7. Respective Roles of the Specific Anarchist Organisation and of the Masses

Submitted by libcom on April 4, 2005

The idea of Revolution that we have just developed implies a certain number of historical conditions: on the one hand an acute crisis of the old society and on the other the existence of an aware mass movement and an active minority that is well organised and well oriented.

It is the evolution of society itself which allows the development of the proletariat's awareness and abilities, the Organisation of its most advanced strata and the progress of the revolutionary Organisation. But this revolutionary Organisation reacts on the people as a whole and aims to develop their capacity for self-government.

We have seen, in regard to relations between the revolutionary Organisation and the masses, that in the pre-revolutionary period the specific Organisation can only suggest ends and means and can only get them accepted through ideological struggle and force of example.

In the revolutionary period it must be the same - otherwise the danger is of degeneration into bureaucracy, the transformation of the anarchist Organisation into a specialised body, into a political force separated from the people, into a State.

The political vanguard, the active minority, can of course during the making of the Revolution charge itself with special tasks (such as liquidating enemy forces) but as a general rule it can only be the consciousness of the proletariat. And it must finally be reabsorbed into society, gradually as on the one hand its role is completed by the consolidation of the classless society and its evolution from the lower to the higher stage of communism, and as on the other the people as a whole have acquired the necessary level of awareness.

Development of the people's capacity for self government and revolutionary vigilance - these must be the tasks of the specific Organisation once the Revolution has been accomplished. The fate of the Revolution rests to a great extent on the attitude of the specific Organisation, on the way it sees its role. For the success of the Revolution is not inevitable: the people may give up the fight; the Organisation of the revolutionary minority may neglect its vigilance and all the bases to be established for a restoration of the bourgeoisie or a bureaucratic dictatorship - it may even transform itself into a bureaucratic power. No use is served by hiding these dangers or by refusing to undertake organised action to prevent them.

We must conduct the fight with a very clear head and it will be in proportion to our clearheadedness and vigilance that the anarchist Organisation will be able to fulfill its historic task.

Libertarian Communist Morality
When it sets out objectives to be reached, and when it specifies the nature of the role the vanguard Organisation should take in relation to the masses, revolutionary anarchist theory reflects a certain number of rules of conduct. So we must clarify what we mean by 'morality'.

We Oppose Moralities
The moralities of all societies reflect to a certain extent the way of life and the level of development of those societies, and as a result they are expressed in very strict rules which allow no deviation in any sense (transgression, the will to change these rules being a crime). In this way morals (which do express a certain need in the framework of social life) and towards inertia.
So, they do not simply express a practical need for mediation as they may come into contradiction with new conditions of existence that appear. Moreover, they are marked by a religious, theological or metaphysical character and put forward their rules as the expression of a supernatural imperative - actions which conform to or break these rules boast a mystical nature as virtue or sin. Resignation, which really should only be a person's recognition of their limits before certain facts, becomes the primary virtue and can even impel a search for suffering, itself becoming the supreme virtue. From this point of view Christianity is one of the most hateful of moralities. So morality is not simply a codification of external sanctions but is deeply rooted in individuals in the form of 'moral conscience'. This moral conscience is acquired and maintained largely as a result of the religious nature with which morality is imbued, and is itself marked by a religious, supernatural nature. So it becomes quite foreign to the simple translation into a person's conscience of the needs of living socially.

Finally, and most importantly, even when moralities do not openly express the division of societies into classes or castes they are used by privileged groups to justify and guarantee their domination. Life law and religion (religion, law and morality are simply expressions in neighbouring spheres of the same social reality) morality sanctions the existing conditions and relations of domination and exploitation.

Since moralities are expressions of people's alienation in exploitative societies, as are ideologies, laws, religions, etc... being characterised by inertia, mystification, resignation and the justification and maintenance of class privilege - you will understand why anarchists have spent a lot of effort in denouncing their true nature.

Do We Have a Morality?
It is often pointed out that moralities could evolve or be modified, that one morality could replace another even within societies based on exploitation. There have been faint differences, adaptations or variations linked up with conditions of life but they (moralities) all protected the same essential values - submissiveness and respect for property for example. It remains no less true that these adaptations were fought against, that their promoters (Socrates and Christ for example) were often persecuted, than that morality tends towards inertia.

in any case it does not seem that the enslaved have been able to introduce their own values into these moralities.

