Introduction to Bukharin's Anarchy and Scientific Communism

The following translation comes from Kommunist #2 and was written in March/April 1918. There are two existing versions on marxists.org and libcom.org but looking at the original we realised that these are incomplete. They both appear to have been translated from an Italian version which was put out as a twelve page pamphlet by the Communist Party of Italy in the early 1920s. It seems that some of the more difficult Italian passages were avoided in that translation. [1] As previously, our translation is taken from La Revue Kommuniste (Smolny Press) which was based on the Russian original.

The article is itself a polemic and thus suffers all the weaknesses of that form of argument. In fact it is possible that this rather labored piece against the anarchists is as much motivated by Bukharin’s desire to distance himself from them since they, together with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, had shared the left communist critique of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. [2]

Nevertheless, the document is interesting in itself as it reflects a turning point, not only in the Russian Revolution, but also in the thinking of Bukharin himself. This introduction puts those issues into historical context.

In the first paragraph of the article Bukharin hints at the “liquidation” of certain Muscovite groups. In the third part he expands on this.

We have CONSCIOUSLY made a point not to criticize anarchists as criminals, bandits … But … we can understand why it is mainly anarchist groups that degrade themselves by carrying out their “expropriation”, why the underworld “creeps in” among anarchists. Everywhere and always there are elements that use the revolution for their own personal benefit.

What is this all about? During 1917 many anarchists had worked alongside Bolsheviks in the struggle to establish soviet power. Indeed many anarchists regarded Lenin’s April Theses as his adoption of key anarchist ideas. [3] In June 1917, when the Provisional Government tried to shut down the anarchist communal base in the Durnovo Villa in Petrograd, Bolshevik workers from the nearby Vyborg Side were amongst those who came to their assistance. Alongside the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, who actually joined the Bolsheviks in government from December 1917 to June 1918, the majority of anarchists formed the minor party in an uneasy and undeclared coalition to fight for soviet power.

Many anarchists thus supported the October Revolution even though they were deeply critical of the fact that the Provisional Government was replaced, not by the Executive Committee elected by the Second All-Russian Soviet Congress, but by a new Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom). Sovnarkom was nominally responsible to the Soviet Executive but, in practice, the latter had less and less control of affairs as time went on. Various anarchists recalled that Bakunin and Kropotkin had warned that the “dictatorship of the proletariat” would really be a dictatorship of the Social Democratic Party and the Bolsheviks were only the most radical version of Social Democracy.

They might have been re-assured had they read Lenin’s State and Revolution in which he talked of a “semi-state” that would only exist until the capitalist class was overcome. However, as that would not be published until the middle of 1918, by which time soviet reality was already beginning to contrast with Lenin’s theory, they could only judge by events.

Up until March 1918 the worst fears of the anarchists were not realised. The revolution was undergoing what one Left Communist of the time called its “heroic period”. Not only did the number of Soviets increase but a whole raft of social and economic changes were implemented. The Bolsheviks, by virtue of their massive support in the working class, may have stood at the apex of the system but the revolution had plenty of life of its own with communes, cooperative and committees being formed ad hoc to deal with all the social issues confronting the working class. [4] The Bolsheviks had led the overthrow of the Provisional Government as the first step in what they hoped would be a world revolution. They had no master plan for how the working class would change society inside Russia. [5] At this point Lenin could be seen as the leader of the left inside the Bolshevik Party. He constantly encouraged worker initiative.

Creative activity at the grassroots is the basic factor of the new public life. Let the workers’ control at their factories. Let them supply the villages with manufactures in exchange for grain… Socialism cannot be decreed from above. Its spirit rejects the mechanical bureaucratic approach: living creative socialism is the product of the masses themselves. [6]

Whilst addressing the Third Congress of Soviets in January 1918 (a few days after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly) he stated,

Anarchist ideas now assume living forms in this epoch of the radical demolition of bourgeois society. However it is still necessary, first of all, in order to overthrow bourgeois society, to establish the strong revolutionary power of the toiling classes, the power of the revolutionary State ... The new tendencies of anarchism are definitely on the side of the Soviets. [7]

So what is behind Bukharin’s polemic? As a careful study of the article shows, it was written at a time of acute tension between some in the anarchist camp and the Bolshevik Party. We have to remember that Kommunist was the brainchild of the Moscow Bolsheviks and it was there that the Cheka had just engaged in a gun battle with the Moscow anarchists on account of the “expropriations” that the latter had been carrying out since the October Revolution.

