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(en) Supplement To The Organizational Platform (Questions And Answers) by Dielo Trouda Nov. 1926

From Worker* <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 29 Aug 2003 10:09:48 +0200 (CEST)

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The Dielo Trouda Group responds to questions posed by anarchist militant Maria
Isidine regarding the 'Organizational Platform of Libertaria Communists'.

As was to be expected, the Organizational Platform of the
General Union of Anarchists has sparked very lively
interest among several militants of the Russian libertarian
movement. While some wholeheartedly subscribe to the
overall idea and fundamental theses of the Platform, others
frame criticisms and express misgivings about certain of its

We welcome equally the positive reception of the Platform
and the genuine criticism of it. For, in the endeavor to
create an overall anarchist program as well as an overall
libertarian organization, honest, serious and substantial
criticism is as important and positive creative initiatives.

The questions we reprint below emanate from just the sort
of serious and necessary criticism, and it is with some
satisfaction that we welcome it. In forwarding them to us,
the author, Maria Isidine - a militant of many year's
standing, and well respected in our movement - encloses a
letter in which she says: "Obviously, the organizational
platform is designed to be discussed by all anarchists.
Before formulating any final opinion of this 'platform' and,
perhaps, speaking of it in the press, I should like to have an
explanation of certain matters which are insufficiently
explicit to it. It may well be that other readers will find in
the 'platform' a fair degree of precision and that certain
objections may only be based on misunderstandings. It is
for that reason that I should like to put a series of questions
to you first of all. It would be very important that you reply
to these in a clear manner, for it will be your replies that will
afford a grasp of the general spirit of the Platform. Perhaps
you will see a need to reply in your review."

In closing her letter, the comrade adds that she wishes to
avert controversy in the columns of the review 'Dyelo
Truda'. This is why she seeks above all elucidation of
certain essential points from the Platform. This sort of
approach is very fair. It is all too easy to launch into
polemic in order to come out against a view with which one
thinks one is in disagreement. It is even easier to trouble
oneself solely with polemicizing without bothering to frame
any alternative positive suggestion, in place of the targeted
view. What is infinitely harder is to analyze the new
proposition properly, to understand it, so that one may go on
to arrive at a well-founded opinion of it. It is exactly this
last, most difficult course that the author of the questions
below has chosen.

Here are those questions:

(1) The central point of the Platform is rallying the bulk of
the anarchist movement's militants on the basis of a
common tactical and policy line: the formation of a General
Union. Since you are federalists, you apparently have in
mind the existence of an Executive Committee that will be
in charge of the "ideological and organizational conduct of
the activity of the isolated groups". That type of
organization is to be found in all parties, but it is possible
only if one accepts the majority principle. In your
organization, will each group be free to prescribe its own
tactics and establish its own tactics and establish its own
stance vis-a-vis each given issue? If the answer is yes,
then your unity will be of a purely moral character (as has
been and still is the case inside the anarchist movement).
If, on the other hand, you seek organizational unity, that
unity will of necessity be coerced. And then if you accept
the majority principle inside your organization, on what
grounds would you repudiate it in social construction?

It would be desirable that you further clarify your
conception of federalist liaison, the role of Congresses and
the majority principle.

(2) Speaking of the "free regime of the soviets," what
functions do you see these soviets having to perform in
order to become "the first steps in the direction of
constructive non-statist activity"? What is to be their
remit? Will their decisions be binding?

(3) "Anarchists should steer events from a theoretical point
of view," says the Platform. This notion is insufficiently
clear. Does it mean simply that anarchists will do their
utmost to see that (trade union, local, cooperative, etc.)
organizations which are to build the new order are imbued
with libertarian ideas? Or does it mean that anarchists will
themselves take charge of this construction? In the latter
case, in what way would that state of affairs differ from a
"party dictatorship"?

