The following text is an attempt to contribute to the debate on organization from the anarchist perspective. It is an old theme, which is always present and never settled, although there are those who devote themselves to such and such a model.
Do not be fooled – you will not find anything new in the following pages; in the 19th century these things were already being discussed. You will find no magic spells to save you the hassle of thinking and acting, questioning, criticising, and experimenting, and if anything, the following is intended to incite to precisely those things. We lack debate and communication, and we have too much monotony, too many certitudes and models. These 'questions of organization' are intentionally subjective and critical. This text, which is insurrectionary if anything, surged from the desire to destroy the existing system and is meant as an attempt to start down those roads which might make the realization of that desire possible, seeking encounters by putting our thoughts into words, seeking out other insurgent individuals who keep the destructive passion of freedom alive.
1. There have always been two visible tendencies in the Workers' Movement. One is the historical determinist (stageist) tendency, which, defending partial 'victories' attempts to build a staircase leading upwards towards the conquest of the heavens. The other is the insurrectionary tendency, which creates revolutionary possibilities for the present moment itself. In practice, there have been no precise lines of distinction between the two tendencies. They both find their parallels in the anarchist movement.
2. The stageist tendency defines itself by the use of demands as a gradual means of achieving global transformations. Assuming a position from which to negotiate with Power, they postpone a direct confrontation with it. Fixing their revolutionary perspectives in the future, they try to accumulate the greatest possible number of followers, activating their consciousness until the day when the necessary conditions (?) for an ideal assault on the Winter Palace manifest themselves. Quantitative growth is, consequently, their primary object.
3. This tendency has organized itself historically into classic structural forms (party, union, etc.). The classic structure sets itself up as the representative, not only of its members, but of the whole mass of exploited people, making itself the axis of the 'true' proletarian movement.
4. From that position they push for and stimulate an 'organizational consciousness' – belonging to an homogenized group, which sits above the individuals that make it up, and with which one identifies and is identified.
5. The classic structure is a top-heavy structure which produces and reproduces bureaucratic apparatus. It has its decision-making channels, its representative and executive committees, and a framework of cruelly impersonal protocols and regulations. Symbolically it tends to be conceived of as the guardian of the martyrs' blood, or of the glorious past, of immutable principles. It stimulates the cult of personality, whether of a dead hero or some special living comrade.
6. These tiresome organizations are themselves conservative, and they tend to preserve themselves in time in spite of the fact that the conditions that brought them about change. An important chunk of their time is spent making 'analyses' and gestures that show the ineffable necessity and 'actuality' of the organizational movement. The rest of its time is divided up into making concrete demands as a form of proselytism, in organizing their Organization to make it as complicated as possible, and to the reproduction of their ideology, verifying their existence by making reference to the past.
7. The stageist tendency and the organic forms that it adopts shows us a permeability of systematic values in the Workers' Movement; the bureaucratization which is inherent in large organizations, the delegation of the individual's autonomy to the collective, the establishment of diffuse or fixed hierarchies, the marketability of an action as exchange-value, political action as commodity, the assumption of limitations and minimum platforms or programs, the recognition of Power as mediator in negotiations... these are all typical examples of this permeability.
8. In the Anarchist movement the same tendency manifests itself as a reflection of the workers' movement. This tendency crystallizes the classic organizational model, composed of mass organization, specific organizations, and front organizations of youth, women, cultural organizations, etc. That model, which began in the beginning of the 20th century, made sense at the moment it appeared, a moment of capitalist crisis and restructuring. It was a reflection of contradictions in society at that time, between the necessity and desire for proletarian self-management, and the specific historical changes that were taking place, which would lead to a new model of capitalist accumulation.
In the development of this model the two aforementioned tendencies confront and complement each other. On the one hand there was the practice of demand-making which the stageist tendency engaged in, which consolidated the heavy structure of the bureaucracy that was coming into existence at the time. On the other insurrectional explosions were taking place that would break stageism and transcend rigid organizational practices in a positive sense.