A historian of anarchism, Paul Avrich, fills in the background:

During the spring of 1918, local anarchist groups began to form armed detachments of Black Guards which sometimes carried out “expropriations”, that is, held up banks, shops and private homes. Most of their comrades – especially the ‘Soviet Anarchists’ – condemned such acts as parodies of the libertarian ideal, which wasted precious lives, demoralized the movement’s true adherents and discredited anarchism in the eyes of the general public.

After the bitter opposition of the anarchists to the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, their formation of armed guards and occasional underworld excursions led the Bolsheviks to act against them. On the night of 11-12 April 1918, the Cheka raided twenty-six anarchist centres in Moscow, killing or wounding some forty anarchists and taking more than five hundred prisoners. [8]

The presence of a criminal element, who were simply engaging in self-aggrandisement under the cover of anarchism, obviously played into the hands of the Cheka. The raids on anarchist premises could clearly be justified as mere police actions although, since the anarchists were also well armed (their arms included machine guns), over 50 died in the fighting (about 40 of them anarchists). Despite the bloodshed, many of the 500 arrested who could demonstrate they really were “political” anarchists, were released, and only the criminal elements detained. After this episode anarchist publications were still allowed to appear but were increasingly harassed and even “soviet anarchists” (those who accepted soviet power and worked within the soviets to turn them to anarchist ideas) like Iuda Roshchin, were sometimes arrested. The response to the April events came first as denunciations in the anarchist press that:

We have reached the limit! The Bolsheviks have lost their senses. They have betrayed the proletariat and attacked the anarchists. They have joined the Black Hundred generals and the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. They have declared war on revolutionary anarchism. [9]

This was followed by more violence on the anarchist side. Avrich again tells us

The campaign of terrorism continued for many months, reaching a climax in September 1919 when a group of “underground anarchists”, in league with the Left SRs, bombed the Moscow headquarters of the Communist Party, killing or wounding sixty-seven people. This only led to greater repression… [10]

Despite all this, despite the actions of the Cheka in April 1918, many anarchists carried on fighting for the soviet system (as Bukharin recognises but only in a back-handed way as evidence of their “inconsistency”!) and fought bravely for it in the civil war. Others did not. Many later gathered around Nestor Makhno’s army in the Ukraine. The latter often fought alongside the Reds but when victory over the Whites was secured in 1920 the Bolsheviks (as Makhno had anticipated) turned on their erstwhile ally and drove him into exile. This was not simply an error. It demonstrated just how far the revolution and the Bolshevik Party had degenerated during the civil war.

Bukharin’s powerful polemic on the class basis of the individualist anarchists and their criminal cohorts is well made. However, his marking of all anarchists with the same label was reminiscent of his own complaint at the beginning of the article that anarchists accuse all Marxists of being statists on the basis of what various Social Democrats have done to “radically disfigure” Marx’s ideas. As Avrich tells us, there were many different kinds of anarchist in Russia in 1917-21. He identifies three broad groups, the anarcho-syndicalists, the anarcho-communists and the individualistic anarchists who looked to the theories of Max Stirner (we’ll leave aside the Christian-pacifist followers of Tolstoy). It was the individualist anarchists who were most susceptible to infiltration by criminal and lumpen elements and it is really these who Bukharin is largely inveighing against at the beginning of the article and in section 3.

Bukharin’s indignation against those Social Democrats who deformed Marx is also understandable. It was people like himself (such as Anton Pannekoek in a polemic against Kautsky) [11] who had first raised the issue of what the Marxist theory of the state was, both before and during the First World War. Indeed in his Toward a Theory of the Imperialist State he had already written (but in much more scientific and vastly superior form) the main outline of the polemic we have translated here.

