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

Date Sat, 10 Sep 2005 09:53:32 +0300

5. Why Anarchist Communist: What distinguishes us from Anarchists
Throughout its evolution, anarchism has taken on many forms, an
enormous quantity of different roles. Anarchist Communism is
clearly distinct from these various incarnations, and this chapter will
set out its distinguishing features and point out the differences from
the other schools of thought. Of these, we will not be considering
two - the Educationalists and the pure Individualists, as neither can
be considered revolutionary currents.
The former, as Malatesta noted, hold that education can suffice to
change man's nature, even before changing the material conditions
of existence. Obviously, by arguing against this, we are not saying
that the educational problem is not essential; we simply believe that
a good programme of education is not enough to arrive at
communism, simply by dint of the fact that everyone becomes
convinced that it is the only rational system of social organization.

The evolution of Individualism merits brief treatment as it is most
instructive. Its prime theoretician, Johann Kaspar Schmidt (better
known as Max Stirner), was a mild-mannered teacher in a secondary
school for girls and his explosiveness existed only in the radicalness
of his writings. He was harshly criticized by Marx and Engels in the
Saint Max chapter of their book "The German Ideology", together
with the rest of the Hegelian left. The basic idea, later developed
philosophically by Friedrich Nietzsche and which became the
standard of Individualist Anarchists, was that the measure of
freedom was equal to the amount of the individual's independence,
which showed a total lack of regard for the fact that Man is a social
animal. All Man's achievements (including those which made it
possible for abstract thought, and therefore Stirner's fantasies, to
develop) were obtained only thanks to human society. They are the
fruit of billions upon billions of anonymous contributions to the
creation of the well-being and evolution of the species. Humankind
today lives in such a thick web of relations between all its past and
present members, that the total freedom of one isolated being as a
single individual is a philosophical category which is totally removed
from reality. Starting with this improbable supposition, the
individualists began to cut themselves off from all social groupings
and to despise the masses (whom they thought slavishly obeyed
power) and ended up considering Anarchism as a fight against
authority and the State and not as a struggle for a egalitarian society.
Social equality disappeared from their theories in favour of a furious
search for the liberty of the individual which often broke out into a
struggle of each against the other, something which had previously
been theorized by that founder of Social Liberalism, Thomas
Hobbes, and is so dear to the aggressive capitalists of the period in
which we now live. It is not by chance that theoreticians of extreme
liberalism and competition as the only font of social progress, such
as the early 20th century Austrians Friedrich August von Hayek and
Ludwig von Mises, are classified as Anarchists. Neither is it by
chance that in the United States there has developed a current of
so-called Anarcho-Capitalists (Friedmann) whose only enemy is
State centralization which is perhaps guilty in their eyes of limiting
the possibilities for enterprise by the most unscrupulous individuals
(thereby damaging the vast majority of their equals), who see the
solution to every social problem in entrusting to the private sector
(lured by profit) every economic initiative, every form of collective
service, every aspect of human existence. Individualists, or rather a
majority of them, end up fighting not against the exploitation by one
over another, but against any obstacle placed in the path of this
exploitation. Others, albeit few, have remained actively militant
among the proletariat and despite their lack of structure have
contributed and continue to contribute much.

5.1 Organization

Let us move on to those Anarchists who, at least in word, remain
true to the struggle for the emancipation of the exploited. The first
big distinction is between those who do not believe it is necessary for
there to be organization of the class struggle and those like the
Anarchist Communists who believe that it is indispensable. There
are, in fact, spontaneist fringes in the Anarchist movement who do
not believe that any form of planning is required, given that an
anarchist society will inevitably come into existence as a necessary
result of the evolution of human society. Giovanni Bovio, a Socialist
parliamentarian and freemason with strong anarchist leanings, once
said: "Thought is anarchist and history is marching towards
anarchy", echoing that faith in the inevitability of the development of
history towards anarchy. This optimism originates in the vision of
the anarchist Prince Pëtr Kropotkin, the founder of
Anarcho-Communism, on the basis of his own scientific knowledge.
Kropotkin was a geographer of some standing, bettered only in
professionalism among Anarchists by Elisée Reclus. On the basis of
his own scientific knowledge and the study of social insect
communities and, wholly imbued with positivism and the
consequent sure belief that science could solve every problem,
Kropotkin came to the idea that libertarian communism was a
necessary and inevitable result for the organization of the collective
life of humanity.

