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We publish here a correspondence we had recently with a member of the Grupo Socialista Libertario (GSL) from Mexico. This organization openly claims its anarchism and has developed, these late years, political links (up to common actions) with the "official" ICC. In our response, we affirm that anarchism has been for the least an ideology "foreign" to the proletariat and that, since more than a century, has put itself clearly at the service of the ruling class while increasingly opposing openly to our class's interests. For us, there can't be synthesis between Marxism which is the proletariat's theory and anarchism. There can only be between both a struggle to death. By looking for opening the door of the "proletarian camp" to the GSL, the present ICC shows thus clearly that it sinks more and more into the crassest opportunism, making so, one more time, a dirty strike against our class.
Regarding the honest individuals who are today got trapped by anarchism, we believe necessary to tell them that the only way they must take to join and participate to the proletariat's fight, passes by their clear break with this ideology.
Visiting your web pages, I have seen that you had written a text called "Struggle against opportunism, anarchism looks to infiltrate the proletarian camp, the present ICC opens the door to it". I have read, at least in its great lines, this document. It appears that it refers to some words I had previously written (knowing that my cursory reading is due to the fact I am fully stranger to the understanding of French).
I consider that you have not understood the meaning of my previous letters. The GSL is an officially anarchist organization. Nevertheless, we have developed internal discussions and overcome this ideological corpus which we consider as incomplete. This doesn't mean that we claim Marxism but simply that we are revolutionaries or communists.
In a previous letter, I put forward a general characterization regarding the questions of political ideologies and I mentioned the priority of a proletarian program. I repeat, this one doesn't belong to an ideological corpus (Marxism or anarchism according to the case) but to the class as a whole through the development of its existence within the framework of capital's evolution.
I also proposed a fraternal discussion between organizations in order to precise this kind of questions. There have been no concrete response on this from your part. The few elements I sent you and about which I was waiting for your comments (yourself had said you'll send ones) have not been passed through the direct criticism.
If we had developed a clearer debate as organizations, as I proposed, you would have understood the dynamic of our positions, thus avoiding and leaving aside the misunderstandings or the simple speculations about our positions from the fact our organization calls itself officially "anarchist".
Is there any possibility to develop this so necessary debate within the proletariat ? The perspective of developing a debate between those amongst us who claim the revolutionary willingness and which get to overcome the same superfluous quarrels is not so great ?
I wanted to ask you if there is a translation into Spanish of this text in order I can have a deeper reading.
S. for the GSL
We answer to your letter dated the beginning of this year. If we do so with delay, it is not by lack of willingness, nor by lack of interest for the questions raised, but it is due to the fact we had to resolve various urgent questions (political, practical and even "technical") linked to the split that, as you may already know, we have lived recently. Actually, today we don't do it in the name of the Internal Fraction of the ICC - whose name has been retained by the comrades whom we separated with -, but in the name of the Fraction of the International Communist Left (FICL).
So let's go back to the main point of the political questions and position that you express in this January letter.
The GSL (Grupo Socialista Libertario1) puts forward the "the priority of a proletarian program". Nevertheless, it considers that this one must be set up from two different ideologies, two ideologies which would have developed "in parallel" within the working class and which would be insufficient by themselves alone : for one part, anarchism that it considers as "incomplete" and on the other Marxism which - as the anarchists claim it - would have aspects which would oppose to the working class itself. It's from this vision that the GSL proposes a "synthesis" or, even better, an "overcome" of what it calls the "ideological nomenclatures" (in a previous letter) for, by this manner, getting to a kind of "pure" or superior proletarian program without the insufficiencies or the mistakes of the previous ones.
To call to a "synthesis" between anarchism and Marxism, is to call to class collaboration
This method to try to define a "proletarian program" is, from our point of view and for various reasons, fully inadequate, fully incorrect. The fundamental error is the willingness of making a synthetis and elaborating this program from two theories - anarchism and Marxism - which correspond to class interests which are not only different but even which are opposed : on one side, the ones of the petit-bourgeoisie and on the other the ones of Anarchism and Marxism are not two theories or ideological currents which developed in parallel, in a kind of "competition", both defending the proletariat's class interests and from which we should today recuperate "the best" in order to set up a superior proletarian program.
