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

Date Sun, 11 Sep 2005 08:41:16 +0300

6.1 Appendix 1: Historical materialism and dialectic materialism
Historical materialism is the heritage of the whole proletariat since
its inception as a class conscious of the exploitation to which it is
subjected, though it must be recognized that Marx was the most
accurate promoter and organizer of historical materialism. Marx was
influenced by Proudhon, who was the first to note the economic
contradictions within society; however, (according to Marx)
Proudhon imagined that these contradictions could be resolved
through the use of a science which only partially took account of the
real situation of productive relationships without taking account of
autonomy which is essential in real materialism.

Unfortunately, the main theoreticians of orthodox Marxism, from
the time of the Second and Third Internationals up to the present
day, have always substituted historical materialism with the dialectic
materialism that was set out by Friedrich Engels in his works
"Anti-Dühring" and "The Dialectics of Nature". Dialectic
materialism turns Hegelian dialectics on its head, placing it with its
feet on the ground: while Hegel concentrated on the evolution of the
idea, dialectic materialism instead considers the evolution of matter.
Matter evolves by means of its own immutable (a-historical) laws; in
society and in the economy this can be seen in the continual
dialectics between the development of the productive forces and the
production relationships. The latter initially adapt themselves to the
level of development of the productive forces, but at a certain point
they become an obstacle for the productive forces, to the point that
they become a rigid casing which must eventually be broken.

Thus, dialectic materialism is no longer a method for discovering the
real situation, but becomes an interpretation of the reality; not only
does it imagine that it provides a general vision of human history, it
also predicts with certainty the final crisis of capitalism and the
inevitable advent of communism.

But communism is then no longer a way to change the production
relationships once the proletariat, as a class, has re-appropriated the
product of its labour; communism is instead reduced to being only
one way to manage the productive forces in a particular advanced
stage of evolution. In this way man loses his function as the one
responsible for transforming the situation and becomes only the
product of extraneous forces and immutable laws which lie out of his

Therefore, Englesian and Leninist Marxism theorize a metaphysical
and idealistic materialism of a sort that anarchism has always
rejected. It must be said again that dialectic materialism is not a
method for discovering the real situation but an interpretation of the
historical process and a precise vision of the facts which entails
pre-determining the future as the inevitable development of past and
present events. Anarchism (apart from Kropotkinist positions) has
always rejected this conception of history which is the child of
positivism and this idea of man as a product of superior laws; for
Anarchism, history is the product of extremely complex and variable
factors and man is one of these factors at play.
Dialectic materialism is also the child of the great development in the
natural sciences of the mid-19th century, to the point that it believes
it can transfer the methods of natural science to social science.
Thus, the birth of scientific socialism, which studies the laws of the
evolution of history as if they were objective, like the physical laws of
nature. This need to transform social processes into objective laws
has consequences on economic theory. In "Capital", in fact, Marx
enunciates an economic theory that reduces class struggle to a sort
of corrective factor; in the interpretation of history, the class struggle
is a part of the dynamic processes of matter, but matter has abstract
and immutable laws. As man can only know nature in an
approximate way because it is outside and independent of him, he
consequently cannot intervene in its development, either alone or
collectively; man is therefore only a pure product of nature. This
rigidly deterministic model (reductionism) of the 19th century
disappeared from the natural sciences during the course of the 20th
century, but it has remained within Marxism! In the second half of
the 20th century we even saw the end of that mechanic model that
was the predictability of movement which came into existence with
Galileo and Newton, as we now know that the tiniest uncertainty in
the starting conditions makes the trajectory unpredictable, even by a
very few particles!

