Anarchist communism - an introduction

Federazione Anarchica Italiana - Italian anarchist-communist group.

A short introduction to anarchist-communism.

Anarchist communism is a form of anarchism that advocates the abolition of the State and capitalism in favour of a horizontal network of voluntary associations through which everyone will be free to satisfy his or her needs.

Anarchist communism is also known as anarcho-communism, communist anarchism, or, sometimes, libertarian communism. However, while all anarchist communists are libertarian communists, some libertarian communists, such as council communists, are not anarchists. What distinguishes anarchist communism from other variants of libertarian communism is the formers opposition to all forms of political power, hierarchy and domination.

Anarchist communism stresses egalitarianism and the abolition of social hierarchy and class distinctions that arise from unequal wealth distribution, the abolition of capitalism and money, and the collective production and distribution of wealth by means of voluntary associations. In anarchist communism, the state and property no longer exist. Each individual and group is free to contribute to production and to satisfy their needs based on their own choice. Systems of production and distribution are managed by their participants.

The abolition of wage labour is central to anarchist communism. With distribution of wealth being based on self-determined needs, people will be free to engage in whatever activities they find most fulfilling and will no longer have to engage in work for which they have neither the temperament nor the aptitude. Anarchist communists argue that there is no valid way of measuring the value of any one person's economic contributions because all wealth is a collective product of current and preceding generations. Anarchist communists argue that any economic system based on wage labour and private property will require a coercive state apparatus to enforce property rights and to maintain the unequal economic relationships that will inevitably arise.

Well known anarchist communists include Peter, or Piotr, Kropotkin (Russia), Errico Malatesta (Italy) and Nestor Makhno (Ukraine). Kropotkin is often seen as the most important theorist of anarchist communism, outlining his economic ideas in books The Conquest of Bread and Fields, Factories and Workshops. Kropotkin felt co-operation to be more beneficial than competition, arguing in Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution that this was illustrated in nature. Anarchist communist ideas were very influential in the introduction of anarchism to Japan through the efforts of Kôtoku Shûsui in the early 1900s who corresponded with Kropotkin and translated his works. Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman (who were both deported from USA in 1919) became important proponents of ‘Communist anarchism’ and became especially critical of Bolshevism after they discovered its devastating reality first-hand in Russia, and after the Red Army's crushing of the Kronstadt uprising. They in turn had been influenced by German-born émigrée to the USA, Johann Most, who had earlier helped bring anarchist communist thought to Britain though his contact with Frank Kitz in London around 1880 (see Anarchist Communism in Britain for a full historical account).

Many platformists refer to themselves as anarchist communists, although other anarchist communists are uncomfortable with some areas of the Organisational Platform document, such as the issue of ‘collective responsibility’ as supported by Mahkno but opposed by Malatesta. While historically many anarchist communists have been active anarcho-syndicalists, many are critical towards those syndicalists who seek some form of self-managed wage system rather than its abolition, pointing out that any system which maintains economic relations based on reward of effort and exchange is not communist.

Modern day anarchist communists are represented in several organisations within the International of Anarchist Federations, including the Anarchist Federation (Britain). Platformist anarchist communists include the Workers Solidarity Movement (Ireland) and the North-Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists (USA). Many nascent Eastern European, Russian and Caucasian anarchist groups identify with anarchist communism and there is a strong anarchist communist current amongst contemporary Latin American and Caribbean anarchist organisations.

More information

Edited by libcom from an article by the Anarchist Federation.

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Comments

Harrison
May 18 2011 17:24
mons wrote:
LBird wrote:
But for ACers? I don't know. From what I've read, they would ignore the democratic vote, and the third Workers' Council would go its own way, to the detriment both of the other two Workers' Councils and many workers within their own Council.

