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Synthesis anarchism, synthesist anarchism, synthesism or synthesis federations is a form of anarchist organization which tries to join anarchists of different tendencies under the principles of anarchism without adjectives. In the 1920s this form found as its main proponents the anarcho-communists Voline and Sébastien Faure, bringing together anarchists of three main tendencies: individualist anarchism, communist anarchism, and anarcho-syndicalism. It is the main principle behind the anarchist federations grouped around the contemporary global International of Anarchist Federations.
Debates between anarchist schools of thought and "anarchism without adjectives"
The originators of the expression "anarchism without adjectives" were Cuban-born Fernando Tarrida del Mármol and Ricardo Mella, who were troubled by the bitter debates between mutualist, individualists, and communist anarchists in the 1880s. Their use of the phrase anarchism without adjectives was an attempt to show greater tolerance between anarchist tendencies and to be clear that anarchists should not impose a preconceived economic plan on anyone—even in theory. Anarchists without adjectives tended either to reject all particular anarchist economic models as faulty, or take a pluralist position of embracing them all to a limited degree in order that they may keep one another in check. Regardless, to these anarchists the economic preferences are considered to be of "secondary importance" to abolishing all coercive authority, with free experimentation the one rule of a free society.
This conflict soon spread outside of Spain and the discussion found its way into the pages of La Revolte in Paris. This provoked many anarchists to agree with Errico Malatesta's argument that "[i]t is not right for us, to say the least, to fall into strife over mere hypotheses." Over time, most anarchists agreed (to use Max Nettlau's words) that "we cannot foresee the economic development of the future" and so started to stress what they had in common, rather than the different visions of how a free society would operate. As time progressed, most anarcho-communists saw that ignoring the labour movement ensured that their ideas did not reach the working class while most anarcho-syndicalists stressed their commitment to communist ideals and their arrival sooner, rather than later, after a revolution.
Similarly, in the United States, there was an intense debate at the same time between individualist and communist anarchists. Anarchists like Voltairine de Cleyre "came to label herself simply 'Anarchist,' and called like Malatesta for an 'Anarchism without Adjectives,' since in the absence of government many different experiments would probably be tried in various localities in order to determine the most appropriate form." Voltarine sought conciliation between the various schools, and said in her essay Anarchism, "There is nothing un-Anarchistic about any of [these systems] until the element of compulsion enters and obliges unwilling persons to remain in a community whose economic arrangements they do not agree to. (When I say 'do not agree to' I do not mean that they have a mere distaste for...I mean serious differences which in their opinion threaten their essential liberties...)...Therefore I say that each group of persons acting socially in freedom may choose any of the proposed systems, and be just as thorough-going Anarchists as those who select another."
Ukraine and Russia
Volin was a prolific writer and anarchist intellectual who played an important part in the organization and leadership of Nabat. The Nabat Confederation of Anarchist Organizations, better known simply as Nabat (Набат), was an anarchist organization that came to prominence in Ukraine during the years 1918 to 1920. The area where it held the most influence is sometimes referred to as the Free Territory, though Nabat had branches in all of the major cities in southern Ukraine.
Volin was charged with writing a platform for Nabat that could be agreeable to all the major branches of anarchism, most importantly Anarcho-syndicalism, Anarcho-collectivism, Anarcho-communism, and Anarcho-individualism. The uniform platform for Nabat was never truly decided upon, but Volin used what he had written and the inspiration from Nabat to create his Anarchist Synthesis. The proposed platform for Nabat included the following sentence which anticipated synthesis anarchism: "These three elements (syndicalism, communism and individualism) are three aspects of a single process, the building, of the organization of the working class (syndicalism), of the anarcho-communist society which is nothing more than the material base necessary for the complete fullness of the free individual."
The discussion about the Anarchist Synthesis arises in the context of the discussion on the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists, written by the Dielo Truda group of Russian exiles in 1926. The Platform attracted strong criticism from many 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, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman and Gregori Maximoff. Voline along with Molly Steimer, Fleshin, and others wrote a reply stating that to "To maintain that anarchism is only a theory of classes is to limit it to a single viewpoint. Anarchism is more complex and pluralistic, like life itself. Its class element is above all its means of fighting for liberation; its humanitarian character is its ethical aspect, the foundation of society; its individualism is the goal of mankind."
International synthesist response to the Dielo Truda Platform
Two texts made as responses to the Platform, each proposing a different organizational model, became the basis for what is known as the organisation of synthesis, or simply "synthesism". Voline published in 1924 a paper calling for "the anarchist synthesis" and was also the author of the article in Sébastian Faure's Encyclopedie Anarchiste on the same topic. The main purpose behind the synthesis was that the anarchist movement in most countries was divided into three main tendencies: communist anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism, and individualist anarchism and so such an organization could contain anarchists of these 3 tendencies very well.
