File: sectionJ.txt

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anarchism 9.5-1
  • links: PTS
  • area: main
  • in suites: woody
  • size: 12,192 kB
  • ctags: 493
  • sloc: makefile: 40; sh: 8
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Section J - What do anarchists do?

J.1 Are anarchists involved in social struggles?
	J.1.1 Why are social struggles important?
	J.1.2 Are anarchists against reforms?
	J.1.3 Why are anarchists against reformism?
	J.1.4 What attitude do anarchists take to "single-issue" campaigns?
	J.1.5 Why do anarchists try to generalise social struggles?

J.2 What is direct action?
	J.2.1  Why do anarchists favour using direct action to change things?
	J.2.2  Why do anarchists reject voting as a means for change?
	J.2.3  What are the political implications of voting?
	J.2.4  Surely voting for radical parties will be effective?
	J.2.5  Why do anarchists support abstentionism and what are its
	       implications?
	J.2.6  What are the effects of radicals using electioneering?
	J.2.7  Surely we should vote for reformist parties in order to show 
	       them up for what they are?
	J.2.8  Will abstentionism lead to the right winning elections?
	J.2.9  What do anarchists do instead of voting?
	J.2.10 Does rejecting electioneering mean that anarchists are 
	       apolitical?

J.3 What forms of organisation do anarchists build?
	J.3.1 What are affinity groups?
	J.3.2 What are "synthesis" federations?
	J.3.3 What is the "Platform"?
	J.3.4	Why do many anarchists oppose the "Platform"?
	J.3.5	Are there other kinds of anarchist federation?
	J.3.6 What role do these groups play in anarchist theory?
	J.3.7 Doesn't Bakunin's "Invisible Dictatorship" prove that 
		anarchists are secret authoritarians?
	J.3.8 What is anarcho-syndicalism?
	J.3.9 Why are many anarchists not anarcho-syndicalists?

J.4 What trends in society aid anarchist activity?
	J.4.1 Why is social struggle a good sign?
	J.4.2	Won't social struggle do more harm than good?
	J.4.3 Are the new social movements a positive development
		for anarchists?
	J.4.4 What is the "economic structural crisis"?
	J.4.5	Why is this "economic structural crisis" important 
		to social struggle?
	J.4.6 What are implications of anti-government and 
		anti-big business feelings?
	J.4.7 What about the communications revolution?
	J.4.8 What is the significance of the accelerating rate 
		of change and the information explosion?
	J.4.9 What are Netwars?

J.5 What alternative social organisations do anarchists create?
	J.5.1  What is community unionism?
	J.5.2  Why do anarchists support industrial unionism?
	J.5.3  What attitude do anarchists take to existing unions?
	J.5.4  What are industrial networks?
	J.5.5  What forms of co-operative credit do anarchists support?
	J.5.6  What are the key features of mutual credit schemes?
	J.5.7  Do most anarchists think mutual credit is sufficient to abolish
	       capitalism?
	J.5.8  What would a modern system of mutual banking look like? 
	J.5.9  How does mutual credit work?
	J.5.10 Why do anarchists support co-operatives?
	J.5.11 If workers really want self-management, why aren't there more
	       producer co-operatives? 
	J.5.12 If self-management is more efficient, surely capitalist firms 
	       will be forced to introduce it by the market?
	J.5.13 What are Modern Schools?
	J.5.14 What is Libertarian Municipalism?
	J.5.15 What attitude do anarchists take to the welfare state?
	J.5.16 Are there any historical examples of collective self-help?

J.6 What methods of child rearing do anarchists advocate?
	J.6.1 What are the main principles of raising free children and 
	      the main obstacles to implementing those principles?
	J.6.2 What are some examples of libertarian child-rearing methods
	      applied to the care of newborn infants?
	J.6.3 What are some examples of libertarian child-rearing methods
	      applied to the care of young children? 
	J.6.4 If children have nothing to fear, how can they be good? 
	J.6.5 But how can children learn *morality* if they are not given
	      punishments, prohibitions, and religious instruction?  
	J.6.6 But how will a free child ever learn unselfishness?
	J.6.7 Isn't what you call "libertarian child-rearing" just another 
	      name for spoiling the child?
	J.6.8 What is the anarchist position on teenage sexual liberation? 
	J.6.9 But isn't this concern with teenage sexual liberation just a 
	      distraction from  issues that should be of more concern to 
	      anarchists, like restructuring the economy?

