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<html>
<HEAD>

<TITLE>J.7 What do anarchists mean by "social revolution"?</TITLE>
</HEAD>
<BODY>
<h1>J.7 What do anarchists mean by <i>"social revolution"</i>?</h1>
<p>
In anarchist theory, <b><i>"social revolution"</i></b> means far more than just
revolution. For anarchists, a true revolution is far more than
just a change in the political makeup, structure or form of a 
society. It must transform all aspects of a society -- political,
economic, social, interpersonal relationships, sexual and so on --
and the individuals who comprise it. Indeed, these two transformations
go hand in hand, complementing each other and supporting each other
-- individuals, while transforming society, transform themselves
in the process.
<p>
As Alexander Berkman put it, <i>"there are revolutions and revolutions.
Some revolutions change only the governmental form by putting a new
set of rulers in place of the old. These are political revolutions,
and as such they are often meet with little resistance. But a
revolution that aims to abolish the entire system of wage slavery
must also do away with the power of one class to oppress another.
That is, it is not any more a mere change of rulers, of
government, not a political revolution, but one that seeks to
alter the whole character of society. That would be a <b>social</b>
revolution."</i> [<b>ABC of Anarchism</b>, p. 34]
<p>
It means two related things. Firstly, it means transforming all 
aspects of society and not just tinkering with certain aspects of
the current system. Where political revolution means, in essence, 
changing bosses, social revolution means changing society. Thus
social revolution signifies a change in the social, economic and 
cultural and sexual in a libertarian direction, a transformation
in the way society is organised and run. Social revolution, in
other words, does not aim to alter one form of subjection for
another, but to do away with everything that can enslave and
oppress the individual. Secondly, it means bringing about this 
fundamental change <b>directly</b> by the mass of people in society, 
rather than relying on political means of achieving this end, 
in the style of Marxist-Leninists and other authoritarian 
socialists. For anarchists, such an approach is a political 
revolution only and doomed to failure. Hence the <i>"actual,
positive work of the social revolution must . . . be carried
out by the toilers themselves, by the labouring people."</i>
[Alexander Berkman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 45]
<p>
That is not to say that an anarchist social revolution is not 
political in content -- far from it; it should be obvious to 
anyone reading this FAQ that there are considerable political 
theories at work within anarchism. What we <b>are</b> saying, however, 
is that anarchists do not seek to seize power and attempt, through 
control of law enforcement and the military (in the style of 
governments) to bring change about from the top-down. Rather, 
we seek to bring change upward from below, and in so doing, make 
such a revolution inevitable and not contingent on the machinations 
of a political vanguard. As Durruti argued, <i>"[w]e never believed 
that the revolution consisted of the seizure of power by a minority 
which would impose a dictatorship on the people . . . We want a 
revolution by and for the people. Without this no revolution is 
possible. It would be a Coup d'Etat, nothing more."</i> [quoted by 
Abel Paz, <b>Durruti: The People Armed</b>, pp. 135-7]
<p>
Thus, for anarchists, a social revolution is a movement from 
below, of the oppressed and exploited struggling for their own
freedom. Moreover, such a revolution does not appear as if by
magic. Rather, it is the case that revolutions <i>"are not 
improvised. They are not made at will by individuals. They
come about through the force of circumstance and are 
independent of any deliberate will or conspiracy."</i> [Michael
Bakunin, quote by Brian Morris, <b>Bakunin: The Philosophy
of Freedom</b>, p. 139] They are, in fact, a product of social
evolution and of social struggle. As Malatesta reminds us:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"the oppressed masses . . . have never completely resigned
themselves to oppression and poverty, and who today more
than ever than ever show themselves thirsting for justice,
freedom and wellbeing, are beginning to understand that
they will not be able to achieve their emancipation except
by union and solidarity with all the oppressed, with the
exploited everywhere in the world. And they also understand
that the indispensable condition for their emancipation which
cannot be neglected is the possession of the means of
production, of the land and of the instruments of labour."</i>
[<b>Anarchy</b>, p. 30]
</blockquote><p>
Thus any social revolution proceeds from the daily struggles
of working class people (just as anarchism does). It is not
an event, rather it is a <b>process</b> -- a process which is
occurring at this moment. Thus, for anarchists, a social
revolution is not something in the future but an process which
is occurring in the here and now. As German Anarchist Gustav
Landauer put it:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The State is not something that can be destroyed by a revolution,
but it is a condition, a certain relationship between human
beings, a mode of human behaviour; we destroy it by contracting
other relationships, by behaving differently."</i> [quoted by
George Woodcock, <b>Anarchism</b>, p. 421]
</blockquote><p>
This does not mean that anarchists do not recognise that a
revolution will be marked by, say, insurrectionary events
(such as a general strike, wide scale occupations of land,
housing, workplaces, etc., actual insurrections and so on).
Of course not, it means that we place these events in a
process, within social movements and that they do not occur
in isolation from history or the evolution of ideas and
movements within society.
<p>
Berkman echoes this point when he argued that while <i>"a social
revolution is one that entirely changes the foundation of
society, its political, economic and social character,"</i> such 
a change <i>"must <b>first</b> take place in the ideas and opinions
of the people, in the minds of men [and women]."</i> This means
that <i>"the social revolution must be prepared. Prepared in
these sense of furthering evolutionary process, of enlightening
the people about the evils of present-day society and
convincing them of the desirability and possibility, of the
justice and practicability of a social life based on liberty."</i>
[Alexander Berkman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 38] And such preparation
would be the result of social struggle in the here and now,
social struggle based on direct action, solidarity and 
self-managed organisations. While Berkman concentrates on 
the labour movement in his classic work, but his comments 
are applicable to all social movements:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"In the daily struggle of the proletariat such an organisation
[a syndicalist union] would be able to achieve victories about
which the conservative union, as at present built, cannot even
dream. . . . Such a union would soon become something more
than a mere defender and protector of the worker. It would 
gain a vital realisation of the meaning of unity and 
consequent power, of labour solidarity. The factory and
shop would serve as a training camp to develop the worker's
understanding of his proper role in life, to cultivate his
[or her] self-reliance and independence, teach him [or her]
mutual help and co-operation, and make him [or her]
conscious of his [or her] responsibility. He will learn to
decide and act on his [or her] own judgement, not leaving
it to leaders or politicians to attend to his [or her]
affairs and look out for his [or her] welfare. . . He [or
she] will grow to understand that present economic and
social arrangements are wrong and criminal, and he [or she]
will determine to change them. The shop committee and union
will become the field of preparation for a new economic
system, for a new social life."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 59]
</blockquote><p>
In other words, the struggle against authority, exploitation,
oppression and domination in the here and now is the start
of the social revolution. It is this daily struggle which
creates free people and the organisations it generates 
<i>"bear . . . the living seed of the new society which is to
replace the old one. They are creating not only the ideas,
but also the facts of the future itself."</i> [Michael Bakunin,
<b>Bakunin On Anarchism</b>, p. 255] Hence Bakunin's comment
that anarchists think socialism will be attained only <i>"by
the development and organisation, not of the political
but of the social organisation (and, by consequence, 
anti-political) power of the working masses as much in
the towns as in the countryside."</i> [<b>Michael Bakunin:
Selected Writings</b>, pp. 197-8] Such social power is
expressed in economic and community organisations such
as self-managed unions and workplace/community assemblies
(see <a href="secJ5.html">section J.5</a>).
<p>
Anarchists try and follow the example of our Spanish comrades
in the C.N.T. and F.A.I. who, when <i>"faced with the conventional 
opposition between reformism and revolution, they appear, in 
effect, to have put forward a third alternative, seeking to 
obtain immediate practical improvements through the actual
development, in practice, of autonomous, libertarian forms of 
self-organisation."</i> [Nick Rider, <i>"The Practice of Direct Action: 
The Barcelona Rent Strike of 1931"</i>, in <b>For Anarchism</b>, pp. 79-105, 
David Goodway (ed.), p. 99] While doing this, anarchists must 
also <i>"beware of ourselves becoming less anarchist because the 
masses are not ready for anarchy."</i> [Malatesta, <b>Life and Ideas</b>, 
p. 162] 
<p>
Therefore, revolution and anarchism is the product of struggle,
a social process in which anarchist ideas spread and develop.
