For a real anti-capitalism!

Our account of past struggles is not simply a history lesson. Nor is it an attempt to mire the current struggle and movement in past controversies. Rather it is an attempt to contribute to a movement which must look to the future. To do so, we must understand the past in order to avoid repeating previous mistakes and dead-ends. To move forward we must reject those ideologies which failed in the past but which linger on like the undead in our midst.

We are extremely happy that many in the current anti-globalisation movement have embraced anarchist ideas and practice and that our ideas obviously appeal to activists and meet their needs. If anarchism is gaining influence it is because the activists are themselves drawing similar conclusions from their own experiences and analyses. A new generation of activists are developing their own theories based on a critical dialogue with previous revolutionary ides and their own experiences. This is an extremely positive sign. We have a lot in common and can learn from each other.

What is anarchism?

Anarchism is one of the most misrepresented idea around. The media tries to portray it as mindless violence, as chaos. The "revolutionary" left paints a different, but equally false, picture. Some claim that we reject collective class struggle, are "backward looking," that we think that the state is the main enemy, that we think that ruling class will disappear without a fight, and other such nonsense. The truth is different.

"The basic idea of Anarchism is simple," argued Voline, "no party . . . placed above or outside the labouring masses . . . ever succeeds in emancipating them . . . Effective emancipation can only be achieved by the direct, widespread, and independent action of those concerned, of the workers themselves, grouped, not under the banner of a political party . . . but in their own class organisations (productive workers' unions, factory committees, co-operatives, et cetra) on the basis of concrete action and self-government."1

The seeds of anarchy are created in struggle. By fighting for change, those involved have to organise themselves, to management their own affairs, to make their own decisions. They can see that bosses and politicians are not needed. The class struggle is the school of anarchism.

Therefore how we organise under capitalism is very important. Anarchists stress building the new world in the shell of the old. We argue for revolutionary groups based on self-management, federalism and decision making from below. We apply within our organisations the same principles which the working class has evolved in the course of its own struggles. Autonomy is combined with federalism, so ensuring co-ordination of decisions and activities is achieved from below upwards by means of mandated and recallable delegates. Effective co-operation is achieved as it is informed by and reflects the needs on the ground. Simply put, working class organisation and discipline as exemplified by the workers' council represents a completely different thing from capitalist organisation and discipline, of which Bolshevism constantly asks for more (albeit draped with the Red Flag and labelled "revolutionary").

Anti-Statism

Instead of a workers' state (a contradiction in terms) run from the top-down by a "revolutionary" government, anarchists argue for a free federation of working class organisations, "the system of the Republic-Commune, the Republic-Federation, i.e. the system of Anarchism. This is the politics of the Social Revolution, which aims at the abolition of the State and establishment of the economic, entirely free organisation of the people organisation from bottom to top by means of federation."2

This federation of free communes is based on workers' councils ("soviets"), with the "federative Alliance of all working men's associations . . . will constitute the Commune," with the "Communal Council composed of . . . delegates . . . vested with plenary but accountable and removable mandates." The "federation of insurgent associations, communes and provinces" would "organise a revolutionary force capable defeating reaction . . . [and for] self-defence." The 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. . ."3

In other words, a real socialism from below based on federations of workplace and community assemblies, a socialism which is libertarian and which does not equate party power with popular power.

Anti-capitalism

Anarchism argues that real anti-capitalism has to be based on "worker's associations" as these are "a protest against the wage system" and the "denial of the rule of capitalists." Without these, as Bolshevism showed, people "remain related as subordinates and superiors, and there would ensue two industrial castes of masters and wage-workers, which is repugnant to a free and democratic society."4 In anarchy "capital and all tools of labour belong to the city workers to the workers associations. The whole organisation of the future should be nothing but a free federation of workers agricultural workers as well as factory workers and associations of craftsmen." The "future organisation of society must proceed from the bottom up only, through free association or federations of the workers, into their associations to begin with, then into communes, regions, nations and, finally, into a great international and universal federation."5

