Platformism is a tendency (or organized school of thought) within the anarchist movement. It stresses the need for tightly organized anarchist organizations that are able to influence working class and peasant movements.

"Platformist" groups reject the model of Leninist vanguardism. They aim, instead, to "make anarchist ideas the leading ideas within the class struggle".[1] The four main principles by which an anarchist organisation should operate, according to Platformists, are ideological unity, tactical unity, collective responsibility, and federalism.

In general, platformist groups aim to win the widest possible influence for anarchist ideas and methods in the working class and peasantrylike especifismo groups, platformists orient towards the working class, rather than to the extreme the left. This usually entails a willingness to work in single-issue campaigns, trade unionism and community groups, and to fight for immediate reforms while linking this to a project of building popular consciousness and organisation. They therefore reject approaches that they believe will prevent this, such as insurrectionist anarchism, as well as "views that dismiss activity in the unions" or that dismiss anti-imperialist movements.[2]

The name "Platformist" derives from the 1926 Organisational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft).[3] This was published by the Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad, in their journal Dielo Truda ("Workers' Cause" in Russian).

The group, which consisted of exiled Russian anarchist veterans of the 1917 October Revolution (notably Nestor Makhno who played a leading role in the anarchist revolution in the Ukraine of 19181921), based the Platform on their experiences of the revolution, and the eventual victory of the Bolsheviks over the anarchists and other groups. The Platform attempted to address and explain the anarchist movement's failures during the Russian Revolution outside of the Ukraine.

The document drew praise and criticism from anarchists worldwide and sparked a major debate within the anarchist movement.[4]

Today "Platformism" is an important current in international anarchism. Around thirty platformist and especifista organisations are linked together in the project, including groups from Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe.[2] At least in terms of the number of affiliated organisations (if not in actual membership in some countries),[5] the Anarkismo network is larger than other anarchist international bodies, like the synthesist[6] International of Anarchist Federations and the anarcho-syndicalist International Workers' Association. It is not, however, a formal "international" and has no intention of competing with these other formations.

Organisational ideas

The Platform describes four key organisational features which distinguish platformism:

The Platform argues that "[w]e have vital need of an organisation which, having attracted most of the participants in the anarchist movement, would establish a common tactical and political line for anarchism and thereby serve as a guide for the whole movement". Unity, in short, meant unity of ideas and actions, as opposed to unity on the basis of the anarchist label.

Publication history

The Organisational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft) was written in 1926 by the "Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad", a group of exiled Russian and Ukrainian anarchists in France who published the Dielo Truda journal. The pamphlet is an analysis of basic anarchist beliefs, a vision of an anarchist society, and recommendations as to how an anarchist organisation should be structured.

Antecedents of the Platform

The authors of the Platform insisted that its basic ideas were not new, but had a long anarchist pedigree. Platformism is not, therefore, a revision away from classical anarchism, or a new approach, but a "restatement" of existing positions.[4]

They cited Peter Kropotkin arguing that "the formation of an anarchist organisation in Russia, far from being prejudicial to the common revolutionary task, on the contrary it is desirable and useful to the very greatest degree" and argued that Nikolai Bakunin's "aspirations concerning organisations, as well as his activity" in the First International, "give us every right to view him as an active partisan of just such an organisation". Indeed, "practically all active anarchist militants fought against all dispersed activity, and desired an anarchist movement welded by unity of ends and means." [11]

Problems caused by poor translations

The Platform used to be known in English as the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists, a result of its having been translated from the French edition popularized in the early 1970s. Alexandre Skirda, in his book Facing the Enemy: A history of Anarchist Organization from Proudhon to May 1968 (p. 131), attributes much of the controversy about the Platform to the original 1926 French translation made by its opponent Voline. Later translations to French have corrected some of the mistranslations and the latest English translation, made directly from the Russian original, reflects this.

Other terms

Some platformist organisations today are unhappy with the designation, often preferring to use descriptions such as "anarchist communist", "social anarchist", "libertarian communist/socialist" or even especifist. Most agree that the 1926 Platform was sorely lacking in certain areas, and point out that it was a draft document, never intended to be adopted in its original form. The Italian Federation of Anarchist Communists (FdCA), for example, do not insist on the principle of "tactical unity", which according to them is impossible to achieve over a large area, preferring instead "tactical homogeneity".[12]

The Platform today

Today there are organisations inspired by the Platform in many countries, including:

Organisations inspired by the Platform were also among the founders of the now-defunct International Libertarian Solidarity network and its successor, the Anarkismo network; which is run collaboratively by roughly 30 platformist and especifista organisations around the world.