Thus, the society of the future is a society without a state organization. Despite what many people say, the difference between Marxists and anarchists is not that the Marxists are statists whereas the anarchists are anti-statists. The real difference in views of the future structure is that the socialists see a social economy resulting from the tendencies of concentration and centralization, the inevitable companions of development of the productive forces, whereas the economic utopia of the decentralist-anarchists carries us back to pre-capitalist forms. The socialists expect the economy to become centralized and technologically perfected; the anarchists would make any economic progress whatever impossible. The form of state power is retained only in the transitional moment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, a form of class domination in which the ruling class is the proletariat. With the disappearance of the proletarian dictatorship, the final form of the state’s existence disappears as well. [12]

He wrote this in 1916 but Lenin (who was then still in the process of escaping from the Kautsky version of Marxism) refused to publish it as he regarded the treatment of the state as “decidedly incorrect”. [13] However he was soon doing his own research into the question of the state and making notes for what would become The State and Revolution. When Bukharin arrived back in Russia in May 1917 Lenin’s wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, greeted him with the words “V.I. asked me to tell you that he no longer disagrees with you on the question of the state”. [14] In fact Lenin went further in The State and Revolution to talk of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a “semi-state” or “not a state in the true sense of the word”.

However, taking back on board Marx’s recognition of the need for the state to “wither away” still leaves us with the issue of how to organise production in the new society. This Bukharin identifies as the real distinction between “anarchy” and “scientific communism”. His intentions here are good. He wants to reduce “necessary working time” and thus in the conditions of 1918 he argues that “large scale organized and planned production” is necessary. He sees the alternative to “centralization” as a reactionary desire to return to a pre-capitalist, petty bourgeois form of production which could not satisfy the needs of the whole of society. However, he does not spell out what “centralization” of production means. Looked at from the standpoint of today it has a Fordist ring to it – which stands in sharp contrast to the writings of other Left Communists in Kommunist, like Ossinsky who defended workers’ initiative against one-man management and the reintroduction of specialists. [15]

When you add to this Bukharin’s stress on the need for “a workers’ state” (in this article he never once equates the dictatorship of the proletariat specifically with the soviets) we can see that we have arrived at a critical point in both Bukharin’s political thinking and in the revolution itself. The motivation behind this change of thinking is divulged in the document.

The Russian economy in general, industry and agriculture, is deteriorating and disintegrating terribly. The cause of these terrible difficulties is not only the immediate destruction of productive forces, but also the colossal disorganization of the entire economic system.

In fact it is difficult to overestimate the economic crisis in Russia in the late spring of 1918. The collapse of war production led to mass unemployment. This, combined with continued grain shortages inherited from the Provisional Government, meant hundreds of thousands of workers were forced to abandon the cities in search of food. To address this Bukharin argues:

This is why, more than ever, workers must be concerned about the inventory and strict control of all means of production, expropriated houses, requisitioned consumer products, and so on. Such control is possible only when expropriation is exercised by the organs of workers’ power and not by individuals and private groups.

As a critique of anarchist individualism Bukharin’s point is correct but it just so happened that it was precisely at this point that the “organs of workers power” were beginning to lose their independent character. The civil war, which would erupt within a few weeks of the publication of this article, was to see the rise of state organs, like the Red Army and the Cheka, outside the control of the class-wide bodies. And the link which held it all together was the Bolshevik Party which increasingly looked to itself rather than the class as whole to establish “the dictatorship of the proletariat”.

Bukharin was to epitomize this decline in his own writings. Once the civil war started he, and others like Radek, abandoned their Left Communism and even accepted that their former attacks on the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk had been wrong.

His 1919 work on the ABC of Communism (written with E. Preobrazhensky) is more aspiration than an accurate depiction of the reality of Russia at the time. It contains positive ideas about workers’ running society and interesting debating points about the transition from capitalism to communism, including the idea that:

Two or three generations of persons will have to grow up under the new conditions before the need will pass for laws and punishments and for the use of repression by the workers’ state.

This already suggests that the withering away of the “workers state” would be postponed to the indefinite future.

And by 1920 in his Economics of the Transition Period he accepted the reality that the militarization of labor was part of the process of building the “workers’ state”. Whilst it was true that the “imperialist war” – as he correctly designated the fight against the Whites who were backed at various times by different Western states – forced the Bolsheviks to take a path they might not have otherwise taken, Bukharin here does not decry this as a necessary evil but instead makes a virtue of necessity. And at this point he makes no mention of the fact that the Bolshevik Party and not the class-wide organs have come to dominate every aspect of life. It would be left to others amongst the left communists to continue the fight for real soviet power but in the face of the continuing international isolation of the Russian working class it was to be a losing battle.