It is very important that this matter be clarified. Especially
as the same question arises regarding the role of anarchists
in the trade unions. What is the meaning of the expression:
"enter the unions in an organized manner"? Does it mean
merely that the comrades working in the unions should
come to some agreement in order to establish a policy line?
Or does it mean that the anarchist Executive Committee
will prescribe the tactic of the labor movement, rule on
strikes, demonstrations, etc., and that those anarchists
active in the unions will strive to capture positions of
leadership there and, using their authority, foist these
decisions on the ordinary membership of the unions? The
mention in the Platform that the activity of the anarchist
groupings active in trade union circles is to be "steered by
an anarchist umbrella organization" raises all sorts of
misgivings on this score.

(4) In the section on defending the revolution, it is stated
that the army is to be subordinated "to the workers' and
peasants' organizations throughout the land, hoisted by the
masses into positions overseeing the economic and social
life of the country". In everyday parlance, that is called 'civil
authority' of the elected. What does it means to you? It is
obvious that an organization that in fact directs the whole
of life and can call upon an army is nothing other than a
State power. This point is so important that the authors of
the Platform have a duty to dwell longer upon it. If it is a
"transitional form," how come the Platform rejects the idea
of the "transitional period"? And if it is a definitive form,
what makes the Platform anarchist?

(5) There are some questions which, while not dealt with in
the Platform, nevertheless play an important part in the
disagreements between comrades. Let me quote one of
these questions:

Let us suppose that a region finds itself effectively under
the influence of the anarchists. What will their attitude be
towards the other parties? Do the authors of the Platform
countenance the possibility of violence against an enemy
who has not had recourse to arms? Or do they, in keeping
with the anarchist idea, proclaim undiluted freedom of
speech, of the press, of organization, etc., for all? (Some
years ago, a similar question would have seemed out of
place. But at present certain views of which I am aware
prevent me of being sure of that answer.)

And, broadly speaking, is it acceptable to have one's
decisions implemented by force? Do the authors of the
Platform countenance the exercise of power, even if only
for an instant?

Whatever the group's answers to all these questions, I
cannot keep silent about one idea in the Platform which is
openly at odds with the anarchist communism that it

You speculate that once the wage system and exploitation
have been abolished, there will nevertheless remain some
sort of non-laboring elements, and these you exclude from
the common fellowship union of toilers; they will have no
title to their share of the common product. Now this was
always the principle at the very basis of anarchism -- "To
each according to needs" -- and it was in that principle that
anarchism always saw the best guarantee of social
solidarity. When faced with the question: "What will you do
with the idlers?," they answered: "Better to feed a few
idlers for nothing than to introduce, merely on account of
their being there, a false and harmful principle into the life
of society."

Now, you create, for political reasons, a sort of idler
category and, by way of repression, you would have them
perish of hunger. But apart from the moral aspect, have you
stopped to consider where that would lead? In the case of
every person not working, we will have to establish the
grounds on which they do not work: we will have to become
mind readers and probe their beliefs. Should somebody
refuse to perform a given task, we will have to inquire into
the grounds for their refusal. We will have to see if it is not
sabotage or counter-revolution. Upshot? Spying, forced
labor, "labor mobilization" and, to cap it all, the products
vital to life are to be the gift of authorities which will be
able to starve the opposition to death! Rations as a weapon
of political struggle! Can it be that what you have seen in
Russia has not persuaded you of the abominable nature of
such an arrangement! And I am not talking about the
damage that it would do to the destiny of the revolution;
such a blatant breach of social solidarity could not help but
spawn dangerous enemies.

It is in relation to this problem that they key to the whole
anarchist conception of social organization lies. If one were
to make concessions on this point, on would quickly be
hounded into jettisoning all the other anarchist ideas, for
your approach to the problem makes any anti-statist social
organization an impossibility.