This is a much better example than the shooting a sentry one! I presume - but this is common sense and not based on reading any anarchist-communist theory or anything - that if it was an issue that affects everyone then the third workers' council would have to comply, whereas if it were something where the workers' council going its own way wouldn't impact too much on others then they would do their own thing. Obviously there's a question of how and where you draw that line, but that's totally abstract and pretty irrelevant and something which will be worked out at the time.

i made a post on this thread
http://libcom.org/forums/theory/cybernetic-communism-what-democratic-forms-will-working-class-create-14042011#comment-425051
which details how an existing scientific discipline (cybernetics) deals exactly with these sorts of problems. it has it all worked out from an abstract scientific perspective

888
May 18 2011 17:45
Harrison Myers wrote:
tbh i prefer to view the assemblies and councils in more of a scientific way, than (what i perceive to be) the moralism inherent in anti-hierarchical thought, which is why I lean more toward CC.

Scientific? Is that a joke? At least the notion that power corrupts actually has some scientific support in various psychological studies, as opposed to Marxist pseudo-science (the Marxist framework is often useful but when it calls itself a science it become ridiculous).

Anarchist observations on the nature of power don't fit into some pretty looking framework of thought - they are simple observations based on experience, but they can hardly be denied.

Bakunin wrote:
Nothing is more dangerous for man's private morality than the habit of command. The best man, the most intelligent, disinterested, generous, pure, will infallibly and always be spoiled at this trade. Two sentiments inherent in power never fail to produce this demoralisation; they are: contempt for the masses and the overestimation of one's own merits.
888
May 18 2011 17:54
mons wrote:
I don't think I know what the supposed difference between federalism and centralism is to be honest, but total control from below seems the most important thing and maybe the centralism/federalism debate is a bit of a red herring? Equally, whether you regard it as the democratic wielding of power, or the abolition of it, isn't the substance pretty much the same so long as there is no decision-making body removed from the base?

I agree, the debate is a bit of a red herring when debate with non-Leninist, libertarian leaning Marxists. Anarchists would tend not to describe a structure as centralised if the decision making power rested at the base, but some Marxists would view that as centralised. The differences are much clearer when arguing with Leninists...

888
May 18 2011 17:59
mons wrote:
Quote:
But for ACers? I don't know. From what I've read, they would ignore the democratic vote, and the third Workers' Council would go its own way, to the detriment both of the other two Workers' Councils and many workers within their own Council.

This is a much better example than the shooting a sentry one! I presume - but this is common sense and not based on reading any anarchist-communist theory or anything - that if it was an issue that affects everyone then the third workers' council would have to comply, whereas if it were something where the workers' council going its own way wouldn't impact too much on others then they would do their own thing. Obviously there's a question of how and where you draw that line, but that's totally abstract and pretty irrelevant and something which will be worked out at the time.

The fact is that people's ideology will not determine the outcome in this conflict - indeed, they will contradict their beliefs when acting. Instead, their material needs will determine what they do. If the need is urgent enough they will force the dissenting council to comply.

Harrison
May 18 2011 18:53
888 wrote:
Harrison Myers wrote:
tbh i prefer to view the assemblies and councils in more of a scientific way, than (what i perceive to be) the moralism inherent in anti-hierarchical thought, which is why I lean more toward CC.

Scientific? Is that a joke? At least the notion that power corrupts actually has some scientific support in various psychological studies, as opposed to Marxist pseudo-science (the Marxist framework is often useful but when it calls itself a science it become ridiculous).

Anarchist observations on the nature of power don't fit into some pretty looking framework of thought - they are simple observations based on experience, but they can hardly be denied.

Bakunin wrote:
Nothing is more dangerous for man's private morality than the habit of command. The best man, the most intelligent, disinterested, generous, pure, will infallibly and always be spoiled at this trade. Two sentiments inherent in power never fail to produce this demoralisation; they are: contempt for the masses and the overestimation of one's own merits.

The conclusions of that psychological study, which you have obviously missed in your haste to shout down marxism, was that humans have a general tendency toward situational behaviour. Not some inherent Bakuninist 'human nature' that suggest everyone given power will automagically do certain things.

I have never tried to deny the existence of such human tendencies, but it becomes a problem when they are elevated to the level of moral truisms that cannot be challenged because they lie at the core of an ideological body of thought which will fall over like a stack of cards should this happen.