Dialectic materialism therefore induces a scheme of interpretation of
history based on successive stages (revolutions), as one can read in
the "History of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the USSR" in
the edition authorized by the Party's Central Committee.
It seems incredible that for so long scientific socialism was content
with such a simplistic and unreliable vision of history. And yet, until
not much more than ten years ago, historical materialism,
deterministic materialism and dialectic materialism were still being
mixed up and still are by most Marxist and other analysts. For
Anarchist Communists it is therefore doubly important that we
distinguish between them. It is important so that we can re-discover
the method of analysis that has guided the principal and best steps of
the anarchist movement since the time of Bakunin. Secondly, it is
important so that we can once again place the maximum importance
on the class nature of our struggle which has so often been forgotten
as a result of doctrinaire beliefs that reduce man to being a puppet,
incapable of acting and building a society for the benefit of man.

In fact, within the Anarchist movement, the terror of these
pre-conceived analyses of Marxism has led to a point-blank refusal
of it, even with regard to the parts of it that inspired the birth of the
workers' movement and on which even the militants of the First
International were agreed. But that is not all. It also led to certain
principles being rejected by some, merely because Marxism talked
about them, thereby forgetting that they were also basic principles of
Anarchism. They had existed even before Marx formulated them
and by abandoning them, the spirit that had inspired the movement
since its beginnings was lost.

6.2 Appendix 2: Anarchist communism and libertarian communism

6.2.1 Historical materialism as an instrument of analysis

Any activity designed to transform the present society with the aim
of organizing social life so that everyone, as individuals and as a
collective, can live free from need presupposes that there is a method
of analysis of the current situation.

For us, that method is historical materialism.

Historical materialism as a way to analyse historical facts, according
to Marx, Engels and also Bakunin, is the common heritage of the
exploited all over the world. Chapter 3.1 contained an effective
summary, made on the basis of experience gained by the exploited
in their struggles mainly since the Industrial Revolution. It is from
that period that the proletariat as a class was created thanks to
formation of large urban concentrations, the expulsion of poor
peasants from the countryside and the destruction of crafts due to
the changing production processes. However, it is on the analysis of
the classes that we find among the exploited the first division
between the two principal tendencies: the Anarchist tendency and
the Marxist tendency.

The former took account of the continual change in social
relationships and realized that the mass of the urban proletariat and
the poor peasants (expropriated by the development of capitalism)
would be willing to effect a radical and egalitarian transformation of
society in order to find an answer to their material needs.

The latter saw the proletariat in the factories as the sole enemy of
Capital and the development of productive forces as a progressive
proletarization of the exploited; it followed that once Capital were to
reach its maximum stage of development there would be a
corresponding stage of development of the proletariat.

This profound antagonistic contradiction would necessarily resolve
itself in the revolution, a moment of synthesis of the process of
historical development.

Finally, we must consider the problem of the relationship between
structure and superstructure as it divides the Marxist interpretation
of the situation from the historical materialist interpretation of
Anarchist Communists. Marx only vaguely defines this relationship,
prompting a wide range of interpretations from his followers, who for
the most part consider that the relationship is one of absolute
dependence of superstructure on structure.

The most obvious consequence of such a differentiation can be seen
in the conception of the State.

The State is considered by Marxists as a superstructure generated by
the structure of the capitalist economic system. As such the State
must be conquered and transformed, placing it at the service of the
working class as a tool for the construction of Socialism. This State,
controlled by the party, must be used against any attempted
resurgence of the bourgeoisie and to create the conditions necessary
for the successful development of Socialism and then Communism.
As the State gradually transforms its economic structure, the
conditions will be created for its disappearance. It is this conception
of the historical process that gives rise to the Marxist separation of
economic struggle and political struggle.

Anarchist Communists reject the clear separation between structure
and superstructure and consider the State as a superstructure in
continual transformation due to the evolving nature of capitalism
itself. We also consider the superstructure as a producer itself of
relevant effects on the structure. It follows that we believe that the
use of the State is incompatible with the end of destroying it. As firm
supporters of historical materialism, we believe that the way
Marxism overcomes the means-ends contradiction is merely a
dialectic trick. Throughout our history, Anarchist Communists have
held that the instrument of the transition to Socialism is the very act
of revolution, the people in arms and the widespread practice of

For Anarchist Communists, this means that there is no separation
between economic struggle and political struggle and that we should
constantly strive to unite the two and thus recompose the
contradiction on the terrain of the defence of the material and
historic needs of the exploited.