Thus, Anarchism was no longer the goal of the conscious efforts on
the part of men and women to organize themselves for their
collective happiness, but only the final and teleologically
predetermined stage in historical development (as we shall see,
somewhat like the dialectic materialism of Stalinist orthodoxy which
stemmed from the same positivist vein). The result of all this, and
his followers acted accordingly, was that all forms of organization are
not only unnecessary (given that the course of events cannot be
seriously influenced) but actually dangerous, as they represent an
obstruction for the free flow of the process' spontaneity and impede
the appearance of the final stage in the development of humanity.

On the other hand, Anarchist Communists (and others, besides)
believe that the various stages of history are not written in stone and
that the collective intervention of humans can influence events. This
influence may be minor at first, but with the passage of time it can
be directed at ever-greater goals. And collective means organized. As
a result of their deterministic vision, Anarcho-Communists place no
importance in the class struggle. Furthermore, they consider even
the existence of classes to be an unproven fact, if not some Marxist
invention. It is the man or woman, as a single individual, who must
tend towards becoming a member of the anarchist society. For
Anarchist Communists, society is dramatically divided into classes
(something which the recent wave of rampant liberalism has made
abundantly clear by widening the gaps between the haves and the
have-nots, between rich countries and poor - in other words,
between the exploiters and the exploited), and only the emancipation
of the weakest by means of a resolute class war will lead to a society
of free equals, the product of a conscious programmed project which
can fulfil the proletariat's aspirations. The class struggle exists and it
is the only hope to obtain a more just society. But if it is to be
successful, it must be organized.

5.2 Organizational Dualism

The feature which best distinguishes Anarchist Communists from
all other schools of thought within Anarchism is what we call
"organizational dualism". This means that apart from the general
organization of the entire proletariat (as outlined in Chapter 1.2,
dedicated to Fabbri), there is also the political organization of
Anarchist Communists, or, to use the usual terms adopted in the
movement's debates, beside the Mass Organization there must also
be the Specific Organization. As already indicated, the other trends
in Anarchism reject either or both of these.

It is clear that Individualists recognize no role for the movement of
the exploited who are seen as a humble flock of individuals
unworthy of any personal realization as they have no ambitions. But
the Individualists lie completely outside class-struggle Anarchism.
The Kropotkinist Anarcho-Communists (not for nothing known as
anti-organizationalists) believe that any work among the masses
apart from pure and simple propaganda of the "right" ideas, is
useless. This is the origin of their lack of interest in the daily
struggles of the working class which are seen as pointless and
counterproductive. Pointless in that every gain made under the
present social system is held to be short-lived and counterproductive
as the syndicalist approach only encourages the habit of gradual
conquests with a consequent loss of sight of the revolutionary goal.
We have already seen how Bakunin threw himself into the struggle
which began with the First International and how both Fabbri and
Malatesta considered that any gains towards the well-being of the
masses in the present were nothing to be looked down on. Anarchist
Communists believe that it is essential to be involved on a
day-to-day basis in the workers' organizations (to which, as workers,
we belong). We believe that the existence of these organizations is
necessary as a barrier to the powerful whims of the exploiter class.
For Anarcho-Communists, instead, their abandoning of all attention
to the proletariat's immediate demands results in the specific
organization being relegated to a role of propaganda of the ideal, the
recruiting of new members, in other words something like the
function of a religious sect.

