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(en) UK, Black Flag - FOR ANARCHIST RESISTANCE, Marxism 2003 Special - The State or Revolution

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 8 Sep 2003 13:22:24 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
News about and of interest to anarchists
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During the run-up to the Iraq invasion, Blair was praised for
ignoring the wishes of the general public. Over a million
marched for peace, he went to war. This was called "good
Anarchists were not surprised. We have
long argued that the state was designed for
minority class rule, to exclude the majority
from social decision making. Only in this
way can class society be maintained. For
this reason we are opposed to the state,
which exists to protect the interests of a
privileged minority (today, the capitalist
class). Blair's actions expose the hypocrisy
of capitalist democracy -- claiming to
represent the people while disempowering
them in favour of the rule of capital.
For Marxists, the issue of the state is
different. While agreeing with anarchism
that the current state is an instrument of
capitalist rule, they argue that a new kind of
state (a "workers' state") can be created in
which working class people can run society.
This state exists to defend the revolution
and would "wither away" over time.
Anarchists disagree. As the state is based
on the delegation and centralisation of
power, real democracy is only possible
once it is destroyed. Turning the
organisations created by the working class
during the revolution into a state would
destroy them, making them little more than
rubber stamps for the party leaders. A new
ruling class would develop and the
"dictatorship of the proletariat" would
become the dictatorship over the proletariat.
The revolution, anarchists argued, can
defend itself without a state.

Rhetoric or Reality?
Until October 1917, these discussions were
limited to theory. Then, with the Russian
Revolution, there was a chance to see who
was right. Ironically, both Leninists and
anarchists say it confirms their ideas.
The former argue that it shows that
Leninism stands for real democracy and
socialism, that it confirms the validity of
Marxism and its ideas on changing society.
The latter argue that it shows the utter
bankruptcy of Marxism. For anarchists, the
Russian revolution was destroyed by
Leninist practice and ideas. Economically,
the Bolshevik version of socialism was
simply state capitalism. Politically, the
soviets became a thin veneer for party
So how can one event have such diverse
interpretations? Quite easily. Marxists
concentrate on what the Bolsheviks said
before they seized power while anarchists
look at what they said and did afterwards.
As Marx said, we can only judge a person
by what they do, not what they say.
Sadly, most Leninists seem strangely
adverse to Marx's comments. When
confronted with the reality of Lenin's
Russia we are told to read his "State and
Revolution." Which is as unconvincing as
Tony Blair asking us to forget the invasion
of Iraq by pointing out that it was not in
the New Labour election manifesto.

State and Revolution
No one can deny that Lenin's "State and
Revolution" is a classic, if flawed, work.
Much that passes for "Marxism" in it is
pure anarchism. For example, the
substitution of revolutionary militias for
professional armed bodies and the
substitution of organs of self-management
for parliamentary bodies can all be found in
Bakunin. This explains its numerous straw
man arguments against anarchism. What is
authentically Marxist in Lenin's work is the
call for "strict centralism" and the equation of soviets
with a "new" state.
This was its downfall. Lenin's "workers' state"
just became the same as the old state. So to discuss
"State and Revolution" without indicating this suggests a lack
of honesty. We cannot look at Bolshevik theory and not its practice.

**************LENIN History's "Hidden Democrat"speaks! *************
"the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised through
an organisation embracing the whole of the class, because in all
capitalist countries... the proletariat is still so divided, so
degraded, and so corrupted in parts... that an organisation
taking in the whole proletariat cannot direct exercise proletarian
dictatorship. It can be exercised only by a vanguard."
"He says that we understand by the words dictatorship of
the proletariat what is actually the dictatorship of its determined
and conscious minority. And that is the fact."
"Socialism is nothing but state capitalist monopoly made to benefit the
whole people."
"When we are reproached with having established a dictatorship of
one party... we say, `Yes, it is a dictatorship of one party! This
is what we stand for and we shall not shift from that position.'"
"Our party aims to obtain political power for itself."
"there is not the least contradiction between soviet (i.e., socialist)
democracy and the use of dictatorial power by a few persons."
**************LENIN History's "Hidden Democrat"speaks! *************