The platformists wanted to push their ideas forward through organizing an international anarchist congress on February 12, 1927. Shortly later at the National Congress of the French Anarchist Union (UAF), the Dielo Truda Group achieved making their platform more popular and so they made the UAF change its name into Revolutionary Anarcho-Communist Union (UACR). Sébastian Faure led a faction within the UACR that decided to separate themselves from this organization and form outside it the Association of Federalist Anarchists (AFA), thinking that traditional anarchist ideas were being threatened by the Dielo Truda platform. Shortly later in his text "Anarchist synthesis" he exposes the view that "these currents were not contradictory but complementary, each having a role within anarchism: anarcho-syndicalism as the strength of the mass organisations and the best way for the practice of anarchism; libertarian communism as a proposed future society based on the distribution of the fruits of labour according to the needs of each one; anarcho-individualism as a negation of oppression and affirming the individual right to development of the individual, seeking to please them in every way.
Italy and Spain
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In Italy, the synthesis anarchism federation Unione Anarchica Italiana emerged from the Unione Comunista Anarchica Italiana in 1920. The Unione Anarchica Italiana emerged just after the biennio rosso events and lasted until 1929 when it was banned by the Fascist regime. The "Programma Anarchico" (Anarchist Program) of the Unione Anarchica Italiana was written by Errico Malatesta.
The Dielo Truda platform in Spain also met with strong criticism. Miguel Jimenez, a founding member of the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI), summarized this as follows: too much influence in it of marxism, it erroneously divided and reduced anarchists between individualist anarchists and anarcho-communist sections, and it wanted to unify the anarchist movement along the lines of the anarcho-communists. He saw anarchism as more complex than that, that anarchist tendencies are not mutually exclusive as the platformists saw it and that both individualist and communist views could accommodate anarchosyndicalism. Sébastian Faure had strong contacts in Spain and so his proposal had more impact in Spanish anarchists than the Dielo Truda platform even though individualist anarchist influence in Spain was less strong than it was in France. The main goal there was conciling anarcho-communism with anarcho-syndicalism.
J. Elizalde was a founding member and first secretary of the Iberian Anarchist Federation as well as a prominent local individualist anarchist.
Post-war synthesis federations
In 1945, the synthesist Italian Anarchist Federation (Federazione Anarchica Italiana or FAI) was founded in Carrara. In it the individualist anarchist Cesare Zaccaria played an important role in conciling conflicting factions. The Italian FAI adopted an "Associative Pact" and the "Anarchist Program" of Errico Malatesta. During its history it included individualist anarchists such as the important the group who in 1965 decided to split off from this organization and created Gruppi di Iniziativa Anarchica as well as the groups who in the seventies split off to form a platformist group.
The Fédération Anarchiste (FA) was founded in Paris, France on December 2, 1945. It was composed of a majority of activists from the former FA (which supported Voline's Synthesis) and some members of the former Union anarchiste, which supported the CNT-FAI support to the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War, as well as some young Resistants. After a neo-platformist faction led by George Fontenis achieved changing the name of the organization into Libertarian Communist Federation (FCL) along with centralization and unanimous vote internal procedures, a new FA was reestablished on December, 1953 while the FCL broke up shortly after. The new base principles of the FA were written by the individualist anarchist Charles-Auguste Bontemps and the anarcho-communist Maurice Joyeux which established an organization with a plurality of tendencies and autonomy of federated groups organized around synthesist principles.
The International of Anarchist Federations (IAF/IFA) was founded during an international anarchist conference in Carrara in 1968 by the three existing European anarchist federations of France (Fédération Anarchiste), Italy (Federazione Anarchica Italiana) and Spain (Federación Anarquista Ibérica) as well as the Bulgarian federation in French exile. These organizations were also inspired on synthesist principles. Currently alongside the previously mentioned federations, the IAF includes the Argentine Libertarian Federation, the Anarchist Federation of Belarus, the Federation of Anarchists in Bulgaria, the Czech-Slovak Anarchist Federation, the Federation of German speaking Anarchists in Germany and Switzerland, and the Anarchist Federation in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
- "J.3.2 What are "synthesis" federations?" in An Anarchist FAQ
- "The remedy has been found: libertarian communism."Sébastien Faure. "Libertarian Communism"
- Presley, Sharon. Exquisite rebel: the essays of Voltairine de Cleyre. SUNY Press, 2005. 48
- quoted by Max Nettlau, A Short History of Anarchism [p. 198-9]
- Max Nettlau, A Short History of Anarchism [p. 201]
- Marshall, Peter "Demanding the Impossible" [p. 393]
- Havel, Hippolyte. ed. 1914. Selected Works of Voltairine de Cleyre. Harvard University. pp. 102-103
- Avrich, Paul (2006). The Russian Anarchists. Stirling: AK Press. p. 204. ISBN 1-904859-48-8.
- Avrich, Paul (July 1968). "Russian Anarchism and the Civil War". The Russian Review: 296–306.
- Guérin, Daniel (2005). No Gods, No Masters: An Anthology of Anarchism. Paul Sharkey. AK Press.