The historical moment of capitalist crisis prefigured these contradictions. This can be observed in the Spanish revolution. While the proletarian masses, pushed by the CNT-FAI, elaborated a revolution without precedent that generated its own self-managed organisms, they were at the same time strangled and slowed in their development by the bureaucracy of the CNT-FAI itself, that had no difficulty aligning itself with the other 'workers'' bureaucracies in inter-class organisms, which it justified by saying that it was an 'historical necessity'. The epilogue to this story was the destruction of the workers' movement there, which was insufficiently autonomous, not strong enough to annul and transcend, in insurrectionary practice, its own representative organizations.
The insurrectionary tendency of the Workers' Movement does not identify itself with regulated forms of organization, but rather through the practice of making direct attacks against Power, without admitting any dialogue, negotiation, or intermediaries between the movement and Power. Its reason for being and its theoretical extraction are in the collective or individual action of a conscious proletariat, which revolts against the apparatus of domination. Its present and immediate objective is the destruction of these apparatus.
The materialization of this tendency in the mass movement surges forth in every moment of direct struggle that transcends mere demands, where the people make themselves masters of their own lives and of the construction of history.
It is born from and in conflict, and finds its meaning in conflict, generating concrete situations in which what exists is destroyed and self-managed realities are created.
Organizations that come from the insurrectionary movement of the masses can only have a meaningful existence in the concrete moment of generalized revolt. Its a priori construction or its posterior maintenance is only conducive to the practice of demand-making and/or to its systematic recuperation by Power.
From the time of the Luddites until the time of the Albanian insurrection, we find indications of the identity of this tendency, where the ever-present possibilities of its actual materialization can be explored.
The insurrectionary tendency of the Workers' Movement has had its greatest agitators and defenders amongst the anarchists (including in this term all those movements, named or unnamed, that have elaborated an anti-authoritarian, revolutionary practice). The direct confrontation of Power, the desire for the immediate destruction of the State, are consistent with anarchist thought and practice, which rejects 'phase politics' and symbolic representations.
If the spread of this tendency in the anarchist movement hasn't had the 'spectacular' repercussions which the stageist tendency has been able to have, it is nevertheless present throughout libertarian history, with a visible practice that generates tension in the breast of the Anarchist and Workers' Movements. Its most palpable re-editions run parallel to the development of the Insurrectionary Workers' Movement, and find fusion with it through revolutionary catharsis.
The fact that the anarchist insurrectionary movement doesn't have the spectacular magnitude of the stageist anarchist movement is the result of its own characteristics. The insurrectional anarchist movement doesn't maintain heavy organizational forms, nor does it base its action on quantitative accumulations, nor does it set itself up as anyone's representative. It has no palpable structural reference-points, and the signs that identify it are along the lines of the direct and spontaneous confrontations of the proletariat, as long as they don't fall into manipulation and recuperation at the hands of the bureaucratic apparatus of the classical structures. It is, consequently, a diffuse movement, mostly tangible in the decisive battles of mass insurrections, but one that perseveres, nonetheless, on into the periods of revolutionary reflux in the thousand and one forms that the revolt takes on (sabotage, expropriations, absenteeism, etc.).
This tendency does not restrict itself simply to violent direct action, but instead, like the stageist tendency, uses formal means of propaganda – however, what differentiates it from the other tendencies is that it recognizes these formal means as tools exclusively for advancing towards confrontation, and for exploring profoundly the insurrectionary struggle of the masses.
1. That the stageist tendency in the libertarian movement sees the existence of the insurrectionary anarchist movement as a threat. Anarchist snipers, delinquents, adventurers, provocateurs, infiltrators, psychopaths, etc., are some of the adjectives that Power as well as the 'revolutionary' stageist / reformists dedicate to the insurgents, and, although the stageist may admit, and even applaud, a far-off insurgency (in time and/or space), s/he will not accept it in the here and now.