J.7 What do anarchists mean by "social revolution"?
	J.7.1 Are all anarchists revolutionaries?
	J.7.2 Is social revolution possible? 
	J.7.3 Doesn't revolution mean violence?
	J.7.4 What would a social revolution involve?
	J.7.5 What is the role of anarchists in a social revolution?
	J.7.6 How could an anarchist revolution defend itself?

Section J - What do anarchists do?

This section discusses what anarchists get up to. There is little point
thinking about the world unless you also want to change it for the better.
And by trying to change it, you change yourself and others, making radical
change more of a possibility. Therefore anarchists give their whole-hearted 
support to attempts by ordinary people to improve their lives by their 
own actions. As Max Stirner pointed out, "The true man does not lie in 
the future, an object of longing, but lies, existent and real, in the
present." [_The Ego and Its Own_, p. 327]

For anarchists, the future is *already appearing in the present* and is
expressed by the autonomy of working class self-activity. Anarchy is
not some-day-to-be-achieved utopia, it is a living reality whose growth
only needs to be freed from constraint. As such anarchist activity 
is about discovering and aiding emerging trends of mutual aid which
work against capitalist domination (i.e. what is actually developing), 
so the Anarchist "studies society and tries to discover its *tendencies*, 
past and present, its growing needs, intellectual and economic, and in 
his [or her] ideal he merely points out in which direction evolution 
goes." [Peter Kropotkin, _Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets_, p. 47] 

The kinds of activity outlined in this section are a general overview
of anarchist work. It is by no means exclusive as we are sure to have
left something out. However, the key aspect of *real* anarchist
activity is *direct action* - self-activity, self-help, self-liberation 
and solidarity. Such activity may be done by individuals (for example, 
propaganda work), but usually anarchists emphasis collective activity. This 
is because most of our problems are of a social nature, meaning that their 
solutions can only be worked on collectively. Individual solutions to 
social problems are doomed to failure (for example green consumerism). 

In addition, collective action gets us used to working together, promoting 
the experience of self-management and building organisations that will allow
us to activity manage our own affairs. Also, and we would like to emphasis 
this, it's *fun* to get together with other people and work with them, 
it's fulfilling and empowering.

Anarchists do not ask those in power to give up that power. No, they
promote forms of activity and organisation by which all the oppressed
can liberate themselves by their own hands. In other words, we do not
think that those in power will altruistically give up that power or
their privileges. Instead, the oppressed must take the power *back*
into their own hands by their own actions. We must free ourselves,
no one else can do it for use.

As we have noted before, anarchism is more than just a critique of statism
and capitalism or a vision of a freer, better way of life. It is first and
foremost a movement, the movement of working class people attempting to 
change the world. Therefore the kind of activity we discuss in this 
section of the FAQ forms the bridge between capitalism and anarchy. By 
self-activity and direct action, people can change both themselves and 
their surroundings. They develop within themselves the mental, ethical and 
spiritual qualities which can make an anarchist society a viable option. 

As Noam Chomsky argues: 

"Only through their own struggle for liberation will ordinary people 
come to comprehend their true nature, suppressed and distorted within 
institutional structures designed to assure obedience and subordination. 
Only in this way will people develop more humane ethical standards, 'a 
new sense of right', 'the consciousness of their strength and their 
importance as a social factor in the life of their time' and their 
capacity to realise the strivings of their 'inmost nature.' Such direct
engagement in the work of social reconstruction is a prerequisite for
coming to perceive this 'inmost nature' and is the indispensable 
foundations upon which it can flourish." [preface to Rudolf Rocker's 
_Anarcho-Syndicalism_, p. viii]

In other words, anarchism is not primarily a vision of a better future, but 
the actual social movement which is fighting within the current unjust and 
unfree society for that better future and to improve things in the here and 
now. Without standing up for yourself and what you believe is right, nothing 
will change. Therefore anarchists would agree whole-heartedly with Frederick 
Douglass (an Abolitionist) who stated that:

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favour 
freedom and yet deprecate agitation are people who want crops without plowing 
up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. That struggle 
might be a moral one; it might be a physical one; it might be both moral and 
physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. 
It never did and never will. People might not get all that they work for in 
this world, but they must certainly work for all they get." 

