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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". 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 peasantry—like 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.
The name "Platformist" derives from the 1926 Organisational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft). 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 1918–1921), 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.
Today "Platformism" is an important current in international anarchism. Around thirty platformist and especifista organisations are linked together in the Anarkismo.net project, including groups from Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe. At least in terms of the number of affiliated organisations (if not in actual membership in some countries), the Anarkismo network is larger than other anarchist international bodies, like the synthesist 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.
The Platform describes four key organisational features which distinguish platformism:
- Tactical unity — "A common tactical line in the movement is of decisive importance for the existence of the organisation and the whole movement: it avoids the disastrous effect of several tactics opposing each other; it concentrates the forces of the movement; and gives them a common direction leading to a fixed objective".
- Theoretical unity — "Theory represents the force which directs the activity of persons and organisations along a defined path towards a determined goal. Naturally it should be common to all the persons and organisations adhering to the General Union. All activity by the General Union, both overall and in its details, should be in perfect concord with the theoretical principles professed by the union".
- Collective Responsibility — "The practice of acting on one's personal responsibility should be decisively condemned and rejected in the ranks of the anarchist movement. The areas of revolutionary life, social and political, are above all profoundly collective by nature. Social revolutionary activity in these areas cannot be based on the personal responsibility of individual militants".
- Federalism — "Against centralism, anarchism has always professed and defended the principle of federalism, which reconciles the independence and initiative of individuals and the organisation with service to the common cause".
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.
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.
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."
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.
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".
The Platform today
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Today there are organisations inspired by the Platform in many countries, including:
- the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland,
- Black Rose Anarchist Federation/Federación Anarquista Rosa Negra (BRRN)' in the United States,
- the Union Communiste Libertaire in Quebec, Canada,
- Common Cause in Ontario, Canada,
- the Prairie Struggle Organization in the Canadian Prairies,
- the Federación Comunista Libertaria (FCL) and Organización Comunista Libertaria (OCL) in Chile,
- the Federación Anarco-Comunista de Argentina (FACA) and Línea Anarco-Comunista (LAC) in Argentina,
- the Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici (FdCA) in Italy,
- the Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira (CAB) in Brazil,
- Unión Socialista Libertaria in Peru,
- the Organisation Communiste Libertaire and Alternative Libertaire in France,
- the Alianza de los Comunistas Libertarios (ACL) in Mexico,
- the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG) and Sydney Anarchist Communist Trajectory (SACT) in Australia,
- Motmakt in Norway,
- Libertære Socialister in Denmark,
- Collective Action in the UK,
- the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) in South Africa, and
- the Revolutionary Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalists by the name of N.I. Makhno (RKAS), which is an international anarcho-syndicalist, platformist confederation with sections and individual members in Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Bulgaria and Israel.
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.
The "synthesist" alternative
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 actions—defeating the purpose of a common organisation.
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".
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.
- Workers Solidarity Movement, 2012, "Why You Should Join the Workers Solidarity Movement". Accessed 5 January 2012.
- Anarkismo, 2012, "About Us". Accessed 5 January 2012.
- Dielo Truda group (2006) . Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft). Ireland: Nestor Makhno Archive. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
- 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
- "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
- "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
- From section on Tactical Unity in The Platform
- From section on theoretical unity in The Platform
- From section on Collective responsibility in The Platform
- All sourced from the From section Federalism within the Organizational Section of the original document
- From section on Tactical Unity in The Platform
- FdCA positions and theoretical documents, retrieved 2 January 2012
- "Black Rose Anarchist Federation -". Black Rose Anarchist Federation. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- "Linchpin". Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- Prairie Struggle Organization
- "Motmakt". Motmakt. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- "libsoc.dk er midlertidigt nede". Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- "(no title)". Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- "Why do many anarchists oppose the "Platform"?". An Anarchist FAQ. Retrieved Aug 12, 2013.
- "Especifismo and Synthesis/ Synthesism". Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- "J.3.2 What are "synthesis" federations?" in An Anarchist FAQ
- "A Project of Anarchist Organisation". Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- Malatesta, On Collective Responsibility, http://www.nestormakhno.info/english/mal_rep3.htm
- Lucien van der Walt; Michael Schmidt (2009), Black Flame. the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism, Counterpower, Volume 1, Oakland: AK Press, pp. 247–263, ISBN 9781904859161
- Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft) The most accurate translation of the platform in English
- Anarchism and the Platformist Tradition An Archive of Writings on the Platformist Tradition within Anarchism, including relevant material by Bakunin.
- Manifesto of The Libertarian Communists Written in 1953 by Georges Fontenis for the Federation Communiste Libertaire of France. It is one of the key texts of this current.
- A Guide to the Platform based on the older translation
- Towards a Fresh Revolution Written by the Friends of Durruti group following the Spanish Civil War, this text is arguably one of the most important Platformist texts ever written. It reaffirms the early calls from the Russian comrades for tactical and theoretical unity, and better organizational practices, and sheds light on the errors in organization during the Spanish Civil War.
- Anarkismo.net - Multilingual anarchist news site run by over 30 platformist and especifist organisations on five continents
- About the Platform by Errico Malatesta and Nestor Makhno