6.2.2 Organizational Dualism

The relationship between the masses and their most conscious
elements (the vanguard) is one of the fundamental problems
regarding the formulation of a revolutionary strategy. The absence of
a solution to this problem, or incorrect solutions to it, lie behind
every historical failure of each revolutionary project or else are the
basis of the failures in those countries where revolutions enjoyed
some initial success. No school of Marxism has yet clarified that
relationship in its essence, while on the part of Anarchists, the
rejection a priori of the concept of a vanguard (a word which evokes
an unwarranted idea of authority) has long impeded any detailed
explanation. The only clear thinking on the matter remains, even
after over a century, Bakunin.

A correct theory on historically and socially determined material
needs shows us that the satisfaction of them is in contradiction with
the capitalist system and that therefore seeking their satisfaction is
the basis for the definition of a revolutionary strategy and the
organization of the proletariat in the workplace (the mass
organization). The capitalist system has perfected a series of
instruments with which it can recover what it loses to workers'
demands, so it is perfectly utopistic to claim that the material needs
and their satisfaction can automatically provoke the end of
capitalism, ruined by its internal contradictions. The struggle for
material needs must also be the seed for class consciousness and the
basis on which a detailed strategy for attacking the capitalist system
can be grounded. It must also be a revolutionary strategy, which can
be a point of reference for the political growth of the proletariat in the
struggle and ensure an increase in those struggles as part of a
strategic process which will direct them towards the goal of the
revolution. An organization is therefore required for the development
of strategy and this organization (the specific organization) of
revolutionary proletarians must be based on a common theory. This
is organizational dualism. The Mass Organization

By mass organization we mean the organization which the masses
build for the defence of their interests. We can better explain by
trying to define the mass organization par excellence: the labour
union. It is formed in the workplace due to the precise material
needs of the working masses who make up its membership and who
control it directly. Its distinguishing features are:

* heterogeneity, due to the fact that its goal, independently of the
political ideas of its members, is not to unite people who are already
members of this party or that, but to unite all workers who share the
interests to be defended;

* direct action, by which we mean the first-hand running of the
struggles and agreement on demands, as a constant practice, in
other words within the labour union which guarantees control by the
workers. The labour union, as a mass organization, is therefore a
tool in the hands of the working classes for the improvement of their
economic conditions and for their emancipation, through
anti-capitalist struggle.

In all this, it must be remembered that the emancipation of the
workers is the fruit of constant struggle and not so much of
propaganda or ideological convictions. It must also be remembered
that direct action, an essential practice in the struggle for our needs,
is a guarantee that the union does not become the plaything of this
or that party, and that decision-making never becomes independent
of the assembly of workers. From this it derives that:

"the workers' organization must have a final goal and an immediate
goal. The final goal must be the expropriation of capital by the
associated workers, in other words restitution to the producers, and
for them to their associations, of all that the labour of the working
classes has produced, of everything that would have no value
without the labour of the workers. The immediate goal is to develop
increasingly the spirit of solidarity between the oppressed and
resistance against the oppressors, to keep the proletariat in practice
with the continual gymnastics of workers' struggle in all its various
forms, to conquer from capitalism today all that it is possible to grab
in terms of well-being and freedom, however little it may be."
(Fabbri) The Specific Organization

The specific organization, instead, is made up of the members of the
mass organization who share the same theory, the same strategy and
similar ideas on tactics. The task of this organization is, on the one
hand, to be the depository for the class memory and, on the other
hand, to elaborate a common strategy which can ensure the linking
of all the struggles by the class and which can stimulate and guide.
Having said this, we can easily establish the errors which led both to
the Leninist conception of the party (a political organization which
lies above the masses) and to the idea that the specific organization
is merely a connector between the various struggles and is without a
strategy or a revolutionary plan of its own. In the former case, the
party-guide is formed of elements which are not necessarily part of
the mass organization and so are external to it. It establishes a
political line which is then transmitted to the organizations, like a
drive belt. In the second case, it is the fear of a degeneration into
authoritarianism which causes the essential role of elaborating a
revolutionary strategy to be lost from sight. The specific
organization's members must bring this strategy with them into the
heart of the organizations of the working class if the specific
organization's actions are to be effective.

