File: secJ3.html

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anarchism 9.5-1
  • links: PTS
  • area: main
  • in suites: woody
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  • ctags: 493
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<html>
<HEAD>

<TITLE> J.3 What kinds of organisation do anarchists build?
</TITLE>
</HEAD>
<BODY>
<H1>J.3 What kinds of organisation do anarchists build?</h1>
<p>
Anarchists are well aware of the importance of building organisations. 
Organisations allow those within them to multiply their strength and 
activity, becoming the means by which an individual can see their ideas,
hopes and dreams realised. This is as true for getting the anarchist
message across as for building a home, running a hospital or creating 
some useful product like food. Anarchists support two types of 
organisation -- organisations of anarchists and popular organisations 
which are not made up exclusively of anarchists such as industrial 
unions, co-operatives and community assemblies. In this section of 
the FAQ we will discuss the kinds, nature and role of the first type 
of organisation, namely explicitly anarchist organisations. In addition, 
we discuss anarcho-syndicalism, a revolutionary unionism which aims to 
create an anarchist society by anarchist tactics, as well as why many 
anarchists are not anarcho-syndicalists. The second type of organisations, 
popular organisations, are discussed in detail in <a href="secJ5.html">section J.5</a> which gives 
specific examples of the kinds of social alternatives anarchists support 
and create under capitalism (community and industrial unions, mutual banks, 
co-operatives and so on).
<p>
Both forms of organisation, however, share the anarchist commitment to 
confederalism, decentralisation, self-management and decision making 
from the bottom up. In such organisations the membership play the 
decisive role in running them and ensuring that power remains in their 
hands. They express the anarchist vision of the power and creative 
efficacy people have when they are self-reliant, when they act for 
themselves and manage their own lives directly. Anarchists insist that
people must manage their own affairs (individually and collectively)
and have both the right and the ability to do so. Only by organising
in this way can we create a new world, a world worthy of human beings 
and unique individuals.
<p>
Anarchist organisation in all its forms reflects the anarchist 
desire to <i>"build the new world in the shell of the old"</i> and to empower 
the individual. We reject the notion that it does not really matter 
how we organise to change society. Indeed, nothing could be further 
from the truth. We are all the products of the influences and social 
relationships in our lives, this is a basic idea of (philosophical) 
materialism. Thus the way our organisations are structured has an 
impact on us. If the organisation is centralised and hierarchical (no
matter how "democratically" controlled any officials or leaders are) 
then those subject to it will, as in any hierarchical organisation, 
see their abilities to manage their own lives, their creative thought 
and imagination eroded under the constant stream of orders from above. 
This in turn justifies the pretensions to power of those at the top, 
as the capacity of self-management of the rank and file is weakened 
by authoritarian social relationships.
<p>
This means anarchist organisations are so structured so that they 
allow everyone the maximum potential to participate. Such participation 
is the key for a free organisation. As Malatesta argued:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The real being is man, the individual. Society or the collectivity. . . 
if it is not a hollow abstraction, must be made up of individuals. And it 
is in the organism of every individual that all thoughts and human actions
inevitably have their origin, and from being individual they become 
collective thoughts and acts when they are or become accepted by many
individuals. Social action, therefore, is neither the negation nor the
complement of individual initiative, but is the resultant of initiatives,
thoughts and actions of all individuals who make up society."</i>[<b>Anarchy</b>, 
p. 36]
</blockquote><p>
Anarchist organisations exist to allow this development and expression
of individual initiatives. This empowering of the individual is an 
important aspect of creating viable solidarity for sheep cannot express
solidarity, they only follow the shepherd. Therefore, <i>"to achieve their
ends, anarchist organisations must, in their constitution and operation,
remain in harmony with the principles of anarchism; that is, they must 
know how to blend the free action of individuals with the necessity and 
the joy of co-operation which serve to develop the awareness and initiative
of their members and a means of education for the environment in which
they operate and of a moral and material preparation for the future we
desire."</i> [Errico Malatesta, <b>The Anarchist Revolution</b>, p. 95]
<p>
As such, anarchist organisations reflect the sort of society anarchists
desire. We reject as ridiculous the claim of Marxists and Leninists that
the form of organisation we build is irrelevant and therefore we must
create highly centralised parties which aim to become the leadership
of the working class. No matter how "democratic" such organisations 
are, they just reflect the capitalist division of labour between brain 
and manual work and the Liberal ideology of surrendering our ability to 
govern ourselves to an elected elite. In other words, they just mirror
the very society we are opposed to and so will soon produce the very
problems <b>within</b> so-called anti-capitalist organisations which originally
motivated us to oppose capitalism in the first place. Because of this,
anarchists regard <i>"the Marxist party as another statist form that, if it
succeeded in 'seizing power,' would preserve the power of one human
being over another, the authority of the leader over the led. The Marxist
party. . . was a mirror image of the very society it professed to oppose,
an invasion of the camp of revolutionaries by bourgeois values, methods,
and structures."</i> [<b>The Spanish Anarchists</b>, pp. 179-80] As can be seen
from the history of the Russian Revolution, this was the case with the
Bolsheviks soon taking the lead in undermining workers' self-management,
soviet democracy and, finally, democracy within the ruling party itself.
Of course, from an anarchist (i.e. materialist) point of view, this was
highly predictable -- after all, <i>"facts are before ideas; yes, the ideal, 
as Proudhon said, is but a flower whose root lies in the material conditions
of existence."</i> [Bakunin, <b>God and the State</b>, p.9] -- and so it is 
unsurprising that hierarchical parties helped to maintain a hierarchical
society. In the words of the famous Sonvillier Circular (issued by the
libertarian sections of the First International):
<p><blockquote>
<i>"How could one want an egalitarian and free society to issue from 
an authoritarian organisation? It is impossible."</i> 
</blockquote><p>
We must stress here that anarchists are <b>not</b> opposed to organisation
and are <b>not</b> opposed to organisations of anarchists (i.e. <b>political</b>
organisations, although anarchists generally reject the term "party" due
to its statist and hierarchical associations). Murray Bookchin makes the 
issues clear when he wrote that the <i>"real question at issue here is 
not 0organisation versus non-organisation, but rather what <b>kind</b> of 
organisation . . . [anarchist] organisations . . . [are] organic 
developments from below . . . They are social movements, combing a 
creative revolutionary lifestyle with a creative revolutionary 
theory . . . As much as is humanly possibly, they try to reflect 
the liberated society they seek to achieve . . . [and] are built 
around intimate groups of brothers and sisters - affinity groups 
. . . [with] co-ordination between groups . . . discipline, planning, 
and unity in action. . . achieved <b>voluntarily,</b> by means of a 
self-discipline nourished by conviction and understanding."</i>
[<b>Post-Scarcity Anarchism</b>, pp. 214-215]
<p>
In the sections that follow, we discuss the nature and role of anarchist
organisation. Anarchists would agree totally with these words of the
Situationist Guy Debord that a <i>"revolutionary organisation must always 
remember that its objective is not getting people to listen to speeches 
by expert leaders, but getting them to speak for themselves"</i> and 
organise their groups accordingly. Section <a href="secJ3.html#secj31">J.3.1</a> discusses the basic
building block of specifically anarchist organisations, the <b><i>"affinity 
group."</i></b> Sections <a href="secJ3.html#secj32">J.3.2</a>, 
<a href="secJ3.html#secj33">J.3.3</a>, <a href="secJ3.html#secj34">J.3.4</a>
 and <a href="secJ3.html#secj35">J.3.5</a>, we discuss the main 
types of federations of <i>"affinity groups"</i> anarchist create to help 
spread our message and influence. Then section <a href="secJ3.html#secj36">
J.3.6</a> highlights the role 
these organisations play in our struggles to create an anarchist society. 
Many Marxists fail to understand the nature of anarchist organisation and, 
because of this, misunderstand Bakunin's expression <i>"Invisible Dictatorship"</i> 
and paint a picture of him (and, by implication, all anarchists)as a 
hierarchical would-be dictator. Section <a href="secJ3.html#secj37">J.3.7</a> analyses these claims 
and shows why they are wrong. Finally, in sections <a href="secJ3.html#secj38">J.3.8</a> and <a href="secJ3.html#secj39">J.3.9</a> we 
discuss anarcho-syndicalism and other anarchists attitudes to it.
<p>
The power of ideas cannot be under estimated, for <i>"if you have an idea 
you can communicate it to a million people and lose nothing in the 
process, and the more the idea is propagated the more it acquires in 
power and effectiveness"</i> [<b>The Anarchist Revolution</b>, p. 46]. The right 
idea at the right time, one that reflects the needs of individuals and 
of required social change, can have a transforming effect on those who 
hold the idea and the society they live in. That is why organisations 
that anarchists create to spread their message are so important and 
why we devote a whole section to them.
<p>
Anarchist organisations, therefore, aim to enrich social struggle 
by their ideas and suggestions but also, far more importantly, enrich 
the idea by practical experience and activity. In other words, a two 
way process by which life informs theory and theory aids life. The 
means by which this social dynamic is created and developed is the 
underlying aim of anarchist organisation and is reflected in its 
theoretical role we highlight in the following sections.
<p>
<a name="secj31"><h2>J.3.1 What are affinity groups?</h2>
<p>
Affinity groups are the basic organisation which anarchists 
create to spread the anarchist idea. The term <i>"affinity group"</i> 
comes from the Spanish F.A.I. (<b>Iberian Anarchist Federation</b>) 
and refers to the organisational form devised by the Spanish 
Anarchists in their struggles. It is the English translation 
of <i>"grupo de afinidad."</i> At its most basic, it is a (usually 
small) group of anarchists who work together to spread their 
ideas to the wider public, using propaganda, initiating or 
working with campaigns and spreading their ideas <b>within</b> 
popular organisations (such as unions) and communities. 
It aims not to be a "leadership" but to give a lead, to 
act as a catalyst within popular movements. Unsurprisingly 
it reflects basic anarchist ideas:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Autonomous, communal and directly democratic, the group 
combines revolutionary theory with revolutionary lifestyle 
in its everyday behaviour. It creates a free space in which 
revolutionaries can remake themselves individually, and also 
as social beings."</i> [Murray Bookchin, <b>Post-Scarcity Anarchism</b>, 
p. 221]
</blockquote><p>
The reason for this is simple, for a <i>"movement that sought 
to promote a liberatory revolution had to develop liberatory 
and revolutionary forms. This meant . . . that it had to 
mirror the free society it was trying to achieve, not the 
repressive one it was trying to overthrow. If a movement 
sought to achieve a world united by solidarity and mutual aid, 
it had to be guided by these precepts; if it sought to achieve 
a decentralised, stateless, non-authoritarian society, it had 
to be structured in accordance with these goals."</i> [<b>The Spanish 
Anarchists</b>, p. 180]
<p>
The aim of an anarchist (i.e. anti-authoritarian) organisation 
is to promote a sense of community, of confidence in ones own 
abilities, to enable all to be involved in the identification, 
initiation and management of group/communal needs and decisions. 
Moreover, they must ensure that individuals are in a position 
(both physically, as part of a group/community, and mentally, as 
an individual) to manage their own lives and take direct action 
in the pursuit of individual and communal needs and desires.
<p>
Anarchist organisation is about empowering all, to develop 
"integral" or whole individuals and a community that encourages 
individuality (not abstract "individualism") and solidarity. It 
is about collective decision making from the bottom up, that 
empowers those at the "base" of the structure and only delegates 
the work of co-ordinating and implementing the members decisions 
(and not the power of making decisions for people). In this way 
the initiative and power of the few (government) is replaced by 
the initiative and empowerment of all (anarchy).
<p>
Affinity groups exist to achieve these aims and are structured to 
encourage them.
<p>
The local affinity group is the means by which anarchists 
co-ordinate their activities in a community, workplace, social 
movement and so on. Within these groups, anarchists discuss their 
ideas, politics and hopes, what they plan to do, write leaflets 
and organise other propaganda work, discuss how they are going to 
work within wider organisations like unions, how their strategies 
fit into their long term plans and goals and so on. It is the 
basic way that anarchists work out their ideas, pull their resources 
and get their message across to others. There can be affinity groups 
for different interests and activities (for example a workplace 
affinity group, a community affinity group, an anarcha-feminist 
affinity group, etc., could all exist within the same area, with 
overlapping members). Moreover, as well as these more "political" 
activities, the "affinity group" also stresses the <i>"importance of 
education and the need to live by Anarchist precepts -- the need 
. . . to create a counter-society that could provide the space 
for people to begin to remake themselves."</i> [Bookchin, <b>Ibid.</b>] In 
other words, "affinity groups" aim to be the <i>"living germs"</i> of 
the new society in <b>all</b> aspects, not purely in a structurally way.
<p>
These basic affinity groups are not seen as being enough in themselves. 
Most anarchists see the need for local groups to work together with others 
in a confederation. Such co-operation aims to pull resources and reduce 
duplicating efforts, in other words, expanding the options for the 
individuals and groups who are part of the federation. Such a federation
is based upon the <i>"[f]ull autonomy, full independence and therefore full
responsibility of individuals and groups; free accord between those who
believe it useful to unite in co-operating for a common aim; moral duty to
see through commitments undertaken and to do nothing that would contradict
the accepted programme. It is on these bases that the practical structures,
and the right tools to give life to the organisation should be build and
designed."</i> [Errico Malatesta, <b>The Anarchist Revolution</b>, p. 101]
<p>
Therefore, affinity groups are self-managed, autonomous groupings of
anarchists who unite and work on specific activities and interests. They
are a key way for anarchists to co-ordinate their activity and spread
their message of individual freedom and voluntary co-operation. However,
the description of what an "affinity group" is does not explain <b>why</b>
anarchists organise in that way. For a discussion on the role these groups 
play in anarchist theory, see <a href="secJ3.html#secj36">section J.3.6</a>. Essentially, these "affinity 
groups" are the means by which anarchists actually intervene in social 
movements and struggles in order to win people to the anarchist idea and 
so help transform them from struggles <b>against</b> injustice into struggles 
<b>for</b> a free society, as we will discuss <a href="secJ3.html#secj36">later</a>.
<p>
To aid in this process of propaganda, agitation, political discussion 
and development, anarchists organise federations of affinity groups. 
These take three main forms, <i><b>"synthesis"</i></b> federations (see 
<a href="secJ3.html#secj32">section 
J.3.2</a>), <b><i>"Platformist"</i></b> federations (see 
<a href="secJ3.html#secj33">section J.3.3</a> and 
<a href="secJ3.html#secj34">section 
J.3.4</a> for criticism of this tendency) and <b><i>"class struggle"</i></b> groups 
(see <a href="secJ3.html#secj35">section J.3.5</a>). However, we must note here that these types 
of federation are not mutually exclusive  Synthesis type federations 
often have "class  struggle" and  "platformist" groups within them 
(although, as will  become clear, Platformist federations do not 
have synthesis groups within them) and most countries have different 
federations representing the different political perspectives within 
the movement. Moreover, it should also be noted that no federation 
will be a totally "pure" expression of each tendency. "Synthesis" 
groups merge in "class struggle" ones, platformist groups do not 
subscribe totally to the Platform and so on. We isolate each 
tendency to show its essential features. In real life few, if 
any, federations will exactly fit the types we highlight. It 
would be more precise to speak of organisations which are 
descended from a given tendency, for example the French Anarchist 
Federation is obviously mostly influenced by the synthesis tradition 
but it is not, strictly speaking, 100% synthesis. Lastly, we must 
also note that the term "class struggle" anarchist group in no way 
implies that "synthesis" and "platformist" groups do not support 
the class struggle, they most definitely do -- the technical term 
"class struggle" organisation we use, in other words, does <b>not</b> 
mean that other kinds of organisations are not class-struggle!
<p>
All the various types of federation are based on groups of anarchists 
organising themselves in a libertarian fashion. This is because anarchists 
try to live by the values of the future to the extent that this is possible 
under capitalism and try to develop organisations based upon mutual aid 
and brotherhood, in which control would be exercised from below upward, 
not downward from above.
<p>
It must be stressed anarchists do not reduce the complex issue of 
political organisation and ideas into <b>one</b> organisation but instead 
recognise that different threads within anarchism will express 
themselves in different political organisations (and even within 
the same organisation). Therefore a diversity of anarchist groups 
and federations is a good sign and expresses the diversity of 
political and individual thought to be expected in a movement 
aiming for a society based upon freedom. All we aim in the next
four sections is paint a broad picture of the differences between 
different perspectives on anarchist organising. However, the
role of these federations is as described here, that of an "aid"
in the struggle, not a new leadership wanting power.
<p>
<a name="secj32"><h2>J.3.2 	What are "synthesis" federations?</h2>
<p>
As noted in the <a href="secJ3.html#secj31">last section</a>, there are three main types of affinity 
group federation -- "synthesis", "class struggle" (our term) and  
"platformist." In this section we discuss "synthesis" federations. 
<p>
The "synthesis" group acquired its name from the work of the 
Russian anarchist Voline and the French anarchist Sebastien 
Faure. Voline published in 1924 a paper calling for <i>"the 
anarchist synthesis"</i> and was also the author of the article 
in Faure's <b>Encyclopedie Anarchiste</b> on the very same topic. 
However, its roots lie in the Russian revolution and the <b>Nabat</b> 
federation (or the <i>"Anarchist Organisations of the Ukraine"</i>) 
created in 1918. The aim of the <b>Nabat</b> was <i>"organising all 
of the life forces of anarchism; bringing together through a 
common endeavour all anarchists seriously desiring of playing 
an active part in the social revolution which is defined as a 
process (of greater or lesser duration) giving rise to a new form 
of social existence for the organised masses."</i> [<b>No Gods, 
No Masters</b>, vol. 2, p. 117]
<p>
The "synthesis" organisation is based on uniting all kinds of 
anarchists in one federation as there is, to use the words of 
the <b>Nabat</b>, <i>"validity in all anarchist schools of thought. We 
must consider all diverse tendencies and accept them."</i> [cited 
in <i>"The Reply,"</i> <b>Constructive Anarchism</b>, p. 32] The "synthesis" 
organisation attempts to get different kinds of anarchists 
<i>"joined together on a number of basic positions and with the 
awareness of the need for planned, organised collective effort 
on the basis of federation."</i> [<b>Ibid.</b>] These basic positions 
would be based on a synthesis of the viewpoints of the 
members of the organisation, but each tendency would be 
free to agree their own ideas due to the federal nature 
of the organisation.
<p>
An example of this synthesis approach is provided by the differing
assertions that anarchism is a theory of classes (as stated by the
Platform, among others), that anarchism is a humanitarian ideal
for all people (supporters of such a position sometimes accuse 
those who hold a class based version of anarchism of Marxism) 
and that anarchism is purely about individuals (and so essentially
individualist and having nothing to do with humanity or with 
a class). The synthesis of these positions would be as 
follows:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"We must create a synthesis and state that anarchism contains
class elements as well as humanism and individualist principles 
. . . Its class element is above all its means of fighting for 
liberation; its humanitarian character is its ethical aspect, 
the foundation of society; its individualism is the goal of 
humanity."</i> [<b>Ibid.</b>]
</blockquote><p>
So, as can be seen, the "synthesis" tendency aims to unite 
all anarchists (be they individualist, mutualist, syndicalist 
or communist) into one common federation. Thus the "synthesis" 
viewpoint is "inclusive" and obviously has affinities with the 
<i>"anarchism without adjectives"</i> approach favoured by many 
anarchists (see <a href="secA3.html#seca38">section A.3.8</a> 
for details). However, in practice many
"synthesis" organisations are more restrictive (for example, 
they could aim to unite all <b>social</b> anarchists like the French
Anarchist Federation does). This means that there can be a 
difference between the general idea of the synthesis and how 
it is actually and concretely applied.
<p>
The basic idea behind the synthesis is that the anarchist 
scene (in most countries, at most times, including France 
in the 1920s and Russia during the revolution and at this 
time) is divided into three main tendencies: communist 
anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism, and individualist anarchism. 
This division can cause severe damage to the anarchist 
movement, simply because of the many (and often redundant) 
arguments and diatribes on why "my anarchism is best" can 
get in the way of working in common in order to fight our 
common enemies, known as state, capitalism and authority. 
