The Global Influence of Platformism Today: Italy

Posted: June 14, 2010 in 11. The Global Influence Of Platformism Today: Interviews

NEFAC Interviews the Federazione dei Comunist Anarchici

Although smaller in numbers than the synthesis-oriented Italian Anarchist Federation (FAI), the Federazione dei Comunist Anarchici (FdCA) has provided an important pole for class struggle anarchists in Italy for over fifteen years now. They are an explicitly platformist group, and maintain a high level of organizational discipline throughout the federation. Since our formation, those of us from NEFAC have kept semi-regular contact with the FdCA, and, incidentally, they were one of the groups whose organizational model we studied prior to our founding conference. Below is an interview with Donato Romito, the FdCA’s international secretary. English translation by Nestor McNabb (A-Infos Collective, Rome).

Interview by MaRK, Class Against Class (NEFAC-Boston)

NEFAC: Anarcho-communism has a long history and tradition in Italy, going back to the 1870s, however it seems that most of today’s anarchist groups trace their history to the struggles of 1968-69. Were any of the older anarcho-communist tendencies able to survive the period of fascist reaction and influence the newer generations of anarchist militants? Also, what is the specific history of ‘platformist’ tendencies in Italy?

FdCA: It was 1968-69 when the older members of the FdCA first appeared on the political scene, the years of the workers’ and students’ movements. Clearly they could not remain unaffected by the strong libertarian, but above all class, elements expressed in those movements. When they approached anarchism, they found there the Federazione Anarchica Italiana [Italian Anarchist Federation, FAI], a synthesis organization, which apparently offered a space but which in reality was not an organization but a collection of individuals of a rather individualist tendency. However, historical readings on Italian and international anarchism showed us that there was instead a continuous line of class-struggle, communist anarchism starting with the First International and proceeding through the social struggles in most parts of the world at the start of the twentieth century, the anti-Bolshevik and anti-Stalinist struggles not to mention the work carried out by anarchists both before and after the Russian Revolution, the Red Years in Italy, the Mexican Revolution and of course the Spanish Revolution.

In Italy, the continuity of anarchist communism was disturbed by various events, the most disastrous of which was without doubt the economic influence of that Italo-American anti-organization and non-classist anarchism linked with the journal “L’Adunata dei Refrattari” during the fascist and post-war period. One form of “rebellion” against that tendency which had taken over Italian anarchism during the 1950s was the creation of the organizationalist Gruppi Anarchici di Azione Proletaria [Proletarian Action Anarchist Groups, GAAP].

These groups had some excellent members, but fell apart after they were “kicked out” of the world of “official” anarchism by the FAI. Luckily, despite the “excommunications”, many of these comrades continued their class-struggle activity and when they were tracked down at the beginning of the Seventies, were able to pass on their experiences and provide a link between the two periods.

It should also be remembered that, at that time, we were geographically close to the French experience with the Organisation Révolutionnaire Anarchiste (ORA) and the Spanish groups who were reorganizing against Francoism and, later, following the death of Franco. To sum up, it was the union of these forces which enabled the birth of territorial groups during the Seventies which could take up the reins of communist, class-struggle anarchism in Italy, and allow this tendency to enjoy greater visibility.

At the same time, a revision of the history of Italian anarchism was taking place. Starting with the excellent studies made by Masini (not by chance one of the most prominent militants in the GAAP) a series of studies were started, above all by our anarchist communist comrade Dada. Her volume “L’anarchismo in Italia: fra movimento e partito” [“Anarchism in Italy: Between Movement and Party”] was a turning point in studies on Italian anarchism. It highlighted not only the communist basis of anarchism but also the original theorization of the principle of “organizational dualism” [1] which had its highest level of theorization in Italy during the First International, from Bakunin to certain correspondents such as Celso Cerretti, to whom Bakunin wrote a letter clarifying this question (republished together with a lot of other material in the book).