In this section of the FAQ we will discuss anarchist ideas on struggle, 
what anarchists actually (and, almost as importantly, do not) do in the
here and now and the sort of alternatives anarchists try to build within
statism and capitalism in order to destroy them. As well as a struggle 
against oppression, anarchist activity is also struggle for freedom. As 
well as fighting against material poverty, anarchists combat spiritual 
poverty. By resisting hierarchy we emphasis the importance of *living* 
and of *life as art.* By proclaiming "Neither Master nor Slave" we urge 
an ethical transformation, a transformation that will help create the 
possibility of a truly free society. 

This point was argued by Emma Goldman after she saw the defeat of the 
Russian Revolution by a combination of Leninist politics and capitalist 
armed intervention:

"the ethical values which the revolution is to establish must be 
*initiated* with the revolutionary activities. . . The latter can 
only serve as a real and dependable bridge to the better life if 
built of the same material as the life to be achieved" [_Red Emma 
Speaks_, p. 358]

In other words, anarchist activity is more than creating libertarian
alternatives and resisting hierarchy, it is about building the new
world in the shell of the old not only with regards to organisations
and self-activity, but also within the individual. It is about transforming
yourself while transforming the world - both processes obviously interacting
and supporting each other -- "the first aim of Anarchism is to assert and 
make the dignity of the individual human being." [Charlotte Wilson, _Three
Essays on Anarchism_, p. 17]

And by direct action, self-management and self-activity we can make the 
words first heard in Paris, 1968 a living reality:

				"All power to the imagination!"

Words, we are sure, the classic anarchists would have whole-heartedly
agreed with. There is a power in humans, a creative power, a power to alter 
what is into what should be. Anarchists try to create alternatives that will
allow that power to be expressed, the power of imagination.

In the sections that follow we will discuss the forms of self-activity and 
self-organisation (collective and individual) which anarchists think will 
stimulate and develop the imagination of those oppressed by hierarchy, build 
anarchy in action and help create a free society.

J.1 Are anarchists involved in social struggles?

Yes. Anarchism, above all else, is a movement which aims to not only
analyse the world but also to change it. Therefore anarchists aim to
participate in and encourage social struggle. Social struggle includes
strikes, marches, protests, demonstrations, boycotts, occupations and so
on. Such activities show that the "spirit of revolt" is alive and well,
that people are thinking and acting for themselves and against what
authorities want them to do. This, in the eyes of anarchists, plays a
key role in helping create the seeds of anarchy within capitalism.

Anarchists consider socialistic tendencies to develop within society, 
as people see the benefits of co-operation and particularly when mutual 
aid develops within the struggle against authority, oppression and
exploitation. Anarchism, as Kropotkin argues, "originated in everyday
struggles." [_Environment and Revolution_, p.58] Therefore, anarchists 
do not place anarchy abstractly against capitalism, but see it as a 
tendency within (and against) the system -- a tendency created by struggle
and which can be developed to such a degree that it can *replace* the 
dominant structures and social relationships with new, more liberatory 
and humane ones. This perspective indicates why anarchists are involved
in social struggles -- they are an expression of this tendency within but
against capitalism which can ultimately replace it. 

However, there is another reason why anarchists are involved in social 
struggle -- namely the fact that we are part of the oppressed and, 
like other oppressed people, fight for our freedom and to make our
life better in the here and now. It is not in some tomorrow that we
want to see the end of oppression, exploitation and hierarchy. It is
today, in our own life, that the anarchist wants to win our freedom,
or at the very least, to improve our situation, reduce oppression,
domination and exploitation as well as increasing individual liberty. 
We are aware that we often fail to do so, but the very process of 
struggle can help create a more libertarian aspect to society:

"Whatever may be the practical results of the struggle for immediate
gains, the greatest value lies in the struggle itself. For thereby
workers [and other oppressed sections of society] learn that the
bosses interests are opposed to theirs and that they cannot improve
their conditions, and much less emancipate themselves, except by
uniting and becoming stronger than the bosses. If they succeed in
getting what they demand, they will be better off: they will earn
more, work fewer hours and will have more time and energy to
reflect on the things that matter to them, and will immediately
make greater demands and have greater needs. If they do not
succeed they will be led to study the reasons of their failure
and recognise the need for closer unity and greater activity
and they will in the end understand that to make victory
secure and definite, it is necessary to destroy capitalism.
The revolutionary cause, the cause of moral elevation and
emancipation of the workers [and other oppressed sections of
society] must benefit by the fact that workers [and other
oppressed people] unite and struggle for their interests."
[Errico Malatesta, _Life and Ideas_, p. 191]