Perhaps this is why you feel the need to be so uncivil in this discussion and use such angry rhetoric.

Can you not see that if 'all power corrupts' then the delegate systems we propose would be unable to function? By your reasoning, even the most committed revolutionary delegate would be unable to refrain from abusing their power, and would automatically do so up until the point they are recalled or rotated.

I am NOT saying that 'if we found the right leader, we could be emancipated', this is simply not possible because the proletariat's class interests cannot be refracted through anything other than assemblies, delegates and councils.

888 wrote:
The fact is that people's ideology will not determine the outcome in this conflict - indeed, they will contradict their beliefs when acting. Instead, their material needs will determine what they do. If the need is urgent enough they will force the dissenting council to comply.

This is really ironic. For all your dislike of the 'Marxist Framework', you have just elaborated the most crude interpretation of Marx held to by the majority of the trotskyist left.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_determinism

Wikipedia wrote:
Economic determinism as understood by Marxism is the belief that economical laws determine the course of history. The law of economic determinism attributed to Marx's historical materialism is simple: self-preservation is the supreme instinct in man, and therefore the whole pattern of human conduct must always have been governed by the fundamental laws governing survival, a dialectical process between man and nature (see co-evolution)[citation needed]. This reasoning leads to the conclusion that all elements of historical consequence result from 'economic determinism', or man's effort to survive.
888
May 18 2011 19:27
Quote:
that humans have a general tendency toward situational behaviour. Not some inherent Bakuninist 'human nature' that suggest everyone given power will automagically do certain things.

Er, those two are the same, when you remove the exaggerations. Being in power is a situation. If there is a tendency for humans to do something in a particular situation, then that is in some sense "human nature", without having to make a strong argument about an all-determining human nature, which no one, including Bakunin, is trying to do. You've just constructed a ridiculous exaggeration of my position.

Quote:
Can you not see that if 'all power corrupts' then the delegate systems we propose would be unable to function?

No, because the delegates don't actually have any substantial amount of power. Also, where did I say that all power corrupts totally, even the tinyest grain? If they only have a very small and temporary amount of power it's not going to have much effect.

Quote:
Perhaps this is why you feel the need to be so uncivil in this discussion and use such angry rhetoric.

Sorry, I just find it absurd when people claim that Marxism is scientific. Also I said "the Marxist framework is often useful" - I don't dislike Marxism.

888
May 18 2011 19:23

double post

LBird
May 18 2011 19:23
888 wrote:
If the need is urgent enough they will force the dissenting council to comply.

888, are you representing the AC view of 'power' here?

If so, I agree. But I agree, not because of 'force' alone, but because it will be legitimate force, the result of workers' democracy. To me, the third dissenting council should accept the vote until another is taken, while all the time having the right to organise their dissent from the majority. In other words, they would have the right to dissent in words, but not in action. Until they can overturn the vote by gaining support from the majority over all three participating Councils, they are morally bound to act with the majority. If they don't, the majority, as you say, have the right to force compliance.

'Power', in this scenario, comes from below and rests with the majority.

Harrison Myers wrote:
Can you not see that if 'all power corrupts' then the delegate systems we propose would be unable to function?

For once, HM, I really disagree with you - I think this is a fundamental principle for, not only liberals, but for Communists, too. We should aim to rotate shortlived delegate positions as much as possible. I think sortition is going too far, because we should elect people capable of doing the delegated task, rather than relying on chance, but rotating seems to me to be a good safeguard. Plus, as many workers as possible should get the chance to fill delegate positions, and short-term posts will help this spreading of necessary political and administrative skills.

Harrison Myers wrote:
By your reasoning, even the most committed revolutionary delegate would be unable to refrain from abusing their power, and would automatically do so up until the point they are recalled or rotated.

