Introduction by Nick Heath

Posted: April 21, 2010 in 3. The Makhno/Malatesta Debate

Malatesta wrote a reply to the Organisational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft) whilst under house arrest in fascist Italy.  It appeared in the Swiss anarchist paper Le Reveil and then as a pamphlet in Paris.  One of the authors of the Platform, Piotr Arshinov, replied to Malatesta’s criticisms in the paper set up by him and Nestor Makhno in Paris, Dielo Trouda.  Equally, Makhno sent a long letter to Malatesta , stating that a misunderstanding of the text by Malatesta must have led to their disagreement.  Malatesta did not get this letter for over a year, and replied as soon as he could.  He still expressed disagreement with the Platform, opposing moral responsibility to collective responsibility, and criticising the Executive Committee mentioned in the Platform as “a government in good and due form”.  Makhno replied a second time (see my translation of excerpts of this letter in correspondence in Freedom 18 November 1995).  Malatesta appears to have conceded that it was a question of words, because if collective responsibility meant “the accord and solidarity which must exist between the members of an association… we will be close to understanding each other”.  Isolation due to house arrest and a problem of language may have contributed to these disagreements between Malatesta and the Platformists.  Arshinov’s reply to Malatesta which I have translated from the French, is its first appearance in the English language.

I have taken the liberty of translating “masses ouvrieres” as “working masses”.  In the past this phrase has often been translated as “toiling masses”, which I feel to be somewhat passé.  Whatever, Russian anarchists meant by this the industrial working class and the majority of the peasantry which they felt must have unity of action and aims.

Nick Heath

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