Anarchists are not surprised by this. We predicted that by standing in capitalist elections, socialist parties would become reformist. We predicted that a so-called "workers' government" would quickly become a power over the working class and just as oppressive as capitalism. Indeed, all the "victories" of this form of socialism ended up providing empirical evidence in support of the anarchist critique of it - with "victories" like these, it does not need defeats!
There is an alternative. State socialism is not the only form of socialism. There is another form, libertarian socialism, or anarchism. So what is the anarchist alternative?
Anarchists argue that socialism has to be anti-authoritarian to be socialism. We need to reclaim the power that has been concentrated into the hands of the state and the capitalist class. That is why we stress direct action. Through direct action, the people create their own struggle; it is they who conduct it, organise it, manage it. They do not hand over to others their own acts and task of self-liberation. That way, we become accustomed to managing our own affairs, creating alternative, libertarian, forms of social organisation, which can become a force to resist the state and the bosses, win reforms, and become the framework of a free society. Direct action creates organs of direct working class power (such as community assemblies, factory committees, workers' councils, and so on) which, to use Bakunin's words, are "creating not only the ideas but also the facts of the future itself."
Anarchists argue that electioneering is not only harmful to constructive socialism, it is unnecessary. Action speaks louder than words. Using elections for propaganda, as a means of winning working class people to socialism, is like building a house on sand. We need to create firm foundations for socialism -- and that means extra-parliamentary organisations, direct action and solidarity. Non-socialists will see our strikes, our protests, our occupations, our popular assemblies and action committees. They will hear our words, they will see our lead. This is the best propaganda - socialism in action!
People learn to be free only by exercising their freedom. We are not going to find ourselves with people ready-made for the future. Anarchists support direct action because it transforms those who use it. It is the means of creating a new consciousness, a means of self-liberation from the chains placed around our minds, emotions and spirits by hierarchy and oppression.
Anarchists emphasise that the class struggle is the only means for working class people to achieve control over their destiny. We try to promote a culture of resistance within society that makes the state subject to pressure from without. We need to organise and fight where we have real power - in our communities and workplaces. We can impose from the streets and workplaces that which ministers and deputies can never realise in parliament.
By doing this we create the embryo of the society which will replace capitalism. Socialism can only be based on the mass organisations that we create to fight the current system, on the federations of strike and community assemblies, communes and workers' councils, anarchists argue for in the class war.
Instead of begging the State for a reform, workplace and community organisations must directly impose any reform on the state or the employers. In this way, instead of a legal text that remains a dead letter, real change is effected by the direct initiative of ordinary people. If we devoted all our activity and energy to the organisation of these "societies of resistance"; if we keep up a permanent socialist and revolutionary agitation; if, by linking practice to theory, we realise directly, without any bourgeois and governmental intervention, all immediately possible reforms; then the cause of labour would be better served than any re-run of social democracy.
Anarchists argue that socialism can only be created and run from below, directly by the working class itself. Unlike state socialism, we do not equate or confuse popular power with party power, nor socialism with state capitalism. For us, socialism has to be rooted in self-management. That is the true meaning of anti-authoritarianism. Not for us Lenin and Trotsky's "one-man management" or "revolutionary" government by a few party leaders in the name of the working class.
We remember that socialism means the end of wage slavery, not its universalisation under state ownership. We are for socialisation, not nationalisation. Workers' self-management must replace capitalist and state socialist hierarchy. No more bosses, not even red ones.
Anarchists also reject the state, every state, as a tool for minority power. Instead of giving power to a central committee, we argue that real freedom and equality mean that people govern themselves in a free federation of directly democratic communities ("communes"). This federation, like that in industry, will be run from the bottom up by means of mass assemblies mandating delegates and subjecting them to instant recall. No more politicians. Power remains at the bottom of society, in the hands of ordinary people who know what's best for themselves, their communities, their workplaces and the planet.
For a socialism that actually liberates, rather than just changing the bosses, we need to learn the lessons of history. The greatest of these is that the ideas of state socialism will ever achieve the promise of socialism. For that we need real anti-authoritarian socialism, socialism from below -- anarchism.
Making history or just repeating it?
A leaflet discussing why socialism and electioneering do not go together. Available in pdf format and in four parts:
- Making history or just repeating it?
- Socialism or Social Democracy?
- Ideas to change the world or just the bosses?
- For a socialism that liberates!
PDF file of Making history or just repeating it?