Since its theoreticians of origin - Stirner, Proudhon... -, anarchism expresses fundamentally the class interests of the petit-bourgeoisie. This class has always looked for opposing to its crushing by the conquering steamroller of capitalism in the 19th Century (through competition, the great industry rolled the small productors, the great banks suffocates them through thousand debts, and the capitalist State imposed them more and more taxes...).
Certainly, this ideological current has been more particularly the expression of these petit-bourgeois sectors which were on process of proletarisation ; it is why it participated, for instance, to the formation and the life of the 1st International of the proletariat (the International Workingmen Association). Nevertheless, these sectors which were joining the revolutionary class, brought with them the ideology of their class origin. This is this aspect which explains and justifies the struggle that Marxism had to lead in order to preserve the still youthful and inexperienced proletariat from this ideology which was foreign and harmful.
It is so that, for instance, with Bakunin, anarchism has known some successes amongst the artisans and the proletarized peasants of South Europe (Spain, South Italy), who had been recently dispossessed of their properties and who had the illusion of owning one again and to come back to their former condition of independent workers.
Certainly too, anarchism has always presented itself as being radically opposed to capitalism and to its State ; nevertheless, this opposition is not the same as the proletariat's one, it means to destroy capitalism and to replace it by a communist society. But it is conservative, for the maintaining and the extension of the small property, of federalism, of "individualism", etc.
At the time of the 1st International, the struggle between anarchism and Marxism was not simply a struggle between personalities, between Marx and Bakunin, for the leadership of this organization ; nor even a struggle between two methods or conceptions within the workers movement ; but a struggle between different class interests. It was a chapter of the permanent struggle that Marxism leads against the influence of bourgeois ideology and against the petit-bourgeois one within the workers movement. In the ascendant period of capitalism, the struggle against the latter took the form of a struggle against the conservative and reactionary theories which advocated the struggle against capitalism's development but through the economical preservation of the small property and the political federalist "autonomy".
Since that time, when anarchism had got the opportunity of being at the lead of a working class struggle, it revealed its impotence as revolutionary doctrine and its true conservative petit-bourgeois character. Thus, during the Paris Commune, what appeared to be the nature of the government set up by the workers, it means the dictatorship of the proletariat, as well as the practical measures that this one finally adopted in its short existence, were a denial to all the Proudhonist predicates.
Later, during the Spanish proletariat uprising in 1873, the "ultra-radicals", "anti-authoritarians" and "abolitionists" Bakuninists who were at the head of the movement, advocated with fervour the formation of small States to end up participating to the capitalist State behind a bourgeois fraction.
The 1st imperialist World War and the proletarian revolutionary wave in the beginnings of the 20th century (whose height was the the Russian revolution of 1917), both events which mark the definitive entry of capitalism into its phase of decadence, have brought the polarisation of society between the two fundamental classes engaged in a fight to death : the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In this new context, the "intermediate classes" - in particular the petit-bourgeoisie as urban as well as rural - which are without viable historical project (whether capitalism's maintaining or the establishment of a new society), have no other solution but to place themselves beside the proletariat or beside the bourgeoisie. It is in these conditions that the historical bankruptcy of anarchism has been revealed as expression of the "autonomous" interests of the petit-bourgeoisie. So, we have seen how, on one side, the main anarchist current of that time (Kropotkin's) has defected beside the bourgeoisie and has supported imperialist war. Then, with the Russian revolution, while part of the anarchists opposed ferociously to this one, others sympathized and had defended the "bolshevik revolution" - up to some like Flores Magon from the distant Mexico -, or have tried to negotiate with it (like the Makhno's peasants).
Here we must underline two aspects. The first one is that the first victorious insurrection of the proletariat had Marxism, its method, its organization (the leading political party, the centralized organization of the class in workers councils...), its goals (the dictatorship of the proletariat) as theoretical and political fondations. It was the direct antithesis of all the old anarchist predicates (first the "immediate abolition of State", "federalism", "autonomy", individual "direct action", etc.). The second aspect is that the anarchist who participated beside the proletarian revolution, did it only since they gave up their own anarchist doctrine - which revealed to be powerless to present a viable solution to the proletariat's struggle - and that they acknowledged Marxism' s validity.
