Part one of a piece by the Ames Anarchist Group, part of the Social Revolutionary Anarchist Federation (SRAF). Appeared in Free Flowing (August 1975)
Part One: Introduction
The term anarchism is derived from the Greek word anarchos, meaning "no authority". Rather than being a doctrine of chaos, as is often thought, anarchism is an elaborate political theory based on the assumption that humans are just as capable of living in relative harmony without coercive social structures as other animals are. Anarchism is, however, a generic term embodying a wide spectrum of thought, ranging from right-wing individualist anarchism to left-wing communist anarchism. As is hoped will be obvious, this series is written from an anarcho-communist perspective.
The left anarchist movement represents a tendency within the broader socialist movement. Left anarchists realize that it's ridiculous to speak of political democracy without economic democracy, and that economic democracy is impossible when the means of production and distribution are privatly owned by a small class of wealthy capitalists. This view was aptly summed up by Michael Bakunin, one of the founders of the anarchist movement, when he said, "Liberty without socialism is privilage, injustice..."
Bakunin, however, went on to say, "...socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." That is, a society controlled by a small class of State and/or Party bureacrats is no better than one controlled by the capitalists. To build a democratic society, democracy must be put into practive at all levels. To do this, left anarchists advocate the principles of self-management, federalism and libertarian socialism.
A basic libertarian principle is that those who work at an enterprise should have complete control over the operations of that enterprise. Therefore, left anarchists advocate a self-managed economy in which the producers themselves control production and distribution through their own organs of self-management (factory committees, workers councils etc.). This principle also extends out to the community level, i.e. those who live in a community should have ultimate control over it.
To help insure the democratic functioning of society, the principle of federalism is espoused. This means that each locality or individual production unit retains, to as large a degree as possible, its autonomy. For purposes of planning and coordination, individual units organize themselves, or federate, on the basis of autonomy and equality. This radically decentralizes power, spreading it around to numerous foci, rather than concentrating it in one all-absorbing center.
As stated above, left anarchism represents a tendency within the socialist movement. Consequently, self-management and federalism must be seen in the context of a socialist economy, and must be steeped in socialist politics. This means common ownership and control of the means of production and distribution. True socialism, however, is more than just this. It means equality, real freedom, reciprocal recognition and a radical transformation in all human relations. Therefore, capitalist "worker participation" schemes, that keep the bosses in ultimate control, and racist demands for control of local schools, in order to keep minority students out, should not be considered anarchistic, but should be seen for what they are: attempts by the ruling class to maintain its control in the face of rising dissatisfaction and unrest. Nor should state capitalism and social imperialism of the Soviet Union, where a small class of State and Party bureaucrats have merely replaced the capitalists, be mistaken for socialism.
"Liberty with socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality."
(To be continued)