An anarchist society is based on federations of decentralised communities in which production would be based on the "scattering of industries over the country so as to bring the factory amidst the fields . . . agriculture . . . combined with industry . . . to produce a combination of industrial with agricultural work." In this decentralised, federated communal society, "the workers" would be "the real managers of industries," and there would be "countless variety of workshops and factories which are required to satisfy the infinite diversity of taste." The future workplace will be "airy and hygienic, and consequently economical, . . . in which human life is of more account than machinery and the making of extra profits." The "machine will supersede hand-work in the manufacture of plain goods. But at the same time, hand-work very probably will extend its domain in the artistic finishing of many things which are now made entirely in the factory." 6 Production would serve all the needs of people, not vice versa.

Anarchism is based on critical evaluation of technology, rejecting the whole capitalist notion of "progress" which has always been part of justifying the inhumanities of the status quo. Just because something is rewarded by capitalism it does not mean that it makes sense from a human or ecological perspective. This informs our vision of a free society and the current struggle.

We have long argued that that capitalist methods cannot be used for socialist ends. In our battle to democratise and socialise the workplace, in our awareness of the importance of collective initiatives by the direct producers in transforming their work situation, we show that factories are not merely sites of production, but also of reproduction the reproduction of a certain structure of social relations based on the division between those who give orders and those who take them, between those who direct and those who execute.

Such a society will take time to create. Anarchists "do not believe that in any country the Revolution will be accomplished at a stroke, in the twinkling of a eye, as some socialists dream."7 By applying our ideas today, we will be help made this revolution deeper and more successful when it occurs. The Spanish Revolution of 1936 proves this, with years of anarchist organising and struggle ensuring the deepest social transformation the world has yet seen and creating a firm foundation for future progress.

Building the future in the present!

As history shows, to get real change we have to impose from the streets and workplaces that which politicians are incapable of realising in parliament and anarchists organise accordingly. We argue that the working class "must organise their powers apart from and against the State," by building "the social (and therefore anti-political) organisation and power of the working masses of the cities and villages."8 This means encouraging direct action, solidarity and community and workplace assemblies in the struggle for improvements under capitalism. By "combining theory and practice" and organising in this way we build "the living germs of the new social order, which is to replace the bourgeois world," so creating "not only the ideas but also the facts of the future itself."9

In organising resistance in the workplace and community we can create a network of activists and groups which can encourage a spirit of revolt and resistance. By creating assemblies where we live and work we can create an effective countering power to the state and capital. We must create that part of libertarian socialism which can be created within bourgeois society in order to combat that society with our own special weapons. These combative working class organisations can also be the focal point for creating co-operatives, credit unions, self-managed schools, social centres and so on.

As soon as people learn to rely upon themselves they will act for themselves. People must place their faith in themselves, not leaders. We urge them to form their own organisations, to repudiate their bosses, to despise the state. We encourage self-activity, self-organisation and self-help. The "sole means of opposing the reactionary forces of the state" is the "organising of the revolutionary force of the people." The revolution builds on this and is "the free construction of popular life in accordance with popular needs . . . from below upward, by the people themselves . . . [in] a voluntary alliance of agricultural and factory worker associations, communes, provinces, and nations."10

To not act because of the possibility of failure is to live half a life. Anarchism calls upon everyone to live the kind of life they deserve as unique individuals and desire as human beings. Individually we can make a difference, together we can change the world.

(Endnotes)

1 The Unknown Revolution, p, 197
2 The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 314
3 Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, pp. 170-2
4 Proudhon, The General Idea of the Revolution, pp. 97-8 and pp. 215-6
5 Bakunin, The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 410; No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 176
6 Kropotkin, Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow, pp. 157-8, p. 197 and pp. 151-2
7 Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread, p. 81
8 The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 376 and p. 300
9 Bakunin, quoted by Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 45
10 Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy, p. 156 and p. 33

  


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