ANARCHIST COMMUNISTS: A QUESTION OF CLASS

1. Theoreticians

Anarchist Communism is not the pure fruit of some intellectual adventure. It is not the result, happy as it may be, of certain individuals who, sheltered from history, have meditated on humanity's destiny. It is not the (generous) answer of a few utopians to the ills of contemporary society and to its patent injustices. It is not the search for an ideal of perfection which can satisfy the need for harmony of minds requiring abstract ponderings. Anarchist Communism was born both from and within the struggles of the proletariat and has therefore little to do with the innate aspirations of man towards less iniquitous forms of social organization. Hence, we will not be searching for its roots in the philosophical systems of more or less ancient times (even though they may have provided food for thought, as is also the case with certain other forms of political thought born around the same time, such as Marxism or liberal ideology). We will concentrate only on the stratification of ideas laid down in one component of the workers' and proletarian movement beginning with the First International (1864) and continuing until today.

All this, however, does not mean that there have never been individuals whose reflections have made a fundamental contribution to the development of the ideological corpus which bears the name of Anarchist Communism and we will be dedicating brief sections to them, with three premises. The first is that none of them was simply a thinker who observed the evolution of events in the class struggle from without or who held a directing role, giving him the sole task of furnishing policies and analyses. All were politically active full-time in the daily goings-on of the movement and for this reason their contribution is often fragmentary, consisting of one-off articles or pamphlets hurriedly written in the heat of the moment, with the train of thought in progress and often not brought to a conclusion. Their thinking, therefore, although it may not always be systematically presented in broad works resulting from years of planning, is nonetheless coherent in its own way, with a thread which needs to be established with patience and care, though this is often the cause of the diverse interpretations which can be made.

The second premise is that those who we remember here are not the only thinkers which Anarchist Communism can boast. Others have contributed greatly to the development of our ideas and analyses. We simply wish to underline the fact that these three names each represented a significant turning point in the evolution of Anarchist Communist theory.

Finally, the third premise is that we ask the reader not to be shocked by the absence from this brief collection of certain classic names which appear in every history of anarchism (William Godwin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Pëtr Alekseievich Kropotkin, etc.) or comrades who have been so valuable to the Anarchist Communist movement in particular (Émile Pouget, Errico Malatesta, Nestor Ivanovich Makhno, etc.). The former are not included as they represent trains of thought which are often distant from Anarchist Communism. The latter are omitted because, although their system of thought may have been rigorous, they did not represent milestones to the extent that we wish to emphasise here. We will leave to another moment a systematic study of the evolution of Anarchist Communist theory, one where every influence can be examined and evaluated more fully.

 


1.1. Bakunin (or, Origins)

Index