Regarding platformism in Italy, Dada provided new material which brought new light to the history of anarchism which had up to that point been centered on the role of Malatesta, a synthesis mediator for all tendencies. With the publication of memoirs relating to the Paris meetings, it was discovered that Fabbri, Fedeli and others had been in contact with Arshinov. Even studies on the fascist period, both on the comrades in prison or confined and on those exiles who had fled death, demonstrated further the continuity between the communist, class struggle anarchism of a large part of the anarchist movement in the pre-fascist period and the debates of those years.

To simplify, it can be said that the choice of name of the Federation of Anarchist Communists had some significance, particularly in the light of the rediscovery of the previous attempts to found similar organizations – the Unione dei Comunisti Anarchici d’Italia [Union of Anarchist Communists of Italy] in 1919 (which unfortunately melted into the synthetist Unione Anarchica Italiana [Italian Anarchist Union, UAI]) and the Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici [Federation of Anarchist Communists] in 1944 which unfortunately withdrew into the synthesis FAI [Federazione Anarchica Italiana]. The comrades of the anarchist communist tendency which rose again at the start of the ’70s for the most part did not allow themselves to be drawn into the FAI, despite the polemics which this organization often stirred up in an attempt to discourage their attempts at organization, and the result is a project which has lasted right up to the present day.

NEFAC: When did the FdCA first form? What social movements or anarchist groups did the original founding members come out of?

FdCA: The FdCA was born in 1986 when the Organizzazione Rivoluzionaria Anarchica [Revolutionary Anarchist Organization, ORA] united with the Unione Comunisti Anarchici Toscana [Tuscan Union of Anarchist Communists, UCAT]. ORA had been in existence for 10 years and had sections in several regions of Italy. UCAT had been active in Tuscany for 5-6 years. The FdCA is the most recent and most successful Italian anarchist communist organization since 1986.

NEFAC: How is the federation organized?

FdCA: The FdCA is a federation of militants, and sections are formed by several militants in the same town. As an organization, the FdCA is founded on shared ideological elements. There is, therefore, unity on theory, unity on basic strategy and political strategy and general agreement on tactics. Debate is ongoing as far as political strategy and tactics are concerned, which influences the definition of the organization’s program. The political activity of militants is governed by the principle of collective responsibility. The decision-making body is the National Congress, where decisions are made on our political theses, on our press, our internal bodies (such as editorial teams, various committees) and where we elect the Council of Delegates which runs the organization between congresses and which respects the decisions of congress. Comrades are elected to the Council of Delegates on both a territorial basis and a political basis. The Council of Delegates then elects a National Secretariat which has the task of representing the organization and coordinating the activities of the federation.

NEFAC: In what areas of struggle is the federation active? How would you say that ‘platformism’ informs your activity within these struggles?

FdCA: The FdCA is active above all in the areas of the unions, anti-militarism, environmentalism, the fight for self-managed social spaces and the anti-globalization movement.

Platformism characterizes our activity in four different ways:

  1. a strong class-struggle and unity-of-class approach to the struggles;
  2. careful, detailed analysis of those in struggle and the state of the struggle;
  3. the search for common, collective policies as a result of debate within the sections;
  4. our application of the organizational principle of multiple membership, whereby we draw clear distinctions between the tasks and roles of the proletariat’s mass organizations and the political organizations of anarchist communists, where confusion and overlapping between the two is avoided and where the activities of anarchist communist militants are informed by this.

NEFAC: What is the FdCA’s relationship to the organized Italian workers’ movement (the COBAS, the anarcho-syndicalist USI or mainstream trade unions)?

FdCA: Most FdCA militants are active within the labor movement, both within the CGIL [2] and in the radical grass-roots unions [3]. Today, the working class is divided between three traditional unions and five or six grassroots unions. We are not interested in a war between unions as class unity is a fundamental aspect of our strategy and something which goes beyond fidelity to any particular trade union. This is why we try to promote coordination committees of delegates, territorial coordination and coordination of libertarian union activists: to achieve a more radical syndicalism with libertarian principles. Several of these grassroots unions contain “cobas” in their name [4], but they differ from the COBAS Confederation which in our opinion is a somewhat confused collection of union, political and cultural layers. Then there is the USI [Unione Sindacale Italiana], which maintains its ideological identity as an anarchist union.