Lenin in power
For Bolshevism, "workers' power" was identified with
party power.
Throughout 1917, Lenin argued for the Bolsheviks to
seize power, by means of the soviets. And in
October, it was the Bolsheviks who seized
power, not the working class or its soviets.
Soon, from bottom to top, the soviets
became marginalised, with effective power
relentlessly gravitating to the party.
The Bolsheviks originally did have
working class support, but this does not
equal working class people running society.
This became clear once the workers turned
away from them -- the Bolsheviks simply
refused to be held accountable to the soviets
whose power they had usurped.
Faced with loosing soviet elections across
Russia in the spring and summer of 1918,
the Bolsheviks simply disbanded, by force,
any soviet elected with a non-Bolshevik
majority. In Petrograd and Moscow,
elections were postponed until the
Bolsheviks gerrymandered the soviets to
ensure their majority, making the results of
the workplace elections irrelevant.

This attack on workers' freedom occurred everywhere. The
Bolsheviks abolished the election of officers in the Red Army and
replaced workers' self-management in production with one-man
management. The workers' factory committees were overruled by
the party leadership, who preferred state control over workers'
control. By April, 1918, Lenin was arguing for "obedience, and
unquestioning obedience at that, during work to the one-man
decisions of Soviet directors, of the dictators elected or appointed by
Soviet institutions, vested with dictatorial powers." What counted
was not workplace democracy, but state property and Bolshevik
power. Capitalism was simply replaced with state capitalism.
Lenin reneged on his promise to replace the army and police by
"the armed masses of workers." Instead he created a political police
force (the Cheka) and a normal army -- special, professional, armed
forces standing apart from the people and unaccountable to them.
They had to be, as they repressed working class unrest under Lenin.
Thus, by the summer of 1918, Russia was under the de facto
dictatorship of the Bolshevik party. Instead of "all power to the
soviets" we got "all power to the party."
Leninists try to distance themselves from Stalinism, correctly
arguing that it was a brutal and undemocratic system. The problem is
that it was Lenin and Trotsky rather then Stalin who first shot
strikers, banned left papers, radical organisations and party factions,
sent workers and revolutionaries to the gulags, advocated and
introduced one-man management and piece-work in the workplace,
eliminated democracy in the military and shut down soviets who
elected the `wrong' delegates.

International Capitalism made me do it!
Faced with these facts, Leninists argue that "objective" factors
account for this failure of Bolshevism, not its ideology.
Foremost of these is the Civil War. Yet this is easily refuted as the
elimination of soviet, workplace and military democracy, the attacks
on opposition groups as well as basic civil liberties occurred before it
began. And it is illogical. Leninists argue for a "workers' state"
because, to quote Lenin, they know that no revolution "has escaped
civil war." So if civil war is inevitable, then how can it be blamed for
the failure of Bolshevism? Even if this excuse was factually correct
(and it is not) then it is a damning indictment of Leninism.
Another excuse is that the working class was so decimated that the
replacement of class power by party power was inevitable. Yet this
substitution occurred from day one, when the Bolsheviks took state
power. Moreover, the Russian workers were capable of collective
action throughout this period. Every year saw massive strike waves
periodically sweeping across Russia, waves which the Bolsheviks
meet with state repression. A "decimated" and "atomised" working
class does not require martial law and lockouts to control!
Yet it did not have to be like that. There was an alternative which
shows that Bolshevik ideology played a key role in the failure of the
revolution and the rise of Stalinism. The anarchist influenced
Makhnovist movement showed that soviet democracy and workers'
control were possible in Russia at this time. They promoted
workers' and peasants' control. They practised freedom of speech
and assembly. They called democratic soviet congresses. The army
was democratic. They did everything Lenin promised but failed to
deliver. Unsurprisingly, the Bolsheviks betrayed them