However, <i>"[t]his does not mean. . . that to achieve anarchy we must 
wait till <b>everyone</b> becomes an anarchist. On the contrary. . . 
under present conditions only a small minority, favoured by specific 
circumstances, can manage to conceive what anarchy is. It would be 
wishful thinking to hope for a general conversion before a change 
actually took place in the kind of environment in which authoritarianism 
and privilege now flourish. It is precisely for this reason that 
[we] . . . need to organise for the bringing about of anarchy, or 
at any rate that degree of anarchy which could become gradually 
feasible, as soon as a sufficient amount of freedom has been won 
and a nucleus of anarchists somewhere exists that is both numerically 
strong enough and able to be self-sufficient and to spread its 
influence locally."</i> [Errico Malatesta, <b>The Anarchist Revolution</b>, 
pp. 83-4]
<p>
Thus anarchists influence the struggle, the revolutionary process
by encouraging anarchistic tendencies within those who are not
yet anarchists but are instinctively acting in a libertarian
manner. Anarchists spread the anarchist message to those in 
struggle and support libertarian tendencies in it as far as
they can. In this way, more and more people will become 
anarchists and anarchy will become increasingly possible. 
We discuss the role of anarchists in a social revolution
in <a href="secJ7.html#secj74">section J.7.4</a> and will not do so now.
<p>
For anarchists, a social revolution is the end product of
years of social struggle. It is marked by the transformation
of a given society and the breaking down of all forms of
oppression and the creation of new ways of living, new forms
of self-managed organisation, a new attitude to live itself.
Moreover, we do not wait for the future to introduce such 
transformations in our daily life. Rather, we try and create
as much anarchistic tendencies in today's society as possible
in the firm belief that in so doing we are pushing the creation
of a free society nearer. 
<p>
So anarchists, including revolutionary ones, try to make the world 
more libertarian and so bring us closer to freedom. Few anarchists 
think of anarchy as something in (or for) the distant future, rather 
it is something we try and create in the here and now by living 
and struggling in a libertarian manner. Once enough people do this, 
then a more extensive change towards anarchy (i.e. a revolution)
is inevitable.
<p>
<a name="secj71"><h2>J.7.1 Are all anarchists revolutionaries?</h2>
<p>
No, far from it. While most anarchists do believe that a social
revolution is required to create a free society, some reject the
idea. This is because they think that revolutions are by their
very nature violent and coercive and so are against anarchist
principles. In the words of Proudhon (in reply to Marx):
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Perhaps you still hold the opinion that no reform is possible
without a helping <b>coup de main,</b> without what used to be called
a revolution but which is quite simply a jolt. I confess that
my most recent studies have led me to abandon this view, which
I understand and would willingly discuss, since for a long
time I held it myself. I do not think that this is what we
need in order to succeed, and consequently we must not suggest
<b>revolutionary</b> action as the means of social reform because
this supposed means would simply be an appeal to force and to
arbitrariness. In brief, it would be a contradiction."</i> 
[<b>Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon</b>, p. 151]
</blockquote><p>
Also they point to the fact that the state is far better armed 
than the general population, better trained and (as history 
proves) more than willing to slaughter as many people as 
required to restore "order." In face of this power, they
argue, revolution is doomed to failure.
<p>
Those opposed to revolution come from all tendencies of the 
movement. Traditionally, Individualist anarchists are usually
against the idea of revolution, as was Proudhon. However, with 
the failure of the Russian Revolution and the defeat of the 
C.N.T.-F.A.I. in Spain, some social anarchists have rethought support
for revolution. Rather than seeing revolution as the key way of 
creating a free society they consider it doomed to failure as the 
state is too strong a force to be overcome by insurrection. Instead 
of revolution, such anarchists support the creation of alternatives, 
such as co-operatives, mutual banks and so on, which will help 
transform capitalism into libertarian socialism. Such alternative 
building, combined with civil disobedience and non-payment of taxes, 
is seen as the best way to creating anarchy.
<p>
Most revolutionary anarchists agree on the importance of building
libertarian alternatives in the here and now. They would agree
with Bakunin when he argued that such organisations as libertarian

unions, co-operatives and so on are essential <i>"so that when the
Revolution, brought about by the natural force of circumstances,
breaks out, there will be a real force at hand which knows what
to do and by virtue thereof is capable of taking the Revolution
into its own hands and imparting to it a direction salutary for
the people: a serious, international organisation of worker's
organisations of all countries, capable of replacing the
departing political world of the States and the bourgeoisie."</i>
[<b>The Political Philosophy of Bakunin</b>, p. 323] Thus, for
most anarchists, the difference of evolution and revolution is
one of little import -- anarchists should support libertarian 
tendencies within society as they support revolutionary situations
when they occur. 
<p>
Moreover, revolutionary anarchists argue that, ultimately, 
capitalism cannot be reformed away nor will the state wither
away under the onslaught of libertarian institutions and 
attitudes. They do not consider it possible to <i>"burn Property
little by little"</i> via <i>"some system of economics"</i> which will
<i>"put back into society . . . the wealth which has been taken
out of society by another system of economics"</i>, to use 
Proudhon's expression. [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 151] Therefore, libertarian
tendencies within capitalism may make life better under that
system but they cannot, ultimately, get rid of it. This implies
a social revolution, they argue. Such anarchists agree with
Alexander Berkman when he writes:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"This is no record of any government or authority, of any group
or class in power having given up its mastery voluntarily. In
every instance it required the use of force, or at least the
threat of it."</i> [<b>ABC of Anarchism</b>, p. 32]
</blockquote><p>
Even the end of State capitalism ("Communism") in the Eastern
Block does not contradict this argument. Without the mass 
action of the population, the regime would have continued.
Faced with a massive popular revolt, the Commissars realised
that it was better to renounce power than have it taken from
them. Thus mass rebellion, the start of any true revolution,
was required.
<p>
Moreover, the argument that the state is too powerful to
be defeated has been proven wrong time and time again. Every
revolution has defeated a military machine which previously
been claimed to be unbeatable. For example, the people armed
is Spain defeated the military in two-thirds of the country.
Ultimately, the power of the state rests on its troops
following orders. If those troops rebel, then the state is
powerless. That is why anarchists have always produced
anti-militarist propaganda urging troops to join strikers
and other people in revolt. Revolutionary anarchists, therefore,
argue that any state can be defeated, if the circumstances are
right and the work of anarchists is to encourage those
circumstances.
<p>
In addition, revolutionary anarchists argue that even if anarchists
did not support revolutionary change, this would not stop such
events happening. Revolutions are the product of developments
in human society and occur whether we desire them or not. They
start with small rebellions, small acts of refusal by individuals,
groups, workplaces, communities and grow. These acts of rebellion
are inevitable in any hierarchical society, as is their spreading
wider and wider. Revolutionary anarchists argue that anarchists
must, by the nature of our politics and our desire for freedom,
support such acts of rebellion and, ultimately, social revolution.
Not to do so means ignoring people in struggle against our
common enemy and ignoring the means by which anarchists ideas
and attitudes will grow within existing society. Thus Alexander 
Berkman is right when he wrote:

<p><blockquote>
<i>"That is why it is no prophecy to foresee that some day it
must come to decisive struggle between the masters of life
and the dispossessed masses.
<p>
"As a matter if fact, that struggle is going on all the time.
There is a continuous warfare between capital and labour. That
warfare generally proceeds within so-called legal forms. But
even these erupt now and then in violence, as during strikes
and lockouts, because the armed fist of government is always
at the service of the masters, and that fist gets into action
the moment capital feels its profits threatened: then it drops
the mask of 'mutual interests' and 'partnership' with labour
and resorts to the final argument of every master, to coercion
and force.
<p>
"It is therefore certain that government and capital will
not allow themselves to be quietly abolished if they can
help it; nor will they miraculously 'disappear' of themselves,
as some people pretend to believe. It will require a 
revolution to get rid of them."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 33]
</blockquote><p>
However, all anarchists are agreed that any revolution should
be as non-violent as possible. Violence is the tool of oppression
and, for anarchists, violence is only legitimate as a means of
self-defence against authority. Therefore revolutionary anarchists
do not seek "violent revolution" -- they are just aware that when
people refuse to kow-tow to authority then that authority will 
use violence against them. This use of violence has been directed
against non-violent forms of direct action and so those anarchists
who reject revolution will not avoid state violence directed
against.

<p>
Nor do revolutionary anarchists think that revolution is in
contradiction to the principles of anarchism. As Malatesta
put it, <i>"[f]or two people to live in peace they must both
want peace; if one insists on using force to oblige the other
to work for him and serve him, then the other, if he wishes
to retain his dignity as a man and not be reduced to abject
slavery, will be obliged, in spite of his love of peace, to 
resist force with adequate means."</i> [Malatesta, <b>Life and
Ideas</b>, p. 54] Under any hierarchical system, those in 
authority do not leave those subject to them in peace. The 
boss does not treat his/her workers as equals, working 
together by free agreement without differences in power. 
