This article is published for the purpose of discussion. The editorial board of the journal Heretic does not agree with certain views of the author. In particular, we consider that it was not Bolshevism but Stalinism — a complete break with Bolshevism — that distorted the meaning of the word “communism.” In addition, Bolshevism itself fell victim to the Stalinist regime. At the same time, we see in this article many valuable ideas. We fully support the critique of trade unionism; we also support the author’s conclusion regarding the necessity of a revolutionary organization for the class struggle. But the author correctly observes that this organization cannot and must not replace the self-organization of the working class. We hope that this publication will give our readers food for thought.
SOCIAL REVOLUTION AND REVOLUTIONARY ORGANIZATION
The organization isn`t an objective in itself
but only a means for achievement of setting objective
An old anarchist true
The FORIST alternative
We are communists. But not in this vulgarized and deformed sense which appears us always from pages of papers, from TV channels and broadcasting waves (“communist regime”, “Communist State”, “Communist Party” etc.). The true communism is anarchist, stateless and without authority, free, libertarian. Only hundred years ago, by the meaning of Communists, one can be almost for 100 per cent sure that the matter concerns Anarchists. Just in 1917, this word was stolen by Bolsheviks and it was later crippled by them and made a laughing-stock of entire World…
We are Communists in this old sense which wasn`t stolen yet: in the sense of free Commune and Association. When concerned people together and jointly (in general assemblies) take decisions about how they live and what is to make aiding mutually. When they use the present and produced goods of Earth in common – like people use the shine of Sun which shines for all, as Sylvain Marechal, anarchist poet of 18 century spoke.
We are Communist not only in the vision of our aim, of the Future for which we struggle. We are Communist in the same our struggle. We are sure that only the general assemblies of working people in the enterprises and in the services, only the general assemblies of habitants in the blocks, locations and localities can decide how is to strike or to revolt, how is to organize demonstrations and mass meetings, how is to resist repressions and existing (dis)order forces. Decide themselves, without pretended or “elected and plenipotentiary” representatives as parties, trade union bureaucracies, and members of parliaments or councils, judges… Such sovereign general assemblies are not only pledge of success of our today`s struggle but also prototype, base and corner-stone of free Tomorrow.
But if you Anarchists fight for general assemblies and see in them the base of a free society, why you regard as necessary the making of anarchist workers organization? – any reader can ask. Why it is necessary when such assemblies meet?
Let us begin with the fact that such assemblies are very rare in modern Russia. The struggle is here lead and headed almost by the parties, politicians and bureaucratic trade unions. The trade union committee decides how and why is to strike, and an assembly meets only for confirm the decisions which were token yet. It is generally supposed that the “ignorant” masses aren`t capable for anything more. This bad “tradition” must be broken at any price! Therefore it is vital necessary to unite people which defend the principle of sovereignty of general assemblies.
But also the general assemblies are not enough today. In France unlike to Russia, the tradition of such assemblies exists. They meet almost always as soon as any serious strike breaks out. But very quickly, they fall into the power of representatives of any oppositional party or trade union. After this, all real decision about the process and organization of a struggle are taken already by the leader and not by the bustling and unruly workers assembly. They, the leaders, speak, hold consultations, negotiate with bosses and authorities, make unions and bargains behind worker`s back… And “normal” people below become again supernumeraries like always under Capitalism. And this time, they abdicate themselves from own sovereignty and “commit” the leasers to think and to decide for them.
Why such things occur?
The fact is that the general assemblies are only a form of decide-making. Sure, the best from all but however not aim in itself. It`s true that it is possible to make very different decisions in assembly. Including the misanthropic decisions. Including the decisions about the refuse of participants from own prerogatives and about theirs handing over to some “representatives”, leaders or dictators. Not only the form but also the substance and a harmony between them are important. And the substance of decisions of assemblies is determined by people participating in them – by its desires, its needs, its convictions and its views. All depends from them.
Of course, man is a social being (if you wish, it is his biological particularity). Of course, his behavior is determined in many respects by a deep primordial tribe of mutual aid and solidarity. But let us don`t ignore the realities of society in which we live. Thousands years of Authority, Domination and Property disfigured the human personality heavily. The capitalism with its competition, brutal egoism, chases of private gain, conformism and corrupting consumerism succeed in this thing particularly. Many people are now ready for change freedom for comfort and for content with crumb gained by minimal efforts and as far as possible without struggle. We live in an ill society, in one absurd world. But ill people are always infected differently. The modern personalities are disfigured and degenerated in different degree. We don`t speak yet about rulers, rich, bosses and bankers: it is clear that the purse placed on the right substitute them often the hearth which is on the left, as is well-known. But also among the working people, there are a number of men and women which don`t think about any rupture with the capitalism and authority, which don`t want take over the burden of administration of his own life.