Since that moment, the historical bankruptcy of anarchism has been even recognized by the anarchists the most faithful to their current. We get away with reproducing large extracts of an article from the late 1920's which shows this total impotence and this historical bankruptcy of anarchism. The article is even more significant since it has not been written by a Marxist buy by a sincere and famous anarchist ; Piotr Arshinov, who was debating with an other anarchist, not less famous and important, Malatesta :
"(...) Comrade Errico Malatesta has published a critical article on the project of the Organisational platform edited by the Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad.
This article has provoked perplexity and regret in us. We very much expected, and we still expect, that the idea of organised anarchism would meet an obstinate resistance among the partisans of chaos, so numerous in the anarchist milieu, because that idea obliges all anarchists who participate in the movement to be responsible and poses the notions of duty and constancy. For up to now the favourite principle in which most anarchists are educated can be explained by the following axiom: "I do what I want, I take account of nothing". It is very natural that anarchists of this species, impregnated by such principles, are violently hostile to all ideas of organised anarchism and of collective responsibility.
Comrade Malatesta is foreign to this principle, and it is for this reason that his text provokes this reaction in us. Perplexity (…). Regret, because, to be faithful to the dogma inherent in the cult of individuality, he has put himself against (let us hope this is only temporary) the work which appears as an indispensable stage in the extension and external development of the anarchist movement.
Right at the start of his article, Malatesta says that he shares a number of theses of the Platform or even backs them up by the ideas he expounds. He would agree in noting that the anarchists did not and do not have influence on social and political events, because of a lack of serious and active organisation.
The principles taken up by comrade Malatesta correspond to the principal positions of the Platform. One would have expected that he would have as equally examined, understood and accepted a number of other principles developed in our project, because there is a link of coherence and logic between all the theses of the Platform. However, Malatesta goes on to explain in a trenchant manner his difference of opinion with the Platform. He asks whether the General Union of Anarchists projected by the Platform can resolve the problem of the education of the working masses. He replies in the negative. He gives as reason the pretended authoritarian character of the Union, which according to him, would develop the idea of submission to directors and leaders.
On what basis can such a serious accusation repose? It is in the idea of collective responsibility, recommended by the Platform,that he sees the principal reason for formulating such an accusation. He cannot admit the principle that the entire Union would be responsible for every member, and that inversely each member would be responsible for the political line of all the Union. This signifies that Malatesta does not precisely accept the principle of organisation which appears to us to be the most essential, in order that the anarchist movement can continue to develop.
Nowhere up to here has the anarchist movement attained the stage of a popular organised movement as such. Not in the least does the cause of this reside in objective conditions, for example because the working masses do not understand anarchism or are not interested in it outside of revolutionary periods ; no, the cause of the weakness of the anarchist movement resides essentially in the anarchists themselves. Not one time yet have they attempted to carry on in an organised manner either the propaganda of their ideas or their practical activity among the working masses.
If that appears strange to comrade Malatesta, we strongly affirm that the activity of the most active anarchists-which includes himself-assume, by necessity, an individualist character; even if this activity is distinguished by a high personal responsibility, it concerns only an individual and not an organisation. (...)
The question for anarchists of all countries is the following: can our movement content itself with subsisting on the base of old forms of organisation, of local groups having no organic link between them, and each acting on their side according to its particular ideology and particular practice? Or, just fancy, must our movement have recourse to new forms of organisation which will help it develop and root it amongst the broad masses of workers?
The experience of the last 20 years, and more particularly that of the two Russian revolutions-1905 and 1917-19- suggests to us the reply to this question better than all the "theoretical considerations".
During the Russian Revolution, the working masses were won to anarchist ideas; nevertheless anarchism, as an organised movement suffered a complete setback whilst from the beginning of the revolution, we were at the most advanced positions of struggle, from the beginning of the constructive phase we found ourselves irremediably apart from the said constructive phase, and consequently outside the masses. This was not pure chance: such an attitude inevitably flowed from our own impotence, as much from an organisational point of view as from our ideological confusion.
This setback was caused by the fact that, throughout the revolution,the anarchists did not know how to put over their social and political programme and only approached the masses with a fragmented and contradictory propaganda; we had no stable organisation. Our movement was represented by organisations of encounter, springing up here, springing up there, not seeking what they wanted in a firm fashion, and which most often vanished at the end of a little time without leaving a trace. It would be desperately naive and stupid to believe that workers could support and participate in such "organisations", from the moment of the social struggle and communist construction.