It may be that I have to write to the press about the
Platform. But I should prefer to put that off until all these
gray areas have been elucidated.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Thus, the Organizational Platform spawns a series of
substantive questions set out in the letter just quoted,
notably: (1) the question of majority and minority in the
anarchist movement; (2) that of the structure and essential
features of the free regime of the soviets; (3) that of the
ideological steering of events and of the masses; (4) that of
defense of the revolution; (5) that of press freedom and the
freedom of speech; and (6) the construction to be placed
upon the anarchist principle of "to each according to

Let us tackle them in order:

THE ANARCHIST MOVEMENT. The author broaches
this by linking it to our idea of an Executive Committee of
the Union. If the Union's Executive Committee has, besides
other functions of an executive nature, also that of
"steering the activity of isolated groups from a theoretical
and organizational point of view," must that steering not be
coercive? Then, are groups affiliated to the Union to be free
to proscribe their own tactics and determine their own
stance with regard to each given matter? Or are they to be
obliged to abide by the overall tactic and the overall
positions to be laid down by the Union's majority?

Let it be said, first of all, that in our view, the Union's
Executive Committee cannot be a body endowed with any
powers of a coercive nature, as is the case with the
centralist political parties. The General Anarchist Union's
Executive Committee is a body performing functions of a
general nature in the Union. Instead of "Executive
Committee," this body might carry the title of "Union
Secretariat". However, the name "Executive Committee" is
to be preferred, for it better encapsulates the idea of the
executive function and that of initiative. Without in any way
restricting the rights of isolated groups, the Executive
Committee will be able to steer their activity in the
theoretical and organizational sense. For there will always
be groups inside the Union that will feel burdened by
various tactical issues, so that ideological or organizational
assistance will always be necessary for certain groups. It
goes without saying that the Executive Committee will be
well placed to lend such assistance, for it will be, by virtue
of its situation and its functions, imbued with the tactical or
organizational line adopted by the Union on a variety of

But if, nevertheless, some organizations or others should
indicate a wish to pursue their own tactical line, will the
Executive Committee or the Union as a body be in a
position to prevent them? In other words, is the Union's
tactical and policy line to be laid down by the majority, or
will every group be entitled to operate as it deems fit, and,
will the Union have several lines to start with?

As a rule, we reckon that the Union, as a body, should have
a single tactical and political line. Indeed, the Union is
designed for the purpose of bringing an end to the anarchist
movement's dissipation and disorganization, the intention
being to lay down, in place of a multiplicity of tactical lines
giving rise to intestinal frictions, an overall policy line that
will enable all libertarian elements to pursue a common
direction and be all the more successful in achieving their
goal. In the absence of which the Union would have lost one
of its main raisons d'etre.

However, there may be times when the opinions of the
Union's membership on such and such an issue would be
split, which would give rise to the emergence of a majority
and a minority view. Such instances are commonplace in
the life of all organizations and all parties. Usually, a
resolution of such a situation is worked out.

We reckon, first of all, that for the sake of unity of the
Union, the minority should, in such cases, make
concessions to the majority. This would be readily
achievable, in cases of insignificant differences of opinion
between the minority and majority. If, though, the minority
were to consider sacrificing its viewpoint an impossibility,
then there would be the prospect of having two divergent
opinions and tactics within the Union; a majority view and
tactic, and a minority view and tactic.

In which case, the position will have to come under scrutiny
by the Union as a whole. If, after discussion, the existence
of two divergent views on the same issue were to be
adjudged feasible, the co-existence of those two opinions
will be accepted as an accomplished fact.

Finally, in the event of agreement between majority and
minority on the tactical and political matters separating
them proving impossible, there would be a split with the
minority breaking away from the majority to found a
separate organization.

Those are the three possible outcomes in the event of
disagreement between the minority and majority. In all
cases, the question will be resolved, not by the Executive
Committee which, let us repeat, is to be merely an
executive organ of the Union, but by the entire Union as a
body: by a Union Conference or Congress.

