ANARCHIST COMMUNISTS: A QUESTION OF CLASS
Struggles in the Bourgeois State
The deterministic view of history (more evident in his followers, but nonetheless present in Marx) can also influence the various ways of conceiving the means to develop the proletariat's radical nature within the present capitalist society, the instruments required to strengthen the proletariat's opposition to exploitation and the level of struggle which the proletariat itself is capable of developing. In the words of Marx and Engels in the 1848 Communist Manifesto: "the proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class". This brief passage contains in a nutshell the whole history of the evolution of Marxism from its origins as a tiny sect of German emigrants in Great Britain to the dominant party of the proletariat throughout the 20th century. It is also, according to Anarchists, the cause of the miserable collapse of real socialism. The above extract was also to become (and not by chance) one of Lenin's favourites, one upon which he would build his theory of the revolutionary party. Let us look at this in detail.
The first element to consider is the question of "political supremacy". The conquest of this supremacy has logical and practical consequences which Anarchist Communists have always rejected (as also have, if the truth be told, certain Marxist currents like the Luxemburgists, Bordighists, Council Communists, etc.). The need to conquer political power, in fact, implies political representation, a party which works within the institutions. Anarchist Communists do not reject the party as organization (obviously as long as it meets certain criteria, something we will return to later). We reject it inasmuch as it represents the exploited masses, and even more so where this occurs within the political arena. If the masses are to bring about their own emancipation, then only they can represent themselves. For Marxists, however, the political vanguard plays an entirely different role (this, too, we will return to later), but above all it must devote itself to entering the apparatus of the bourgeois State, taking over its mechanisms, developing its own strength, electorally speaking, and so on. The process was once known in Italy as "becoming State". The revolutionary current of Marxism was to reject this strategy which underwent a tragic development and met an even more tragic end in the Second International (1881-1914), but nevertheless the same path would be followed again and again, as for example with the parties of the Third International (1921-1989).
In effect, the compromise with the bourgeois State and the re-absorption by the State of Marxism's operations (to the extent of it totally capitulating) has been a constant factor in the history of Marxism. When the German Social Democratic Party was founded in Gotha in 1875, Marx sharply criticized the programme of the new political grouping, as the fusion between his followers and those of Ferdinand Lasalle had, in his opinion, watered down his theories. The party continued on its path despite this excommunication. However, though trusting in the support of Engels (who would himself disown it after the turning point of the 1891 Congress in Erfurt) and its own ideas, developed for the most part by Karl Kautsky, it would form the basic political line of the Second International. The door was open, and the first to rush through was Eduard Bernstein, who started to deny the need for revolutionary struggle (a denial implicit in the phrase "wrest by degree" in the passage by Marx and Engels quoted at the start of this section). He was followed by Alexandre Millerand in France, who left the party in order to enter a bourgeois Government as minister. Finally, there came the whole German Social Democratic movement, which in 1914 (earlier indicated erroneously but intentionally, as the date of the end of the Second International) voted for the war credits which allowed Germany to launch World War I.
Lenin grafted a Blanquist element onto the Marxist tree, giving it once again an aggressively revolutionary character. However, though this would work in the power-grabbing phase of November 1917, it would nonetheless later allow the re-emergence of the tendency to compromise with the bourgeois State, a factor which has been shared by every Communist party in the world right up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Anarchist Communists, instead, are not interested in the bourgeois State apparatus, except to analyze it in order to reveal its true method of functioning. We therefore believe that it is not useful to work within this apparatus, either as an organization or as proletariat. Nothing is to be gained by it except more chains.
4.2. Political Struggles and Social Struggles