Archive for the ‘2. Historical Texts, including 'The Platform'’ Category

In Volume One of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, I included excerpts from the historic debate between Errico Malatesta and Pierre Monatte on revolutionary syndicalism at the 1907 International Anarchist Congress in Amsterdam. Also debated at the Congress was the relationship between anarchism and organization. Two of the most eloquent speakers were the anarcho-syndicalist, Amédée Dunois (1878-1945), and Malatesta.

At the time of the Congress, Dunois was a member of the French revolutionary syndicalist organization, the CGT, and a contributor to Jean Grave’s anarchist communist paper, Les Temps Nouveaux. A mere five years later, he was to renounce anarchism, joining the French Section of the Workers’ International (SFIO), the French socialist party affiliated with the Second International, which was dominated by the Marxist social democrats Dunois criticizes in his speech (the anarchists had been excluded from the Second International in 1896 because they refused to recognize “participation in legislative and parliamentary activity as a necessary means” for achieving socialism). Unlike the majority of the SFIO and the other political parties affiliated with the Second International, Dunois opposed the First World War. After the war, he helped found the French Communist Party (PCF), which he left in 1927 after it came under the control of Stalinists, rejoining the SFIO in 1930. He remained in France during the Second World War, where he worked in the Resistance. In 1944, he was captured by the Gestapo, eventually being sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where he perished in 1945, a few months before the war ended.

The translation is by Nestor McNab and is taken from Studies for a Libertarian Alternative: The International Anarchist Congress, Amsterdam, 1907, extlink published by the Anarchist Communist Federation in Italy (Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici – FdCA); paperback edition available from AK Press.extlink

Anarchism and Organization

It is not long since our comrades were almost unanimous in their clear hostility towards any idea of organization. The question we are dealing with today would, then, have raised endless protests from them, and its supporters would have been vehemently accused of a hidden agenda and authoritarianism.

They were times when anarchists, isolated from each other and even more so from the working class, seemed to have lost all social feeling; in which anarchists, with their unceasing appeals for the spiritual liberation of the individual, were seen as the supreme manifestation of the old individualism of the great bourgeois theoreticians of the past.


by Luigi Fabbri

It was with a strong sense of goodwill that I read the project for an anarchist „Organisational Platform“ which a group of Russian comrades published last year in Paris and which has been the cause of impassioned debate recently between anarchists from various countries. My first impression was that I was not in disagreement with many points, in fact I found the project to contain many painful, unarguable truths. The whole project breathes such an ardent desire to do something, to work for the good of the cause, that it is quite seductive.

All this is certainly of no little merit for the authors of the „Platform“, whose great value is due to another reason – it places under discussion a number of problems inherent to the anarchist movement, to the place of anarchists in the revolution, to anarchist organisation in the struggle, and so on. These need to be resolved if anarchism is to continue to provide answers to the growing needs of the struggle and of present-day social life.

Despite these favourable observations, however, and unless I am much mistaken, I do not think that the project proposed by the Russian comrades can be accepted by any anarchist organisation of any importance since, in my opinion, it contains errors which are of little import should they remain within the realm of the personal (and debatable) opinion of a few comrades, but which could become the cause of serious deviations in the anarchist movement if accepted by the organisation and acquire any programmatic value.


by Peter Arshinov

Comrade Isidine counters our conception of a revolutionary anarchist organisation with the old conception corresponding to an age when anarchists had no real organisation, but, by means of mutual understanding, came to agreement upon goals and the means of achieving them.

In fact, the old party was confined to analogous ideas and was bereft of authentic organisational format; it corresponded above all to the birth of the anarchist movement, when its pioneers were groping their way forward, not having been tempered by the harsh experience of life.

Socialism too, in its day, had a difficult gestation. However, as the masses’ social struggle evolved and became acute, all the tendencies that were vying to influence the outcome took on more precise political and organisational forms. Those tendencies which failed to keep in step with this evolution lagged far behind life. We Russian anarchists were especially sensible of this during the two revolutions of 1905 and 1917. Whereas, at their outset, we were in the forefront of the fighting, as soon as the constructive phase began, we found ourselves sidelined beyond recovery and, ultimately, remote from the masses.