The "synthesis" federations are defined by agreeing what is 
the common denominator of the various tendencies within 
anarchism and agreeing a minimum programme based on this
for the federation. This would allow a <i>"certain ideological 
and tactical unity among organisations"</i> within the "synthesis" 
federation. [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 35]
<p>
Moreover, as well as saving time and energy for more important 
tasks, there are technical and efficiency reasons for unifying into 
one organisation, namely allowing the movement to have access 
to more resources and being able to co-ordinate them so as to 
maximise their use and impact. The "synthesis" federation, like
all anarchist groups, aims to spread anarchist ideas within 
society as a whole. They believe that their role is to <i>"assist the
masses only when they need such assistance. . . the anarchists
are part of the membership in the economic and social mass
organisations [such as trade unions, for example]. They act 
and build as part of the whole. An immense field of action is
opened to them for ideological [sic!], social and creative 
activity without assuming a position of superiority over the
masses. Above all they must fulfil their ideological [sic!] and
ethical influence in a free and natural manner. . . [they] only 
offer ideological assistance, but not in the role of leaders."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 33] This, as we shall see in 
<a href="secJ3.html#secj36">section J.3.6</a>, is the 
common anarchist position as regards the role of an anarchist 
group. And, just to stress the point, this also shows that 
"synthesist" federations are usually class-struggle organisations
(i.e. support and take part in the class-struggle as the key
means of creating an anarchist society and making the current
one freer and fairer).
<p>
The great strength of "synthesis" federations, obviously, is that 
they allow a wide and diverse range of viewpoints to be expressed 
within the organisation (which can allow the development of 
political ideas and theories by constant discussion and debate). 
In addition, they allow the maximum amount of resources to be
made available to individuals and groups within the organisation.
<p>
This is why we find the original promoters of the "synthesis" arguing
that <i>"that first step toward achieving unity in the anarchist movement
which can lead to serious organisation is collective ideological work
on a series of important problems that seek the clearest possible
collective solution. . . [discussing] concrete questions [rather than
"philosophical problems and abstract dissertations"]. . . [and] suggest
that there be a publication for discussion in every country where the 
problems in our ideology [sic!] and tactics can be fully discussed, 
regardless of how 'acute' or even 'taboo' it may be. The need for
such a printed organ, as well as oral discussion, seems to us to be
a 'must' because it is the practical way, to try to achieve 'ideological
unity', 'tactical unity', and possibly organisation. . . A full and 
tolerant discussion of our problems. . . will create a basis for
understanding, not only among anarchists, but among different
conceptions of anarchism."</i> [<b>Ibid.</b>, p. 35]
<p>
The "synthesis" idea for anarchist organisation was taken up by those 
who opposed the Platform (see <a href="secJ3.html#secj33">next section</a>). For both Faure and Voline, 
the basic idea was the same, namely that the historical tendencies in 
anarchism (communist, syndicalist and individualist) must co-operate 
and work in the same organisation. However, there are differences 
between Voline's and Faure's points of view. The latter saw these 
various tendencies as a wealth in themselves and advocated that 
each tendency would gain from working together in a common 
organisation. From Voline's point of view, the emergence of these 
various tendencies was historically needed to discover the in-depth 
implications of anarchism in various settings (such as the economical, 
the social and individual life). However, it was the time to go back to 
anarchism as a whole, an anarchism considerably empowered by what 
each tendency could give it, and in which tendencies as such should 
dissolve. Moreover, these tendencies co-existed in every anarchist 
at various levels, so all anarchists should aggregate in an organisation
where these tendencies would disappear (both individually and 
organisationally, i.e. there would not be an "anarcho-syndicalist" 
specific tendency inside the organisation, and so forth).
<p>
The "synthesis" federation would be based on complete autonomy 
(within the basic principles of the Federation and Congress decisions, 
of course) for groups and individuals, so allowing all the different 
trends to work together and express their differences in a common 
front. The various groups would be organised in a federal structure,
combining to share resources in the struggle against state, capitalism
and all other forms of oppression. This federal structure is organised 
at the local level through a "local union" (i.e. the groups in a town or
city), at the regional level (i.e. all groups in, say, Strathclyde are 
members of the same regional union) up to the "national" level (i.e. 
all groups in France, say) and beyond.
<p>
As every group in the federation is autonomous, it can discuss, 
plan and initiate an action (such as campaign for a reform, against 
a social evil, and so on) without having to others in the federation 
(or have to wait for instructions). This means that the local groups 
can respond quickly to local issues. This does not mean that each 
group works in isolation. These initiatives may gain federal support 
if local groups see the need. The federation can adopt an issue if 
it is raised at a federal conference and other groups agree to 
co-operate on that issue. Moreover, each group has the freedom 
<b>not</b> to participate on a specific issue while leaving others to do 
so. Thus groups can concentrate on what they are interested in most.
<p>
The programme and policies of the federation would be agreed at 
regular delegate meetings and congresses. The "synthesis" federation 
is "managed" at the federal level by "relations committees" made up
of people elected and mandated at the federation congresses. These
committees would have a purely administrative role, spreading 
information, suggestions and proposals coming from groups and 
individuals within the organisation, for example, or looking after
the finances of the federation and so on. They do not have any more
rights in regards to this than any other member of the federation 
(i.e. they could not make a proposal as a committee, just as members
of their local group or as individuals). These administrative committees
are accountable to the federation and subject to both mandates and 
recall.
<p>
The <b>French Anarchist Federation</b> is a good example of a successful
federation which is heavily influenced by "synthesis" ideas (as is
the <b>Italian Anarchist Federation</b> and many other anarchist federations
across the world). Obviously, how effective a "synthesis" federation 
is depends upon how tolerant members are of each other and how 
seriously they take their responsibilities towards their federations 
and the agreements they make.
<p>
Of course, there are problems involved in most forms of organisation,
and the "synthesis" federation is no exception. While diversity can
strengthen an organisation by provoking debate, a diverse grouping 
can often make it difficult to get things done. Platformist and other
critics of the "synthesis" federation argue that it can be turned 
into a talking shop and any common programme difficult to agree, 
never mind apply. For example, how can mutualists and communists 
agree on the ends, never mind the means, their organisation supports? 
One believes in co-operation within a (modified) market system and 
reforming capitalism and statism away, while the other believes in 
the abolition of commodity production and money and revolution as 
the means of so doing. Ultimately, all they could do would be to agree 
to disagree and thus any joint programmes and activity would be 
somewhat limited. It could, indeed, by argued that both Voline 
and Faure forgot essential points, namely what is this common 
denominator between the different kinds of anarchism, how do 
we achieve it and what is in it ? For without this agreed common 
position, many so-called "anarchist synthesist organisations" end 
up becoming little more than talking shops, escaping from any 
social perspective or any organisational perspective and soon 
becoming neither organisations, nor anarchist, nor synthesist 
as both Faure and Voline meant by the term. 
<p>
It is this (potential) disunity that lead the authors of 
the Platform to argue that <i>"[s]uch an organisation having 
incorporated heterogeneous theoretical and practical elements, 
would only be a mechanical assembly of individuals each having 
a different conception of all the questions of the anarchist 
movement, an assembly which would inevitably disintegrate on 
encountering reality."</i> [<b>The Organisational Platform of the 
Libertarian Communists</b>, p. 12] The Platform suggested 
<i>"Theoretical and Tactical Unity"</i> as a means of overcoming 
this problem, but that term provoked massive disagreement 
in anarchist circles (see <a href="secJ3.html#secj34">section 
J.3.4</a>). In reply to the 
Platform, supporters of the "synthesis" counter by 
pointing to the fact that "Platformist" groups are usually
very small, far smaller that "synthesis" federations (for 
example, compare the size of the French Anarchist Federation 
with, say, the Irish based Workers Solidarity Movement or
the French Alternative Libertaire). This means, they argue,
that the Platform does not, in fact, lead to a more effective
organisation, regardless of the claims of its supporters.
Moreover, they argue that the requirements for <i>"Theoretical
and Tactical Unity"</i> help ensure a small organisation as 
differences would express themselves in splits than 
constructive activity. Needless to say, the discussion
continues within the movement on this issue!
<p>
What can be said is that this potential problem within 
"synthesisism" has been the cause of some organisations
failing or becoming little more than talking shops, with 
each group doing its own thing and so making co-ordination 
pointless as any agreements made would be ignored (according 
to many this was a major problem with the <b>Anarchist 
Federation of Britain</b>, for example). Most supporters of 
the synthesis would argue that this is not what the theory 
aims for and that the problem lines in a misunderstanding 
of the theory rather than the theory itself (as can be 
seen from the FAF and FAI, "synthesis" inspired federations
can be <b>very</b> successful). Non-supporters are more critical, 
with some supporting the "Platform" as a more effective means 
of organising to spread anarchist ideas and influence (see 
the <a href="secJ3.html#secj33">next section</a>). Other social anarchists create the 
"class struggle" type of  federation  (this is a common 
organisational form in Britain, for example) as discussed 
in <a href="secJ3.html#secj35">section J.3.5</a>.
<p>
<a name="secj33"><h2>J.3.3 	What is the "Platform"?</h2>
<p>
The Platform is a current within anarcho-communism which has specific 
suggestions on the nature and form which an anarchist federation takes. Its
roots lie in the Russian anarchist movement, a section of which published
<i><b>"The Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists"</i></b> when in exile 
from the Bolshevik dictatorship in Paris, in 1926. The authors of the work
included Nestor Makhno, Peter Archinov and Ida Mett. At the time it provoked
intense debate (and still does in most anarchist) circles between supporters
of the Platform (usually called "Platformists") and those who oppose it
(which includes other communist-anarchists,  anarcho-syndicalists and
supporters of the "synthesis"). We will discuss why many anarchists 
oppose the Platform in the <a href="secJ3.html#secj34">next section</a>. Here we discuss what the 
Platform argued for.
<p>
Like the "synthesis" federation (see <a href="secJ3.html#secj32">last section</a>), the Platform 
was created in response to the experiences of the Russian Revolution. 
The authors of the Platform (like Voline and other supporters of the 
"synthesis") had participated in that Revolution and saw all their 
work, hopes and dreams fail as the Bolshevik state triumphed and 
destroyed any chances of socialism by undermining soviet democracy, 
workers' self-management of production, trade union democracy as 
well as fundamental individual freedoms and rights (see <a href="secHcon.html">section H</a>
for details). Moreover, the authors of the Platform had been leading 
activists in the Makhnovist movement in the Ukraine, which had 
successfully resisted both White and Red armies in the name of 
working class self-determination and anarchism. Facing the same 
problems of the Bolshevik government, the Makhnovists had actively 
encouraged popular self-management and organisation, freedom of 
speech and of association, and so on, whereas the Bolsheviks had 
not. Thus they were aware that anarchist ideas not only worked 
in practice, but that the arguments of Leninists who maintained 
that Bolshevism (and the policies it introduced at the time) 
was the only "practical" response to the problems facing a 
revolution were false.
<p>
They wrote the pamphlet in order to examine why the anarchist movement 
had failed to build on their successes in gaining influence within the 
working class. As can be seen from their work in the factory committees, 
where workers organised their own workforces and had began to build a 
society based on both freedom and equality, anarchist ideas had proven 
to be both popular and practical. While repression by the Bolsheviks 
(as documented by Voline in his classic history of the Russian Revolution, 
<b>The Unknown Revolution</b>, for example) did play a part in this failure, 
it did not explain everything. Also important, in the eyes of the Platform 
authors, was the lack of anarchist organisation <b>before</b> the revolution. 
In the first paragraph they state:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"It is very significant that, in spite of the strength and incontestably 
positive character of libertarian ideas, and in spite of the facing up to 
the social revolution, and finally the heroism and innumerable sacrifices 
borne by the anarchists in the struggle for anarchist communism, the 
anarchist movement remains weak despite everything, and has appeared, 
very often, in the history of working class struggles as a small event, an 
episode, and not an important factor."</i> [<b>Organisational Platform of the 
Libertarian Communists</b>, p. 11]
</blockquote><p>
This weakness in the movement derived from a number of causes, the main 
one being <i>"the absence of organisational principles and practices"</i> within 
the anarchist movement. Indeed, they argued, <i>"the anarchist movement is 
represented by several local organisations advocating contradictory theories
and practices, having no perspectives for the future, nor of a continuity in 
militant work, and habitually disappearing, hardly leaving the slightest 
trace behind them."</i> This explained the <i>"contradiction between the positive
and incontestable substance of libertarian ideas, and the miserable state in
which the anarchist movement vegetates."</i> [<b>Ibid.</b>] For anyone familiar with 
the anarchist movement in many countries, these words will still strike home.
Thus the Platform still appears to many anarchists a relevant and important
document, even if they are not Platformists.
<p>
The author's of the Platform proposed a solution to this problem, namely 
the creation of certain type of anarchist organisation. This organisation 
would be based upon communist-anarchist ideas exclusively, while 
recognising syndicalism as a principal method of struggle. Like most
anarchists, the Platform placed class and class struggle as the centre 
of their analysis, recognising that the <i>"social and political regime of 
all states is above all the product of class struggle. . . The slightest 
change in the course of the battle of classes, in the relative locations 
of the forces of the class struggle, produces continuous modifications 
in the fabric and structure of society."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 14] And, again, 
like most anarchists, the Platform aimed to <i>"transform the present 
bourgeois capitalist society into a society which assures the workers 
the products of the labours, their liberty, independence, and social 
and political equality,"</i> one based on a <i>"federalist system of workers 
organisations of production and consumption, united federatively and 
self-administering."</i> In addition, they argued that the <i>"birth, the 
blossoming, and the realisation of anarchist ideas have their roots 
in the life and the struggle of the working masses and are inseparable 
bound to their fate."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 15, p. 19 and p. 15] Again, most 
anarchists (particularly social anarchists) would agree -- anarchist 
ideas will (and have) wither when isolated from working class life 
since only working class people, the vast majority,  can create a 
free society and anarchist ideas are expressions of working class 
experience (remove the experience and the ideas do not develop as 
they should).
<p>
In order to create such a free society it is necessary, argue the 
Plaformists, <i>"to work in two directions: on the one hand towards 
the selection and grouping of revolutionary worker and peasant 
forces on a libertarian communist theoretical basis (a specifically 
libertarian communist organisation); on the other hand, towards 
regrouping revolutionary workers and peasants on an economic base 
of production and consumption (revolutionary workers and peasants 
organised around production [i.e. syndicalism, unionism]; workers 
and free peasants co-operatives)"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 20] Again, most 
anarchists would agree with this along with the argument that 
<i>"anarchism should become the leading concept of revolution. . . 
The leading position of anarchist ideas in the revolution 
suggests an orientation of events after anarchist theory. 
However, this theoretical driving force should not be confused 
with the political leadership of the statist parties which 
leads finally to State Power."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 21] The "synthesis"
critics of the Platform also recognised the importance of spreading
anarchist ideas within popular and revolutionary movements and
supporting the class struggle, for example, although they expressed 
the concept in a different way.
<p>
This <i>"leadership of ideas"</i> (see also 
<a href="secJ3.html#secj36">section J.3.6</a> for more on this) 
would aim at developing and co-ordinating libertarian feelings already 
existing within social struggle. <i>"Although the masses,"</i> explains the 
Platform, <i>"express themselves profoundly in social movements in terms 
of anarchist tendencies and tenets, these . . . do however remain 
dispersed, being uncoordinated, and consequently do not lead to 
the . . . preserving [of] the anarchist orientation of the social 
revolution."</i> [p. 21] The Platform argued that a specific anarchist 
organisation was required to ensure that the libertarian tendencies 
initially expressed in any social revolution or movement (for example, 
free federation, self-management in mass assemblies, mandating of
delegates, decentralisation, etc.) do not get undermined by 
statists and authoritarians who have their own agendas.
<p>
However, these principles do not, in themselves, determine a Platformist 
organisation. After all, most anarcho-syndicalists and non-Platformist 
communist-anarchists would agree with these positions. The main point 
which distinguishes the Platform is its position on how an anarchist 
organisation should be structured and work. This is sketched in the 
<i>"Organisational Section,"</i> the shortest and most contentious section 
of the whole work. They call this the <b>General Union of Anarchists</b>. 
This is where they introduce the concepts of <i><b>"Theoretical and Tactical 
Unity"</i></b> and <b><i>"Collective Responsibility,"</i></b> concepts which are unique 
to the Platform.
<p>
The first concept, obviously, has two parts. Firstly the members of 
these organisations are in theoretical agreement with each other. 
Secondly they agree that if a certain type of work is prioritised, 
all should take part. Even today within the anarchist movement 
these are contentious ideas so it is worth exploring them in a 
little more detail.
<p>
By <i>"Theoretical Unity"</i> the Platform meant any anarchist organisation 
must come to an agreement on the theory upon which it is based. In 
other words, that members of the organisation must agree on a certain
number of basic points, such as class struggle, anti-capitalism and 
anti-statism, and so on. An organisation in which half the members
thought that union struggles were important and the other half that 
they were a waste of time would not be effective as the membership
would spend all their time arguing with themselves.  While most 
Platformists agreed that everyone will not agree with everything,
they think its important to reach as much agreement as possible,
and to translate this into action. Once a theoretical position is
reached, the members have to argue it  in public (even if they 
initially opposed it within the organisation but they do have
the right to get the decision of the organisation changed by 
internal discussion).
<p>
Which brings us to <i>"Tactical Unity."</i> By <i>"Tactical Unity"</i> the 
Platform meant that the members of an organisation should struggle 
together <b>as an organised force</b> rather than as individuals. Once 
a strategy has been agreed by the Union, all members would work 
towards ensuring its success (even if they initially opposed it). 
In this way resources and time are concentrated in a common 
direction, towards an agreed objective.
<p>
Thus <i>"Theoretical and Tactical Unity"</i> means an anarchist organisation
that agrees specific ideas and the means of applying those ideas. The 
Platform's basic assumption is that there is a link between coherency 
and efficiency. By increasing the coherency of the organisation by 
making collective decisions and applying them, the Platform argues
that this will increase the influence of anarchist ideas. Without this,
they argue, better organised groups (such as Leninist ones) would
be in a better position to have their arguments heard and listened to 
than anarchists would. Anarchists cannot be complacent, and rely on 
the hope that the obvious strength and rightness of our ideas will shine 
through and win the day. As history shows, this rarely happens and 
when it does, the authoritarians are usually in positions of power to
crush the emerging anarchist influence (this was the case in Russia,
for example). Platformists argue that the world we live in is the 
product of struggles between competing ideas of how society should 
be organised and if the anarchist voice is weak, quiet and disorganised, 
it will not be heard, and other arguments, other perspectives will win 
the day.
<p>
Which brings us to <i>"Collective Responsibility,"</i> which the Platform 
defines as <i>"the entire Union will be responsible for the political 
and revolutionary activity of each member; in the same way, each 
member will be responsible for the political and revolutionary 
activity of the Union."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 32]
<p>
By this term, the Platform meant that each member should support 
the decisions made by the organisation and that each member should
take part in the process of collective decision making process. 
Without this, argue Platformists, any decisions made will be 
paper decisions only as individuals and groups would ignore the 
agreements made by the federation (the Platform calls this <i>"the 
tactic of irresponsible individualism"</i> [<b>Ibid.</b>]). However, with 
<i>"Collective Responsibility,"</i> the strength of all the individuals 
that make up the group is magnified and collectively applied. 
However, as one supporter of the Platform notes:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"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."</i> 
[<b>Red and Black Revolution</b>, no. 4, p. 30]
</blockquote><p>
The last principle in the <i>"Organisational Section"</i> of the Platform is 
<i>"Federalism,"</i> which it defines as <i>"the free agreement of individuals
and organisations to work collectively towards a common objective"</i>
and allows the <i>"reconcil[ing] the independence and initiative of 
individuals and the organisation with service to the common cause."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 33] However, the Platform argues that this principle has
been <i>"deformed"</i> within the movement to mean the <i>"right"</i> to <i>"manifest
one's 'ego,' without obligation to account for duties as regards the
organisation"</i> one is a member of. [<b>Ibid.</b>] In order to overcome this
problem, they stress that <i>"the federalist type of anarchist organisation,
while recognising each member's rights to independence, free opinion,
individual liberty and initiative, requires each member to undertake
fixed organisation duties, and demands execution of communal
decisions."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 33-4]
<p>
As part of their solution to the problem of anarchist organisation, 
the Platform suggested that each group would have <i>"its secretariat, 
executing and guiding theoretically the political and technical
work of the organisation."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 34] Moreover, the Platform 
suggests that <i>"a special organ [must] be created: <b>the executive 
committee of the Union</b>"</i> which would <i>"be in charge"</i> of <i>"the
execution of decisions taken by the Union with which it is
entrusted; the theoretical and organisational orientation of the
activity of isolated organisations consistent with the theoretical
positions and the general tactical lines of the Union; the monitoring
of the general state of the movement; the maintenance of working and
organisational links between all the organisations in the Union; 
and with other organisation."</i> The rights, responsibilities and practical
tasks of the executive committee are fixed by the congress of the 
Union. [<b>Ibid.</b>] This suggestion, unsurprisingly, meet with strong 
disapproval by most anarchists, as we will see in the 
<a href="secJ3.html#secj34">next section</a>,
who argued that this would turn the anarchist movement into a
centralised, hierarchical party similar to the Bolsheviks. Needless
to say, supporters of the Platform reject this argument and point
out that the Platform itself is not written in stone and needs to
be discussed fully and modified as required. In fact, few, if any,
Platformist groups, do have this <i>"secretariat"</i> structure (it could, 
in fact, be argued that there are no actual "Platformist" groups, 
rather groups influenced by the Platform, namely on the issues
of <i>"Theoretical and Tactical Unity"</i> and <i>"Collective Responsibility"</i>).
