3. Why Communist: what we have in common with the left

Throughout its history, there has been a fringe within the Anarchist movement which, as a result of a philosophical defence of the individual (seen as some self-sufficient monad), has resulted in a completely reactionary contempt of the masses. But a very large majority of the Anarchist movement (almost the entire movement) has always been a part of "the left" and has defended the weakest, the exploited, fighting doggedly for their liberation.

Some Anarchists, while declaring themselves to be part of the left and believing that their theory can liberate the whole of humanity (both servants and masters), have come to believe that good ideas live by themselves - all it needs is for them to be understood. So, their main task has ended up as pure, idealistic propaganda and a consequent refusal of class struggle.

They have, on the one hand, refused organization on the basis that it is an essentially authoritarian principle and, on the other hand driven by a blind hatred (and not by a precise analysis) of Marxism, they believe that society divided into classes is not a reality but some philosophical invention of Trier's. The result of all this is inaction and sterility.

Among the class-struggle currents of the Anarchist movement there are three which use the term communist in their theoretical definitions (Libertarian Communism, Anarcho-Communism and Anarchist Communism) whereas others make reference to syndicalism (Revolutionary Syndicalism, various forms of Anarcho-Syndicalism). We will deal with these distinctions later on.

It should be noted at this stage that the term Communism refers openly to the acceptance of class principles which distinguish all revolutionary leftists, irrespective of their school of thought.

In fact it was Anarchists who first adopted the term on a wide scale. Its early adoption represented early maturity on the part of the Anarchist movement, which passed from the Collectivist phase to which Bakunin was still linked ("from each according to their ability, to each in relation to their work"), to the truly egalitarian phase ("from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs").

Until such times as Anarchists adopted the communist adjective, around the end of the 19th century, it had been relegated to certain unimportant utopian sects such as the Icarians who were influenced by Étienne Cabet.

Initially, it was the Marxists who had assumed the name. Marx and Engels chose it, in fact, for their small group of German immigrants in Britain, the Communist League, and used it in their 1848 work, the "Communist Manifesto". Successively, however, they fell back on the term Social Democracy in all countries, partly as a result of their alliance with the Lassallians which led to the birth of the German Social Democratic Party, and partly because the Communist programme was judged to be too advanced for political movements which still had to act within bourgeois societies which had not yet developed fully. Orthodox Marxism, in fact, believed that before there could be a social revolution, the bourgeoisie had to develop all its progressive potential and the proletariat had to cooperate in this, because only when this task of the proprietary classes had been exhausted and when bourgeois society had turned on itself, could the contradictions within it explode, giving rise to the new era of proletarian domination.

It was only after the Russian Revolution of October 1917 that Marxist parties all over the world returned to the use of the adjective communist. By that stage, though, Anarchist Communists had already been using the term for around half a century as a synonym of class-struggle Anarchism.


3.1. Method (historical materialism)