ANARCHIST COMMUNISTS: A QUESTION OF CLASS
6.1. Appendix 1
Historical materialism and dialectic materialism
Historical materialism is the heritage of the whole proletariat since its inception as a class conscious of the exploitation to which it is subjected, though it must be recognized that Marx was the most accurate promoter and organizer of historical materialism. Marx was influenced by Proudhon, who was the first to note the economic contradictions within society; however, (according to Marx) Proudhon imagined that these contradictions could be resolved through the use of a science which only partially took account of the real situation of productive relationships without taking account of autonomy which is essential in real materialism.
Unfortunately, the main theoreticians of orthodox Marxism, from the time of the Second and Third Internationals up to the present day, have always substituted historical materialism with the dialectic materialism that was set out by Friedrich Engels in his works "Anti-Dühring" and "The Dialectics of Nature". Dialectic materialism turns Hegelian dialectics on its head, placing it with its feet on the ground: while Hegel concentrated on the evolution of the idea, dialectic materialism instead considers the evolution of matter. Matter evolves by means of its own immutable (a-historical) laws; in society and in the economy this can be seen in the continual dialectics between the development of the productive forces and the production relationships. The latter initially adapt themselves to the level of development of the productive forces, but at a certain point they become an obstacle for the productive forces, to the point that they become a rigid casing which must eventually be broken.
Thus, dialectic materialism is no longer a method for discovering the real situation, but becomes an interpretation of the reality; not only does it imagine that it provides a general vision of human history, it also predicts with certainty the final crisis of capitalism and the inevitable advent of communism.
But communism is then no longer a way to change the production relationships once the proletariat, as a class, has re-appropriated the product of its labour; communism is instead reduced to being only one way to manage the productive forces in a particular advanced stage of evolution. In this way man loses his function as the one responsible for transforming the situation and becomes only the product of extraneous forces and immutable laws which lie out of his control.
Therefore, Englesian and Leninist Marxism theorize a metaphysical and idealistic materialism of a sort that anarchism has always rejected. It must be said again that dialectic materialism is not a method for discovering the real situation but an interpretation of the historical process and a precise vision of the facts which entails pre-determining the future as the inevitable development of past and present events. Anarchism (apart from Kropotkinist positions) has always rejected this conception of history which is the child of positivism and this idea of man as a product of superior laws; for Anarchism, history is the product of extremely complex and variable factors and man is one of these factors at play.
Dialectic materialism is also the child of the great development in the natural sciences of the mid-19th century, to the point that it believes it can transfer the methods of natural science to social science. Thus, the birth of scientific socialism, which studies the laws of the evolution of history as if they were objective, like the physical laws of nature. This need to transform social processes into objective laws has consequences on economic theory. In "Capital", in fact, Marx enunciates an economic theory that reduces class struggle to a sort of corrective factor; in the interpretation of history, the class struggle is a part of the dynamic processes of matter, but matter has abstract and immutable laws. As man can only know nature in an approximate way because it is outside and independent of him, he consequently cannot intervene in its development, either alone or collectively; man is therefore only a pure product of nature. This rigidly deterministic model (reductionism) of the 19th century disappeared from the natural sciences during the course of the 20th century, but it has remained within Marxism! In the second half of the 20th century we even saw the end of that mechanic model that was the predictability of movement which came into existence with Galileo and Newton, as we now know that the tiniest uncertainty in the starting conditions makes the trajectory unpredictable, even by a very few particles!
Dialectic materialism therefore induces a scheme of interpretation of history based on successive stages (revolutions), as one can read in the "History of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the USSR" in the edition authorized by the Party's Central Committee.
It seems incredible that for so long "scientific socialism" was content with such a simplistic and unreliable vision of history. And yet, until not much more than ten years ago, historical materialism, deterministic materialism and dialectic materialism were still being mixed up and still are by most Marxist and other analysts. For Anarchist Communists it is therefore doubly important that we distinguish between them. It is important so that we can re-discover the method of analysis that has guided the principal and best steps of the anarchist movement since the time of Bakunin. Secondly, it is important so that we can once again place the maximum importance on the class nature of our struggle which has so often been forgotten as a result of doctrinaire beliefs that reduce man to being a puppet, incapable of acting and building a society for the benefit of man.
In fact, within the Anarchist movement, the terror of these pre-conceived analyses of Marxism has led to a point-blank refusal of it, even with regard to the parts of it that inspired the birth of the workers' movement and on which even the militants of the First International were agreed. But that is not all. It also led to certain principles being rejected by some, merely because Marxism talked about them, thereby forgetting that they were also basic principles of Anarchism. They had existed even before Marx formulated them and by abandoning them, the spirit that had inspired the movement since its beginnings was lost.
6.2. Appendix 2: Anarchist communism and libertarian communism