We have taken the habit of attributing the defeat of the anarchist movement of 1917-19 in Russia to the statist repression of the Bolshevik Party; this is a big mistake. The Bolshevik repression impeded the extension of the anarchist movement during the revolution but it wasn't the only obstacle. It's rather the internal impotence of the movement itself which was one of the principal causes of this defeat, an impotence proceeding from the vagueness and indecision which characterised different political affirmations concerning organisation and tactics.
Anarchism had no firm and concrete opinion on the essential problems of the social revolution; an opinion indispensable to satisfy the seeking after of the masses who created the revolution. The anarchists praised the communist principle of: "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" but they never concerned themselves with applying this principle to reality, although they allowed certain suspect elements to transform this great principle into a caricature of anarchism - just remember how many con-men benefitted by seizing for their personal profit the assets of the collectivity. The anarchists talked a lot about revolutionary activity of the workers, but they could not help them, even in indicating approximately the forms that this activity should take; they did not know how to sort out the reciprocal relations between the masses and their centre of ideological inspiration. They pushed the workers to shake off the yoke of Authority, but they did not indicate the means of consolidating and defending the conquests of the Revolution. They lacked clear and precise conceptions , of a programme of action on many other problems. It was this that distanced them from the activity of the masses and condemned them to social and historical impotence. It is in this that we must seek the primordial cause of their defeat in the Russian revolution.
And we do not doubt that, if the revolution broke out in several European countries, anarchists would suffer the same defeat because they are no less-if not even more so-divided on the plan of ideas and organisation" (Piotr Arshinov, The Old and New in Anarchism, Dielo Trouda n°30, May 19282, we underline).
It is sure that historical bankruptcy of anarchism has not signified its complete disappearance. But at the epoch of capitalism decadence, at the epoch of the historical alternative "capitalist barbarism or proletarian revolution" being at stake, the tendency to totalitarianism of the capitalist State includes the most complete submission of the "intermediate" classes, while beforehand they could still pretend to some class "independence". In relation to anarchism, this means that this ideological and political current is fully at the service of the bourgeois class and its interests. From the defeat of the revolutionary wave of the 1920's and from the degeneration of the Russian revolution (to become with stalinism a kind of State capitalism), the principles of anarchism had served since to the bourgeoisie as auxiliary weapons for its propagandistic campaigns in order to banish from the proletariat's consciousness the memory of the triumph of the revolution, the memory of the possibility and the capacity of the working class to destroy capitalism.
Thus, the criticism of anarchism against the "Marxist authoritarianism" has served as a support to the bourgeoisie in order to back up the mystification of the supposed "continuity" between Marx, Lenin and Stalin. The attacks of anarchism against the notion of political party of the proletariat, against the dictatorship of the proletariat, have supported the bourgeoisie's efforts to make the proletariat "rejecting" its own historical revolutionary experience, political as well as organizational, to make it believing necessary to reject the experience of the bolshevik party and of the October revolution, to make it identifying them to the bloody capitalist regime of Stalin.
Finally, these last decades and from the collapse of the Russian imperialist bloc, the campaign that the bourgeoisie has launched about "Marxism bankruptcy" and the "death of communism" - which have provoked a withdrawn of the class consciousness amongst the workers as well as in the proletariat's struggles - has found in the anarchist ideology an important auxiliary up to the point where we can say that the "renewal" of the anarchist groups is based on the success of this bourgeois campaign. As was saying the "old ICC" in 2000 :
"Anarchism today has the wind in its sails. Anarchist ideas, in the form both of the emergence and strengthening of anarcho-syndicalism, and of the appearance of numerous small libertarian groups, are getting off the ground in several countries (…). This is perfectly explicable imperfectly explicable in the present historic period. The collapse of the Stalinist regimes at the end of the 1980s allowed the bourgeoisie to unleash unprecedented campaigns proclaiming the « death of communism ». (…) According to the bourgeoisie's campaigns, the bankruptcy of what has been presented as « socialism » or even « communism » marks the bankruptcy of Marx's ideas, which the Stalinist regimes had transformed into an official ideology (…). Marx, Lenin, Stalin - all the same enemy: this is the theme rehashed for years by every fraction of the ruling class. The anarchist current has defended exactly the same theme ever since the creation in the USSR of one of the most barbaric regimes that decadent capitalism has produced. The anarchists have always considered Marxism as "authoritarian" by nature, and for them the Stalinist dictatorship was the inevitable result of the application of Marx's ideas. In this sense, the present success of the anarchist and libertarian currents is essentially a fall-out from the bourgeoisie's campaigns, a sign of their impact on those elements who refuse to accept capitalism, but who are trapped by all the lies that have inundated us during the last ten years. The current that presents itself as the most radical opponent of bourgeois order thus owes a large part of its progress to the concessions which it makes, and has always made, to the classic ideological themes of the bourgeoisie" (Spain 1936 and the Friends of Durruti - in French : Anarchisme et communisme -, International Review 102, ICC, 2000).