I don't think anyone is saying this, but why take the chance? I'm with the Anarchists on this one. Healthy fear of power seems a good principle - I just don't pretend that we can ignore 'power', as some Anarchists seem to suggest. We need to build political structures which will prevent abuse, rather than just being hopeful, or having faith in 'committed revolutionary delegates'.

LBird
May 18 2011 19:33
888 wrote:
No, because the delegates don't actually have any power.

888, I have to say that I find this opinion to be incredibly naive, and indeed dangerous for workers' control.

You seem to be suggesting that a delegate will be a mere robot - but even the strictest mandate will contain holes. And never underestimate charisma.

Words and ideas get interpreted by humans. Why do you think bourgeois lawyers have been making a killing for hundreds of years?

Or am I misunderstanding your position? If so, please correct me.

888
May 18 2011 19:36

I changed that to say "the delegates don't actually have any substantial amount of power" - so generally it shouldn't be a problem, if we have safeguards like recallability and frequently rotated positions, etc. It doesn't make it impervious to abuse, but reduces the likelihood and extent a lot.

LBird
May 18 2011 19:38
888 wrote:
I changed that to say "the delegates don't actually have any substantial amount of power" - so generally it shouldn't be a problem, if we have safeguards like recallability and frequently rotated positions, etc. It doesn't make it impervious to abuse, but reduces the likelihood and extent a lot.

Yeah, I've just seen your edit!

I'm far happier with your latter position. Cheers.

Harrison
May 18 2011 22:48
888 wrote:
Er, those two are the same, when you remove the exaggerations. Being in power is a situation. If there is a tendency for humans to do something in a particular situation, then that is in some sense "human nature", without having to make a strong argument about an all-determining human nature, which no one, including Bakunin, is trying to do. You've just constructed a ridiculous exaggeration of my position.

I don't think that is the case. Humans are conscious beings capable of objectively making decisions by theorising about a problem before acting. This also ties into my criticism of your simultaneous (but incompatible) materialist determinist position. You put a dozen or so people in the same material circumstances, and they may act the same. But their actions are the outcome of a conscious thought process which is only strongly influenced - not determined - by material conditions. In the same vein, there is also no human nature, only a conscious thought process influenced by material surroundings and other historical factors. It is merely mysticism to suggest otherwise.

If i haven't annoyed you too much, you might want to read
http://libcom.org/library/introduction-marxs-materialist-dialectic
which goes through it.

LBird wrote:
Harrison Myers wrote:
Can you not see that if 'all power corrupts' then the delegate systems we propose would be unable to function?

For once, HM, I really disagree with you - I think this is a fundamental principle for, not only liberals, but for Communists, too. We should aim to rotate shortlived delegate positions as much as possible. I think sortition is going too far, because we should elect people capable of doing the delegated task, rather than relying on chance, but rotating seems to me to be a good safeguard. Plus, as many workers as possible should get the chance to fill delegate positions, and short-term posts will help this spreading of necessary political and administrative skills.

Harrison Myers wrote:
By your reasoning, even the most committed revolutionary delegate would be unable to refrain from abusing their power, and would automatically do so up until the point they are recalled or rotated.

I don't think anyone is saying this, but why take the chance? I'm with the Anarchists on this one. Healthy fear of power seems a good principle - I just don't pretend that we can ignore 'power', as some Anarchists seem to suggest. We need to build political structures which will prevent abuse, rather than just being hopeful, or having faith in 'committed revolutionary delegates'.

Hi LBird, I think you may have misinterpreted me.

I am still proposing that we ought to be wary of power (if i wasn't i'd be a trot already lol), but not for reasons of 'principles' (moralism). Instead it ought to be derived from a class analysis; simply observing that it is impossible to represent the class interests of the proletariat through anything other than assemblies and delegate councils. This for me is one of the most important defining differences between AC and CC, which i am surprised you do not hold?

And i'm certainly not proposing that we place our faith in 'committed revolutionary delegates'!
My point was that certain delegates will be more reliable than others, hence we will need to recall them less, and they will therefore hold power for longer than those who are not reliable.
Faith is extremely unscientific roll eyes

LBird
May 19 2011 09:14
Harrison Myers wrote:
Hi LBird, I think you may have misinterpreted me.