This was not the result of chance. Such an attitude flowed inescapably from our impotence, from the organisational point of view as well as from the vantage point of our ideological confusion. The current, of this decisive age, requires of us something more than a „party“ devoid of organisational format and erected solely upon the notion of a beautiful idea. These times require that the anarchist movement, as a whole, supply answers to a whole host of issues of the utmost importance, whether relating to the social struggle or to communist construction. They require that we feel a responsibility towards our objectives. However, until such time as we have a real and significant organisation, it is not going to be possible for us to supply those answers, nor to shoulder those responsibilities. Indeed, the consistently distinctive feature of our movement is that it does not have a unity of views on these fundamental issues. There are as many views as there are persons and groups.


by Maria Isidine

The problem of the organisation of the anarchist forces is of the order of the day. Many comrades explain the fact that, in the Russian Revolution, the anarchists, despite being at all times in the forefront of the revolutionary battles, wielded only slight influence over the march of events, due in large part to the lack of solid organisation. Thus they posit the creation of such an organisation, an anarchist party, as the premier requirement for more fruitful efforts in the future. The word „party“ of itself triggers controversy; can there be such a thing as an anarchist „party“? It all depends on the meaning which one invests the word.

The term „party“ can be applied simply to the community of persons of like minds, agreed with one and another on the aims to be achieved and the means to be employed, even if they are bound by no formal link, even if they do not know each other. The more united their thinking, the more the devise a similar solution to the particular issues that arise, and the more apt the use of the term „party“ in relation to them. It is in this sense that the First International [International Workingmen’s Association] talks about the „great party of the toilers,“ and also in that sense that Kropotkin, Malatesta, and other militants from our movement, especially from the older generation of its founding fathers, talk about the „anarchist party“. In that sense, the „anarchist party“ has always been with us; furthermore, in the anarchist movement, we have always had organisations, well-defined organisations indeed, such as federations of groups, embracing all the groups in a town, region or country. Such federations have always been the customary form of anarchist organisation across the world.


by Delo Truda Group

November 1926

As was to be expected, the Organisational 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 theses.

We welcome equally the positive reception of the Platform and the genuine criticism of it. For, in the endeavour to create an overall anarchist program as well as an overall libertarian organisation, 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 organisational 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.“


by Errico Malatesta

I have seen a statement by the Group of the 18e where, in agreement with the Russians’ „Platform“ and with comrade Makhno, it is held that the „principle of collective responsibility“ is the basis of every serious organisation.

I have already, in my criticism of the „Platform“ and in my reply to the open letter directed to me by Makhno, indicated my opinion on this supposed principle. But as there is some insistence on an idea or at least an expression which would seem to me to be more at home in a military barracks than among anarchist groups, I hope I will be permitted to say another few words on the question.

The comrades of the 18e say that „communist anarchists must work in such a way that their influence has the greatest probabilities for success and that this result will not come about unless their propaganda can develop collectively, permanently and homogeneously“. I agree! But it seems that that is not the case; since those comrades complain that „in the name of the same organisation, in every corner of France, the most diverse, and even contrary theories are spreading“. That is most deplorable, but it simply means that that organisation has no clear and precise programme which is understood and accepted by all its members, and that within the party, confused by a common label, are men who do not have the same ideas and who should group together in separate organisations or remain unattached if they are unable to find others who think as they do.

If, as the comrades of the 18e say, the UACR [2] does nothing to establish a programme which can be accepted by all its members and permit it to be able to act together in such situations as may present themselves, if, in other words, the UACR lacks knowledge, cohesion or agreement, its problem is this, and nothing will be remedied by proclaiming „collective responsibility“ which, unless it means the blind submission of all to the will of some, is a moral absurdity in theory and general irresponsibility in practice.


by Dielo Trouda Group

March 1926

Several comrades have had their say in the columns of ‘Dyelo Truda’ (Workers’ Cause) regarding the question of anarchist principles and organisational format.

Not that they all approached the problem from the same angle. The essence of this matter, as spelled out by the editorial staff of ‘Dyelo Truda’, consists of the following:

We anarchists who agitate and fight for the emancipation of the proletariat, must, at all costs, have an end of the dissipation and disorganisation prevailing in our ranks, for these are destroying our strength and our libertarian endeavours.

The way to go about this is to create an organisation that might not perhaps enfold all of anarchism’s active militants, but assuredly the majority of them, on the basis of specific theoretical and tactical positions and would bring us to a firm understanding as to how these might be applied to practice.

