Beyond Resistance: A Revolutionary Manifesto for the Millenium
Beyond Resistance is the Anarchist Federation’s analysis of the capitalist world in crisis, suggestions about what the alternative anarchist communist society could be like, and evaluation of social and organisational forces which play a part in the revolutionary process.
We aim to do three things through this manifesto:
To convincingly make the case for a revolutionary social transformation into a libertarian society.
To challenge those who are already convinced of this, that a revolution can be best brought about by the creation of organisational structures and a globally united anarchist communist movement.
To explain the role we see the AF playing in this process.
Preface to the third edition
Much has happened since the Spring 1997 second edition of Beyond Resistance, and in our most recent edition we find ourselves in the new millennium which gives this pamphlet its theme.
Significant events for our movement since 1997 have included the Bradford Mayday ’98 conference, inspired by the Class War open letter to the movement after its dissolution, followed in 1999 by the June 18 international day of action (also known in Britain as the Carnival Against Capitalism), and the anti-World Trade Organisation actions which followed in November 30, both helping to put anarchism (or at least anti-capitalism) on the front page. We have also seen the folding in September 1998 of the libertarian/council communist grouping Subversion which we have worked so closely with over the years.
Organisationally, we too have gone through some developments, perhaps most noticeable in our name change from the Anarchist Communist Federation. We have been pleased by the response to the launch of our new monthly news bulletin resistance, which complements our long running magazine Organise! Since November 1999 we have been accepted as a section of the International of Anarchist Federations (IAF, or IFA in other languages), which includes the French-speaking, Iberian, Italian and Bulgarian Anarchist Federations, the Initiative for an Anarchist Federation in Germany, and the Libertarian Federation of Argentina. Before our joining, the IAF-IFA made an important unequivocal declaration of opposition to the NATO action over Kosovo, in the face of some confusion elsewhere in our movement, something we are proud to be associated with. We also hope to strengthen our links as a result of the founding conference of the US/Canadian North-Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists (NEFAC) in April.
Finally, we wish every success for Mayday 2000 in Britain and elsewhere.
the Anarchist Federation, Spring 2000
AF, c/o 84b Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX, England, UK.
E-mail : email@example.com Web: www.afed.org.uk
The world as we enter the 21st Century is experiencing a crisis of Capitalism which could not have been envisaged either at the inception of the workers movement in the 19th Century or in periods of greatest class struggle subsequently. Notwithstanding the fact that the world has begun a ‘new millennium’ only in as much as the dominant Christian hegemony decrees it so, now seems an appropriate time for the Anarchist Federation (AF) to outline its understanding of the current chaos and to offer an optimistic and ultimately an attainable programme for real change. For whilst the oppressed working class the world over is struggling daily against Capitalism and the State, and is frequently improving on its conditions of slavery, it is also looking beyond struggle and at a world in which individuals are free and equal, fulfilled and valued in society. Such a world can only be attained by the complete destruction of Capitalism and the State — by Revolution. The process of the Revolution will be a process of some destruction but more importantly of creation. If the working class is to put an end to its wretched condition under Capitalism and create an Anarchist Communist society during the course of the new Millennium, the coming years must be characterised not only be inevitable class struggle but also by the creation of a united and global revolutionary movement. This pamphlet, whose content we discussed and wrote as a collective body, is our contribution to that movement in the closing years of the 20th Century and into the emerging 21st.
Part A: The Capitalist World
The ending of a period should not be misunderstood in terms of instant transformation from one historic phase to another. In periods of change, elements of the past always coexist with those of the present, and new ways of functioning and the developing of new tendencies within society prefigure the possible outlines of the future. We can talk of a new period of history opening because of the following features coming together simultaneously; the depth of economic crisis, the end of a geopolitical ‘equilibrium’ on an international level, crisis of the State as instrument of economic regulation, crises of western thought and culture, and a deepening ecological crisis threatening the destruction of the ecosystem.
We have to be cautious, however. So far as the crisis of the previous period (characterised by Taylorism, Fordism, multinationals founded on national capital and national markets linked to imperialist blocs, and domination of two superpowers) has influenced the present, we cannot determine whether we are on the brink of a ‘new world order’ with established and stable ways of functioning, or if we are entering a long period of permanent crisis and of general disorder.
A1: The End of the Two Superpowers
The politics of the two superpowers (Cold War then peaceful coexistence) was based on a tacit agreement. Economic imperialism would be operated by both blocs, and conflict between the blocs would be acted out in the countries of the Third (’under-developed’) World. At the same time most Third World elites came to power on the backs of national liberation movements, playing on the rivalry between the superpowers to realise their dreams of ‘national independence’ and to create post-colonial states.
The competition between the two superpowers over military and technological superiority came to a head when the Reagan administration gained the upper hand in the arms race with its Star Wars programme, contributing to the collapse of the Soviet bloc. In the aftermath, the Gulf War, the Israeli-Arab accords, and to a certain extent the new arrangement in South Africa, would not have been possible without the end of the USSR as a superpower. Everywhere, the USA imposes its solutions under the cover of international peacekeeping. The new period which we are now entering is still being born and its outlines are still vague. A number of questions have to be asked: is the economic decline of the USA permanent? When and how will the new European bloc establish itself, if at all? How far will the former Soviet Union disintegrate and become Third Worldised? Will the collapse of the ‘equilibrium’ in Central Asia lead to problems for India, Pakistan, and China? And what about Japan and the Newly Industrialised Nations? Will there be a ‘new world order’ based on three blocs or on one?
Capitalism in Profound Transformation
The capitalist crisis in the 1970s and 80s led to a great change in the system’s characteristics. 1975–1990 saw restructuring and reorganisation at every level. Growth in the thirty years after the World War in the developed countries rested on a particular form of capitalist development — the Keynesian Model, summarised as follows:
The wages of the population, including those of the working class had to be adequate and stable. Various social compromises took place; the increase of collective bargaining, further institutionalisation of the unions, social security measures etc.
Increase in production meant greater productivity which lowered the cost of production. The buying power of the working class increased at the same time as profits did. This increase of buying power in itself became the source of a growth in profits.
This could not happen without the capitalists having full control over the organisation of production, of investment and of work conditions, in order to increase productivity. The unions by and large agreed to this by dropping negotiation over work conditions, in return for wage increases.
The State was the guarantor of this social consensus, but it also played a very important economic role — public markets, direct financing of investment, help with exports. In several Western countries this led to state development of transport systems, telecommunications, aviation, energy, nuclear power, road systems, and the financing of research in these areas. The new modifications of automation, concentration of capital, the increased parcelling of work and the internationalisation of the productive process led to huge transformations in the working class. The traditional base of Capitalism mutated from the norm developed in the 19th Century.
This situation changed again in the mid-1970s towards a monetarist policy, as many States and ruling classes attempted to pay for the debts they had contracted from finance capital by passing more serious austerity measures; wage freezes, reduction of unemployment benefits, and by cutting back on other social security benefits including those of pensioners. The process of production was qualitatively changed. There was greatly increased use of automation, dispersion of work outside of the factories, containerisation, outwork etc. There was increased development of advertising, publicity, specialised advisory companies etc. The market became paramount and with it the increased trumpeting of the freedom to exploit. Work flexibility, weekend work, night work, overtime, partial unemployment were pushed, as were short-term contracts and attacks on holidays and conditions. Restructuring has led to mass unemployment, early retirement, and calls for women to return to the home. It has led to pay freezes, attacks on guaranteed minimum wages where they existed, and general temporary work and low pay among the young.
In terms of production the number of part-time workers has increased. So has the ‘black economy’ and related crimes such as burglary, car thefts, etc. On the international level restructuring has effected the old-style imperialist exploitation where it was primarily raw materials which were plundered. This is no longer exclusively so. The ‘under-developed’ countries, now including Eastern and Central Europe, have passed from unequal exchange to subordination to the West primarily through the control of debts and the international control of the workforce. Alongside this there has been a mutation of the multinationals which were first founded on ‘national’ bases (as in the USA, Japan, France , Germany) but were subsequently impelled to increase their co-operation internationally through commercial agreements, technological partnerships, co-operation of all sorts, creation of common affiliates etc.
