Last year Just Books – Belfast Anarchist Collective decided to take the step into publishing. As a result our first books, Constructive Anarchism is now in print and The Idea, is due to go to print. For more details see Forthcoming Titles.
Just Books Publishing has produced this edition of Gregori Petrovich Maximoff’s Constructive Anarchism to mark the 100th year of existence of the Anarcho-Syndicalist International Workers Association – founded in Berlin in 1922.
Available in its entirety for the first time since 1952, Maximoff’s book is largely informed by direct involvement in the anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist movements in Russia before and during the 1917 revolution. He witnessed first-hand the crushing of the revolution, not by international capitalism, but by the Bolshevik seizure of state power. Maximoff explores the development of international anarchism in the period since WWI before putting forward his vision of a practical and constructive anarchism. In doing so, he examines the origins of anarchism in the period of the First International, its role in the Russian revolution, and the formation and early development of the Anarcho-Syndicalist international, the International Worker’s Association. He deals crucially, and critically with the conclusions reached by Makhno, Arshinov, Mett and others in the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists (The Platform). This edition includes The Reply and The Platform, as Constructive Anarchism is primarily a historical defence of Anarcho-Syndicalism against both ‘Platformism’ and ‘Synthesist’ anarchism. The Reply was authored by a group of Russian anarchists in exile and represents a response to it by synthesist anarchists.
None of the documents presented here are ‘perfect’ in their analysis or content, rather they represent valuable historical documents in their own right. The debate over anarchism and organisation seems to remain doggedly unresolved, particularly in periods of splits, division, and low levels of class struggle. Yet the choice facing us is a stark one between destroying capitalism or facing destruction by it. The story of Constructive Anarchism as practiced by the IWA-AIT does not end with Maximoff’s book. It has continued over 100 years and continues to this day.
The new work by Nick Heath is a welcome edition to English language literature on Anarchist Communism. Nick has a long career as both an activist and historian in and of class struggle anarchism. As such this is not another academic study of a movement but a work produced for and by the movement from the perspective of a longstanding and dedicated comrade and activist.
Anarchist communism often hides in the shadows in the general works on anarchism available, only clearly emerging when the ideas of Kropotkin, Reclus and Malatesta are discussed. All too often, apart from the worthless speculations on various philosophers outside of the historic anarchist movement, anarchist communism is rejected as a poor relation to the mass movements launched by anarcho-syndicalism and revolutionary syndicalism. Others state that the accommodation of anarchist communism to syndicalism, made it a simple variant of anarcho-syndicalism, that it failed to discover the causes of the counter-revolution initiated by the Bolsheviks, and that it died as a credible current with the aftermaths of the Mexican and Russian Revolutions and that it was absorbed or replaced by anarcho-syndicalism. This book will seek to counter these assertions. Anarchist communism, as opposed to anarchist collectivism, is the only anarchist current that specifically argues for the end of the market economy and of exchange value. It has survived down to the present day and features as an important current in Russia, France, Latin America, Ukraine, China and Japan amongst other countries. This book seeks to rehabilitate the current of anarchist-communism and make it better known and understood; and to renovate and modernise it. It offers a prehistory of the idea, its origins in the First International and extensive chapters on the history of anarchist communism in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. As such it will be the first comprehensive work on anarchist communism, one where it is not side-lined or where it ends up as a footnote. As Brian Morris has correctly asserted, anarchist communism has been the main current within the body of anarchism and this book aims to stress that and to bring it out of the shadows.