Nestor Makhno. Platform, June 1926
The fundamental aim of the world of labour in struggle is the foundation, by means of revolution, of a free and equal communist society founded on the principle "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs".
However, this society will not come about of its own, only by the power of social upheaval. Its realisation will come about by a social revolutionary process, more or less drawn out, orientated by the organised forces of victorious labour in a determined path.
It is our task to indicate this path from this moment on, and to formulate positive, concrete problems that will occur to workers from the first day of the social revolution, the outcome of which depends upon their correct solution.
It is self evident that the building of the new society will only be possible after the victory of the workers over the bourgeois-capitalist system and over its representatives. It is impossible to begin the building of a new economy and new social relations while the power of the state defending the regime of enslavement has not been smashed, while workers and peasants have not seized, as the object of the revolution, the industrial and agricultural economy.
Consequently, the very first social revolutionary task is to smash the statist edifice of the capitalist system, to expropriate the bourgeoisie and in general all privileged elements of the means of power, and establish overall the will of the workers in revolt, as expressed by fundamental principles of the social revolution. This aggressive and destructive aspect of the revolution can only serve to clear the road for the positive tasks which form the meaning and essence of the social revolution.
These tasks are as follows:
Taking note of the fact that the country's industry is the result of the result of the efforts of several generations of workers, and that the diverse branches of industry are tightly bound together, we consider all actual production as a single workshop of producers, belonging totally to all workers together, and to no one in particular.
The productive mechanism of the country is global and belongs to the whole working class. This thesis determines the character and the forms of the new production. It will also be global, common in the sense that the products produced by the workers will belong to all. These products, of whatever category - the general fund of provisions for the workers - where each who participates in production will receive that which he needs, on an equal basis for everybody.
The new system of production will totally supplant the bureaucracy and exploitation in all their forms and establish in their place the principle of brotherly co- operation and workers solidarity.
The middle class, which in a modern capitalist society exercises intermediary functions - commerce etc., as well as the bourgeoisie, must take part in the new mode of production on the same conditions as all other workers. If not, these classes place themselves outside the society of labour.
There will be no bosses, neither entrepreneur, owner or state-appointed owner (as is the case today in the bolshevik state). Management will pass on this new production to the administration especially created by the workers: workers' soviets, factory committees or workers' management of works and factories. These organs, interlinked at the level of commune, district and finally general and federal management of production. Built by the masses and always under their control and influence, all these organs constantly renewed and realise the idea of self-management, real self- management, by the masses of the people.
Unified production, in which the means and products belong to all, having replaced bureaucracy by the principle of brotherly co-operation and having established equal rights for all work, production managed by the organs of workers' control, elected by the masses, that is the first practical step on the road to the realisation of libertarian communism.
This problem will appear during the revolution in two ways:
In that which concerns the distribution of consumer goods, the solution depends above all on the quantity of products available and on the principle of the agreement of targets.
The social revolution concerning itself with the reconstruction of the whole social order, takes on itself as well, the obligation to satisfy everyone's necessities of life. The sole exception is the group of non-workers - those who refuse to take part in the new production for counter- revolutionary reasons. But in general, excepting the last category of people, the satisfaction of the needs of everyone in the area of the revolution is assured by the general reserve of consumer goods. In the case of insufficient goods, they are divided according to the principle of the greatest urgency, that is to say in the first case to children, invalids and working families.
A far more difficult problem is that of organising the basis of consumption itself.
Without doubt, from the first day of the revolution, the farms will not provide all the products vital to the life of the population. At the same time, peasants have an abundance which the towns lack.
The libertarian communists have no doubt about the mutualist relationship which exists between the workers of the town and countryside. They judge that the social revolution can only be realised by the common efforts of workers and peasants. In consequence, the solution to the problem of consumption in the revolution can only be possible by means of close revolutionary collaboration between these two categories of workers.
To establish this collaboration, the urban working class having seized production must immediately supply the living needs of the country and strive to furnish the everyday products the means and implements for collective agriculture. The measures of solidarity manifested by the workers as regards the needs of the peasants, will provoke from them in return the same gesture, to provide the produce of their collective labour for the towns.
Worker and peasant co-operatives will be the primary organs assuring the towns and countryside their requirements in food and economic materials. later, responsible for more important and permanent functions, notably for supplying everything necessary for guaranteeing and developing the economic and social life of the workers and peasants, these co-operatives will be transformed into permanent organs for provisioning towns and countryside.
This solution to the problem of provisioning permits the proletariat to create a permanent stock of provision, which will have a favourable and decisive effect on the outcome of all new production.
In the solution of the agrarian question, we regard the principle revolutionary and creative forces to be the working peasants who do not exploit the labour of others- and the wage earning proletariat of the countryside. Their task will be to accomplish the redistribution of land in the countryside in order to establish the use and exploitation of the land on communist principles.
Like industry, the land, exploited and cultivated by successive generations of labourers, is the product of their common effort. It also belongs to all working people and to none in particular inasmuch as it is the inalienable and common property of the labourers, the land can never again be bought, nor sold, nor rented: it can therefore not serve as a means of the exploitation of others' labour.
The land is also a sort of popular and communal workshop, where the common people produce the means by which they live. But it is the kind of workshop where each labourer (peasant) has, thanks to certain historical conditions, become accustomed to carrying out his work alone, independent of other producers. Whereas, in industry the collective method of work is essential and the only possible way in our times, the majority of peasants cultivate the land on their own account.