Anarchy and Scientific Communism

IF DISORGANISATION OF PRODUCTION and the decomposition of a genuine proletarian mentality give rise to a deviation such as a dissolution of proletarian demands into general aspirations of “the people”, meaning mainly peasants, and if these same conditions render the proletariat lumpen and whole groups of industrial workers into declassed “individuals” not connected with the proletariat as a whole through relations of work and common mass struggle – all of this creates fertile ground for the anarchist state of mind. Some high-sounding interventions by anarchists and bourgeois newspapers in their furor (see the young newspaper Vperyod) [16] around the famous liquidation of known Muscovite groups (such as The Trumpet, Hurricane, etc., whose names are all the more poetic as their “politics” is not), lead us to draw the line between Marx’s scientific communism and anarchist theories. This is all the more necessary as the social democrats have radically disfigured and “trivialized” Marx’s ideas; they betrayed them to make them bourgeois, just as they betrayed the proletariat in practice and failed to deal with the problem of anarchism, so that we will have to examine it in addition to the opinions of the social-traitors on anarchism to clear Marx’s thought of the muck thrown there by Messieurs Plekhanov, Renner [17], Guesde [18] and other advocates of the “state concept” the names of whom God only knows.

I

LET US BEGIN WITH THE “FINAL GOAL”, ours and that of the anarchists. On this point, the usual position is simply that communism and socialism are favorable to maintaining the state, whereas “anarchy” abolishes it. “Statists” and “anti-statists” – this is how the vulgum profanum emphasizes “the difference” between Marxists and anarchists.

One must bear in mind that not only anarchists, but social democrats themselves have contributed to this different characterization. All the talk about the “future state”, the “people’s state” (Volkstaat) has taken a prominent place in the ideological construct of social democracy. [19] Some social democratic parties have always stressed their “state” character. “We are the real bearers of the idea of State” (“die wahren Träger des Staatsidee”) – the Austrian Social Democrats have declared verbatim. These opinions were widespread, beyond the Austrian party; in a way, they were internationally (and still are in part because the old social democracy is not yet definitively rotten).

Unfortunately, this “state wisdom” has nothing to do with Marx’s revolutionary communist ideas.

Scientific communism considers the state as the organization of the ruling classes, an instrument of oppression and violence. It is only natural that it cannot then speak of a future state. In this future, there will be no classes, no class oppression, therefore no instrument of this oppression and no state power. The “classless state” in which the social democrats are getting lost is a contradiction in itself, an absurdity, baloney, “dry water”. [20] And the fact that the ideological seepage from this ‘”dry water” constitutes the intellectual nectar of social democracy is by no means the fault of the great revolutionaries Marx and Engels.

Communist society is stateless. But if true – and most certainly it is – what really is the difference between anarchists and Marxist communists? Does this difference no longer exist, at least on the question of the future society and the “ultimate goal”?

Of course it exists, but is altogether different. It can be briefly defined as the diff-erence between large centralized production and small decentralized production.

We communists on the other hand believe that the future society must not only rid us of the exploitation of man by man, but also allow man more independence from nature by reducing “necessary working time” and maximizing socialized productive forces and the productivity of socialized labor. That is why our ideal is large-scale centralized, organized and planned production, tending towards the organization of the entire world economy. Anarchists, on the other hand, prefer a wholly different type of organization: their ideal is small communes – unsuited to large-scale production by the very nature of their structure – which conclude “agreements” between themselves and are connected in a network of voluntary contractual relationships. Clearly such a production scheme is reactionary from an economic standpoint. It will not and cannot give space to the development of productive forces; from an economic standpoint, it is more like the communes of the Middle Ages than the society that will replace capitalism. This scheme is not only reactionary but utopian par excellence. Future society will not be born of “nothing”, will not be delivered from the sky by a stork. It grows within the old world and the relationships created by the giant machinery of financial capital. It is clear that the future development of productive forces (any future society is only viable and possible if it develops the productive forces of the already outdated society) can only be achieved by continuing the tendency towards the centralization of the production process, and the improved organization of the “direction of things” replacing the former “direction of men”.