Therefore, "we as anarchists and workers, must incite and
encourage them [the workers and other oppressed people] to
struggle, and join them in their struggle." [Malatesta, 
Op. Cit., p. 190] This is for three reasons. Firstly, struggle 
helps generate libertarian ideas and movements which could 
help make existing society more anarchistic and less oppressive.
Secondly, struggle creates people, movements and organisations
which are libertarian in nature and which, potentially, can replace 
capitalism with a more humane society. Thirdly, because anarchists 
are part of the oppressed and so have an interest in taking part in
and showing solidarity with struggles and movements that can improve
our life in the here and now ("an injury to one is an injury to all").

As we will see later (in section J.2) anarchists encourage direct action
within social struggles as well as arguing anarchist ideas and theories.
However, what is important to note here is that social struggle is a sign 
that people are thinking and acting for themselves and working together to
change things. Anarchists agree with Howard Zinn when he points out that:

"civil disobedience. . . is *not* our problem. Our problem is civil
*obedience.* Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world
have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have
gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. . .
Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face
of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our
problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty
thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country.
That's our problem." [_Failure to Quit_, p. 45]

Therefore, social struggle is an important thing for anarchists and we
take part in it as much as we can. Moreover, anarchists do more than 
just take part. We are fighting to get rid of the system that causes the
problems which people fight again. We explain anarchism to those who are
involved in struggle with us and seek to show the relevance of anarchism to 
people's everyday lives through our work in such struggles and the popular
organisations which they create (in addition to trade unions, campaigning 
groups and other bodies). By so doing we try to popularise the ideas and
methods of anarchism, namely solidarity, self-management and direct action.

Anarchists do not engage in abstract propaganda (become an anarchist, 
wait for the revolution -- if we did that, in Malatesta's words, "that
day would never come." [Op. Cit., p. 195]). We know that our ideas will 
only win a hearing and respect when we can show both their relevance to 
people's lives in the here and now, and show that an anarchist world is 
both possible and desirable. In other words, social struggle is the 
"school" of anarchism, the means by which people become anarchists and 
anarchist ideas are applied in action. Hence the importance of social 
struggle and anarchist participation within it.

Before discussing issues related to social struggle, it is important to
point out here that anarchists are interested in struggles against all
forms of oppression and do not limit ourselves to purely economic issues. 
The hierarchical and exploitative nature of the capitalist system is only 
part of the story -- other forms of oppression are needed in order to keep 
it going (such as those associated with the state) and have resulted from 
its workings (in addition to those inherited from previous hierarchical 
and class systems). Like the bug in work, domination, exploitation, hierarchy  
and oppression soon spreads and infests our homes, our friendships and our 
communities. They need to be fought everywhere, not just in work.

Therefore, anarchists are convinced that human life (and the struggle against
oppression) cannot be reduced to mere money and, indeed, the "proclivity
for economic reductionism is now actually obscurantist. It not only shares
in the bourgeois tendency to render material egotism and class interest
the centrepieces of history it also denigrates all attempts to transcend
this image of humanity as a mere economic being. . . by depicting them as
mere 'marginalia' at best, as 'well-intentioned middle-class ideology' at
worse, or sneeringly, as 'diversionary,' 'utopian,' and 'unrealistic.' . . .
Capitalism, to be sure, did not create the 'economy' or 'class interest,' 
but it subverted all human traits - be they speculative thought, love,
community, friendship, art, or self-governance - with the authority of
economic calculation and the rule of quantity. Its 'bottom line' is the
balance sheet's sum and its basic vocabulary consists of simple numbers."
[Murray Bookchin, _The Modern Crisis_, pp. 125-126]

In other words, issues such as freedom, justice, individual dignity, quality
of life and so on cannot be reduced to the categories of capitalist economics.
Anarchists think that any radical movement which does so fails to understand
the nature of the system they are fighting against. Indeed, economic
reductionism plays into the hands of capitalist ideology. So, when anarchists
take part in and encourage social struggle they do not aim to restrict or
reduce them to economic issues (however important these are). The anarchist
knows that the individual has more interests than just money and we consider
it essential to take into account the needs of the emotions, mind and spirit
just as much as those of the belly. Hence Bookchin:

"The class struggle does not centre around material exploitation alone
but also around spiritual exploitation. In addition, entirely new issues
emerge: coercive attitudes, the quality of work, ecology (or stated
in more general terms, psychological and environmental oppression). . .
Terms like 'classes' and 'class struggle,' conceived of almost entirely
as economic categories and relations, are too one-sided to express the
*universalisation* of the struggle. . . the target is still a ruling
class and a class society . . . but this terminology, with its
traditional connotations, does not reflect the sweep and the
multi-dimensional nature of the struggle . . . [and] fail to 
encompass the cultural and spiritual revolt that is taking place
along with the economic struggle." 

