Communalist Especifism

11/09/19

Communalism:

Communalism is rooted in the development of horizontalist democratic community assemblies. Communalism is a “revolutionary political theory and practice, deeply rooted in the general socialist tradition” that would not just seek to create cooperative relations but forms that “confront capital and the basic structures of state power” (5). Communalist assemblies have bylaws, constitutions, and structures that embody terms of practice rooted in libertarian socialist principles. Such principles include but are not limited to Non-hierarchy, Direct Democracy, Co-federation, and Ecology. Community assemblies–and co-federations thereof– make policies that can be implemented by participatory committees and delegates that are mandated by community assemblies and immediately recallable by community assemblies. Embedded committees and delegates of horizontalist community assemblies do not have policy making power over and above community assemblies (1). Embedded committees of assemblies self manage within the mandates from below. Communalist assemblies have decision making processes rooted in deliberation, and cooperative conflict, and direct democracy to come to collective decisions. More specifically, under communalism political economic decisions are made through non-hierarchical laws and structures, in communal assemblies, through deliberation, with a majority vote when there is not full agreement, within free association in tandem with webs of non-hierarchical rights and responsibilities. Such community assemblies could create embedded committees and auxiliary collectives, while also planning direct actions and mutual aid projects, while additionally helping with popular education. Communalist assemblies–and co-federations thereof– would link up together to do both oppositional and reconstructive politics at the points of extraction, production, reproduction, distribution, consumption, and at the point of the community sphere. Communalist assemblies would also prefigure such assemblies as forms of governance to exist in a post revolutionary society–rather than merely forms to bring about a revolution or merely forms for after the revolution. Communalist economics would rooted in communal assemblies, fields, factories, and workshops, production for needs, distribution according to needs, and the sharing of self-managed work needed to reproduce daily life assisted by liberatory technology.

Especifism and Communalism:

Communalism and especifism are both libertarian communist tendencies. They share an ethical, organizational, and strategic orientation in regards to direct democracy, anti-hierarchy, federalism, distribution according to needs, and revolutionary politics. The focus both tendencies have on libertarian governance (rather than no governance) prior to, during, and after revolutions place both tendencies firmly in the organizational branch of anti-state socialism. Despite encompassing a majority of anarchism’s history–and the majority of anarchism’s victories– the most organizational branches of anti state socialism are not considered anarchism proper by a significant number of anarchists and non-anarchists alike.

Especifist praxis is rooted in, “1. The need for specifically anarchist organization built around a unity of ideas and praxis. 2. The use of the specifically anarchist organization to theorize and develop strategic political and organizing work 3. Active involvement in and building of autonomous and popular social movements, which is described as the process of “social insertion.” (3). The specific ideological agreements especifist groups have include libertarian socialist/communist principles as well as some dimensions that platformists share such as theoretical unity, tactical unity, federalism and collective responsibility. However, that agreement with platformism does not mean complete agreement to everything written in the original platform– which was written in regards to a very specific revolutionary context involving military action (4). Furthermore, especifism has made advances compared to traditional platformism in regards to its theory of what the relationship between ideologically libertarian socialists specific groups and broader social movements should be– in part by going way beyond relationships of ideologically specific libertarian socialist groups to labor unions into a broader conception of organizations and social movements against hierarchy (3). This makes especifist groups well suited for helping community assemblies and daily struggles in and out of the workplace. The ways especifist groups can start and catalyze community assemblies is something that has already developed in practice by especifists (3). Furthermore, especifist groups use strategic unity (not just tactical unity) based on common analysis, shared theory and social insertion to get from here to a libertarian socialist revolution (3).