But the important thing here is to know if the enslaved - and the revolutionaries who express their desires - can have their own values, their own morality.

If we do not wish to accept the morality of the society in which we live, if we refuse this morality both because it recognises so as to maintain a social system based on exploitation and domination, and because it is imbued with abstractions and metaphysical ideals, then on what can we base our morality? There is a solution to this apparent contradiction: it is that thought and social science allow us to envisage a process which would constitute the possibility for the human race to blossom out in every way, and that this process is really nothing other than the general desires of the oppressed, as expressed by true socialism, by libertarian communism. So it is our revolutionary goal which is our ideal, our imperative. It is certainly an ideal and an imperative on which a morality can be based, but it is an ideal which rests on the real and not on the religious revelation or a metaphysics This deal is a kind of humanism, but a humanism based on a revolutionary transformation of society and not a sentimental humanism resting on nothing at all and camouflaging the realities of the social struggle.

Our Morality
What are the moral values which demonstrate this ideal in the proletariat?

Is this morality expressed by rules and precepts?

It is clear that it can no longer be a question of acting, and of judging moralities that we oppose, in terms of ideas of 'good' and evil, any more than we can let ourselves be dragged into futile word games as to whether the motive force for action should be called 'egoism' or 'altruism'.

But between those actions normally assured by the play of affectivity and feelings (maternal, love, empathy, saving someone who is in danger and so on) and those which depend on contracts, on written or unwritten agreements (and so on the law), there is a whole gamut of social relations which rely on moral conceptions and a moral conscience.

Where is the guarantee of sincere respect in contract clauses? What should a person's attitude be towards their enemies? Which weapons do they forbid themselves use of? There is only one morality which can act as a guide, which can fix limits, which can prevent constant recourse to litigation and juries.

It is in revolutionary practice and the lives of the aware proletariat that we find values such as solidarity, courage, a sense of responsibility, clearness of thought, tenacity, a federalism or true democracy of working-class organisations and anarchists which realises both discipline and a spirit of initiative, respect for revolutionary democracy - that is to say the possibility for all currents which sincerely seek the creation of communist society to put forward their ideas, to criticise and so to perfect revolutionary theory and practice.

The revolutionary fundamental that we have established as an imperative clearly exempts us from any morality in dealings with the enemy, the bourgeoisie, which for its own defence would try to make revolutionaries accept the prohibitions of its morality. It is quite clear that in this field only the ends can dictate our conduct. This means that once the ends are recognised and scientifically laid down, the means are simply a matter of tactics and in consequence can only be valued as means if they are suited to the ends, to the sought for goal. So this does not mean any old means and there is no question of justifying means. We must reject the equivocal formula 'the ends justify the means' and say more simply - 'the means only exist, are only chosen, with a view to the ends to which they are tied and suited, and do not have to be justified before the enemy and in terms of the enemy's morality'

In contrast though, these means do inevitably come within the framework of our morality, since they are appropriate to our ideal - an ideal, libertarian communism, which implies the Revolution, which in turn implies that the masses will grasp consciousness guided by the anarchist Organisation. For example the means imply the solidarity, courage and sense of responsibilities that we have cited earlier as virtues of our morality.

There is one point that should make us pause, an aspect of our morality which people might attach to the meaning of solidarity but which is really the very epitome of our morality: truth. As much as it is normal for us to cheat our enemy, the bourgeoisie, who themselves use all kinds of deceit, so we must tell the truth not just between comrades but to the masses.

How could we do otherwise when more than anything else, their awareness, and so their understanding and their judgment, must be increased? Those who have tried to behave otherwise have only succeeded in humiliating and disheartening the people, making them all lose all sense of truth, of analysis and of criticism.

There is nothing proletarian - or revolutionary about immoralist cynicism. That is the style of decadent elements of the bourgeoisie who declare the emptiness of the official morality but are incapable of finding a healthy morality in any existing milieu.

The immoralist is outwardly free in all their movements. But they no longer know where they're going and when they have deceived other people they deceive themselves.

It is not enough to have a goal you also need a way of getting there.

The working out of a morality within the aware masses and still more within the libertarian communist movement - comes to strengthen the structure of revolutionary ideology and to bring an important contribution to the preparation of a new culture, at the same time as it totally repudiates the culture of the bourgeoisie.