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(en) Hungary: Barikad anarchist Collective - Historical background to the Organizational Platform of Libertarian Communists

From worker-a-infos-en@ainfos.ca (Flow System)
Date Mon, 11 Apr 2005 17:09:59 +0200 (CEST)

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Pjotr ARSINOV - Nyesztor MAHNO - Ida METT:
The Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists
>>>> Historical background
After the repression of the worldwide revolutionary wave in 1917-23, thousands
of proletarian militants had to flee the areas where they actively took part in
the revolts, because the terror of the capitalists was not able to kill every
revolutionary, though that was its intention. Apparently, the revolutionary
movement has suffered a great blow: the triumphant counter-revolution had
almost completely destroyed the structures which the proletariat had already
conquered while it was organizing itself as a class. The proletarian
organizations, which, as the prefigurations of the communist world party were
organizing the centralization of the struggle, were destroyed or distorted into
the counter-revolutionary caricatures of themselves. Bolshevik social
democracy, which called itself "communist", together with the traditional
Social Democrats, tried to disintegrate and to falsify one of the foundations
of its class-being, the class memory of the proletariat. In fact these
tendencies imply the objective negation of the class as such, because their
definitions of the class, just like their practical activity, disguises the
basic antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat, by serving concepts like
the Leninist theory of "socialism in one country", the "peaceful adjacency" of
socialism and capitalism, the Bersteinian line of the socialist evolution of
capitalism etc. These ideologies are the reflections of the negation of classes
- the objective life condition of capitalism, which actively helped the
bourgeoisie to absorb the class conflict and to reinforce the atomisation of
the proletariat.

But still, the counter-revolutionary period was unable to completely destroy
the proletariat. That was practically impossible - and it will be so for the
bourgeoisie that be -, because the revolution is not the consequence of
personal will, but the production and inevitable accompaniment of the
capitalist system. Many have tried to interpret, to elaborate the lessons of
the revolution (and of the defeat) directly after the defeat - and to carry on
on the basis of these lessons. One thing seemed to be obvious for conscious
proletarians, the preparers of the new revolutionary wave: social democracy
(both its Bolshevik and traditional forms) had denounced itself as the tool of
counter-revolution. Actually, it is important to show that social democracy was
not a revolutionary movement, what later (according to the public opinion: in
1914) became the traitor of the proletariat. It has been the tool of capital
ever since, in its every manifestation. In reality its goal has never been the
communist class struggle against the State, value and the dictatorship of
capitalism, but the reformation of capitalism, the achieving of compromises,
the maintenance of the State of exploited for the workers by some superficial
help. Naturally this does not appertain to those millions of proletarians who
were - due to the lack of the break, counter-revolutionary propaganda etc. -
organizing themselves in the parties of the Second International; this is about
organisation itself, the representative of the historical socialdemocracy -
which is the answer, and the alternative against the class struggle, offered by
Capitalism. The leadership of the Second International had already at its
founding congress started its struggle for the elimination of revolutionary
elements; and in every important question it committed against the elements
entitled "anarchist".

About the end of the revolutionary wave, in 1923-24 the counter-revolutionary
tendency of Bolshevism also became apparent for most proletarians. Although
only the more important news got out from the Soviet Union itself, the world
still could see the tendency of the consequencing steps:

The signing of the Brest-Litovsk treaty, and in connection with this, the
repression of the Left SR revolt (1918), the repression of the Makhnovshchina
(about 1918-21), Kronstadt (1921), and last but not least the NEP, when the
triumphant comeback of every characteristic the capitalism was announced (1921)
meant the more important turning points. The "center" of the Bolshevik Party
(Lenin, Trotsky) abolished every revolutionary protest (either inside or
outside the party), and consequently followed the policy of maintaining
Capitalism and the dictatorship of value. As early as 1918 they attacked the
Moscow Anarchist Center by the force of arms: 600 militants were imprisoned and
many of them killed. The reason was that the anarchists had organized their own
armed force, the Black Guard, which was preparing for a cruel showdown with the
class enemy. And there is nothing more frightening for capitalism than an armed
proletariat. So in Bolshevism, the proletarian factions, which were confronting
the State power of a re-painted capitalism for the sake of the revolution, were
called "anarchist", "leftist divergent" again, or they were treated like
criminals and bandits, by this denying their political role.