So if we want that the general assemblies remain the independent decide-making bodies and that exactly common people are masters of own struggle and destiny - it is necessary for the partisans of such choice to unite and to defend it closely.
It for that why the revolutionary organization is necessary: it must unite in it ranks people which want and can consciously struggle for the triumph of Freedom, Solidarity and Authoritylessness; for people can jointly agree how they live; for a society based upon the self-realization of personality and upon the coordination of human efforts in general assemblies; for the equal possibilities to use the goods of the World – for the Anarchist Communism. Even if only few people join today this organization, we are firmly sure that our crystal-clear ideas sooner or later convict the overwhelming majority of mankind and change the entire World.
NEITHER POLITICAL PARTY OR IDEOLOGICAL GROUP…
It means that we, the adherents of free communism, must build a political party and struggle for political power?
The same word “Party” contains things which we refuse: it means “part”, a part of people which acts in place of people and for the people. The party is created by men and women who pretend to take up the posts of leaders and “representatives” and which want that common people entrust them to fulfill the function of managers of struggle and of life. The members of parties act always “from above”, even when they work “below”, in the popular milieu. They promise to “little” men and women: entrust us to represent yours interests and then we… And the poor (like Danae hypnotized by a mirage of gold rain fallen on her) go humbly or even ecstatic to give up his vote, his time, his forces, his hands, his brain… in short, to give himself up, to “give in”.
It`s no important which party is in question: a parliamentary or a “vanguard”-type. In the first case, it leaders attempt to represent (to lobby) the interests of different groups in the existing society promising all thing to all people but satisfying ultimately them who have wealth and power. In the second, its leaders declare themselves an “advanced” part of people, a kind of natural elite which is simply not understood and not appreciated by actual rulers. But the tasks of parties are always and anywhere the same: to gain the power, to build a government and to rape the society from above.
No, we don`t want build a party! But we don`t want also remain an ideological and propagandist group, even if we are forced sometime to begin with it. The theory is dead without practice; the brain efforts in an ivory tower are powerless without real life outside. The ideas move the World by only when they become social forces.
We don`t want limit ourselves with a simple spreading of our ideas. It`s very little for us to be “where the masses are” and to speak with other men and women which are like us. It is insufficient for us to visit the mass meetings or the assemblies of strikers or the initiatives of tenants and to make propaganda for the sovereignty of general assemblies and for the direct action. We find that a powerful social movement is necessary which stands consciously on the ground of our ideas and which struggles for the Freedom. No, we don`t want be an ideological group which analyzes, synthesizes the events and which from it own “scientific” and “cultural” heights instructs its “leading” and “oriented” “class brothers and sisters” with a more or less concealed arrogance.
We aspire to be the social movement which destructs the existing social order and creates a new one.
The struggle against the existing World of exploitation, domination, authority and injustice begins with a resistance against any encroachment against our life and freedom. With the strikes which are directed on the wage increases and on the reduction of work-time (and therefore on the limiting of our exploitation and on the increase of time for our own self-development). With protests against the building of houses for rich people and against the commercial city re-planning in our blocks. With withstand against the building or placement of industrial and energy objects damaged the human health and nature. In other words, with the actions when we exploited, humbled and offended defend our rights and interests in the existing social system meanwhile we cannot yet abolish it.
It concerns of course first of all the world of work. We are subjected to exploitation and oppression everywhere: in the work and in the family, where we live and where we study… But the principal sphere of our rightlessness is where the base of our diary slavery lies: the work. It was placed by the capitalism on the center of monstrous all-embracing mechanism of our humiliation and enslaving. Selling our work, ours hands and brains, we spend the most part of our life on the workplace, and we spend the rest of time for at least a little recover, relax, sleeping enough and for bring ourselves in a relative order. Exactly there, we are reduced to role of a living machine and of appendage of other, metallic or plastic machines. Exactly there, we create majority of wealth necessary for the life – and we depend there fully from every caprice of our masters (bosses or chiefs) which appropriate the social wealth produced by us… That is why we aspire to put the sphere of our work (the enterprise or service where we work, the school or the university where we study) in the center of our resistance against our oppressors: the Capital and the State.
… NOR USUAL TRADE UNION…
But in this case, you must join trade unions or (if they don`t like you for some reason) create the new trade unions, any reader can say. But we must say another time: No!
The trade unions arose in the 19th century (in Russia, in the 20th century) substituting mostly the associations of producers dissolved and disturbed by Capitalism: the guilds. Uniting themselves in the professional unions, the workers tried to aid mutually each other in the life and in the work, to organize the cultural work, the nursing for the ill and old people. Many unions acted just as the societies of resistance struggling for wage increase and for shortening of work-time. They acted often by revolutionary methods, organized militant and general strikes. They became a core of particular workers culture which withstood the capitalist civilization. They proclaimed the aims of social revolution openly.