Basing themselves on similar premises to those of the Kropotkinists,
Insurrectionalist Anarchists also deny the value of work within the
labour movement. After all, Kropotkin was present at the
International Congress in London in 1881 which approved the
strategy of propaganda by the deed. Disappointed by the late arrival
of the revolution, unable to enjoy a useful relationship with the
masses thanks to the spread of special anti-anarchist legislation all
over Europe, the anarchists chose to act according to their times in
order to extricate themselves from the corner they found themselves
in. The hope was that the spread of violent acts directed at the
pompous bourgeoisie of the period would provide an example which
would rapidly be imitated thereby transforming the insurrectionary
spark into an immense revolutionary blaze. This was the period of
the bloody acts of the likes of François-Claudius Köhingstein (better
known as Ravachol), Bonnot, Émile Henry and many others.
France, in fact, though at the centre of the insurrectionalist wave
was also the place where class-struggle Anarchist militants (Émile
Pouget, Fernand Pelloutier, Pierre Monatte, and others) found a way
out through the formation of the "Bourses du Travail" and the
syndicates and thereby brought Anarchism back to its natural
element, the proletariat, which led to a new and profound method of
struggle and organization. Despite this, there are still today those
who as a result of a childish theoretical simplification, hold that
gains made by the unions are ephemeral and who continue to preach
the idea of propaganda by the deed. They are mistaken twice over.
Firstly, when they think that syllogisms can cancel history - in other
words they believe, with purely abstract reasoning, that as long as
capitalism exists there can be no improvement in the living
conditions of the masses even where there have been labour
struggles. Secondly, they are under the illusion that some external
example can be more attractive and convincing than long, tiring
educational activity within the day-to-day struggles.

Then there are those Anarchists who deny the need for a Specific
Organization. Anarcho-Syndicalists of various types and
Revolutionary Syndicalists lay their trust in the spontaneous
evolution of the proletarian masses and that accordingly if the labour
unions are left alone, sooner or later they will arrive at the decisive
clash with the boss class. Malatesta already opposed this idea, held
by Monatte, in 1907 at the International Congress of Amsterdam.
He clarified how the proletariat's associations for resistance would
inevitably slide into reformism, thus blurring sight of the goals. This
was the economicism which Lenin pointed out, though he wanted to
fight it by instilling class consciousness into the masses from
without, but which Anarchist Communists fight by acting as a
critical conscience from within. The historically proven decline of all
unions which were born revolutionary (starting with Monatte's own
CGT), has led some Anarcho-Syndicalists to seek the answer not in
political organization, but in the creation of unions which are based
on a pre-determined revolutionary idea. In other words, to create
unions which are exclusively composed of conscious, revolutionary
elements. The result is a strange mix of mass organization and
political organization which is basically an organization of anarchists
who set themselves up to do union work. In this way the obstacle
has not been removed, but avoided, as the link which connects the
masses to the revolutionary strategy is missing, unless of course it
happens to be the resurrection of the idea of an external example
which contaminates the masses by some process of osmosis.

For Anarchist Communists these theoretical problems are resolved
with organizational dualism, assigning precise tasks and separate
functions to the two organizations.

5.2.1 The Mass Organization is not a carbon copy of the political

For Anarchist Communists, the mass Organization (labour union)
does not need to mimic their particular expectations of
combativeness or opposition to capital to the point that if the union
were not to meet their standards, they would not participate in the
unions' struggles. They do not expect the union to be born
revolutionary nor to continually carry on a fierce level of combat
against the bosses. Unions are born out of a need for the proletariat
to defend itself. They aim to wring as much as possible out of the
bosses in order to win greater wealth for the exploited classes they
represent. They try to satisfy the needs of the workers who are being
continually squeezed by their adversary, the bosses. As long as the
union exists, it will produce within it a managing class which more
often than not acts in its own interests rather than in the interests of
those it claims to represent. This is all an inevitable,
naturally-occurring state of affairs and something which has yet to
be avoided throughout the course of history.

