Thursday, June 16, 2005



Q. What are the fundamental differences between anarchism and communism?

A. The role of the State, the role of the revolutionary party and the movement for radical egalitarian change are three of the fundamental differences between anarchism and communism. Communists have blamed the degeneration of �communist� societies into State capitalist societies (the State owns the means of production, distribution and exchange) on individuals within the communist movement. Anarchists see the degeneration of the communist State into State capitalism as a logical consequence of trying to create an egalitarian community by using the State apparatus. Communists believe that a number of transitional States need to be created before the State eventually withers away. Anarchists believe that transitional States create more transitional States and that these circumstances the State will not wither away. Anarchists have always said that the State must be abolished not reformed.

Anarchists don�t want to seize the State and use the State apparatus to impose their will on the people. They want to see the State replaced by a federation of community and workplace councils. They want to decentralise not centralise power in a central authority. They don�t see themselves as a revolutionary vanguard that will, through the ballot box or through direct action, seize the State apparatus and impose their political program on the people. Anarchists believe that the revolutionary party is a part of the problem, not the solution to the problem. This attitude is reflected in the attitude anarchists have to single issue and social movements. Members of a revolutionary party see those involved in such activities as potential recruits. Anarchists work alongside these people, outlining their ideas trying to democratise the movement, encouraging people to make their own decisions. They want people to stay active in these movements, not abandon them and join this or that political party. Although anarchist groups may belong to larger federations, their primary role is to promote dissent, encourage people to organise and set up alternatives to current structures and institutions so people can build the nucleus of the new society in the ashes of the old.

Hierarchy plays a central role in the communist movement, but a minimal role in the anarchist movement. Although some anarchists may, because of their past experiences or expertises, assume leadership roles, their position in the movement is dependant on other people approving that role. They can at any time lose the influence they have in that movement. In a revolutionary party, the hierarchical nature of the organisation puts people in positions of real authority. The decisions they make are difficult to challenge because power in those organisations resides in those who exercise a leadership role.

The differences between anarchists and communists are real. Tens of thousands of anarchists have died at the hands of communist parties that believed their organisations reflected the will of the people and used the State apparatus to impose their political and ideological program on tens of million of people. The presence of a movement that spoke about libertarian communism and that attempted to transfer power from the State to the Soviet (council), posed a direct threat to a communist movement that supported the central role of the State in revolutionary politics. - Joseph TOSCANO June 2005

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