Manifesto of Libertarian Communism - Georges Fontenis

Georges Fontenis

The 'Manifesto of Libertarian Communism' was written in 1953 by Georges Fontenis for the Federation Communiste Libertaire of France. It is one of the key texts of the anarchist-communist current.

It was preceeded by the best work of Bakunin, Guillaume, Malatesta, Berneri, the organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists written by Makhno, Arshinov and Matt, which sprang from the defeats of the Russian Revolution, and the the statements of the Friends of Durruti, also a result of another defeat, that of the Spanish Revolution.

Like the 'Platform' it pitted itself against the 'Synthesis' of Faure and Voline which attempted a compromise between Stirnerite individualism, anarcho-syndicalism, and libertarian communism. Like the 'Platform' it reaffirmed the class-struggle nature of anarchism and showed how it had sprung from the struggles of the oppressed. It had the experience of another thirty years of struggle and was a more developed document than the 'Platform'. However it failed to take account of the role of women in capitalist society and offered no specific analysis of women's oppression. Whilst the F.C.L. was very active in the struggle against French colonialism in North Africa, it failed to incorporate an analysis of racism into its Manifesto.

It rejected, rightly, the concept of the 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' and the 'Transitional Period'. Where it made mistakes was in the use of the concepts of the 'party' and the 'vanguard'. To be fair the word 'party' had been used in the past by Malatesta to describe the anarchist movement, but the association with social-democrats and Leninists had given it connotations which can only be avoided by dropping the term. Similarly, 'vanguard' had been used extensively, by anarchists in the past to describe, not the Leninist vanguard, but a group of workers with advanced ideas. The term was used, for example, in this respect in the Spanish movement (see Bookchin's writings on the subject), and also by anarchist-communists in the United States who named their paper 'Vanguard' (see the memoirs of Sam Dolgoff). However, it has too many unhappy associations with Leninism. Whilst we recognise that there exist advanced groups of workers, and that the anarchist movement has ideas in advance of most of the class, we must recognise fully the great creativity of the whole of the working class. There exist contradictions between advanced groups and the class as a whole, complex contradictions which cannot be explained in simple black and white terms, which could lead to the Leninist danger of substituting a group for the whole class. The anarchist-communist Organisation should be aware of these problems and attempt to minimalise these contradictions. True, the Manifesto sees this vanguard as internal to the class, rather than an external vanguard of professional revolutionaries as Lenin saw it. Nevertheless the term should be regarded with great suspicion.

The Manifesto continued the arguments for effective libertarian Organisation and ideological and tactical unity, based on the class struggle. The supporters of the manifesto made a number of political mistakes in the actions that they took. Unity was interpreted in a narrow sense, and soon they strayed off into the fiasco of running 'revolutionary' candidates in the elections, which led to the break-up of their Organisation.

Like the 'Platform' the 'Manifesto' is marred by a number of errors, with the 'Platform it was the idea of the 'executive committee', with the 'Manifesto' it was the idea of the 'vanguard'. Despite its shortcomings it is still an important document, and its best features must be taken notice of in developing an anarchist-communist theory and strategy for today.