Consequently, when the land and the means of its exploitation are taken over by the peasants, with no possibility of selling or renting, the question of the forms of the utilisation of it and the methods of its exploitation (communal or by family) will not immediately find a complete and definite solution, as it will in the industrial sector. Initially both of these methods will probably be used.
It will be the revolutionary peasants who themselves will establish the definitive term of exploitation and utilisation of the land. No outside pressure is possible in this question.
However, since we consider that only a communist society, in whose name after all the social revolution. will be made, delivers labourers from their position of slavery and exploitation and gives them complete liberty and equality; since the peasants constitute the vast majority of the population (almost 85% in Russia in the period under discussion) and consequently the agrarian regime which they establish will be the decisive factor in the destiny of the revolution; and since', lastly, a private economy in agriculture leads, as in private industry, to commerce, accumulation, private property and the restoration of capital - our duty will be to do everything necessary, as from now, to facilitate the solution of the agrarian question in a collective way.
To this end we must, as from now, engage in strenuous propaganda among the peasants in favour of collective agrarian economy.
The founding of a specifically libertarian peasant union will considerably facilitate this task.
In this respect, technical progress will be of enormous importance, facilitating the evolution of agriculture and also the realisation of communism in the towns, above all in industry. If, in their relations with the peasants, the industrial workers act, not individually or in separate groups, but as an immense communist collective embracing all the branches of industry; if, in addition, they bear in mind the vital needs of the countryside and if at the same time they supply each village with things for everyday use, tools and machines for the collective exploitation of the lands, this will impel the peasants towards communism in agriculture.
The question of the defence of the revolution is also linked to the problem of 'the first day'. Basically, the most powerful means for the defence of the revolution is the happy solution of its positive problems: production, consumption, and the land. Once these problems are correctly solved, no counter-revolutionary will be able to alter or unbalance the free society of workers. Nevertheless the workers will have to sustain a severe struggle against the enemies of the revolution, in order to maintain its concrete existence.
The social revolution, which threatens the privileges and the very existence of the non-working classes of society, will inevitably provoke a desperate resistance on behalf of these classes, which will take the form of a fierce civil war.
As the Russian experience showed, such a civil war will not be a matter of a few months, but of several years.
However joyful the first steps of the labourers at the beginning of the revolution, the ruling classes will retain an enormous capacity to resist for a long time. For several years they will launch offensives against the revolution, trying to reconquer the power and privileges of which they were deprived.
A large army, military techniques and strategy, capital - will all be thrown against the victorious labourers.
In order to preserve the conquests of the revolution, the labourers should create organs for the defence of the revolution, so as to oppose the reactionary offensive with a fighting force corresponding to the magnitude of the task. In the first days of the revolution, this fighting force will be formed by all armed workers and peasants. But this spontaneous armed force will only be valuable during the first days, before the civil war reaches its highest point and the two parties in struggle have created regularly constituted military organisations.
In the social revolution the most critical moment is not during the suppression of Authority, but following, that is, when the forces of the defeated regime launch a general offensive against the labourers, and when it is a question of safeguarding the conquests under attack. The very character of this offensive, just as the technique and development of the civil war, will oblige the labourers to create determined revolutionary military contingents. The essence and fundamental principles of these formations must be decided in advance. Denying the statist and authoritarian methods of government, we also deny the statist method of organising the military forces of the labourers, in other words the principles of a statist army based on obligatory military service. Consistent with the fundamental positions of libertarian communism, the principle of voluntary service must be the basis of the military formations of labourers. The detachments of insurgent partisans, workers and peasants, which led the military action in the Russian revolution, can be cited as examples of such formations.
However, "voluntary service" and the action of partisans should not be understood in the narrow sense of the word, that is as a struggle of worker and peasant detachments against the local enemy, unco-ordinated by a general plan of operation and each acting on its own responsibility, at its own risk. The action and tactics of the partisans in the period of their complete development should be guided by a common revolutionary strategy.
As in all wars, the civil war cannot be waged by the labourers with success unless they apply the two fundamental principles of all military action: unity in the plan of operations and unity of common command. The most critical moment of the revolution will come when the bourgeoisie march against the revolution in organised force. This critical moment obliges the labourers to adopt these principles of military strategy.
Thus, in view of the necessities imposed by military strategy and also the strategy of the counter-revolution the armed forces of the revolution should inevitably be based on a general revolutionary army with a common command and plan of operations. The following principles form the basis of this army':
In other words, the organ of the defence of the revolution, responsible for combating the counter-revolution. on major military fronts as well as on an internal front (bourgeois plots, preparation for counter-revolutionary action). will be entirely under the jurisdiction of the productive organisations of workers and peasants. to which it will submit, and by which it will receive its political direction.
Note: while it should be conducted in conformity with definite libertarian communist principles, the army itself should not he considered a point of principle. It is but the consequence of military strategy in the revolution, a strategic measure to which the labourers are fatally forced by the very process of the civil war. But this measure must attract attention as from now. It must he carefully studied in order to avoid any irreparable set-backs in the work of protecting and defending the revolution, for set-backs in the civil war could prove disastrous to the outcome of the whole social revolution.