Rather, the boss orders the worker about and uses the 
threat of sanctions to get compliance. Similarly with 
the state. Under these conditions, revolution cannot be 
authoritarian -- for it is not authoritarian to destroy 
authority! To quote Rudolf Rocker:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"We . . . know that a revolution cannot be made with 
rosewater. And we know, too, that the owning classes 
will never yield up their privileges spontaneously. 
On the day of victorious revolution the workers will 
have to impose their will on the present owners of 
the soil, of the subsoil and of the means of production, 
which cannot be done -- let us be clear on this -- without 
the workers taking the capital of society into their own 
hands, and, above all, without their having demolished the 
authoritarian structure which is, and will continue to be, 
the fortress keeping the masses of the people under dominion. 
Such an action is, without doubt, an act of liberation; 
a proclamation of social justice; the very essence of social 
revolution, which has nothing in common with the utterly 
bourgeois principle of dictatorship."</i> [<b>Anarchism and 
Sovietism</b>]
</blockquote><p>
Errico Malatesta comments reflect well the position of
revolutionary anarchists with regards to the use
of force:
<blockquote><p>
<i>"We neither seek to impose anything by force nor do we
wish to submit to a violent imposition.
<p>
"We intend to use force against government, because it
is by force that we are kept in subjection by government.
<p>
"We intend to expropriate the owners of property because
it is by force that they withhold the raw materials and
wealth, which is the fruit of human labour, and use it
to oblige others to work in their interest.
<p>
"We shall resist with force whoever would wish by force,
to retain or regain the means to impose his will and
exploit the labour of others. . .
<p>
"With the exception of these cases, in which the use of
violence is justified as a defence against force, we
are always against violence, and for self-determination."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 56]
</blockquote><p>
This is the reason why most anarchists are revolutionaries. 
They do not think it against the principles of anarchism 
and consider it the only real means of creating a free 
society -- a society in which the far greater, and permanent, 
violence which keeps the majority of humanity in servitude 
can be ended once and for all.
<p>
<a name="secj72"><h2>J.7.2 Is social revolution possible?</h2> 
<p>
One objection to the possibility of social revolution is based on what 
we might call "the paradox of social change."  This argument goes as
follows: authoritarian institutions reward and select people with an
authoritarian type of personality for the most influential positions in
society; such types of people have both (a) an interest in perpetuating
authoritarian institutions (from which they benefit) and (b) the power to
perpetuate them; hence they create a self-sustaining and tightly closed
system which is virtually impervious to the influence of non-authoritarian
types.  Therefore, institutional change presupposes individual change,
which presupposes institutional change, and so on.  Unless it can be
shown, then, that institutions and human psychology can both be changed
<b>at the same time</b>, hope for a genuine social revolution (instead of just
another rotation of elites) appears to be unrealistic.
<p>
Connected with this problem is the fact that the psychological root 
of the hierarchical society is addiction to power -- over other people, 
over nature, over the body and human emotions -- and that this addiction 
is highly contagious. That is, as soon as any group of people anywhere 
in the world becomes addicted to power, those within range of their
aggression also feel compelled to embrace the structures of power,
including centralised control over the use of deadly force,  in order 
to protect themselves from their neighbours. But once these structures 
of power are adopted, authoritarian institutions become self-perpetuating.
<p>
In this situation, fear becomes the underlying emotion behind the
conservatism, conformity, and mental inertia of the majority, who 
in that state become vulnerable to the self-serving propaganda of 
authoritarian elites alleging the necessity of the state, strong 
leaders, militarism, "law and order," capitalist bosses, etc.  
Hence the simultaneous transformation of institutions and 
individual psychology becomes even more difficult to imagine.
<p>
Serious as these obstacles may be, they do not warrant despair. To see
why, let's note first that "paradigm shifts" in science have not generally
derived from new developments in one field alone but from a convergence of
cumulative developments in several different fields at once. For example,
the Einsteinian revolution which resulted in the overthrow of the
Newtonian paradigm was due to simultaneous progress in mathematics,
physics, astronomy and other sciences that all influenced, reacted on, and
cross-fertilised each other (see Thomas Kuhn, <b>The Structure of Scientific
Revolutions</b>, 1962).  Similarly, if there is going to be a "paradigm
shift" in the social realm, i.e. from hierarchical to non-hierarchical
institutions, it is likely to emerge from the convergence of a number of
different socio-economic and political developments at the same time. We
have discussed these developments in <a href="secJ4.html">section J.4</a> 
and so will not repeat
ourselves here. In a hierarchical society, the oppression which authority
produces resistance, and so hope. The <i>"instinct for freedom"</i> cannot be
repressed forever.
<p>
That is why anarchists stress the importance of direct action and
self-help (see sections <a href="secJ2.html">J.2</a> and 
<a href="secJ4.html">J.4</a>). By the very process of struggle,
by practising self-management, direct action, solidarity people 
create the necessary "paradigm shift" in both themselves and 
society as a whole. In the words of Malatesta, <i>"[o]nly freedom
or the struggle for freedom can be the school for freedom."</i> 
[<b>Life and Ideas</b>, p. 59] Thus the struggle against authority
is the school of anarchy -- it encourages libertarian tendencies
in society and the transformation of individuals into anarchists.
In a revolutionary situation, this process is accelerated. It
is worth quoting Murray Bookchin at length on this subject:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Revolutions are profoundly educational processes, indeed veritable
cauldrons in which all kinds of conflicting ideas and tendencies
are sifted out in the minds of a revolutionary people. . .
<p>
"Individuals who enter into a revolutionary process are by no
means the same after the revolution as they were before it began.
Those who encounter a modicum of success in revolutionary times
learn more within a span of a few weeks or months than they
might have learned over their lifetime in non-revolutionary
times. Conventional ideas fall away with extraordinary rapidity;
values and prejudices that were centuries in the making disappear
almost overnight. Strikingly innovative ideas are quickly
adopted, tested, and, where necessary, discarded. Even newer
ideas, often flagrantly radical in character, are adopted
with an elan that frightens ruling elites -- however radical
the latter may profess to be -- and they soon become deeply
rooted in the popular consciousness. Authorities hallowed by
age-old tradition are suddenly divested of their prestige,
legitimacy, and power to govern. . .
<p>
"So tumultuous socially and psychologically are revolutions
in general that they constitute a standing challenge to
ideologues, including sociobiologists, who assert that
human behaviour is fixed and human nature predetermined.
Revolutionary changes reveal a remarkable flexibility in
'human nature,' yet few psychologists have elected to study
the social and psychological tumult of revolution as well
as the institutional changes it so often produces. Thus much
must be said with fervent emphasis: <b>to continue to judge the
behaviour of a people during and after a revolution by the
same standards one judged them by beforehand is completely
myopic.</b>
<p>
"I wish to argue [like all anarchists] that the capacity of
a revolution to produce far-reaching ideological and moral
changes in a people stems primarily from the opportunity
it affords ordinary, indeed oppressed, people to exercise
popular self-management -- to enter directly, rapidly, and
exhilaratingly into control over most aspects of their social
and personal lives. To the extent that an insurrectionary
people takes over the reins of power from the formerly
hallowed elites who oppressed them and begins to restructure
society along radically populist lines, individuals grow
aware of latent powers within themselves that nourish
their previously suppressed creativity, sense of self-worth,
and solidarity. They learn that society is neither immutable
nor sanctified, as inflexible custom had previously taught
them; rather, it is malleable and subject, within certain
limits, to change according to human will and desire."</i>
[<b>The Third Revolution</b>, vol. 1, pp. 6-7]
</blockquote><p>
So, social revolutions are possible. Anarchists anticipate 
successful co-operation within certain circumstance. People
who are in the habit of taking orders from bosses are not
capable of creating a new society. Tendencies towards
freedom, self-management, co-operation and solidarity are
not simply an act of ethical will which overcomes the 
competitive and hierarchical behaviour capitalism generates
within those who live in it. Capitalism is, as Malatesta
argued, based on competition -- and this includes the working
class. Thus conflict is endemic to working class life under
capitalism. However, <b><i>co-operation</b></i> is stimulated within 
our class by our struggles to survive in and resist the 
system. This tendency for co-operation generated by struggle
against capitalism also produces the habits required for
a free society -- by struggling to change the world (even
a small part of it), people also change themselves. Direct
action produces empowered and self-reliant people who can
manage their own affairs themselves. It is on the liberating 
effects of struggle, the tendencies towards individual and 
collective self-management and direct action it generates, the 
needs and feelings for solidarity and creative solutions to 
pressing problems it produces that anarchists base their
positive answer on whether social revolution is possible. 
History has shown that we are right. It will do so again.