<p>
Similarly, most modern day Platformists reject the idea of gathering
all anarchists into one organisation. The original Platform seemed 
to imply that the <b>General Union</b> would be an umbrella organisation, 
which is made up of different groups and individuals. Most Platformists 
would argue that not only will there never be one organisation which 
encompasses everyone, they do not think it necessary. Instead they
envisage the existence of a number of organisations, each internally 
unified, each co-operating with each other where possible, a much 
more amorphous and fluid entity than a General Union of Anarchists.
<p>
As well as the original Platform, most Platformists place the 
<b>Manifesto of Libertarian Communism</b> by Georges Fontenis and 
<b>Towards a Fresh Revolution</b> by the <i>"Friends of Durruti"</i> as landmark 
texts in the Platformist tradition. A few anarcho-syndicalists 
question this last claim, arguing that the <i>"Friends of Durruti"</i> 
manifesto has strong similarities with the CNTs pre-1936 position 
on revolution and thus is an anarcho-syndicalist document, going 
back to the position the CNT ignored after July 19th, 1936. 
<p>
There are numerous Platformist and Platformist influenced organisations 
in the world today. These include the Irish based <b>Workers Solidarity 
Movement</b>, the British <b>Anarchist Communist Federation</b>, the French 
<b>Libertarian Alternative</b>, the Swiss <b>Libertarian Socialist 
Organisation</b>, the Italian <b>Federation of Anarchist Communists</b> 
and the South African <b>Workers Solidarity Federation</b>.
<p>
In the <a href="secJ3.html#secj34">next section</a> we discuss the objections that most anarchists 
have towards the Platform.
<p>
<a name="secj34"><h2>J.3.4	Why do many anarchists oppose the "Platform"?</h2>
<p>
When the "Platform" was published it provoked a massive amount of debate
and comment, the majority of it critical. The majority of famous anarchists
rejected the Platform. Indeed, only Nestor Makhno (who co-authored the
work) supported its proposals, with (among others) Alexander Berkman, 
Emma Goldman, Voline, G.P. Maximoff, Luigi Fabbri, Camilo Berneri and
Errico Malatesta rejecting its suggestions on how anarchists should 
organise. All argued that the Platform was trying to <i>"Bolshevise
anarchism"</i> or that the authors were too impressed by the "success" 
of the Bolsheviks in Russia. Since then, it has continued to provoke 
a lot of debate in anarchist circles. So why did so many anarchists 
then, and now, oppose the Platform?
<p>
While many of the anti-Platformists made points about most parts of the
Platform (both Maximoff and Voline pointed out that while the Platform
denied the need of a <i>"Transitional Period"</i> in theory, they accepted it 
in practice, for example) the main bone of contention was found in the
<i>"Organisational Section"</i> with its call for <i>"Tactical and Theoretical Unity,"</i>
<i>"Collective Responsibility"</i> and group and executive <i>"secretariats"</i> guiding
the organisation. Here most anarchists found ideas they considered 
incompatible with anarchist ideas. We will concentrate on this issue as
it is usually considered as the most important.
<p>
Today, in some quarters of the libertarian movement, the Platformists are 
often dismissed as 'want-to-be leaders'. Yet this was not where Malatesta 
and other critics of the Platform took issue. Malatesta and Maximoff both
argued in favour of, to use Maximoff's words, anarchists <i>"go[ing] into the
masses. . . , work[ing] with them, struggle for their soul, and attempt to win
it <b>ideologically</b> [sic!] and give it guidance."</i> [<b>Constructive Anarchism</b>, 
p. 19] Moreover, as Maximoff notes, the "synthesis" anarchists come to the
same conclusion. Thus all sides of the debate accepted that anarchists should 
take the lead. The question, as Malatesta and the others saw it, was not whether 
to lead, but rather how you should lead - a fairly important distinction in the 
argument. Following Bakunin, Maximoff argued that the question was <i>"not the
rejection of <b>leadership,</b> but making certain it is <b>free</b> and <b>natural.</b>"</i> 
[<b>Ibid.</b>] Malatesta made the same point and posed two 'alternatives': Either 
we <i>"provide leadership by advice and example leaving people themselves 
to . . . adopt our methods and solutions if these are, or seem to be, 
better than those suggested and carried out by others....'"</i> or we <i>"can 
also direct by taking over command, that is by becoming a government."</i> 
He asked the Platformists, <i>"In which manner do you wish to direct?"</i> 
[<b>The Anarchist Revolution</b>, p. 108]
<p>
He goes on to say that while he thought, from his knowledge of Makhno and
his work, that the answer must be the second way, he was <i>"assailed by doubt
that [Makhno] would also like to see, within the general movement, a central
body that would, in an authoritarian manner, dictate the theoretical and 
practical programme for the revolution."</i> This was because of the <i>"Executive
Committee"</i> in the Platform which would <i>"give ideological and organisational
direction to the [anarchist] association."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 110]
<p>
Maximoff makes the same point when he notes that when the Platform 
argues that anarchists must <i>"enter into revolutionary trade unions as an
organised force, responsible to accomplish work in the union before
the general anarchist organisation and orientated by the latter"</i> [<b>The
Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists</b>, p. 25] this
implies that anarchists in the unions are responsible to the anarchist
federation, <b>not</b> to the union assemblies that elected them. As he
puts it, according to the Platform, anarchists <i>"are to join the Trades
Unions with ready-made recipes and are to carry out their plans, if
necessary, against the will of the Unions themselves."</i> [<b>Constructive
Anarchism</b>, p. 19] However, Maximoff's argument may be considered 
harsh as the Platform argues that anarchism <i>"aspires neither to political 
power nor dictatorship"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 21] and so they would hardly be
urging the opposite principles within the trade union movement. If
we take the Platform's comments within a context informed by the
<i>"leadership of ideas"</i> concept (see <a href="secJ3.html#secj36">section J.3.6</a>) then what they meant
was simply that the anarchist group would convince the union members 
of  the validity of their ideas by argument and so the disagreement 
becomes one of unclear (or bad) use of language by the Platform's 
authors. Something Maximoff would not have disagreed with, we are
sure.
<p>
Despite many efforts and many letters on the subject (in particular 
between Malatesta and Makhno) the question of "leadership" could 
not be clarified to either side's satisfaction, in part because there 
was an additional issue for dispute. This was the related issue of 
organisational principles (which in themselves make up the defining 
part of the original Platform). Malatesta argued that this did not conform
with anarchist methods and principles, and so could not <i>"help bring
about the triumph of anarchism."</i> [<b>The Anarchist Revolution</b>, p. 97]
This was because of two main reasons, the first being the issue of the 
Platform's "secretariats" and "executive committee" and the issue of
"Collective Responsibility." We will take each in turn.
<p>
With an structure based round "secretariats" and "executive committees"
the <i>"will of the [General] Union [of Anarchists] can only mean the will
of the majority, expressed through congresses which nominate and 
control the <b>Executive Committee</b> and decide on all important issues.
Naturally, the congresses would consist of representatives elected by
the majority of member groups . . . So, in the best of cases, the 
decisions would be taken by a majority of a majority, and this could 
easily, especially when the opposing opinions are more than two, 
represent only a minority."</i>  This, he argues, <i>"comes down to a pure 
majority system, to pure parliamentarianism"</i> and so non-anarchist 
in nature. [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 100]
<p>
As long as a Platformist federation is based on "secretariats" 
and "executive committees" directing the activity and development 
of the organisation, this critique is valid. In such a system, as 
these bodies control the organisation and members are expected to 
follow their decisions (due to "theoretical and tactical unity" 
and "collective responsibility") they are, in effect, the 
government of the association. While this government may be
elected and accountable, it is still a government simply because 
these bodies have executive power. As Maximoff argues, individual 
initiative in the Platform <i>"has a special character . . . Each 
organisation (i.e. association of members with the right to individual
initiative) has its secretariat which . . . <b>directs</b> the ideological, 
political and technical activities of the organisation . . . In what, 
then, consists the self-reliant activities of the rank-and-file members? 
Apparently in one thing: initiative to obey the secretariat and carry
out its directives."</i> [<b>Constructive Anarchism</b>, p. 18] This seems to
be the logical conclusion of the structure suggested by the Platform. 
<i>"The spirit,"</i> argued Malatesta, <i>"the tendency remains authoritarian 
and the educational effect would remain anti-anarchist."</i> [<b>The
Anarchist Revolution</b>, p. 98] 
<p>
Malatesta, in contrast, argued that an anarchist organisation must be
based on the <i>"[f]ull autonomy, full independence and therefore the
full responsibility of individuals and groups"</i> with all organisational
work done <i>"freely, in such a way that the thought and initiative of
individuals is not obstructed."</i> The individual members of such an
organisation <i>"express any opinion and use any tactic which is not
in contradiction with accepted principles and which does not harm
the activities of others."</i> Moreover, the administrative bodies such
organisations nominate would <i>"have no executive powers, have no
directive powers"</i> leaving it up to the groups and their federal 
meetings to decide their own fates. While they may be representative
bodies, the congresses of such organisations would be <i>"free from
any kind of authoritarianism, because they do not lay down the law;
they do not impose their own resolutions on others. . . and do not
become binding and enforceable except on those who accept them."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 101, p. 102, p. 101] Such an organisation does not 
exclude collective decisions and self-assumed obligations, rather
it is based upon them.
<p>
Most groups inspired by the Platform, however, seem to reject this
aspect of its organisational suggestions. Instead of "secretariats" and
"executive committees" they have regular conferences and meetings
to reach collective decisions on issues and practice unity that way.
Thus the <b>really</b> important issue is of "theoretical and tactical unity" 
and "collective responsibility," not in the structure suggested by the
Platform. Indeed, this issue was the main topic in Makhno's letter 
to Malatesta, for example, and so we would be justified in saying 
that this is the key issues dividing "Platformists" from other anarchists. 
<p>
So in what way did Malatesta disagree with this concept? As we 
mentioned in the <a href="secJ3.html#secj33">last section</a>, the Platform defined the idea of 
 "Collective Responsibility" as <i>"the entire Union will be responsible 
for the political and revolutionary activity of each member; in the 
same way, each member will be responsible for the political and 
revolutionary activity of the Union."</i> To which Malatesta commented
as follows:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"But if the Union is responsible for what each member does, how 
can it leave to its members and to the various groups the freedom 
to apply the common programme in the way they think best? How can
one be responsible for an action if it does not have the means to
prevent it? Therefore, the Union and in its name the Executive
Committee, would need to monitor the action of the individual
member and order them what to do and what not to do; and since
disapproval after the event cannot put right a previously accepted
responsibility, no-one would be able to do anything at all before
having obtained the go-ahead, the permission of the committee.
And, on the other hand, can an individual accept responsibility
for the actions of a collectivity before knowing what it will do
and if he cannot prevent it doing what he disapproves of?"</i> [<b>Op. 
Cit.</b>, p. 99]
</blockquote><p>
In other words, the term "collective responsibility" (if taken 
literally) implies a highly inefficient and somewhat authoritarian 
mode of organisation. Before any action could be undertaken, the
organisation would have to be consulted and this would crush
individual, group and local initiative. The organisation would
respond slowly to developing situations, if at all, and this response
would not be informed by first hand knowledge and experience. 
Moreover, this form of organisation implies a surrendering of
individual judgement, as members would have to <i>"submit to the 
decisions of the majority before they have even heard what those 
might be."</i>[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, 101] In the end, all a member could do 
would be to leave the organisation if they disagree with a tactic
or position and could not bring themselves to further it by their
actions.
<p>
This structure also suggests that the Platform's commitment to
federalism is in words only. As most anarchists critical of the 
Platform argued, while its authors affirm federalist principles 
they, in fact, <i>"outline a perfectly centralised organisation with 
an Executive Committee that has responsibility to give ideological 
and organisational direction to the different anarchist organisations, 
which in turn will direct the professional organisations of the 
workers."</i> [<i>"The Reply"</i>, <b>Constructive Anarchism</b>, pp. 35-6] 
<p>
Thus it is likely that "Collective Responsibility" taken to its logical
end would actually <b>hinder</b> anarchist work by being too bureaucratic
and slow. Let us assume that by applying collective responsibility 
as well as tactical and theoretical unity, anarchist resources and time 
will be more efficiently utilised. However, what is the point of being 
"efficient" if the collective decision reached is wrong or is inapplicable 
to many areas? Rather than local groups applying their knowledge of 
local conditions and developing theories and policies that reflect 
these conditions (and co-operating from the bottom up), they may
be forced to apply inappropriate policies due to the "Unity" of the 
Platformist organisation. It is true that Makhno argued that the 
<i>"activities of local organisations can be adapted, as far as possible, 
to suit local conditions"</i> but only if they are <i>"consonant with the 
pattern of the overall organisational practice of the Union of 
anarchists covering the whole country."</i> [<b>The Struggle Against 
the State and Other Essays</b>, p. 62] Which still begs the question 
on the nature of the Platform's unity (however, it does suggest 
that the Platform's position may be less extreme than might be 
implied by the text, as we will discuss). That is why anarchists have 
traditionally supported federalism and free agreement within their 
organisations, to take into account the real needs of localities.
<p>
However, if we do not take the Platform's definition of "Collective
Responsibility" literally or to its logical extreme (as Makhno's
comments suggest) then the differences between Platformists
and non-Platformists may not be that far. As Malatesta pointed
out in his reply to Makhno's letter:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"I accept and support the view that anyone who associates and
co-operates with others for a common purpose must feel the need
to co-ordinate his [or her] actions with those of his [or her] 
fellow members and do nothing that harms the work of others . . . 
and respect the agreements that have been made. . . [Moreover] I
maintain that those who do not feel and do not practice that
duty should be thrown out the of the association.
<p>
"Perhaps, speaking of collective responsibility, you mean precisely
that accord and solidarity that must exist among members of an
association. And if that is so, your expression amounts. . . to
an incorrect use of language, but basically it would only be an
unimportant question of wording and agreement would soon be
reached."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 107-8]
<p></blockquote>
This, indeed, seems to be the way that most Platformist organisation
do operate. They have agreed broad theoretical and tactical positions 
on various subjects (such as, for example, the nature of trade unions
and how anarchists relate to them) while leaving it to local groups
to act within these guidelines. Moreover, the local groups do not
have to report to the organisation before embarking on an activity.
In other words, most Platformist groups do not take the Platform
literally and so many differences are, to a large degree, a question 
of wording.
<p>
While many anarchists are critical of Platformist groups for being
too centralised for their liking, it is the case that the Platform has
influenced many anarchist organisations, even non-Platformist ones
(this can be seen in the "class struggle" groups discussed in the 
<a href="secJ3.html#secj35">next
section</a>). This influence has been both ways, with the criticism the 
original Platform was subjected to having had an effect on how 
Platformist groups have developed. This, of course, does not imply 
that there is little or no difference between Platformists and other 
anarchists. Platformist groups tend to stress "collective responsibility" 
and "theoretical and tactical unity" more than others, which has
caused problems when Platformists have worked within "synthesis"
organisations (as was the case in France, for example, which resulted
in much bad-feeling between Platformists and others).
<p>
<b>Constructive Anarchism</b> by the leading Russian anarcho-syndicalist 
G.P. Maximoff gathers all the relevant documents in one place. As well 
as Maximoff's critique of the Platform, it includes the "synthesis"  
reply and the exchange of letters between Malatesta and Makhno on the 
former's critical article on the Platform (which is also included).
<b>The Anarchist Revolution</b> also contains Malatesta's article and 
the exchange of letters between him and Makhno.
<p>
<a name="secj35"><h2>J.3.5	Are there other kinds of anarchist federation?</h2>
<p>
Another type of anarchist federation is what we term the <b><i>"class 
struggle"</b></i> group. Many local anarchist groups in Britain, for 
example organise in this fashion. They use the term "class 
struggle" to indicate that their anarchism is based on collective 
working class resistance as opposed to reforming capitalism 
via lifestyle changes and the support of, say, co-operatives 
(many "class struggle" anarchists do these things, of course, 
but they are aware that they cannot create an anarchist society 
by doing so). We follow this use of the term here. And just to 
stress the point again, our use of "class struggle" to describe
this type of anarchist federation and group does not imply
that "synthesis" or "Platformist" do not support the class 
struggle. They do!
<p>
This kind of group is half-way between the "synthesis" and the 
"Platform." The "class struggle" group agrees with the "synthesis" 
in so far as it is important to have a diverse viewpoints within 
a federation and that it would be a mistake to try to impose a 
common-line on different groups in different circumstances as the 
Platform does. However, like the "Platform," the class struggle 
group recognises that there is little point in creating a forced 
union between totally different strands of anarchism. Thus the 
"class struggle" group rejects the idea that individualist or 
mutualist anarchists should be part of the same organisation 
as anarchist communists or syndicalists or that anarcho-pacifists 
should join forces with non-pacifists. Thus the "class struggle" 
group acknowledges that an organisation which contains viewpoints 
which are dramatically opposed can lead to pointless debates and 
the paralysis of action due to the impossibilities of overcoming 
those differences.
<p>
Instead, the "class struggle" group agrees a common set of "aims and 
principles" which are the basic terms of agreement within the federation. 
If an individual or group does not agree with this statement then they
cannot join. If they are members and try to change this statement and 
cannot get the others to agree its modification, then they are morally 
bound to leave the organisation. In other words, the aims and principles 
is the framework within which individuals and groups apply their 
own ideas and their interpretation of agreed policies. It means that 
individuals in a group and the groups within a federation have 
something to base their local activity on, something which has been 
agreed collectively. Hence, there would be a common thread to 
activities and a guide to action (particularly in situations were a 
group or federation meeting cannot be called). In this way individual
initiative and co-operation can be reconciled, without hindering 
either. In addition, the <b><i>"aims and principles"</i></b> would show potential 
members where the anarchist group was coming from. 
<p>
Such a federation, like all anarchist groups, would be based upon regular
assemblies locally and in frequent regional, national, etc., conferences 
to continually re-evaluate policies, tactics, strategies and goals. In
addition, such meetings prevent power from collecting in the higher
administration committees created to co-ordinate activity. The regular
conferences aim to create federation policies on specific topics and
agree common strategies. Such policies, once agreed, are morally binding
on the membership, who can review and revise them as required at a later
stage but cannot take action which would hinder their application (they
do not have to apply them themselves, if they consider them as a big
mistake). In other words, <i>"[i]n an anarchist organisation the individual 
members can express any opinion and use any tactic which is not in 
contradiction with accepted principles and which does not harm the 
activities of others."</i> [Errico Malatesta, <b>The Anarchist Revolution</b>, 
p. 102]
<p>
For example, minorities in such a federation can pursue their own policies 
as long as they clearly state that theirs is a minority position and does
not contradict the federation's aims and principles. In this way the anarchist 
federation combines united action and dissent, for no general policy will 
be applicable in all circumstances and it is better for minorities to make
mistakes than for them to pursue policies which they know will make even
greater problems in their area. As long as their actions and policies do 
not contradict the federations basic political ideas, then diversity is an
essential means for ensuring that the best tactic and ideas are be 
identified. The problem with the "synthesis" grouping is that any such
basic political ideas would be hard to agree and be so watered down as to
be almost useless (for example, a federation combining individualist and
communist anarchists would find it impossible to agree on such things as
the necessity for communism, communal ownership, and so on).