It goes without saying that the tackling of this issue should go hand in hand with the elaboration of theoretical and tactical positions that would furnish the basis, the platform for this organisation. For we should be wasting our time talking about the need to organise our forces and nothing would come of it, were we not to associate the idea of such organisation with well-defined theoretical and tactical positions.


by Delo Truda Group

Paris, August 1927

Forword: The Crux of the Matter

The debates provoked by the ‘Organisational Platform’ have thus far focused chiefly upon its various arguments or indeed the draft organisation proposed by it. Most of its critics, as well as several of its supporters, have at no time been clear-sighted in their appreciation of the matter of the Platform’s premises: they have never tried to discover what were factors that prompted its appearance, the point of departure adopted by it’s authors. And yet these are matters of the greatest importance to those who seek to understand the spirit and importance of the Platform.

The recently published ‘Reply to the Platform’ from Voline and a few other anarchists, purporting to be a wholesale rebuttal of the Platform, has – for all the effort invested in the undertaking, for all its claims to be reading “between the lines“ – failed to rise above the level of banal diatribe against arguments that are considered in isolation, and it has shown itself powerless to strike at the very heart of the matter.

Given that this ‘Reply’ displays utter incomprehension of the theses of the Platform, misrepresenting them and using sophistry to counter them, the Dielo Trouda Group, having scrutinised this would-be rebuttal, has once again identified a series of points that are being queried: at the same time, the Group has registered the political and theoretical inadequacies of ‘The Reply’.

The commentary below is given over to an examination of their reply. It is not intended either as a complement nor as an addendum to the Platform: it is merely designed to clarify a few of its theses.


by ‘Several Russian Anarchists’
(Sobol, Schwartz, Steimer, Voline, Lia, Roman,
Ervantian, Fleshin)

[first issued in French, Paris 1927]

Reasons for the Weakness of the Anarchist Movement

We do not agree with the position of the Platform ‘that the most important reason for the weakness of the anarchist movement is the absence of organisational principles’. We believe that this issue is very important because the Platform seeks to establish a centralised organisation (a party) that would create ‘a political and tactical line for the anarchist movement’. This over emphasises the importance and role of organisation.

We are not against an anarchist organisation; we understand the harmful consequences of a lack of organisation in the anarchist movement; we consider the creation of an anarchist organisation to be one of the most urgent tasks… But we do not believe that organisation, as such, can be a cure-all. We do not exaggerate its importance, and we see no benefit or need to sacrifice anarchist principles and ideas for the sake of organisation.

We see the following reasons for the weakness of the anarchist movement:

(1) The confusion in our ideas about a series of fundamental issues, such as the conception of the social revolution, of violence, of the period of transition, of organisation.

(2) The difficulty of getting a large part of the population to accept our ideas. We must take into account existing prejudices, customs, education, the fact that the great mass of people will look for accommodation rather than radical change.

(3) Repression.


by Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad
(“Delo Truda“ Group)

Translator’s Introduction

Eighty years have passed since the publication in the pages of the Russian anarchist monthly Delo Truda of the Organisational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft), but the question of anarchist organisation remains an open one even today, a question which sparks off ferocious debates with frightening ease.

Yet in reality it is a question which has long been solved: either we accept the need for anarchists to come together in their own specific organisations so as to allow greater unity and strength with which to face the struggles; or we don’t accept it, and are happy to remain part of the world of “chaotic“ anarchism which rejects such a need for one reason or another, considering it pointless or dangerous, or which accepts it, but choose anarchist unity in name, where the various hues of anarchism come together under an umbrella organisation without any serious political unity or strategies.

The Organisational Platform (often known in English-speaking circles as the “Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists“) was the first attempt since the days of Bakunin to formulate a theoretical and practical platform of the positions and tasks of anarchists, which could provide anarchism with the necessary political and organisational unity to increase the influence of anarchist ideas within society in general and the workers’ movements in particular, after the defeat of anarchism in the Russian Revolution made the grave faults of (what had by then become) “traditional“ anarchism all too evident.  The Platform not only deals with organisational questions.  It tackles a whole range of problems: it clearly sets out the class nature of anarchism; it defines the role of anarchists in the pre-revolutionary and revolutionary periods; it establishes the role of syndicalism as an instrument of struggle; it sets out the basic tenets of anarchist theory such as anti-capitalism, the rejection of bourgeois democracy, the State and authority, and more.