The ‘Under-Developed’ World
The tendency is still for the gap between the rich countries and the poor countries of the world to widen. 40% of the world population must share 3.3% of world revenue. Each day, 40,000 children die from poverty and there are more people suffering from hunger world-wide than there have ever been in human history and their number is increasing. However, in the light of global capitalist restructuring the term Third World is a bit outdated. The term ‘developing’ or ‘under-developed’ seems more appropriate for the plans global capitalism has in store. For example, the ‘Four Dragons’ — Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong — are more like certain countries of the EU — Portugal, Greece, Ireland — than many of the poorer countries — Ethiopia, Somalia, Bangladesh.
Apart from the pillage of raw materials, and the super-exploitation of manual labour by multinationals, the under-developed countries are controlled by international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The ‘third world debt’ rose to $1355 billion dollars by 1990. Credit on these debts is given systematically in the form of loans, higher than any ‘aid’ given. In exchange for these loans, the IMF imposes its shock therapy on the debtor nations. This consists of devaluation, abolishing price controls and wage guarantees, and the ‘rationalisation’ of state enterprises — sackings, closures etc. Once rationalised these enterprises are bought by the big companies of the developed world and the revenues obtained from ‘privatisation’ are used to pay off some of the debt. Double benefit for the international capitalists. Finally, the state banks are subject to a quarterly investigation by the IMF and lose all control of national monetary policies. The rates of interest fixed by the market provoke speculation leading to credit rates rising, accelerating the ruin of the national economies.
Collapse of the ‘Communist’ Bloc
From the 1960s the Soviet economy was opened up to Western Capitalism and this penetration of Western capital increased during the 1970s. The development of the international division of labour in the 60’s and increase of international exchanges helped influence certain sectors of the bureaucracy to push for ‘reforms’ towards a ‘liberalisation’ of the economy. If Gorbachev had not existed, it would have been necessary to invent him.
Already integrated within the world economy, the Soviet countries suffered the full consequences of the monetarist direction taken by the West. The countries of Eastern Europe are now suffering a recession worse than that of the West in the 1930s. Under the ‘structural adjustment’ policies of the IMF these countries, who believed that they were being incorporated into the economy of the West, are suffering poverty from mass unemployment, privatisation, adjustment of prices with the world economy, brutal lowering of the standard of living and of industrial production. The most profitable sectors of the economy are sold to the western multinationals and the ‘aid’ offered in thousands of dollars buys only political personnel and various Mafias who control the channels of distribution and commerce. That is to say, a good part of the ‘real economy’ has become a street market economy. A process of Third Worldisation is taking place.
Collapse of ‘Communism’ a.k.a. State Capitalism
The end of ‘Communism’ (which Anarchist Communists and others call State Capitalism or State Socialism) has meant in the short term the ideological triumph of Western Capitalism with its market economy and individualism. The West was able to show that its form of capitalism was undeniably superior and that the original was still much better than the ‘Communist’ copy. It also provided an example to discourage those of us who might wish to change the system. But at the same time Capitalism as a whole has lost its mirror image and its certitudes, and is now in constant search of new demons. The victory of Capitalism is a hollow one, based on one of the great lies of the 20th century — the belief that the USSR, China, or the countries of Eastern Europe, Cuba, Vietnam or Mozambique etc. were ‘socialist’ or ‘communist’ countries and that for this reason alone they represented an enemy and a menace. The rush to attempt integration with the West by the USSR and others has only served to confirm what these societies really were — societies of consumption without anything to consume, imperfect dead-end forms of Capitalism with hideous malformations and paralysing dysfunctions. Their modes of exploiting the workforce were no longer effective and their mode of domination and administration, dating from the 1930’s, was archaic with regard to Western modernity. The end of ‘Communism’ has also meant the collapse of a ‘workers’ movement linked to this model in the rest of the world, and to the collapse of Leninism and ‘historic’ Social Democracy, not only in the West, but in the ‘under-developed’ world as well. This process is still in progress.
Crisis in The West
The victory of the West over State Capitalism was won at a high cost. A long lasting deep structural crisis menaces other equilibriums and threatens to destabilise all economies. One of the main structural contradictions of Capitalism is now between the tendency to establish a world economy and market, and maintenance of the ‘nation state’ as an instrument of regulation. The nation states of the ‘developed’ world, under pressure from the multinationals, are consciously establishing the free flow of international capital. They are deprived of the means of controlling speculation and robbed of an important part of their power. A national economic strategy can today function only where it matches the interests of the world financial markets.
But the globalisation of the economy does not necessarily lead to uniform economic order. The General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs (GATT) negotiations show that economic war (lowering of costs of production etc. leading to the accumulation of capital) remains the driving force of the world economy. Furthermore, the economic leadership of the USA is going deeper and deeper into decline and the last decade has seen the emergence of the strong economic blocs of the European Community (EC) and Japan. The GATT negotiations show that the USA is ready to counter-attack at the level of trade limitations in an attempt to grab back its lost markets.
The end of State Capitalism means neither a defeat nor a victory for Revolutionaries. If it is full of potential dangers created by the re-emergence of movements that had been suppressed and concealed by it, it also marks the end of a theoretical ice age, in which no one could think beyond the State and the endless development of productive forces. The disappearance of State Capitalism must be the occasion to speed up the task of revolutionary reappraisal, and to develop a movement and ideas rooted in the present. We now describe and appraise the emerging responses to the crisis.
A2: On the Ruins of State Capitalism
The Crisis of Humanist Thought in the West
Humanist thought considers nature as organiser of the world rather than God. Under its rational organisation, ‘Man’ is at the centre. He was born of the Renaissance, formalised during the Enlightenment and spread throughout society under 19th Century Positivism, the triumph of Capitalism. But Humanism is declining along with the official end of utopias.
This crisis of Western thought has two distinct origins, both linked to the crisis of civilisation. They are the relationship of humans to nature and the relationships between humans. The ecological crisis is the result of a planetary economy where the rhythm of exploitation imposed by the world market is incompatible with the natural rhythms of renewal of water, lakes, forests, soils. Even more the world ecological crisis is the death-knell for the school of thought which sees the world as made for Man, for his exclusive happiness, pleasure and delectation.
The Enlightenment and Democracy announced the Age of Man, who would create a rational world based on Liberty and Equality. We are far from this. Humanist thought, instrument of war against obscurantism and the entrenched and reactionary ideas of the old regime, has created its own myths of Science and Progress. It acts as a veil to hide the violence of domination in all its aspects of everyday life, from artificial births to death itself (the disposal of the dead has not escaped the laws of supply and demand). The ideology of human rights, one of the cornerstones of humanism, present throughout the medias, amongst intellectuals and politicians, is now soft-pedalled via humanitarianism. Humanitarianism does not seek to dispense with the horrors of war and famine, but to make them more supportable. It is no surprise that the multinationals sponsor the charity programmes. The media circus, from Band Aid to the televised on-the-spot doling out of foodstuffs, is not innocent. It’s not about the ‘under-developed’ world and the causes of its under-development, but about the good conscience, the symbolic profit that the West gets from its charitable interventions, where the poverty of others becomes a world of adventure.
In the West, social decay, the fear of growing poverty, and the lack of perspectives, has led to the growth of a new totalitarianism founded on irrationality and obscurantism- tribalism, ethnocentricity (the superiority of one’s own race), religious fundamentalism (e.g. ‘born-again’ Christians). In our rich metropolises we see the emergence of the modern religions of workaholicism and sacrifice, of spiritualism, fortune-telling, astrology, religious sects, and also loss of purpose, alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness and suicide.
Finally, the crisis of humanist thought and general confusion favours attempts to reintroduce a reactionary moral order, for example, the attempted growth of the New Right. The crisis of thought which can only see the future as the present continued, or as a catastrophe, leads to a curious phenomenon where elements of the past are recycled in the present. It all appears as if society is advancing in order to retreat: fashion, style, looks, art, are all revisited and revived to occupy the frightful void in life and the agony which it brings.