From the capitalists' point of view, the unions' economic fight is not
only an attempt to demand improvements in the (always unequal)
division of the goods provided by the system of production, it is a
permanent need to re-organize according to the fluctuations in the
workers' demands. The unions therefore, linked with the phases of
the class war, genetically take on the double role of answering the
proletariat's interests and being one of the sources of the
development of capitalism. And that is without taking into
consideration the bad faith of its managing class who view their role
as answering their own needs for a better life, or worse still as a
trampoline for their careers in the bourgeois State's administrative

One fundamental requisite for an egalitarian revolution is that it be
the work of those who wish to find within the new society the
benefits of the happy life they are denied under the present social
system. "The emancipation of the workers will be at the hands of the
workers themselves" is not simply a slogan for Anarchist
Communists, as it is for Marxists - it is a profound conviction. It is
the proletariat, acting on its own initiative, which will liberate not
only itself but all others too, heralding the end of class society. It
follows therefore that the most united and conscious proletariat
possible should face the bosses in the final clash if it is to avoid
falling prey to an intellectual class which might "offer" to manage
society on its behalf and supposedly for its benefit. But if it is to avoid
every form of substitution, be it imposed or produced in all apparent
naturalness, and if it is to prevent the handing over of power in any
way which might end up being permanent and damaging to the final
goal of establishing a free and equal society, the proletariat itself
must be able to take on immediately the management of the various
phases of the revolution and the subsequent reconstruction. This is
why workers' unity is indispensable. And it can only be reached
through collective struggle and not through the marvellous example
of exemplary struggles which the masses should watch, admire and
imitate. The nub of the problem is the link between the economic
condition of the class and consciousness of the historical ends which
the class must necessarily pursue for its own emancipation. Or, in
other words, how does the link between class and class
consciousness come about?

We have already seen how the Leninists consider class
consciousness to be external to the proletariat and must be brought
to the proletariat, even through authoritarian means. In direct
opposition to this, Revolutionary Syndicalists hold that class
consciousness is born spontaneously and gradually among the
masses, the more they engage in the clash with capitalism. This is a
vision which is clearly descended from economic determinism and
the inevitable explosion of the internal contradictions in the capitalist
system, while the Leninist vision is a product of bourgeois
Jacobinism. Marxism has not remained immune from either. For
many Anarchists who side with the struggle of the exploited, there is
no automatic link between the class and class consciousness, while
there is also a rejection of the Leninist methods. As we have already
seen, Anarcho-Syndicalists (though admittedly not all of them) avoid
the problem rather than face it, with their theory of example
designed to infect the proletariat, who otherwise tend to bow down to
the reformists. Their vision is for well-organized revolutionary
unions to engage in radical, victorious struggles which serve as a
magnet for the great mass of the exploited. Therefore, they hold that
the union organization should, from day one, take an ideal form -
even if this damages class unity. Theoretically, class consciousness
comes before the condition of the class and the union becomes a
carbon copy of the political organization.

Anarchist Communists consider this to be wrong (indeed Fabbri
drew attention to this). Though we are fully aware that there will
always be differing levels of consciousness among the workers and
are convinced of the fact that unity does not mean homogeneity, we
believe that the class comes before the consciousness, that unity
comes before radicalness and that therefore the relationship between
the class and class consciousness needs to be resolved in another

5.2.2 The Political Organization is not only for propaganda

If the running of the phase of revolutionary struggle and the society
which follows must be firmly in the hands of the workers, as we
have said already, then class unity is a necessary prerequisite as is
the proletariat's consciousness of its historic needs, which are much
greater than its immediate economic needs. How to grasp the horns
of this dilemma is something which has been hotly debated for a
long time and various solutions have been proposed, as we have
seen. For class-struggle Anarchists, the solution has been clear since
the days of Bakunin and requires two things: direct action and
political organization.