<p>
<a name="secj73"><h2>J.7.3 Doesn't revolution mean violence?</h2>
<p>
While many try and paint revolutions (and anarchists) as being violent
by their very nature, the social revolution desired by anarchists is
essentially non-violent. This is because, to quote Bakunin, <i>"[i]n order
to launch a radical revolution, it is . . . necessary to attack
positions and things and to destroy [the institution of] property 
and the State, but there will be no need to destroy men and to 
condemn ourselves to the inevitable reaction which is unfailingly
produced in every society by the slaughter of men."</i> [<b>Michael Bakunin:
Selected Writings</b>, pp. 168-9]
<p>
As Bakunin noted elsewhere, the end of property is also non-violent:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"How to smash the tyranny of capital? Destroy capital? But that 
would be to destroy all the riches accumulated on earth, all primary
materials, all the instruments of labour, all the means of labour. . .
Thus capital cannot and must not be destroyed. It must be preserved . . .
there is but a single solution -- <b>the intimate and complete union
of capital and labour</b> . . . the workers must obtain not individual
but <b>collective</b> property in capital . . . the collective property
of capital . . . [is] the absolutely necessary conditions for of
the emancipation <b>of labour and of the workers.</b>"</i> [<b>The Basic 
Bakunin</b>, pp. 90-1]
</blockquote><p>
The essentially non-violent nature of anarchist ideas of social 
revolution can be seen from the Seattle General Strike of 1919. 
Here is a quote from the Mayor of Seattle (we do not think we 
need to say that he was not on the side of the strikers):
<p><blockquote>
    <i>"The so-called sympathetic Seattle strike was an attempted 
     revolution. That there was no violence does not alter the 
     fact . . . The intent, openly and covertly announced, was 
     for the overthrow of the industrial system; here first, then 
     everywhere . . . True, there were no flashing guns, no bombs, 
     no killings. Revolution, I repeat, doesn't need violence. 
     The general strike, as practised in Seattle, is of itself the 
     weapon of revolution, all the more dangerous because quiet.
     To succeed, it must suspend everything; stop the entire life 
     stream of a community . . . That is to say, it puts the 
     government out of operation. And that is all there is to
     revolt -- no matter how achieved."</i> [quoted by Howard Zinn,
     <b>A People's History of the United States</b>, pp. 370-1]
</blockquote><p>
If the strikers had occupied their workplaces and local communities
can created popular assemblies then the attempted revolution would
have become an actual one without any use of violence at all. This 
indicates the strength of ordinary people and the relative weakness 
of government and capitalism -- they only work when they can force 
people to respect them.
<p>
In Italy, a year latter, the occupations of the factories and land
started. As Malatesta pointed out, <i>"in <b>Umanita Nova</b> [the daily
anarchist newspaper] we . . . said that if the movement spread to
all sectors of industry, that is workers and peasants followed
the example of the metallurgists, of getting rid of the bosses
and taking over the means of production, the revolution would
succeed without shedding a single drop of blood."</i> Thus the 
<i>"occupation of the factories and the land suited perfectly 
our programme of action."</i> [<b>Life and Ideas</b>, p. 135]
<p>
Therefore the notion that a social revolution is necessarily
violent is a false one. For anarchists, social revolution is
essentially an act of self-liberation (of both the individuals
involved and society as a whole). It has nothing to do with
violence, quite the reverse, as anarchists see it as the means
to end the rule and use of violence in society. Therefore 
anarchists hope that any revolution is essentially non-violent,
with any violence being defensive in nature.
<p>
Of course, many revolutions are marked by violence. However,
as Alexander Berkman argues, this is not the aim of anarchism
or the revolution and has far more to do with previous repression 
and domination than anarchist ideas:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"We know that revolution begins with street disturbances and 
outbreaks; it is the initial phase which involves force and
violence. But that is merely the spectacular prologue of the
real revolution. The age long misery and indignity suffered by 
the masses burst into disorder and tumult, the humiliation and
injustice meekly borne for decades find vents in facts of fury
and destruction. That is inevitable, and it is solely the
master class which is responsible for this preliminary 
character of revolution. For it is even more true socially
than individually that 'whoever sows the wind will reap the
whirlwind;' the greater the oppression and wretchedness to
which the masses had been made to submit, the fiercer the
rage [of] the social storm. All history proves it . . ."</i>
[<b>ABC of Anarchism</b>, p. 50]
</blockquote><p>
He also argues that <i>"[m]ost people have very confused notions
about revolution. To them it means just fighting, smashing
things, destroying. It is the same as if rolling up your
sleeves for work should be considered the work itself that 
you have to do. The fighting bit of the revolution is merely 
the rolling up of your sleeves."</i> The task of the revolution is 
the <i>"destruction of the existing conditions"</i> and <i>"<b>conditions</b> 
are not destroyed [by] breaking and smashing things. You can't 
destroy wage slavery by wrecking the machinery in the mills and 
factories . . . You won't destroy government by setting fire to 
the White House."</i> He correctly points out that to think of
revolution <i>"in terms of violence and destruction is to 
misinterpret and falsify the whole idea of it. In practical 
application such a conception is bound to lead to disastrous 
results."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 40-1]
<p>
Thus when anarchists like Bakunin speak of revolution as 
"destruction" they mean that the idea of authority and obedience 
must be destroyed, along with the institutions that are based on 
such ideas. We do not mean, as can be clearly seen, the destruction 
of people or possessions. Nor do we imply the glorification of 
violence -- quite the reserve, as anarchists seek to limit violence 
to that required for self-defence against oppression and authority.
<p>
Therefore a social revolution <b>may</b> involve some violence. It may 
also mean no-violence at all. It depends on the revolution and how
widely anarchist ideas are spread. One thing is sure, for anarchists
social revolution is <b>not</b> synonymous violence. Indeed, violence
usually occurs when the ruling class resists the action of the
oppressed -- that is, when those in authority act to protect their
social position.
<p>
The wealthy and their state will do anything in their power to prevent 
having a large enough percentage of anarchists in the population to 
simply "ignore" the government and property out of existence. If 
things got that far, the government would suspend the legal rights, 
elections and round up influential subversives. The question is, what

do anarchists do in response to these actions?  If anarchists are in
the majority or near it, then defensive violence would likely succeed.
For example, <i>"the people armed"</i> crushed the fascist coup of July 19th, 
1936 in Spain and resulted in one of the most important experiments in
anarchism the world has ever seen. This should be contrasted with the
aftermath of the factory occupations in Italy in 1920 and the fascist
terror which crushed the labour movement. In other words, you cannot 
just ignore the state even if the majority are acting, you need to abolish 
it and organise self-defence against attempts to re-impose it or
capitalism.
<p>
We discuss the question of self-defence and the protection of the
revolution in <a href="secJ7.html#secj76">section J.7.6</a>.
<p>
<a name="secj74"><h2>J.7.4 What would a social revolution involve?</h2>
<p>
Social revolution necessitates putting anarchist ideas into 
daily practice. Therefore it implies that direct action, 
solidarity and self-management become increasingly the 
dominant form of living in a society. It implies the
transformation of society from top to bottom. We can do
no better than quote Errico Malatesta on what revolution
means:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The Revolution is the creation of new living institutions,
new groupings, new social relationships; it is the
destruction of privileges and monopolies; it is the new
spirit of justice, of brotherhood, of freedom which must 
renew the whole of social life, raise the moral level and 
the material conditions of the masses by calling on them 
to provide, through their direct and conscious action, for 
their own futures. Revolution is the organisation of all
public services by those who in them in their own interest
as well as the public's; Revolution is the destruction of
all of coercive ties; it is the autonomy of groups, of
communes, of regions; Revolution is the free federation
brought about by a desire for brotherhood, by individual
and collective interests, by the needs of production and
defence; Revolution is the constitution of innumerable
free groupings based on ideas, wishes, and tastes of all
kinds that exist among the people; Revolution is the
forming and disbanding of thousands of representative,
district, communal, regional, national bodies which,
without having any legislative power, serve to make
known and to co-ordinate the desires and interests of
people near and far and which act through information,
advice and example. Revolution is freedom proved in 
the crucible of facts -- and lasts so long as freedom 
lasts. . ."</i> [<b>Life and Ideas</b>, p. 153]
</blockquote><p>
This, of course, presents a somewhat wide vision of the
revolutionary process. We will need to give some more
concrete examples of what a social revolution would
involve. However, before so doing, we stress that these
are purely examples drawn from previous revolutions 
and are not written in stone. Every revolution creates
its own forms of organisation and struggle. The next
one will be no different. Just as we argued in 
<a href="secIcon.html">section I</a>,
an anarchist revolution will create its own forms of
freedom, forms which may share aspects with previous
forms but which are unique to themselves. All we do
here is give a rough overview of what we expect (based
on previous revolutions) to see occur in a social
revolution. We are not predicting the future. As
Kropotkin put it:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"A question which we are often asked is: 'How will you
organise the future society on Anarchist principles?'
