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(en) The Northeastern Anarchist #6 BOOK REVIEW: Organizational Platform of the Libertarian

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 12 May 2003 14:21:13 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

> Reviews - Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists
by Dielo Trouda Group, 1926 (Workers Solidarity Movement, 1989); 34pp. $5
As revolutionary anarcho-communists, we rely on the platform to
guide the functioning of our federation, our internal relationships,
the functioning of our collectives, and our relationship with other
anarchists. We do not, however, harbor any illusions that it is an
error free document that should not be reviewed critically. The
Platform was written in a social reality that has more differences
than commonalities to our present day North American social
reality. With this in mind, we approach a critical review of the
Platform with the hopes of preserving the tenets of the Platform
from which our organizing efforts can benefit, while
simultaneously discarding many of the irrelevancies of the same
document. In the spirit of continuing the debate on the Platform
among anarchist-communists, we submit this modest review.

The preface and historical introduction by members of the
Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM) is essential and helps
readers understand both where modern adherents of the
platform are today as well as the historical conditions that the
pamphlet was written under. The history of the Russian
revolution and the roles anarchists, including the authors, played
in it before being repressed by the Bolsheviks is only sketched
briefly, but it provides a clear illustration of where the authors of
the pamphlet are coming from. We are also given a short history
of the platformist tradition shows how small a tendency it has
been. Credit has to be given to the WSM for promoting the
platform over the last twenty years, which has lead to the largest
influence that it has ever had in the international anarchist

The introduction centers on the authors' frustration with the
"chronic general disorganization" of the anarchist movement. The
Platform puts forward that the lack of organization is because of
theoretical problems within the anarchist movement, the main
one being an absence of responsibility. There is also a firm
rejection of synthesism where individuals who hold differing
conceptions of anarchist philosophies , "[...]each having a
different conception of all the questions of the anarchist
movement", are in the same organization. The platform instead
argues for an anarchist organization with "...precise positions:
theoretical, tactical and organizational. The more or less perfect
base of a homogenous program." The platform was meant to be a
"skeleton" for the program that they hoped their proposed
"General Union of Anarchists" would expand upon.

The general section makes up the bulk of the pamphlet and is
broken down into several parts. The first point is class struggle
where they argue, "In the history of human society ... class
struggle has always been the primary factor which determined
the form and structure of these societies". This analysis is
incredibly simplistic, short and is a woefully inadequate
summation of much more complex social relations. It is necessary
for modern class struggle anarchists to expand upon this point,
analyzing how patriarchy and white supremacy and other
oppressions stratify and divide the working class.

Also, wihtin the Platform, the sham of bourgeois "democracy's"
collaboration with the ruling class is naturally rejected. However,
the concept of direct democracy, one of the principles of
anarchism, isn't differentiated, making it a confusing point, a
better word would have been electoralism.

The authors harshly criticize the theory that the state can be a
weapon for the working class in their struggle for emancipation:

"The state, immediately and supposedly constructed for the
defense of the revolution, invariably ends up distorted by needs
and characteristics peculiar to itself, itself being the goal,
produces specific, privileged castes, and consequently
re-establishes the basis of capitalist authority and the state; the
usual enslavement and exploitation of the masses by violence."

A large part of the General Section concentrates on the role of
the masses and anarchists in social revolution. It starts off
stating that the anarchist conception of the mass revolutionary
potential is markedly different than that of statists. While statists
can only conceive of the masses performing a destructive role in
social revolution, that of destroying the capitalist social order,
anarchists see that people are fully capable of running the new
society themselves.

The platform then lays out the basic strategy for the anarchist
movement both before and during a revolutionary upheaval. In
the pre-revolutionary period the strategy is two-fold. One of
creating specifically anarchist-communist organizations (like
NEFAC) for theoretical development, producing propaganda, and
fighting the battle of ideas within the working class as an
organized group. The second main task for anarchists is that of
organizing workers and peasants at the points of production and
consumption. In other words, the building of a revolutionary class
force that is capable of both seizing economic power from the
ruling class and re-organizing production, distribution and
consumption during and after the revolution.

During the revolution "The role of anarchists in the revolutionary
period cannot be restricted solely to the propagation of the
keynotes of libertarian ideas." The pamphlet goes on to state:

"It [the anarchist organization] must manifest its initiative and
display total participation in all the domains of the social
revolution: in the orientation and general character of the
revolution; in the positive tasks of the revolution, in new
production, consumption, the agrarian question etc. On all these
questions, and on numbers of others, the masses demand a clear
and precise response from the anarchists. And from the moment
when anarchists declare a conception of the revolution and the
structure of society, they are obliged to give all these questions a
clear response, to relate the solution of these problems to the
general conception of libertarian communism, and to devote all
their forces to the realization of these."

