- by Joaquin Cienfuegos
(An Excerpt from Anarcho-Communism: A Revolutionary Position For Theory and Practice in the Imperialist U.S.)
Building an Anti-Capitalist Organization and an Anti-Capitalist Front
As we build a movement for radical change the question is always posed, what should be the "dividing line" or what should people unite under. Generally the idea for mass organizations or organizations as a whole is to have the largest numbers out there in a rally or protest. The argument is made that in order to build the Anti-War Movement or the Anti-Globalization movement we can't and we shouldn't call out Capitalism as the root cause or we shouldn't be upfront about the economic infrastructure of power. The idea put forward is that we should be first anti-war or anti-corporate and then anti-capitalist, meaning first win people to resistance of what the ruling class is carrying out, and then take on the power structure which carries out the injustices in the first place.
I want to put these questions out there not to be sectarian, but to increase unity on a correct basis in building a revolutionary movement, which is much needed today. We need a broad, diverse revolutionary movement made up of autonomous organizations and cohesive networks to not only challenge the power structure, but to once and for all get rid of it and realign society from below.
This point brings to mind the Old Left of the 1920's to the 50's, and what Staughton Lynd wrote about in Prospects for the New Left. In this writing, Staughton Lynd talked of the 60's generation and how there was a break with the Old Left type politics, in particular the old left Communist Party and some of their labor unions. He makes a good point: that we should draw from some of the good aspects of the old left, to build something new, in terms of the New Left of the 60's generation. Some of these new ideas included the rejection of dogma, the celebration of action, the struggle against centralization and union bureaucracy, the vision of a movement as a band of comrades acting out the future as if it were already here (which is in many ways what anarchists talk about) .
The principal criticism of the old left was the whole idea of the popular front, "the assumption was that enemy was fascism rather than capitalism, hence that the so-called liberal wing of the ruling class might be an ally." This period was during World War II, where basically the Old Left CP sold out, and called for the support of the troops and the war against fascism, and ended up supporting the U.S and their imperialist interests. "[The Communists] declared that Communists would defend their country in time of war, that Communism would come to the United States by parliamentary means, and so on."
I would agree with Lynd's approach, but I don't think it is linear - nothing is. There is a multi-dimensional aspect to everything. There was a lot to learn from the old left, and there is even much more to learn from the new left (also from past struggles around the world and people), but nothing is static either. We need a whole new approach, and a revolutionary left. We need to synthesize the experiences but be critical of the mistakes, in order to advance in our goals of a new egalitarian society. The 60's generation challenged the order in society, and the groups that developed from that era are inspirational, but things must be taken even further.
Struggles have to be linked to the root cause of the problems facing humanity and the planet, which is the economic, political and social system of Capitalism-Imperialism. Capitalism should be the dividing line in which people unite, debate, and fight under.
There wouldn't be war if it wasn't for the capitalist system, in its imperialist stage, where it seeks to accumulate empire and power, through its millitary. Capitalism seeks to expand its markets by globalization, where it dominates entire "third-world" countries, exploits people more brutally, and destroys the enviroment while doing it. This is the honest truth. Fascism is a system where Capitalists openly rule under different social relations but similar mode of production and imperialist methodology. They should all be challenged. It should be a popular front against capitalism, imperialism, and fascism.
It seems that the organizations that now exist, the anti-war coalitions and so on, want to have large numbers in their demonstrations, which isn't bad in it of itself. There is a need for numbers, and in order for change we need millions of people to become politically conscious one way or the other. However, history shows that people step forward in different times, and then take steps back; history itself is never linear. The number of people in the streets depends on what's going on in the world, and what the power is doing, the more overtly imperialist they are, the more people resist, that is a fundamental truth. The task of organizations is to expose the power structure mainly, and to create a consciousness in people to be able to act out in the interests of humanity.
There is a difference in understanding and consciousness, therefore our role as revolutionaries is not to impose our own particular vision but to develop one collectively with others. Our role is to develop and educate other rebels through building a revolutionary movement that is determined, that will inspire and influence people to take direct action and to be guided by theory. Ultimately, we have to be organized in terms of how we want the future world to be organized, and everything we do even the simplest act, has to prepare us for the future.
There have been and are many people and groups who resist capitalism. There are people in the U.S. and around the world who are challenging imperialism in many ways. Now is the time to unite and network. We have to seek to raise the debate among ourselves and link up, but at the same time keep the autonomy which makes the groups involved unique.
I see pictures of the Industrial Workers of the World's Mass Assembly meetings where thousands of workers participated in the decision making process through vote by hand; this is direct democracy, where debate and participation are part of daily life (this can be discussed later, but just to give a glimpse of how we can organize ourselves). As an Anarcho-Communist, but especially as an Anarchist, I think that we should organize in a decentralized way, meaning that there is no small group of people who make the decisions and the rest of us do the ground work for them. The New Left, and mass movements that developed from the time, follow the same model of organization, which in the final analysis is hierarchical (I won't get into the problems of centralism, they will also be discussed later). In our organization today, we have to train ourselves to be self-sufficient, to be self-manageable, and to develop our forms of organizing to be as inclusive as possible while not losing our sense of autonomy and defense from the state.
This Anti-Capitalist Front should be diverse where different struggles and theoretical positions can enter debate. National liberation struggles will definitely be an important aspect of the front, because they are always the first to challenge the power structure in any part of the world. I think even pacifists can enter the front, because many are anti-systemic. It's an individual process for everybody. We'll influence each other, and debate over the means and the strategy. In terms of today, in particular in imperialist U.S., we are not yet in a military stage, meaning we are not yet there to getting rid of the system.
This does not mean we should be on the political defensive. We should be calling out the system, and in our practice preparing and fighting for better ground politically and tactically against the right wing. This brings to mind George Jackson of the Black Panther Party; he said that to simply engage in military activity without a political component it would lead to being isolated and smashed. This happens too much in the left today; we isolate ourselves. A lot of us anarchists do it. This makes it easier for the state to come down on us and attack us. We're so small in numbers that we have to seek to link up with each other on the correct basis.
The Black Panthers developed an approach of "survival pending revolution" meaning they would be self sufficient and serve the people while they awaited for revolution. George Jackson saw that in these programs they should combine the military aspect, in defensive way, where they would defend the programs when it came under attack by the police. While this is true and it speaks to reality, you can't have complete autonomy under capitalism, because if whatever you build becomes a threat to the status quo, the state will seek to destroy whatever you create.
However I don't think we should just patiently wait for revolution. I think the actions we take today have to prepare and lead up to the end of capitalism. This is why we need a revolutionary movement, with all struggles linked to the economic infrastructure. It's a process of theory-practice-theory, where we develop our strategy, our methods, and our approach. Our organization cannot wither away when individuals are attacked or when the state attacks the nucleus because there wouldn't be one. This type of organization is necessary and possible. All the groups and individuals involved would have a say so in the decisions and planning that is done.
Respect goes out to the old left, the new left, and the rebels and revolutionaries of the past, but we need a higher synthesis and we need something revolutionary, in the interest of humanity and to finally end the rotten system of capitalism.
Joaquin, I'm 21 from Los Angeles Ca, I attend Santa Monica College, and am member of the Anti-War on the World Coalition. He can be reached at email@example.com.