- "Estos tres elementos (el sindicalismo, el comunismo, y el individualismo) son tres aspectos de un único y mismo proceso la construcción, por el método de la organización de clase de los trabajadores (el sindicalismo), de la sociedad anarcocomunista que no es más que la base material necesaria a la plenitud completa del individuo libre."Primera Conferencia de las Organizaciones Anarquistas de Ukrania "Nabat"
- "Especifismo and Synthesis/ Synthesism" by Felipe Corrêa
- ¿Wooden shoes or platform shoes? on the organizational platform of the libertarian communists by Bob Black
- J.3.4 Why do many anarchists oppose the "Platform"? on An Anarchist FAQ
- "Reply by several Russian Anarchists to the ‘Platform’" by Various Authors
- Jason Garner. "La búsqueda de la unidad anarquista: la Federación Anarquista Ibérica antes de la II República."
- "Tras la victoria de los plataformistas en el Congreso de París de 1929, una sección de los que consideraron que las ideas tradicionales del anarquismo estaban siendo atacadas se separó de la UACR para formar la Asociación de los Federalistas Anarquistas a comienzos de 192821. La principal figura de la AFA fue Sébastien Faure que, como respuesta a la Plataforma, expuso sus propuestas para un movimiento anarquista unificado en La síntesis anarquista, que apareció primero como un suplemento del informe de la AFA de febrero de 1928 titulado Le Trait d’Union Libertaire"Jason Garner. "La búsqueda de la unidad anarquista: la Federación Anarquista Ibérica antes de la II República."
- "Unione Anarchica Italiana" at italian anarchopedia
- "During the time of the "Italian Anarchist Union (20,000 members plus Umanita Nova, its daily paper) grew accordingly...Anarchists were the first to suggest occupying workplaces.""1918-1921: The Italian factory occupations - Biennio Rosso"
- "Jiménez evitó ahondar demasiado en sus críticas hacia la naturaleza abiertamente marxista de algunas partes de la Plataforma, limitándose a aludir a la crítica de Santillán en La Protesta, que afirmaba que los rusos no habían sido el único grupo responsable de permitir la infiltración de las ideas marxistas, lo que iba claramente dirigido a los sindicalistas de España17. Jiménez aceptó que la Plataforma había sido un intento encomiable de resolver el eterno problema de la desunión dentro de las filas anarquistas, pero consideraba que el programa ruso tenía sus defectos. La Plataforma se basaba en una premisa errónea sobre la naturaleza de las tendencias dentro del movimiento anarquista: dividía a los anarquistas en dos grupos diferentes, individualistas y comunistas, y con ello rechazaba la influencia de los primeros y proponía la unificación del movimiento anarquista en torno a la ideas de los segundos. Jiménez afirmaba que la realidad era mucho más compleja: esas diferentes tendencias dentro del movimiento anarquista no eran contradictorias ni excluyentes. Por ejemplo, era posible encontrar elementos en ambos grupos que apoyaran las tácticas del anarcosindicalismo. Por tanto, rechazaba el principal argumento de los plataformistas según el cual las diferentes tendencias se excluían entre sí." Jason Garner. "La búsqueda de la unidad anarquista: la Federación Anarquista Ibérica antes de la II República."
- "Debido a sus contactos e influencia con el movimiento del exilio español, la propuesta de Faure arraigó más en los círculos españoles que la Plataforma, y fue publicada en las prensas libertarias tanto en España como en Bélgica25. En esencia, Faure intentaba reunir a la familia anarquista sin imponer la rígida estructura que proponía la Plataforma, y en España se aceptó así. Opuesta a la situación de Francia, en España la influencia del anarquismo individualista no fue un motivo serio de ruptura. Aunque las ideas de ciertos individualistas como Han Ryner y Émile Armand tuvieron cierto impacto sobre el anarquismo español, afectaron sólo a aspectos como el sexo y el amor libre."Jason Garner. "La búsqueda de la unidad anarquista: la Federación Anarquista Ibérica antes de la II República."
- Xavier Diez. El anarquismo individualista en España: 1923–1938. pg. 161 ISBN 978-84-96044-87-6
- "Given his ability to mediate between all of the competing currents at every anarchist congress. Once debate in gatherings reached stalemate, Zaccaria used to draft some motion that would also express the thinking of the dissenters and would therefore succeed in getting it passed. All of the motions from the Carrara congress, the Bologna congress and the Canosa congress had been drafted by Cesare Zaccaria." Pier Carlo Masini and Paul Sharkey. "Cesare Zaccaria (19 August 1897-October 1961)"
- El movimiento libertario en Italia by Bicicleta: Revista de comunicaciones libertarias
- Giovanna Berneri. "The French Anarchist Movement"
- Cédric Guérin. "Pensée et action des anarchistes en France : 1950-1970"
- IFA-IAF pagina oficial
- "Anarchist Synthesis" by Volin
- Sébastien Faure. "The Anarchist Synthesis"
- Synthesis Anarchism / Anarchism Without Adjectives (an archive with texts related to synthesis anarchism as well as anarchism without adjectives