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FIVE WAVES: A history of revolutionary Anarchist Communist mass organizational theory & practice

category international | history of anarchism | feature author Wednesday November 02, 2005 22:55author by Michael Schmidt - Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federationauthor email blackdragon at africamail dot com Report this post to the editors

Anarchist communism has evolved over the past 140 years as a fighting working class tradition of revolutionary warfare against all forms of exploitation. Its aim is the creation of the freest and most equal society possible, balancing individual and collective interests in as fair a way as possible. But our detractors, both of the left and the right question whether anarchism is strong enough to work in practice.

This booklet is very far from a total history of the movement - it merely sketches the broader outlines of these waves - and the texts quoted from are not some sort of holy canon, but indicate how, at decisive moments, the movement grappled with the complex question that lies at the heart of making a social revolution and which has vexed all leftist revolutionaries: that of the relationship between the specific revolutionary organisation and the mass of the exploited and oppressed.


FIVE WAVES

A BRIEF GLOBAL HISTORY OF REVOLUTIONARY ANARCHIST COMMUNIST MASS ORGANISATIONAL THEORY & PRACTICE

Michael Schmidt (ZACF International Secretary, Southern Africa)


Introduction

Anarchist communism has evolved over the past 140 years as a fighting working class tradition of revolutionary warfare against all forms of exploitation. Its aim is the creation of the freest and most equal society possible, balancing individual and collective interests in as fair a way as possible. But our detractors, both of the left and the right question whether anarchism is strong enough to work in practice.

The examples of the Mexican, Ukrainian, Manchurian, Spanish, Cuban and Iranian revolutions show that anarchist communism - true grassroots workers' control and full social, political and economic equality - is practical, sustainable and defensible, so long as its core principles of direct democracy are deeply rooted in the working class.

But, other revolutionaries say, our style of organisation is not strong enough to either sustain revolutionary gains or to defend them. This brief history will show how anarchists through the last century have grappled with the issue. It will show that far from being chaotic or anti-organisational, true anarchist militants are lovers of equitable social order and believe in organising their forces to achieve this.

We also believe that it is a method which is not only compatible with anarchist organisations ranging from small "affinity groups" and cells to large-scale union and political federations, but that by requiring a high degree of internal education and direct participation, it is more anarchist than looser styles of organisation which carry the un-anarchist danger of allowing an active minority to lead a passive majority of members.

The rule, as always for anarchists, is that the means determine the end, so internal democracy in our organisations is the most important guarantor that our external relations with the working class will also remain directly democratic and truly free. Revolutionary anarchist communism (or "anarcho-communism") sprang from the mass workers' organisations that founded the First International in 1864.

Since then, anarchism has waxed and waned according, largely, to the conditions in which the global working class, peasantry and poor have found themselves, and in their responses to the expansions and contractions of capital as it continually sought to overcome its inherent contradictions. Anarchist communism is not an inchoate, emotionally juvenile, disorganised morass of self-serving, half-baked libertarian ideas, but a consistently egalitarian, militant, directly-democratic, organised revolutionary theory and practice.

Anarchism did not suddenly vanish from the theatre of class warfare with the Conservative Counter-revolution of the 1920s that gave rise to both fascism, Stalinism and other types of reformism like the welfare state. Not only that, but it survived well beyond the collapse of the Spanish Revolution, with significant large-scale efforts in the depths of the Cold War in countries as diverse as Chile, Korea, China and Cuba in the 1940s and 1950s, until regenerated by the neo-liberal contraction in the early 1970s.

Today, it has grabbed headlines around the world as it once did in its hey-day of the 1890s-1930s, being the heart, brawn and brain of the anti-capitalist movement, a phoenix rising from the ashes of both collapsed pseudo-communist ("state-capitalist") and collapsed private capitalist regimes (ex-USSR and Argentina, for example), providing a battle-proven, but much neglected alternate model for a world in crisis.

To take a long-term perspective, one can see the fortunes of anarchism - like that of the militant, autonomous working class - rise and fall in waves. The nature of these waves is a complex textile, embracing the weft of working class culture and consciousness, with the warp of capital in crisis, the ebb and flow of the global movements of people, capital and ideas.

This booklet is very far from a total history of the movement - it merely sketches the broader outlines of these waves - and the texts quoted from are not some sort of holy canon, but indicate how, at decisive moments, the movement grappled with the complex question that lies at the heart of making a social revolution and which has vexed all leftist revolutionaries: that of the relationship between the specific revolutionary organisation and the mass of the exploited and oppressed.

Chapter Index


Download the entire text as a PDF pamphlet to print out and distribute

Related Link: http://www.zabalaza.net/zabfed/
author by mistakepublication date Thu Nov 10, 2005 08:25Report this post to the editors

There's some kind of bizarre mistake in this pamphlet where it talks about a group called Insurrectionary Anarchists of the Coastal Salish Territories in Algeria. The author seems to have mistakenly refered to a website from Canada called "Insurrectionary Anarchists of the Coast Salish Territories", the territories in question being the traditional lands of indigenous peoples in the area of Vancouver. The website is not an organization and isn't based in Algeria.

author by nestor - Anarkismopublication date Thu Nov 10, 2005 18:17Report this post to the editors

Hi, thanks for pointing this out. The author has informed us that it was indeed a mistake on his part. We will be amending the text as per his instructions.

 
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