The need for the existence of the specific organization, its tasks and
its roles, has already been clearly set out by Bakunin:

"[...] to organize the masses, to firmly establish the beneficial action
of the International Workingmen's' Association on them, is would
be sufficient for even one out of every ten workers in the same
occupation to be a member of the appropriate section. This is clear.
In moments of great economic crisis, when the instinct of the
masses, inflamed to boiling point, opens up to every joyful
inspiration, when these hordes of men, enslaved, bowed, crushed
but never broken, finally revolt against their yoke, but feel
disoriented and impotent as they are completely disorganized, ten or
twenty or thirty men in close agreement and well connected to each
other, who know where they are going and what they want, will
easily be able to bring along one, two or three hundred or more. We
saw it recently during the Paris Commune. The real organization
which had only begun during the siege was not enough to create a
formidable capacity for resistance."


"[...] one could object that this manner of organizing the influence of
the International over the popular masses seems to wish to establish
on the ruins of the old authorities and existing governments a new
system of authority and a new government. But this would be a
grave error. The government of the international, if indeed there is a
government, or rather its organized action on the masses, will always
be different from every government and from the action of every
State because of this essential property. It is nothing more than the
organization of action (not official and non invested with any
authority or any political force, but absolutely natural) of a more or
less numerous group of individuals guided by the same principle and
working towards the same goal, first on the action of the masses and
only later, through the more or less modified opinion by the
international's propaganda, on their wishes and on their actions."

Here then are the characteristics of the specific organization:

* An organization which is an internal part of the mass organization
and not external to it means that members of the specific
organization must be class-struggle militants.

* It does not substitute the masses in revolutionary action, but rather
stimulates their political growth, their desire for self-management
and self-organization, leading to a revolutionary project.

* It is an inspiring, energetic force within the mass organization to
which it brings its strategy.

* For the very reason that members of the specific organization are
also members of the mass organization, as members of the mass
organization they bring to it their points of view in order that the
action of the masses can be strategically coordinated, with the aim of
reaching the revolutionary objective in the most efficient way
possible. Relationship between vanguard and mass

What relationship should develop between the specific organization
and the mass organization, between the vanguard and the mass,
between the anarchist party and the labour union? It is not sufficient
to impose the formula of the dialectic relationship, since that could
serve to hide a division between the economic and the political,
between class consciousness and the class. Let us straight away
state that as the members of the specific organization are at the same
time members of the mass organization, non-separation is
guaranteed. It cannot be imagined in Second-Internationalist terms
because it is obvious that the economic struggle is also political,
something that strikes at the heart of capitalist exploitation, and its
conquests need to be defended by including them as part of a
strategy for action (which is not necessarily the strategy of the
specific organization, but is more likely to be so the more the level of
class consciousness has grown in the masses and the better and
more expert is the work of the members of the specific organization
within the mass organization). It is also a guarantee that conquest of
the State is not proposed as a way to spark off the transition to
socialism, thereby privileging political and party struggle over
economic demands. The mass organization therefore loses its
function as a drive belt of the specific organization and instead
becomes the site of debate on the strategy defined by the specific
organization against the strategies proposed by other parties, but
above all confronting that strategy with the demands of action, the
level of growth of the masses and of their real needs.