The Rise of Nationalism and Religious Fundamentalism
Elsewhere has seen the rise of mass religious fundamentalist currents (Moslem and Hindu, for example). These movements were encouraged by the West to counter the lay movements which opposed its interests. These are not anti-capitalist but merely criticise the consequences of domination by the developed countries — cultural uniformity above all. The undeniable popular support they have has deep-rooted causes. For these populations religion is an ‘ideological’ means of relating to societies in perpetual transformation (where traditional economies are in the process of being dismantled; where the state functions only as a brutal means of repression and in defence of a corrupt order; where the frontiers, inherited from colonialism, are not really recognised, where social rules are hardly established; where different nations cohabit in the same space) in a period when the old beliefs no longer function or when they fail to make sense of reality. The development of fundamentalist movements takes place because a reply is needed to societies in disintegration. Excluded from mass consumerism, the dominated peoples find in traditional religion the ‘holy’ and the supernatural that the West has for a long-time transferred into its founding myths, Science and Progress, its fetishism of the market, and the sacrament of property.
In the East, armed conflicts have multiplied since the fall of the Wall. The ideological disorientation that has struck in the East is not just due to the collapse of State ‘socialism’. It has emerged from disenchantment with Capitalism, because it failed to keep its promises and functions only for corrupt minorities — ex-Party men; factory managers converting themselves into ‘bosses’, ‘black marketers’, ‘gangsters’ etc. Therefore, this there is very little difference between the rise of nationalism in the East and in the West. Their simultaneous emergence is the mark of a period of deep crisis, not just economic, which transcends nationality and different historic and political traditions — it is the crisis of capitalist civilisation.
But Hold It!
Let us Summarise the Failures Of Capitalism:
Social: Sackings; jobs with no security; poverty; unemployment
Ecological: The sacking and plundering of the planet.
Economic: International division of work; industrial decline; local economies destroyed; still born economies under the blows of Western domination.
Human: famines; wars; repression.
Relations: Collapse of community spirit and solidarity; the false cult of individualism as opposed to individuality; law of the jungle as the rule of life.
Intellectual: Poverty of real thought; the reign of images and of the Spectacle (e.g. consumerism, wars and famines as televised ‘entertainment’, the whole of life as a commercialised show); crisis of artistic creation and recycling of old recipes in the market of culture and spectacle; disenchantment and melancholy; cynicism.
But Capitalism is not eternal, no more than the existence of humans on the planet. Never has a civilisation manufactured so many means for its own disappearance. To stop this path to suicide, change the world order, and invent a new way of organising social life becomes each day more urgent, because at the end of that road, lies perhaps the end of humanity and the real ‘end of history’. In the face of this we have to focus our concentration, and explore new ways to social liberation — in short, to create a project of Anarchist Communism and the invention of a new civilisation to replace this one.
Under whatever social order, a moment always arrives when the dominant opinions fail to supply answers anymore and leave the way open for critical opinions, to the organisation of new oppositions, to the putting in place of resistance (intellectual, social, artistic) to the invention of another possibility.
A3: The Alternative
The old workers movement is dead. In the assault led by the ruling class started in the early 1970s, the unions and the social democratic parties passed more than ever over to the camp of the bosses. Workers lost their jobs en masse. The old shock battalions of our class, the miners, the dockers, the steel workers, were decimated. At the same time an ideological assault was led by the servants of the boss class, the intellectuals, who advanced the idea that the working class was dead. These intellectuals were to be found as much among the Left as the Right. Both within the social-democratic parties and the Euro-Communist wings of the communist parties were intellectuals willing to defend this myth. Some anarchists have fallen for this nonsense as well.
A New Working Class Movement
It is not our intention to wallow in nostalgia and pine for the great industrial centres, the ‘workers fortresses’, the mines, where millions of women, men and children had their lives mutilated and where sense could be brought to life only from the struggle, against the whims of the bosses, to work less, in better conditions and to earn more. These struggles usually accepted the capitalist work system, where wages were the due of the workers. For some socialists/communists the proletariat became the subject of history, ready to overthrow the bourgeoisie as they themselves had overthrown the nobility, whether through a vanguard party or through a revolutionary union. These struggles were to be based primarily on the workplace.
If we as Anarchist Communists still see the working class movement as decisive it is not because of its supposed capacities as an emancipatory class but because workers are those who produce the wealth and are at the heart of the mechanism of production of capital. In the countries of the capitalist heartland, the numbers of the class remain the same as they were about 20 years ago, especially if we include all those wage earners in contemporary Capitalism. But our class has lost importance in the capitalist heartlands because it has weakened its capacity to produce capital, and hence to hold Capitalism to hostage, and to destroy it. The old workers movement is still strong only in Germany. But this is the sole European capitalist country to have preserved its industrial base (as has Japan) and not to have seriously broken with Keynesianism — with the boss class redistributing some of its profits to ensure social peace and consumerism. The burden of reunification may change all this. In other countries the trade union movement has been thoroughly integrated into Capitalism as a recognised and consulted mediator, and has lost its importance when the rules of the game changed.
Capitalism has changed — The Revolutionary Movement must change
For the worker of the sixties, the class struggle was within the walls of the workplace and (unless the struggle became wildcat) through the trade union.
Nowadays the working class, who always faced problems outside of work, has to put up with the general aggravation of life the landlord, taxes, social security, transport, the health service for the young, the education system, the workfare schemes etc., the difficulty of finding a job or home. For women, there is the double day of work — in the workplace and at home — aggravated by the attack on women going out to work. For ethnic minorities and immigrants, there is an increase in racist attacks and discrimination.
These multiple aspects of class experience and struggle are directly political in the sense that they oppose political positions advanced by the boss class, in the public space of the towns, and of society in general, rather than in the private space of the workplaces. A new working class movement has to have as its strategy the urgent need to organise in all spheres of society. There will be no recomposition of the class without the unity of struggles, without re-creating the sense of a class in opposition to the social order. Revolutionaries must not just adopt simple voluntarism and participate in these struggles, they must advance alternative perspectives. Otherwise these struggles risk the danger of recuperation, where resistance is diverted so you end up supporting who you’re supposed to be fighting e.g. by taking nationalist forms of defending the standard of living like ‘Buying British’. The new movement we are talking about must go beyond defending wages and jobs (although it must do these as well). It must question the legitimacy of the capitalist system, of production for production’s sake. It must question the logic of work under Capitalism. For many the need to work has become impossible because the economic system has no need (or no regular need) of their capacity to work. To give cohesion to a new movement, we have to pose all the needs of social liberation.
Utopian? Guilty Your Honour
“A map of the world that does not include Utopia, is not even worth glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing... Progress is the realisation of utopias.” Oscar Wilde
Revolutionaries are often reproached for being utopian, of being dreamers. Yes, we are dreamers, because like children, we don’t like nightmares. Yes, we are utopian. This utopia is not a heavenly paradise come to Earth. Neither is it a return to a mythical Golden Age. This other ‘place’ is a symbolic territory, based on our revolutionary refusal to put up with a world founded on the violence of class and ethnic or sexual domination, of the exploitation of labour and the body, of alienation. This utopia is a reply to the crisis of humanist thought. It is the place thanks to which it will be possible to organise the resistance and Revolutionise the Revolution. In Part C we discuss how to bring about a revolution through the creation of a revolutionary mass movement and the role of revolutionaries in this. But first we discuss the kind of new society which this revolution will create.
Part B: The Anarchist Communist World
Capitalist society, indeed, any society which is not Anarchist Communist, fundamentally and negatively influences the kind of people we are, what we are capable of achieving, and how we relate to each other. It is not just the State and the bosses who ruin our lives. We compete with each other, exploit each other, abuse each other and constrain each other because Capitalist society persuades us that we cannot escape ‘the law of the jungle’. In fact, this is a lie. There are no ‘laws’ of human behaviour except those which capitalist society imposes on us. Humans have so far created their social institutions and ways of behaving according to the interests of those in charge who fool us into believing that war, poverty, the nuclear family and religion are ‘normal’. After the Revolution we will find that social relations can be re-defined in creative and liberating ways. We will have a social revolution. By choosing this Revolution we will have chosen to live in a way in which we can all benefit greatly and equally — that is, to live as unique and equal individuals who collectively comprise both an immediate and a global community.