If the question were put to . . . someone who fancies
that a group of men [or women] is able to organise
society as they like, it would seem natural. But in
the ears of an Anarchist, it sounds very strangely,
and the only answer we can give to it is: 'We
cannot organise you. It will depend upon <b>you</b> what
sort of organisation you choose.'"</i> [<b>Act for Yourselves</b>, 
p. 32]
</blockquote><p>
And organise themselves they have. In each social revolution,
the oppressed have organised themselves into many different
self-managed organisations. These bodies include the Sections
during the Great French Revolution, the workers councils
("soviets" or "rate") during the Russian and German revolutions,
the industrial and rural collectives during the Spanish
Revolution, the workers councils during the Hungarian 
revolution of 1956, assemblies and action committees during
the 1968 revolt in France, and so on. These bodies were 
hardly uniform in nature and some were more anarchistic
than others, but the tendency towards self-management and
federation existing in them all. This tendency towards
anarchistic solutions and organisation is not unsurprising,
for, as Nestor Makhno argued, <i>"[i]n carrying through the
revolution, under the impulsion of the anarchism that is
innate in them, the masses of humanity search for free
associations. Free assemblies always command their
sympathy. The revolutionary anarchist must help them
to formulate this approach as best they can."</i> [<b>The
Struggle Against the State and Other Essays</b>, p. 85]
<p>
In addition, we must stress that we are discussing an <b>anarchist</b>
social revolution in this section. As we noted in 
<a href="secI2.html#seci22">section I.2.2</a>, 
anarchists recognise that any revolution will take on different 
forms in different areas and develop in different ways and at 
different speeds. We leave it up to others to describe their
vision of revolution (for Marxists, the creation of a "workers'
state" and the seizure of power by the "proletarian" vanguard
or party, and so on). 
<p>
So what would a libertarian social revolution involve? Firstly, 
a revolution <i>"it is not the work of one day. It means a whole
period, mostly lasting for several years, during which the 
country is in a state of effervescence; when thousands of
formerly indifferent spectators take a lively part in public
affairs . . [and] criticises and repudiates the institutions
which are a hindrance to free development; when it boldly
enters upon problems which formerly seemed insoluble."</i>
[Peter Kropotkin, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 25-6] Thus, it would be
a <b>process</b> in which revolutionary attitudes, ideas, actions 
and organisations spread in society until the existing 
system is overthrown and a new one takes its place. It 
does not come overnight. Rather it is an accumulative
development, marked by specific events of course, but
fundamentally it goes on in the fabric of society. For
example, the <b>real</b> Russian revolution went on during the
period between the 1917 February and October insurrections
when workers took over their workplaces, peasants seized
their land and new forms of social life (soviets, factory
committees, co-operatives, etc.) were formed and people
lost their previous submissive attitudes to authority by
using direct action to change their lives for the better
(see <b>The Unknown Revolution</b> by Voline for more details
and evidence of this revolutionary process in action).
Similarly, the Spanish Revolution occurred after the 19th
of July, 1936, when workers again took over their workplaces,
peasants formed collectives and militias were organised to
fit fascism (see <b>Collectives in the Spanish Revolution</b>
by Gaston Leval for details).
<p>
Secondly, <i>"there <b>must</b> be a rapid modification of outgrown
economical and political institutions, an overthrow of the
injustices accumulated by centuries past, a displacement of
wealth and political power."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 25]
<p>
This aspect is the key one. Without the abolition of the
state and capitalism, not real revolution has taken place.
As Bakunin argued, <i>"the program of social revolution"</i> is
<i>"the abolition of all exploitation and all political or
juridical as well as governmental and bureaucratic 
oppression, in other words, to the abolition of all
classes through the equalisation of economic conditions,
and the abolition of their last buttress, the state."</i>
That is, <i>"the total and definitive liberation of the
proletariat from economic exploitation and state
oppression."</i> [<b>Statism and Anarchy</b>, pp. 48-9]
<p>
We should stress here that, regardless of what Marxists
may say, anarchists see the destruction of capitalism 
occurring <b>at the same time as</b> the destruction of the
state. We do not aim to abolish the state first, then
capitalism as Engels asserted we did. This perspective
of a simultaneous political and economic revolution is
clearly seen when Bakunin wrote that a city in revolt
would <i>"naturally make haste to organise itself as best
it can, in revolutionary style, after the workers have
joined into associations and made a clean sweep of all
the instruments of labour and every kind of capital and
building; armed and organised by streets and <b>quartiers,</b>
they will form the revolutionary federation of all the
<b>quartiers,</b> the federative commune. . . All . . .the
revolutionary communes will then send representatives
to organise the necessary services and arrangements
for production and exchange . . . and to organise 
common defence against the enemies of the Revolution."</i>
[<b>Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings</b>, p. 179]
<p>
As can be seen from Bakunin's comments just quoted that an 
essential part of a social revolution is the <i>"expropriation 
of landowners and capitalists for the benefit of all."</i> This 
would be done by workers occupying their workplaces and 
placing them under workers' self-management. Individual 
self-managed workplaces would then federate on a local
and industrial basis into workers' councils to co-ordinate 
joint activity, discuss common interests and issues as
well as ensuring common ownership and universalising
self-management. <i>"We must push the workers to take possession 
of the factories, to federate among themselves and work for
the community, and similarly the peasants should take
over the land and the produce usurped by the landlords,
and come to an agreement with the industrial workers on 
the necessary exchange of goods."</i> [Errico Malatesta, 
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 198 and p. 165]
<p>
In this way capitalism is replaced by new economic
system based on self-managed work. The end of hierarchy in
the economy, in other words. These workplace assemblies
and local, regional, etc., federations would start to 
organise production to meet human needs rather than
capitalist profit. While most anarchists would like to
see the introduction of communistic relations begin as
quickly as possible in such an economy, most are realistic
enough to recognise that tendencies towards libertarian 
communism will be depend on local conditions. As Malatesta
argued:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"It is then that graduation really comes into operation.
We shall have to study all the practical problems of life:
production, exchange, the means of communication, relations
between anarchist groupings and those living under some
kind of authority, between communist collectives and those
living in an individualistic way; relations between town
and country, the utilisation for the benefit of everyone
of all natural resources of the different regions [and
so on] . . . And in every problem [anarchists] should
prefer the solutions which not only are economically
superior but which satisfy the need for justice and
freedom and leave the way open for future improvements,
which other solutions might not."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 173]
</blockquote><p>
No central government could organise such a transformation.
No centralised body could comprehend the changes required
and decide between the possibilities available to those
involved. Hence the very complexity of life, and the 
needs of social living, will push a social revolution
towards anarchism. <i>"Unavoidably,"</i> argued Kropotkin, <i>"the
Anarchist system of organisation -- free local action
and free grouping -- will come into play."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
p. 72] Without this local action and the free agreement
between local groups to co-ordinate activity, a revolution
would be dead in the water and fit only to produce a
new bureaucratic class structure, as the experience of
the Russian Revolution proves. Unless the economy is
transformed from the bottom up by those who work within 
it, socialism is impossible. If it is re-organised from
the top-down by a centralised body all that will be
achieved is state capitalism and rule by bureaucrats
instead of capitalists.
<p>
Therefore, the key economic aspect of a social revolution
is the end of capitalist oppression by the direct action
of the workers themselves and their re-organisation of
their work and the economy by their own actions, organisations
and initiative from the bottom-up. As Malatesta argued:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"To destroy radically this oppression without any danger
of it re-emerging, all people must be convinced of their
right to the means of production, and be prepared to 
exercise this basic right by expropriating the landowners,
the industrialists and financiers, and putting all social
wealth at the disposal of the people."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 167]
</blockquote><p>
However, the economic transformation is but part of the
picture. As Kropotkin argued, <i>"throughout history we see 
that each change in the economic relations of a community 
is accompanied by a corresponding change in what may be 
called political organisation . . . Thus, too, it will be 
with Socialism. If it contemplates a new departure in economics 
it <b>must</b> be prepared for a new departure in what is called
political organisation."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 39] Thus the anarchist
social revolution also aims to abolish the state and create
a confederation of self-governing communes to ensure its
final elimination. To really destroy something you must 
replace it with something better. Hence anarchism will
destroy the state by a confederation of self-managed, free 
communities (or communes). 