The role of the specific organization is not recognized in any official
way within the mass organization. It is not, and must not be, a
recognized, institutionalized leadership which, as such, could
impose solutions and pretend (in the manner of the Leninists) to
represent the real interests of the proletariat. It is only a point of
debate and elaboration of politically homogeneous comrades who
prepare and finalize their work and their proposals on the basis of
their analysis and their ideology, without expecting it to be accepted
on the basis of delegation, but only by virtue of it being freely
accepted through debate within the mass organization. Any
acceptance of Anarchist Communist ideas is only further proof of
their correctness. Any refusal to accept them indicates an error of
analysis on the part of the Anarchist Communists and requires them
to revise the strategy or the tactic.

One last point remains to be clarified. The mass organization is not
built by the specific organization in its likeness, a toy for it to
influence or a place reserved for revolutionary proletarians. In other
words, it is not the revolutionary mass organization. Such an
organization would be a half-way house between party and mass.
Firstly, it would only represent a closing in on itself by the specific
organization, which would thus be idealistic, waiting for the
proletariat to accept its ideology simply because it is the best and the
most revolutionary - a form of politically impotent doctrinaire
simplisticism. Secondly, it would be a talking-shop for the vanguard,
reducing and sterilizing its internal debate and hiding within it a
vision of the masses needing to be civilized, masses who are
incapable of revolutionary action, a pure and simple army to be
manoeuvred by the winner of the dialectic clash between the
politicized elements. Debate must take place on the widest possible
level, not at the highest possible level; only at this level can there be
proper evaluation of the lines adopted by the various specific

6.2.3 Anarchist Communism and Libertarian Communism today

The experience of Spain also left its mark on the Italian Anarchist
movement even with the strict limits on its activity imposed as a
result of Fascist repression.

The heritage of the short-lived but fruitful Unione Comunista
Anarchica Italiana (later known as the Unione Anarchica Italiana)
was embraced in 1943 by groups which came together as the
Federazione Comunista Anarchica Italiana (Italian Anarchist
Communist Federation).

Together with this historic part of the Italian Anarchist movement
which benefited from the various experiences of Italian Anarchist
Communists, in the period following World War II there were also
two other tendencies (although all would later merge to form an
organization of synthesis, the Federazione Anarchica Italiana):

1. the Federazione Comunista Libertaria Alta Italia (Upper Italy
Libertarian Communist Federation), whose members were
Anarchist Communists but included also a sizeable fringe of more
generally libertarian elements who had moved closer to the
Anarchist movement thanks to the Resistance, making the FCLAI
an organization which was not homogeneously Anarchist
Communist in its strategy and theory;

2. a small individualist (or similar) area which was controlled by
people such as Cesare Zaccaria and others, which was to end up
disorienting a great many Anarchist Communist militants with their
positions, resulting in a predominantly nihilistic form of politics.
From the Carrara Congress on, they were to take over the leading
positions in the organization and ended up totally destroying any
class positions within the movement, with some comrades even
being driven towards the reformist parties.

This defeat which the Anarchist Communist movement suffered
during the post-war period and whose effects continued right up to
the early Seventies, was responded to by a sector of militants who in
their youth had been involved in the Resistance, who believed in the
watchwords launched after the war. After analysing the causes of the
nihilist positions which had come to the fore, they came to
understand that apart from the link with the class on the basis of
defence of the material and historical needs of the class, the
movement had failed to reconstruct those theoretical principles and a
tradition of elaboration which could bind the movement to Anarchist
tradition (from the First International through Anarcho-Syndicalism
to the struggle during the Spanish Revolution).

The experience of the Gruppi Anarchici di Azione Proletaria
(Proletarian Action Anarchist Groups -GAAP) was very important
for the Anarchist and proletarian movement and produced
theoretical and other material which was worthy of attention. On an
international level, the GAAP linked up with the Organisation
Pensée et Bataille (OPB) which was developing along similar lines
in France. The two organizations also founded a short-lived
Libertarian Communist International.

