Anarchy and community in the UK

Article examining the meaning of 'community' in the current society, and what it would mean under communism.

This article deals with some aspects of community in British society today and in the hoped for revolutionary period. It does not touch on "primitive" or feudal communities.

One aspect of modern society which is often commented on is the lack of community. The old stereotypical village or slum community, it is said, is disappearing in the modem era, to be replaced by a society of isolated individuals who do not know their next-door neighbours. As well as being the subject of special reports in "The Mirror", the idea of community is something that anarchists should be interested in. The creation of a free and genuine community should be the aim of anarchist revolution.

Community is based on common interests and situation; its existence must mean the end of isolation and alienation. As alienation is a product of wage-labour and also of the State, real community must be one form of Anarchy (i.e. statelessness). What else does community mean? It must mean the end of all separations between members of the community. Obvious aspects of this end of separation, i.e. abolition of wage-labour and the state, have already been mentioned. Other aspects which are less often associated with revolutionary anarchism are these: firstly, the abolition of work as a specialised activity, and secondly the end of all relations (other than personal ~) which tie us to a particular locality.

Abolition of Work
In capitalist society all production takes place for profit, and workers carry out labour primarily in order to receive a wage. In the anarchist communist community production must be for need or desire. This different basis for production will mean differences in production itself, for example:

1. There will be no designed obsolescence
2. There will be no advertising industry
3. There will be an end to "fashion" in design of goods
4. There will be an end to overmanning
5. There will be an end to secret research, competition and unnecessary duplication
6. There will be a decrease in the amount of administration necessary

All these differences will mean that there will be a decrease in labour necessary for society to function; when the absence of the poi ice and military, and increased use of automation etc. is added to the equation, this quantity decreases still further, whilst (wo)manpower increases still further. The amount of work to be done will easily be completed by people "working" purely because they want to be involved in whatever activity this requires. (We have not even touched on increased production due to the absence of alienation.) This abolition of work means the abolition of the separation between work and other activities., such as hobbies or play.

Abolition of Ties to a Locality
If Individuals are tied to a particular town or factory (or continent...), this obviously means they are less interested in localities other than their own. In this instance we have a possible conflict of interests, and so the different localities no longer form parts of the same community. This end to community does not necessarily mean the reintroduction of the state, but it does mean the introduction of a mutated form of competition, that is a form of capitalism in which democratic collectives compete in a market economy. This form of society may have numerous advantages over the present forms, but it is something less than the destruction of capitalism/creation of true community, which could be achieved.

The abolition of ties to a locality, then, is obviously something desirable, but what in effect does it mean? One thing it does not mean is that the workers’ final aim should be to take over and run their own factories. In this instance workers would remain doing the same lobs as they were forced to do under capitalism. Workers must not take over "their" workplaces for themselves to run. What must happen instead is that the international working class must take over all workplaces (and all society) to run for itself to run, as a class. What this would mean at the level of an individual enterprise in the course of a revolution is that the gates of the workplace would be opened for anyone to enter, be they former workers at that enterprise, or former workers at another, or former housewives, former schoolchildren or whatever.... The people who are then at the enterprise would decide what if anything would be made with the productive apparatus there. (Of course, previous to this total socialisation, the enterprise may be occupied, and even put to use, purely by the striking workforce.) This approach must mean the end to all unions, including anarcho-syndicalist unions, the reason being that unions group workers according to the capitalist organisation of production, and so keeps workers apart from workers in other industries, unemployed people, housewives etc. A revolutionary movement must destroy the unions, along with all other capitalist organisations, in the process of ensuring its own ascendancy. A revolutionary workplace struggle would be more like the 1986 Spanish dockers’ strike, which was controlled by an assembly of all the people who were actively involved in the struggle, whether dockers or not.

By now it will be obvious that the real community to be created by revolution is somewhat different from the stereotypical community’’ described in the early part of this article. This "community" which is being crushed by modern capitalism, is a mini-society based on ‘leading figures’, e.g. the local G. P., local bobby, the local shop owners and the local priest. In other words the local community consisted of links of class collaboration and accommodation between the working class and the petty bourgeoisie "leading members of the community". We can now see that the communities which are everywhere said to be disappearing, never existed in any real sense; the interests of the working class were in essence different to those of the petty bourgeoisie. The apparent community existed mainly because the petty bourgeoisie was generally as tied to the local area as the working class was and so personal links were long-lasting and strong; in a sense, almost traditional. The modernisation of capitalism meant the virtual ruin of the petty bourgeoisie, and its replacement by the wage earning New Middle Class or Cadre. For example, the corner shop (if it was not knocked down because its business went to Sainsbury’s) is now probably part of a chain of grocers. In this case, the shop is not run by a petty-bourgeois owner but by a wage earning manager, a cadre. This manager may at any time move to manage another shop in the chain in another part of the country, or even change to a different job working for a different company. The old apparent community, in either case loses one of its vital pillars (it that what generally constitutes "community politics" is not as a whole revolutionary politics.)

In a revolution then, the old "community" as much as it still exists will be damaged and probably be destroyed (one reason for this is that the middle classes whether the old or the new tend to side with the ruling class, partly because shops are likely to be looted etc.) so where will the new real community come from? It is unlikely to appear lust because we would like it to.

The answer to this question is already known to most class-struggle anarchists and to most people who have been involved in collective struggles.

In the course of the revolution, community will be formed spontaneously, as relationships are transformed by participating in the struggle. The fact that class struggle creates as well as relies upon, working class solidarity has been known to revolutionaries of all shades for over a century. As long as the forms of organisation and tactics that we use do not retard the spontaneous development of community, in struggle, then the New World will have a new, World Community.

The above article originally appeared in 1986 in issue 11 "Virus" under the name "End of Community?". Virus was then the magazine of the Anarchist Communist Federation (both the magazine and the organisation have since adopted worse names). Although the article explicitly aims itself at anarchists, it was in fact directly influenced by various communist and Marxist texts. In particular, it draws on "LIP and the Self-Managed Counter-Revolution" by Negation, "Karl Marx and the Anarchists" by Paul Thomas and "Community and Communism in Russia" by Jacques Camatte (as can be seen by the title!). It also shows the influence of the Situationists in its use of the category of the cadre (or new middle class), a category which we would now reject.

Taken from the Antagonism website.