But anarchists will reply that the essence of the state is precisely centralization; “By maintaining centralization of production, you will thus maintain the state apparatus, its power, violence”, and “authoritarian relations”.

This fallacious argument is based on a purely childish and unscientific notion of the state. As with capital, the state is not “a thing”, but a relationship between individuals – between classes to be more precise. It is a relationship of class, domination and oppression – that’s the essence of the state. Otherwise the state does not exist. To consider centralization as the characteristic and main feature of the state is like considering capital as a means of production. The means of production becomes capital only when monopolized by one class and used for the wage exploitation of another, i.e. when these means of production express the social relations of class oppression and class economic exploitation. On the other hand, they are a good thing in themselves – the instrument of man’s struggle against nature. That is why they will not disappear in future society and will have a deserved a place there.

There was a period in the history of the working class when the latter did not know how to distinguish between the machine as a means of production and the machine as a means of oppression. Back then, the worker did not seek to abolish private ownership of machines, but sought to destroy the machines themselves, to return to primitive manual devices. [21]

So it is for “conscious” anarchists with regard to centralization of production. They see that in capitalist society this centralization serves as an instrument of oppression, and naively protest against centralization in general, in childish confusion between the essence of the question with its social and historical envelope.

So as far as the future society is concerned, the differences between us, communists and anarchists, is not whether we are for or against the State, but that we are for centralized production towards the maximum development of productive forces, while they are for small decentralized production that, rather than develop the level of productive forces, reduces it.

II

THE SECOND MAIN DISTINCTION between communists and anarchists is in their attitude towards the dictatorship of the proletariat. Between capitalism and “future society” lies a whole period of class struggle, of fending off the attacks of a battered, but still insurgent, bourgeoisie on the class. Experience of the October Revolution shows that the bourgeoisie, though “beaten to the ground”, still retains the remnants of its forces for the struggle, armed or not, against the workers, and that it all ultimately depends on international reaction – as permanent victory will only be possible when the proletariat clears all the capitalist muck and “eventually stifles” the bourgeoisie everywhere.

It is natural therefore that the proletariat needs an organization to lead this struggle. The wider, stronger and firmer this organization is, the swifter the final victory. This provisional organization is the proletarian State, the power of the workers, their dictatorship.

Like all power, proletarian power participates in the organization of violence. Like any state, the proletarian state is an instrument of oppression. But the problem of violence must not be raised in such a formal way. That would be the standpoint of a good Christian, a Tolstoyan, not a revolutionary. The problem of violence can be solved in a positive or negative sense, depending on who the violence is used against. Revolution and counter-revolution are also acts of violence. But it would be absurd to renounce the revolution for that reason.

Likewise, there is the problem of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This power is an instrument of oppression, but directed against the bourgeoisie. It provides for a system of repression directed essentially against the bourgeoisie. In the class struggle, at times of extreme tensions in the civil war, we must not speak of individual freedoms, but about the need to put an end to the various exploiting classes.

We have two choices: either the proletariat finishes off the defeated bourgeoisie and defends itself against its international allies, or it doesn’t. If it does, it must do so in an organized and coherent way, by spreading its struggle wherever its forces are able. And, in this case, it needs an organized power, whatever the cost. This power is the power of the proletarian state.

Class differences cannot be crossed out with a stroke of a pen. The bourgeoisie does not disappear as a class after losing political power. The proletariat itself remains as such after its victory. But it became the ruling class. Should it persist as such, or dissolve immediately into the surrounding enemy mass? This is how the question is historically posed. And there are no two answers. There is only one: the proletariat as the motor-force of the revolution must absolutely remain master of the situation until it transforms the other classes through its example. Then, and only then, will the proletariat dissolve its state organization and the state “die”.

With regard to this transitional period, the anarchists have another viewpoint and here our divergence is confirmed: for or against the proletarian commune-state, for or against the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Any power, whatever the circumstances, is unacceptable to anarchists because it oppresses. For this reason, workers’ power is unacceptable to them in that it oppresses the bourgeoisie. Thus, at this phase of the revolution, anarchists thunder against proletarian power in unison with the bourgeoisie and the conciliating parties. In protesting against workers’ power, anarchists are no longer “left”, no longer “extreme” as they usually claim. They are just bad revolutionaries, since they do not want to declare organized, consistent and mass war against the bourgeoisie. By renouncing the dictatorship of the proletariat, they abandon the strongest instrument of the struggle; by opposing the dictatorship, they disorganize the forces of the proletariat and by lowering the rifle of the proletariat, they objectively help the bourgeoisie and its social-traitors.

