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Organisation and Social Force

category brazil/guyana/suriname/fguiana | anarchist movement | policy statement author Saturday February 11, 2012 16:30author by Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro - FARJ Report this post to the editors
Previously we dealt with that which we understand as the organisation of capitalism and the state, seeking to map out “where we are”; and the organisation of libertarian socialism, trying to specify “where we want to reach”. To complete the discussion on organisation it will be necessary to expand a bit on social movements and the popular organisation, as well as on the specific anarchist organisation; two different levels of action that will seek to answer [the question], “how do we think we can leave where we are and arrive where we want to be”, completing indispensable elements for our permanent strategy. As Malatesta nicely summarised, “[...] organisation in general as the principle and condition of social life, today, and in the future society; organisation of the anarchist party and organisation of popular forces”.



[...] ten, twenty or thirty men, understanding well,
being well-organised and who know
where they are going, will easily carry
one hundred, two hundred or even more.

Mikhail Bakunin

Previously we dealt with that which we understand as the organisation of capitalism and the state, seeking to map out “where we are”; and the organisation of libertarian socialism, trying to specify “where we want to reach”. To complete the discussion on organisation it will be necessary to expand a bit on social movements and the popular organisation, as well as on the specific anarchist organisation; two different levels of action that will seek to answer [the question], “how do we think we can leave where we are and arrive where we want to be”, completing indispensable elements for our permanent strategy. As Malatesta nicely summarised, “[...] organisation in general as the principle and condition of social life, today, and in the future society; organisation of the anarchist party and organisation of popular forces” [82].

For us, the social transformation we want to take place passes, necessarily, through the construction of the popular organisation, through the progressive increase in its social force until the moment at which it would be possible to overthrow capitalism and the state with social revolution and open the way to libertarian socialism. Furthermore, we argue that the popular organisation must be accompanied by a parallel development of the specific anarchist organisation, which should influence it, giving to it the desired character. Going forward we will have further discussions on each of these and on the interaction between one another. At the moment, what is essential is for us to assume that there is no way of thinking about this necessary transformation without organisation and the progressive growth of social force.

We understand today’s society as the result of a relationship of forces, or even a permanent conflict – which takes the form of class struggle – between capitalism, the state and other diverse political forces; and that the former are strengthened, that is, manage to have a greater social force than the latter and, thus, establish power. In this sense capitalism and the state exert oppression over other political forces that constitute resistance to them.

This resistance can occur in different ways, some constituting greater or smaller political forces, and others not constituting political forces. “Resistance can be passive (when the agent has no action against the power that represses them) or active (when the power suffers retaliations on the part of the subjugated); isolated (it has an individual character) or articulated (collective force)” [83]. Passive resistance does not constitute a political force and isolated resistance possesses little social force. Therefore, in order to attain our objectives we advocate active and articulated resistance which seeks in organisation the permanent increase of social force. For the construction of this resistance it is necessary to align with those that are in agreement with our proposal for social transformation.