Yeah, mate, I'm sure I have! I'm a serial offender who pleads guilty. I'm just a bit slow on the uptake. That's why I continue to ask (stupid?) questions.

Harrison Myers wrote:
I am still proposing that we ought to be wary of power (if i wasn't i'd be a trot already lol), but not for reasons of 'principles' (moralism). Instead it ought to be derived from a class analysis; simply observing that it is impossible to represent the class interests of the proletariat through anything other than assemblies and delegate councils. This for me is one of the most important defining differences between AC and CC, which i am surprised you do not hold?

Well, since I think both 'principles' and 'morality' derive from class position, I do think our wariness of power does derive from our proletarian state. As you say, the 'trot' experience really helps here!

So, for me, this seems to suggest that AC and CC should be very similar in pratice, although coming from different historical origins. That is, unless ACers see 'morality' as originating in something other than class (religion, for example?).

Harrison Myers wrote:
Faith is extremely unscientific

Now, there's a whole new thread!

I'm not sure Lakatos would agree, and separating out 'science' from 'religious faith' is far more problematic than one would think. But let's leave that discussion for another thread.

The main thing that I've learnt from this thread, if 888's views are representative of the wider AC view of 'power', is that we're all LibCom democrats (not 'individualists'), no matter what our other identifying tags, and so we should be able to work through our differences. Let's hope I'm right.

WordShaker
May 19 2011 09:56
LBird wrote:
But for ACers? I don't know. From what I've read, they would ignore the democratic vote, and the third Workers' Council would go its own way, to the detriment both of the other two Workers' Councils and many workers within their own Council.

This example might be very contrived, and I apologise for that. But I'm trying to give an example in which, as far as I can guess, based on what I've read from ACers (who seem to be opposed to democratic decision making), makes clear a difference between LC and AC, in contrast to Harrison Myers assumption that LC and AC are the same in practice.

If I could just nitpick here for a moment?

I can't speak for others, but in my opinion it is not so much that AC opposes democratic decision making, but that it takes the "tyranny of the majority" very seriously. Yes, that phrase has often been put up as a bulwark for the monied few, but the message of it remains important: that the majority, despite intentions, might well have proposed a course of action that could harm some or all of the workers in said councils. The usual proposed solution, then, is consensus decision-making, perhaps in a modified form, to make a sharp critical analysis of the issue and hit on all the points of the dissenters.

Tendency is also important. Again, I can only speak for myself, but I would think that anarchists of the platformist tendency, among others, would take a route similar to the LCers you described.

LBird
May 19 2011 10:34
WordShaker wrote:
If I could just nitpick here for a moment?

Well, what you go on to say is not 'nitpicking' at all, but of crucial importance in any discussion of workers' democracy.

WordShaker wrote:
...it is not so much that AC opposes democratic decision making, but that it takes the "tyranny of the majority" very seriously.

Well, I would think any proletarian democrat would treat the issue of the 'tyranny of the majority' of being of the utmost importance, since we're all going to be in the minority on some issue or other. Our thinking should start with 'How do we protect our rights when we are in a minority?'.

I think this can be done with discussion, but we never seem to get round to discussing 'what is democracy?', because the debate always seems to halt at the 'authoritarian/individual' slanging match.

WordShaker wrote:
...that the majority, despite intentions, might well have proposed a course of action that could harm some or all of the workers in said councils.

Whilst this is true, you have to be very careful with this line of argument, because it is a central plank of conservative philosophy that the 'majority' are all thick and incapable of ruling themselves. That's not to say, of course, that mistakes won't be made (they will be made), but that we have to build safeguards into our democratic structures. And who defines 'harm' is a further consideration.

WordShaker wrote:
The usual proposed solution, then, is consensus decision-making, perhaps in a modified form, to make a sharp critical analysis of the issue and hit on all the points of the dissenters.