B1: First Things First
Once Capitalism has been destroyed, we can set about the exciting task of fulfilling our individual potential and shaping this new community. Of course, in a world which has been disrupted by the process of revolutionary war, we first need to ensure that we can feed and shelter everyone. This need not be the onerous task which counter-Revolutionaries would have us believe. In the world are more than enough buildings and food to provide for everyone, enough to survive a revolutionary war. What matters, of course, is to distribute these using the newly seized communications such as radio stations, roads and railways.
The global and local communities can then decide what organisational structures they wish to establish. It is not useful to try to determine now exactly what these will be because this will be the task of society, not the revolutionary organisation. However, as Revolutionaries we must argue for egalitarian structures accountable and accessible to all. It seems most likely that these structures will emerge from the workers and community councils which the working class created during the Revolution. We also foresee that a federal structure will emerge globally to co-ordinate such things as the production and distribution of resources, the making of decisions which concern a number of communities etc. This is the organisational basis for an Anarchist Communist society. Collective decision making leaves no room for governing authorities, and voluntary co-operation will mean that laws and policing can be done away with. Under these new structures, all forms of exchange and money will be abolished and all land and property will be taken into the control of the community. Most of it will be used collectively to provide for the needs of its members. Some may be held by individuals for their personal use — there will be a distinction between ‘private property’, which exists only prior to the Revolution, and the personal possession and use of resources by the individual for their personal fulfilment — though not at the expense of communal need. No community or individual will be privileged over another in terms of resources.
B2: The New Economic Society
On this new organisational basis, we will then re-build our communities. Again, it is not for us to determine now exactly what our world will look like. However, agriculture will of course play a major part, as will necessary industry, and both will be undertaken by communities which will be part of networks distributing their produce. Where we live and work will, however, be considerably altered. There will be less of a division between town and country. Those living in isolated places or in villages can now have both a pleasant environment and the resources to enjoy it. Some of us will still desire to live in larger social centres, but in the heart of towns there will be no offices and shops but perhaps communal meeting places, open green spaces for leisure and congregation, gardens and orchards, or whatever we choose and need. Likewise, our homes need not look like the drab boxes we are forced to live in now, but can be as exciting as resources, not profit, allow. Indeed, some of us will desire to live in our own space for the privacy which we have been deprived under Capitalism, whilst others will relish the chance to share their lives with others and live communally. We will also have more flexibility about changing where we live, because the question of whether we can ‘afford’ it will not be relevant. Transport will also be geared towards social need for industry, agriculture and leisure, and not the private ownership of status vehicles as it is now, and we will thus see a reduction in motor vehicles and the social and ecological problems they create. However, the physical appearance of our world will only be a symptom of other, more fundamental changes in human relations. The way we spend our lives in relation to each other is even more significant.
The Revolution will fundamentally transform the nature of work. We will re-organise industry so that we only produce what is socially-useful. We will introduce the ecological management of production and consumption. The renewal of the built environment will occur alongside more efficient and sustainable systems for generating distributing and using energy. We do not propose rigid solutions but we do say that the technology for efficient and fair ways of sharing energy already exist. Massive consumption by some groups and energy poverty for millions will cease. It is likely that renewable, low-cost and sustainable methods such as solar energy, photo-electric cells, passive heating through modern architectural methods, windpower, biomass and combined heat and power systems will become commonplace. But the burning of fossil fuels may continue for a while or where no alternatives exist. All nuclear power programmes will be halted and polluting industries will be progressively abolished or minimised. Most work under Capitalism is mindless and pointless, unless you are a boss. All activity after the Revolution will take place not for profit or the maintenance of the status quo, as it does now, but for the fulfilment of the individual, although never to the detriment of society. There will be no place for useless work such as the production of consumer goods for profit, the maintenance of social control, because these ‘normal’ aspects of society will be irrelevant after the Revolution. Each person will therefore have more time on their hands, but this is fundamentally different to ‘unemployment’ because no one will be ‘employed’. This is because society is easily capable of producing enough for its needs but not its greed, the concept of having to work for a wage — or else starve and become homeless — will become redundant. The nature of work will in itself be more enjoyable, because, unlike under Capitalism it will have a point to it and because we will work in ways which maximise fulfilment, not profit. Less pleasant but none the less necessary tasks will be shared out entirely equally and the rest of our time can be spent in enjoyable and creative pursuits.
Of course, fields will have to be ploughed, drains cleaned and domestic work performed, but no one will be ‘a farm labourer’, a ‘sewage worker’ or ‘a housewife’, because these task will be shared out equally and be performed in collectively run farms, workplaces, launderettes and crè ches etc., and occupy the minimum of time for each person (unless they like doing them!). In addition, these tasks will no longer be performed for a boss, a council bureaucracy or a husband, because we will not be answerable to any more powerful individual but to our anarchist communist society, i.e. each other. It is a fundamental belief of anarchist communists that the working class already have all the skills needed to run society. Not everyone has all of these, of course, and equality does not mean that we all take it in turns to perform heart surgery. Neither will we all have the skills to nurse the sick back to health. Thus, some specialisation will be necessary. What will change, however, is that there will not be more prestige or status attached to one social function in comparison to another.
B3: The Free Individual in Voluntary Society
Specific examples of changed social relations will serve to show what we mean by Social Revolution. We spell out exactly what we mean because some previous and contemporary ‘revolutionary’ or ‘utopian’ theories, even those with a class analysis, envisage an ‘ideal’ society which is still dependent on the physical and sexual exploitation of women, as though this is ‘natural’ and as though women will ‘naturally’ co-operate with it. Under Anarchist Communism, women will not have the maintenance of the home and childrearing as their major social function, because such tasks will be the responsibility of the whole community. It may be that ‘parents’ in some communities do rear their own children within a family unit which may live within a separate house to others. Children will have a choice in how they want to live as well. It may be the case that children have no more connection with their biological parents that with anyone else and that the entire community chooses to live communally. There is no need for it to be the ‘norm’ to live within a family unit. Indeed, the choice of whether to have children, how to rear them, and how the individual wishes to live once it begins to make its own choices, will be a matter for those concerned and not for social controllers. Similarly, the nature of sexual relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual, will be determined equally by partners and need only be as monogamous or ‘conventional’ as the individual wishes. Just as not everyone accepts narrow-minded definitions of what is sexually acceptable prior to the Revolution, so we can be even more liberated and respectful of each other after the Revolution.
Likewise, all other forms of social relation will change. Remove national boundaries, colonial politics, the requirements of profit for cheap labour in ‘under-developed’ countries and, more importantly, the State lie that certain ‘peoples’ are by nature inherently inferior to others, then the significance of racial distinctions will be re-defined. Our relationships within our communities and with other communities the world over will be based on the sharing of ideas and ‘commodities’ as needed and desired, and will not constitute either exploitation or charity. Racism itself will be eradicated both through the process by which the class unites globally to free itself from Capitalism, and through deliberate efforts to expose and undermine any remnants of institutionalised or personal bigotry which remains within our class after the Revolution. Whilst not denying the multifaceted origins of human-kind, in the new society concepts such as ‘race’ will not be as relevant as those of ‘regional culture’. We of course reject the reactionary regionalism supported by sections of the New Right. Only the development of regional culture that rejects chauvinism and racism, and one that exists within a libertarian federalist framework that celebrates both internationalism and local diversity, can be at all supported. When resources have been more equally shared out and the Earth’s ecology recovered from Capitalism, the only relevant differences between communities the world over will be positive and creatively chosen ones of cultural diversity. At present it is leading capitalists who are most easily able to communicate across world-wide cultural boundaries, but the world will seem ‘smaller’ after the Revolution and contact and exchange with communities globally will be a common feature of our lives.
Other currently unequal relationships will change. No individual will be considered less socially valuable because of age, ability or health. The identity of the aged, the very young, the mentally and physically disabled or the infirm will not be one of ‘dependent’ on society but of ‘contributor’ to it. Although this ideal is a common ‘sentiment’ in this capitalist society, it can never be achieved until economic relations are taken out of social relations. Under Anarchist Communism, ‘contribution’ and ‘social value’ will not be measured in economic terms. As with other areas of social relations we do not envisage that, on ‘day one’ after Capitalism has been over-thrown, we will all be free of unfounded and reactionary assumptions about each other. What we see is that a conscious and voluntary policy of re-education will take place to undermine the commonplace ‘truths’ created by Capitalism (indeed, this work must, and does, take place before the Revolution and forms an essential part of revolutionary propaganda). Only by consciously understanding and acting on the arguments for Anarchist Communism can the individual be fulfilled, as well as free and equal, within the new society — creating the life which they wish for themselves in relation to the equally important needs of other people.