<p>
Thus, supporters of the "class struggle" group agree with Malatesta
when he argued that anarchist groups must be founded on <i>"[f]ull
autonomy, full independence and therefore full responsibility of
individuals and groups; free accord between those who believe it
is useful to unite in co-operating for a common aim; moral duty to
see through commitments undertaken and to do nothing that would
contradict the accepted programme. It is on these bases that the 
practical structures, and the right tools to give life to the 
organisation should be built and designed. Then the groups, the 
federations of groups, the federations of federations, the meetings, 
the congresses, the correspondence committees and so forth. But all 
this must be done freely, in such a way that the thought and 
initiative of individuals is not obstructed, and with the sole 
view of giving greater effect to efforts which, in isolation, 
would be either impossible or ineffective."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 101]

<p>
The "class struggle" group, like all anarchist groupings, is convinced 
that  (to use Murray Bookchin's words) <i>"anarcho-communism cannot 
remain a mere mood or tendency, wafting in the air like a cultural 
ambience. It must be organised -- indeed <b>well-organised</b> -- if it is 
effectively articulate and spread this new sensibility; it must have a 
coherent theory and extensive literature; it must be capable of 
duelling with the authoritarian movements [capitalist or state 
socialist] that try to denature the intuitive libertarian impulses 
of our time and channel social unrest into hierarchical forms of 
organisation."</i> [<i>"Looking Back at Spain,"</i> pp. 53-96, <b>The Radical 
Papers</b>, p. 90]
<p>
<a name="secj36"><h2>J.3.6 What role do these groups play in anarchist theory?</h2>
<p>
The aim of these groups and federations is to spread anarchist ideas 
within society and within social movements. They aim to convince 
people of the validity of anarchist ideas and analysis, of the need for 
a libertarian transformation of society and of themselves. They do so 
by working with others as equals and <i>"through advice and example, 
leaving people . . . to adopt our methods and solutions if these are, 
or seem to be, better than those suggested and carried out by others."</i> 
[Errico Malatesta, <b>The Anarchist Revolution</b>, p. 108] 
<p>
The role of "affinity groups" and their federations play a key role in
anarchist theory. This is because anarchists are well aware that there 
are different levels of knowledge and consciousness in society. While 
it is a basic element of anarchism that people learn through struggle 
and their own experiences, it is also a fact that different people 
develop at different speeds, that each individual is unique and 
subject to different influences. As one anarchist pamphlet puts 
it, the <i>"experiences of working class life constantly lead to the 
development of ideas and actions which question the established 
order . . . At the same time, different sections of the working 
class reach different degrees of consciousness."</i> [<b>The Role of 
the Revolutionary Organisation</b>, p.3] This can easily be seen 
from any group of individuals of the same class or even community. 
Some are anarchists, others Marxists, some social democrats/labourites, 
others conservatives, other liberals, most "apolitical," some support 
trade unions, others are against and so on.
<p>
Because they are aware that they are one tendency among many, 
anarchists organise as anarchists to influence social struggle. Only
when anarchists ideas are accepted by the vast majority will an 
anarchist society be possible. We wish, in other words, to win the 
most widespread understanding and influence for anarchist ideas 
and methods in the working class and in society, primarily because
we believe that these alone will ensure a successful revolutionary
transformation of society. Hence Malatesta's argument that
anarchists <i>"must strive to acquire overwhelming influence in order 
to draw the movement towards the realisation of our ideals. But 
such influence must be won by doing more and better than others, 
and will be useful of won in that way . . . [therefore] we must deepen, 
develop and propagate our ideas and co-ordinate our forces in a 
common action. We must act within the labour movement to 
prevent it being limited to and corrupted by the exclusive pursuit 
of small improvements compatible with the capitalist system. . . 
We must work with . . . [all the] masses to awaken the spirit of 
revolt and the desire for a free and happy life. We must initiate 
and support all movements that tend to weaken the forces of 
the State and of capitalism and to raise the mental level
and material conditions of the workers."</i> [<b>Life and Ideas</b>, 
p. 109]
<p>
Anarchist organisation exists to help the process by which people 
come to anarchist conclusions. It aims to make explicit the feelings 
and thoughts that people have (such as, wage slavery is hell, that the 
state exists to rip people off and so on) by exposing as wrong 
common justifications for existing society and social relationships 
by a process of debate and providing a vision of something better. In 
other words, anarchist organisations seek to explain and clarify what 
is happening in society and show why anarchism is the only real 
solution to social problems. As part of this, we also have combat 
false ideas such as Liberalism, Social Democracy, right-wing 
Libertarianism, Leninism and so on, indicating why these 
proposed solutions are not real ones. In addition, an anarchist 
organisation must also be a 'collective memory' for the oppressed, 
keeping alive and developing the traditions of the labour movement 
and anarchism so that new generations of anarchists have a body 
of experience to build upon and use in their struggles.
<p>
Anarchist organisations see themselves in the role of aiders, <b>not</b> 
leaders. As Voline argued, the minority which is politically aware 
minority <i>"should intervene. But, in every place and under all 
circumstances, . . . [they] should freely participate in the common 
work, <b>as true collaborators, not as dictators.</b> It is necessary that 
they especially create an example, and employ themselves. . . without 
dominating, subjugating, or oppressing anyone. . . Accordingly to 
the libertarian thesis, it is the labouring masses themselves, who, 
by means of the various class organisations, factory committees, 
industrial and agricultural unions, co-operatives, et cetera, federated. . . 
should apply themselves everywhere, to solving the problems of 
waging the Revolution. . . As for the 'elite' [i.e. the politically aware],
their role, according to the libertarians, is to <b>help</b> the masses, 
enlighten them, teach them, give them necessary advice, impel them 
to take initiative, provide them with an example, and support them 
in their action -- <b>but not to direct them governmentally.</b>"</i> [<b>The 
Unknown Revolution</b>, pp. 177-8]
<p>
This role is usually called providing a <b><i>"leadership of ideas"</i></b> 
(Bakunin used the unfortunate term <i>"invisible dictatorship"</i> 
to express approximately the same idea -- see <a href="secJ3.html#secj37">section J.3.7</a> 
for details).
<p>
Anarchists stress the difference of this concept with authoritarian 
notions of "leadership" such as Leninist ideas about party leadership 
where in members of the vanguard party are elected to positions of 
power or responsibility within an organisation. While both anarchist
and Leninist organisations exist to overcome the problem of "uneven
development" within the working class (i.e. the existence of many
different political opinions within it), the aims, role and structure of
these groups could not be more different. Essentially, Leninist parties
(as well as reproducing hierarchical structures within the so-called
"revolutionary" organisation) see socialist politics as arising <b>outside</b>
the working class, in the radical intelligentsia (see Lenin's <b>What is to 
be Done</b> for details) rather than as the product of working class 
experience (in this, we must add, Lenin was following standard 
Social Democratic theory and the ideas of Karl Kautsky -- the 
"Pope of Marxism" -- in particular). 
<p>
Anarchists, on the other hand, argue that rather than being the product 
of "outside" influence, (libertarian) socialist ideas are the natural product 
of working class life. In other words, (libertarian) socialist ideas come 
from <b>within</b> the working class. Bakunin, for example, constantly 
referred to the <i>"socialist instinct"</i> of the working classes and argued 
that the socialist ideal was <i>"necessarily the product of the people's 
historical experience"</i> and that workers <i>"most basic instinct and their 
social situation makes them . . . socialists. They are socialists because 
of all the conditions of their material existence."</i>[quoted by Richard 
B. Saltman, <b>The Social and Political Thought of  Michael Bakunin</b>, 
p. 100, <b>The Basic Bakunin</b>, pp. 101-2] 
<p>
Needless to say, instinct in itself is not enough (if it was, we would be 
living in an anarchist society!) and so Bakunin, like all anarchists, stressed 
the importance of self-liberation and self-education through struggle in
order to change <i>"instinct"</i> into <i>"thought."</i> He argued that there was <i>"but a 
single path, that of <b>emancipation through practical action</b> . . . [by] 
workers' solidarity in their struggle against the bosses. It means <b>trade 
unions, organisation, and the federation of resistance funds</b> . . . [Once the 
worker] begins to fight, in association with his comrades, for the reduction 
of his working hours and for an increase in his salary. . .and become[s] 
increasingly accustomed to relying on the collective strength of the 
workers . . . The worker thus enlisted in the struggle will necessarily 
. . . recognise himself [or herself] to be a revolutionary socialist."</i> 
[<b>The Basic Bakunin</b>, p. 103]
<p>
In addition to recognising the importance of popular organisations 
(such as trade unions) and of direct action in developing libertarian 
socialist thought, Bakunin also stressed the need for anarchist groups 
to work with these organisations and on the mass of the population in 
general. These groups would play an important role in helping to 
clarify the ideas of those in struggle and undermining the internal
and external barriers against these ideas. The first of these are
what Emma Goldman termed the <i>"internal tyrants,"</i> the <i>"ethical and
social conventions"</i> of existing, hierarchical society which accustom
people to authoritarian social relationships, injustice, lack of 
freedom and so on. External barriers are what Chomsky terms <i>"the 
Manufacture of Consent,"</i> the process by which the population at 
large are influenced to accept the status quo and the dominant elites 
viewpoint via the education system and media. It is this "manufacture 
of consent" which helps explain why, relatively speaking, there are 
so few anarchists even though we argue that anarchism is the natural 
product of working class life. While, objectively, the experiences of 
life drives working class people to resist domination and oppression, 
they enter that struggle with a history behind them, a history of 
education in capitalist schools, of reading pro-capitalist papers, 
and so on. 
<p>
This means that while social struggle is radicalising, it also has 
to combat years of pro-state and pro-capitalist influences. So even 
if an anarchist consciousness springs from the real conditions of 
working class life, because we life in a class society there are numerous 
counter-tendencies that <b>inhibit</b> the development of that consciousness
(such as religion, current morality the media, pro-business and pro-state 
propaganda, state and business repression and so on). This explains the 
differences in political opinion within the working class, as people 
develop at different speeds and are subject to different influences and 
experiences. However, the numerous internal and external barriers to 
the development of anarchist opinions created our "internal tyrants" 
and by the process of "manufacturing consent" can be, and are, weaken 
by rational discussion as well as social struggle and self-activity.
Indeed, until such time as we <i>"learned to defy them all [the internal 
tyrants], to stand firmly on [our] own ground and to insist upon
[our] own unrestricted freedom"</i> we can never be free or successfully
combat the "manufacture of consent."</i> [Emma Goldman, <b>Red Emma Speaks</b>,
p. 140] And this is where the anarchist group can play a part, for 
there is an important role to be played by those who have been through 
this process already, namely to aid those going through it.
<p>
Of course the activity of an anarchist group does not occur in a vacuum.
In periods of low class struggle, where there is little collective action,
anarchist ideas will seem to be utopian and so dismissed by most. In
these situations, only a few will become anarchists simply because the
experiences of working people do not bred confidence that an alternative
is possible to the current system. In addition, if anarchist groups are
small, many who are looking for an alternative may join other groups
which are more visible and express a libertarian sounding rhetoric
(such as Leninist groups, who often talk about workers' control, 
workers' councils and so on while meaning something distinctly
different from what anarchists mean by these terms). However, as
the class struggle increases and people become more inclined to
take collective action, they can become empowered and radicalised 
by their own activity and be more open to anarchist ideas and the
possibility of changing society. In these situations, anarchist groups
grow and the influence in anarchist ideas increases. This also explains
why anarchist ideas are not as widespread as they could be. It also
indicates another important role for the anarchist group, namely to
provide an environment and space where those drawn to anarchist
ideas can meet and share experiences and ideas during periods of
reaction.
<p>
The role of the anarchist group, therefore, is <b>not</b> to import 
a foreign ideology into the working class, but rather to help 
develop and clarify the ideas of those working class people 
who are moving from "instinct" to the "ideal" and so aid those 
undergoing that development. They would aid this development by 
providing propaganda which exposes the current social system 
(and the rationales for it) as bankrupt as well as encouraging 
resistance to oppression and exploitation. The former, for 
Bakunin, allowed the <i>"bringing [of] a more just general expression, 
a new and more congenial form to the existent instincts of the 
proletariat . . . [which] can sometimes facilitate and precipitate 
development . . . [and] give them an awareness of what they have, 
of what they feel, of what they already instinctively desire, but 
never can it give to them what they don't have."</i> The latter <i>"is 
the most popular, the most potent, and the most irresistible form 
of propaganda"</i> and <i>"awake[s] in the masses all the social-revolutionary 
instincts which reside deeply in the heart of every worker"</i> so 
allowing instinct to become transformed into <i>"reflected socialist 
thought."</i> [cited by Richard B. Saltman, <b>The Social and Political 
Thought of Michael Bakunin</b>, p. 107, p. 108 and p. 141]
<p>
In other words, <i>"the [anarchist] organisation cannot see itself 
solely as a propaganda group. Above all it is an assembly of 
activists. It must actively work in all the grassroots organisations 
of the working class such as rank and file [trade union] groups, 
tenants associations, squatters and unemployed groups as well 
as women's, black and gay groups . . . It does not try to make 
these movements into an appendage of the revolutionary organisation 
just as it respects the autonomy and self-organisation of the rank 
and file workers movement that may develop . . . [while] spread[ing] 
its ideas in these movements."</i> [<b>The Role of the Revolutionary 
Organisation</b>, p.5] Such an organisation is not vanguardist in 
the Leninist sense as it recognises that socialist politics 
derive from working class experience, rather than "science" 
(as Lenin and Kautsky argued), and that it does not aim to 
dominate popular movements but rather work within them as equals.
<p>
Indeed, Bakunin (in his discussion of the evils of the idea of god) 
presents an excellent summary of why Leninist ideas of vanguardism 
always end up created the dictatorship of the party rather than 
socialism. As he put it:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"[F]rom the moment that the natural inferiority of man and his 
fundamental incapacity to rise by his own effort, unaided by 
any divine inspiration, to the comprehension of just and true 
ideas, are admitted. it becomes necessary to admit also all 
the theological, political, and social consequences of the
positive religions. From the moment that God, the perfect 
supreme being, is posited face to face with humanity, divine 
mediators, the elect, the inspired of God spring from the 
earth to enlighten, direct, and govern in his name the 
human race."</i> [<b>God and the State</b>, p. 37]
</blockquote><p>
In <b>What is to be Done?</b>, Lenin argued that socialist <i>"consciousness 
could only be brought to [the workers] from without. . . the working 
class, exclusively by its own efforts, is able to develop only trade 
union consciousness"</i> and that the <i>"theory of socialism"</i> was developed 
by <i>"the educated representatives of the propertied classes, the 
intellectuals"</i> and, in so doing, replaced God with Marxism [<b>The 
Essential Works of Lenin</b>, p. 74] Hence Trotsky's comments at the 
Communist Party's 1921 congress that <i>"the Party [is] entitled to 
assert its dictatorship even if that dictatorship temporarily 
clashed with the passing moods of the workers' democracy!"</i> and 
that it is <i>"obliged to maintain its dictatorship . . . regardless 
of temporary vacillations even in the working class"</i> come as no 
surprise [quoted by M. Brinton, <b>The Bolsheviks and Workers' 
Control</b>, p. 78]. They are just the logical, evil consequences 
of vanguardism (and, of course, it is the Party -- upholders of 
the correct ideology , of <i>"scientific"</i> socialism-- which 
determines what is a <i>"passing mood"</i> or a <i>"temporary vacillation"</i> 
and so dictatorship is the logical consequence of Leninism). The 
validity of Bakunin's argument can easily be recognised. Little 
wonder anarchists reject the concept of vanguardism totally. 
<p>
So while we recognise that "advanced" sections do exist within 
the working class and that anarchists are one such section, we 
also recognise that <b>central</b> characteristic of anarchism is 
that its politics are derived from the concrete experience of 
fighting capitalism and statism directly -- that is, from the 
realities of working class life. This means that anarchists must 
also learn from working class people in struggle. If we recognise 
that anarchist ideas are the product of working class experience 
and self-activity and that these constantly change and develop in 
light of new experiences and struggles then anarchist theory <b>must 
be open to change by learning from non-anarchists.</b> Not to recognise 
this fact is to open the door to vanguardism and dogma. Because 
of this fact, anarchists argue that the relationship between 
anarchists and non-anarchists must be an egalitarian one, based 
on mutual interaction and the recognition that no one is infallible 
or have all the answers -- particularly anarchists!  With this 
in mind, while we recognise the presence of "advanced" groups 
within the working class (which obviously reflects the uneven 
development within it), anarchists aim to minimise such 
unevenness by the way anarchist organisations intervene 
in social struggle, intervention based on involving <b>all</b>
in the decision making process (as we discuss below).
<p>
Thus the general aim of anarchist groups is to spread ideas -- such as 
general anarchist analysis of society and current events, libertarian 
forms of organisation, direct action and solidarity and so forth -- and 
win people over to anarchism (i.e. to "make" anarchists). This involves
both propaganda and participate as equals in social struggle and 
popular organisation. Anarchists do not think that changing leaders 
is a solution to the problem of (bad) leadership. Rather, it is a question
of making leaders redundant by empowering all. As Malatesta argued,
we <i>"do not want to <b>emancipate</b> the people; we want the people to
<b>emancipate themselves.</b>"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 90] Thus anarchists 
<i>"advocate and practise direct action, decentralisation, autonomy 
and individual initiative; they should make special efforts to help 
members [of popular organisations] learn to participate directly in 
the life of the organisation and to dispense with leaders and 
full-time functionaries."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 125]
<p>
This means that anarchists reject the idea that anarchist groups and 
federations must become the "leaders" of organisations. Rather, we 
desire anarchist ideas to be commonplace in society and in popular
organisations, so that leadership by people from positions of power 
is replaced by the <i>"natural influence"</i> (to use Bakunin's term) of
activists within the rank and file on the decisions made <b>by</b> the 
rank and file. While we will discuss Bakunin's ideas in more detail 
in 
<a href="secJ3.html#secj37">section J.3.7</a>, the concept of <i>"natural influence"</i> can be gathered 
from this comment of Francisco Ascaso (friend of Durruti and an
influential anarchist militant in the CNT and FAI in his own right):
<p><blockquote>
<i>"There is not a single militant who as a 'FAIista' intervenes in 
union meetings. I work, therefore I am an exploited person. I pay
my dues to the workers' union and when I intervene at union meetings
I do it as someone who us exploited, and with the right which is
granted me by the card in my possession, as do the other militants,
whether they belong to the FAI or not."</i> [cited by Abel Paz, 
<b>Durruti: The People Armed</b>, p. 137]
</blockquote><p>
This shows the nature of the "leadership of ideas." Rather than be elected
to a position of power or responsibility, the anarchist presents their ideas
at mass meetings and argues his or her case. This means obviously implies
a two-way learning process, as the anarchist learns from the experiences
of others and the others come in contact with anarchist ideas. Moreover,
it is an egalitarian relationship, based upon discussion between equals
rather than urging people to place someone into power above them. And 
it ensures that everyone in the organisation participants in making, 
understands and agrees with the decisions reached. This obviously
helps the political development of all involved (including, we must
stress, the anarchists). As Durruti argued, <i>"the man [or woman] who 
alienates his will, can never be free to express himself and follow his 
own ideas at a union meeting if he feel dominated by the feeblest 
orator. . . As long as a man doesn't think for himself and doesn't 
assume his own responsibilities, there will be no complete liberation 
of human beings."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 184]
<p>
Because of our support for the "leadership of ideas", anarchists think
that all popular organisations must be open, fully self-managed and 
free from authoritarianism. Only in this way can ideas and discussion 
play an important role in the life of the organisation. Since anarchists
<i>"do not believe in the good that comes from above and imposed by
force. . .[and] want the new way of life to emerge from the body of
the people and advance as they advance. It matters to use therefore
that all interests and opinions find their expression in a conscious
organisation and should influence communal life in proportion
to their importance."</i> [Errico Malatesta, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 90] Bakunin's 
words with regards the first International Workers Association 
indicate this clearly:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"It must be a people's movement, organised from the bottom up by 
the free, spontaneous action of the masses. There must be no secret
governmentalism, the masses must be informed of everything . . .  
All the affairs of the International must be thoroughly and openly 
discussed without evasions and circumlocutions."</i> [<b>Bakunin on
Anarchism</b>, p. 408]
</blockquote><p>
(Such a assertion by Bakunin may come as a surprise to some readers
who are aware -- usually via Marxist sources -- that Bakunin argued
for a <i>"invisible dictatorship"</i> in some of his letters. As we discuss
in <a href="secJ3.html#secj37">section J.3.7</a>, the claims that Bakunin was a closest authoritarian
are simply wrong.)
<p>
Equally as important as <b>how</b> anarchists intervene in social struggles
and popular organisations and the organisation of those struggles and
organisations, there is the question of the nature of that intervention. 