It is not hard to follow the general idea expressed in the anarchist position on the future society and on the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is their aversion in principle to organized, coherent and mass methods of action.

In our situation, the way anarchists ask the question is extremely dangerous. A coherent anarchist must oppose Soviet power and aspire to destroy it. However, given the obvious absurdity of this point of view for workers and peasants, few dare to draw this conclusion from their own premises; some anarchists sit well in the highest legislative and executive body of state power of the proletariat, and therefore of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets. This is an obvious inconsistency and the renunciation of a pure anarchist position. And yet of course, the anarchist must not overly appreciate the soviets and at best only “use” them while always being ready to disorganize them. Quite naturally then, we should expect here an extremely strong practical divergence because at present we see our main task in the enlargement, strengthening and organization of the power of mass proletarian unions (the councils of workers’ deputies) while the anarchists must consciously hinder this construction.

Similarly, our paths strongly diverge in the field of economic practice in the era of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The main condition for the economic elimination of capitalism is not to allow “the expropriation of the expropriators” to degenerate into sharing, even into egalitarian sharing. Any sharing gives rise to small landowners, and from small property flows great capitalist property. This is why sharing the wealth of the rich leads inevitably and once again to the formation of the same class of “rich” people The task of the working class is not petty-bourgeois and lumpen-proletarian sharing, but the social and fraternal, coherent and organized use of the expropriated means of production.

However, this is only possible if the very act of expropriation is exercised in an organized manner, under the control of the workers’ institutions. Otherwise “expropriation” takes on an overtly disorganizing character and easily degenerates into mere “appropriation” by individuals of socialized property.

The Russian economy in general, industry and agriculture, is deteriorating and disintegrating terribly. The cause of these terrible difficulties is not only the immediate destruction of productive forces, but also the colossal disorganization of the entire economic system. This is why, more than ever, workers must be concerned about the inventory and strict control of all means of production, expropriated houses, requisitioned consumer products, and so on. Such control is possible only when expropriation is exercised by the organs of workers’ power and not by individuals and private groups.

III

We have CONSCIOUSLY made a point not to criticize anarchists as criminals, bandits, etc. For the workers, it is important to understand the dangerous aspects of their theory that give rise to such an equally dangerous practice.

The argument should not be centered on a superficial polemic. But after what we said above, we can understand why it is mainly anarchist groups that degrade themselves by carrying out their “expropriation”, why the underworld “creeps in” among anarchists. Everywhere and always there are elements that use the revolution for their own personal benefit. But it is more difficult to “fish in troubled waters” where the expropriation of expropriators is put under control of mass organizations.

On the other hand, the refusal in principle of organized mass actions to favour “demonstrations” of “free”, “self-determined”, “autonomous” and “independent” groups, serves as a perfect cover for such “expropriations” which are not distinguished from the exploits of underworld heroes.

The dangerous aspect of expropriations, individual requisitions, etc. is that not only do such acts prevent the construction of a coherent apparatus of production, distribution and leadership, but they also demoralize and disorganize those who commit them and divert them from a common and fraternal cause, from the constitution of a collective will, and replace them with the arbitrariness of an isolated group or even of a “free individual”.

Workers' revolution has two sides: destructive and constructive. The destructive side is expressed primarily by the disappearance of the bourgeois state, although social democratic opportunists claim that the proletariat’s conquest of power does not mean the destruction of the capitalist state at all. But such a “conquest” exists only in the minds of these individuals. In reality, the workers’ conquest of power is exercised through the destruction of the power of the bourgeoisie.

And in this destruction of the bourgeois state, anarchists can play a positive role. But they are absolutely incapable of building a “new world”. Also, after the conquest of power by the proletariat, when the construction of socialism becomes the most important cause, they play an almost negative role in obstructing its construction with their wild and disorganizing diatribes. Communism and the communist revolution are the proletarian cause of the productive class united by the mechanism of great production. All other poor strata can act as agents of the communist revolution as long as they follow the proletariat.

