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(en) Why We Joined NEFAC - By WAYNE PRICE and W.E.B.

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 3 Feb 2003 10:22:24 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

We are two members of the collective which publishes 
The Utopian. Recently we joined the Northeastern
Federation of Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC, commonly
referred to as "nee-fak"). We joined because we see the
need for a revolutionary transformation of society and the
replacement of its authoritarian capitalist structures with
organizational forms in which all people can participate 
in the making of all decisions which affect their lives. We
also see the need for anarchists who share such a vision to
be organized. Third, we believe that the working class 
will play a key role in the struggle against the inextricably
intertwined racist, sexist and national oppressions of the
present capitalist system.

Mass struggle against globalization, Genoa, Italy, 2001. (Marco di Lauro/AP)

NEFAC goes far in addressing these questions. First, it is 
a truly anarchist organization which forthrightly fights for 
the replacement of the present order with a democratic 
federation of popular councils. In this regard NEFAC rejects 
similar-appearing models put forth by social democrats 
and Marxist-Leninists as totalitarian prisons with the social
democrats and Marxist-Leninists as the keepers.

Second, NEFAC puts itself squarely in the pro-organizational
camp of anarchism. In particular, it is founded on the tradi-
tion of the Organizational Platform of the General Union of
Anarchists, written in 1926 by Nestor Makhno, Peter
Arsimov, and other exiled Russian and Ukrainian anarchists.

Following the Russian revolution and the state-capitalist
counter-revolution which followed, these revolutionary anti-
authoritarians tried to analyze why the anarchists had not
seen their vision fulfilled, despite their significant influence
among workers in Petrograd and Moscow and their leader-
ship in the Ukrainian insurgent army. They concluded that
the problem was the lack of organization of the anarchists.
While not considering this 70-year-old document to be
word-for-word revealed truth, NEFAC unapologetically 
is committed to its pro-organizational tradition, known as
"platformism." Given the worship of disorganization within
much of the anarchist movement, this view is extremely
important if millions of people are ever to coordinate 
themselves in a revolution.

Third, NEFAC is pro-working-class. It differs from those,
such as admirers of Murray Bookchin and various primitivists,
who think that the workers, as workers, are inevitably non-
revolutionary. It also differs from those who believe that the
European-descended part of the working class is hopelessly
poisoned by its racist privileges. NEFAC believes that the
multi-racial, multi-national, working class is uniquely capable
of stopping the wheels of capitalism and laying the footing for
a new and democratic society. NEFAC holds that other aspects
of oppression related to race, gender, nationality, sexual orien-
tation, etc., as well as ecological degradation, are also vitally
important. They are in fact completely tied together in the
present capitalist system. But at the same time a holistic
approach must not become an excuse for downplaying the
strategic importance of the working class.

As an organization NEFAC is committed to practical activism,
propaganda and the development of theory. It is, for example,
in the middle of anti-Nazi organizing and puts out several
journals. This distinguishes it from much of the anarchist left,
which tends to be either abstractly theoretical or (more often)
anti-intellectual and crudely activist.

NEFAC is binational and bilingual (English and French;
unfortunately, not yet Spanish). It is comprised of about 100
members and supporters, mostly in collectives from Quebec
to Maryland. By plan it is limited to northeastern North
America, which makes it possible for members to attend con-
ventions easily. NEFAC encourages anarchists in other regions
to form their own federations, which may eventually combine
into a broader North American organization, as well as affili-
ate internationally. Already a Federation of Revolutionary
Anarchist Collectives has formed in the Great Lakes area and
there are beginnings of federations in the Pacific Northwest
and in California. In short, anarchist organizing has begun to
catch up with the recent upsurge of anarchist activism begin-
ning with the 1999 Battle of Seattle.

Prior to joining NEFAC we had for nine years been part of
the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation. While
it existed, Love and Rage represented the first serious conti-
nental anarchist organization in decades. And before Love
and Rage we were members of the Revolutionary Socialist
League, a highly unusual Trotskyist grouping.

Why Were We Trotskyists?

It may be used against NEFAC that we were "Trots." This was
thrown in our faces more than once when we were in Love
and Rage. (Ironically, at the end we ex-Trotskyists fought for
anarchism in Love and Rage, while former anarchists turned
toward Marxism-Leninism!) A simple defense is to admit we
changed our minds over the years, and so what? Very few
people quote Kropotkin at the age of four. People have to
learn to be anarchists. This defense is valid as far as it goes,
but it does not tell the whole story. While we changed the for-
mal content of our politics, our political values have not
changed. We believed in Trotskyism (which included
Leninism and Marxism) because we thought it was the way to
achieve a revolutionary libertarian-democratic socialism. We
rejected it when we decided that it could not. We are commit-
ted to anarchism only so long as we think that socialist libera-
tion can be achieved through it.