[. . . ]

"Exploitation, class rule and happiness, are the *particular* within the 
more *generalised* concepts of domination, hierarchy and pleasure." 
[_Post-Scarcity Anarchism_, pp.229-30 and p. 243]

As the anarchist character created by the science-fiction writer Ursula
Le Guin (who is an anarchist) points out, capitalists "think if people have
enough things they will be content to live in prison." [_The Dispossessed_,
p. 120] Anarchists disagree, and the experience of social revolt in the
"affluent" 1960s proves their case. 

This is unsurprising for, ultimately, the "antagonism [between classes] is 
spiritual rather than material. There will never be a sincere understanding 
between bosses and workers. . . because the bosses above all want to remain
bosses and secure always more power at the expense of the workers, as well 
as by competition with other bosses, whereas the workers have had their fill
of bosses and don't want any more." [Errico Malatesta, _Life and Ideas_,
p. 79]

J.1.1 Why are social struggles important?

Social struggle is an expression of the class struggle, namely the struggle 
of working class people *against* their exploitation, oppression and
alienation and *for* their liberty from capitalist and state authority.
It is what happens when one group of people have hierarchical power over
another. Where there is oppression, there is resistance and where there
is resistance to authority you will see anarchy in action. For this reason
anarchists are in favour of, and are involved within, social struggles.
Ultimately they are a sign of individuals asserting their autonomy and
disgust at an unfair system.

When it boils down to it, our actual freedom is not determined by the law
or by courts, but by the power the cop has over us in the street; the
judge behind him; by the authority of our boss if we are working; by the
power of teachers and heads of schools and universities if we are students; 
by the welfare bureaucracy if we are unemployed or poor; by landlords if we 
are tenants; by prison guards if we are in jail; by medical professionals if
we are in a hospital. These realities of wealth and power will remain unshaken
unless counter-forces appear on the very ground our liberty is restricted 
- on the street, in workplaces, at home, at school, in hospitals and so
on.

Therefore social struggles for improvements are important indications of
the spirit of revolt and of people supporting each other in the continual
assertion of their (and our) freedom. They show people standing up for
what they consider right and just, building alternative organisations,
creating their own solutions to their problems - and are a slap in the
face of all the paternal authorities which dare govern us. Hence their
importance to anarchists and all people interested in extending freedom.

In addition, social struggle helps break people from their hierarchical
conditioning. Anarchists view people not as fixed objects to be classified
and labelled, but as human beings engaged in making their own lives. They
live, love, think, feel, hope, dream, and can change themselves, their
environment and social relationships. Social struggle is the way this
is done collectively.

Struggle promotes attributes within people which are crushed by hierarchy 
(attributes such as imagination, organisational skills, self-assertion,
self-management, critical thought, self-confidence and so on) as people
come up against practical problems in their struggles and have to solve
them themselves. This builds self-confidence and an awareness of
individual and collective power. By seeing that their boss, the state
and so on are against them they begin to realise that they live in a
class ridden, hierarchical society that depends upon their submission
to work. As such, social struggle is a politicising experience.

Struggle allows those involved to develop their abilities for self-rule
through practice and so begins the process by which individuals assert
their ability to control their own lives and to participate in social 
life directly. These are all key elements of anarchism and are required 
for an anarchist society to work ("Self-management of the struggle comes 
first, then comes self-management of work and society," in the words of 
Alfredo Bonnano ["Self-Management", _Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed_, 
no. 48, Fall-Winter 1999-2000, p. 35-37, p. 35]). So self-activity is a 
key factor in self-liberation, self-education and the creating of 
anarchists. In a nutshell, people learn in struggle.

A confident working class is an essential factor in making successful
and libertarian improvements within the current system and, ultimately, 
in making a revolution. Without that self-confidence people tend to just
follow "leaders" and we end up changing rulers rather than changing
society.