But they (even the most revolutionary) had it weak point: the trade unions were built according to needs of working people in the existing society. First of all, according to economic, material needs. It seemed in the situation of shy poverty of people in the 19th century and in the beginning of 20th century that the capitalism can`t satisfy this needs and that it can be possible to wring from the capitalism the concessions step by step, to drive it finally into a corner and to end with it. But this race-running was lost by the workers. It became apparent that the industrial-capitalist system can organize the mass faceless production for a mass faceless consumer. Of course, the industrial commodity was qualitatively worse than a masterpiece of medieval artisan but it was available for every “middle” poor. Moreover, it became apparent that the bourgeoisie and the state can quite accept many wage demands of workers satisfying them… at the expense of other workers. Perhaps they can increase the wages of workers of any striking enterprise but also raise prices of producing and selling commodity. Or they can reduce the work-time but simultaneously make the work more intensive and press more energy and forces from the worker in the shorter time. It became clear: the destruction of existing unjust system doesn`t result necessarily from only material and economical needs. A slave can also prefer to live good nourishing and comfortably with a “good” master without any responsibility than to conduct the life of a free men full of risk.
Remaining moreover in the frames of existing order of things and not struggling directly for a new society, the trade unions were open for people with very different convictions. Including these which weren`t determined to break with the capitalism and with State and which looked for more “fair” bosses for themselves – in the person of socialist and then “communist” party leaders. Entrusting the struggle for their interests to the hands of these greedy for the power adventurers, the trade union members restricted themselves voluntary with the defense of purely material and immediate demands of better condition of their own slavery. So a duality arose: the political parties make a political struggle and the trade unions an economical struggle. And also the trade unions reconstructed themselves gradually according the same schema of “representation” of interests. Inside of these organization, the own bureaucracy arose and grew stronger and the rank and file members became more and more simple supernumeraries - due-payer and executors of decisions. Finally, the trade unions became these big bureaucratic monsters which everybody can very good on his own back and which are worthy of only one thing: demolition, destruction.
We don`t want organize an usual no-ideological trade union which is “open for all workers” because we don`t want content with the simple bettering of our slavery situation, we don`t want tear a single living thread of our struggle with all-powered System to separate and unconnected moments as an economical, a political, a moral, an ideological, a cultural… No, we strive to live no only better but also otherwise. We want be free!
… BUT ANARCHIST WORKERS UNION
The revolutionary organization creating from us is neither a party nor a usual trade union. In it ground, it is a workers union (syndicate) because it unites working people which resist to the daily exploitation and oppression and which therefore struggle for the shortening of work-time, for the bettering of their material and moral situation. But this bettering isn`t an aim in itself for it but merely a mean for awakening the sources of solidarity and mutual aid slumbering in everybody, for inspire him for revolutionary revolt against the authority and property, against inequality and oppression. Only defending side by side our own rights and interests, we workers can overcome egoism, recover the human dignity and awaken from century-long lethargy. Becoming aware that for liberate ourselves, it is necessary to end with all existing System of production, administration and life and to replace it with a new: with the anarchist, stateless, free communism.
Therefore, our workers societies of resistance (professional and inter-professional) are the same time ideological organizations. They aren`t created on the ground of immediate economical interests although they struggle for them as well as for a new world. We are for the conscious-anarchist workers organization. It is free from bureaucracy, politicianity and careerism; all decisions in it are made by the general assemblies of members or (higher than on a local level) by the delegates of such assemblies. Furthermore, these delegates aren`t “representatives” but only “voices” of people which mandated them bounded with imperative instructions.
What such federation of working people has to make? The unions formed it have to make ideal, propagandist and cultural work propagating the high aims and principles of anarchist communism in word and deed. They must prepare, organize and lead strikes and other actions of resistance against the yoke of State and Capital. And in the same time, theirs members have to act in anarchist sense in the big general assemblies of workers of one or some enterprises or services, in the assemblies and initiatives of tenants etc, seeking that exactly these assemblies decide about principal questions of struggle and life, standing up against influence and power of political parties, trade unions and leaders. In other words, they must practice and defend the direct action and the libertarian communism.
Our aim is that the masses of working people convert themselves to conscious anarcho-communist positions, that they commence to think and act as the Anarchist-Communists independently from their membership or not in our unions. Then the now so rare and unstable organs of resistance created by them (general assemblies and theirs delegates) can become in the future regular and constant structures of self-organization and self-administration on the free communist grounds. And then, in one Great Evening, we all, exploited and oppressed but inspired by the ideas-forces of anarchist communism, will go on the last and decisive storm of bulwarks of Old World.
Russian section of IWA-AIT