(2) THE FREE REGIME OF SOVIETS. We repudiate the
current (Bolshevik) soviet arrangement, for it represents
only a certain political form of the State. The soviets of
workers' and peasants' deputies are a State political
organization run by a political party. Against which we offer
soviets of the workers' and peasants' production and
consumption organizations. That is the meaning of the
slogan "free regime of soviets and factory committees". We
take such a regime to mean an economic and social
arrangement wherein all of the branches and functions of
economic and social life would be concentrated in the hands
of the toilers' production and consumption organizations,
which would perform those functions with an eye to
meeting the needs of the whole laboring society. A
Federation of these organizations and their soviets would
dispense with the State and the capitalist system, and
would be the chief pivot of the free soviets regime. To be
sure, this regime will not instantly represent the
full-blooded ideal of the anarchist commune, but it will be
the first showing, the first practical essay of that commune,
and it will usher in the age of free, non-statist creativity of
the toilers.

We are of the opinion that, with regard to their decisions
relating to the various realms of economic and social life,
the soviets of the workers' and peasants' organizations or
the factory committees will see to those, not through
violence or decrees but rather through common accord with
the toiling masses who will be taking a direct hand in the
making of those decisions. Those decisions, though, will
have to be binding upon all who vote for and endorse them.

EVENTS IN TERMS OF THEORY. The action of steering
revolutionary elements and the revolutionary movement of
the masses in terms of ideas should not and cannot ever be
considered as an aspiration on the part of anarchists that
they should take the construction of the new society into
their own hands. That construction cannot be carried out
except by the whole laboring society, for that task devolves
upon it alone, and any attempt to strip it of that right must
be deemed anti-anarchist. The question of the ideological
piloting is not a matter of socialist construction, but rather
of a theoretical and political influence brought to bear upon
the revolutionary march of political events. We would be
neither revolutionaries nor fighters were we not to take an
interest in the character and tenor of the masses'
revolutionary struggle. And since the character and tenor of
that struggle are determined not just by objective factors,
but also by subjective factors, that is to say by the
influence of a variety of political groups, we have a duty to
do all in our power to see that anarchism's ideological
influence upon the march of revolution is maximized.

The current "age of wars and revolutions" poses a chief
dilemma with exceptional acuteness: revolutionary events
will evolve either under the sway of statist ideas (even
should these be socialist), or else under they sway of
anti-statist ideas (anarchism). And, since we are
unshakable in our conviction that the statist trend will bring
the revolution to defeat and the masses to a renewed
slavery, our task follows from that with implacable logic: it
is to do all we can to see that the revolution is shaped by
the anarchist tendency. Now, our old way of operating, a
primitive approach relying on tiny, scattered groups, will not
only fail to carry off the task but will, indeed, hinder it. So
we have to proceed by a new method. We have to
orchestrate the force of anarchism's theoretical influence
upon the march of events. Instead of being an intermittent
influence felt through disparate petty actions, it has to be
made a powerful, ongoing factor. That, as we see it, can
scarcely be possible unless anarchism's finest militants, in
matters theoretical and practical alike, organize themselves
into a body capable of vigorous action and well-grounded in
terms of theory and tactics: a General Union of Anarchists.
It is in this same sense that the drive to pilot revolutionary
syndicalism in theoretical terms should be understood.
Entering trade unions in an organized manner meant
entering as the carriers of a certain theory, a prescribed
work plan, work that will have to be strictly compatible in
the case of every anarchist operating within the trade
unions. The Anarchist Union is hardly going to trouble itself
to prescribe tactics for the labor movement or draw up
plans for strikes or demonstrations. But it is going to have
to disseminate within the unions its ideas regarding the
revolutionary tactics of the working class and on various
events; that constitutes one of its inalienable rights.
However, in the endeavor to spread their ideas, anarchists
will have to be in strict agreement, both with one and other
as well as with the endeavors of the anarchist umbrella
organization to which they belong and in the name of which
they will be carrying out ideological and organizational work
inside the trade unions. Conducting libertarian endeavors
inside the trade unions in an organized manner and ensuring
that anarchist efforts coincide have nothing to do with
authoritarian procedure.

(4) The author's voiced objection to the program's thesis
regarding DEFENSE OF THE REVOLUTION is, more than
any other, rooted in a misunderstanding.

