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(en) Italy, FdCA theoretical pamphlet: "Anarchist Communists: A Question Of Class", Part VI of VII To: a-infos-en@ainfos.ca

Date Sun, 11 Sep 2005 08:40:51 +0300

5.3 On the State and Collectivity
Having lived in a period when the bourgeois State ferociously
fulfilled its role of protecting the interests of the ruling class,
Anarchists have developed a deep and justified hatred for this
institution. Furthermore, their direst predictions regarding the
oppressive nature of the State as an institution were borne out by the
revolutions controlled by Marxists and in particular by the history of
the Soviet Union. The point that Anarchist Communists challenge
other Anarchist tendencies on is not the need to abolish the State
right from the first moment of the revolution, but the fact that the
great majority of Anarchists from other tendencies have acquired
such an aversion to the State that they become blind to other facts.

Many Anarchists have developed a strange inversion of priorities.
The State, which is a tool of the bourgeoisie that the bourgeoisie
uses in order to exploit and appropriate the lion's share of available
wealth, has become the prime enemy, even greater than the
bourgeoisie which uses that tool. But partly as a result of the effects
of the proletariat's struggle, the State has taken on other roles apart
from that of policeman and these roles, known by the general term
"welfare state", have some very complex facets. On the one hand
they have allowed the bosses to offload onto taxpayers (and thus
mostly the workers themselves) part of the costs deriving from the
greater security and well-being of those less well-off; a burden
created through pressure from the workers has been offloaded onto
the collectivity, which otherwise would form part of the cost of
labour. On the other hand, though, these functions have enabled a
minimum redistribution of wealth in favour of the workers; as the
result of decades of struggles they have allowed the conflict to be
regulated for the protection of the weakest, they have produced
social institutions, such as education, healthcare and social
insurance, with a high element of solidarity.

It is not a surprise, therefore, if capitalism (which has now reached
another phase of its historical development, where fierce
international competition demands that costs be slashed) tends
towards reducing social provisions (which are partly financed by
business) and to reduce the tasks of the State to that of being an
armed guardian of Capital's interests. And it is the inverted point of
view of many Anarchists which prevents them from analyzing the
phenomenon, from seeing that our principal enemy is the same as
ever, and from realizing that what the "light State" would like to get
rid of is the very thing that the proletariat have an interest in
maintaining. The reduction in the State's functions involves a
lowering of the fiscal burden on the rich but not on the poor, the
maintenance of the State's role as policeman and the destruction of
all social insurance, guarantees and protection.

The dropping of areas such as the above by the State and their
replacement by equivalents on the market (and therefore their
transformation into a source of profit) involves an increase in cost for
services which workers will only rarely be able to afford, and will
result in a noticeable reduction in their living standards. By not
defending these tasks of the State, we also risk losing sight of
another important aspect: the role of collectivity. Anarchist
Communist society will not be able to do without a system of
"taxation", in the sense that a part of the wealth will be set aside in
order to sustain those who cannot contribute to the production
which is essential for their needs - children, the old, the ill, etc. State
management of areas such as education, healthcare and social
insurance is much closer to the collective management of these
services in a future society than would be the case under private
management, subject to the laws of profit. The transport workers in
revolutionary Spain in 1936, who were organized in a union, lost
little time in organizing the service. Would the same happen today
with the same rapidity and naturalness in the case of the workers on
the privatized railways in Britain? Consider also the case of pensions,
where under the current system there is an automatic link (and
corresponding sense of solidarity) between workers of different

Anarchist Communists therefore believe that the struggle against the
survival of the State at the time of the revolution does not preclude
recognition of the various functions of today's bourgeois State: those
that serve to guarantee the continuing class domination (which, not
surprisingly, capitalists seek to preserve and strengthen) and those
born from compromises in the clash between the classes and which
provide a modicum of well-being for the oppressed classes (again,
not surprisingly, the very functions which capitalists seek to
eliminate today). If the bourgeoisie is seeking to reform the State, it
is doing so out of its own interests, interests which do not coincide
with those of the workers.

5.4 The Methods

It is commonly said within the Anarchist movement that there is a
close link between the means of the struggle and its ends. If by this
is meant that certain methods must be excluded because they are
inappropriate for the ends, then we have no objection. We have
already seen, for example, that any suggestion of using the State in
the march towards communism is out of the question, if we are to
promote its extinction. There are means which are theoretically and
practically incompatible with the ends of the struggle.

