5.3. On the State and Collectivity

Having lived in a period when the bourgeois State ferociously fulfilled its role of protecting the interests of the ruling class, Anarchists have developed a deep and justified hatred for this institution. Furthermore, their direst predictions regarding the oppressive nature of the State as an institution were borne out by the revolutions controlled by Marxists and in particular by the history of the Soviet Union. The point that Anarchist Communists challenge other Anarchist tendencies on is not the need to abolish the State right from the first moment of the revolution, but the fact that the great majority of Anarchists from other tendencies have acquired such an aversion to the State that they become blind to other facts.

Many Anarchists have developed a strange inversion of priorities. The State, which is a tool of the bourgeoisie that the bourgeoisie uses in order to exploit and appropriate the lion's share of available wealth, has become the prime enemy, even greater than the bourgeoisie which uses that tool. But partly as a result of the effects of the proletariat's struggle, the State has taken on other roles apart from that of policeman and these roles, known by the general term "welfare state", have some very complex facets. On the one hand they have allowed the bosses to offload onto taxpayers (and thus mostly the workers themselves) part of the costs deriving from the greater security and well-being of those less well-off; a burden created through pressure from the workers has been offloaded onto the collectivity, which otherwise would form part of the cost of labour. On the other hand, though, these functions have enabled a minimum redistribution of wealth in favour of the workers; as the result of decades of struggles they have allowed the conflict to be regulated for the protection of the weakest, they have produced social institutions, such as education, healthcare and social insurance, with a high element of solidarity.

It is not a surprise, therefore, if capitalism (which has now reached another phase of its historical development, where fierce international competition demands that costs be slashed) tends towards reducing social provisions (which are partly financed by business) and to reduce the tasks of the State to that of being an armed guardian of Capital's interests. And it is the inverted point of view of many Anarchists which prevents them from analyzing the phenomenon, from seeing that our principal enemy is the same as ever, and from realizing that what the "light State" would like to get rid of is the very thing that the proletariat have an interest in maintaining. The reduction in the State's functions involves a lowering of the fiscal burden on the rich but not on the poor, the maintenance of the State's role as policeman and the destruction of all social insurance, guarantees and protection.

The dropping of areas such as the above by the State and their replacement by equivalents on the market (and therefore their transformation into a source of profit) involves an increase in cost for services which workers will only rarely be able to afford, and will result in a noticeable reduction in their living standards. By not defending these tasks of the State, we also risk losing sight of another important aspect: the role of collectivity. Anarchist Communist society will not be able to do without a system of "taxation", in the sense that a part of the wealth will be set aside in order to sustain those who cannot contribute to the production which is essential for their needs - children, the old, the ill, etc. State management of areas such as education, healthcare and social insurance is much closer to the collective management of these services in a future society than would be the case under private management, subject to the laws of profit. The transport workers in revolutionary Spain in 1936, who were organized in a union, lost little time in organizing the service. Would the same happen today with the same rapidity and naturalness in the case of the workers on the privatized railways in Britain? Consider also the case of pensions, where under the current system there is an automatic link (and corresponding sense of solidarity) between workers of different generations.

Anarchist Communists therefore believe that the struggle against the survival of the State at the time of the revolution does not preclude recognition of the various functions of today's bourgeois State: those that serve to guarantee the continuing class domination (which, not surprisingly, capitalists seek to preserve and strengthen) and those born from compromises in the clash between the classes and which provide a modicum of well-being for the oppressed classes (again, not surprisingly, the very functions which capitalists seek to eliminate today). If the bourgeoisie is seeking to reform the State, it is doing so out of its own interests, interests which do not coincide with those of the workers.

5.4. The Methods