The practice of direct action, in other words the first-hand running of
the struggles, is a training ground for the acquisition of
consciousness by the proletariat, which independently evaluates its
victories and the methods adopted to win them on the one hand, and
on the other, the bitterness of the conflict and the strength of the
opponents. The progression from self-management of the
day-to-day struggles to self-management of the revolutionary
conflict is thereby more natural, without doubt. We must, however,
be careful not to confuse direct action with just any action carried
out by those concerned. Direct action is not just a group of people
(however big or small, well-organized or conscious) self-managing
their own struggles. This is something that every political grouping
does in the course of its activities, but it does not add even one
ounce of consciousness to the masses. Direct action can only be
carried out by economically or territorially (and not politically)
homogeneous groups in order to achieve even a modest objective,
because it is only in this way that individuals with varying degrees of
social consciousness can engage with each other against an external
obstacle. They thereby acquire an awareness both of the momentary
limitation of that struggle's aims, together with the skills (including
technical skills, too) which will be needed to widen the scope of
objectives they can aim for and ensure the long-lasting nature of
their gains.

And it is precisely within the process of direct action that the
irreplaceable role of the "party" (to use Malatesta's expression) of
Anarchist Communists can be seen. Pushing forward the terms of
the clash; enabling others to become conscious of how fruitful the
gains made in economic struggle can be and how quickly and easily
what has been won can be taken back by the enemy; placing the
immediate aim within an ever-greater context of aspirations. These
are the specific tasks of Anarchist Communist militants in the class
struggle. In other words, the conscious members of the mass
organization must work towards spreading the practice of direct
action and use the struggles of today to enable a consciousness of
the objectives of tomorrow to develop. Anarchist Communist
militants find strength for their activities in the co-ordination of their
efforts which takes place through their work in their political
organizations. The political organization is therefore the much
sought-after link between the class and class consciousness. Its
activities as a part of general class organization are the enzyme
which sparks off fermentation of the economic condition of the class
in the full awareness of the proletariat's historical ends. But in order
for that to happen there must be workers' unity, independent of their
level of class consciousness and direct action. The mass
organization, therefore, does not subject prospective members to
entrance exams but simply groups together all the exploited
unconditionally, in the way envisaged by Bakunin's project for the
international Working Men's Association. The conflict with capital
and the constant actions of the political organization (in Bakunin's
plan, the Alliance for Socialist Democracy) within it, will ensure the
struggles will gradually become more radical until such times as the
decisive clash arrives.

The goal of the Anarchist Communist political organization is thus
to remain a part of the class struggle in order to radicalize it and
promote consciousness of its final objectives. The organization
cannot limit itself to making propaganda (abstract propaganda, out of
sight of the proletariat) but must descend to the level of
consciousness expressed by the proletariat in any given moment and
constantly seek to raise it. To do this it must produce analyses,
strategies and credible proposals. Its members must gain the trust of
the workers and distinguish themselves by the clarity of their ideas
and their ability to promote convincing struggles which should, if
conditions so permit, be victorious. However, they must not become
a new leader class, separate from their comrades in struggle, but
simply a point of reference which can point the way at any time and
not lose their sense of direction during the ups and downs.

As it is obvious that not all proletarians will have reached the same
level of consciousness when the revolution breaks out (what is
required is unity, not an identical state of consciousness), it follows
that "leading groups" will naturally evolve, if the reader will forgive
the expression. But this does not mean that a Leninist-style
dictatorship necessarily follows, if three fundamental points are
adhered to. First of all if the gap between the "vanguard" (Bakunin's
"active minority") and the masses, in terms of consciousness, is not
too great. In this way it will be possible to maintain the maximum
level of grassroots control over the former's actions by the great
mass of the proletariat. Obviously, what is referred to here is the
level of consciousness regarding ideas for struggle and not strategic
awareness that members of the specific organization need to
possess. Secondly, the "vanguard" needs to remain physically
alongside its comrades in the struggle. It must not expect or demand
a directing role for itself even if this were to be justifiable by the need
to guarantee a successful outcome of the revolution. Finally, all
power will have to be invested in the workplaces and in the
proletariat's associations and, from there, proceed upwards from
below, without ever being delegated to higher organs, allowing them
carte blanche, not even with the excuse of greater scientific or
technical competence. The organization of Anarchist Communists
will have to be vigilant in order to ensure that none of these three
potential deviations occurs.

[to be followed by Part 6]

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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