Of course, even under Anarchist Communism, we cannot all live harmoniously with each other all the time. However, the vast majority of ‘crime’ relates to material need or greed, neither of which should occur under Anarchist Communism. For example, no money means that there will be no need for burglary, mugging, fraud or extortion. Drugs will not be ‘illegal’ because there will be no law, but a major change in the extent to which we respect ourselves and each other will necessarily mean that anti-social drug use will be virtually unknown. Other ‘crime’, involving the abuse or exploitation of one human being by another, will be minimised in a society which teaches that we are all equal. Some such anti-social behaviour may remain, however. For example, some people may still be psychologically unfitted to behaving with respect and care for others. How such people will be restrained from anti-social behaviour must be a matter decided by the community affected by them.
The transformation of social relations between people — the Revolution — must be accompanied by a change in how humans relates to other life; other animals, plants, and the ecosystem. This is because all life is interdependent e.g. plants produce the air we breath and our food (directly or via plant-eating animals) whilst in turn, plants are nourished by our excrement and dead bodies. All life (excepting humans at present) exists in a certain dynamic equilibrium with other life, since plant and animal populations interact and adjust to changes between themselves and their environment in order to maintain a stable, though changing, system. Post-revolutionary society will therefore need to establish a way of life in a similar equilibrium with the rest of nature, rather than the present relationship of domination and destruction which has resulted from industrial capitalism and class society. Practically, this would mean an end to the industrial methods of Agribusiness, such as large scale monoculture (single crop growth) with the accompanying poisoning caused by chemical fertilisers and pesticides, the abolition of factory farming which is harmful to both animals and people (e.g. foot and mouth disease, salmonella, B.S.E.), and the cessation of industrial fishing which is decimating fish populations and harming the environment. In place of such dangerous techniques there will have to be a system of sustainable agriculture, smaller scale, largely or wholly organic, with, for example, crop rotation to restore and maintain the soil. These changes would, for practical reasons, stimulate a move to a far less meat-dominated diet. The global trend is currently in the opposite direction, as the ‘under-developed world’ seeks (with the help of the advertising industry) to emulate the diseased, fat and additive-sodden West. Not only is this diet fundamentally detrimental to human health, it is unsustainable (and possibly unachievable) due to the vast amounts of resources (energy, land etc.) that are consumed by animals, as compared to arable (plant) production — larger areas of land are required to grow plants which feed animals to feed people. It seems obvious that the vast majority of animal experiments will end with the abolition of the profit motive (e.g. those connected with cosmetics, arms production etc). A new ethics arising from the future society’s desire to achieve a sustainable relationship in and with the rest of nature will also surely lead to a desire to minimise/abolish the exploitation of animals wherever possible, and it will rest with post-revolutionary society to decide whether any animal experimentation should be allowed to continue.
We will now look at the alternative culture which must exist in order for revolutionaries to succeed, at the role of the revolutionary organisation itself, and at specific examples of how and why it must intervene in the class struggle and broader revolutionary movement. Finally, we address the Revolution itself.
Part C: The Revolutionary Programme
We advance the need for a Revolutionary Alternative to Capitalism. It must be against the currents of social-democracy and labourism and the Greens, who advance variants of these (planning by the national or local state combined with a healthy dose of free-enterprise prettied up with ‘co-operatives’ and ‘decentralisation’). This Alternative is based on the concept of a clean break with the old system. It is against Capitalism, Hierarchy and Authority and is for self-organisation. Reformist proposals offer no solution to the nightmare of Capitalism.
C1: Pre-revolutionary Culture
Faced with the polarisation between the development of a world market economy and the nationalist and fundamentalist reactions to it, the Revolution requires a new internationalism. This new internationalism is based neither on false ethnic nor nationalistic ideas, which are for world peoples a similar notion as individualism is to the individual, nor on vague abstract ideas of universal values, but on a dynamic interaction between a world outlook and local sensibility. It encourages and celebrates cultural diversity. It fights the segregation of cultures and looks towards dynamic exchange between them. It encourages the development of global communication. It must consist of a wide range of forms which include language, culture and tradition.
We fight against the false logic of Capitalist thought based on such concepts as ‘Progress’, ‘Growth’, and ‘Development’. The economic system is not something that should hurtle out of control but must, like technology, be subordinated to human need. Our opposition to capitalist Growth and Development is linked to our questioning of the work ethic and the nature of work.
The revolutionary alternative cannot exist without the development of a new Culture of Resistance. By this Culture of Resistance we mean the development of both social spaces and general attitudes of anti-capitalist combativity. Expressions of this are already present within the working class, for example the increasing dislike of the police and the popular support many recent struggles have enjoyed (e.g. Poll Tax, Roads, Strike Support Groups). At present these and other acts of resistance are largely carried by working class people who are neither politicised or consciously revolutionary. At the same time there exists a small number of class struggle anarchists consciously opposed to capitalism and the state, and committed to its overthrow. The links between these two groups are weak but if we are to create a working class movement capable of smashing the power of the state these links have to be strengthened. We actively encourage and participate in the development of social centres where a culture of resistance can grow and flourish. This culture is not a self-made ‘ghetto’ culture but a culture actively opposing the system. It will generalise struggles throughout the working class seeking to tie the development of resistance to the growth of a revolutionary movement, leading to a new civilisation. This generalisation will reach into all areas of life and see not just the intensification of resistance to state opposition, but also a conscious effort to reclaim working class culture and artistic expression from power elites. The division between manual and intellectual, avant-garde and mass, individual/individuality and community would begin to disappear. This Culture of Resistance will undermine the passive consumer/mass culture of today and all elitist art, releasing human potential and creativity.
The Revolutionary Alternative fights for a unity of all struggles which oppose oppression, privilege, exploitation, religion and the State. It opposes artificial divisions whether based on race, age, gender, sexuality, disability, nationality. Neither will it accept divisions based on waged or unwaged status or union affiliation.
C2: The Role of the Revolutionary Organisation
We do not think that the liberation of the working class, and through it the liberation of humanity as a whole, will come about on a purely spontaneous level. The road to Revolution that has its starting point in the internal contradictions of Capitalism has not yet been built. It will be created in struggle, in moving forward, and that means the development and application of strategies, even if every facet of each strategy is not proven effective.
This struggle cannot be delegated to a party. The Revolution does not mean, and it never has meant, the centralisation of struggles and the concentration of all the revolutionary forces in a single vanguard party. It means the development of a mass movement, with various coordinations of the subversive forces, in a globalising process that means passing from the defensive to the offensive. That does not remove the need for a specific Anarchist Communist organisation. The role it has to play is not one of making the Revolution on behalf of the masses, of being the single and centralised instrument of the Revolution.
The role of the revolutionary organisation can be summed up in a number of points:
Above all it is an assembly of activists who seek to work within struggles and movements.
It seeks to act as a memory for the working class, searching out and recalling the history of past struggles, and attempting to draw the lessons to be learned from their successes and failures.
One of its functions should be to act as a propaganda grouping, ceaselessly and untiringly putting over a revolutionary message.
It acts as a liaison for its militants, conveying information both here and abroad.
It acts as a place for debate for militants, where ideas and experiences can be synthesised. It will decide, for example, what propositions to formulate and what way to develop anti-capitalist positions in the area of activity of each militant? By offering this place for debate, it counters localism, and fixation on single issues.
It puts into practice its own strategies. It struggles for the independence of struggles, for their self-organisation, against their co-option by reformism and electoralism. It struggles for the recomposition of a revolutionary movement, for an anti-capitalist solution to the crisis within an international perspective. It puts forward initiatives for practical unity and debate wherever possible.
