AS ANARCHISTS believe the bosses will resist a revolution, it follows that we accept the need for armed force to defend the revolution. But anarchists also oppose militarism, that includes standing armies controlled by the state with officers who have special privileges like extra rations, better quarters, saluting, etc. So what alternative do anarchists propose?
Does the end justify the means? Many on the left belive so. Aileen O'Carroll argues that the means used play a part in creating the end that is achieved. The best example of this is the Russian Revolution of 1917.
In 1922 Emma Goldman complained Soviet Russia, had become the modern socialist Lourdes, to which the blind and the lame, the deaf and the dumb were flocking for miraculous cures(1). The Russian Revolution was the first occasion where decades of revolutionary ideas could be applied to real life. What was theory was now practice. The struggle between the two concepts of revolution - the statist-centralist and the libertarian federalist - moved from the realm of the abstract to the concrete.
The question thrown up by the October revolution is fundamental. Once capitalism has been defeated, how is communism to be achieved? While there are certainly faults to be found with aspects of the anarchist movement, at least it cannot be criticised for getting the basics wrong. Anarchists have consistently argued that freedom and democracy are not optional extras. Rather they form part of the conditions necessary for the growth of communism.
It has become something of a cliché to refer to the death or collapse of the left. What's still missing however is an analysis of what went wrong with the left. One that goes beyond surface manifestations, and reaches into its core politics. This lack of analysis means that much of the 'new left' is not that new at all, merely a repackaging of old ideas in new wrappers.
The Russian revolution of 1917 has been a subject of key importance to anarchists for 70 years now, for two reasons. The first reason is that for the first time in history a working class revolution succeeded in ousting the old ruling classes. The second reason is that after the old ruling class was ousted a new class came to power. Those of us who want to make a revolution to-day must understand where the successes and failures of the past came from.
The victorious revolution of the workers and peasants in 1917 was legally established in the Bolshevik calendar as the October Revolution. There is sane truth in this, but it is not entirely exact. In October 1917 the workers and peasants of Russia surmounted a colossal obstacle to the development of their Revolution. They abolished the nominal power of the capitalist class, but even before that they achieved something of equal revolutionary importance and perhaps even more fundamental.
Zabalaza Books, the anarchist printing project linked to the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) in South Africa, recently produced this pamphlet to commemorate the Kronstadt uprising in March 1921, when the sailors and workers of the Kronstadt naval base rose up against the Bolsheviks and were slaughtered by the dictatorship.
The Makhnovists were a libertarian movement, deeply rooted in the traditions of anarchist-communism, that developed an experience of revolutionary changes in the economic and political structures of the backwarded Ukrainian society.
Leninists are fond of quoting from the writing of Victor Serge, as a means of getting a libertarian rubber stamp for the actions of the Bolsheviks during the October revolution and the subsequent events. In his keynote article "In defence of October" John Rees uses no less than 8 quotes from Serge's writings within the space of 70 pages. Poor old Lenin only managed to clock up 4 original quotes, while Tony Cliff's dubious interpretation of all these events manages to get more quotes in than one could possibly count. To a certain extent, what the Leninists of today are trying to tell us is that Serge was a practical man, and he knew that the only way for the revolution to succeed was to row in behind the Bolsheviks. So, with this in mind, we take a look at Serge's' autobiography "Memoirs of a Revolutionary".
Many revolutionaries in recent years have been engrossed in analysing the mistakes of the past and the changing nature of capitalism. Andrew N. Flood a participant in the "Intercontinental Gathering for Humanity and against neo-liberalism" argues it is time to start moving on to the constructive work of building a new movement.
80th anniversay of the Russian Revolution....
IN 1922, after seeing the product of the Russian revolution first hand, the anarchist Emma Goldman described how "Soviet Russia had become the modern socialist Lourdes". Eighty years after the revolution in Russia a reflection on that period has more than just historical value. Many left wing organisations still hold up this era as the model for future revolution. In order to challenge this Bolshevik conception of organisation and revolution we look at what the consequences of this model were.