NEFAC: How about other anarchist groups such as the FAI?

FdCA: As we indicated earlier, dealing with the FAI has always been difficult. Although it is numerically larger and has its press (the weekly ‘Umanita Nuova’), the FAI has always been distant from class struggle and the workers’ movement. Recently, however, it has begun to pay more attention to labor issues and a series of debates and common initiatives have been developed between the FAI and the FdCA.

NEFAC: Italy has a history of extra-parlimentary groups (including anarchists and autonomists) which have carried out armed actions against the State. How do you view these isolated “direct actions” carried out by individuals or small groups? Is there a place for this type of activity within the revolutionary project?

FdCA: Anarchist communists have always rejected armed struggle as the expression of elitist, clandestine, self-appointed vanguards which are detached from the very proletariat they are trying to provide an example of how things should be done. In this way, they create a truly authoritarian relationship between between the so-called leading vanguard and the working class. Political assassinations can destroy in moments years and years of unglorious work in the class struggle.

Of course, Italy is one of those countries where the State has always made an instrument of armed struggle, turning it to its advantage, provoking it, or simply allowing it to take place. The Italian State even “used” the dramatic events in Genoa in 2001, with the complicity of the Black Bloc, particularly its foreign elements. In a revolutionary context there can only be room for the armed struggle of the working class, wherever the physical survival of the class and the revolution is threatened. In recent months the road, railway and port blocks by those Fiat workers threatened with redundancy have attracted widespread popular support. These are of course illegal actions carried out by thousands of workers who, for the time being, have managed to impede any repressive action on the part of the State.

When repression does strike, as with the post-Genoa investigations, mass mobilizations have been the response, leading to the release of the comrades who were arrested.

NEFAC: Does the FdCA maintain international ties with other platformist groups?

FdCA: Sure, we have stable relationships with most of the organizations for whom the Platform was an inspiration, both in Europe and further afield. We consider the AP list to be most useful for international debate and on the occasion of Genoa 2001 we promoted a meeting between Platformist organizations. We believe that an international network of cooperation between anarchist communist organizations would be a most valuable tool. At the moment, the FdCA is part of the International Libertarian Solidarity (ILS) project together with other libertarian political groups and class struggle unions.

NEFAC: What is some of the current activity of the federation? Future plans?

FdCA: Each FdCA section has its own activities in relation to the territory it is part of, as the Federation views itself as a political force in relation to the movements and other political groups. In the short term, we will obviously be busy with the anti-militarist campaign against the war in Iraq. Our policy is to build mass anti-militarist committees which operate according to libertarian principles where there can be the greatest possible participation of all those who oppose war, armies and capitalism.

On the union front, we will be working in the fight against the law which seeks to permit the freedom of dismissal for the bosses, together with the fight connected with the renewal of national work contracts in various sectors involving nearly five million workers. We will be part of the movement in defense of non-religious, pluralist, state education against the reform of the education secretary. Although we are part of the anti-globalization movement, we do not take part in the Social Forums. We are organizing our 3rd National meeting in June (you are all invited, by the way!). Then for the future, our most ambitious project is the usual one – to develop and nurture the Federation.

Federazione dei Comunist Anarchici

Translator’s Notes:

[1] The original Italian expression is “dualismo organizzativa” and refers to anarchist membership in both specific anarchist organizations and general, mass labor organizations.

[2] The largest confederate trade union in Italy, traditionally linked with the Italian Communist Party.

[3] Sometimes known as “base unions”, like CIB Unicobas, RdB, Sincobas, etc.

[4] “Cobas” is an abbreviation of the Italian “comitato di base”, or base committee.

This interview is from the “The Global Influence of Platformism Today” series in The Northeastern Anarchist #6 (Winter/Spring 2003). Further interviews include platformist-influenced anarchist groups from the Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Czech Republic, South Africa, Brazil, and Chile. The NEA is the English-language magazine of the Northeastern Federation of Anarchist-Communists (NEFAC), covering class struggle anarchist theory, history, strategy, debate and analysis in an effort to further develop anarchist-communist ideas and practice.

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