The Platform also upholds the sheer insanity of any sort of
"transition period" or "minimum programs":

"Anarchists have always defended the idea of an immediate
social revolution, which deprives the capitalist class of its
economic and social privileges, and place the means and
instruments of production and all the functions of economic and
social life in the hands of the workers".

What we understand "minimum programs" to mean is the same
as 'reformism'. That doesn't mean that fighting for reforms (such
as housing, better wages, healthcare, or working conditions) is
bad, only that it doesn't go far enough and will be absorbed into
capitalism and class society.

The next section is on unionism (also known as syndicalism). It is
here that we begin to see how historical conditions have changed
drastically in the last 76 years. When the platform was written
there was a wave of mass revolutionary unions across the world.
No such comparable movement exists today, especially in the
United States and Canada where revolutionary unionism was
always much smaller than trade unionism and hasn't been a
mass movement since the 20th century. Even the European
revolutionary unions of today are shadows of their former selves
never having fully recovered from being smashed during the
Fascist period.

That said, the platform makes two essential points about
unionism. One that "In uniting workers on a basis of production,
revolutionary syndicalism, like all groups based on professions,
has no determining theory, it does not have a conception of the
world which answers all the complicated social and political
questions of contemporary reality. It always reflects the
ideologies of diverse political groupings notably of those who
work most intensely in its ranks." However, far from rejecting
unionism due to its theoretical deficits they "consider the
tendency to oppose libertarian communism to syndicalism and
vice versa to be artificial, and devoid of all foundation and
meaning". They argued that anarchist organizations should
participate in unions, not as individuals, but as an "organized
force" who "[...]consider that the tasks of anarchists in the ranks
of the movement consist of developing libertarian theory, and
point it in a libertarian direction, in order to transform it into an
active arm of the social revolution. It is necessary to never forget
that if trade unionism does not find in anarchist theory a support
in opportune times it will turn, whether we like it or not, to the
ideology of a political statist party".

Thus is platformism's basic orientation towards working in
unions. The question we face is do we concentrate on tiny
revolutionary unions like the Industrial Workers of the World
(IWW), or the much larger but thoroughly reformist trade unions?
Undoubtedly our influence would be far greater on IWW, our
puny membership numbers would account for almost 10% of the
IWW's total membership, but is it really worth the effort to join
and organize with the IWW when the mainstream trade unions
consist of millions of workers? Doesn't it make more sense to
spread our ideas to the maximum number of workers possible?

The final part of the general section is about the defense of the
revolution. In it the authors argue that the main threat a
revolution faces is not in the initial overthrow of the ruling class,
but in the subsequent reactionary counter-attack. The authors
saw from first hand experience, that there will be a civil war
between the revolutionaries and the armies of the capitalists. It is
for that reason that they argue for the creation of a revolutionary
army with a "common" (a euphemism for the more accurate term
'central') command. Now, I think it would be hard to argue with
any credibility that regular armies with central commands are
more efficient and better able to fight than isolated, part-time,
"citizen-soldier" militias.

However, efficiency is only one part of the question of anarchist
military organizations. The other is the profoundly political
question of if a "regularly constituted military organization" can
exist in an anarchist society without being the nucleus of an
authoritarian state. We would argue "no". The basis of anarchist
military organizations should be the irregular militia consisting of
affinity groups of revolutionaries that come together to seize and
defend their workplaces and communities.

In times of civil war what is needed is the co-ordination of the
various armed affinity groups. The militias should come together
and form a single military organization with a democratically
elected and recallable central command - but should always
maintain a high level of autonomy including the freedom to
refuse orders. There should also be no rank system with
everyone a common soldier.

Most importantly once the civil war is over the central command
should be disbanded and the soldiers returned to their homes,
fields and factories with their units serving as local irregular
militias. The people in arms is fundamental to defending a
revolution and the lessons of the forced militarization of anarchist
fighting units and disarming of workers' organizations by the
Stalinists and republicans during the Spanish civil war (a good 10
years after the platform was written) should be heeded by
contemporary anarchists.