So, at the beginning of the twenties, anarchism and "left-wing" communism
seemed to be the only heir to the revolution - and social democracy came after
them by all possible means. Besides the already-mentioned Russian and Ukrainian
Anarchists, on one hand the German and the Netherlands Council Communists were
those who belonged here - their party, the German Communist Workers' Party
(KAPD) played an important role in clarifying the lessons of the revolutionary
wave, and in deepening the break with the capitalist system. On the other hand,
the left wing of newly-formed Communist parties, especially in England (Sylvia
Pankhurst's newspaper, "The Workers' Dreadnought", and the "anarcho-marxists")
and in Italy (the internationalist Communists grouping around Amadeo Bordiga),
the German Anarcho-Syndicalists, whose organisation, the German Union of the
Free Workers (FAUD), after revolutionary dynamism at the beginning, under the
direction of Rudolf Rocker was becoming more and more a withholding force; and
the countless "anarchist" tendencies all around the world. In many cases we can
only mention people like Errico Malatesta, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, who
were in themselves manifesting tendencies. In England there was a powerful
anarchist movement beside the radical communists, just like in Spain. But the
foreign - especially Russian - anarchists fleeing from the counter-revolution
found asylum mainly in France. (Here we only deal with Europe - we are just
mentioning that in this period the center of revolutionary activity had already
been placed outside of Europe, mainly in Latin-America.)

The phenomenon called "anarchism" at that time meant very diverse and
controversial groups and tendencies. On the whole it was not revolutionary,
moreover, its counter-revolutionary essence was due to the fact that in many
elements it was really struggling for the revolution, but it regarded anarchism
as a big family or community where the different tendencies want the same thing
on an ethereal level. But this was not true. The majority of the "anarchist"
groups used bourgeois words and their activity was only the completion of
Social Democracy: they denied the centralization of the class struggle, they
declared the cult of the individual, they rejected the dictatorial form of the
revolution and the proletariat. Most of them praised the self-government of the
producers, so instead of changing the base - the dictatorship of value on the
human needs - they stressed a completely technical question, the ways of
controlling. Others - first and foremost the council communists and many of the
anarchist communists - formed a truly communist minority and continued their
revolutionary struggle.

There were all kinds of people in the French exile. Everybody was talking about
Anarchism and they gave the most narrow-minded bourgeois phantasms this
adjective. But essentially this process had the same goal (only to a smaller
extent) which Bolshevism had on the "other side": to cloud the essence of the
class struggle. They hashed the old position about "the abyss between Anarchism
and Communism" - emasculating both sides which are in fact one and the same.
The Bolshevik printing-houses were pouring out pamphlets against the
Anarchists, calumnies about the Makhnovshchina, and Lenin's brochure,
"Left-wing communism, an infantile disorder" in which the author pronouncedly
condemns every revolutionary tendency, and holds brief for the elite party,
parliamentarianism and the trade-union struggle. But the "anarchist" side was
also quick to answer back - the "leaders", first and foremost Berkman and
Malatesta enumerated some untoward arguments against "authoritarian socialism",
i.e. "marxian" communism. The most characteristic product of the era was a
pamphlet entitled "Bakunin vs Marx" whose unknown anarchist author analyzed the
"antagonism" of the two tendencies in a tone more suitable for tabloid
newspapers. This is an adequate "anarchist" pair to Lenin's "communist"

In 1926, the biggest organization of French anarchists, the Anarchist Union
(UA) started a great debate about a manifestation whose goal was to harmonize
the positions of the individualists, revolutionary anarchism and syndicalism.
The debate grew more and more acrimonious, and the anarcho-communists stated
that they had nothing in common with the individualists and other bourgeois
"anarchists", so they left the organization and founded the Anarchist-Communist
Union (UAC). The new organization stated that "the only possible means of
struggle is revolutionary anarchism, the only possible goal is communism; the
two are one and the same". They marked as a goal the "break with the Big Family
of anarchism" which tried to unify the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary
tendencies into one pseudo-community. The majority of the UAC was for the
centralization of the struggle and the use of dictatorial means, insofar as in
1927 the founding of an anarchist party was put forward ("party", i.e.
centralised fighting organization - not a political party). Then a tendency -
the "synthesists" - left the UAC, and following the lead of Sebastian Faure and
the ex-Makhnovist Volin, fell back upon the old theory of the popular front,
the "synthesis" of the many kinds of anarchism - while the revolutionary
anarchists reinforced their organization under the name Revolutionary Anarchist
Communist Union (UACR), which operated until 1930.

