ANARCHIST COMMUNISTS: A QUESTION OF CLASS
The basic element which distinguishes Anarchist Communists from all other Anarchist currents may be organizational dualism, but what marks them out in particular from the rest of the Anarchist movement (even with regard to the Libertarian Communists - see Appendix 2) is the existence of a programme. This is the collection of the short-term and mid-term objectives which the political organization establishes for itself. It is approved by Congress and reviewed at each successive Congress. What has been achieved and what has not been achieved is studied and explained. Objectives can be considered no longer important and can be removed, and in general the strategy is adapted to the times. The programme as such is a set of strategic and tactical elements which guides the political organization's actions in the mid-term. The fusion of strategic elements and tactical elements enables the programme to change with the changing economic and social situation. The function which the Anarchist Communist political organization assigns the various parts of the programme are one of its characteristics, seeing that objectives which may be purely tactical for some may be strategic for others, and vice versa. For this very reason the programme is a platform for collaboration with other political organizations, where each one retains the right to establish strategically common objectives which are then pursued in collaboration with other organizations.
The existence of a programme (often called a minimum programme) may initially seem to be an unimportant detail. On the contrary, its consequences are of the utmost importance, as its existence provokes a certain mentality and disposition for political work. This is something which characterizes to a great extent the Anarchist Communist political organization and determines some very important aspects.
5.6.1. Phase Analysis
These traits are all contained in the short definition of programme which we have just given. They do, however, merit a little detailed examination. As we have said, the programme is the workplan which the political organization provides for itself at every Congress, and is therefore valid for several years. As it contains tactical and strategic elements, it needs to place the organization's political action within a dimension which is adequate in order to progress towards the ends. In order to do this, the programme (which is established in a particular historical context) must set out the correct steps for the times concerned. It therefore requires knowledge of the current situation and this implies that accurate political and economic analysis of the current phase be made beforehand.
For decades, Anarchists had abandoned the field of economic analysis, judging it to be unnecessary to know the class enemy's strategy in order to spread Anarchist ideas. The result is action without time or place, a vision of the world in which everything is grey and where the cutting edge of militants has become progressively blunter and the survivors sit around nostalgically agreeing that they are right.
The rediscovery of Anarchist Communism sparked off a rediscovery of the joys of study, knowledge and analysis. In consequence, certain dogmas previously considered untouchable were put to the test, something Berneri had already done. Above all, it made it possible once more for there to be dialogue with those common women and men who slave away to earn a few crumbs of wealth without having to wait for a messianic salvation in some distant future. In other words, Anarchism came back to live in the open, among the masses and within the labour struggles.
As we have seen, a sect-like spirit dominated the Anarchist movement in Italy after World War II. This derived from the opinion that only the realization of a free and egalitarian society after the social revolution could improve the condition of a humanity which was bowed by exploitation: any other progress, any other conquest, any improvement was considered impossible under the current capitalist system or even as a trap to ensnare the masses and stop them reaching their final goal. Any compromise with the needs for today was seen as giving in and would result in putting off further the glorious future which was the sole objective worth fighting for.
The re-discovery of Anarchist Communism once again brought to the fore the gradualism which Malatesta spoke of and the programme is a visible manifestation of this. Intermediate objectives are not reformist sops which are designed to build the future society piecemeal (something which Anarchist Communists would never dream of). They are merely vital responses to the daily needs of the exploited which, far from dulling their ambitions for a just, egalitarian society, give them a taste for struggle and for conquest. The more they eat, the hungrier they get. Anyone who has to resolve the immediate problem of their primary needs will only with difficulty be able to conceive a long struggle for their historical needs and only with enormous difficulty will be able to acquire the necessary consciousness to transform themselves into the agents of their own emancipation.
Ultimately, if we do not propose solutions to the problems of the day, it will be practically impossible to provide credible proposals for the realization of a paradise which is lost in the mists of a distant future. The struggle to satisfy the immediate needs, to snatch even a minimum of wealth from our class adversary, to limit his unbounded power and total control over the workforce, was called "revolutionary gymnastics" by Malatesta and Fabbri. For this reason, their Anarchism, like ours, was not reformist but reforming, because it kept its eye firmly fixed on the revolutionary objective, without nonetheless renouncing the gains made in the here and now. Obviously these gains are fleeting and the to's and fro's of the class struggle can all too easily render them useless (something we have in fact been witnessing in recent decades), but they need to be obtained nevertheless, for two reasons. Firstly, the acquired consciousness that they are not permanent will sooner or later make it clear to the proletariat that only the final victory can guarantee peace and well-being for ever and for everyone. Secondly, a look back at the last two hundred years of history will make it quite clear that generally there has been some real progress in the living standards of workers in those countries where there has been an active labour movement.
We have spoken about the sect-like spirit which dominated the Italian Anarchist movement for decades. It really could not have been otherwise. As the only possible objective to aim for is the social revolution (about which Anarchists have their own very precise ideas), then no alliance with other revolutionary forces is possible, in fact it could even represent a betrayal of the ideal. But Anarchist Communists have their programme with its partial and immediate goals, and as far as this is concerned it is possible to find companions, in other words to form alliances in order to obtain success for that particular piece of the programme. Thanks to the programme, this possibility is an important element in the history of the Anarchist movement which, thanks also to the influence of Malatesta in 1921, proposed an alliance with other leftists (known as the Fronte Unico Rivoluzionario, or Revolutionary Single Front) to respond to the growing Fascist reaction.
Anarchist Communists are so sure of their historical ends, of their strategy for obtaining them and of the steps they must take today, that they do not fear any impure contact contaminating them. On the contrary, they believe that they can contaminate others. In particular, they feel that they can spread their ideas and proposals among the great mass of the proletariat which is still fooled by the promise that the system is reformable or by the hope that an authoritative, illuminated leader will guide them towards a society without classes.