That said, the platform does put forth some key points for any
anarchist military organization. They are:

"(a) the class character of the army; (b) voluntary service (all
coercion will be completely excluded from the work of defending
the revolution); (c) free revolutionary discipline (self-discipline)
(voluntary service and revolutionary self-discipline are perfectly
compatible, and give the revolutionary army greater morale than
any army of the state); (d) the total submission of the
revolutionary army to the masses of the workers and peasants as
represented by the worker and peasant organizations common
throughout the country, established by the masses in the
controlling sectors of economic and social life."

The fact that the platform takes on the subject of anarchist
military organization is important and something that is sorely
missing from modern anarchist organizations.

This brings us to the "constructive section" of the platform, which
outlines the basic principles of how production and consumption
will be organized during and after the revolution. A main point of
this section concentrates on the peasants; again this is a point
where the development of capitalism has changed social reality.

The world has seen a huge increase in the percentage of the
population that lives in cities. Modern capitalist agriculture is no
longer done by exploiting small peasant families or farmers - it is
through the use of massive agribusiness super-farms that use
technology - much of which is chemical - unsustainable high-yield
practices that leave the land infertile and the exploitation of
migrant workers. A peasantry that the authors write about just
doesn't exist in a modern industrial society.

However, that doesn't mean that the platform is wrong about the
importance of the agrarian question. In fact, it means that more
than ever the capitalist class will attempt to starve any revolution
to death by cutting off food supplies to the cities. This in fact
places an increased priority on keeping supply routes to the
cities open, having excellent relations between the city workers
and the existing farmers and will necessitate a substantial
amount of urban workers leaving the cities to work on farms in
order to provide the necessary amount of food for society in a
sustainable and non-exploitative manner.

It is striking that for a pamphlet stressing the need for anarchists
to become better organized, that the organizational section is the
shortest and the most incomplete. However, it does manage to
lay down the four key points of platformist organizational theory.
That of theoretical unity, tactical unity, collective responsibility,
and federalism.

The section starts out with the idea that the platform was the
minimum theory necessary to rally the "healthy" tendencies of the
anarchist movement into a general union of anarchists. In short,
the idea was to form an anarchist international. While this
remains a good idea, it is clear that it is premature for the
contemporary anarchist movement. First we must have national
or regional anarchist federations of sufficient size and
organization so that it makes sense to put the work into forming
an anarchist international. Given the platform's often enraged
denouncements of the 1926 anarchist movement's lack of
organization I speculate that the same case existed then. In
short, the Dielo Trouda group was working backwards.

They should have focused on building national organizations
before trying to call for an international general union of
anarchists. It is understandable, given that the authors saw the
revolutionary period they lived in pass by anarchism to the cost
of thousands of their comrades' lives, but it remains incorrect.

The first three points of the organization section are brief, I would
guess that the authors saw them as common sense positions that
had to be noted so nobody would confuse it with the theory of
'synthesis' anarchist organization. The final section on federalism
contains one problematic point, that of the executive. It seems
impossible to simultaneously rail against democratic centralism
in one paragraph, and then go on to state that an anarchist
organization should have an executive structure that is
responsible for "the theoretical and organizational orientation of
the activity of isolated organizations consistent with the
theoretical positions and the general tactical line of the Union".
Executives, even in the most radical organization, become a
hierarchical leadership position that sets the goals for the
organization and lowers participation of the general membership.
Yes, specific tasks do need to be filled, such as collecting dues,
publishing propaganda, and corresponding with other
organizations. But a structure of specific working groups, or
rotating responsibility between collectives, branches, or "cells" is
preferable and more in line with anti-authoritarian principles than
an executive structure.

Overall, the 'Organizational Platform of Libertarian Communists'
is a worthy attempt by the Dielo Trouda group to lay a theoretical
base for anarchists to form coherent organizations. It remains a
useful document for modern anarchists who see it exactly as
such, a pamphlet that is worth reading and drawing ideas from -
not some sort of holy book. It remains to be the modern
anarchist-communists task to expand on the defects of the
platform and build the organizations that can form a true "general
union of anarchists".

- reviewed by Mick Black (NEFAC-Toronto) & Jessica, Sabate
Anarchist Collective (NEFAC-Boston)

**This book review is from The Northeastern Anarchist #6**


The Northeastern Anarchist is the English-language theoretical
magazine of the Northeastern Federation of
Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC), covering class struggle
anarchist theory, history, strategy, debate and analysis in an
effort to further develop anarcho-communist ideas and practice.


Current issue is $5ppd ($6 international) per copy, back issues
are $2ppd ($3 international) per copy. Subscriptions are $15ppd
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email: northeastern_anarchist@yahoo.com @

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