We would like to quote the following by the British libertarian 
socialist group <b>Solidarity</b> as it sums up the underlying nature 
of anarchist action and the importance of a libertarian perspective 
on social struggle and change and how politically aware minorities 
work within them:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"<b>Meaningful action,</b> for revolutionaries, is whatever increases the 
confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the
solidarity, the egalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the
masses and whatever assists in their demystification. <b>Sterile and
harmful action</b> is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses,
their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy,
their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and
the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others - 
even by those allegedly acting on their behalf."</i> [<b>As We See it</b>] 
</blockquote><p>
Part of this "meaningful action" involves encouraging people to
<b><i>"act for yourselves"</i></b> (to use Kropotkin's words). As we noted
in <a href="secA2.html#seca27">section A.2.7</a>, anarchism is based on <b>self</b>-liberation and 
self-activity is key aspect of this. Hence Malatesta's argument:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Our task is that of 'pushing' the people to demand and to seize all
the freedom they can and to make themselves responsible for providing
their own needs without waiting for orders from any kind of authority.
Our task is that of demonstrating the uselessness and harmfulness of
government, provoking and encouraging by propaganda and action, all
kinds of individual and collective activities.
<p>
"It is in fact a question of education for freedom, of making people 
who are accustomed to obedience and passivity consciously aware of 
their real power and capabilities. One must encourage people to do 
things for themselves. . . "</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 178-9]
</blockquote><p>
This "pushing" people to "do it themselves" is another key role for 
any anarchist organisation. The encouragement of direct action is just
as important as anarchist propaganda and popular participation within
social struggle and popular organisations.
<p>
As such social struggle developments, the possibility of revolution
becomes closer and closer. While we discuss anarchists ideas on social 
revolution in <a href="secJ7.html">section J.7</a>, we must note here that the role of the 
anarchist organisation does not change. As Murray Bookchin argues, 
anarchists <i>"seek to persuade the factory committees, assemblies 
[and other organisations created by people in struggle] . . . to 
make themselves into <b>genuine organs of popular self-management</b>, 
not to dominate them, manipulate them, or hitch them to an 
all-knowing political party."</i> [<b>Post-Scarcity Anarchism</b>, 
p. 217] In this way, by encouraging self-management in 
struggle, anarchist lay the foundations of a self-managed 
society.
<p>
<a name="secj37"><h2>J.3.7 Doesn't Bakunin's <i>"Invisible Dictatorship"</i> prove that anarchists are secret authoritarians?</h2>
<p>
This claim is often made by Leninists and other Marxists and expresses a 
distinct, even wilful, misunderstanding of the role revolutionaries should play 
in popular movements and the ideas of Bakunin on this issue. In actual fact, 
the term <i>"invisible dictatorship"</i> does not prove that Bakunin or anarchists
are secret authoritarians, for reasons we will explain.
<p>
Marxists quote Bakunin's terms <i>"invisible dictatorship"</i> and <i>"collective 
dictatorship"</i> out of context, using it to "prove" that anarchists are secret 
authoritarians, seeking dictatorship over the masses. More widely, the 
question of Bakunin and his "invisible dictatorship" finds its way into 
the most sympathetic accounts of anarchist ideas. For example, Peter 
Marshall writes that it is <i>"not difficult to conclude that Bakunin's 
invisible dictatorship would be even more tyrannical than a . . . Marxist 
one"</i> and that it expressed a <i>"profound authoritarian and dissimulating 
streak in his life and work."</i> [<b>Demanding the Impossible</b>, p. 287] So, 
the question of setting the record straight about this aspect of Bakunin's 
theory is of more importance than just correcting a few Leninists. In 
addition, to do so will help clarify the concept of <i>"leadership of ideas"</i> 
we discussed in the <a href="secJ3.html#secj36">last section</a>. For both these reasons, this section, 
while initially appearing somewhat redundant and of interest only to 
academics, is of a far wider interest.
<p>
It is particularly ironic that Leninists (followers of a person who 
created an actual, <b>very visible</b>, dictatorship) accuse anarchists of 
seeking to create a "dictatorship" -- but then again, irony and a sense 
of humour is not usually noted in Leninists and Trotskyists. In a similar 
fashion, they (quite rightly) attack Bakunin for being anti-Jewish but 
keep quiet strangely quiet on Marx and Engels anti-Slavism. Indeed, Marx 
once published an article by Engels which actually preached race hatred 
and violence -- <i>"that hatred of the Russians was and remains the primary 
revolutionary passion of the Germans; and since the revolution it extends 
to the Czechs and the Croatians . . . we . . . can safeguard the revolution 
only by the most determined terrorism against these Slavic peoples"</i> and 
that the <i>"stubborn Czechs and the Slovaks should be grateful to the 
Germans, who have taken the trouble to civilise them."</i> [cited in 
<b>Bakunin on Anarchism</b>, p.432] Obviously being anti-Slavic is okay, 
being anti-Jewish is not (they also keep quiet on Marx's anti-Jewish 
comments). The hypocrisy is clear.
<p>
Actually, it is in their attempts to smear anarchism with closet 
authoritarianism that the authoritarianism of the Marxists come to 
the fore. For example, in the British Socialist Workers Party journal 
<b>International Socialism</b> number 52, we find this treat of "logic." 
Anarchism is denounced for being <i>"necessarily deeply anti-democratic"</i> 
due to its <i>"thesis of the absolute sovereignty of the individual ego."</i> 
Then Hal Draper is quoted arguing that <i>"[o]f all ideologies, anarchism 
is the most fundamentally anti-democratic in principle."</i> [p. 145] So, 
because anarchism favours individuals being free and making their own 
decisions, it is <b>less</b> democratic than Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism! 
Makes you wonder what they mean by democracy if ideologies which actively 
promote leader worship and party/leader dictatorships are more "democratic" 
than anarchism! Of course, in actuality, for most anarchists individual 
sovereignty implies direct democracy in free associations (see, for
example, <a href="secA2.html#seca211">section A.2.11</a> or Robert Graham's excellent essay <i>"The 
Anarchist Contract"</i> in <b>Reinventing Anarchy, Again</b>). Any "democracy" 
which is not based on individual freedom is too contradictory to be 
take seriously. 
<p>
But to return to our subject. Anarchists have two responses to 
claims that Bakunin (and, by implication, all anarchists) seek 
an <i>"invisible"</i> dictatorship and so are not true libertarians. 
Firstly, and this is the point we will concentrate upon in
this section, Bakunin's expression is taken out of context 
and when placed within its context it takes on a radically 
different meaning than that implied by critics of Bakunin and
anarchism. Secondly, even <b>if</b> the expression means what the 
critics claim it does, it does not refute anarchism as a political 
theory (any more than Bakunin's racism or Proudhon's sexism and 
racism). This is because anarchists are <b>not</b> Bakuninists (or 
Proudhonists or Kropotkinites or any other person-ist). We 
recognise other anarchists as what they are, human beings who 
said lots of important and useful things but, like any other 
human being, they make mistakes and often do not live up to 
all of their ideas. For anarchists, it is a question of 
extracting the useful parts from their works and rejecting 
the useless (as well as the downright nonsense!). Just because 
Bakunin said something, it does not make it right! This 
common-sense approach to politics seems to be lost on Marxists. 
Indeed, if we take the logic of these Marxists to its conclusion, 
we must reject everything Rousseau wrote (he was sexist), Marx 
and Engels (their comments against Slavs spring to mind, along 
with numerous other racist comments) and so on. But, of course, 
this never happens to non-anarchist thinkers when Marxists 
write their articles and books.
<p>
However, to return to our main argument, that of the importance 
of context. What does the context around Bakunin's term <i>"invisible 
dictatorship"</i> bring to the discussion? Simply that whenever Bakunin 
uses the term "invisible" or "collective" dictatorship he also 
explicitly states his opposition to government (or official) power 
and <b>in particular</b> the idea that anarchist organisations should 
take such power. For example, the <b>International Socialist</b> review 
mentioned above quotes the following passage from <i>"a Bakuninist 
document"</i> to "prove" that the <i>"principle of anti-democracy was 
to leave Bakunin unchallenged at the apex of power"</i>:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"It is necessary that in the midst of popular anarchy, which will 
constitute the very life and energy of the revolution, unity of 
thought and revolutionary action should find an organ. This organ 
must be the secret and world-wide association of the international 
brethren."</i> 
</blockquote><p>
This passage is from point 9 of Bakunin's <i>"Programme and Purpose 
of the Revolutionary Organisation of International Brothers."</i> In 
the sentence <b>immediately before</b> those quoted, Bakunin stated that 
<i>"[t]his organisation rules out any idea of dictatorship and custodial 
control."</i> [<b>Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings</b>, p. 172] Strange that 
this part of point 9 of the programme was not quoted! Nor do they quote 
Bakunin when he wrote, in point 4 of the same programme, <i>"[w]e are the 
natural enemies of those revolutionaries -- future dictators, regimentors 
and custodians of revolution -- who. . . [want] to create new revolutionary 
States just as centralist and despotic as those we already know . . ."</i> Nor, 
in point 8, that since the <i>"revolution everywhere must be created by the 
people, and supreme control must always belong to the people organised 
into a free federation of agricultural and industrial associations . . . 
organised from the bottom upwards by means of revolutionary delegations . . . 
[who] will set out to administer public services, not to rule over peoples."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 169, p. 172] 
<p>
(As an aside, we can understand why Leninists would not willing to
quote point 8, as Bakunin's position is far in advance of Marx's on 

the structure of revolutionary society. Indeed, it was not until 
1917, when Lenin supported the spontaneously created Soviets as the 
framework of his socialist state -- at least in rhetoric, in practice, 
as we saw in <a href="secHcon.html">section H</a>, he did not -- that Marxists belatedly 
discovered the importance of workers' councils. In other words, 
Bakunin predicted the rise of workers' councils as the framework 
of a socialist revolution -- after all the Russian soviets were, 
originally, <i>"a free federation of agricultural and industrial 
associations."</i> It must be embarrassing for Leninists to have
one of what they consider as a key contribution to Marxism 
predicted over 50 years beforehand by someone Marx called 
an <i>"ignoramus"</i> and a <i>"non-entity as a theoretician."</i>)
<p>
Similarly, when we look at the situations where Bakunin uses the 
terms <i>"invisible"</i> or <i>"collective"</i> dictatorship (usually in letters 
to comrades) we find the same thing -- the explicit denial <b>in these
same letters</b> that Bakunin thought the revolutionary association 
should take state/governmental power. For example, in a letter to 
Albert Richard (a fellow member of the anarchist <i>"Alliance of 
Social Democracy"</i>) Bakunin states that <i>"[t]here is only one 
power and one dictatorship whose organisation is salutary and 
feasible: it is that collective, invisible dictatorship of those 
who are allied in the name of our principle."</i> He then immediately 
adds that <i>"this dictatorship will be all the more salutary and 
effective for not being dressed up in any official power or 
extrinsic character."</i> Earlier in the letter he argues that 
anarchists must be <i>"like invisible pilots in the thick of the 
popular tempest. . . steer[ing] it [the revolution] not by any 
open power but by the collective dictatorship of all the allies 
-- a dictatorship without insignia, titles or official rights, 
and all the stronger for having none of the paraphernalia 
of power."</i> Explicitly opposing <i>"Committees of Public Safety 
and official, overt dictatorship"</i> he explains his idea of a 
revolution based on <i>"workers hav[ing] joined into associations . . .
armed and organised by streets and <b>quartiers</b>, the federative 
commune."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 181, p. 180 and p. 179] Hardly 
what would be expected from a would-be dictator?
<p>
As Sam Dolgoff notes, <i>"an organisation exercising no overt authority, 
without a state, without official status, without the machinery of 
institutionalised power to enforce its policies, cannot be defined as 
a dictatorship. . . Moreover, if it is borne in mind that this passage 
is part of a letter repudiating in the strongest terms the State and 
the \zauthoritarian statism of the 'Robespierres, the Dantons, and the 
Saint-Justs of the revolution,' it is reasonable to conclude that 
Bakunin used the word 'dictatorship' to denote preponderant 
influence or guidance exercised largely by example. . .  In line 
with this conclusion, Bakunin used the words 'invisible' and 
'collective' to denote the underground movement exerting this 
influence in an organised manner."</i> [<b>Bakunin on Anarchism</b>, 
p. 182]
<p>
This analysis is confirmed by other passages from Bakunin's letters.
In a letter to the Nihilist Sergi Nechaev (within which Bakunin 
indicates exactly how far apart politically they where -- which is 
important as, from Marx onwards, many of Bakunin's opponents 
quote Nechaev's pamphlets as if they were "Bakuninist," when 
in fact they were not) we find him arguing that:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"These [revolutionary] groups would not seek anything for 
themselves, neither privilege nor honour nor power. . . [but] 
would be in a position to direct popular movements . . . [via] 
<b>the collective dictatorship</b> of a secret organisation. . . The 
dictatorship. . . does not reward any of the members. . . or the 
groups themselves. . . with any. . . official power. It does not 
threaten the freedom of the people, because, lacking any official
character, it does not take the place of State control over the 
people, and because its whole aim. . . consists of the fullest 
realisation of the liberty of the people.
<p>
"This sort of dictatorship is not in the least contrary to the 
free development and the self-development of the people, nor its 
organisation from the bottom upward. . . for it influences the 
people exclusively through the natural, personal influence of 
its members, who have not the slightest power. . .to direct the 
spontaneous revolutionary movement of the people towards. . .
the organisation of popular liberty. . . This secret dictatorship 
would in the first place, and at the present time, carry out a 
broadly based popular propaganda. . . and by the power of this 
propaganda and also by <b>organisation among the people 
themselves</b> join together separate popular forces into
a mighty strength capable of demolishing the State."</i> 
[<b>Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings</b>, pp. 193-4]
</blockquote><p>
The key aspect of this is the term <i>"natural influence."</i> In a 
letter to Pablo, a Spanish member of the Alliance, we find 
Bakunin arguing that the Alliance <i>"will promote the Revolution 
only through the <b>natural but never official influence</b> of all 
members of the Alliance. . ."</i> [<b>Bakunin on Anarchism</b>, p. 387] 
This term was also used in his public writings. For example, we 
find in one of his newspaper articles Bakunin arguing that the 
<i>"very freedom of every individual results from th[e] great number 
of material, intellectual, and moral influences which every 
individual around him and which society. . . continually exercise 
on him"</i> and that <i>"everything alive . . . intervene[s] . . . in 
the life of others. . . [so] we hardly wish to abolish the 
effect of any individual's or any group of individuals' 
natural influence upon the masses."</i> [<b>The Basic Bakunin</b>, 
p. 140, p. 141] 
<p>
Thus <i>"natural influence"</i> simply means the effect of communicating
which others, discussing your ideas with them and winning them over
to your position, nothing more. This is hardly authoritarian, and so
Bakunin contrasts this <i>"natural"</i> influence with <i>"official"</i> influence,
which replaced the process of mutual interaction between equals
with a fixed hierarchy of command and thereby induced the 
<i>"transformation of natural influence, and, as such, the perfectly 
legitimate influence over man, into a right."</i> [cited by Richard B. 
Saltman, <b>The Social and Political Thought of Michael Bakunin</b>,
p. 46] 
<p>
As an example of this difference, consider the case of a union
militant (as will become clear, this is the sort of example Bakunin
had in mind). As long as they are part of the rank-and-file, arguing
their case at union meetings or being delegated to carry out the 
decisions of these assemblies then their influence is <i>"natural."</i> 
However, if this militant is elected into a position with executive
power in the union (i.e. becomes a full-time union official, for
example, rather than a shop-steward) then their influence becomes
<i>"official"</i> and so, potentially, corrupting for both the militant and
the rank-and-file who are subject to the rule of the official.
<p>
Indeed, this notion of <i>"natural"</i> influence (or authority) was also termed
<i>"invisible"</i> by Bakunin -- <i>"[i]t is only necessary that one worker in ten join 
the [International Working-Men's] Association <b>earnestly</b> and <b>with full 
understanding of the cause</b> for the nine-tenths remaining outside its 
organisation nevertheless to be influenced invisibly by it. . ."</i> [<b>The Basic 
Bakunin</b>, p. 139] So, as can be seen, the terms <i>"invisible"</i> and <i>"collective"</i>
dictatorship used by Bakunin in his letters is strongly related to the
term <i>"natural influence"</i> used in his public works and seems to be used 
simply to indicate the effects of an organised political group on the 
masses. To see this, it is worthwhile to quote Bakunin at length about
the nature of this <i>"invisible"</i> influence:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"It may be objected that this. . . [invisible] influence. . . suggests the
establishment of a system of authority and a new government. . . [but
this] would be a serious blunder. The organised effect of the International
on the masses. . . is nothing but the entirely natural organisation -- 
neither official nor clothed in any authority or political force whatsoever
-- of the effect of a rather numerous group of individuals who are inspired
by the same thought and headed toward the same goal, first of all on the
opinion of the masses and only then, by the intermediary of this opinion
(restated by the International's propaganda), on their will and their deeds.
But the governments. . . impose themselves violently on the masses,
who are forced to obey them and to execute their decrees. . . The 
International's influence will never be anything but one of opinion
and the International will never be anything but the organisation of
the natural effect of individuals on the masses."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 139-40]
</blockquote><p>
Therefore, from both the fuller context provided by the works and 
letters selectively quoted by anti-anarchists <b>and</b> his other writings, 
we find that rather than being a secret authoritarian, Bakunin was, 
in fact, trying to express how anarchists could <i>"naturally influence"</i> 
the masses and their revolution. As he himself argues:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"We are the most pronounced enemies of every sort of <b>official
power</b>. . . We are the enemies of any sort of publicly declared
dictatorship, we are social revolutionary anarchists. . . if we are
anarchists, by what right do we want to influence the people, and
what methods will we use? Denouncing all power, with what sort
of power, or rather by what sort of force, shall we direct a people's
revolution? <b>By a force that is invisible. . . that is not imposed
on anyone. . . [and] deprived of all official rights and significance.</b>"</i>
[<b>Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings</b>, pp. 191-2]
</blockquote><p>
Continually opposing <i>"official"</i> power, authority and influence, 
Bakunin used the term <i>"invisible, collective dictatorship"</i> to 
describe the <i>"natural influence"</i> of organised anarchists on mass 
movements. Rather than express a desire to become a dictator, it in
fact expresses the awareness that there is an "uneven" political 
development within the working class, an unevenness that can only
be undermined by discussion within the mass assemblies of popular
organisations. Any attempt to by-pass this "unevenness" by seizing or
being elected to positions of power (i.e. by <i>"official influence"</i>) would
be doomed to failure and result in dictatorship by a party -- <i>"triumph
of the Jacobins or the Blanquists [or the Bolsheviks, we must add]
would be the death of the Revolution."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 169]
<p>
This analysis can be seen from Bakunin's discussion on union 
bureaucracy and how anarchists should combat it. Taking the Geneva
section of the IWMA, Bakunin notes that the construction workers' 
section <i>"simply left all decision-making to their committees . . . 
In this manner power gravitated to the committees, and by a species 
of fiction characteristic of all governments the committees substituted 
their own will and their own ideas for that of the membership."</i> 
[<b>Bakunin on Anarchism</b>, p. 246] To combat this bureaucracy, <i>"the 
construction workers. . . sections could only defend their rights
and their autonomy in only one way: the workers called general
membership meetings. Nothing arouses the antipathy of the committees
more than these popular assemblies. . . In these great meetings of the
sections, the items on the agenda was amply discussed and the most
progressive opinion prevailed. . ."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 247]
<p>
Given that Bakunin considered <i>"the federative Alliance of all working
men's [sic!] associations. . . [would] constitute the Commune"</i> made
up of delegates with <i>"accountable and removable mandates"</i> we can
easily see that the role of the anarchist federation would be to intervene
in general assemblies of these associations and ensure, through debate,
that <i>"the most progressive opinion prevailed."</i> [<b>Michael Bakunin: 
Selected Writings</b>, p. 170, p. 171] Rather than seek power, the 
anarchists would seek <b>influence</b> based on the soundness of their 
ideas, the <i>"leadership of ideas"</i> in other words. Thus the anarchist
federation <i>"unleashes their [the peoples] will and gives wider 
opportunity for their self-determination and their social-economic 
organisation, which should be created by them alone from the bottom 
upwards . . . The [revolutionary] organisation . . . [must] not in any 
circumstances. . . ever be their [the peoples] master . . . What is to 
be the chief aim and pursue of this organisation? <b>To help the people 
towards self-determination on the lines of the most complete equality 
and fullest human freedom in every direction, without the least 
interference from any sort of domination. . . that is without any sort 
of government control.</b>"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 191]
<p>
Having shown that the role of Bakunin's revolutionary organisations
is drastically different than that suggested by the selective quotations
of Marxists, we need to address two more issues. One, the so-called
hierarchical nature of Bakunin's organisations and, two, their secret
nature. Taking the issue of hierarchy first, we can do no better than
quote Richard B. Saltman's summary of the internal organisation of
these groups:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The association's 'single will,' Bakunin wrote, would be determined
by 'laws' that every member 'helped to create,' or at a minimum 'equally
approved' by 'mutual agreement.' This 'definite set of rules' was to be
'frequently renewed' in plenary sessions wherein each member had the
'duty to try and make his view prevail,' but then he must accept fully
the decision of the majority. Thus the revolutionary association's 
'rigorously conceived and prescribed plan,' implemented under the
'strictest discipline,' was in reality to be 'nothing more or less than
the expression and direct outcome of the reciprocal commitment
contracted by each of the members towards the others.'"</i> [<b>The Social
and Political Thought of Michael Bakunin</b>, p. 115]
</blockquote><p>
While many anarchists would not agree 100 per cent with this set-up
(although we think that most supporters of the "Platform" would) all
would agree that it is <b>not</b> hierarchical. If anything, it appears 
quite democratic in nature. Moreover, comments in Bakunin's letters 
to other Alliance members support the argument that his revolutionary
associations were more democratic in nature than Marxists suggest. 
