An Anarchist FAQ version 15.3 released (26/11/2019)

An Anarchist FAQ (AFAQ) is now at version 15.3. This release is a revision of the appendix on refuting the various Leninist arguments which seek to explain the failure of the Russian Revolution in terms of "objective factors":

What caused the degeneration of the Russian Revolution?

    1 Do anarchists ignore the objective factors facing the Russian revolution?
    2 Can "objective factors" really explain the failure of Bolshevism?
    3 Can the civil war explain the failure of Bolshevism?
    4 Did economic collapse and isolation destroy the revolution?
    5 Was the Russian working class atomised or "declassed"?
    6 Did the Bolsheviks blame "objective factors" for their actions?
    7 What role does "objective factors" play in Leninist ideology?
    8 Do Leninists usually deny the importance of ideology?

This revision, as well as correcting various typos, expands on the issues being discussed and re-arranges some of the previous material (most obviously, by moving it into two new sections -- 7 and 8). It is part of the one on The Russian Revolution, of which the first section is a still incomplete and all bar one needs revision (so far, only Were any of the Bolshevik oppositions a real alternative? has been revised).

Some context is needed to explain these appendices. All were originally going to be part of section H but this was shortened considerably as it would have made that section -- and so volume 2 of AFAQ -- impossibly long. Moreover, section H has changed considerably compared to the original plan -- it is probably the most modified section in this regard. Likewise, when AFAQ was originally envisioned (in the early 1990s), the Leninist-left was far more significant than they are now. As such, refuting their claims was considered more important then than they would be now, if AFAQ was being started now. The Bolshevik Myth has fewer adherents these days, although they do still remain. As such, there is not appear to be the same pressing need as once was the case.

The aim is still to complete and revise all the appendices -- but when is still a moot-point. Particularly as much of what the one on the Russian Revolution covers is already discussed in section H, particularly in section H.6. However, there is still a lot of material to go through and as these are appendices, the necessity is not as pressing as the main body of AFAQ. Given that much of the arguments are now within the main body of AFAQ, this appendix can be considered as a supplement to section H.6.1 and section H.6.3. This builds upon and expands upon the arguments and evidence presented there -- such as presenting more details of working class collective protest under the Bolsheviks before, during and after the civil war.

The 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolutions came and went two years ago, with those willing to defend the regime far fewer in number than when AFAQ> was started. Ironically, the collapse of Stalinism also lead to the collapse of the various Trotskyist groupings (which suggests a parasitic situation with the anti-Stalinist Leninists not surviving the end of its host). This does not mean these groupings have disappeared -- far from it -- but rather their influence is now less. Still, it is possible that these groupings can resurface (after all, Maoism and Stalinism have re-appeared to a small extent in America) and so exposing the limitations of Bolshevik ideology and its various excuses is useful, if not as pressing as it once was.

Still, we have the legacy of Bolshevism and the awkward fact for Trotskyists of all kinds that both Lenin and Trotsky described their regime -- a state-capitalist party dictatorship, just like under Stalin -- as "socialist." Indeed, on 18th of November 1919, Lenin proclaimed that the "organisation of the communist activity of the proletariat and the entire policy of the Communists have now acquired a final, lasting form; I am certain that we are on the right path and that progress along that path is fully ensured." [Collected Works, vol. 30, p. 144] In terms of social relations, the regime was identical -- one-man management in the workplace (as, if not more, autocratic as under capitalism) imposed by a party dictatorship within a state marked by an extensive bureaucracy and the related abuses and privileges all these would be expected to create.

Hence the pressing need in Leninist circles to move the discussion away from this, from the policies and politics which imposed this regime and hence the raising of the "objective factors" we discuss in this appendix. As we show, these arguments by pro-Bolsheviks have little merit and have traction simply because they are so often repeated -- and knowledge of what happened during the Russian Revolution was much less than it is now. In this sense, modern radicals are in a better position than those 100 years ago when information on the regime was limited and often spread by enemies of all forms of socialism, whether libertarian or authoritarian. However, we can proudly note that libertarian socialists saw through the Bolshevik Myth and warned the world's working class of its danger long before Stalin seized power -- indeed, many of the texts on this subject which are much-quoted in AFAQ have been collected in a single book: Bloodstained: One Hundred Years of Leninist Counterrevolution (AK Press, 2017).

Finally, the next revision of AFAQ should take place in the new year and will be a revision of the partner appendix to this one, namely "How did Bolshevik ideology contribute to the failure of the Revolution?".