Part of our job as anarchists is to encourage people to fight for
whatever small reforms are possible at present, to improve our/their
conditions, to give people confidence in their ability to start taking
control of their lives, and to point out that there is a limit to whatever
(sometimes temporary) gains capitalism will or can concede. Hence the 
need for a revolutionary change.

Until anarchist ideas are the dominant/most popular ones, other ideas will
be the majority ones. If we think a movement is, all things considered, a
positive or progressive one then we should not abstain but should seek to
popularise anarchist ideas and strategies within it. In this way we create
"schools of anarchy" within the current system and lay the foundations of
something better. Revolutionary tendencies and movements, in other words, 
must create the organisations that contain, in embryo, the society of
the future. These organisations, in turn, further the progress of radical
change by providing social spaces for the transformation of individuals
(via the use of direct action, practising self-management and solidarity,
and so on). Therefore, social struggle aids the creation of a free society
by accustoming the marginalised to govern themselves within self-managed
organisations and empowering the (officially) disempowered via the use
of direct action and mutual aid.

Hence the importance of social (or class) struggle for anarchists (which,
we may add, goes on all the time and is a two-sided affair). Social struggle
is the means of breaking the normality of capitalist and statist life, a
means of developing the awareness for social change and the means of
making life better under the current system. The moment that people refuse 
to bow to authority, its days are numbered. Social struggle indicates that
some of the oppressed see that by using their power of disobedience they
can challenge, perhaps eventually end, hierarchical power.

Ultimately, anarchy is not just something you believe in, it is not a cool 
label you affix to yourself, it is something you do. You participate. If you 
stop doing it, anarchy crumbles. Social struggle is the means by which we 
ensure that anarchy becomes stronger and grows.

J.1.2 Are anarchists against reforms?

No, we are not. While most anarchists are against reformism (namely the
notion that we can somehow reform capitalism and the state away) they 
are most definitely in favour of reforms (i.e. improvements in the here 
and now).

The claim that anarchists are against reforms and improvements in the here
and now are often put forth by opponents of anarchism in an effort to paint 
us as extremists. Anarchists are radicals; as such, they seek the root causes
of societal problems. Reformists seek to ameliorate the symptoms of societal
problems, while anarchists focus on the causes.

In the words of the revolutionary syndicalist Emile Pouget (who is 
referring to revolutionary/libertarian unions but whose words can be 
generalised to all social movements):

"Trade union endeavour 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.

"At present, trade union action is designed to won partial and gradual
improvements which, far from constituting a goal, can only be considered
as a means of stepping up demands and wresting further improvements
from capitalism. . .

"This question of partial improvements served as the pretext for attempts
to sow discord in the trades associations. Politicians . . . have tried
to . . . stir up ill-feeling and to split the unions into two camps,
by categorising workers as reformists and as revolutionaries. The 
better to discredit the latter, they have dubbed them 'the advocates
of all or nothing' and the have falsely represented them as supposed
adversaries of improvements achievable right now.

"The most that can be said about this nonsense is that it is witless.
There is not a worker . . . who, on grounds of principle or for
reasons of tactics, would insist upon working tend hours for an
employer instead of eight hours, while earning six francs instead
of seven. . .

"What appears to afford some credence to such chicanery is the
fact that the unions, cured by the cruel lessons of experience
from all hope in government intervention, are justifiably 
mistrustful of it. They know that the State, whose function is
to act as capital's gendarme, is, by its very nature, inclined
to tip the scales in favour of the employer side. So, whenever
a reform is brought about by legal avenues, they do not fall
upon it with the relish of a frog devouring the red rag that 
conceals the hook, they greet it with all due caution, especially
as this reform is made effective only of the workers are
organised to insist forcefully upon its implementation.

"The trade unions are even more wary of gifts from the government
because they have often found these to be poison gifts. . .

"But, given that the trade unions look askance at the government's
benevolence towards them, it follows that they are loath to go
after partial improvements. Wanting real improvements . . . instead
of waiting until the government is generous enough to bestow them,
they wrest them in open battle, through direct action.

"If, as sometimes is the case, the improvement they seek is subject
to the law, the trade unions strive to obtain it through outside 
pressure brought to bear upon the authorities and not by trying
to return specially mandated deputies to Parliament, a puerile
pursuit that might drag on for centuries before there was a
majority in favour of the yearned-for reform.

"When the desired improvement is to be wrestled directly from the
capitalist, the trades associations resort to vigorous pressure
to convey their wishes. Their methods may well vary, although the
direct action principle underlies them all. . . 