<p>
This destruction of the state is essential. This is because
<i>"those workers who want to free themselves, or even only
to effectively improve their conditions, will be forced
to defend themselves from the government . . . which by
legalising the right to property and protecting it with
brute force, constitutes a barrier to human progress,
which must be beaten down . . . if one does not wish to
remain indefinitely under present conditions or even
worse."</i> Therefore, <i>"[f]rom the economic struggle one must 
pass to the political struggle, that is to the struggle 
against government."</i> [Malatesta, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 195]
<p>
Thus a social revolution will have to destroy the state
bureaucracy and the states forces of violence and coercion 
(the police, armed forces, intelligence agencies, and so 
on). If this is not done then the state will come back and
crush the revolution. Such a destruction of the state
does not involve violence against individuals, but rather
the end of hierarchical organisations, positions and 
institutions. It would involve, for example, the disbanding
of the police, army, navy, state officialdom etc. and the 
transformation of police stations, army and naval bases, 
state bureaucracy's offices into something more useful 
(or, as in the case of prisons, their destruction).
Town halls would be occupied and used by community and
industrial groups, for example. Mayors' offices could be 
turned into creches, for example. Police stations, if they
have not been destroyed, could, perhaps, be turned into 
storage centres for goods. In William Morris' utopian novel,
<b>News from Nowhere</b>, the Houses of Parliament were turned
into a manure storage facility. And so on. Those who used 
to work in such occupations would be asked to pursue a more 
fruitful way of life or leave the community. In this way,
all harmful and useless institutions would be destroyed or
transformed into something useful and of benefit to society.
<p>
In addition, as well as the transformation/destruction of
the buildings associated with the old state, the decision
making process for the community previously usurped by 
the state would come back into the hands of the people.
Alternative, self-managed organisations would be created
in every community to manage community affairs. From these 
community assemblies, confederations would spring up to 
co-ordinate joint activities and interests. These
neighbourhood assemblies and confederations would be 
means by which power would be dissolved in society and 
government finally eliminated in favour of freedom (both 
individual and collective). 
<p>
Ultimately, anarchism means creating positive alternatives
to existing institutions which provide some useful function.
For example, we propose self-management as an alternative
to capitalist production. We propose self-governing communes
to organise social life instead of the state. <i>"One only
destroys, and effectively and permanently,"</i> argued Malatesta, 
<i>"that which one replaces by something else; and to put off
to a later date the solution of problems which present
themselves with the urgency of necessity, would be to give
time to the institutions one is intending to abolish to
recover from the shock and reassert themselves, perhaps
under other names, but certainly with the same structure."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 159] This was the failure of the Spanish
Revolution, which ignored the state rather than abolish
it via new, self-managed organisations (see <a href="secI8.html">
section I.8</a>).
<p>
Hence a social revolution would see the <i>"[o]rganisation
of social life by means of free association and
federations of producers and consumers, created and
modified according to the wishes of their members,
guided by science and experience, and free from any
kind of imposition which does not spring from natural
needs, to which everyone, convinced by a feeling of
overriding necessity, voluntarily submits."</i> [Errico
Malatesta, <b>Life and Ideas</b>, p. 184] 
<p>
These organisations, we must stress, are usually products 
of the revolution and the revolutionary process itself: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Assembly and community must arise from within the 
revolutionary process itself; indeed, the revolutionary 
process must <b>be</b> the formation of assembly and community,
and with it, the destruction of power. Assembly and
community must become 'fighting words,' not distinct
panaceas. They must be created as <b>modes of struggle</b>
against existing society . . . The future assemblies
of people in the block, the neighbourhood or the
district -- the revolutionary sections to come --
will stand on a higher social level than all the
present-day committees, syndicates, parties and
clubs adorned by the most resounding 'revolutionary'
titles. They will be the living nuclei of utopia
in the decomposing body of bourgeois society"</i> In
this way, the <i>"specific gravity of society . . .
[will] be shifted to its base -- the armed people
in permanent assembly."</i> [<b>Post-Scarcity Anarchism</b>,
pp. 167-8 and pp. 168-9]
</blockquote><p>
Such organisations are required because, in the words 
of Murray Bookchin, <i>"[f]reedom has its forms . . . a 
liberatory revolution always poses the question of what 
social forms will replace existing ones. At one point or 
another, a revolutionary people must deal with how it 
will manage the land and the factories from which it 
requires the means of life. It must deal with the manner 
in which it will arrive at decisions that affect the 
community as a whole. Thus if revolutionary thought is 
to be taken at all seriously, it must speak directly to 
the problems and forms of social management."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
p. 143] If this is not done, capitalism and the state will 
not be destroyed and the social revolution will fail. Only
be destroying hierarchical power by abolishing state and
capitalism by self-managed organisations can individuals
free themselves and society.
<p>
As well as these economic and political changes, there would
be other changes as well -- far too many to chronicle here.
For example, <i>"[w]e will see to it that all empty and 
under-occupied houses are used so that no one will be without
a roof over his [or her] head. We will hasten to abolish banks
and title deeds and all that represents and guarantees the
power of the State and capitalist privilege. And we will
try to reorganise things in such a way that it will be
impossible for bourgeois society to be reconstituted."</i>
[Malatesta, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 165] Similarly, free associations
will spring up on a whole range of issues and for a
whole range of interests and needs. Social life will
become transformed, as will many aspects of personal
life and personal relationships. We cannot say in which
way, bar there will be a general libertarian movement
in all aspects of life as women resist and overcome
sexism, gays resist and end homophobia, the young will
expect to be treated as individuals, not property, and
so on. 
<p>
Society will become more diverse, open, free and 
libertarian in nature. And, hopefully, it and the
struggle that creates it will be <b>fun</b> -- anarchism
is about making life worth living and so any struggle
must reflect that. The use of fun in the struggle is 
important. There is no incongruity in conducting serious 
business and having fun. We are sure this will piss off 
the "serious" Left no end. The aim of revolution is to
emancipate <b>individuals</b> not abstractions like "the
proletariat," "society," "history" and so on. And 
having fun is part and parcel of that liberation. As
Emma Goldman said, <i>"If I can't dance, it's not my
revolution."</i> Revolutions should be <b><i>"festivals of 
the oppressed"</i></b> -- we cannot <i>"resolve the anarchic, 
intoxicating phase that opens all the great revolutions
of history merely into an expression of class interest
and the opportunity to redistribute social wealth."</i>
[Murray Bookchin, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 277f]
<p>
Therefore a social revolution involves a transformation
of society from the bottom up by the creative action of
working class people. This transformation would be conducted
through self-managed organisations which will be the basis
for abolishing hierarchy, state and capitalism. <i>"There
can be no separation of the revolutionary process from
the revolutionary goal. <b>A society based on self-administration
must be achieved by means of self-administration.</b> . . .
If we define 'power' as the power of man over man, power
can only be destroyed by the very process in which man
acquires power over his own life and in which he not
only 'discovers' himself, but, more meaningfully, formulates
his selfhood in all its social dimensions."</i> [Murray Bookchin,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 167]
<p>
<a name="secj75"><h2>J.7.5 What is the role of anarchists in a social revolution?</h2>
<p>
All the great social revolutions have been spontaneous. Indeed,
it is cliche that the revolutionaries are usually the most
surprised when a revolution breaks out. Nor do anarchists
assume that a revolution will initially be libertarian in
nature. All we assume is that there will be libertarian
tendencies which anarchists are work within and try and
strengthen. Therefore the role of anarchists and anarchist
organisations is to try
and push a revolution towards a social revolution by
encouraging the tendencies we discussed in the 
<a href="secJ77.html#secj74">last
section</a> and by arguing for anarchist ideas and solutions. 
In the words of Vernon Richards:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"We do not for one moment assume that all social revolutions
are necessarily anarchist. But whatever form the revolution
against authority takes, the role of anarchists is clear:
that of inciting the people to abolish capitalistic property
and the institutions through which it exercises its power
for the exploitation of the majority by a minority."</i> 
[<b>Lessons of the Spanish Revolution</b>, p. 44]
</blockquote><p>
For anarchists, their role in a social revolution is clear.
They try to spread anarchist ideas and encourage autonomous
organisation and activity by the oppressed. For example, during 
the Russian Revolution anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists
played a key role in the factory committee movement for
workers' self-management. They combated Bolshevik attempts
to substitute state control for workers' self-management
and encouraged workplace occupations and federations of
factory committees (see Maurice Brinton's <b>The Bolsheviks
and Workers' Control</b> for a good introduction to the movement
for workers' self-management during the Russian Revolution
and Bolshevik hostility to it). Similarly, they supported
the soviets (councils elected by workers in their workplaces)
but opposed their transformation from revolutionary bodies
into state organs (and so little more than organs of the
Communist Party and so the enemies of self-management). The 
anarchists tried to <i>"work for their conversion from centres 
of authority and decrees into non-authoritarian centres, 
regulating and keeping things in order but not suppressing 
the freedom and independence of local workers' organisations. 