This does not automatically signify that there is a strict relationship
between the means and the ends, something which many Anarchists
claim, particularly the pacifist elements and the
anti-organizationalists, with some grotesque consequences. To
make an example, if this were indeed the case, Anarchists would
have to behave in the here and now by acting out the rules of
solidarity and social living that they are trying to create for the future
society. This would mean living in some sort of collective such as a
commune, but would have two unfortunate consequences - one
practical and one theoretical. On a practical level, communes have
always failed miserably (for example the famous 19th-century
Cecilia commune in Brazil), as the members carry with them certain
weaknesses and defects, inherited from the present bourgeois social
organization where they were born, grew up and schooled, which
have a negative effect on the life of the community and eventually
ruin it. Neither can the commune remain isolated from the rest of
the world: it is often therefore contaminated by its relationships
(often of a commercial nature) with surrounding societies. Thus it
follows that communist society must cover a vast area and
increasingly include the rest of humanity and that a period of
transition would be required in order to eliminate individuals from
those vices which are part and parcel of their character. The
theoretical consequence is that the new society would be born out of
the example offered by small groups, like small spots of communism
which spread throughout the social fabric, thus kissing goodbye to
the revolution and welcoming a vision of the future make-up of
society which can be realized by degrees in a new form of reformism.

We would have to be non-violent because (according to the axiom of
ends and means) a society of peace and solidarity could not come
from a violent act such as a revolution. Anarchist Communists do
not love violence, but we know that the bosses will not voluntarily
give up their privileges as a result of simply reasoning with them that
communism is the most rational social structure possible.

It follows that, for Anarchist Communists, the means must not
contradict the pre-established ends, but once the obviously
incompatible means have been discarded there remain a wide range
of methods of struggle which should be considered only on the basis
of their effectiveness. Above all, we believe that certain means, far
from advancing the struggle towards its goal, serve to distance it and
make it impractical. This is the case with criticism of the political
organization and its internal structure by some confusionists of
anarchism, who see the internal discipline of militants with regard to
the decisions taken collectively as a violation of the individual's
freedom and in effect a negation of anarchist ends. This belief
impedes any serious work within the masses and therefore delays the
social revolution.

5.5 The Evidence

If the political organization of Anarchist Communists is not to limit
itself to simple propaganda of sacred principles, its work in the
struggles of the exploited must be incisive, effective and
recognizable. For this reason the political and strategic line which
the organization follows must be seen outside the organization as
being united, capable of representing a solid reference point for the
proletariat in its process of acquiring consciousness. The functional
principle which allows this is known as "collective responsibility"
and was outlined by the Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad in
France (Delo Truda), in the "Organizational Platform of the General
Union of Anarchists - Project". The definition of this function
sparked off a great scandal within the Anarchist movement, to the
extent that the word "Platformist" is still used as an insult against
Anarchist Communists. However, it is based on a misunderstanding
which we will now seek to clear up.

The confusionists of Anarchism mistakenly identified the collective
responsibility of the Anarchist Communist political organization with
the democratic centralism of Leninism. But it is a facetious
comparison. In democratic centralism, a group of leaders take
decisions which the members are then obliged to apply. As
membership of the party is voluntary, at least in those places where
it is not in power, this is perfectly legitimate as those who agree to
join the organization agree with its way of functioning. All this,
however, has absolutely nothing to do with collective responsibility,
which instead provides for the maximum democracy in
decision-making (at the Congress, where each member counts as
much as any other). But once decisions have been accepted by the
majority, the entire organization is bound by them. The minority can
always decide not to apply the decision, but they cannot block the
work of the organization or damage the external image of the
organization by working against the decision. At the following
Congress it will be able to make its case once more and try to
convince a majority of members, either should the previous line have
clearly failed or else through greater success in setting out their case.

The Anarchist Communist organization has four basic principles on
which it bases its work: theoretical unity, strategic unity, tactical
homogeneity and collective responsibility. Theoretical unity means
that all members must share the general principles which inspire the
organization - in other words, the principles outlined in this work. If
this were not the case they would be working for different causes and
should therefore belong to different organizations. Strategic unity
means that all members must share the common path which the
organization establishes to the social revolution - in other words,
those guidelines which all agree on regarding the organization's
actions from now until (it is hoped) a not-too-distant future. Without
a common strategy, the actions of members or groups of members
would follow different paths and the organization per se would be
unable to play any meaningful role in the struggles of the masses.
Tactical homogeneity means that the daily, local activities of the
various members and groups must tend to agree with the general
strategic line, though there can be some diversification according to
the varying local situations. If the tactics of the various components
of the organization did not run along similar lines, the organization's
actions would be confused and incoherent.