Keeping the rabble in line
Anarchists argue that the state is structured like it is, with the
centralisation of power at the top, to ensure that the masses are
disempowered and cannot influence decisions, never mind run
society itself. Once in power, the Bolshevik leaders soon became
converts to this aspect of the state. For them, a public power
distinct from the masses was a good thing precisely because it
deterred democracy. Even worse, for all the leading Bolsheviks party
dictatorship became an essential aspect of any revolution.
By 1921 Trotsky was arguing that the party was "obliged to
maintain its dictatorship, regardless of temporary wavering even in
the working classes" for it was " entitled to assert its dictatorship
even if that dictatorship temporarily clashed with the passing moods
of the workers' democracy." This was no temporary aberration.
Sixteen years later, he repeated the same argument:"the revolutionary
party (vanguard) which renounces its own dictatorship surrenders
the masses to the counter-revolution." It was the "revolutionary
party... seizing power," rather than the whole working class, for
"those who propose the abstraction of Soviets to the party
dictatorship should understand that only thanks to the party
dictatorship were the Soviets able to lift themselves out of the
mud of reformism and attain the state form of the proletariat."
His defence of party power over people power was based
not on defence of the revolution. Rather "the necessity for state
power arises from an insufficient cultural level of the masses
and their heterogeneity." The state was required because the
masses could not govern themselves. As he put it two years
later, "the very same masses are at different times inspired by
different moods and objectives. It is just for this reason that a
centralised organisation of the vanguard is indispensable. Only
a party, wielding the authority it has won, is capable of
overcoming the vacillation of the masses themselves . . . if the
dictatorship of the proletariat means anything at all, then it
means that the vanguard of the proletariat is armed with the
resources of the state in order to repel dangers, including those
emanating from the backward layers of the proletariat itself."
Of course, everyone is "backward" compared to the
vanguard, so party dictatorship is the logical conclusion. A
conclusion that neither Trotsky nor Lenin was shy in drawing
or applying. Yet modern day Leninists ask us to forget this and
the period he and Lenin held state power in favour of a glorified
election manifesto!
For Lenin in power, "revolutionary coercion is bound to be
employed towards the wavering and unstable elements among
the masses themselves." Ironically, "State and Revolution"
comes back to haunt him. There he had argued it was "clear that
where there is suppression there is also violence, there is no
freedom, no democracy." If the working class itself is being
subject to "revolutionary" suppression by the vanguard then,
clearly, there is "no freedom, no democracy" for our class. Nor
was there under Bolshevism.

State or Revolution?
Thus anarchism was confirmed by Bolshevism in power. No
state can represent the interests of the working classes due to its
centralised and hierarchical nature -- all it can do is represent
the interests of the elite in power, its own bureaucratic needs
and privileges and slowly, but surely, remove itself from
popular control. Bolshevism was no exception.
The state implies the delegation of power and initiative into
the hands of a few leaders who form the "revolutionary
government." Yet the power of any revolution derives from the
decentralisation of power, from the active participation of the
masses in the collective social movement and the direct action it
generates. As soon as this power passes out of the hands of the
working class, the revolution is doomed: the counter-revolution
has begun and it matters little that it is draped in a red flag.
Hence anarchist opposition to the state.
But does it matter? Yes, because modern day Leninists think
we should follow the Bolshevik model. They argue for a
centralised vanguard party and the creation of a "workers'
state." This shapes their attitude to current movements as well
as socialism, shaping both in their own image. Yet these
hierarchical, centralised, top-down structures hinder
participation and initiative, alienating the many and turning
them into spectators in their own struggles. As in capitalism, a
formal democracy (sometimes not even that!) hides the
domination of a few leaders. Rather than build the new world in
the struggle against the old, Leninism reproduces all the
problems of class society in "revolutionary" movements.
Ultimately, they deter not only socialism but the struggle to
make things better today.
The issue is simple. Either you have a participatory
federation of directly democratic workplace and community
assemblies (anarchism) or you have a state with party power in
the name of the masses (Bolshevism). The fundamental flaw in
Leninism is that it confuses the two and ensures the result
anarchists predicted so accurately.