If we want to move forward, if we want to do something more than that which permanently isolates each one of us, we must know with which particular comrades we can be in agreement, and with which we disagree. This is especially necessary when we speak of action, of movement, of methods with which it is necessary to work with many hands in order to be able to obtain some results that go in our direction [84].
What we can today call “order” or status-quo is the organisation of capitalism and the state, which may or may not consider other political forces that provide a threat. To be disorganised, poorly organised or isolated means not to constitute an adequate resistance to capitalism and the state and, consequently, not managing to significantly increase the social force of the organisation that must have as an objective to replace them with libertarian socialism. We can say that “whoever doesn’t organise themselves, who doesn’t seek the co-operation of others and does not offer theirs under conditions of reciprocity and solidarity, puts themselves necessarily in a state of inferiority and remains an unconscious gear in the social mechanism that others operate in their way, and to their advantage” [85]. Disorganisation, poor organisation and isolation, in fact, end up supporting capitalism and the state – seeing as though they do not allow for the construction of the necessary social force. By not taking part, in an appropriate manner, in the relation of force or the permanent conflict of society you end up reproducing “order”. Thus, “if we do not seek well articulated organisation and association we will end up not managing to exercise any influence in struggles, and consequently in today’s society” [86]. Thus,
those that do not have the means or sufficiently developed consciousness to organise themselves freely with those who have interests and sentiments in common, suffer the organisation built by other individuals, generally constituted into a ruling class or group in order to exploit, for their own benefit, the labour of others. And the age-old oppression of the masses by a small number of privileged people has always been the consequence of the inability of most individuals to put themselves in agreement and organise themselves with other workers for the production, enjoyment and eventual defence against those that want to exploit and oppress them. [...] To remain isolated, each one acting or wanting to act on their own, without understanding with others, without preparation, without uniting the weak forces of individuals into a powerful bunch means to condemn oneself to impotence, wasting one’s own energy on small acts without efficiency and rapidly losing faith in the objective and falling into complete inaction [87].
Disorganisation and poor organisation are reproduced on the social level – of social movements, in which one should build and develop the popular organisation – with the difficulty of accumulating social force, causing the natural spontaneity of this level not to manage to carry out the set of desired social transformations. At the political level – of anarchism, in which one should develop the specific anarchist organisation – with the difficulty of influencing the social level to have adequate ways and means. Isolation and individualism causes that neither the political nor social levels exist in a desirable manner, articulating neither the popular nor anarchist organisation. Besides this disorganisation, poor organisation and isolation are hindering factors for the establishment of libertarian socialism, as we believe that it can only be built with a lot of organisation.

Organisation means the co-ordination of forces, or “association with a common objective and with the necessary ways and means to achieve this objective” [88]. In this way, we must think of ways and means for the popular organisation such that it can overthrow capitalism and the state, and, by means of the social revolution build libertarian socialism – its objective. At the same time, we must think of ways and means for the specific anarchist organisation such that this can build the popular organisation and influence it, giving to it the desired character and arriving at libertarian socialism by means of the social revolution – its objective. Next we discuss in more detail these two levels of organisation. Firstly we we will discuss the social level, in which social movements operate and in which we must seek to build the popular organisation. Then the political level and the development of the specific anarchist organisation.

When we speak about social force it is important for us to define what we understand by this term. We believe that every individual, as the social agent that they are, naturally possesses a social force that is the energy that can be applied in order to achieve their objectives. This force varies from one person to another and even in the same person over a period of time. To achieve their objectives, individuals frequently make use of instruments that can increase their social force. Many things can be used to increase social force, such as: weapons, information, training, adequate techniques, resource optimisation, persuasion, machines etc. However, the most important instrument for this is organisation; which can happen in an authoritarian way, by means of domination, or in a libertarian way, by means of free association.

In an authoritarian organisation the social force of diverse agents (for example in the state with an army, or in a company with salaried labour) is alienated, putting them in a position of domination in relation to the organisation (in these cases the state and the boss), and causing them to contribute to an alien objective, different to their own. This is exactly how the social force of the current system is constituted today, that is, by means of the alienation of diverse agents that contribute to the goals of capitalism, which are not the same as theirs. In a libertarian organisation it is free association, or anti-authoritarian organisation, that produces the increase of social force – it always being associated with other instruments.

Organisation that takes the form of free association is indispensable to our project of social transformation because, when individuals work together, their social force is not simply the sum of individual forces, but much more than this. We look at the example of Proudhon in order to explain the matter. “Two hundred workers set the obelisk of Luxor on its base in a few hours; do you suppose that one man could have accomplished the same task in two hundred days? [89]. Certainly not, because there is an “immense strength that results from the union and harmony of workers, of the convergence and concurrence of their efforts” [90]. In the example above the organisation of the workers gave them a collective force, enabling a greater result than the simple sum of individual results. Thus, we can conclude that to be able to carry out our project of social transformation association is fundamental because it is through it, and only through it, that we will be able to accumulate the social force necessary to overthrow capitalism and the state.