The Anarchist movement has known two types of organization:
organizations of synthesis and organizations of tendency. Synthesist
organizations accept members who declare themselves to be
Anarchists, without any further specification. It is possible,
therefore, for members to be Educationalists, Communists,
Syndicalists, Insurrectionalists and even Individualists. The range is
not always quite so wide and the level of theoretical unity required
can vary from one organization to another. For example, in 1965 the
class-struggle wing of the Federazione Anarchica Italiana succeeded
in having Malatesta's 1920 programme adopted by the organization,
thereby provoking a split with the anti-organizationalist and
individualist elements. Whatever the level of theoretical unity may be
(and it is never complete), the absence of any strategic unity means
that any decisions taken need be observed only by those who agree
with them, leaving the others to do as they please. This means that
the decisions are of little value, that Congresses can make no
effective resolutions, that internal debate is unproductive (as
everyone maintains their own positions) and that the organization
goes through the motions of its internal rites without presenting a
common face outside the organization. The absence of any formal
structure not only does not guarantee greater internal democracy but
can permit the creation of informal groups of hidden leaders. These
groups come together on the basis of affinity, they can co-opt new
adherents and they can generate an uncontrolled and uncontrollable
leadership, hard to identify but nonetheless effective.

Organizations of tendency gather their members on the basis of a
shared theory (there are also organizations of
anti-organizationalists!). This was the case in 1919 with Fabbri's
Unione Comunista Anarchica d'Italia (Anarchist Communist Union
of Italy) before Malatesta, with his Programme, transformed it into
the synthesist Unione Anarchica Italiana (Italian Anarchist Union)
out of a desire for unanimity and maybe in the hope of dragging
towards class-struggle positions those who did not want to know
anything about the class struggle. Obviously, Anarchist Communists
organizations are organizations of tendency. The strong tendency
towards homogeneity which is accepted by members when they join
places a great limit on the apparently coercive nature of the principle
of collective responsibility. Indeed, when a known member of any
party takes a certain position, it inevitably reflects (even if they do
not intend it to) on their organization in the eyes of the public. For
this reason it can be even more dangerous for members to speak
"different tongues", just because they do not wish to accept a single
method of communication, than it is when the communicative
vocabulary to be adopted is previously agreed on.

5.6 The Programme

The basic element which distinguishes Anarchist Communists from
all other Anarchist currents may be organizational dualism, but what
marks them out in particular from the rest of the Anarchist
movement (even with regard to the Libertarian Communists - see
Appendix 2) is the existence of a programme. This is the collection
of the short-term and mid-term objectives which the political
organization establishes for itself. It is approved by Congress and
reviewed at each successive Congress. What has been achieved and
what has not been achieved is studied and explained. Objectives can
be considered no longer important and can be removed, and in
general the strategy is adapted to the times. The programme as such
is a set of strategic and tactical elements which guides the political
organization's actions in the mid-term. The fusion of strategic
elements and tactical elements enables the programme to change
with the changing economic and social situation. The function
which the Anarchist Communist political organization assigns the
various parts of the programme are one of its characteristics, seeing
that objectives which may be purely tactical for some may be
strategic for others, and vice versa. For this very reason the
programme is a platform for collaboration with other political
organizations, where each one retains the right to establish
strategically common objectives which are then pursued in
collaboration with other organizations.

The existence of a programme (often called a minimum programme)
may initially seem to be an unimportant detail. On the contrary, its
consequences are of the utmost importance, as its existence
provokes a certain mentality and disposition for political work. This
is something which characterizes to a great extent the Anarchist
Communist political organization and determines some very
important aspects.

5.6.1 Phase Analysis

These traits are all contained in the short definition of programme
which we have just given. They do, however, merit a little detailed
examination. As we have said, the programme is the workplan
which the political organization provides for itself at every Congress,
and is therefore valid for several years. As it contains tactical and
strategic elements, it needs to place the organization's political
action within a dimension which is adequate in order to progress
towards the ends. In order to do this, the programme (which is
established in a particular historical context) must set out the correct
steps for the times concerned. It therefore requires knowledge of the
current situation and this implies that accurate political and
economic analysis of the current phase be made beforehand.