The SWP versus Anarchism

Here are a few quotes from Pat Stack's Socialist Review article
"Anarchy in the UK?" which formed the basis of his talk at Marxism
2001. Ask yourself why the SWP leadership systematically lies about
anarchism and, more importantly, why its membership lets them get
away with it. Can you trust anything they tell you?
"Anarchism... despises the collectivity... By dismissing the importance
of the collective nature of change anarchism, of necessity, downplays
the centrality of the working class... For... anarchists, revolutions were
not about... collective struggle" (Stack)
"Organise ever more strongly the practical militant solidarity of the
workers of all trades in all countries... you will constitute an
immense irresistible force when organised and united in the
universal collectivity." (Bakunin)
"To be able to make the revolution, the mass of workers will have to
organise themselves. Resistance and the strike are excellent means of
organisation for doing this... It is a question of organising societies
of resistance for all trades in each town... of giving more solidarity to
the workers' organisations... of federating them." (Kropotkin)
"the idea that dominates anarchist thought, namely that the state is the
main enemy, rather than identifying the state as one aspect of a class
society that has to be destroyed." (Stack)
"The Anarchists consider the wage system and capitalist production
altogether as an obstacle to progress... while combatting the present
monopolisation of land, and capitalism altogether, the Anarchists
combat with the same energy the State." (Kropotkin)
"I think that equality must be established... by... the collective
ownership of producers' associations, freely organised and federated
into communes... [and] by the development and organisation... of the
social power of the working masses... The future social organisation
must be made solely from the bottom upwards, by the free association
or federation of workers, firstly in their unions, then in the
communes, regions, nations and finally in a great federation,
international and universal." (Bakunin)
"State is there to protect exploitation, speculation and private
property; it is itself the by-product of the rapine of the people. The
proletariat must rely on his own hands; he can expect nothing of the
State. It is nothing more than an organisation devised to hinder
emancipation at all costs." (Kropotkin)
"For Bakunin . . . skilled artisans and organised factory workers, far
from being the source of the destruction of capitalism, were `tainted by
pretensions and aspirations' . . . the `uncivilised, disinherited,
illiterate', as he put it, would be his agents for change." (Stack)
"Organise the city proletariat . . . unite it into one preparatory
organisation together with the peasantry . . . Only a wide-sweeping
revolution embracing both the city workers and peasants would be
sufficiently strong to overthrow . . . the State, backed as it is by all the
resources of the possessing classes." (Bakunin)
"Kropotkin, far from seeing class conflict as the dynamic for social
change... saw co-operation being at the root of the social process... It
follows that if class conflict is not the motor of change, the working
class is not the agent and collective struggle not the means." (Stack)
"Anarchists... have endeavoured to promote their ideas directly
amongst the labour organisations and to induce those unions to a
direct struggle against capital, without placing their faith in
parliamentary legislation." (Kropotkin)
"The union is absolutely necessary. It is the only form of workers'
grouping which permits the direct struggle to be maintained against
capital without falling into parliamentarism." (Kropotkin)
"The huge advantage [anarcho-syndicalists] had over other
anarchists was their understanding of the power of the working class,
the centrality of the point of production (the workplace) and the need
for collective action." (Stack)
"To become strong you must unite... nothing less is needed than the
union of all local and national workers' associations into a
worldwide association... It means workers' solidarity in their struggle
against the bosses. It means trades-unions, organisation." (Bakunin)
"Anarchists have always advised taking an active part in those
workers' organisations which carry on the direct struggle of Labour
against Capital and its protector -- the State." (Kropotkin)