They must become centres which link together these autonomous 
organisations."</i> [G. P. Maksimov in Paul Avrich (ed.) <b>The 
Anarchists in the Russian Revolution</b>, p. 105]
<p>
Therefore, the anarchist role, as Murray Bookchin puts it, 
is to <i>"preserve and extend the anarchic phase that opens 
all the great social revolutions"</i> by working <i>"<b>within the 
framework of the forms created by the revolution,</b> not within 
the forms created by the party. What this means is that their 
commitment is to the revolutionary organs of self-management 
. . . to the <b>social</b> forms, not the <b>political</b> forms. 
Anarcho-communists [and other revolutionary anarchists] 
seek to persuade the factory committees, assemblies or 
soviets to make themselves into <b>genuine organs of popular
self-management,</b> not to dominate them, manipulate them,
or hitch them to an all-knowing political party."</i> 
[<b>Post-Scarcity Anarchism</b>, p. 215 and p. 217]
<p>
Equally as important, <i>"is that the people, all people,
should lose their sheeplike instincts and habits with 
which their minds have been inculcated by an age-long
slavery, and that they should learn to think and act
freely. It is to this great task of spiritual liberation
that anarchists must especially devote their attention."</i>
[Malatesta, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 160-1] Unless people think
and act for themselves, no social revolution is possible
and anarchy will remain just a tendency with authoritarian
societies.
<p>
Practically, this means the encouragement of self-management
and direct action. Anarchists thus <i>"push the people to
expropriate the bosses and put all goods in common and
organise their daily lives themselves, through freely
constituted associations, without waiting for orders from
outside and refusing to nominate or recognise any 
government or constituted body in whatever guise . . . 
even in a provisional capacity, which ascribes to itself
the right to lay down the law and impose with force its
will on others."</i> [Malatesta, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 197] This
is because, to quote Bakunin, anarchists do <i>"not accept, 
even in the process of revolutionary transition, either 
constituent assemblies, provisional governments or so-called 
revolutionary dictatorships; because we are convinced that 
revolution is only sincere, honest and real in the hands of 
the masses, and that when it is concentrated in those of a 
few ruling individuals it inevitably and immediately becomes 
reaction."</i> [<b>Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings</b>, p. 237]
<p>
As the history of every revolution shows, <i>"revolutionary
government"</i> is a contradiction in terms. Government bodies
mean <i>"the transferring of initiative from the armed workers
to a central body with executive powers. By removing the
initiative from the workers, the responsibility for the
conduct of the struggle and its objectives [are] also
transferred to a governing hierarchy, and this could
have no other than an adverse effect on the morale of
the revolutionary fighters."</i> [Vernon Richards, <b>Lessons
of the Spanish Revolution</b>, pp. 42-3] Such a centralisation
of power means the suppression of local initiatives, the
replacing of self-management with bureaucracy and the
creation of a new, exploitative and oppressive class of
officials and party hacks. Only when power rests in the
hands of everyone can a social revolution exist and a
free society created. If this is not done, if the state
replaces the self-managed associations of a free people,
all that happens is the replacement of one class system
by another. This is because the state is an instrument
of minority rule -- it can never become an instrument 
of majority rule, its centralised, hierarchical and 
authoritarian nature excludes such a possibility (see
<a href="secHcon.html">section H</a> for more discussion on this issue).
<p>
Therefore an important role of anarchists is to undermine
hierarchical organisation by creating self-managed ones, 
by keeping the management and direction of a struggle
or revolution in the hands of those actually conducting 
it. It is <b>their</b> revolution, <b>not</b> a party's and so they 
should control and manage it. They are the ones who have 
to live with the consequences of it. <i>"The revolution is 
safe, it grows and becomes strong,"</i> correctly argues 
Alexander Berkman, <i>"as long as the masses feel that 
they are direct participants in it, that they are 
fashioning their own lives, that <b>they</b> are making 
the revolution, that they <b>are</b> the revolution. But 
the moment that their activities are usurped by a 
political party or are centred in some special 
organisation, revolutionary effort becomes limited 
to a comparatively small circle from the which the 
large masses are practically excluded. The natural 
result of that [is that] popular enthusiasm is dampened,
interest gradually weakens, initiative languishes,
creativeness wanes, and the revolution becomes the
monopoly of a clique which presently turns dictator."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 65]
<p>
The history of every revolution proves this point, we
feel, and so the role of anarchists (like those 
described in <a href="secJ3.html">section J.3</a>) 
is clear -- to keep
a revolution revolutionary by encouraging libertarian
ideas, organisation, tactics and activity. To requote
Emma Goldman:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"No revolution can ever succeed as factor of liberation 
unless the MEANS used to further it be identical in spirit 
and tendency with the PURPOSE to be achieved."</i> [<b>Patterns of
Anarchy</b>, p. 113]
</blockquote><p>
Anarchists, therefore, aim to keep the means in line with
the goal and their role in any social revolution is to
combat authoritarian tendencies and parties while 
encouraging working class self-organisation, self-activity
and self-management and the spreading of libertarian
ideas and values within society.
<p>
<a name="secj76"><h2>J.7.6 How could an anarchist revolution defend itself?</h2>
<p>
To some, particularly Marxists, this section may seem in
contradiction with anarchist ideas. After all, did Marx
not argue in a diatribe against Proudhon that anarchist
<i>"abolishing the state"</i> implies the <i>"laying down of arms"</i>
by the working class? However, as will become very clear
nothing could be further from the truth. Anarchists have
always argued for defending a revolution -- by force, if
necessary. Anarchists do not think that abolishing the
state involves <i>"laying down arms."</i> We argue that Marx 
(and Marxists) confuse self-defence by <i>"the people armed"</i> 
with the state, a confusion which has horrific implications 
(as the history of the Russian Revolution shows -- see
<a href="secHcon.html">section H</a> for details).
<p>
So how would an anarchist revolution (and by implication,
society) defend itself? Firstly, we should note that it
will <b>not</b> defend itself by creating a centralised body,
a new state. If it did this then the revolution will have
failed and a new class society would have been created
(a society based on state bureaucrats and oppressed
workers as in the Soviet Union). Thus we reject Marx's
notion of <i>"a revolutionary and transitory form"</i> of 
state as confused in the extreme. [Marx quoted by Lenin,
<b>Essential Works of Lenin</b>, p. 315] Rather, we seek 
libertarian means to defend a libertarian revolution.
What would these libertarian means be?
<p>
History, as well as theory, points to them. In all the
major revolutions of this century which anarchists
took part in they formed militias to defend freedom.
For example, anarchists in many Russian cities formed
"Black Guards" to defend their expropriated houses
and revolutionary freedoms. In the Ukraine, Nestor 
Makhno helped organise a peasant-worker army to 
defend the social revolution against authoritarians 
of right and left. In the Spanish Revolution, the 
C.N.T. and F.A.I. organised militias to free those 
parts of Spain under fascist rule after the military 
coup in 1936.
<p>
(As an aside, we <b>must</b> point out that these militias
had nothing in common -- bar the name -- with the
present "militia movement" in the United States. The
anarchist militias were organised in a libertarian
manner and aimed to defend an anti-statist, anti-capitalist 
revolution from pro-state, pro-capitalist forces. In 
contrast, the US "militia movement" is organised in a 
military fashion, defend property rights and want to 
create their own governments.)
<p>
These anarchist militias were as self-managed as possible, 
with any "officers" elected and accountable to the troops
and having the same pay and living conditions as them.
Nor did they impose their ideas on others. When a
militia liberated a village, town or city they called
upon the population to organise their own affairs,
as they saw fit. All the militia did was present 
suggestions and ideas to the population. For example,
when the Makhnovists passed through a district they
would put on posters announcing:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The freedom of the workers and the peasants is their
own, and not subject to any restriction. It is up
to the workers and peasants to act, to organise
themselves, to agree among themselves in all
aspects of their lives, as they themselves see fit
and desire. . . The Makhnovists can do no more than
give aid and counsel . . . In no circumstances can
they, nor do they wish to, govern."</i> [quoted by Peter
Marshall, <b>Demanding the Impossible</b>, p. 473]
</blockquote><p>
Needless to say, the Makhnovists counselled the
workers and peasants <i>"to set up free peasants' and
workers' councils"</i> as well as to expropriate the land 
and means of production. They argued that <i>"[f]reedom of
speech, of the press and of assembly is the right of 
every toiler and any gesture contrary to that freedom 
constitutes an act of counter-revolution."</i> [<b>No Gods, 
No Masters</b>, vol. 2, pp. 157-8] The Makhnovists also
organised regional congresses of peasants and workers
to discuss revolutionary and social issues (a fact
that annoyed the Bolsheviks, leading to Trotsky trying 
to ban one congress and arguing that <i>"participation in 
said congress will be regarded as an act of high 
treason."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 151] Little wonder workers' 
democracy withered under the Bolsheviks!).