For decades, Anarchists had abandoned the field of economic
analysis, judging it to be unnecessary to know the class enemy's
strategy in order to spread Anarchist ideas. The result is action
without time or place, a vision of the world in which everything is
grey and where the cutting edge of militants has become
progressively blunter and the survivors sit around nostalgically
agreeing that they are right.

The rediscovery of Anarchist Communism sparked off a rediscovery
of the joys of study, knowledge and analysis. In consequence, certain
dogmas previously considered untouchable were put to the test,
something Berneri had already done. Above all, it made it possible
once more for there to be dialogue with those common women and
men who slave away to earn a few crumbs of wealth without having
to wait for a messianic salvation in some distant future. In other
words, Anarchism came back to live in the open, among the masses
and within the labour struggles.

5.6.2 Gradualism

As we have seen, a sect-like spirit dominated the Anarchist
movement in Italy after World War II. This derived from the opinion
that only the realization of a free and egalitarian society after the
social revolution could improve the condition of a humanity which
was bowed by exploitation: any other progress, any other conquest,
any improvement was considered impossible under the current
capitalist system or even as a trap to ensnare the masses and stop
them reaching their final goal. Any compromise with the needs for
today was seen as giving in and would result in putting off further
the glorious future which was the sole objective worth fighting for.

The re-discovery of Anarchist Communism once again brought to
the fore the gradualism which Malatesta spoke of and the
programme is a visible manifestation of this. Intermediate objectives
are not reformist sops which are designed to build the future society
piecemeal (something which Anarchist Communists would never
dream of). They are merely vital responses to the daily needs of the
exploited which, far from dulling their ambitions for a just,
egalitarian society, give them a taste for struggle and for conquest.
The more they eat, the hungrier they get. Anyone who has to resolve
the immediate problem of their primary needs will only with
difficulty be able to conceive a long struggle for their historical needs
and only with enormous difficulty will be able to acquire the
necessary consciousness to transform themselves into the agents of
their own emancipation.

Ultimately, if we do not propose solutions to the problems of the day,
it will be practically impossible to provide credible proposals for the
realization of a paradise which is lost in the mists of a distant future.
The struggle to satisfy the immediate needs, to snatch even a
minimum of wealth from our class adversary, to limit his unbounded
power and total control over the workforce, was called "revolutionary
gymnastics" by Malatesta and Fabbri. For this reason, their
Anarchism, like ours, was not reformist but reforming, because it
kept its eye firmly fixed on the revolutionary objective, without
nonetheless renouncing the gains made in the here and now.
Obviously these gains are fleeting and the to's and fro's of the class
struggle can all too easily render them useless (something we have
in fact been witnessing in recent decades), but they need to be
obtained nevertheless, for two reasons. Firstly, the acquired
consciousness that they are not permanent will sooner or later make
it clear to the proletariat that only the final victory can guarantee
peace and well-being for ever and for everyone. Secondly, a look
back at the last two hundred years of history will make it quite clear
that generally there has been some real progress in the living
standards of workers in those countries where there has been an
active labour movement.

5.6.3 Alliances

We have spoken about the sect-like spirit which dominated the
Italian Anarchist movement for decades. It really could not have
been otherwise. As the only possible objective to aim for is the social
revolution (about which Anarchists have their own very precise
ideas), then no alliance with other revolutionary forces is possible, in
fact it could even represent a betrayal of the ideal. But Anarchist
Communists have their programme with its partial and immediate
goals, and as far as this is concerned it is possible to find
companions, in other words to form alliances in order to obtain
success for that particular piece of the programme. Thanks to the
programme, this possibility is an important element in the history of
the Anarchist movement which, thanks also to the influence of
Malatesta in 1921, proposed an alliance with other leftists (known as
the Fronte Unico Rivoluzionario, or Revolutionary Single Front) to
respond to the growing Fascist reaction.

Anarchist Communists are so sure of their historical ends, of their
strategy for obtaining them and of the steps they must take today,
that they do not fear any impure contact contaminating them. On the
contrary, they believe that they can contaminate others. In particular,
they feel that they can spread their ideas and proposals among the
great mass of the proletariat which is still fooled by the promise that
the system is reformable or by the hope that an authoritative,
illuminated leader will guide them towards a society without classes.

[to be followed by Part 7]

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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