Their fears are justified. The practical verification of the insurrectionary act puts in danger the conservative structure of the stageist 'revolutionary' without confronting it in ideological feuding, wherein they can safely take all the 'radical' poses they like without ever really risking being radical, and at the same time maintain small and miserable bits of power handed down to them, which they reproduce in little hierarchies all their own.
2. That exact boundaries no longer exist between these two tendencies. The intensification and flow of the many people involved make confluence and intermixing very frequent.
Thus, the inexistent borderline is crossed in both directions constantly, which is why historically the insurrectionary anarchists have fought alongside the revolutionary workers' movement when it has separated itself from the recuperators, whereas the stageist anarchists have shown in the past the ease with which they can form alliances with the classical, bureaucratic organizations of the workers' movement.
The label 'insurrectionalist', given by some and assumed by some, is still nothing more than that, a label; and this risks petrification in pseudo-ideologies if it is not profoundly explored in the theoretical and practical realms of insurrectionary intervention. Beyond the possible fashion trend that this 'novelty' (what novelty?) might become for those who passively idealize its more unhealthy and fictitious aspects (principally the use of violence as a revolutionary strategy), and who, basing themselves on a little-thought-out voluntarist immediatism depreciate the role of critique. If the debates that come up in insurrectionary practice are only analyzed formalistically, it won't be long until more and more people drift off to find a new milieu around whom they won't have to think so much.
From what's (not) happening in the shabby libertarian panorama of the present, we find a growing number (growing because of the schismatic dynamic in which the movement finds itself, showing that it's weakening), of heavy organizations, which gain adherents from the most distant fields of work. Some cuddle up more than others to reformism, and some indecorously get worked up about details, and some swim in an absolute ostracism, which leads nowhere.
From the different families of anarchosyndicalism to those of the 'organized autonomists', a rainbow of possibilities offer themselves to us, which are lost in the trajectory of stageist demand-making politics.
Their theoretical differences, before a nonexistent audience, only give evidence of their shared misery, of the impossibility of destroying or contributing to the destruction of the misery that exists everywhere, and their unconscious contribution to it.
Without a revolutionary movement anywhere in sight, they invent a forged one, basing themselves on numbers that they provide, as the great guides of the masses, leaving everything as it is until the coming of an imaginary future time when the 'objective conditions' of a mystified past will be produced again. All confrontation with reality is consequently made impossible.
Neither 1917, nor 1936, nor 1968 nor 1977 are going to return for all of our copying of the organizations that came about at those moments in time, a fact which demonstrates that instead of learning about historical facts, we have only been imitating their corpses.
There are more than enough orthopedic mythologies and complacent lies, and there isn't enough action, self-criticism, and concrete objectives for the now, from whence we might launch these frustrated desires for rebellion drowning in the rottenness of the 'new old' structures.
1. The proletariat has not been abolished. It has changed its composition as capitalist restructuring has continued taking place, becoming a less perceptible, more irreconcilable subject. However, it is growing, at the same rate as its decomposition as a unitary subject – as is the visible existence of an exploited majority, deprived of all power of decision over their lives.
2. Capitalism continues developing its alienations. They are no longer subject to the productive model, which has its axis in the factories and in centralized work. At the moment when capitalism converted all human activity into a commodity, repressive work expanded beyond the factory-prison walls, and encroached upon all aspects of social survival. Alienation is globalized.
3. The possibility of revolution is a present possibility. The theoretical problem planted two centuries ago by socialism has not been resolved, but rather restructured, and drowned in the inherent contradictions of the capitalist system.
The revolutionary objective is to bring out enough scandalous contradictions to make the generation of real movements, capable of transcending the present state of things, possible.
We attack, through subversive practice, the everyday life which all of us, submitted to capitalist domination, are forced to live. The majority sees this reality distorted by the system reducing daily life to spectacle.
We use continuous confrontation as a strategy. When and wherever the insurrectionary individuals decide, and always from a global perspective which admits no dialogue whatsoever with Power.
We go out into the streets to perturb the miserable and stultifying order of things, making visible the systematic brutality that we all perceive essentially.
To unleash our rage is a very possible objective in the here and now; to unite our rag to that of our equals will be an unavoidable necessity.