Having stressed the necessity and inevitability, in the civil
war context, of the toilers' creating their revolutionary army,
the Platform asserts also that this army will have to be
subordinated to the overall direction of the workers' and
peasants' production and consumption organizations.

Subordination of the army to these organizations does not
at all imply the idea of an elected civil authority. Absolutely
not. An army, even should it be the most revolutionary and
most popular of armies in terms of its mentality and title,
cannot, however, exist and operate off its own initiative, but
has to be answerable to someone. Being an organ for the
defense of the toilers' rights and revolutionary positions, the
army must, for that very reason, be wholly subordinate to
the toilers and piloted by them, politically speaking; we
stress politically, for, when it comes to its military and
strategic direction, that could only be handled by military
bodies within the ranks of the army itself and answerable to
the workers' and peasants' leadership organizations.

But to whom might the army be directly answerable,
politically? The toilers do not constitute a single body. They
will be represented by manifold economic organizations. It
is to these very same organizations, in the shape of their
federal umbrella agencies, that the army will be
subordinated. The character and social functions of these
agencies are spelled out at the outset of the present

The notion of a toilers' revolutionary army must be either
accepted or rejected. But should the army be countenanced,
then the principle of that army's being subordinated to the
workers' and peasants' organizations likewise has to be
accepted. We can see no other possible solution to the

ORGANIZATION, ETC. The victorious proletariat should
not tamper either with freedom of speech, nor of the press,
not even those of its erstwhile enemies and oppressors now
defeated by the revolution. It is even less acceptable that
there be tampering with press freedom and freedom of
speech in the context of the revolutionary socialist and
anarchist groupings in the ranks of the victorious

Free speech and press freedom are essential for the toilers,
not simply so that they may illuminate and better grasp the
tasks involved in their constructive economic and social
endeavors, but also with an eye to better discerning the
essential traits, arguments, plans and intentions of their

It is untrue that the capitalist and social opportunist press
can lead the revolutionary toilers astray. The latter will be
quite capable of deciphering and exposing the lying press
and giving it the answer it deserves. Press freedom and
freedom of speech only scare those like the capitalists and
the State socialists who survive through dirty deeds that
they are obliged to hide from the eyes of the great toiling
masses. As for the toilers, freedom of speech will be a
tremendous boon to them. It will enable them to listen and
give everything a hearing, judge things for themselves, and
make their understanding deeper and their actions more

Monopolization of the press and the right to speak, or the
limitation of these by their being squeezed into the confines
of a single party's dogma, put paid to all confidence in the
monopolists and in their press. If free speech is stifled, it is
because there is a desire to conceal the truth: something
demonstrated sensationally by the Bolsheviks, whose press
is dependent upon bayonets and is read primarily out of
necessity, there being no other.

However, there may be specific circumstances when the
press, or, rather, abuse of the press, may be restricted on
the grounds of revolutionary usefulness. As an example, we
might cite one episode from the revolutionary era in Russia.

Throughout the month of November 1919, the town of
Ekaterinoslav was in the hands of the Makhnovist
insurgent army. But at the same time, it was surrounded by
Denikin's troops who, having dug in along the left bank of
the Dniepr in the area around the towns of Amur and
Nizhnedneprovsk, where shelling Ekaterinoslav continually
with cannon mounted on their armored trains. And a
Denikinist unit headed by General Slashchev was
simultaneously advancing on Ekaterinoslav from the north,
from the area around Kremenchug.

At the time, the following daily newspapers were appearing
in Ekaterinoslav, thanks to freedom of speech: the
Makhnovist organ 'Putsk Svobodey' (Road To Freedom),
the Right Social Revolutionaries' 'Narodovlastiye' (Peoples'
Power), the Ukrainian Left Social Revolutionaries' 'Borotba'
(Struggle), and the Bolshevik's organ 'Zvezda' (Star). Only
the Cadets, then spiritual leaders of the Denikinist
movement, were without their newspaper. Well now! Say
the Cadets would have wanted to publish in Ekaterinoslav
their own newspaper which without any doubt would have
been an accessory to Denikin's operations, would the
revolutionary workers and insurgents have had to grant the
Cadets the right to their newspaper, even at a time when its
primarily military role in events would have been apparent?
We think not.