Defending the independence and self-organisation of mass movements does not mean that the revolutionary organisation does not seek to spread its ideas in these movements. In this sense we recognise and fight for a ‘the leadership of ideas’ within the working class through example and suggestion. In a non-revolutionary period the potentially revolutionary masses by and large hold conservative ideas and values. In this period there needs to be an organisation that holds on to revolutionary ideas. This leadership of ideas means a clearer understanding of hierarchical society, the concept of self-organised society and of the problem of Leninism. In the struggle against Leninism and all forms of elitism comes the realisation that the struggle of ideas must be waged at grass roots level. This realisation is reflected in revolutionary anarchist communist theory and practice e.g. the mandating and rotation of delegates for mass decision making and for mass action.
The revolutionary organisation affirms that in fighting for a new society it will not seek to carry out a seizure of power independent of the united organs of the working class (workplace and neighbourhood councils).
It affirms that it will never seek a mandate to form a government, but will fight for the constant involvement in the act of social self-organisation of these revolutionary bodies of the working class.
By its practice, by its manner of acting, by the intransigence of its positions and its refusal of compromise, the revolutionary organisation must be an immediate reference point for the radicalised sectors who are facing the most brutal consequences of the crisis. This revolutionary organisation, yet to be developed, must synthesise the need for immediate reply to capitalist attacks, possible and practical solutions, and aspirations for a radical change in society.
Thus, the AF does not see itself as the perfect revolutionary organisation, but is involved in the process out of which one will emerge. It does believe that its theory and structure, if not its size and influence in the working class, will make a major contribution to this organisation.
C3: The activity of the AF in struggles before the Revolution
The AF operates as part of a wider revolutionary movement, existing here and around the World, which itself acts in the context of enormous, but largely unorganised, discontent amongst working class people at their lives under Capitalism. The revolutionary movement in itself is fragmented organisationally, partly because it is uninspired and weak theoretically and politically. The class as a whole, whilst angry, appears apathetic because it is disillusioned with traditional and ineffectual forms of struggle and because groups like the AF have not yet been able to prove the case for Revolution and encourage revolutionary tendencies within the working class. The AF has positions which we try to implement in our approach to the revolutionary movement and also in our involvement in resistance at work and in our communities which we believe will help create a culture of resistance and revolutionary consciousness.
Our approach is derived both from our theory and from our experience, and those of other people, in struggle. It enable us not only to help undermine Capitalism in the here and now, but also shifts the focus of everyday struggles from obvious, though important, short term goals to the ultimate goal of Revolution. For example, we are involved as working class people in struggling for better community facilities, for resistance to police presence on our streets, and for working class self-activity in dealing both with the authorities and with anti-social elements in our communities. But at the same time we point out that the enemy is the capitalist state, and so we oppose putting faith in soft-cop community leaders or self-appointed community controllers, such as gangsters or paramilitaries. And we argue against people who try to scapegoat vulnerable groups within our communities — such as youth, black people, homeless people or squatters — for the problems which Capitalism creates.
To make revolution more likely, our working class communities must be united. People must be made conscious of the fact that it is Capitalism which divides us and makes us compete, it is not a natural human condition. Humanity can only fulfil its potential after a revolution which achieves an anarchist communist world. But the creation of self-active units and communities will make the Revolution more likely, as we get a glimpse of what life could be like outside of state control and the requirements of profit. Because of this we have been involved in such areas as squatting, opposition to the Criminal Justice Act, unemployment issues such as the Job Seekers Allowance, anti-Poll Tax work, opposition to council and government collaboration with big business — wrecking our environment by building roads through where we live and giving land to supermarket chains to build yet more superstores — housing projects, resistance to the closure and under funding of community facilities as well as in creative and cultural projects. Let us make it clear — we do not involve ourselves in these campaigns in order to sign up recruits as do left groups like the Socialist Workers Party or the Socialist Party (ex-Militant), but because we want these campaigns to succeed and inspire participants to go on taking control of their lives, community and environment.
We have a similar approach to workplace struggles. It is vital that workers are supported whenever they oppose the boss class, be it over issues of safety, pay, hours, attacks on ethnic minorities or women at work, job security or whatever. Victory improves our slave conditions in these areas but can also inspire workers to create more meaningful change. Real resistance, be it short term — such as for re-instatement or better wages — or aimed at longer term social change — is only possible if the false claim of the trade unions to represent workers’ aspirations is undermined. Union membership has fallen since legislation made trade union organised activity less effective. But it has fallen also because workers see unions as less relevant to their workplace experience. Indeed, in recent years, when unions have supported their own members taking action, they have most typically clamped down on activity which could damage union coffers and their good relationships with the bosses.
There are reasons for joining trade unions, however. Unions are one place where you can meet other people fighting, or wanting to fight the bosses. Meeting regularly with them can build a sense of solidarity and give you somewhere to discuss politics. In some workplaces with a tradition of union membership, not only would you be seen as anti-working class if you didn’t join but you would be unlikely to get any support if you were victimised by the bosses. Not least, unionised workplaces often have better wages, job security etc. But this is now becoming all that unions can achieve. The law means that they can support only the most moderate and ineffectual action, and they are typically unwilling to risk even this. In this climate, the struggles they do support are pro-capitalist and entirely legal. They are not on the side of workers in struggle unless they are total in control of the means of that struggle. Huge numbers of disputes have begun unofficially, and even if the union is shamed into coughing up strike pay and so on, it tries at the same time to tone down and eventually negotiate the struggle to a standstill. When we get involved with disputes it is vital to show workers that it is they who are in struggle, not their union, and that if they win it is in spite of their union.
Increasingly, workers find themselves in non-unionised workplaces. A typical problem faced by Revolutionaries is whether to start a workplace branch. If your colleagues see you as a fighter, they might try to make you shop-steward. Revolutionaries know that there is little point expending energy in this way. Indeed, recent disputes, where workers were sacked specifically for joining a union, have received little or no union support in any case. Rather than become part of the bureaucracy of a near-redundant trade union mechanism ourselves, because of a lack of other options, we must be able to offer credible alternatives.
Of the alternatives which the workers’ movement has offered, some are less useful than others. Rank and File-ism, for example, involves a ‘bottom up’ approach where radical workplace representatives rather than paid union convenors take the initiative. Whilst this poses a threat to slow moving and back-sliding union bureaucracy, its emphasis is still reformist and its vision limited by existing trade union structures and lack of vision. Such initiatives have sometimes proved to be vehicles for leftists climbing their organisation’s career ladder, by proving themselves to be more effective reformists that the union’s officials. Individual rank and filists may give a radical lead to some struggles and gain a high profile, but this does not seem to result in the creation of mass movements, let alone revolutionary consciousness. This is the case not least because rank and filists put themselves in a position to negotiate between the workers and the bosses. This is the case with all initiatives which cling to trade unionism. Shop Stewards coordination has faced similar problems. Some shop stewards may even genuinely represent workers wishes, but are unable to establish networks that by-pass the bureaucracy in order to effectively implement them.
For similar reasons we are sceptical about the potential of syndicalism and anarcho-syndicalism as revolutionary methods. Syndicalists aim to set up alternative unions as a means to bring about revolution and such tactics have proved popular with anarchists. However, despite such unions adopting anarchist principles and often being militant in both industrial and social struggles, unions are incapable of bringing about revolutionary change. Permanent economic organisations, whatever label or ideology they adhere to, invariably become integrated into capitalism. In practice, syndicalist unions have become as bureaucratic as other unions because of their permanent position of mediation between bosses and workers. The working class should aim not only to take control of the workplace but to be liberated from it.
Activity which is unofficial and initiated and continued outside of union control has been successful historically. Changing work practices make the workplace less of a potential power base for the working class and trade unionism cannot challenge the power of the bosses enough to turn this around. Nonetheless, workers continue to take action and do sometimes win in spite of trade union sabotage. These struggles are very different from those of traditional trade unionism. Struggles which do succeed do so because of a combination of extreme anger, optimism and solidarity amongst those on strike, not because the union is supporting them. They also win because workers refuse to be bought off by the bosses not only because of idealism but because, quite literally, workers have nothing left to lose, and so the negotiating role of the union is undermined. Workers on strike survive not because of strike pay, which is often non-existent, but because they extend their struggles into communities of support, solidarity groups, and donations from other working class people for example, not because of the effectiveness of broader trade union co-operation (which is now virtually illegal). From this new realism either despondency or revolutionary consciousness may grow.