Yourselves, the GSL, you have joined blithely - it does not matter if it is knowingly or not - to this ideological campaign of the bourgeoisie about "Marxism and communism's bankruptcy" in order to suppress the proletariat's revolutionary consciousness. An example ? Let's just have a look to one of your article on your web site :
"The Zapatista program of the Sixth Declaration does not represent a revolutionary break with the system. On the contrary, it perfectly survive in the framework of the its very old (and not « so different ») marxist-stalinist-guevarist tradition (…) of the EZLN3 even before its public appearance, indeed in the democratic and liberal framework (position it defends since its public appearance in front of a discredited Marxism which have just failed with the Berlin Wall). (…) What ever it is the case, nor the old State Marxism, nor the Welfare State which presents itself under the name of « revolutionary nationalism » don't represent the emancipation of the workers in relation to Capital.
Today, while a majority of those who declare themselves « anti-capitalist » lines up with the sirenes' song of the old « revolutionary nationalism » or with the obsolete Marxism-leninism, we, the revolutionary anarchists of the Grupo Socialista Libertario, denounce openly and radically the erroneous path on which the zapatista leadership drives them" (Grupo Socialista Libertario, August 2007, translated from Spanish by us).
We have here, condensed in a few lines, an attack in order against the consciousness, the theory and the revolutionary perspectives of the proletariat, all this under the apparently innocent « criticism of the EZLN ».
First of all, the GSL says that "discredited Marxism has fallen with the Berlin Wall" which means that, for this group, the barbarous stalinist and State capitalist regimes were not but the product of Marxism ; as the other anarchists, it so echoes the ideological campaign launched by the bourgeoisie in 1989. Later, the GSL speaks of "obsolete Marxism-leninism" and of "revolutionary nationalism" as ways of same nature and "radically erroneous". It means it puts the bolsheviks - the only revolutionary party which has been able to lead the working class up to the seize of power - at the same level as the bourgeois nationalists, presenting them as a dangerous option for the proletariat.
Thus what better favour the bourgeoisie could expect !
But the most important to underline here is how the anarchist ideology has regained vigour thanks to the bourgeois ideological campaigns : it presents what the bourgeoisie itself affirms as "obvious historical facts", as a proof of Marxism failure ; similarly, anarchism has become today, on the basis of its fundamental principles, a sound box of the present ideological campaigns of the bourgeoisie ! And this, independently of the consciousness of the militants themselves.
As you can see, our total rejection of the "method" which aims at mixing or at seeking to make a synthesis between Marxism and anarchism in order to set up a "proletarian program" does not come from a so-called "sectarian" behaviour which would be ours, but from the class analysis and of the historical evolution of anarchism. In that sense, the discussion we can propose you, is aiming at contributing that you lead up to the end the criticism that you have begun on "anarchism insufficiencies" up to understand its true class nature, its trajectory and its present function, in order to ideologically and politically break with this current which has nothing to do with the working class. At the same time, you must tackle revolutionary Marxism, not through the glasses that propose the organizations of Capital Left, nor through the bourgeois campaigns, but through the organizations of Communist Left which, despite their present weakness, are the only ones which maintain the thread of the revolutionary class's positions.
The Fraction of the International Communist Left.
3. It is the name of the zapatista "army" of Marcos in Mexico.
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