Another world is possible?
Carlo Giuliani's father said that "Carlo didn't accept the notion that
eight leaders of the world should decide the life and death of
hundreds of thousands of people." A perspective we can all agree
with. Let us see if the Bolshevism is an improvement. In Left-wing
Communism we find Lenin describing the Bolshevik regime as
"The Party, which holds annual congresses... , is directed by a
Central Committee of nineteen elected at the congress... This, then,
looks like a real `oligarchy.' Not a single important political
decision is decided by any State institution in our republic without
the guiding instructions of the Central Committee of the Party..."
Combined with "non-Party workers' and peasants' conferences"
and Soviet Congresses, this was "the general mechanism of the
proletarian state power viewed `from above,' from the standpoint of
the practical realisation of the dictatorship." And so "all talk about
`from above' or `from below,' about `the dictatorship of leaders' or
`the dictatorship of the masses,' cannot but appear to be ridiculous,
childish nonsense."
Yet if the congresses of soviets were "more democratic" than
anything in the "best democratic republics of the bourgeois world,"
why did the Bolsheviks need non-Party conferences "to be able to
watch the mood of the masses, to come closer to them, to respond to
their demands"?
And how did Lenin "respond" to their "demands"? The
conferences met a similar fate to the soviets in 1918: they were
disbanded. For during the labour disturbances of late 1920 and early
1921 they provided an effective platform for criticism of Bolshevik
policies. The Bolshevik repression of the revolts, strikes and protests
explains why Lenin did not bother to view "proletarian state power"
from "below," from the perspective of the working class.
So the difference is clear. Under capitalism, 8 people make life and
death decisions for millions. Under Bolshevism, 19 people made them.
A massive improvement in terms of freedom and democracy, all
would agree.

Think all these quotes are out of context? Then visit these webpages on
the anarchist critique of Marxism to get references and context:
Anarchism and the Left: www.anarchism.ws/left.html
Criticising the authoritarian "left": www.infoshop.org/texts/iso.html
An Anarchist FAQ on Marxism: www.infoshop.org/faq/secHcon.html

Whatis Anarchism?
History has spoken. Marxism has failed. Its main forms, Social Democracy and
Bolshevism, proved anarchism right. The former became as reformist as we
predicted. The Russian Revolution showed that the dictatorship of the
proletariat would become the dictatorship over the proletariat.
But there is an alternative to Leninism's state capitalism and party power. It is
called anarchism, a socialism which places freedom and working class
management of society at the core of its vision of struggle, revolution and
socialism. For anarchists, these are not optional extras which can be dispensed
with as long as the right party holds state power. Not for anarchists the
Bolshevik refrain of "defending the gains of the revolution" while violently
repressing working class revolts for freedom and real democracy.

So what does anarchism stand for?
Many take Lenin's comments in "State and
Revolution" seriously when he asserted
anarchists "while advocating the
destruction of the state machine, have
absolutely no idea of what the proletariat
will put in its place" and that we would "lay
down our arms" after a revolution. This is
rubbish, as Bakunin argued:
"the federative alliance of all working
men's associations... constitute the
Commune... all provinces, communes and
associations... constitute the federation of
insurgent associations, communes and
provinces... [to] organise a revolutionary
force capable defeating reaction... [and] for
the purpose of self-defence... revolution
everywhere must be created by the people,
and supreme control must always belong to
the people organised into a free federation
of agricultural and industrial associations...
organised from the bottom upwards by
means of revolutionary delegation."
Socialism will be free, or it will not be at all
Anarchists know what we will replace the
state and capitalism with, a free federation of
the directly democratic organisations created
in the class struggle. These organs of class
power will be the framework of a free society.
Capitalism can only be destroyed when
workers expropriate their workplaces directly,
using direct action to kick out the bosses.
Once under workers' management, their
socialisation is achieved by them federating
together. The state will be destroyed by a
federation of community assemblies. In both
cases, decisions flow from the bottom-up by
means of mandated and recallable delegates.
Such a system is no impossible dream, it has
existed in every popular revolution.
Our goal is freedom, equality and solidarity.
All three are interdependent. Without
equality, freedom is meaningless. And
equality must be political as well as economic.
There can be no equality between those in
government and those subject to it and so
equality without freedom is impossible.
Anarchists, therefore, are the most logical
and complete socialists, since we demand for
every person not just their part of society's
wealth but also their portion of social power.
Real socialism, anarchism, will be created
and run from below. We reject the simplistic
Marxist idea that the state is "an armed
machine." This fails to address the real issue,
namely that of power. Anarchists know that a
revolution needs defending. The real question is
who has the power. Is it the working class, in its
own class organisations, or will it be a
"revolutionary" government, a handful of leaders
at the top using the state machine to impose its
own concept on socialism onto the masses?