Therefore we advocate the need for an optimistic, coherent and realistic industrial strategy, one which anticipates and by-passes the impotence of the unions, as opposed to just responding to their lack of support with outraged demands for recognition. A new way of waging war on the bosses is now more relevant than ever. Just as Capitalism itself is changing its tactics, workers are realising for themselves that the old forms of economic struggle, such as were successful in Britain in the 1970’s, are less useful. Anarchists have long argued that the union bosses attempt to sabotage struggle, and this argument has now been won. Over the past few years, and as we write, workers have realised this and are beginning to establishing structures of attack, defence and support which anticipate the role of the unions and by-pass it.
Recent years have seen a huge increase in wildcat strikes, industrial sabotage and attacks on the Capitalist infra-structure. Effective action has gone beyond the confines of individual workplaces and industries. For example; secretive secondary action undertaken by other workers and activists; support groups revolving around working class communities as well as involving the families of workers in dispute and making links with other non-industrial struggles; the formation of international links directly with other workers irrespective of the global collusion between bosses and unions. These tactics are now employed by workers as part of a conscious attempt to be self-active in their own defence and make effective use of their time — not handing their power over to the useless unions.
Obviously, what is emerging in an alternative workers movement which is both economic and social. Revolutionaries need to give thought to the question of how this should be structured. The AF has discussed whether the establishment of a permanent support groups network is a good idea, as the matter has been raised by workers. We should be wary of establishing any permanent structures, useful though they may seem in the short term. They may become as paralysed by bureaucracy as the unions, have to have full-time or paid workers, be prey to leftist take-over, or worst of all, have limited resources and have to decide which struggles to allocate them to and which to neglect. Not least, if they are permanent, then the State can attack them.
What is needed is the growth of a new culture of economic resistance without a permanent structure but able to produce high levels of militant activity as and when it is needed. this is not to say that there should be no on-going radical work. Far from it. We believe that, even when not officially in dispute, workers should establish semi-secretive (but never elitist) non-permanent ‘workplace resistance’ groups. These have been established by Revolutionaries in some industries have in the past, with some success. Their secrecy and lack of permanent structure means that their members cannot be identified, victimised or bought off by management, and they can concentrate on action and theory, not on self-perpetuation. Such groups must not seek to be alternative unions. They must be anti-capitalist, anti-company, anti-union and anti-party political and have no respect for legality. They should advocate class war and practise direct action to achieve their objectives. Such groups would have a propaganda function (pushing resistance and rebellion, slagging management, attacking trade and alternative unionism, advocating go-slows, non-cooperation, sabotage and unofficial action, mass sick-days etc.) and an active function (co-ordinating such activity in practice).
These groups will probably be initiated by revolutionaries, such as AF members, but they will be made up of anyone wishing to take effective action against the bosses. Class fighters of all kinds will be involved — anyone who can be trusted in fact. In times of greatest anger in the workplace they might include everyone working there and their strength will be in mass participation. At other times, smaller groups will adopt radical tactics (vandalism, sabotage etc. to hurt the bosses’ pocket and intimidation of scabs and managers, for example). The effectiveness of their action will encourage more people to get involved. Their actions must be determined by active mass participation in decision making and not become a battle ground for politicised cliques. Their networks of support will extend into the community, into other workplaces, and into the revolutionary movement.
If this all seems a long way off, think back to the effectiveness of unofficial sabotage activity undertaken by miners, printers and dockers in past disputes, which inspired similar action in many other less famous disputes. Think also of how scared the bosses have been of wild-cat actions undertaken by postal, hospital and transport workers. These and other workers, such as those in fast food businesses and the textile industry, have undertaken effective action outside of the limited vision of the trade unions, who have frequently abandoned them or sought to neutralise their autonomy and effectiveness.Think how vital community support groups have been to struggles. The unions have opposed such autonomous action, and as a result have shown themselves at best unnecessary, and at worst a vicious enemy. Ask yourselves whether radical activity undertaken by trade union members was actually reliant on the union. Militants do not need the union to help them express their class anger in a useful way. Such activity was often ignored, denounced and undermined by the unions but happened anyway. In many cases it would probably have happened sooner if workers had not waited in the first place for the union to take the lead.
The Revolutionary Movement
The creation of an effective revolutionary movement is necessary for such inspiring activity to be maximised. This seems a long way off. In the meantime, the AF remains amongst the principal groupings where revolutionary militants unite and act. There is a huge gap between the AF’s pretensions and its current effective capacity. In order to change this we must continue to integrate of new militants within the organisation and educate each other politically so that positions and strategy are formulated collectively, and achieve the widest possible circulation of Organise! and other propaganda.
The hour for regroupment within the revolutionary movement is now. Outside of the AF there are other revolutionary groupings and various militants scattered in local and single issue campaign groups and movements around the UK. For example, within solidarity groups, in defiance of the Terrorism Bill which aims to stifle protest, in (un)employment action groups, in the wider anti-capitalist movement etc. We already work with other groups who are close to our politics. At a local level, our members work with revolutionary groups and individuals on anarchist projects and in other areas of struggle. However, we need to debate the problem of localism in some groupings. The importance of local work should not obscure the need for national, and ultimately global coherence and perspective, which is best achieved through national, and ultimately international, organisation. We are concerned at the excessive group pride in some town based groupings which are more concerned with ‘action’ than their equally important political direction and role in the broader movement.
But theoretical diversity has been a strength in our movement. It has made groups like the AF able to assess the changing world situation from an informed and undogmatic perspective. Unity does not mean rigid unanimity. Differences exist because they are produced by the complexities of the present situation. They are even necessary because they create a richness and quality to a movement, and they must be allowed freedom in a debate which is the embryo of a revolutionary decision-making structure. But equally important is the search for common ground and common positions. The ability to reach common agreement is a measure of the maturity of a movement, of its capacity to decide what is important and what is secondary. Because we believe debate is vital, we want to establish a place for discussion with other groups, through conferences and/or a discussion bulletin, in order to prove our case for national organisation and co-ordination and better developed theory than exists in much of the movement. This in itself will make the AF and our movement in general more credible to militants within the workplace and community who are developing revolutionary/semi-revolutionary positions. The militants of the AF are ready to debate with all those who recognise the need for an anti-capitalist alternative though the end of the 20th Century and into the 21st. Strategic unity does not just consist in numerically uniting the small and isolated groups of Revolutionaries but in relating the struggles of the present to the vision of a future society, to introduce the concepts of Revolution into the present social struggles and into everyday life.
Whilst there are anarchist communists in many countries, the individualist and syndicalist traditions still dominate. We argue that these traditions neither fully represent revolutionary working class self-activity nor offer the best way towards international Revolution. In addition, many countries have no anarchist tradition, where our ideas have not reached or where the State has suppressed them. Our aim is to encourage Revolutionaries to work towards an Anarchist Communist international. This is vital because we believe that the Revolution, wherever it starts, must spread quickly internationally if it is to survive. True revolution can not succeed whilst Capitalism remains in any part of the world. Neither can it succeed whilst established anarchist organisations draw disproportionately heavily on the experience of militants in the Western, traditionally industrialised countries without addressing the changing experience of the working class under the new global capitalist practices outlined in earlier sections. For this reason we take communication with our members, sympathisers and contacts throughout the world very seriously, giving what advice and support we can to them and learning from the lessons they learn in struggle in their own countries.
C4: The Revolutionary Process
The culmination of all the hopes and fears expressed in this manifesto will come when our class directly challenges the bosses and states for control of our world — the Revolution itself. Many who sympathise with our ideas may think this day is far off, or even an impossible dream, but history has shown time and again that revolutions do erupt against the most unlikely backgrounds, unpredicted by rulers and revolutionaries alike. We cannot predict the precise form that revolution will take. It is not pre-destined, it is for the working class to create. We cannot say when or where the revolutionary outburst of class anger will first appear, and we will doubtless be astounded by the creativity of the working class in fighting their age old oppression. But we can be sure of two things. Firstly that it will come, not because of inevitable economic rules such as a declining rate of profit, but because of the desire for freedom, anger at the suffering of others, and hatred for those who oppress us. Secondly, we can be sure from experience of past struggles that we will face opposition from many quarters. These include state and capital; those like the unions or social democrats who would wish to gain power by leading the working class back to slavery; and those like the Leninists and Trotskyists who would take us forward to a new despotism. How can a truly revolutionary organisation help to win this battle where all libertarians have failed before?