Anarchism is not the ideology of the proletariat, but that of declassed, unproductive groups, uprooted from all productive work, from the lumpen-proletariat recruited from the proletariat, of ruined petty bourgeois, declassed intellectuals, peasants fallen into ruin, in a word, beggars who cannot and are no longer even able to create something new, to produce new value and who are only able to consume the objects stolen during the “requisitions” – that’s the social base of anarchism. Anarchism is the product of the decomposition of capitalist society. The characteristic feature of this decomposition is the disintegration of social relations, the transformation of the former members of certain classes into atomized “individuals”, independent of all existing classes “by themselves”, not working for or obeying any organization in the name of their own existence – human dust generated by the barbarism of capital.

This is why a healthy working class cannot be poisoned by anarchism. Only under conditions of the decomposition of the working class, itself, does anarchism appear at one of its poles as a symptom of the disease. The working class must struggle not only against its economic decomposition, but also against its ideological decomposition of which anarchism is the product.

N. Bukharin

Notes

[1] The English translation was then published by a South African anarcho-syndicalist organisation, Zabalaza. As we have been unable to find a copy of the Italian (as the re-edition of it in 2009 alongside a criticism by the anarcho-communist Luigi Fabbri is now out of print) we don’t know if the cuts were made in the Italian or in the English translations. That version can be found at libcom.org

[2] As Bukharin had done with the Left SRs in his attack on Trutovsky in Kommunist #1. See leftcom.org

[3] Paul Avrich, Anarchists in the Russian Revolution (New York 1973) p.14.

[4] See, for example, R. Stites, Revolutionary Dreams OUP 1989.

[5] And contrary to various ignorant anarchist analyses Bolshevik thinking was not affected by What is to be Done, a document last referred to in 1907 by Lenin as “belonging to a now past epoch”. See Lars T. Lih Lenin Rediscovered (p.32) for the origins of this slander in bourgeois historiography. According to Lih Bukharin (who was much younger than Lenin) never referred to the document once despite the fact he was given the task of summing up Bolshevik thinking in such works as The ABC of Communism.

[6] V.I. Lenin, Collected Works Vol. 26 p.288.

[7] This speech is in V. I. Lenin, Collected Works _Volume 26_ p. 475 but the better translation here is by Peter Sedgwick in V. Serge, Year One of the Russian Revolution p.197.

[8] From The Anarchists in the Russian Revolution (New York 1973) p.112.

[9] Burevestnik [Hurricane] (Petrograd 13 April 1918, quoted in P. Avrich, The Anarchists in the Russian Revolution (New York 1973) p.113.

[10] From The Anarchists in the Russian Revolution (New York 1973) p. 114. One of those severely wounded was Bukharin himself.

[11] In Marxist Theory and Revolutionary Tactics (1912) marxists.org

[12] marxists.org.

[13] Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution p.39.

[14] The information is in an appendix to Toward a Theory of the Imperialist State (footnote 8 above).

[15] leftcom.org

[16] Vyperod (Forward) was actually a Menshevik newspaper at this point.

[17] Karl RENNER (1879-1950): Austrian social democrat, member of the SDAP (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei) since 1896, he was elected deputy in 1907 and remained very much on the right in the social democracy before 1914. After the collapse of the Austrian Empire, he became chancellor (1918-1920) and then a member of parliament, eventually holding the presidency (1931-1933). After the defeat of the Nazis, he was elected President of the Republic of Austria.

[18] Jules GUESDE (1845-1922): French socialist, founder of the Workers’ Party in 1882, he joined the ranks of the Sacred Union in support of the imperialist war in 1914.

[19] This idea of a “people’s state” or “free state”, particularly supported by the Lasalleans, is reflected in the programme adopted at the Gotha Unification Congress between the SDAP (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei) and the ADAV (Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein) in 1875. Marx refutes this notion in his Critique of the Gotha Program (1875).

[20] Idiomatic expression to show the absurdity of something. (Editor’s note)

[21] This a reference to the Luddite movement which was a revolt of artisanal workers against mechanisation but Bukharin could have made this point better. Such mechanisation reduced the wages of those workers by at least 75% thus giving them a profound material reason for resisting mechanisation and the prospect of entering the factory to be at the beck and call of an overseer was equally daunting. Under capitalism mechanisation is always at the expense of the workers in some way or another (unemployment, increased exploitation etc). Only under a mode of production where production is for need and not profit can new technology be part of the process of setting humanity free from drudgery.