In a civil war context, such cases may arise more than
once. In these cases, the workers and peasants will have to
be guided not by the broad principle of freedom of press and
free speech, but by the role that enemy mouthpieces will be
undertaking in relation to the ongoing military struggle.

Generally speaking though, and with the exception of
extraordinary cases (such as civil war), victorious labor
will have to grant free speech and freedom of the press to
left-wing views and right-wing views alike. That freedom
will be the pride and joy of the free toilers' society.

Anarchists countenance revolutionary violence in the fight
against the class enemy. They urge the toilers to use that.
But they will never agree to wield power, even for a single
instant, nor impose their decisions on the masses by force.
In this connection their methods are: propaganda, force of
argument, and spoken and written persuasion.

Without question, this principle is the cornerstone of
anarchist communism. No other economic, social or legal
precept is as well-suited to the ideal of anarchist
communism as this one. The Platform also says that: "the
social revolution, which will see to the reconstruction of the
whole established social order, will thereby see to it that
everyone's basic needs are provided for."

However, it is a broad declaration of principle on the
problem of an anarchist society. It has to be distinguished
from the practical demands of the early days of the social
revolution. As the experiences of the Paris Commune and
the Russian Revolution have shown, the non-working
classes are beaten, but not definitively. In the early days a
single idea obsesses them: collecting themselves,
overthrowing the revolution, and restoring their lost

That being the case, it would be extremely risky and fatally
dangerous for the revolution to share out the products that
would be available to the revolutionary zone in according to
the principle of "to each according needs". It would be
doubly dangerous for, aside from the comfort that this might
afford the classes inimical to the revolution, which would be
morally and strategically unconscionable, new classes will
immediately arise and these, seeing the revolution supply
the needs of every person, would rather idle than work.
Plainly this double danger is not something that one can
ignore. For it will quickly get the better of the revolution,
unless effective measures are taken against it. The best
measure would be to put the counter-revolutionary,
non-working classes usefully to work. In one sphere or
another, to one extent or another, these classes will have to
find themselves useful employment of which society has
need; and it is their very right to their share in society's
output that will force them to do so, for there are no rights
that do not carry obligations. That is the very point that our
splendid anarchist principle is making. It proposes that
every individual in proportion to their needs, provided that
every individual places their powers and faculties in the
service of society.

An exception will be made for the children, the elderly, the
sick and the infirm. Rightly, society will excuse all such
persons from the duty of labor, without denying them their
entitlement to have all their needs met.

The moral sensibilities of the toilers' is deeply outraged by
the principle of taking from society according to one's
needs, while giving to it according to one's mood or not at
all; toilers have suffered too long from the application of
that absurd principle and that is why they are unbending on
this point. Our feeling for justice and logic is also outraged
at this principle.

The position will change completely as soon as the free
society of toilers entrenches itself and when there are no
longer any classes sabotaging the new production for
motives of a counter-revolutionary nature, but only a
handful of idlers. Then society will have to make a complete
reality of the anarchist principle: "From each according to
ability, to each according to needs," for only on the basis of
that principle will society be assured of its chances to
breathe complete freedom and genuine equality.

But even then, the general rule will be that all able-bodied
persons, enjoying rights over the material and moral
resources of society, incur certain obligations in respect of
production of these.

Bakunin, analyzing this problem in his day, wrote in the
maturity of his anarchist thinking and activity (in 1871,
comrade Nettlau reckons): "Everyone will have to work if
they are to eat. Anyone refusing to work will be free to
perish of hunger, unless they find some association or
township prepared to feed them out of pity. But then it will
probably be fair to grant them no political rights, since,
capable of work, their shameful situation is of their own
choosing and they are living off another person's labor. For
there will be no other basis for social and political rights
than the work performed by each individual."

* From North East Federation Anarcho Communist (NEFAC) webpage

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