Our attack is collective or individual action against the everyday, without any need for excuses in the form of media happenings tele-directed by Power.
No televised massacre is necessary for the attack. Protests directed against such and such a partial phenomenon only make evident the traditional manipulation of those protests, which elude the universality of confrontation, reducing the protest to an approved and empty exercise in energy-release.
The direct attack has a pretense of destroying everything, since the object attacked is only any excuse to question what exists, and it is un-recuperable because it is total.
Violence is a secondary aspect of this attack, not its reason for existence. The attack is every kind of destruction of what exists, from whence the possibility of generating new loci of creativity comes into existence. Creation-destruction is a process that is retrofed as the struggle takes place.
Informal organization is an optimal route for the organization of the anarchist attack. It is not based on the classical, heavy structures, but rather is adapted to the moment and to the will to act of the insurrectionaries, and doesn't subordinate its desires to structure and program.
Informal organization takes place by way of the affinities that develop amongst individuals and groups, and it is therein that it finds its uniting nexus, and where it forms an organic web that never ends and is always in movement.
Informal organization takes place in a specific territory and can be as extensive as free association makes it; its members are not subject to any compromises greater than those they enter into voluntarily, and their cohesion is as strong as their shared passion to destroy Power.
Not having decision making organs nor central reference points, decisions are made in encounters, in direct communication, in debate, and in action itself. Acts give us the key to affinity with our equals.
There's no doubt that we'll have to meet up with all these groups of individuals, with those who, even without knowing, we share a common path.
Militarism is the antithesis of individual responsibility. It is submission to ideology and organization – it is martyrdom, action separate from life; alienation. The alternative is lived and shared action, an end to alienation, the liberation of desire.
We will suppress all militarism when we become totally responsible for our actions and for the kind of society we live in.
Anarchist informal organizations are organizations made up of non-militant, responsible individuals.
Informal organization requires extreme autonomy, since its composition is autonomous, from individual to group, from group to network.
Informal organizations need constant communication, constituting an imprecise whole which thinks and acts, which decides and struggles at the same time. The accord amongst their members must come into being in a natural way, and be the fruit of felt necessity and individual responsibility.
Informal organizations require an implacable self-critique. Being that their whole existence is a practical critique off the miserablism imposed by a false social peace, an analysis of its acts, without seeking out complacency with one's self, avoiding fossilization and systematic recuperation, recuperation which is the first repressive technique of the system against revolutionary possibility.
Everything is questionable, everything susceptible of critique. There are no magic recipes for this. From here on out practice ratifies things, and not theory; we must not fall into the reproduction of stereotypes and ideological models, and we must question all a-priori-ism and mystification.
Informal organizations need self-management spaces within their territory where insurgent individuals, groups, and initiatives can operate, experiment, and encounter one another. Spaces which already presuppose a rupture from and an attack against the system, where real situations of anarchist self-management can develop.
Informal organizations need to push forward networks to diffuse ideas, networks for communication and debate. Networks that can take care of the need for direct communication between the insurgents and the different ongoing struggles, without falling into counter-information (interpretation and transmission of news without anything more), and/or ideological transmission (the sale of a model to imitate) which would end up being the reverse of the official ideological information and/or transmissions (on a smaller scale), just with its own alienating parameters.
Informal organizations must of necessity have access to the material means for combating repression. Solidarity with the condemned must be a constant priority, since it's the only defense of revolutionaries. Solidarity with imprisoned comrades cannot remain a simple pose or a circumstantial activity.
Thus, informal organizations can escape and combat any reproductions in their own hearts of capitalist social relations and can generate communist social relationships and a latent reality, the here and now, of anarchist society.
The necessities of informal organizations listed above are in no way a new pre-established catechism which must obligatorally be complied with point by point. These are simply necessities that come up in the course of the struggle which can take on various and diverse forms insofar as they operate consubstantially in their essence with the positive development of the process. No real necessity surges forth in a provoked manner, and no one is superior to any other, unless they appear to be necessary in the dynamics themselves of the confrontation.