In a letter to a Spanish comrade we find him suggesting that <i>"all 
[Alliance] groups. . . should. . . from now on accept new members 
not by majority vote, but unanimously."</i> In a letter to Italian members 
of the IWMA he argued that in Geneva the Alliance did not resort 
to <i>"secret plots and intrigues."</i> Rather:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Everything was done in broad daylight, openly, for everyone to 
see . . . The Alliance had regular weekly open meetings and everyone 
was urged to participate in the discussions. . . The old procedure 
where members sat and passively listened to speakers talking down 
to them from their pedestal was discarded.
<p>
"It was established that all meetings be conducted by informal 
round-table conversational discussions in which everybody felt 
free to participate: not to be talked <b>at</b>, but to exchange 
views . . . "</i>[<b>Bakunin on Anarchism</b>, p. 386, pp. 405-6]
</blockquote><p>
Moreover, we find Bakunin being out-voted within the Alliance,
hardly what we would expect if they <b>were</b> top-down dictatorships
run by Bakunin (as Marxists claim). The historian T.R. Ravindranathan
indicates that after the Alliance was founded <i>"Bakunin wanted 
the Alliance to become a branch of the International [Worker's
Association] and at the same time preserve it as a secret society. The
Italian and some French members wanted the Alliance to be totally
independent of the IWA and objected to Bakunin's secrecy. Bakunin's
view prevailed on the first question as he succeeded in convincing
the majority of the harmful effects of a rivalry between the Alliance
and the International. On the question of secrecy, he gave way to his
opponents. . ."</i> [<b>Bakunin and the Italians</b>, p. 83]
<p>
These comments and facts suggest that the picture painted by Marxists 
of Bakunin and his secret societies is somewhat flawed. Moreover,
if Bakunin <b>did</b> seek to create a centralised, hierarchical organisation, 
as Marxists claim, he did not do a good job. We find him complaining 
that the Madrid Alliance was breaking up (<i>"The news of the dissolution 
of the Alliance in Spain saddened Bakunin. he intensified his letter-writing
to Alliance members whom he trusted. . . He tried to get the Spaniards
to reverse their decision"</i>) and we find that while the "Bakuninist" Spanish 
and Swiss sections of the IWMA sent delegates to its infamous Hague
congress, the "Bakuninist" Italian section did not (and these "missing"
votes may have been enough to undermine the rigged congress). Of 
course, Marxists could argue that these facts show Bakunin's cunning 
nature, but the more obvious explanation is that Bakunin did not create 
(nor desire to create) a hierarchical organisation with himself at the 
top. As Juan Gomez Casa notes, the Alliance <i>"was not a compulsory or 
authoritarian body . . . [I]n Spain [it] acted independently and was 
prompted by purely local situations. The copious correspondence 
between Bakunin and his friends . . . was at all times motivated by 
the idea of offering advice, persuading, and clarifying. It was never 
written in a spirit of command, because that was not his style, nor 
would it have been accepted as such by his associates."</i> Moreover, 
there <i>"is no trace or shadow or hierarchical organisation in a letter 
from Bakunin to Mora . . . On the contrary, Bakunin advises 'direct' 
relations between Spanish and Italian Comrades."</i> The Spanish 
comrades also wrote a pamphlet which <i>"ridiculed the fable of orders 
from abroad."</i> [<b>Anarchist Organisation</b>, pp. 37-8, p.25 
and p. 40] This is confirmed by
George R. Esenwein who argues that <i>"[w]hile it is true that
Bakunin's direct intervention during the early days of the
International's development in Spain had assured the pre-dominance
of his influence in the various federations and sections of
the FRE [Spanish section of the International], it cannot be
said that he manipulated it or otherwise used the Spanish
Alliance as a tool for his own subversive designs."</i> Thus,
<i>"though the Alliance did exist in Spain, the society did
not bear any resemblance to the nefarious organisation
that the Marxists depicted."</i> [<b>Anarchist Ideology and the 
Working Class Movement in Spain</b>, p. 42]
Indeed, as Max Nettlau points out, those Spaniards who did 
break with the Alliance were persuaded of its <i>"hierarchical 
organisation. . . not by their own direct observation, but by
what they had been told about the conduct of the organisation
in the abovementioned countries"</i> (which included England, 
where no evidence of any Alliance group has ever been recorded!)
[cited by Casa, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 39-40]. In addition, 
if Bakunin <b>did</b> run the Alliance
under his own personal dictatorship we would expect it to
change or dissolve upon his death. However the opposite
happened --  <i>"the Spanish Alliance survived Bakunin, who 
died in 1876, yet with few exceptions it continued to 
function in much the same way it had during Bakunin's 
lifetime."</i> [George R. Esenwein, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 43]
<p>
Moving on to the second issue, the question of why should the 
revolutionary organisation be secret? Simply because, at the
time of Bakunin's activism, many states where despotic monarchies,
with little or no civil rights. As he argued, <i>"nothing but a secret
society would want to take this [arousing a revolution] on, for
the interests of the government and of the government classes
would be bitterly opposed to it."</i> [<b>Michael Bakunin: Selected
Writings</b>, p. 188] For survival, Bakunin considered secrecy an
essential. As Juan Gomez Casas notes, <i>"[i]n view of the difficulties
of that period, Bakunin believed that secret groups of convinced
and absolutely trustworthy men were safer and more effective.
They would be able to place themselves at the head of developments
at critical moments, but only to inspire and to clarify the issues."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 22] Even Marxists, faced with dictatorial states, have
organised in secret. And as George R. Esenwein points out, the
<i>"claim that Bakunin's organisation scheme was not the product
of a 'hard-headed realism' cannot be supported in the light of
the experiences of the Spanish Alliancists. It is beyond doubt 
that their adherence to Bakunin's program greatly contributed
to the FRE's [Spanish section of the First International] 
ability to flourish during the early part of the 1870s and
to survive the harsh circumstances of repression in the period 
1874-1881."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 224f] However, few, if any, 
anarchists would agree
with this position now, shaped as it was by Bakunin's personal
experiences in Tsarist Russia and other illiberal states (and let 
us not forget that Bakunin had been imprisoned in the Peter
and Paul prison for his activities).
<p>
This is not to suggest that all of Bakunin's ideas on the role and
nature of anarchist groups are accepted by anarchists today. Most
anarchists would reject Bakunin's arguments for secrecy and love
of conspiracy, for example (particularly as secrecy cannot help 
but generate an atmosphere of deceit and, potentially, manipulation). 
Anarchists remember that anarchism did not spring fully formed 
and complete from Bakunin's (or any other individual's) head. 
Rather it was developed over time and by many individuals, 
inspired by many different experiences and movements. Because 
of this, anarchists recognise that Bakunin was inconsistent in 
some ways, as would be expected from a theorist breaking new 
ground, and this applies to his ideas on how anarchist groups 
should work within, and the role they should play, in popular 
movements. Most of his ideas are valid, once we place them 
into context, some are not. Anarchists embrace the valid ones 
and voice their opposition to the invalid ones.
<p>
In summary, any apparent contradiction (a contradiction which 
Marxists try hard to maintain and use to discredit anarchism by 
painting Bakunin as a closet dictator) between the "public" and 
"private" Bakunin disappears once we place his comments into 
context within both the letters he wrote and his overall political
theory. In fact, rather than promoting a despotic dictatorship 
over the masses his concept of <i>"invisible dictatorship"</i> is very 
similar to the <i>"leadership of ideas"</i> concept we discussed
in <a href="secJ3.html#secj36">section J.3.6</a>. As Brian Morris argues, those who, like
Leninist Hal Draper, argue that Bakunin was in favour of 
despotism only come to <i>"these conclusions by an incredible 
distortion of the substance of what Bakunin was trying to 
convey in his letters to Richard and Nechaev"</i> and <i>"[o]nly the 
most jaundiced scholar, or one blinded by extreme antipathy
towards Bakunin or anarchism, could interpret these words
as indicating that Bakunin conception of a secret society
implied a revolutionary dictatorship in the Jacobin sense,
still less a 'despotism'"</i> [<b>Bakunin: The Philosophy of 
Freedom</b>, p. 144, p. 149]
<p>
<a name="secj38"><h2>J.3.8 What is anarcho-syndicalism?</h2>
<p>
Anarcho-syndicalism (as mentioned in <a href="secA3.html#seca32">section A.3.2</a>) is a form of 
anarchism which applies itself (primarily) to creating industrial 
unions organised in an anarchist manner, using anarchist tactics 
(such as direct action) to create a free society. Or, in the words 
of the International Workers' Association:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Revolutionary Syndicalism basing itself on the class-war, aims at 
the union of all manual and intellectual workers in economic fighting 
organisations struggling for their emancipation from the yoke of
wage slavery and from the oppression of the State. Its goal consists
in the re-organisation of social life on the basis of free Communism,
by means of the revolutionary action of the working-class itself. It
considers that the economic organisations of the proletariat are alone
capable of realising this aim, and, in consequence, its appeal is 
addressed to workers in their capacity of producers and creators
of social riches, in opposition to the modern political labour
parties which can never be considered at all from the points of
view of economic re-organisation."</i> [<b>The Principles of 
Revolutionary Syndicalism</b>, point 1]
</blockquote><p>
The word <i>"syndicalism"</i> is basically an English rendering of the French 
for <i>"revolutionary trade unionism"</i> (<i>"syndicalisme revolutionarie"</i>). In the
1890s many anarchists in France started to work within the trade union
movement, radicalising it from within. As the ideas of autonomy, direct 
action, the general strike and political independence of unions which 
where associated with the French <b>Confederation Generale du Travail</b> 
(General Confederation of Labour) spread across the world (partly 
through anarchist contacts, partly through word of mouth by non-anarchists
who were impressed by the militancy of the CGT), the word "syndicalism" 
was used to describe movements inspired by the example of the CGT. 
Thus "syndicalism," "revolutionary syndicalism" and "anarcho-syndicalism" 
all basically mean "revolutionary unionism" (the term "industrial unionism"
used by the IWW essentially means the same thing). 
<p>
The main difference is between revolutionary syndicalism and 
anarcho-syndicalism, with anarcho-syndicalism arguing that 
revolutionary syndicalism concentrates too much on the workplace 
and, obviously, stressing the anarchist roots and nature of 
syndicalism more than revolutionary syndicalism. In addition, 
particularly in France, anarcho-syndicalism is considered compatible
with supporting a specific anarchist organisation to complement the
work of the revolutionary unions. Revolutionary syndicalism, in contrast,
argues that the syndicalist unions are sufficient in themselves to
create libertarian socialism and rejects anarchist groups along with
political parties. However, the dividing line can be unclear (and,
just to complicate things even more, <b>some</b> syndicalists support
political parties and are not anarchists -- there have been a 
few Marxist syndicalists, for example. We will ignore these
syndicalists in our discussion and concentrate on the libertarian
syndicalists). We will use the term syndicalism to describe what
each branch has in common.
<p>
Syndicalism is different from ordinary trade unionism (sometimes called
business unionism by anarchists and syndicalists as it treats the union's 
job purely as the seller of its members labour power and acts like any 
other business). Syndicalism, in contrast with trade unionism, is based 
on unions managed directly by the rank and file membership rather than 
by elected officials and bureaucrats. The syndicalist union is not based 
on where the worker lives (as is the case with many trade unions). Instead, 
the union is based and run from the workplace. It is there that union
meetings are held, where workers are exploited and oppressed and where
their economic power lies. Syndicalism is based on local branch autonomy,
with each branch having the power to call and end strikes and organise its
own affairs. No union officials have the power to declare strikes "unofficial" 
as every strike decided upon by the membership is automatically "official" 
simply because the branch decided it in a mass meeting. Power would be
decentralised into the hands of the union membership, as expressed in 
local branch assemblies. 
<p>
To co-ordinate strikes and other forms of action, these autonomous 
branches are part of a federal structure. The mass meeting in the 
workplace mandates delegates to express the wishes of the membership 
at "labour councils" and "industrial unions." 
<p>
The labour council is the federation of all workplace branches of 
all industries in a geographical area (say, for example, in a city 
or region) and it has the tasks of, among other things, education, 
propaganda and the promotion of solidarity between the different 
union branches in its area. Due to the fact it combines all workers 
into one organisation, regardless of industry or union, the labour 
council plays a key role in increasing <b>class</b> consciousness and 
solidarity. This can be seen from both the Italian USI and the 
Spanish CNT, to take two examples. In the later case, the <i>"territorial 
basis of organisation linkage brought all the workers from one 
area together and fomented working-class solidarity over and 
before corporate solidarity."</i> [J. Romero Maura, <i>"The Spanish Case"</i>, 
contained in <b>Anarchism Today</b>, D. Apter and J. Joll (eds.), p. 75] 
The example of the USI also indicates the validity of French syndicalist
Fernand Pelloutier's passionate defence of the <b>Bourse du Travail</b> as
a revolutionary force (see Carl Levy, <i>"Italian Anarchism: 1870-1926"</i> in
<b>For Anarchism</b>, David Goodway (ed.), pp. 48-9). 
<p>
The industrial union, on the other hand, is the federation of union 
branches <b>within the same industry</b> in a given area (there would be a 
coal miners industry wide union, a software workers industrial union 
and so on). These councils would organise industry wide struggles and 
solidarity. In this way workers in the same industry support each
other, ensuring that if workers in one workplace goes on strike, 
the boss cannot swap production to another workplace elsewhere
and so weaken and defeat the action (see Berkman's <b>ABC of 
Anarchism</b>, p. 54, for a fuller discussion of why such industrial 
unionism is essential to win strikes).
<p>
In practice, of course, the activities of these dual federations 
would overlap: labour councils would support an industry wide 
strike or action while industrial unions would support action 
conducted by its member unions called by labour councils. However, 
we must stress that both the industrial federations and the 
cross-industry (territorial) labour councils are <i>"based on the 
principles of Federalism, on free combination from below upwards, 
putting the right of self-determination of every member above 
everything else and recognising only the organic agreement of 
all on the basis of like interests and common convictions."</i> 
[Rudolf Rocker, <b>Anarcho-Syndicalism</b>, p. 53]
<p>
As well as being decentralised and organised from the bottom up, 
the syndicalist union differs from the normal trade union by having 
no full-time officials. All union business is conducted by elected 
fellow workers who do their union activities after work or, if it 
has to be done during work hours, they get the wages they lost while 
on union business. In this way no bureaucracy of well paid officials 
is created and all union militants remain in direct contact with 
their fellow workers. Given that it is their wages, working 
conditions and so on that are effected by their union activity 
they have a real interest in making the union an effective 
organisation and ensuring that it reflects the interests of 
the rank and file. In addition, all part-time union "officials"
are elected, mandated and recallable delegates. If the fellow 
worker who is elected to the local labour council or other 
union committee is not reflecting the opinions of those who
mandated him or her then the union assembly can countermand their
decision, recall them and replace them with someone who <b>will</b> 
reflect the decisions of the union.
<p>
The syndicalist union is committed to <b>direct action</b> and refuses links
with political parties, even labour or "socialist" ones. A key idea of
syndicalism is that of union autonomy -- the idea that the workers'
organisation is capable of changing society by its own efforts and
that it must control its own fate and not be controlled by any party
or other outside group (including anarchist federations). This is
sometimes termed <i><b>"workerism"</i></b> (from the French <i><b>"ouverierisme"</i></b>), i.e.
workers' control of the class struggle and their own organisations. 
Rather than being a cross-class organisation like the political party, 
the union is a <b>class</b> organisation and is so uniquely capable of 
representing working class aspirations, interests and hopes. There 
is <i>"no place in it for anybody who was not a worker. Professional 
middle class intellectuals who provided both the leadership and 
the ideas of the socialist political movement, were therefore 
at a discount. As a consequence the syndicalist movement was, 
and saw itself as, a purely working class form of socialism . . . 
[S]yndicalism appears as the great heroic movement of the 
proletariat, the first movement which took seriously . . . [the 
argument] that the emancipation of the working class must be 
the task of labour unaided by middle class intellectuals or 
by politicians and aimed to establish a genuinely working class 
socialism and culture, free of all bourgeois taints. For the 
syndicalists, the workers were to be everything, the rest, 
nothing."</i> [Geoffrey Ostergaard, <b>The Tradition of Workers'
Control</b>, p. 38]
<p>
Therefore syndicalism is <i>"consciously anti-parliamentary and 
anti-political. It focuses not only on the realities of power 
but also on the key problem of achieving its disintegration. 
Real power in syndicalist doctrine is economic power. The way 
to dissolve economic power is to make every worker powerful, 
thereby eliminating power as a social privilege. Syndicalism 
thus ruptures all the ties between the workers and the state. 
It opposes political action, political parties, and any
participant in political elections. Indeed it refuses to 
operate in the framework of the established order and the 
state . . . .[S]yndicalism turns to direct action -- strikes, 
sabotage, obstruction, and above all, the revolutionary general 
strike. Direct action not only perpetuates the militancy of the 
workers and keeps alive the spirit of revolt, but awakens in 
them a greater sense of individual initiative. By continual
pressure, direct action tests the strength of the capitalist 
system at all times and presumably in its most important arena -- 
the factory, where ruled and ruler seem to confront each other 
most directly."</i> [Murray Bookchin, <b>The Spanish Anarchists</b>, 
p. 121]
<p>
This does not mean that syndicalism is "apolitical" in the sense 
of ignoring totally all political issues. This is a Marxist myth.
Syndicalists follow other anarchists by being opposed to all forms 
of authoritarian/capitalist politics but do take a keen interest
in "political" questions as they relate to the interests of working 
people. Thus they do not "ignore" the state, or the role of the state.
Indeed, syndicalists are well aware that the state exists to protect
capitalist property and power. For example, the British syndicalists'
<i>"vigorous campaign against the 'servile state' certainly disproves the
notion that syndicalists ignored the role of the state in society. On
the contrary, their analysis of bureaucratic state capitalism helped
to make considerable inroads into prevailing Labourist and state
socialist assumptions that the existing state could be captured by
electoral means and used as an agent of through-going social
reform."</i> [Bob Holton, <b>British Syndicalism: 1900-1914</b>, p. 204]
<p>
Indeed, Rudolf Rocker makes the point very clear. <i>"It has often 
been charged against Anarcho-Syndicalism,"</i> he writes, <i>"that it
has no interest in the political structure of the different countries,
and consequently no interest in the political struggles of the time,
and confines its activities entirely to the fight for purely economic
demands. This idea is altogether erroneous and springs either from
outright ignorance or wilful distortion of the facts. It is not the
political struggle as such which the Anarcho-Syndicalist from
the modern labour parties, both in principle and tactics, but form
of this struggle and the aims which it has in view. . . their efforts
are also directed, even today, at restricting the activities of the
state . . . The attitude of Anarcho-Syndicalism towards the political
power of the present-day state is exactly the same as it takes towards
the system of capitalist exploitation . . .[and] pursue the same tactics
in their fight against . . . the state . . . [T]he worker cannot be 
indifferent to the economic conditions of life . . . so he cannot 
remain indifferent to the political structure of his [or her] 
country . . ."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p.63]
<p>
Thus syndicalism is not indifferent to or ignores political 
struggles and issues. Rather, it fights for political change 
and reforms as it fights for economic ones -- by direct action 
and solidarity. If revolutionary and anarcho-syndicalists <i>"reject 
any participation in the works of bourgeois parliaments, it is 
not because they have no sympathy with political struggles in 
general, but because they are firmly convinced that parliamentary 
activity is for the workers the very weakest and most hopeless 
form of the political struggles."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 65] Syndicalists 
(like other anarchists) argue that the political and the economic 
must be <b>integrated</b> and that integration must take place in 
working class organisations, which, for syndicalists, means 
their unions (or union-like organisations such as workplace
councils or assemblies). Rather than being something other 
people discuss on behalf of working class people, syndicalists,
again like all anarchists, argue that politics must no longer 
be in the hands of so-called experts (i.e. politicians) but 
instead lie in the hands of those directly affected by it. Also, 
in this way the union encourages the political development of its 
members by the process of participation and self-management.