The Russian Anarchists (who were mainly revolutionaries) also participated in
these struggles. Already in 1925 they founded the Group of Russian Anarchists
Abroad, which ran a newspaper called "Workers’ Truth" (Delo Truda) - whose
editors were Nestor Makhno, Ida Mett and Piotr Arshinov. That was the organ
where they published the programmatic text of the group, the "Organizational
Platform of Libertarian Communism", which later became famous simply under the
name "The Platform".

The appearance of the Platform instantly initiated heated debates. Led by
Volin, the synthesists started an attack in their newspaper "Union". "The claim
that the anarchism is simply the theory of class struggle, leads to a
unilateral position", stated Volin.

The platformists summoned a meeting on 5th February 1927, whose goal was to
organize an international conference of revolutionaries. A Temporary Comittee
was set up, with the participaiton of Makhno, the Chinese Chen and the Polish
Ranko. The participiants who were from 6 different countries worked out the
main issues of the future conference:

1) The class struggle as the most important element of Anarchism
2) Anarchist Communism as the foundation of the movement
3) Syndicalism as an important method of struggle
4) The necessity of establishing a General Union of Anarchists, an organisation
to be based on ideological and tactical unity and collective responsibility
5) The necessity of a positive programme in order to achieve the social

This was a very revolutionary programme on the level of the period, though it
contains some strange elements too - e.g. the acceptance of a kind of
participation in the trade unions - the 1918-21 elements had clearly shown the
impossibility of this. The debate about the suggestion could not be finished
because the police raided the assembly and everyone was arrested. Makhno was
saved from death only by the campaign of the French Anarchists.

In the end the "International Federation of Revolutionary Anarchist-Communists"
remained a plan and many of the participiants turned against it (e.g. Camillo
Berneri, the great Italian Anarcho-Communist, who was later killed by Erno Gero
in Barcelona, 1937). The individualist side led by Malatesta also started a
great attack against the Platform. Makhno and his comrades on 18th August 1927
published the "Reply to the Anarchist-Communist". In this they explained their
views about the necessity of the revolutionary leadership:

"It is obvious that the revolution will be accomplished by the masses
themselves, but the revolutionary mass always produces the minority which will
push the masses forward."

This point of view was a big mote in the platformists' eye in the opinion of
the "anarchists" praising the freedom of the "individual" and the unlimited
individualism. The article wrote the following about these people:

"The whole company of individualists who call themselves anarchist, are in fact
not anarchist at all. The fact that this many people who gather (but on what
foundation?) and claim that 'we are one family', and they call this whole
mixture an 'anarchist organization' is not just inept, but pronouncedly

Although the international organisation couldn't be formed, the Platform had a
great effect on revolutionary anarchists of many countries. In France, the
platformists took many organizations under their control for a while, but in
the end they always had to leave them. This was an important lesson for them
that the obsolete, counter-revolutionary organizations should not be cobbled
and reformed, because it is completely useless, but instead of that they should
again and again, through many break-ups, concretize the class programme of the
proletariat. Organizations were founded in Italy and in Bulgaria, just like in
Poland - though that just adopted the general principles, rejecting the
Platform as authoritarian.

The 1935-45 war dissolved the ranks of anarchism but since the capitalist peace
has not brought much change compared to the capitalist war, the class struggle
activity toned up again. By this time the Bolsheviks (including the
Trotskyites) have already played their role and could not make any effect to
the really class struggling proletarian elements. The revolutionary movement in
many cases reached back to the Platform and created, somewhat controversial but
in any case revolutionary organizations like the Libertarian Communist
Federation (FCL) in France and the Anarchist Proletarian Action Groups (GAAP)
in Italy at the beginning of the fifties, and later the Revolutionary Anarchist
Federations in different countries.

>From the website of the Barikad Collective, Hungary

Text revised by the Nestor Makhno Archive

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