Anarchy in Action

Revolutionary anarchism sees class struggle as the
only means of changing society. We need to
organise collectively in our communities and
workplaces to make real change. Only direct action
and solidarity can create a power capable of not
only resisting current oppression and injustice but
also of changing society.
Anarchists reject electioneering. One hundred
years of it produced Blair. Nor do we think
marching from A to B is sufficient. If the millions
who marched on February 15th had also used
direct action to bring the world to a halt, then war
in Iraq could have been stopped. We need to
regain a sense of our own power to change things
and that can only happen when we organise
outside parliament and take direct action. Whether
its stopping a war, getting a pay rise or saving a
hospital or school, it gets results.
Anarchism is not some distant dream. We can
apply it in our struggles and organisations today.
Real democracy is impossible without the active
and permanent participation of all the members of a
group, something centralisation, by its nature,
excludes. So a revolutionary organisation must
reflect this, being run from the grass-roots
upwards, directly democratic and co-ordinated by
mandated, recallable delegates. Only self-
management today can ensure freedom and
equality after the revolution.
If we want to change the world, we must start by
changing the way we organise and fight today.
1. The SWP like to include Lenin in the tradition they
call "socialism from below." Would he have agreed?
2. The SWP portray Trotsky as supporting "workers'
democracy" against Stalinism. What was unusual
about his position?
3. The SWP point to the Spanish Revolution of 1936
to prove anarchism is flawed. What was Trotsky's
advice to the Spanish workers?
4. Churchill infamously wanted to gas rebels in Iraq in
the 1920s. Which equally famous politician wanted to
do the same to rebel workers in Russia around the
same time?

Answers to Anarcho-Quiz
1. No. He was clear that "the organisational principle of revolutionary
Social-Democracy" was to "proceed from the top downward." It was
"opportunist Social-Democracy" which strove "to proceed from the bottom
upward" (the "overzealous" carried this "to the point of anarchism").
2. He redefined "workers' democracy" to mean "democracy within the
party" while supporting party dictatorship. 1923 saw him argue that the
"dictatorship of the Party" did "not require revision." In 1927, it was a case
of "the Leninist principle, inviolable for every Bolshevik, that the
dictatorship of the proletariat is and can be realised only through the
dictatorship of the party."The 1930s saw similar comments.
3. He argued that "because the leaders of the CNT renounced dictatorship
for themselves they left the place open for the Stalinist dictatorship." This
was because the "dictatorship of a proletarian party" was an "objective
necessity." So much for "workers' power."
4. Trotsky. He planned to use poison gas against the Kronstadt rebels
revolting for soviet democracy in 1921 if conventional warfare failed.
Out of Context?

Black Flag

For a social system based on
mutual aid and voluntary co-
operation; against state control
and all forms of government
and economic repression. To
establish a share in the
general prosperity for all - the
breaking down of racial,
religious, national and sex

Black Flag
BM Hurricane, London,

Anarchist Federation
Solidarity Federation
Class War
Anarchist Youth Network

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