Yes, a stage of attempted consensus-building at a point of disagreement within the democratic process is one way of 'building safeguards' that I mentioned, together with widespread explanation to all within the Council of the minority's arguments, led by the minority itself (no 'the majority just "explains" the other position').

But we must be clear, that after attempts at consensus and reconciliation, and with due safeguards for minority dissent, including publications and propaganda against the majority position, that the will of the majority must take precedence. That is democracy. We are Communists, not individualists.

Consensus has its problems, too.

WordShaker
May 20 2011 06:23
LBird wrote:
Consensus has its problems, too.

Right, of course, but the last thing we want is to slide down into top-down style democratic centralism. There always has to be an element of autonomy to the individual parts of any democracy and what the due safeguards will be to ensure that. As you say, it's something that ought to be hammered out through discussion.

LBird
May 20 2011 11:08
WordShaker wrote:
...the last thing we want is to slide down into top-down style democratic centralism.

Given the scenario I've outlined, how can 'power from below' slide into 'top-down'? Unless your starting point is an elitist 'the thickos at the bottom will always fuck up', then once we proletarians start to organise from below, using the democratic methods we've all outlined on this thread, workers won't allow a 'top' to emerge.

WordShaker wrote:
There always has to be an element of autonomy to the individual parts of any democracy and what the due safeguards will be to ensure that.

Yeah, the third Council will have power or autonomy within its own orbit. It's when the third Council voluntarily joins togther with the other two Councils to solve collective problems affecting all three that 'autonomy', for these issues, is at a higher level.

WordShaker wrote:
As you say, it's something that ought to be hammered out through discussion.

Yep. These political views on 'power' will have to be commonly held amongst workers before the 'big day'.

radicalgraffiti
Nov 8 2012 11:21

can we change the picture that goes with this? i don't think a big picture of Kropotkin really represents anarchist communism vary well

Steven.
Nov 8 2012 11:47
radicalgraffiti wrote:
can we change the picture that goes with this? i don't think a big picture of Kropotkin really represents anarchist communism vary well

quite right. Could you suggest a better one? (Not being sarky, just haven't got time now myself)

Ed
Jan 18 2013 11:58

So I saw this picture and thought of you guys.. wink is that better than the big picture of Kropotkin's face?

Marxist Hypocri...
Jun 26 2015 18:46

Wow. That's some hardcore "Freedom is Slavery" collectivist nonsense right there.

Still, it serves as an excellent testament to the totalitarian oxymoron that is "Anarcho-Communism", and the self-delusion of the wannabe Dictators who go by that disingenuous misnomer.

Marxist Hypocri...
Jun 26 2015 18:47

"then once we proletarians start to organise from below, using the democratic methods we've all outlined on this thread, workers won't allow a 'top' to emerge."

In other words, you think YOU'LL get to bet the dictator and nobody will ever challenge you because you spout empty platitudes about "the workerz". Pathetic.

Marxist Hypocri...
Jun 26 2015 18:49
Quote:
The conclusions of that psychological study, which you have obviously missed in your haste to shout down marxism, was that humans have a general tendency toward situational behaviour. Not some inherent Bakuninist 'human nature' that suggest everyone given power will automagically do certain things.

Sounds more like you're angrily railing against reality because it doesn't conform to the totalitarian Marxist dogma you DEMAND be imposed upon everybody until they learn t love it.

And, like all Marxists, you have no idea how human beings operate and just assume everyone will be your willing slave because every once in a while you'll coo some BS about "the people".

Chilli Sauce
Jun 26 2015 22:23

Just terrible trolling. I mean, are you even trying?

EDIT: Wait, you've been a member of the site for a year? You've had a year to prepare for your big trolling debut and that's what you come up with?

Shameful. Just shameful.

Agent not available
Jun 26 2015 23:20

If you want to learn more about Marxist Hypocrisy 101's views, just do a quick google search on the name.

Ed
Jun 27 2015 09:33

Ok, pack up guys, we've been rumbled! That dictatorship we were gonna sneak past with the old totalitarian oxymoron ain't happening with this sharpshooter around..