Social insertion has a very advanced and practical understanding of how the relationships between ideologically specific organizations and social movements groups should function. Especifists center their strategy of social change around a mutualistic relationship between ideologically specific libertarian communist groups and broader social movements. As the Black Rose Federation article “Building a Revolutionary Anarchism” (2) describes and prescribes: There should be dual membership within ideologically specific libertarian socialist organizations and within popular organizations. Doing so puts libertarian socialists in contact with broader populations than merely themselves. Within such movements, libertarian socialists should advocate for practices of horizontalist democracy, direct action, anti capitalism, and class struggle to further the goals of social movements–as well as argue for such positions when they are minority positions as active minorities furthering libertarian socialist practice. Especifist groups are in favor of popularizing libertarian socialist practice in large part teaching by demonstration. Such a process can help make libertarian socialism relevant to the lives of people struggling towards liberatory goals of various kinds in class struggle and daily struggle in and out of the workplace. Such a process can combine revolutionary organizing with popular organizing. Especifist groups and libertarian socialists–and various groups centered around such theory and/or practice– should help social movements by enabling them to access their greatest strength: the capacity of thousands of people thinking and acting together (which can be better unleashed through direct democracy). Hierarchical organizations inhibit participation from people involved, whereas directly democratic organizing can give people more ways to participate meaningfully. Without a class struggle perspective, social movements wind up making the wrong alliances and not engaging in the kinds of oppositional actions that are needed for revolution–defanging the social movements and disempowering membership. Libertarian socialists need social movements to ground libertarian socialism in popular movements and among the working class, the dispossessed, and oppressed more broadly, to learn organizational skills, to develop better praxis, and to minimize the disconnect between libertarian socialism and the general public. When doing so, it is important to not unnecessarily go against the tide– libertarian socialists should find the already existing common values and practices within popular organizations and social movements and then work to develop that already existing libertarian socialist and anti-hierarchical thrust (3). An essential part of social insertion is to unite people in the social movement along such libertarian socialist practice– not necessarily getting any specific person to proclaim any specific ideology– although such social insertion would spread theory as well through dialogue. Popular education collectives can help supplement especifist groups, communalist assemblies, and broader social movements by spreading and popularizing good theory and critical thinking.

Communalist assemblies (rather than mere community assemblies) are popular assemblies in the community sphere that also have a coherent form and content– that at least follows from minimal libertarian socialist principles in conjunction with a community sphere and communal self-governance. Communalist assemblies are distinct from other kinds of popular organizations that primarily organize around specific workplace struggles and at the point of production such as syndicalist approaches. Communalist assemblies are also distinct from ideologically specific groups. Communalist assemblies do not require a shared ideology between individuals even though they necessarily have to have a shared terms of practice between people (which can be expressed in bylaws, bills of rights, structures, short term and long term programs of groups, or even points of unity for practice, etc.). Such practices are of course theory laden, and can be evaluated by theory. Furthermore the overall content of social movements and popular organizations is improved by the popularization of good theories, propositional knowledge, and practical knowledge. Communalist assemblies are designed to be much more inclusive compared to especifist groups–although especifist groups should seek popularity within the terms that make them ethical and effective without sacrificing their coherence and functionality to a false unity. Through having a coherent theoretical and strategic unity, especifist groups have functions such as assisting and developing self-managed popular organizations, advocating for libertarian socialist practices such as direct democracy, direct action, and mutual aid to further more immediate goals of social movements, popularizing libertarian socialist praxis, while also aiming towards a long term goal of libertarian communism.

Communalists want community assemblies as revolutionary forms and also want the economy to be politicized– that is for the means of production, including land in use, to be put into the hands of co-federated communal assemblies that have embedded participatory councils that implement decisions within the mandate made from below (where all policy making power resides). Especifists are often, but by no means always, working with or in favor of communal forms of freedom that are either identical to or similar to the ones advocated for and practiced by communalists. Especifist groups have been more pluralistic than communalists in regards to the visions of a post-revolutionary economy as well as keystone revolutionary forms that they advocate, develop, and participate in. Often times especifist groups organize with and/or favor syndicalist formations and workers’ councils– but other times they might organize with and/or favor commune formations. Although working with various groups–communal assemblies, syndicalist unions and workers’ councils, issue specific movements and organizations, etc.– can make sense towards developing a revolution, a modest appeal for communalism would be that the communalist political economy should be developed overtime because 1. Without a communalist political economy power is privatized over and above direct communities into segmented fields that make decisions over and above people affected by such economic matters 2. Self management within egalitarian bounds should be in every sphere including the communal sphere which necessitates a co-federated communal economy 3. That our means should be consistent with or conducive to such development. 4. Additionally, on a strategic level, communalism can organize oppositional and reconstructive politics at points of extraction, production, distribution, reproduction, consumption and community life.

Towards Communalist Especifism:

Especifism is in favor of interfacing with popular organizations and social movements in a productive way as illustrated in the above section and as talked about in detail in the brilliant text “Social Anarchism and Organization” by FARJ. A communalist especifist group would be in favor of social insertion and also view communalist assemblies as keystone organizations to be developed. Such communalist assemblies would be keystone organizations for both ethical and strategic reasons: an ethical (and strategic) reason being that developing communalist assemblies is necessary for egalitarian self management in every sphere, some strategic (and ethical) reasons being that such assemblies are radically flexible to working on oppositional and reconstructive politics in every sphere and are able to be especially mutualistic towards other liberatory collectives and projects.