The Function of the Revolutionary Organisation
There will be no change in the aim of the organisation now or during the revolution. That aim is the self-emancipation of the working class, conscious of itself. Our tactics will of course be modified to the circumstances and activity will be raised to the highest possible level. However, it should be stressed that revolutionary action even in time of violent conflict must be combined with even greater self-education and propaganda. The most important battle to win will be the battle of ideas.
Another key to success will be unified operational decision-making. Anarchists have been amongst the most effective militants in fighting the revolution but have often failed to grasp the need for acting together in a co-ordinated way to achieve our common purpose. The organisation must have a robust libertarian structure that can organise itself more effectively than the authoritarian ‘revolutionary’ parties, who are able to order about their dupes and underlings. Members and groups in the revolutionary organisation must accept collective responsibility for its action, work to a collective plan and more importantly contribute to making decisions themselves. Otherwise we will be no more than a pale imitation of the hierarchically organised so-called ‘communists’.
To operate effectively the revolutionary organisation should adopt a more organic nature in time of revolution. Since it may be difficult if not impossible to hold congresses or delegate meetings of comrades far apart (the successful revolution is a global event, although it may spark in only certain places initially) and meetings are often slow to come to decisions (and are extremely vulnerable to attack by our enemies thus breaking up inter-group links), most communication and achieving of consensus on short term strategy is likely to be done by informal contact between members and groups using what methods of communication are available. We must have an inter-linked network of members involved not only in their local revolutionary grouping but simultaneously in workplace and community collectives that have arisen in the course of struggle. Equally important are non-geographical alignments. For example, with revolutionaries to whom our members are politically close to or in debate with, with those in similar circumstances of struggle or sharing types of communities or particular forms oppression. Nor should we forget that amongst the strongest bonds uniting people are family and friendship, which also enable those far apart to consult and take effective unified action. Multiple frames of references can not only make us more effective but also less isolated and vulnerable.
As it does already, the revolutionary organisation will undoubtedly need to delegate responsibility to individuals and groups to carry out certain roles during the revolution. What is important is that no one should become indispensable in event of their loss or defection, and that the organisation retains the ability to remove delegates at any time. The recall and rotation of delegates must be a normal feature of the revolutionary organisation. Ideally all members should be able to fulfil a variety of roles, and no leadership elite will be allowed to develop.
The Revolutionary Organisation within the Working Class
The revolutionary organisation is nothing more than those of the working class who recognise their oppression and have come together to work for free and equal society. In a revolutionary situation vast numbers of the working class come to see the true nature of capitalist society and aim at its abolition. As the revolution progresses the distinction between a politically aware organisation and a class in struggle will blur and finally disappear when the revolution triumphs in the emergence of society organised by all its members for their mutual benefit. There will most likely be friction as this process unfolds, with some members of the working class distrustful of political theory, and revolutionaries who become impatient with a slower development of political consciousness.
While a strong organisation is needed to promote libertarian ideas and act decisively in their defence it will not be a question of simply educating the working class to anarchism, rather each will learn from the other. In the Revolution more people will hopefully be attracted to revolutionary ideas and be active in the organisation. While this is beneficial this may create problems for the revolutionary organisation. It must avoid a dual structure of theoreticians and activists, remembering that activity leads to good ideas, and useful action flows from correct ideas. To achieve this the organisation must be in a constant state of self-education and encourage new members to be immediately as confident and participatory in decision making as the most experienced revolutionaries. However, the organisation must never compromise its politics by accepting members who fundamentally disagree with Anarchist Communism, certainly not even with a view to changing their ideas, because to realise an anarchist society we must do it by anarchist methods and never by subterfuge or intrigue.
Other Groupings — Revolutionary and Otherwise
Operational and tactical decisions will need to be taken by groups like the AF in relation to other groupings who will wish to influence the course of the revolution. No one organisation has a monopoly on the right ideas, however, and different groupings will be actively pushing these. This will be inevitable on a world-wide scale. We hope to achieve theoretical and practical unity with other libertarian communist and anarchist groupings or individuals if this has not already happened before the onset of revolution. This is integral to our revolutionary politics and to the creation of the free communal society. However, during the Revolution we must still be critical of ideas in debate, so that in practice we do not make the same mistakes that Anarchists have made in potentially revolutionary situations in the past (for example, in reproducing aspects of the state and capital as occurred in Spain in the 1930s).
Many authoritarian groups profess the same end as us but insist that a hierarchical organisation is necessary to achieve it. The revolutionary organisation must oppose these ideologies at all levels. By argument, propaganda and the living example of a libertarian movement it is to be hoped that many of the militants in the authoritarian left will join us. However, it is the declared intention of many such groups to eliminate libertarian tendencies so that they can control the revolution themselves.. The working class must be prepared from the outset to use force against counter-revolutionary groupings when they attempt to hijack the revolution and attack libertarians as readily as we would against capital or the state.
By far the largest working class groupings formed in the Revolution will be the organic structures established by the working class as the struggle develops. Many different types of workers’ councils, communes, community networks, affinity and other groupings may emerge spontaneously in the first days of the revolution, in addition to those which established themselves as part of the movement before the Revolution. Members of the revolutionary organisation will doubtless already be involved in these. Our role must be to help them build links between each other and form as quickly as possible a united force.
Winning the Class War
When the Revolution starts the state will waste no time in attempting to crush it with all the forces at its disposal; police, military (especially the use of the military of one state against the workers of another); the arming of fascists and other reactionary elements etc. The revolutionary organisation must be prepared to make this class war winnable. A strong anarchist communist organisation can help facilitate the working class itself producing coordinated armed self-defence forces, to counter the police and armies of states world-wide.
If the working class is resolute, it can win a revolutionary war against the military might of the state. The majority of military personnel are working class and, however indoctrinated they are, we doubt that they will be prepared, on the whole, to shoot down their friends, neighbours and relatives. Examples from the Russian Revolution of 1917 to the Romania of 1990 show that the army will desert the state when it becomes clear that the people will no longer tolerate their government and are prepared to take to the streets to prove it. Unfortunately, history also shows that troops from one country sometimes readily shoot revolutionaries in others. This is why the revolution must be global and virtually simultaneous if incredible destructive war is to be avoided. When we fight this revolutionary war, it may be very easy to forget what we are fighting for. It is the task of the revolutionary organisation to make itself a global movement, to encourage the break down of national barriers which divide the working class, and argue incessantly against nationalism in all its forms.
This is only a glimpse of how we see the revolutionary process. No one can envisage exactly how Revolution will come and exactly what form it will take, but we are sure that if there is to be freedom and equality for all, come it must. We work towards that goal, open to new ideas whilst firm in our convictions.
We hope to have convinced you of our vision of a better world and welcome you to join us in fighting for it in existing and future revolutionary organisations and movements.
The Anarchist Communist society will be shaped initially by the generation which fights the revolution. So the manifesto is not intended to be a blue-print — it is not up to the AF or even the wider revolutionary movement to determine now what the future society will be like. Beyond Resistance contains our thoughts on those aspects on which we have come to some conclusions. We will continue to engage in theoretical debate in the libertarian movement as a whole.
The AF is not a large body and we have no pretensions about our importance. However, we are convinced enough of our ideas to want to spread them as widely as possible, both by involvement in struggle and by convincing comrades to want to join organisations and groupings such as our own. We encourage those of a like mind to join us in debate and action.
If you would like to comment on what you have read or would like more information about us, please contact us. If you are interested in joining the AF after what you have read about us and our ideas, and agree with our Aims and Principles, please get in touch and we will tell you how to do this.
We look forward to debate with comrades about the issues we have raised and to more joint action in the future. Towards the creation of a global Anarchist Communist movement and Revolution!...