<p>
In other words, political issues must be raised in economic and
social organisations and discussed there, where working class
people have real power. In this they follow Bakunin who argued
that an <i>"it would be absolutely impossible to ignore political
and philosophical questions"</i> and that an <i>"exclusive preoccupation
with economic questions would be fatal for the proletariat."</i> 
Therefore, the unions must be open to all workers, be independent
of all political parties and be based on economic solidarity with 
all workers, in all lands, but there must be <i>"free discussion of 
all political and philosophical theories"</i> <i>"leaving the sections 
and federations to develop their own policies"</i> since <i>"political
and philosophical questions . . . [must be] posed in the International
. . . [by] the proletariat itself . . ."</i> [<b>Bakunin on Anarchism</b>, 
p. 301, p. 302, p. 297, p. 302]
<p>
Thus revolutionary and anarcho-syndicalism are deeply political 
in the widest sense of the word, aiming for a radical change in 
political, economic and social conditions and institutions. Moreover, 
it is political in the narrower sense of being aware of political 
issues and aiming for political reforms along with economic ones. 
They are only "apolitical" when it comes to supporting political 
parties and using bourgeois political institutions, a position 
which is "political" in the wider sense of course! This is 
obviously identical to the usual anarchist position (see 
<a href="secJ2.html">section
J.2</a>)
<p>
Which indicates another importance difference between syndicalism
and trade unionism. Syndicalism aims at changing society rather than
just working within it. Thus syndicalism is revolutionary while trade
unionism is reformist. For syndicalists the union <i>"has a double aim:
with tireless persistence, it must pursue betterment of the working
class's current conditions. But, without letting themselves become
obsessed with this passing concern, the workers should take care to
make possible and imminent the essential act of comprehensive
emancipation: the expropriation of capital."</i> [Emile Pouget, <b>No
Gods, No Masters</b>, p. 71] Thus syndicalism aims to win reforms
by direct action and by this struggle bring the possibilities of a
revolution, via the general strike, closer. Indeed any <i>"desired 
improvement is to be wrested directly from the capitalist. . . [and]
must always represent a reduction in capitalist privileges and be 
a partial expropriation."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 73] Thus Emma Goldman:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Of course Syndicalism, like the old trade unions, fights for 
immediate gains, but it is not stupid enough to pretend that 
labour can expect humane conditions from inhumane economic 
arrangements in society. Thus it merely wrests from the enemy 
what it can force him to yield; on the whole, however, Syndicalism 
aims at, and concentrates its energies upon, the complete overthrow 
of the wage system.
<p>
"Syndicalism goes further: it aims to liberate labour from every
institution that has not for its object the free development of 
production for the benefit of all humanity. In short, the ultimate 
purpose of Syndicalism is to reconstruct society from its present 
centralised, authoritative and brutal state to one based upon the 
free, federated grouping of the workers along lines of economic 
and social liberty.
<p>
"With this object in view, Syndicalism works in two directions: first, 
by undermining the existing institutions; secondly, by developing 
and educating the workers and cultivating their spirit of solidarity, 
to prepare them for a full, free life, when capitalism shall have been 
abolished. . .
<p>
"Syndicalism is, in essence, the economic expression of Anarchism..."</i>
[<b>Red Emma Speaks</b>, p. 68]
</blockquote><p>
Which, in turn, explains why syndicalist unions are structured in 
such an obviously libertarian way. On the one hand, it reflects the 
importance of empowering every worker by creating a union which 
is decentralised and self-managed, a union which every member 
plays a key role in determining its policy and activities. Participation 
ensures that the union becomes a <i>"school for the will"</i> (to use 
Pouget's expression) and allows working people to learn how 
to govern themselves and so do without government and state. On 
the other hand, <i>"[a]t the same time that syndicalism exerts this 
unrelenting pressure on capitalism, it tries to build the new social 
order within the old. The unions and the 'labour councils' are not 
merely means of  struggle and instruments of social revolution; 
they are also the very structure around which to build a free 
society. The workers are to be educated [by their own activity 
within the union] in the job of destroying the old propertied 
order and in the task of  reconstructing a stateless, libertarian 
society. The two go together."</i> [Murray Bookchin, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
p. 121] The syndicalist union is seen as prefiguring the future
society, a society which (like the union) is decentralised and
self-managed in all aspects.
<p>
Thus, as can be seen, syndicalism differs from trade unionism in
its structure, its methods and its aims. Its structure, method and
aims are distinctly anarchist. Little wonder the leading syndicalist
theorist Fernand Pelloutier argued that the trade union, <i>"governing
itself along anarchic lines,"</i> must become <i>"a practical schooling in 
anarchism."</i> [<b>No Gods, No Masters</b>, p. 55, p. 57] In addition, most
anarcho-syndicalists support community organisations and struggle 
alongside the more traditional industry based approach usually
associated within syndicalism. While we have concentrated on the
industrial side here (simply because this is a key aspect of 
syndicalism) we must stress that syndicalism can and does lend 
itself to community struggles, so our comments have a wider 
application (for example, in the form of community unionism 
as a means to create community assemblies -- see <a href="secJ5.html#secj51">section J.5.1</a>). 
It is a myth that anarcho-syndicalism ignores community struggles 
and organisation, as can be seen from the history of the Spanish 
CNT for example (the CNT helped organise rent strikes, for example).
<p>
It must be stressed that a syndicalist union is open to all 
workers regardless of their political opinions (or lack of them). 
The union exists to defend workers' interests as workers and 
is organised in an anarchist manner to ensure that their 
interests are fully expressed. This means that an syndicalist 
organisation is different from an organisation of syndicalists. 
What makes the union syndicalist is its structure, aims and 
methods. Obviously things can change (that is true of any 
organisation which has a democratic structure) but that is
a test revolutionary and anarcho-syndicalists welcome and 
do not shirk from. As the union is self-managed from below 
up, its militancy and political content is determined by 
its membership. As Pouget put it, the union <i>"offers employers a 
degree of resistance in geometric proportion with the resistance 
put up by its members."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,  p. 71] That is why syndicalists 
ensure that power rests in the members of the union.
<p>
Syndicalists have two main approaches to building revolutionary
unions -- <i><b>"dual unionism"</i></b> and <i><b>"boring from within."</i></b> The former 
approach involves creating new, syndicalist, unions, in opposition 
to the existing trade unions. This approach was historically
and is currently the favoured way of building syndicalist unions 
(American, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and numerous other syndicalists 
built their own union federations in the heyday of syndicalism between 
1900 and 1920). "Boring from within" simply means working within the 
existing trade unions in order to reform them and make them syndicalist. 
This approach was favoured by French and British syndicalists, plus a few 
American ones. See also sections <a href="secJ5.html#secj52">J.5.2</a> 
and <a href="secJ5.html#secj53">J.5.3</a> for more on industrial 
unionism and anarchist perspectives on existing trades unions.
<p>
However, these two approaches are not totally in opposition. Many 
of the dual unions were created by syndicalists who had first worked 
within the existing trade unions. Once they got sick of the bureaucratic 
union machinery and of trying to reform it, they split from the reformist 
unions and formed new, revolutionary, ones. Similarly, dual unionists 
will happily support trade unionists in struggle and often be "two 
carders" (i.e. members of both the trade union and the syndicalist one). 
Rather than being isolated from the majority of trade unionists, 
supporters of dual unionism argue that they would be in contact 
with them where it counts, on the shop floor and in struggle rather 
than in trade union meetings which many workers do not even attend. 
Dual unionists argue that the trade unions, like the state, are too 
bureaucratic to be changed and that, therefore, trying to reform 
them is a waste of time and energy (and it is likely that rather than 
change the trade union, "boring from within" would more likely 
change the syndicalist by watering down their ideas). 
<p>
However, syndicalists no matter what tactics they prefer, favour 
autonomous workplace organisations, controlled from below. Both
tend to favour syndicalists forming networks of militants to spread
anarchist/syndicalist ideas within the workplace. Indeed, such a
network (usually called <i>"Industrial Networks"</i> -- see 
<a href="secJ5.html#secj54">section J.5.4</a>
for more details) would be an initial stage and essential means 
for creating syndicalist unions. These groups would encourage 
syndicalist tactics and rank and file organisation during
struggles and so create the potential for building syndicalist
unions as syndicalist ideas spread and are seen to work.
<p>
While the names "syndicalism" and  "anarcho-syndicalism" date 
from the 1890s in France, the ideas associated with these names 
have a longer history. Anarcho-syndicalist ideas have developed 
independently in many different countries and times. As Rudolf 
Rocker notes, anarcho-syndicalism itself was <i>"a direct continuation 
of those social aspirations which took shape in the bosom of the First 
International and which were best understood and most strongly 
held by the libertarian wing of the great workers' alliance . . . 
Its theoretical assumptions are based on the teachings of Libertarian 
or Anarchist Socialism, while its form of organisation is largely 
borrowed from revolutionary Syndicalism."</i> [<b>Anarcho-Syndicalism</b>, 
p. 49]

<p>
Indeed, anyone familiar with Bakunin's work will quickly see that
much of his ideas prefigure what was latter to become known as
syndicalism. Bakunin, for example, argued that the <i>"organisation 
of the trade sections, their federation in the International, 
and their representation by the Chambers of Labour, not only 
create a great academy, in which the workers of the International, 
combining theory and practice, can and must study economic science, 
they also bear in themselves the living germs of <b>the new social 
order,</b> which is to replace the bourgeois world. They are creating 
not only the ideas but also the facts of the future itself."</i> 
[quoted by Rocker, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 45] Bakunin continually stressed 
that trade unions were the <i>"only really efficacious weapons the 
workers now can use against"</i> the bourgeoisie, as well as the 
importance of solidarity and the radicalising and empowering 
effect of strikes and the importance of the general strike as 
a means of <i>"forc[ing] society to shed its old skin."</i> [<b>The 
Basic Bakunin</b>, p. 153, p. 150] 
<p>
(We must stress that we are <b>not</b> arguing that Bakunin 
"invented" syndicalism. Far from it. Rather, we are arguing 
that Bakunin expressed ideas already developed in working 
class circles and became, if you like, the "spokes-person" 
for these libertarian tendencies in the labour movement as 
well as helping to clarifying these ideas in many ways. 
As Emma Goldman argued, the <i>"feature which distinguishes 
Syndicalism from most philosophies is that it represents 
the revolutionary philosophy of labour conceived and born 
in the actual struggle and experience of workers themselves 
-- not in universities, colleges, libraries, or in the 
brain of some scientists."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 65-6] This 
applies equally to Bakunin and the first International).
<p>
Thus, rather than being some sort of revision of anarchism or 
some sort of "semi-Marxist" movement, syndicalism was, in fact, 
a reversion to the ideas of Bakunin and the anarchists in the first
International (although, as we discuss in the 
<a href="secJ3.html#secj39">next section</a>, with
some slight differences) after the disastrous experience of 
<i>"propaganda by the deed"</i> (see sections <a href="secA2.html#seca218">A.2.18</a> and <a href="secA5.html#seca53">A.5.3</a>). 
Given the utter nonsense usually written by Marxists (and 
liberals) about Bakunin, it is not hard to understand why 
Marxists fail to see the anarchist roots of syndicalism -- not 
being aware of Bakunin's ideas, they think that anarchism 
and syndicalism are utterly different while, in fact, (to use 
Emma Goldman's words) syndicalism <i>"is, in essence, the 
economic expression of Anarchism"</i> and <i>"under Bakunin and
the Latin workers, [the International was] forging ahead along
industrial and Syndicalist lines."</i> [<b>Red Emma Speaks</b>, p. 68, 
p. 66] Similarly, we find that the American <b>Black International</b>
(organised by anarchists in the 1880s) <i>"anticipated by some 
twenty years the doctrine of anarcho-syndicalism"</i> and <i>"[m]ore
than merely resembling the 'Chicago Idea' [of the <b>Black 
International</b>], the IWW's principles of industrial unionism
resulted from the conscious efforts of anarchists . . . who 
continued to affirm . . . the principles which the Chicago
anarchists gave their lives defending."</i> [Salvatore Salerno,
<b>Red November, Black November</b>, p. 51 and p. 79] Thus, 
ironically, many Marxists find themselves in the curious 
position of ascribing ideas and movements inspired by
Bakunin to Marx!
<p>
Moreover, ideas similar to anarcho-syndicalism were also developed 
independently of the libertarian wing of the IWMA nearly 40 years 
previously in Britain. The idea that workers should organise into 
unions, use direct action and create a society based around the trade 
union federation had been developed within the early labour movement 
in Britain. The Grand National Consolidated Trade Union of Great
Britain and Ireland had, as one expert on the early British Labour 
movement put it, a <i>"vision [which] is an essentially syndicalist one
of decentralised socialism in which trade unions. . . have acquired. . .
the productive capacity to render themselves collectively self-sufficient
as a class"</i> and a union based <i>"House of Trades"</i> would replace the
existing state [Noel Thompson, <b>The Real Rights of Man</b>, p.88]. 
This movement also developed Proudhon's ideas on mutual banks 
and labour notes decades before he put pen to paper. For an excellent 
history of this period, see E.P. Thompson's <b>The Making of the English 
Working Class</b> and for a fuller history of proto-syndicalism Rudolf 
Rocker's <b>Anarcho-Syndicalism</b> cannot be bettered.
<p>
Thus syndicalism and anarcho-syndicalism (or anarchist-syndicalism) 
is revolutionary labour unionism. Its theoretical assumptions and 
organisation are based on the teachings of libertarian socialism 
(or Anarchism). Syndicalism combines the day-to-day struggle for reforms
and improvements in working class life within the framework of existing 
capitalist society (reforms gained by direct action and considered as
partial expropriations) with the long term aim of the overthrown of 
capitalism and statism. The aim of the union is workers' self-management 
of production and distribution after the revolution, a self-management
which the union is based upon in the here and now.
<p>
Syndicalists think that such an organisation is essential
for the successful creation of an anarchist society as it 
builds the new world in the shell of the old, making a sizeable 
majority of the population aware of anarchism and the benefits 
of anarchist forms of organisation and struggle. Moreover, they 
argue that those who reject syndicalism <i>"because it believes in 
a permanent organisation of workers"</i> and urge <i>"workers to organise 
'spontaneously' at the very moment of revolution"</i> promote a 
<i>"con-trick, designed to leave 'the revolutionary movement,'
so called, in the hands of an educated class. . . [or] so-called 
'revolutionary party'. . . [which] means that the workers are 
only expected to come in the fray when there's any fighting 
to be done, and in normal times leave theorising to the 
specialists or students."</i> [Albert Meltzer, <b>Anarchism: 
Arguments for and Against</b>, p. 57] The syndicalist union 
is seen as a "school" for anarchism, <i>"the germ of the 
Socialist economy of the future, the elementary school 
of Socialism in general. . . [we need to] plant these 
germs while there is yet time and bring them to the strongest
possible development, so as to make the task of the coming social
revolution easier and to insure its permanence."</i> [Rudolf Rocker, 
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 52] A self-managed society can only be created by 
self-managed means, and as only the practice of self-management 
can ensure its success, the need for libertarian popular 
organisations is essential. Syndicalism is seen as the key 
way working people can prepare themselves for revolution and 
learn to direct their own lives. In this way syndicalism 
creates, to use Bakunin's terms, a true politics of the people, 
one that does not create a parasitic class of politicians and 
bureaucrats (<i>"We wish to emancipate ourselves, to free ourselves"</i>, 
Pelloutier wrote, <i>"but we do not wish to carry out a revolution, 
to risk our skin, to put Pierre the socialist in the place of 
Paul the radical"</i>).
<p>
This does not mean that syndicalists do not support 
organisations spontaneously created by workers' in 
struggle  (such as workers' councils, factory committees 
and so on). Far from it. Anarcho-syndicalists and 
revolutionary syndicalists have played important parts 
in these kinds of organisation (as can be seen from the 
Russian Revolution, the factory occupations in Italy in
1920, the British Shop Steward movement and so on). This is 
because syndicalism acts as a catalyst to militant labour 
struggles and serves to counteract class-collaborationist 
tendencies by union bureaucrats and other labour fakirs. 
Part of this activity must involve encouraging self-managed 
organisations where none exist and so syndicalists support 
and encourage all such spontaneous movements, hoping that 
they turn into the basis of a syndicalist union movement or 
a successful revolution. Moreover, most anarcho-syndicalists 
recognise that it is unlikely that every worker, nor even 
the majority, will be in syndicalist unions before a 
revolutionary period starts. This means <b>new</b> organisations,
created spontaneously by workers in struggle, would have to be 
the framework of social struggle and the post-capitalist society 
rather than the syndicalist union as such. All the syndicalist 
union can do is provide a practical example of how to organise 
in a libertarian way within capitalism and statism and provide 
<b>part</b> of the framework of the free society, along with other 
spontaneously created organisations.
<p>
Hence spontaneously created organisations of workers in struggle 
play an important role in revolutionary and anarcho-syndicalist 
theory. Since syndicalists advocate that it is the workers, using 
their own organisations who will control their own struggles (and, 
eventually, their own revolution) in their own interests, not a 
vanguard party of elite political theorists, this is unsurprising. 
It matters little if the specific organisations are revolutionary 
industrial unions, factory committees, workers councils', or other 
labour formations. The important thing is that they are created and 
run by workers themselves. Meanwhile, anarcho-syndicalists are 
industrial guerrillas waging class war at the point of production 
in order to win improvements in the here and now and strengthen 
tendencies towards anarchism by showing that direct action and 
libertarian organisation is effective and can win partial 
expropriations of capitalist and state power.
<p>
Lastly, we must point out here that while syndicalism has anarchist roots, 
not all syndicalists are anarchists. A few Marxists have been syndicalists, 
particularly in the USA where the followers of Daniel De Leon supported 
Industrial Unionism and helped form the Industrial Workers of the World. 
The Irish socialist James Connelly was also a Marxist-syndicalist, as was 
Big Bill Haywood a leader of the IWW and member of the US Socialist 
Party. Marxist-syndicalists are generally in favour of more centralisation
within syndicalist unions (the IWW was by far the most centralised 
syndicalist union) and often argue that a political party is required to
complement the work of the union. Needless to say, anarcho-syndicalists
and revolutionary syndicalists disagree, arguing that centralisation kills
the spirit of revolt and weakens a unions real strength [Rudolf Rocker,
<b>Anarcho-Syndicalism</b>, p. 53] and that political parties divide labour
organisations needlessly and are ineffective when compared to militant
unionism [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 51] So not all syndicalists are anarchists and not 
all anarchists are syndicalists (we discuss the reasons for this in the 
<a href="secJ3.html#secj39">next section</a>). Those anarchists who are syndicalists often use the term 
"anarcho-syndicalism" to indicate that they are both anarchists and 
syndicalists and to stress the libertarian roots and syndicalism.
<p>
For more information on anarcho-syndicalist ideas, Rudolf Rocker's 
classic introduction to the subject, <b>Anarcho-Syndicalism</b> is a good
starting place, as is the British syndicalist Tom Brown's <b>Syndicalism</b>.
Daniel Guerin's <b>No Gods, No Masters</b> contains articles by leading
syndicalist thinkers and is also a useful source of information.
<p>
<a name="secj39"><h2>J.3.9 Why are many anarchists not anarcho-syndicalists?</h2>
<p>
Before discussing why many anarchists are not anarcho-syndicalists, 
we must clarify a few points first. Let us be clear, non-syndicalist 
anarchists usually support the ideas of workplace organisation and 
struggle, of direct action, of solidarity and so on. Thus most 
non-syndicalist anarchists do not disagree with anarcho-syndicalists 
on these issues. Indeed, many even support the creation of syndicalist 
unions. Thus many anarcho-communists like Alexander Berkman, Errico 
Malatesta and Emma Goldman supported anarcho-syndicalist organisations 
and even,like Malatesta, helped form such revolutionary union 
federations (he helped form the FORA in Argentina) and urged 
anarchists to take a leading role in organising unions. So when 
we use the term "non-syndicalist anarchist" we are not suggesting 
that these anarchists reject all aspects of anarcho-syndicalism. 