Informal organization is not a separate organization of struggles, nor is it superior to, nor a guide for them. It is a conscious part of the insurrectional tendency of the movement of the exploited, and participates in social struggles. Not renouncing that struggle and confrontation in periods of reflux and false social peace, it becomes fused in a natural way with autonomous class movements when they develop in an insurrectional direction.
In spite of those who would say the contrary, informal organization is indeed organization. From the organizationalist stageists, for whom all actions must first pass through and end up part of always inconclusive 'perfect' organization, all the way to the individualists, incapable of any activity in the company of others, and consequently fixed into critique and into the ghetto of their own illusions, the whole gamut of theoretical and practical opposition to the development of informal organization as organization and not as simple formality are to be found, from its most acidic detractors to its supposedly most theoretical precursors.
Quantitative mystification is really part of both sides of the one coin. That of those who need the meaningful accumulation of parochials to decide that they ought to do something beyond the symbolic routines, and that of those who are only capable of 'doing things' inside their isolated groupuscules, they are all merely supposing that these things will be their guarantee against the evils that are the product of the top-heavy organization of society and of topheavy organizations in society. If the accumulators of money and blessings end up in limbo, the clusterers get no further, since the limitations they put on collective action keeps them irremediably separate from social intervention and of the hypothetical movements of the masses, and they go on adopting little by little to voluntarist vanguardism – and I am intentionally referring to mass movements because of the fear of some of that term.
If informal organization is not separate organization, it must come from, seek out, and conclude in the movement of the exploited and extend its practice-theory in and from the reality of its struggles, and not from illusory barricades and fantasy clandestinities with goals as merit-worthy as they are suicidal. Informal organization must be the gluten of the insurrectionary tendency of the movement of the exploited, in its own breast, and not another factor in its dispersion.
In any case, small numbers aren't a guarantee against the ills attributable to top-heavy organization (delegationism, organizationism, bureaucratization, etc...). As a proof all you've got to do is look at the little groups around us which are always getting bogged down in the asphyxiation of their dynamics.
Autonomous social movements are popular organisms that respond to felt necessity. They develop on the margins of Power's apparatus of recuperation, manifesting themselves in the practice of self management and direct action.
Autonomous social movements surge forth as a negation of the concrete and everyday aspects of capitalist exploitation. Their objective is the destruction of those aspects, and to attack the apparatus of Power. As a consequence they have a limitation in space-time.
If an autonomous movement stresses insurrectionary attack and practice, it tends to become ever more radicalized, acquiring a world-view of reality, seeking out, in such cases, nexuses of union with other similar movements, and reaching a global thought and action.
The creation of diffuse insurrectionary situations on the part of autonomous movements, their connections, cohesion, amplification and radicalization – all these things transform ephemeral movements of revolt into moments of generalized revolution and self-management. Autonomous movements are transformed in the insurrectionary development of the revolutionary movement itself.
Autonomous social movements differ from reformist social movements insofar as the latter base their action on partial demands, which do not deny capitalist domination, but simply demand a scission in their power, a concrete dissatisfaction with service.
In practice, it is not easy to differentiate between the one and the other, and it is its own evolution, in many cases, and the particular circumstances surrounding them which give us the keys to recognize them with.
A distinction must be made between autonomous movements as the autonomous practice of the proletariat and autonomous organization as an ideological structure which claims it can supplant the movement by mystifying it and emptying it of content.
Ideology is not autonomous; it is subject to its own limitations – it is a falsification of reality.
Only critique and action can be autonomous.
The subjects dealt with in these theses do not attempt to express a desire for a given organizational model. They instead are an attempt to make out, from a critical perspective, some general lines to help transcend the present state of things. As has been said, this is not a catechism. There are many forms of action and of doing, and many roads to take – it is impossible to hold preconceived notions about them without falling into ideological fictions.
But so certain it is that there are disparate ways of acting and many diverse roads to experiment on, it is just as true that there is only one way of not acting, and we know that one already.