The Revolutionary Situation

Those with a cursory knowledge of social theory often sneer at "outmoded conceptions of the barricades", etc. when such conceptions are (if one may coin a word) hardly ever in-moded. The view of anarcho-syndicalists has always been that the essential social transformation is that which takes place at the point of production. This may well be accompanied outside by clashes with authority. Such is unavoidable, but it is not the revolution; indeed the clashes can come without any revolution taking place, as has often been the case in France, for instance.

What is in fact the revolution is the occupation of the places of work, and the lock-out of the employing class, so that production continues according to the wishes of those engaged in the industry. This is the general strike as a revolutionary weapon. A general strike can serve many purposes, such as being the last stage of a sympathetic strike, or for the enforcement of social or economic demands. As well as strikes against lowered living conditions, or for the defence of living standards, there have been general strikes for the defence of civil liberties or against militarism or dictatorship. Naturally the general strike is not something that can always be invoked like "abracadabra" nor have Anarchists ever suggested this to be the case.

A recent criticism I read of Anarcho-Syndicalism suggested that we believed in the myth of a General Strike like a Messianic change that would alter all society for evermore. Yet nearly twenty years ago this was cited as follows: "The ridiculous claim, which is so often attributed to the Anarcho-Syndicalists, that it is only necessary to proclaim a general strike in order to achieve a Socialist society in a few days, is of course, just a silly invention of evil-minded opponents bent on discrediting an idea which they cannot attack by any other means". (R. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice, 1936.) This view of anarcho-syndicalism and the general strike belongs to the fabrications of Parliamentary Socialists in the pre-World War I years. We do not say that any general strike can lead to revolutionary change, but that in order to have a revolutionary change, social transformation - by means of a general stay-in strike - is essential.

However, in order for this transformation to take place, it is first necessary for the workers to want the change, and consciously to organise the change-over. The essential task of the moment, therefore is the building up of an industrial organisation, which should not be directed by any party or group, but come spontaneously from the workers at the place of work. Once such a task has begun, there is no need to deplore lack of any revolutionary situation, for such opportunities come frequently without the "plots" beloved of the writers of criminal romances. Since the war we have seen such situations existent in many countries: first of all, Italy after the fall of Mussolini, when the workers were occupying the places of work; then Rumania and Bulgaria before the grip of the Red Army became too strong; Poland, where the workers had once attempted to seize control of the factories while the Nazis were still there; France in the post-war crisis; finally Korea, where some occupation of the workshops took place before the two rival imperialisms set out to fight each other and, incidentally, destroy the Koreans.

In all these cases, had there been a revolutionary movement able to seize the economy at the critical moment, the governmental authority might have been resisted whether they labelled themselves "democratic" or "new democratic". At the moment there is more possibility in this country that we shall be faced with a revolutionary situation than there is the possibility that at such a moment the workers will be ready to respond with a general stay-in strike with the clear-cut objective of a free society.

But this can happen and it is the aim of the Anarcho-Syndicalists that it will happen.

From: The Syndicalist April 1953 .