The above translation was carried out by a member of Klasbatalo (Canada) who also provided the information found in the first paragraph of the introduction and for which we are very grateful.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Comments

Bukharin was to epitomize this decline in his own writings. Once the civil war started he, and others like Radek, abandoned their Left Communism and even accepted that their former attacks on the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk had been wrong.

This suggests that attacks on the treaty of B-L were correct and subsequent retraction a "decline". I don't think so.

That is not the intent behind the comment. The Kommunist project came out of opposition to the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and thus it was the guiding issue for the group. The comment does not mean that we think their opposition was correct but that they themselves later came to see that they had been in error. However the two mentioned here went much further and moved (in Bukharin's case) to acceptance of party dictatorship (albeit assuming it was temporary) or to advocating "national Bolshevism" as Radek did in Germnay in 1923.

One maybe off the mark thought I had from reading parts of it was that the vision of communism is not some sort of high tech super productive hyper advanced society.

Really it could be relatively unproductive. It could be a fairly static society.

Once the goads of capitalist blackmail, work to survive, pretend to smile as you suffer reinforced by endless mental conditioning from the cradle are removed, then the idea of a work/ consumption focussed society may go.

Perhaps in some ways communism will be a step back. No more new smartphone every six months, no more rushing through the rat maze of work in fear.

Almost a reversal from now. What is important now becomes unimportant under communism. What is not important now becomes the prime need under communism.

Perhaps it would involve a significant reduction of population, rather than a leap beyond 10 billion.

Cetrainly I would say a pruning of production in line with environmental sustainability.

Probably little of this resonates with those who do well and find some status in the present world, even if only as academics and intellectuals with whatever standing that brings,even if largely imagined.

But for the proletariat,the constantly tired, alienated, a stranger to his or herself, where relief comes from chemistry be it drugs or junk food, the charm of "progress" holds no more appeal than adding more choice to the array of shitty dried out breakfast cereals on the supermarket shelf.

Just a thought.

Its easier to say what we won't have rather than the leap of imagination needed to see what we will have. The elimination of a whole chain of waste production for starters would not only make for a more sustainable but also a more sociable world. E.g. elimination of the need for every household in the west to just about have one car per person when you could just book one for those special journeys which an enhanced public transport system could not cover (as they do in some cities around the world already although under this system you have to pay).

Interesting you mention the car example because it seems that car ownership is already earmarked for the dustbin of history even under capitalism.

"A growing number of tech analysts are predicting that in less than 20 years we'll all have stopped owning cars, and, what's more, the internal combustion engine will have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Yes, it's a big claim and you are right to be sceptical, but the argument that a unique convergence of new technology is poised to revolutionise personal transportation is more persuasive than you might think.

The central idea is pretty simple: Self-driving electric vehicles organised into an Uber-style network will be able to offer such cheap transport that you'll very quickly - we're talking perhaps a decade - decide you don't need a car any more.

And if you're thinking this timescale is wildly optimistic, just recall how rapidly cars replaced horses."

bbc.co.uk

We ought to be aware that the extent of the shift under communism will possibly be far beyond what we can now imagine. Perhaps initially there will be some inertia, some carryover from the past but this will quickly breakdown as capitalism is rapidly dismantled. Take away the threats, the blackmail for survival and people will start to workout what they really want. I would be surprised if free time did not appear as a high priority, perhaps the highest. There could well be a veritable rolling back of technology. Not out of some Unabomberesque desire to be rid of it all, but because the revolutionary process inevitably results in such localised disruption. What will subsequently be rebuilt, what will be worth salvaging, remains to be seen. Maybe we will be better off with bicycles than robot taxis...

Whilst we are thinking grand scheme of things...msn.com

Revolutionary Perspectives

Journal of the Communist Workers’ Organisation -- Why not subscribe to get the articles whilst they are still current and help the struggle for a society free from exploitation, war and misery? Joint subscriptions to Revolutionary Perspectives (3 issues) and Aurora (our agitational bulletin - 4 issues) are £15 in the UK, €24 in Europe and $30 in the rest of the World.