The points that follow are addressed to the part of the movement for self-management that claims to exist within the anarchist movement. Personally, I do not believe that it exists at all. In fact, in areas where traces of an embryo of it might seem to exist, they turn out to be quite the opposite. Of course, this could be considered to be quite an arbitrary assumption, but a moment of reflection should help to clarify the matter.
It is not enough for anarchists to build some kind of structure, be it a squat, a libertarian school, an alternative bank, or a food or services coop, for the latter to be considered self-managed. It must also have a libertarian basis. And this essential element cannot be a simple declaration of principles or a symbol. In other words it is not enough for a social centre simply to call itself anarchist in order for it really to be such. Two more elements are required.
The first is that, in order really to be anarchist, the activity the structure tends towards must be irreducibly aimed at attacking power in all its forms.
The second is that the structure itself must remain quite decisively separate from power. In other words, never come to any agreement in order to receive financing, facilities or anything else.
This is no idle question. We are not talking of the sex of angels, but of something quite practical.
If a structure is against all institutions it cannot strike up an agreement with any of them. If it did, it would cease to be against them, that is to say, cease to be revolutionary or anarchist.
The same goes for the whole movement for ‘self-management’.
So what is this movement based on? It is based on a political phenomenon which is becoming more and more evident each day. Power does not just need humiliated, oppressed servants. It also needs people who, believing themselves to be free, unwittingly contribute to the management of society.
Think of the important role played by voluntary associations today. Areas of recuperation in terms of the maintenance and management of power are widening through structures that are in harmony with the institutions, in spite of their alternative critique of society.
If these interests were to change, or if the action of self-managed structures were really to become a threat, the agreements would disintegrate in a flash and power would revert to its last card: brute repression.
But what would these comrades, disarmed for years by their chatter, agreements and absurd fantasies about living in common, have at their disposal to struggle against such repression?
On the other hand, the projects of the structures managed by various Marxist and non-Marxist fringes who label themselves the ‘area of Autonomy’ are quite different. Here recognition of the institutions and an open, programmed dialogue with the latter corresponds to a strategy in the medium and long term, a strategy that is essentially political and covers the whole of social reality. This (in spite of its theoretical stupidity) at least has the value of being consistent with the (quite out of reach) objective they want to reach, that of taking over and managing political power.
But what has all that got to do with anarchists?
[Original title: Un movimento dell’autogestione? , in “Canenero”, no. 1, 28 October 1994. English translation by Jean Weir published in "Let's destroy work, let's destroy economy", Elephant Editions, London.]