<p>
The Makhnovists declared principles were voluntary
enlistment, the election of officers and self-discipline
according to the rules adopted by each unit themselves.
Remarkably effective, the Makhnovists were the force
that defeated Denikin's army and helped defeat Wrangel.
After the Whites were defeated, the Bolsheviks turned
against the Makhnovists and betrayed them. However,
while they existed the Makhnovists defended the freedom
of the working class to organise themselves against
both right and left statists. See Voline's <b>The Unknown
Revolution</b> and Peter Arshinov' <b>History of the
Makhnovist Movement</b> for more information.
<p>
A similar situation developed in Spain. After defeating
the military/fascist coup on 19th of July, 1936, the 
anarchists organised self-managed militias to liberate
those parts of Spain under Franco. These groups were
organised in a libertarian fashion from the bottom up:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The establishment of war committees is acceptable to
all confederal militias. We start from the individual
and form groups of ten, which come to accommodations
among themselves for small-scale operations. Ten such
groups together make up one <b>centuria,</b> which appoints
a delegate to represent it. Thirty <b>centurias</b> make
up one column, which is directed by a war committee,
on which the delegates from the <b>centurias</b> have
their say. . . although every column retains its
freedom of action, we arrive at co-ordination of
forces, which is not the same thing as unity of
command."</i> [<b>No Gods, No Masters</b>, vol. 2, 
pp. 256-7]
</blockquote><p>
Like the Makhnovists, the anarchist militias in Spain
were not only fighting against reaction, they were
fighting for a better world. As Durruti argued, <i>"Our 
comrades on the front know for whom and for what they 
fight. They feel themselves revolutionaries and they 
fight, not in defence of more or less promised new 
laws, but for the conquest of the world, of the 
factories, the workshops, the means of transportation, 
their bread and the new culture."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 248]
<p>
When they liberated towns and villages, the militia
columns urged workers and peasants to collectivise
the land and means of production, to re-organise life
in a libertarian fashion. All across anti-Fascist
Spain workers and peasants did exactly that (see
<a href="secI8.html">section I.8</a> for more information). 
The militias only
defended the workers' and peasants' freedom to organise 
their own lives as they saw fit and did not force them 
to create collectives or dictate their form.
<p>
Unfortunately, like the Makhnovists, the C.N.T. militias 
were betrayed by their so-called allies on the left. The
anarchist troops were not given enough arms and were
left on the front to rot in inaction. The "unified"
command by the Republican State preferred not to arm
libertarian troops as they would use these arms to
defend themselves and their fellow workers against
the Republican and Communist led counter-revolution.
Ultimately, the <i>"people in arms"</i> won the revolution
and the "People's army" which replaced it lost the
war. See Abel Paz's <b>Durruti: The People Armed</b>,
Vernon Richards <b>Lessons of the Spanish Revolution</b> 
and George Orwell's <b>Homage to Catalonia</b> for more 
information.
<p>
While the cynic may point out that, in the end, these
revolutions and militias were defeated, it does not 
mean that their struggle was in vain or a future
revolution will not succeed. That would be like arguing
in 1940 that democracy is inferior to fascism because 
the majority of democratic states had been (temporarily)
defeated by fascism or fascist states. It does not mean
that these methods will fail in the future or that we
should embrace apparently more "successful" approaches
which end in the creation of a society the total opposite
of what we desire (means determine ends, after all, and
statist means will create statist ends and apparent 
"successes" -- like Bolshevism -- are the greatest of
failures in terms of our ideas and ideals). 
All we are doing here
is pointing how anarchists have defended revolutions
in the past and that these methods were successful
for a long time in face of tremendous opposition forces. 
<p>
Thus, in practice, anarchists have followed Malatesta's
argument for the <i>"creation of a voluntary militia, without 
powers to interfere as militia in the life of the community, 
but only to deal with any armed attacks by the forces of 
reaction to re-establish themselves, or to resist outside 
intervention by countries as yet not in a state of revolution."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 166] This militia would be based on an armed
population and <i>"[t]he power of the people in arms can only 
be used in the defence of the revolution and the freedoms won 
by their militancy and their sacrifices."</i> [Vernon Richards, 
<b>Lessons of the Spanish Revolution</b>, p. 44] It does not
seek to impose a revolution, for you cannot impose freedom
or force people to be free against their will.
<p>
Hence anarchists would seek to defend a revolution because,
while anarchism <i>"is opposed to any interference with your
liberty . . . [and] against all invasion and violence"</i> 
it recognises that when <i>"any one attacks <b>you</b>, then it
is <b>he</b> who is invading you, he who is employing violence
against you. You have a right to defend yourself. More
than that, it is your duty, as an anarchist to protect
your liberty, to resist coercion and compulsion. . . 
In other words, the social revolution will attack no one,
but it will defend itself against invasion from any
quarter."</i> [Alexander Berkman, <b>ABC of Anarchism</b>, p. 81]
<p>
As Berkman stresses, this revolutionary defence <i>"must be
in consonance with th[e] spirit [of anarchism]. Self-defence
excludes all acts of coercion, of persecution or revenge.
It is concerned only with repelling attack and depriving
the enemy of opportunity to invade you."</i> Any defence would
be based on <i>"the strength of the revolution . . . First
and foremost, in the support of the people . . . If they
feel that they themselves are making the revolution, that
they have become masters of their lives, that they have
gained freedom and are building up their welfare, then in
that very sentiment you have the greatest strength of
the revolution. . . Let them believe in the revolution,
and they will defend it to the death."</i> Thus the <i>"armed
workers and peasants are the only effective defence of
the revolution."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 81-81]
<p>
Part of this strength lies in liberty, so no attempt 
would be made to "defend" the revolution against mere
talk, against the mere expression of an opinion. To
<i>"suppress speech and press is not only a theoretical
offence against liberty; it is a direct blow at the
very foundations of the revolution. . . It would
generate fear and distrust, would hatch conspiracies,
and culminate in a reign of terror which has always
killed revolution in the pass."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 83]
<p>
Moreover, in the case of foreign intervention, the 
importance of international solidarity is important.
As Bakunin argued, <i>"a social revolution cannot be a 
revolution in one nation alone. It is by nature an 
international revolution."</i> [<b>Michael Bakunin: Selected
Writings</b>, p. 49] Thus any foreign intervention would
face the problems of solidarity actions and revolts
on its own doorstep and not dare send its troops
abroad for long, if at all. Ultimately, the only 
way to support a revolution is to make your own. 
<p>
Within the revolutionary area, it is the actions of
liberated people than will defend it. Firstly, the
population would be armed and so counter-revolutionaries
would face stiff opposition to their attempts to 
recreate authority. Secondly, they would face liberated
individuals who would reject their attempts:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The only way in which a state of Anarchy can be obtained
is for each man [or woman] who is oppressed to act as if

he [or she] were at liberty, in defiance of all authority
to the contrary . . . In practical fact, territorial
extension is necessary to ensure permanency to any given
individual revolution. In speaking of the Revolution, we
signify the aggregate of so many successful individual
and group revolts as will enable every person within the
revolutionised territory to act in perfect freedom . . .
without having to constantly dread the prevention or the
vengeance of an opposing power upholding the former system
. . . Under these circumstance it is obvious that any
visible reprisal could and would be met by a resumption of
the same revolutionary action on the part of the individuals
or groups affected, and that the <b>maintenance</b> of a state
of Anarchy in this manner would be far easier than the
gaining of a state of Anarchy by the same methods and in
the face of hitherto unshaken opposition."</i> [Kropotkin,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 87-8]
</blockquote><p>
Thus any authoritarian would face the direct action of a
free people, of free individuals, who would refuse to
co-operate with the would-be authorities and join in 
solidarity with their friends and fellow workers to
resist them. The only way a counter-revolution could
spread internally is if the mass of the population can
become alienated from the revolution and this is impossible
in an anarchist revolution as power remains in their
hands. If power rests in their hands, there is no danger
from counter-revolutionaries.
<p>
In the end, an anarchist revolution can be defended only 
by applying its ideas as widely as possible. Its defence
rests in those who make it. If the revolution is an expression
of their needs, desires and hopes then it will be defended
with the full passion of a free people. Such a revolution
<b>may</b> be defeated by superior force, who can tell? But the
possibility is that it will not and that is what makes it
worth trying. To not act because of the possibility of 
failure is to live half a life. Anarchism calls upon everyone
to life the kind of live they deserve as unique individuals
and desire as human beings. Individually we can make a
difference, together we can change the world.
<p>

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