The Platform: What’s in it?

Posted: April 29, 2010 in 7. Recent Writings

by the Workers Solidarity Movement

A Guide to ‘The Organisational Platform for a General Union of Anarchists (Draft)

The introduction is brief, it describes the poor state of the anarchist movement and explains why they felt it necessary to formulate a new approach to organisation. The authors then describe the following two sections as the “minimum to which it is necessary and urgent to rally all the militants of the anarchist movement”. These are the basic issues on which they believe it is important to have agreement, in order to have an organisation which can co-operate and work together in practice.

General Section

This section outlines what they saw as the basic anarchist beliefs. They look at what is meant by class struggle, what is meant by anarchism and libertarian communism. They explain why they oppose the state and centralised authority. The role of the masses and of anarchists in the social struggle and social revolution is also explained. They criticise the Bolshevik strategy of obtaining control of the state. Finally they look at the relationship between anarchism and the trade unions.

The Constructive Section

This outlines how a future anarchist society would be organised, they look at how the factories would operate and how food would be produced. They warn that the revolution will have to be defended, and talk a little about how this might be done.

The Organisational Section

This is the shortest and most contentious section of The Platform. Here the authors sketch their idea of how an anarchist organisation should be structured. They call this the General Union of Anarchists.

By this they seem to mean one umbrella organisation, which is made up of different groups and individuals. Here we would disagree with them. We don’t believe there will ever be one organisation which encompasses everything, neither do we see it as necessary. Instead we envisage the existence of a number of organisations, each internally unified, each co-operating with each other where possible. This is what we call the Anarchist movement, it is a much more amorphous and fluid entity than a General Union of Anarchists.

However, what we do agree on are the fundamental principles by which any anarchist organisation should operate.

Theoretical Unity, that there is a commitment to come to agreement on theory. By theory they don’t mean abstract musings on the meaning of life. By theory they mean the knowledge we have about how the world operates. Theory answers the question ‘why?’, for example ‘why is there poverty?’ ‘why haven’t Labour Parties provided a fairer society?’ and so on and so on. By theoretical unity they mean that members of the organisation must agree on a certain number of basics. There isn’t much an organisation can do if half their members believe in class struggle and the other half in making polite appeals to politicians, or one in which some people believe union struggles are important and others think they are a waste of time. Of course, not everybody is going to agree with everybody else on every single point. If there was total agreement there would be no debate, and our politics would grow stale and sterile. Accepting this however, there is a common recognition that it is important to reach as much agreement as possible, and to translate this agreement into action, to work together, which brings us to …

Tactical Unity, that the members of the organisation agree to struggle together as an organisation, rather than struggle as individuals in opposition to each other. So for example in Ireland, the WSM identified the anti-water charges campaign (see R&BR3 for more details) as an issue of great importance. Once it was prioritised, all of our members committed themselves to work for the campaign, where possible. The tactics and potential of the campaign were discussed at length at our meetings. It became the major focus of our activity.

Collective Responsibility, by this they mean that each member will support the decisions made by the collective, and each member will be part of the collective decision making process. Without this, any decisions made will be paper decisions only. Through this the strength of all the individuals that make up the group is magnified and collectively applied. The Platform doesn’t go into detail about how collective responsibility works in practice. There are issues it leaves untouched such as the question of people who oppose the majority view. We would argue that obviously people who oppose the view of the majority have a right to express their own views, however in doing so they must make clear that they don’t represent the view of the organisation. If a group of people within the organisation oppose the majority decision they have the right to organise and distribute information so that their arguments can be heard within the organisation as a whole. Part of our anarchism is the belief that debate and disagreement, freedom and openness strengthens both the individual and the group to which she or he belongs.

Federalism, which they define as “the free agreement of individuals and organisations to work collectively towards common objectives”.


Originally published in Red & Black Revolution, the magazine
of the Irish Workers Solidarity Movement

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