The fundamental error of these comrades was that they did not
understand the need for ideological, methodological and practical
links with the historical heritage of Anarchist Communism.
Believing themselves to be something new, something different, was
responsible for their failure to accept the benefits of a history rich in
experience and analysis, which could have ensured a link with the
masses as an essential historical component of the workers' and
peasants' movements. By allowing others a monopoly of and
domination over this area and by allowing the revisionists of
Anarchism free rein, they committed their greatest historical and
political mistake. The progressive loss of political identity was simply
a direct consequence of this choice. Their eventual enfeeblement as
revolutionary militants was a consequence of having lost sight of
every link with Anarchism and with the Anarchist Communist
heritage of culture and struggle. Inevitably, their progressive
isolation produced sterility within the organization which,
surrounded on either side by revisionist Anarchism and an equally
revisionist Marxism, produced that Libertarian Communism (a
synthesis of Anarchism and Marxism) that we know today.

The reply of the GAAP to this situation in 1956 was to join together
with other Marxist groups to form Azione Comunista (Communist
Action), a political area that was to survive as the only leftist faction
of the Partito Comunista Italiana (Italian Communist Party - PCI)
until 1961 when the first Marxist-Leninist groups appeared in Italy.
From that year on, the extra-parliamentary area left of the PCI
became stronger and stronger. A group of intellectuals and
syndicalists founded a new journal, Quaderni Rossi. Under the firm
leadership of Raniero Panieri, it would re-discover the experiences of
class spontaneity. The Partito Socialista di Unità Proletaria (Socialist
Party of Proletarian Unity), born from a left-wing split in the Partito
Socialista Italiana (Italian Socialist Party), occupied itself mainly
with collecting and guiding this experience, giving certain
intellectuals and syndicalists the opportunity to publish Classe
Operaia (1964-66). This marks a period of unity between some
Marxists who by now were aware of the shortcomings of traditional
Marxism in dealing with the problems posed by the class struggle
and comrades who had previously been part of the Syndicalist or
Anarchist Communist movement.

In 1968, the events of May in France began to produce their effects
in Italy, which until then had had a separate development. The
political actors mentioned above began to make their mark as
basically they were the only ones in any way ready for the clash. In
Pisa, Potere Operaio was born and, following a split within its ranks,
Potere Operaio, Lotta Continua and the Centro Carlo Marx. In these
organizations (except for the Centro Carlo Marx which merged with
the PCI in 1975 becoming its far right wing), there was a most
deleterious mixture of Leninism and spontaneism.

The crisis in these organizations and in others which had formed to
the left of the PCI together with the inability of the Anarchist
movement in general to rediscover its genuine origins in Anarchist
Communism with regard to theory and political practice, gave rise to
a mass of political activists who understood the spontaneous
behaviour of the masses to be the key to revolution. The new
"autonomous" movement attracted ex-members of the old Potere
Operaio, refugees from a number of neo-Leninist political
organizations and a good number of Anarchist groups (the Kronstadt
Group from Naples, the FCL in Rome, etc.) who had attempted to
re-discover Anarchist Communism by examining the ideas of the
Organization Platform but who quickly abandoned (like the GAAP)
the terrain of Anarchism and ended up becoming part of the hybrid
world of Libertarian Communism.

At this stage, the term "Libertarian Communism" was no longer
synonymous with "Anarchist Communism" (as it had been until the
1940s) and had taken on a new meaning. By now it indicated a
theory in which analysis of the role of the specific organization, the
mass organization and the relationship between the two, no longer
coincided with Anarchist Communist theory and practice. Elements
of Marxist analysis were introduced, such as the inevitability of the
fall of capitalism once it reached its highest stage of development,
the automatic nature of the struggles with regard to the economic
phase, and a view of the current crisis as being Capital's final crisis.

Having said all that, it is clear that we need to avoid the mistakes
which have been made up to now. Leaving aside how the various
organizations are named, we need to examine their content
continuously. We need to maintain our links with the heritage of
Anarchist Communist analysis. Together, we must define the
various stages in the organizational process which can allow
Anarchist Communists to ensure that every territorial group can
make an impact on the struggles by means of a strategy which is
firmly based on a common theory.

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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