
Army, which were made in order to defeat the various White
generals who threatened the area (Anton Ivanovich Denikin, Pjotr
Nikolaevich Vrangel, etc.), were not an act of faith in the central
government of Moscow but were rather an attempt to confront one
enemy at a time, starting with the most threatening and imminent.
The confrontation with the Bolsheviks was put off until later as they
were further away, they had not yet establis

The analysis was simple and profound. The Bolsheviks had won
because they had a compact organization which had a sense of
direction and branched into every area which the revolution had
reached. The Anarchists were divided into little groups which were
often in disagreement with each other and did not have a common
plan. They could not possibly have the same political weight. The
Makhnovshchina remained isolated (as happened during the Paris
Commune) and Lenin's party had no difficulty in methodically
tightening the noose around their necks. The question of Anarchist
Communist organization had by now become unavoidable.

2.3 Spain (1936-1939; a project)

The Spanish Revolution was hurried on by the announcement of
General Francisco Franco, forcing the workers' organizations (and in
particular the CNT) to accelerate their programmes. But despite this,
the Anarchist Communists (CNT-FAI) were not caught unawares.
A few months previously during its congress in Zaragoza, the CNT
had approved a programme for "Libertarian Communism", which set
out the path towards the achievement of a society of free equals. So,
in those areas where its influence on the proletariat was greatest,
they immediately began a series of collectivizations of land, industry
and services which produced a rough sketch of a self-managed
society with some noticeable results. It should be noted that the
CNT was strongest in those areas, such as Catalonia, where
economic development was most advanced, a fact which provides a
strong argument against the fantastic theory of Marxists (which,
besides, has no basis in theoretical analysis or historical research)
that states that Anarchism can only est

By reason of its size and duration, the Spanish experience is
comparable to that of Ukraine, but enjoyed without doubt much
greater chronological and geographic continuity. So much so that
today it represents the most valuable example of the realization of
Anarchist Communism. This is not surprising in the light of what
has been said above about the existence in the ranks of militants of a
precise and detailed project and in the light of the long revolutionary
preparation which the Spanish proletariat had accumulated at the
time and, lastly, in light of the fact that the CNT represented not
only the most radical, conscious wing of the proletariat, but was also
the one which was best rooted among the masses. So why the
defeat? Let us leave aside for now any judgement on the entry into
government by the better-known Anarchist militants, first in
Catalonia, then in the central government. It may have been an
error, but it certainly did not have a determining influence on events.
First of all, because when these

Without doubt the choice of the enemy to strike early played a
considerable role, so much so that Zaragoza (where Anarchist
Communists had their most consistent presence) was lost straight
away. Divisions within the republican ranks also played their part, in
particular the clever, but perverting, way in which the Partido
Comunista Espanol was able to impose its "two halves" policy (first,
victory in the civil war and only then the social revolution) even
using force, turning its arms on the peasants' collectivity instead of
on the external enemy.

All this cannot, however, explain completely what happened. The
Anarchist Communists were prepared for events. They had a
precise, detailed programme. They enjoyed wide influence among
the proletariat. They had excellent, able militants. Even though they
committed errors or seemed uncertain at times, this did not suffice
to damage their initial advantage or the outcome of the revolution.
Once again it was the factor of isolation (on an international scale
this time) which was fundamental. The democracies around Spain,
whether out of fear of the rising Nazi and Fascist aggression (which,
it was hoped, could be placated through a policy of appeasement -
for example Neville Chamberlain in 1938 in Britain) or out of fear of
a possible spread of revolutionary conquests to their countries (for
example in Léon Blum's France), limited themselves to verbal
support and left the field open for military intervention in support of
the Francoist rebels on the part of Italy and Germany. The USSR
could not stand by and watc

It should also be added that the experience of the international
brigades, with the armed clashes between the Anarchist
Communists and Stalinists within the Republican forces, led to
distorted conclusions in the libertarian movement. As a result, many
militants, and with them the young people who were later attracted
to Anarchism, developed a ferocious opposition (not backed up by
careful analysis) to the communism which had been achieved in the
Soviet Union and, as an extension of this, to Communism in the
widest sense. Thus began a long slide which led to some preferring,
of all things, Liberal Democracy and often deep-rooted, violent

[to be followed by Part 3]

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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