The Platform attracted strong criticism from some sectors on the anarchist movement of the time, including some of the most influential anarchists such as Voline, Errico Malatesta, Luigi Fabbri, Camillo Berneri, Max Nettlau, and Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, and Gregori Maximoff.[19]

The "synthesist" alternative

As an alternative to platformism Voline and Sébastien Faure proposed synthesist anarchist federations,[20] which they envisioned to form under the principles of anarchism without adjectives.[21]

In place of the Platform's stress on tight political and organisational unity, the "synthesist" approach argued for a far looser organization that would maximise numbers i.e. a big tent approach. Platformists view such organisations as weak despite their numbers, as the lack of common views means an inability to undertake common actionsdefeating the purpose of a common organisation.[4]

Malatesta's shift to "agreement" with collective responsibility

While such criticisms indicated a direct rejection of the Platform's proposals, others seem to have arisen from misunderstandings.

Notably, Malatesta initially believed that the Platform was "typically authoritarian", and "far from helping to bring about the victory of anarchist communism, to which they aspire, could only falsify the anarchist spirit and lead to consequences that go against their intentions".[22]

However, after further correspondence with Makhno—and after seeing a platformist group in formation—Malatesta concluded that he was actually in agreement with the positions of the Platform, but had been confused by the language they had used:

But all this is perhaps only a question of words.

In my reply to Makhno I already said: "It may be that, by the term collective responsibility, you mean the agreement and solidarity that must exist among the members of an association. And if that is so, your expression would, in my opinion, amount to an improper use of language, and therefore, being only a question of words, we would be closer to understanding each other."

And now, reading what the comrades of the 18e say, I find myself more or less in agreement with their way of conceiving the anarchist organisation (being very far from the authoritarian spirit which the "Platform" seemed to reveal) and I confirm my belief that behind the linguistic differences really lie identical positions.[23]

See also


  1. Workers Solidarity Movement, 2012, "Why You Should Join the Workers Solidarity Movement". Accessed 5 January 2012.
  2. 1 2 Anarkismo, 2012, "About Us". Accessed 5 January 2012.
  3. Dielo Truda group (2006) [1926]. Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft). Ireland: Nestor Makhno Archive. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 Schmidt, M. and van der Walt, L. 2009. Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism (Counter-Power vol. 1). Edinburgh: AK Press. pp. 252-255
  5. "In reply to the Platform, supporters of the "synthesis" counter by pointing to the fact that "Platformist" groups are usually very small, far smaller than "synthesis" federations (for example, compare the size of the French Anarchist Federation with, say, the Irish Workers Solidarity Movement or the French-language Alternative Libertaire)""J.3.2 What are "synthesis" federations?" in An Anarchist FAQ
  6. "Most national sections of the International Anarchist Federation (IFA) are good examples of successful federations which are heavily influenced by "synthesis" ideas (such as the French and Italian federations)." "J.3.2 What are "synthesis" federations?" in An Anarchist FAQ
  7. From section on Tactical Unity in The Platform
  8. From section on theoretical unity in The Platform
  9. From section on Collective responsibility in The Platform
  10. All sourced from the From section Federalism within the Organizational Section of the original document
  11. From section on Tactical Unity in The Platform
  12. FdCA positions and theoretical documents, retrieved 2 January 2012
  13. "Black Rose Anarchist Federation -". Black Rose Anarchist Federation. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  14. "Linchpin". Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  15. Prairie Struggle Organization
  16. "Motmakt". Motmakt. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  17. " er midlertidigt nede". Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  18. "(no title)". Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  19. "Why do many anarchists oppose the "Platform"?". An Anarchist FAQ. Retrieved Aug 12, 2013.
  20. "Especifismo and Synthesis/ Synthesism". Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  21. "J.3.2 What are "synthesis" federations?" in An Anarchist FAQ
  22. "A Project of Anarchist Organisation". Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  23. Malatesta, On Collective Responsibility,

Further reading

External links

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