When we were Trotskyists, we interpreted Marx, Lenin, and
Trotsky in the most anti-authoritarian way we could, giv-
ing them the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. (By
"we," this includes most of the Revolutionary Socialist
League or RSL.) We focused on Marx's writings on the
Paris Commune (The Civil War in France) and Lenin's State
and Revolution. These interpreted the "dictatorship of the
proletariat" as a Commune-type of semi-state. It would be,
we thought, composed of the self-organized vast majority
of workers, and would begin immediately to "wither away,"
even as it suppressed (dictated to) the capitalist minority.
We liked Trotsky's advocacy in the Thirties, in his
Transitional Program, of replacing the bureaucratic-mili-
tary state with multi-party, multi-tendency, soviets (work-
ers' councils) in the USSR (and in revolutionary Spain).
With a certain amount of stretching, these views made it
possible to interpret Marxism as libertarian-democratic
socialism. We still believe in the central idea of replacing
the racist-patriarchal-capitalist state with a Commune-type
of council system.

Because of this view, we always rejected the claims of
Trotsky and the orthodox Trotskyists that the Soviet Union
and Eastern Europe were some sort of "workers' states,"
degenerated, deformed, or merely dysfunctional. The issue
was not a sociopolitical analysis of the Soviet Union. It was
a question of what you thought socialism (or a workers'
state) really was. The orthodox followers of Trotsky
thought that what made a system a "workers' state" was
whether it had nationalized property and a "planned"
economy. Even though they knew that the actual Russian
state was a totalitarian nightmare for the workers, they
insisted that its nationalized property forms put it on the
road to socialism. Instead we thought that worker control,
workers' democracy, was the central issue of what made a
collectivized economy progressive or state-capitalist.
We believed that activism, without a revolutionary program,
was mindless running around, while a program, without being
part of mass struggles, was a blank letter. Central to
Trotskyism, so we thought, was an effort to combine participa-
tion in the workers' lives with the open and honest statement
of revolutionary politics. In Trotsky's terms, we thought it was
important to "say what is," to tell the truth to working people.
It was not to find out whatever was popularly believed
(whether or not we thought it was true) and to tail along
behind it (the approach of the social democrats or of the
Maoist "mass line"). The concepts of the united front, transi-
tional demands, and permanent revolution were strategic
approaches to combine nonsectarian participation in popular
struggles with raising the need for revolutionary socialism.
Not that we always did it right, but we made a real effort to
find the best balance.

For this reason, we were sharply critical of the various
Trotskyist sectarians, such as the Spartacist League, who
made a program out of being offensive. But we also reject-
ed the accommodating politics of the softer wing of
Trotskyism, which today has become the International
Socialist Organization and also Solidarity in the U.S. We
rejected their electoral approaches (such as the Peace and
Freedom Party, a middle class protest party, forerunner of
the present Green Party and Labor Party efforts). We felt
that they were correct to support liberal oppositionists in
the unions, but that they did so in an opportunist fashion,
without raising political criticisms or stating a revolution-
ary program. In effect they were preparing to become the
left wing of the union bureaucracy. The positive and nega-
tive aspects of their approach may be seen today in the
development of Teamsters for a Democratic Union.

Over time we concluded that the faults we saw in the
Trotskyist movement were more deeply rooted than we had
first thought. The RSL reassessed its views of Trotskyism,
then of Leninism, and finally even of Marxism. Several
people played key roles in this reconsideration of our tra-
dition, especially Ron Tabor. We decided that, for example,
Lenin's belief that his Marxism was the Absolute Truth (a
belief based in Marx's Marxism) played a part in the devel-
opment of state capitalism in the Soviet Union. The final
result of our discussions was the dissolution of the RSL
and the merger of a handful of our members into the new
Love and Rage Federation--as anarchists.

Our Hopes

We think that NEFAC has a great future ahead, as part of
the North American and international anarchist upsurge.
It is not perfect, and is still feeling its way. Despite an
effort to base itself on a unified tradition of anarcho-com-
munism, it is pretty heterogeneous in actual political views
on many topics. But it is committed to discussion,
internally and externally, to develop its theoretical views.
It is correct to base itself on the communist tradition 
within anarchism, but using the label "communist," after
decades of Russian so-called Communism, creates an
unnecessary barrier between it and many working people.
To most people, "anarcho-communist" sounds like "liber-
tarian-totalitarian." While we reject the democratic 
centralist or vanguardist concepts of Lenin, we continue to
believe in the need for revolutionary organization--which
is why we are platformists. But NEFAC still seems to be
more a network of collectives than a coherent federation.

It is mainly coordinated through the Internet 
(transparently in front of the state). We will work to
change this in the future.

Sometimes, too, NEFAC members seem to us to be rigid 
and dogmatic when discussing post-revolutionary society,
implying that it is necessary to  everywhere leap immediately
to a  stateless, moneyless, purely communist society. We 
suspect that different regions will try out different ways of
implementing libertarian socialist goals, in  experimental and
pluralistic fashions. We did not reject orthodox Marxism in
order to become orthodox anarcho-communists (whatever
that would be). This is one reason we value the open 
discussions within NEFAC.

NEFAC is right on the controversial issues of the anarchist
movement. It is for real democracy and revolution, against
primitivism, and for the working class. We are proud to be
part of it.

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