‘Meaningful action, for revolutionaries, is whatever increases the confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the solidarity, the equalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the masses and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy, their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others – even by those allegedly acting on their behalf.’ Solidarity, ‘As We See It’
As anarchists, we are members of the working class who are conscious of the class struggle. We believe that in order to get from our current society to anarchist communism, there is a need for a revolutionary organisation. This is the basis of the Anarchist Federation.
As an anarchist communist organisation we see ourselves not as outside or beyond the working class but as part of it. We work to increase the influence of our ideas not as a leadership or ‘vanguard of the revolution’, but simply as agitators within the working class who are trying to show the strength of anarchist methods and bring about anarchist communism.
While we hope to increase our membership, this is done when other class conscious anarchists see the worth of organisation and choose to get involved. Membership is not as important as the consciousness of the working class. We never divert, disrupt or take over working class struggles in order to increase our own membership.
As it is part of the working class and at the same time a distinct tendency within it, the anarchist organisation sees the need for revolution at a time where the majority of the working class does not. We must remember that this does not make us something other than a part of the working class. To go down that road leads to elitism and separation from class reality.
At the same time, the anarchist organisation has ideas that are further developed than those more often found within the working class. This development of ideas should not be confused with the development of successful tactics; workers everywhere learn new forms of struggle and organisation so we must always be ready to learn from the activity of others. We must constantly revise our tactics as situations unfold. Just because we are members of a revolutionary organisation does not mean we are infallible. We will not always have the answer. Indeed, during revolutionary periods, anarchist organisations have often been surprised by the audacity and imagination of other revolutionaries.
In understanding that the revolution must be made by the whole of the working class, the revolutionary organisation has a number of tasks to perform.
As members of the organisation we must embody a set of shared aims and principles in the task of building towards revolution. We must work to actively dismantle structures of oppression that have been carried over from society. We must organise federally as opposed to centrally and have decision-making processes that are directly democratic. This encourages the active participation of all members and prevents the formation of unnecessary bureaucracy.
We put forward the message that the working class must destroy capitalism and establish an anarchist communist society. We do this by giving practical examples of working class self-organisation. We are internationalist and make links with other groups in order to build solidarity and increase class effectiveness. Working class history is deliberately obscured and excluded from mainstream media by the structures of the ruling class. We work towards the rediscovery of past struggles, their successes and mistakes, sharing the lessons that develop our class consciousness.
However, we cannot see ourselves solely as a propaganda group. We work to achieve local victories in our communities, building solidarity between those who rent, those who own, those on housing benefits and those who are squatting or homeless. We are involved in workplace disputes, attempting to make links between unionised, non-unionised and unemployed workers, as well as demonstrating common purpose between different workplace struggles against our shared class enemies. We join groups formed around fighting at particular intersections of oppression within the working class (such as women’s groups, queer collectives, disability campaigns, etc.).
We point out the anti-capitalist and libertarian tendencies in these struggles. We agitate for a break with reformism, hierarchical forms of organisation, and the idea that we share an interest with members of the ruling class on the basis of a common identity. We work towards the fullest mass participation inside groups and throughout the working class as a whole.
ltimately, we aim to show the way in which all these struggles are interconnected and help build a sense of understanding, respect and practical solidarity between working class struggles so that different groups can work in mutual aid against common enemies.
While seeking to openly spread our ideas as part of these movements, we do not try to make them appendages of the revolutionary organisation. Liberation is achieved by building autonomous groups that work together in class solidarity.
Finally, we must continue to develop anarchist communist theory and practice during a time when many hold relatively conservative ideas and values. To this end we must be sure that these are not merely abstract theoretical concepts but are in fact real strategies developed through struggle. It is not the case that ideas must necessarily come before action; we learn through struggle and this in turn influences developments in our theory. It is vitally important that we are constantly assessing and revising our ideas to reflect changing material conditions.
What follows is a brief introduction to some of the practices we in the Anarchist Federation currently put forward as part of the role of a revolutionary organisation:
Collective action also creates a spirit of combativeness as people realise that, far from being powerless, they do have the power to bring about change.
Direct action involves tackling the root cause of a problem without appealing to a third party to act on your behalf. When we take action on our own behalf rather than lobbying an external authority, this provides us with opportunities to raise class consciousness from the situation and improve our effectiveness in taking action.
Conversely, political action is when the proposed solution relies on someone else taking action to resolve the conflict. This often requires a high level of activity with a high chance of failure. Political action reduces or controls the opportunities to form lasting change through collective action. Rather than foster a culture of resistance, it isolates different segments of the working class and fosters a culture of reliance on authority figures and specialist groups.
Direct action is not simply a loud or militant protest, with some of the loudest protests (such as demonstrations outside of shops or marches from one point to another) being forms of political action. We should only advocate political action when direct action would not be possible or would not have a positive outcome. We should always make clear to those involved which kind of action is being undertaken and be realistic about our thoughts on the outcome, aiming to always take part in actions that will win concrete victories.
In this revolutionary period the anarchist organisation must call for and assist in the formation of armed workers’ militias to defend themselves and their gains. The revolutionary organisation must help fight against any party or organisation that aims to take power in the name of the working class. If force is used to destroy the gains of the working class then anarchist organisations must be fully prepared to combat this on a physical level.