Communalist assemblies could help other groups and social movements in regards to specific issues and struggles with both solidarity actions and capacity while in turn gaining support from social movements for future common actions. Expanding capacity of communalist assemblies would fuel projects of communalist assemblies as well as other liberatory social movements communalist assemblies become in solidarity with. Although it will often make sense for communalist especifists to be developing community assembly projects, communalist especifists should also organize with other kinds of liberatory groups and social movements to advocate for practices of direct action, direct democracy, opposition to hierarchy, and class struggle. That would help with maximizing overall participation and capacity of people involved in movements–and help qualify such participation through good terms of practice– to further the liberatory goals of social movements as well as the goal of developing libertarian socialism. In the process of struggle, it might make sense to add support to various groups and movements with solidarity from community assemblies if they exist, if such help is wanted, and if community assemblies are willing to help. Sometimes it can make sense to start community assemblies in the process of achieving some specific goal as part of some issue specific social movement.

Communalist especifists would advocate for and develop community assemblies as part of a social movement ecosystem, and also advocate for and develop direct action, direct democracy, class struggle, and opposition to hierarchy within community assemblies and other groups and movements. This would help to generalize good praxis within an ecosystem of social movement groups and emerging popular assemblies which can interact together when it strategically makes sense for specific struggles and goals. The communalist assemblies would be popular anti-state political organizations rooted in libertarian socialist practice on a community scale and the communalist especifist groups would be ideologically specific and tight knit advancing libertarian socialist practice and communalist practice within social movements and popular organizations through social insertion– with a focus on working with and developing community assemblies and also working on other fronts as it makes sense according to context. Although it makes sense to do social insertion in more than one group and more than one front at a time, It is important for communalist especifist groups and persons within them to not “step on each other’s toes” through incompatible strategies, or “spread themselves to thin”, by “all rowing in different directions”. Communalist especifist groups, rather than instrumentalizing social movements and groups to their rule, would be instrumentalized to establishing, catalyzing, and helping the self-management of communalist assemblies and other liberatory movements and groups.


There is a distinction between community assemblies and communalist assemblies. Whereas a community assembly is merely an assembly on a community sphere, a communalist assembly has additional qualifiers on top of being an assembly on the community scale. Communalist assemblies have a form and content that is qualified by a gestalt of libertarian socialist practices. Communalist especifists in large part help community assemblies flourish into communalist assemblies through social insertion.


Especifists sometimes call the level of ideologically specific organization that they are involved with political and they often call other kinds of organizing social (4). This is distinct from the way communalists would use the term political. For communalists, politics refers to city management– and libertarian socialist politics would entail egalitarian participatory forms of community governance. Politics can be contrasted to statecraft through the state necessarily being hierarchical and politics potentially being non-hierarchical. There is nothing in city management itself that necessitates a ruling class. In this sense, communalist organizations are anti statist forms of political organizations (that have some specific qualifiers for them to be communalist assemblies and not merely community assemblies) that can be a part of and in relation to yet distinguished from mere social movements without adjectives. Social movements can include a plurality of organizations from assembly projects, to workers’ councils, to affinity groups, to direct action collectives and networks, mutual aid collectives and networks, popular education collectives, etc. Communalist especifists groups would practice development of social insertion within social movements more broadly, and also practice social insertion within community assemblies more specifically to develop communalist assemblies. Using the communalist categorization of politics, Especifism is of course political, as in related to politics, but so are social movements. An alternative categorical framing for Especifist groups–consistent with how communalists use the term politics– is to say that they operate on an ideologically specific political level which is not equivalent to a political level more broadly as in relationship to city management–or the political level more specifically as a potentially non-hierarchical public sphere for communal deliberation and decisions about city management.

Endnotes:

  1. http://social-ecology.org/wp/2002/09/harbinger-vol-3-no-1-the-communalist-project/

  2. http://blackrosefed.org/building-a-revolutionary-anarchism/

  3. http://blackrosefed.org/especifismo-weaver/

  4. http://anarkismo.net/article/22146

  5. https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/murray-bookchin-toward-a-communalist-approach

  6. https://libcom.org/library/social-anarchism-organisation