However, for the necessary permanent gain in social force that must occur in this anti-authoritarian form of organisation, both at the level of popular organisation as well as at the level of the anarchist organisation, we recognise to be fundamental

[...] a certain discipline, not automatic, but voluntary and reflected, being perfectly in accord with the freedom of individuals, was and will be necessary whenever many individuals, freely united, undertake a collective job or action. This discipline is no more than the voluntary and reflected agreement of all individual efforts towards a common end. At the moment of action, in the midst of struggle, roles are divided naturally according to the aptitudes of each one, appreciated and judged by the whole collective: some direct and order, others execute orders. But no function is petrified, neither is it fixed nor irrevocably linked to any person. Levels and hierarchical promotion do not exist, such that the commander of yesterday may be the subordinate of today. No one is elevated above the others, or, if they are elevated, it is only to fall in the next instant, as waves in the sea, always returning to a healthy level of equality [91].
Obviously this discipline must not “follow the authoritarian model, both in the oppression of members [...] as well as by way [of] charges, that [...] should also consider respect and ethics. [...] It is a great concern for us to differentiate the self-discipline that we promote here from military discipline, exploitative and oppressive in essence and that, from our point of view, does not follow different paths to other authoritarianisms that we know well” [92]. In order to differentiate the discipline much preached by the authoritarians from the discipline that we advocate, we choose to use the term self-discipline, affirming that “self-discipline is the motor of the self-managed organisation” [93]; it being for us, together with commitment and responsibility, indispensable for the construction of an anti-authoritarian organisation that aims to increase its social force. This self-discipline, in our view, is less in the popular organisation and greater in the specific anarchist organisation, varying according to the context. In periods of greater social turbulence the need for this self-discipline increases. In times of ebb, it can be smaller.

For us, as we have emphasised, the objective of the popular organisation as a form of active and articulated resistance is, progressively increasingly its social force, “to overthrow capitalism and the state and, by means of the social revolution, to build libertarian socialism”. This increase of social force can be achieved with various instruments, but primarily the organisation of the exploited classes with the greatest number of people possible and a good level of organisation – which necessarily implies self-discipline, commitment and responsibility. Moreover, as we have also already defined, the objective of the specific anarchist organisation is “to build the popular organisation and influence it, giving to it the desired character, and to arrive at libertarian socialism by means of the social revolution”. For this the specific organisation must constitute itself as an organisation of active anarchist minority with a high level of self-discipline, commitment and responsibility. Conceived in this way, “organisation, far from creating authority, is the only remedy against it and the only means by which each one of us becomes accustomed to taking an active and conscious part in the collective work” [94].


82. Errico Malatesta. "A Organização I". In: Escritos Revolucionários. São Paulo, Imaginário, 2000, p. 49. For Malatesta anarchist party is the same thing as the specific anarchist organisation.

83. Fabio López López. Poder e Domínio: uma visão anarquista, p. 75.

84. Luigi Fabbri. "A Organização Anarquista". In: Anarco-Comunismo Italiano. São Paulo, Luta Libertária, s/d, p. 109.

85. Errico Malatesta. "A Organização das Massas Operárias Contra o Governo e os Patrões". In: Escritos Revolucionários, p. 39.

86. FARJ. "A Propriedade é um Roubo". In: Protesta! 4, p. 7.

87. Errico Malatesta. "La Organización". Exert from Pensiero e Volontà, 16 of May, 1925. In: Vernon Richards. Op. Cit. pp. 83-85.

88. Idem. "A Organização I". In: Escritos Revolucionários, p. 51.

89. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. "1ere. Memoire sur la Proprieté". In: A Nova Sociedade, p. 35.

90. Ibid.

91. Mikhail Bakunin. "Táctica e Disciplina do Partido Revolucionário". In: Conceito de Liberdade, pp. 198-199.

92. FARJ. "Reflexões Sobre o Comprometimento, a Responsabilidade e a Autodisciplina".

93. Ibid.

94. Errico Malatesta. "A Organização II". In: Escritos Revolucionários, p. 59.

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