Rather, they are critical of certain aspects of anarcho-syndicalist 
ideas while supporting other aspects of it.
<p>
In the past, a few communist-anarchists <b>did</b> oppose the struggle for 
improvements within capitalism as "reformist." However, these were 
few and far between and with the rise of anarcho-syndicalism in the 
1890s, the vast majority of communist-anarchists recognised that 
only by encouraging the struggle for reforms would people take them
seriously. Only by showing the benefits of anarchist tactics and
organisation in practice could anarchist ideas grow in influence. Thus
syndicalism was a healthy response to the rise of "abstract revolutionarism"
that infected the anarchist movement during the 1880s, particularly in
France and Italy. Thus communist-anarchists agree with syndicalists
on the importance of struggling for and winning reforms and 
improvements within capitalism.
<p>
Similarly, anarchists like Malatesta also recognised the importance of
mass organisations like unions. As he argued, <i>"to encourage popular
organisations of all kinds is the logical consequence of our basic 
ideas . . . An authoritarian party, which aims at capturing power 
to impose its ideas, has an interest in the people remaining an 
amorphous mass, unable to act for themselves and therefore easily 
dominated . . . But we anarchists do not want to <b>emancipate</b> the 
people; we want the people to <b>emancipate themselves</b> . . . we 
want the new way of life to emerge from the body of the people 
and correspond to the state of their development and advance 
as they advance."</i> [<b>Life and Ideas</b>, p. 90] And this can only 
occur when there are popular organisations, like trade unions, 
within which people can express themselves, come to common 
agreements and act. Moreover, these organisations must be 
autonomous, self-governing, be libertarian in nature <b>and</b> be
independent of all parties and organisations (including anarchist 
ones). The similarity with anarcho-syndicalist ideas is striking.
<p>
So why, if this is the case, are many anarchists not 
anarcho-syndicalists? There are two main reasons for this. 
First, there is the question of whether unions are, by their 
nature, revolutionary organisations. Second, whether syndicalist 
unions are sufficient to create anarchy by themselves. We will
discuss each in turn.
<p>
As can be seen from any country, the vast majority of unions are deeply
reformist and bureaucratic in nature. They are centralised, with power
resting at the top in the hands of officials. This suggests that in 
themselves unions are not revolutionary. As Malatesta argued, this 
is to be expected for <i>"all movements founded on material and immediate 
interests (and a mass working class movement cannot be founded on 
anything else), if the ferment, the drive and the unremitting efforts 
of men [and women] of ideas struggling and making sacrifices for an 
ideal future are lacking, tend to adapt themselves to circumstances, 
foster a conservative spirit, and fear of change in those who manage 
to improve their conditions, and often end up by creating new 
privileged classes and serving to support and consolidate the 
system one would want to destroy."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 113-4]
<p>
If we look at the <b>role</b> of the union within capitalist society we 
see that in order for it to work, it must offer a reason for the boss 
to recognise it and negotiate with it. This means that the union must
be able to offer the boss something in return for any reforms it
gets and this "something" is labour discipline. In return for an
improvement in wages or conditions, the union must be able to
get workers to agree to submit to the contracts the union signs
with their boss. In other words, they must be able to control
their members -- stop them fighting the boss -- if they are to
have anything with which to bargain with. This results in the
union becoming a third force in industry, with interests 
separate than the workers which it claims to represent. The role 
of unionism as a seller of labour power means that it often has
to make compromises, compromises it has to make its members
agree to. This necessities a tendency for power to be taken from
the rank and file of the unions and centralised in the hands of
officials at the top of the organisation. This ensures that <i>"the
workers organisation becomes what it must perforce be in a 
capitalist society -- a means not of refusing to recognise and
overthrowing the bosses, but simply for hedging round and 
limiting the bosses' power."</i> [Errico Malatesta, <b>The Anarchist
Revolution</b>, p. 29]
<p>
Anarcho-syndicalists are aware of this problem. That is why their
unions are decentralised, self-managed and organised from the
bottom up in a federal manner. As Durruti argued: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"No anarchists in the union committees unless at the ground level. 
In these committees, in case of conflict with the boss, the militant 
is forced to compromise to arrive at an agreement. The contracts 
and activities which come from being in this position, push the 
militant towards bureaucracy. Conscious of this risk, we do not
wish to run it. Our role is to analyse from the bottom the different 
dangers which can beset a union organisation like ours. No 
militant should prolong his job in committees, beyond the time
allotted to him. No permanent and indispensable people."</i> 
[<b>Durruti: The People Armed</b>, p. 183]
</blockquote><p>
However, structure is rarely enough in itself to undermine the 
bureaucratic tendencies created by the role of unions in the 
capitalist economy. While such libertarian structures can slow 
down the tendency towards bureaucracy, non-syndicalist 
anarchists argue that they cannot stop it. They point to 
the example of the French CGT which had become reformist
by 1914 (the majority of other syndicalist unions were crushed 
by fascism or communism before they had a chance to develop 
fully). Even the Spanish CNT (by far the most successful
anarcho-syndicalist union) suffered from the problem of
reformism, causing the anarchists in the union to organise
the FAI in 1927 to combat it (which it did, very successfully).
According to Jose Peirats, the <i>"participation of the anarchist 
group in the mass movement CNT helped to ensure that CNT's
revolutionary nature."</i> [<b>Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution</b>,
p. 241] This indicates the validity of Malatesta's arguments
concerning the need for anarchists to remain distinct of the
unions organisationally while working within them (just as
Peirat's comment that <i>"[b]linkered by participation in 
union committees, the FAI became incapable of a wider 
vision"</i> indicates the validity of Malatesta's warnings 
against anarchists taking positions of responsibility in 
unions! [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 239-40]).
<p>
Moreover, even the structure of syndicalist unions can cause 
problems. <i>"In modelling themselves structurally on the bourgeois 
economy, the syndicalist unions tended to become the organisational 
counterparts of the very centralised apparatus they professed to 
oppose. By pleading the need to deal effectively with the tightly 
knit bourgeoisie and state machinery, reformist leaders in 
syndicalist unions often had little difficulty in shifting 
organisational control from the bottom to the top."</i> [Murray
Bookchin, <b>The Spanish Anarchists</b>, p. 123] 
<p>
In addition, as the syndicalist unions grow in size and influence their 
initial radicalism is usually watered-down. This is because, <i>"since 
the unions must remain open to all those who desire to win from
the masters better conditions of life, whatever their opinions may
be . . ., they are naturally led to moderate their aspirations, 
first so that they should not frighten away those they wish to have
with them, and because, in proportion as numbers increase, those
with ideas who have initiated the movement remain buried in
a majority that is only occupied with the petty interests of 
the moment."</i> [Errico Malatesta, <i>"Anarchism and Syndicalism"</i>, 
contained in Geoffrey Ostergaard, <b>The Tradition of Workers' 
Control</b>, p. 150]
<p>
Which, ironically given that increased self-management is the
means of reducing tendencies towards bureaucracy, means that
syndicalist unions have a tendency towards reformism simply
because the majority of their members will be non-revolutionary
if the union grows in size in non-revolutionary times. This can
be seen from the development of the Swedish syndicalist union
the SAC, which went from being a very militant minority union
to watering down its politics to retain members in non-revolutionary
times
<p>
So, if the union's militant strategy succeeds in winning reforms, 
more and more workers will join it. This influx of non-anarchists
and non-syndicalists must, in a self-managed organisation, exert
a de-radicalising influence on the unions politics and activities 
in non-revolutionary times. The syndicalist would argue that the 
process of struggling for reforms combined with the educational 
effects of participation and self-management will reduce this 
influence and, of course, they are right. However, non-syndicalist
anarchists would counter this by arguing that the libertarian influences
generated by struggle and participation would be strengthened by the
work of anarchist groups and, without this work, the de-radicalising
influences would outweigh the libertarian ones. In addition, the
success of a syndicalist union must be partly determined by the
general level of class struggle. In periods of great struggle, the
membership will be more radical than in quiet periods and it is 
quiet periods which cause the most difficulties for syndicalist unions.
With a moderate membership the revolutionary aims and tactics of
the union will also become moderated. As one academic writer on
French syndicalism put it, syndicalism <i>"was always based on workers
acting in the economic arena to better their conditions, build
class consciousness, and prepare for revolution. The need to survive
and build a working-class movement had always forces syndicalists 
to adapt themselves to the exigencies of the moment."</i> [Barbara
Mitchell, <i>"French Syndicalism: An Experiment in Practical Anarchism"</i>,
contained in <b>Revolutionary Syndicalism: An International Perspective</b>,
Marcel can der Linden and Wayne Thorpe (eds.), p. 25]
<p>
As can be seen from the history of many syndicalist unions (and, 
obviously, mainstream unions too) this seems to be the case -- the 
libertarian tendencies are outweighed by the de-radicalising ones.
This can also be seen from the issue of collective bargaining:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The problem of collective bargaining foreshadowed the difficulty
of maintaining syndicalist principles in developed capitalist
societies. Many organisations within the international syndicalist
movement initially repudiated collective agreements with employers
on the grounds that by a collaborative sharing of responsibility
for work discipline, such agreements would expand bureaucratisation
within the unions, undermine revolutionary spirit, and restrict
the freedom of action that workers were always to maintain
against the class enemy. From an early date, however, sometimes
after a period of suspicion and resistance, many workers gave
up this position. In the early decades of the century it
became clear that to maintain or gain a mass membership,
syndicalist unions had to accept collective bargaining."</i> 
[Marcel van der Linden and Wayne Thorpe, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 19]
</blockquote><p>
Thus, for most anarchists, <i>"the Trade Unions are, by their 
very nature reformist and never revolutionary. The revolutionary 
spirit must be introduced, developed and maintained by the constant 
actions of revolutionaries who work from within their ranks as well 
as from outside, but it cannot be the normal, natural definition of 
the Trade Unions function."</i> [Errico Malatesta, <b>Life and Ideas</b>, 
p. 117]

<p>
This does not mean that anarchists should not work within labour
organisations. Nor does it mean rejecting anarcho-syndicalist 
unions as an anarchist tactic. Far from it. Rather it is a case 
of recognising these organisations for what they are, reformist 
organisations which are not an end in themselves but one (albeit, 
an important one) means of preparing the way for the achievement 
of anarchism. Neither does it mean that anarchists should not try 
to make labour organisations as anarchistic as possible or have 
anarchist objectives. Working within the labour movement (at the 
rank and file level, of course) is essential to gain influence for 
anarchist ideas, just as working with unorganised workers is also 
important. But this does not mean that the unions are revolutionary 
by their very nature, as syndicalism suggests. As history shows, and 
as syndicalists themselves are aware, the vast majority of unions 
are reformist. Non-syndicalist anarchists argue there is a reason 
for that and syndicalist unions are not immune to these tendencies 
just because they call themselves revolutionary. Due to these 
tendencies, non-syndicalist anarchists stress the need to organise 
as anarchists first and foremost in order to influence the class 
struggle and encourage the creation of autonomous workplace and 
community organisations to fight that struggle. Rather than fuse 
the anarchist and working class movement, non-syndicalist anarchists 
stress the importance of anarchists organising as anarchists to 
influence the working class movement.
<p>
All this does not mean that purely anarchist organisations or 
individual anarchists cannot become reformist. Of course they
can (just look at the Spanish FAI which along with the CNT
co-operated with the state during the Spanish Revolution). 
However, unlike syndicalist unions, the anarchist organisation
is not pushed towards reformism due to its role within 
society. That is an important difference -- the institutional
factors are not present for the anarchist federation as they
are for the syndicalist union federation.
<p>
The second reason why many anarchists are not anarcho-syndicalists
is the question of whether syndicalist unions are sufficient in 
themselves to create anarchy. Pierre Monatte, a French syndicalist,
argued that <i>"[s]yndicalism, as the [CGT's] Congress of Amiens 
proclaimed in 1906, is sufficient unto itself. . . [as] the working
class, having at last attained majority, means to be self-sufficient
and to reply on no-one else for its emancipation."</i> [<b>The Anarchist
Reader</b>, p. 219]
<p>
This idea of self-sufficiency means that the anarchist and the syndicalist 
movement must be fused into one, with syndicalism taking the role of 
both anarchist group and labour union. Thus a key difference between 
anarcho-syndicalists and other anarchists is over the question of the 
need for a specifically anarchist organisation. While most anarchists 
are sympathetic to anarcho-syndicalism, few totally subscribe to 
anarcho-syndicalist ideas in their pure form. This is because, in 
its pure form, syndicalism rejects the idea of anarchist groups 
and instead considers the union as <b>the</b> focal point of social 
struggle and anarchist activism. However, this "pure" form of
syndicalism may be better described as revolutionary syndicalism rather 
than as anarcho-syndicalism. In France, for example, anarcho-syndicalism 
is used to describe the idea that unions can be complemented with
anarchist groups while revolutionary syndicalism is used to describe
the idea of union self-sufficiency. Thus an anarcho-syndicalist may
support a specific anarchist federation to work within the union and
outside. In the eyes of other anarchists anarcho-syndicalism in its
"pure" (revolutionary syndicalist) form makes the error of confusing 
the anarchist and union movement and so ensures that the resulting 
movement can do neither work well. As Malatesta put it, <i>"[e]very 
fusion or confusion between the anarchist movement and the trade
union movement ends, either in rendering the later unable to 
carry out its specific task or by weakening, distorting, or 
extinguishing the anarchist spirit."</i> [<b>Life and Ideas</b>, p. 123]
<p>
This is not to suggest that anarchists should not work in 
the labour movement. That would be a mistake. Anarchists 
should work with the rank and file of the labour movement
while keeping their own identity as anarchists and organising
as anarchists. Thus Malatesta: <i>"In the past I deplored that 
the comrades isolated themselves from the working-class movement. 
Today I deplore that many of us, falling into the contrary extreme, 
let themselves be swallowed up in the same movement."</i> [<b>The
Anarchist Reader</b>, p. 225] 
<p>
Most anarchists agree with Malatesta when he argued that <i>"anarchists
must not want the Trade Unions to be anarchist, but they must act
within their ranks in favour of anarchist aims, as individuals, as
groups and as federations of groups. . . [I]n the situation as it is,
and recognising that the social development of one's workmates 
is what it is, the anarchist groups should not expect the workers'
organisation to act as if they were anarchist, but should make 
every effort to induce them to approximate as much as possible
to the anarchist method."</i> [<b>Life and Ideas</b>, pp. 124-5] Given 
that it appears to be the case that labour unions <b>are</b> by nature
reformist, they cannot be expected to be enough in themselves
when creating a free society. Hence the need for anarchists to
organise <b>as anarchists</b> as well as alongside their fellow workers
as workers in order to spread anarchist ideas on tactics and aims.
This activity within existing unions does not mean attempting 
to "reform" the union in a libertarian manner (although some 
anarchists would support this approach). Rather it means 
working with the rank and file of the unions and trying to 
create autonomous workplace organisations, independent of
the trade union bureaucracy and organised in a libertarian way. 
<p>
This involves creating anarchist organisations separate from but 
which (in part) works within the labour movement for anarchist 
ends.  Let us not forget that the syndicalist organisation is the 
union, it organises all workers regardless of their politics. A 
"union" which just let anarchists joined would not be a union. 
It would be an anarchist group organised in workplace. As
anarcho-syndicalists themselves are aware, an anarcho-syndicalist
union is not the same as a union of anarcho-syndicalists. How can
we expect an organisation made up of non-anarchists be totally
anarchist? Which raises the question of the conflict between 
being a labour union or a revolutionary anarchist organisation. 
Because of this tendencies always appeared within syndicalist 
unions that were reformist and because of this most anarchists, 
including many anarcho-syndicalists we must note, argue that 
there is a need for anarchists to work within the rank and file
of the existing unions (along with workers who are <b>not</b> in a 
union) to spread their anarchist ideals and aims, and this implies 
anarchist organisations separate from the labour movement, each
if that movement is based on syndicalist unions. As Bakunin 
argued, the anarchist organisation <i>"is the necessary complement 
to the International [i.e. the union federation]. But the 
International and the Alliance [the anarchist federation], 
while having the same ultimate aims, perform different functions. 
The International endeavours to unify the working masses . . . 
regardless of nationality or religious and political beliefs, 
into one compact body: the Alliance, on the other hand, tries 
to give these masses a really revolutionary direction."</i> This 
did not mean that the Alliance is imposing a foreign theory 
onto the members of the unions, because the <i>"programs of one 
and the other . . . differ only in the degree of their 
revolutionary development . . . The program of the Alliance 
represents the fullest unfolding of the International."</i> 
[<b>Bakunin on Anarchism</b>, p. 157]
<p>
Which means for most anarchists that syndicalist unions need to be 
complemented by anarchist organisations. Which means that the
syndicalist union is not sufficient in itself to create an anarchist
society (needless to say, popular organisations of all sorts are
an essential part of creating an anarchist society, they are the
framework within which self-management will be practised). The 
anarchist group is required to promote anarchist tactics of
direct action and solidarity, anarchist types of organisation within
the union and anarchist aims (the creation of an anarchist society)
within the workplace, as well as outside it. This does not imply that 
anarchists think that unions and other forms of popular organisations 
should be controlled by anarchists. Far from it! Anarchists are the 
strongest supporters of the autonomy of all popular organisations. As 
we indicated in <a href="secJ3.html#secj36">section J.3.6</a>, anarchists desire to influence popular 
organisations by the strength of our ideas within the rank and 
file and <b>not</b> by imposing our ideas on them.
<p>
In addition to these major points of disagreement, there are minor ones 
as well. For example, many anarchists dislike the emphasis syndicalists
place on the workplace and see <i>"in syndicalism a shift in focus from the
commune to the trade union, from all of the oppressed to the industrial
proletariat alone, from the streets to the factories, and, in emphasis at
least, from insurrection to the general strike."</i> [Murray Bookchin, <b>The
Spanish Anarchists</b>, p. 123] However, most anarcho-syndicalists are
well aware that life exists outside the workplace and so this disagreement
is largely one of emphasis more than anything else. Similarly, many 
anarchists disagreed with the early syndicalist argument that a general
strike was enough to create a revolution. They argued, with Malatesta
in the forefront, that while a general strike would be <i>"an excellent means
for starting the social revolution"</i> it would be wrong to think that it made
<i>"armed insurrection unnecessary"</i> since the <i>"first to die of hunger during
a general strike would not be the bourgeois, who dispose of all the stores,
but the workers."</i> In order for this <b>not</b> to occur, the workers would
have to take over the stores and the means of production, protected by
the police and armed forces and this meant insurrection. [Errico 
Malatesta, <b>The Anarchist Reader</b>, pp. 224-5] Again, however, most 
modern syndicalists accept this to be the case and see the <i>"expropriatory
general strike,"</i> in the words of French syndicalist Pierre Besnard, as 
<i>"clearly <b>insurrectional.</b>"</i> [cited by Vernon Richards, <b>Life and Ideas</b>,
p. 288] We mention this purely to counter Leninist claims that syndicalists
subscribe to the same ones they did in the 1890s.
<p>
Despite our criticisms we should recognise that the difference between
anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists are slight and (often) just a case 
of emphasis. Most anarchists support anarcho-syndicalist unions where
they exist and often take a key role in creating and organising them. 
Similarly, many self-proclaimed anarcho-syndicalists also support 
specific organisations of anarchists to work within and outwith the
syndicalist union. Anarcho-syndicalist and revolutionary unions, 
where they still exist, are far more progressive than any other union. 
Not only do they create democratic unions and create an atmosphere 
where anarchist ideas are listened to with respect but they also organise 
and fight in a way that breaks down the divisions into leaders and led, 
doers and watchers. On its own this is very good but not good enough. 
For non-syndicalist anarchists, the missing element is an organisation 
winning support for anarchist ideas and anarchist methods both within 
revolutionary unions and everywhere else working class people are 
brought together. 
<p>
For a further information on the anarchist critic of syndicalism, we
can suggest no better source than the writings of Errico Malatesta.
<b>The Anarchist Reader</b> contains the famous debate between the
syndicalist Pierre Monatte and Malatesta at the International
Anarchist conference in Amsterdam in 1907. The books <b>Malatesta:
Life and Ideas</b> and <b>The Anarchist Revolution</b> contain Malatesta's 
viewpoints on anarchism , syndicalism and how anarchists should 
work within the labour movement.
<p>

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