"But, whatever the improvement won, it must always represent a
reduction in capitalist privileges and be a partial expropriation.
So . . . the fine distinction between 'reformist' and 'revolutionary'
evaporates and one is led to the conclusion that the only really
reformist workers are the revolutionary syndicalists." [_No Gods,
No Masters_, pp. 71-3]

By seeking improvements from below by direct action, solidarity and the 
organisation of those who directly suffer the injustice, anarchists can 
make reforms more substantial, effective and long lasting than "reforms" 
made from above by reformists. By recognising that the effectiveness of 
a reform is dependent on the power of the oppressed to resist those who 
would dominate them, anarchists seek change from the bottom-up and so make
reforms real rather than just words gathering dust in the law books. 

For example, a reformist sees poverty and looks at ways to lessen the
destructive and debilitating effects of it: this produced things like the
minimum wage, affirmative action, and the projects in the USA and similar
reforms in other countries. An anarchist looks at poverty and says, "what 
causes this?" and attacks that source of poverty, rather than the symptoms. 
While reformists may succeed in the short run with their institutional
panaceas, the festering problems remain untreated, dooming reform to
eventual costly, inevitable failure -- measured in human lives, no less. 
Like a quack that treats the symptoms of a disease without getting rid of 
what causes it, all the reformist can promise is short-term improvements 
for a condition that never goes away and may ultimately kill the sufferer.
The anarchist, like a real doctor, investigates the causes of the illness
and treats them while fighting the symptoms.

Therefore, anarchists are of the opinion that "[w]hile preaching against
every kind of government, and demanding complete freedom, we must support 
all struggles for partial freedom, because we are convinced that one learns 
through struggle, and that once one begins to enjoy a little freedom one
ends by wanting it all. We must always be with the people . . . [and] get
them to understand . . . [what] they may demand should be obtained
by their own efforts and that they should despise and detest whoever is
part of, or aspires to, government." [Errico Malatesta, _Life and Ideas_
p. 195]

Anarchists keep the spotlight on the actual problems, which of course
alienates them from their "distinguished" reformists foes. Reformists are
uniformly "reasonable" and always make use of "experts" who will make
everything okay - and they are always wrong in how they deal with a problem.

The recent "health care crisis" in the United States is a prime example of
reformism at work.

The reformist says, "how can we make health care more affordable to people? 
How can we keep those insurance rates down to levels people can pay?"

The anarchist says, "should health care be considered a privilege or
a right? Is medical care just another marketable commodity, or do living
beings have an inalienable right to it?"

Notice the difference? The reformist has no problem with people paying for
medical care -- business is business, right? The anarchist, on the other hand,
has a big problem with that attitude -- we are talking about human lives, 
here! For now, the reformists have won with their "managed care" reformism, 
which ensures that the insurance companies and medical industry continue to 
rake in record profits -- at the expense of people's lives. And, in the end,
the proposed reforms were defeated by the power of big business -- without
a social movement with radical aims such a result was a forgone conclusion.

Reformists get acutely uncomfortable when you talk about genuinely bringing
change to any system -- they don't see anything wrong with the system itself,
only with a few pesky side effects. In this sense, they are stewards of the
Establishment, and are agents of reaction, despite their altruistic
overtures. By failing to attack the sources of problems, and by hindering
those who do, they ensure that the problems at hand will only grow over
time, and not diminish.

So, anarchists are not opposed to struggles for reforms and improvements
in the here and now. Indeed, few anarchists think that an anarchist society 
will occur without a long period of anarchist activity encouraging and
working within social struggle against injustice. Thus Malatesta's words:

"the subject is not whether we accomplish Anarchism today, tomorrow or
within ten centuries, but that we walk towards Anarchism today, tomorrow
and always." ["Towards Anarchism,", _Man!_, M. Graham (Ed.), p. 75]

So, when fighting for improvements anarchists do so in an anarchist way,
one that encourages self-management, direct action and the creation of
libertarian solutions and alternatives to both capitalism and the state.

J.1.3 Why are anarchists against reformism?

Firstly, it must be pointed out that the struggle for reforms within
capitalism is *not* the same as reformism. Reformism is the idea
that reforms within capitalism are enough in themselves and attempts 
to change the system are impossible (and not desirable). As such all 
anarchists are against this form of reformism -- we think that the 
system can be (and should be) changed and until that happens any
reforms will not get to the root of social problems.

In addition, particularly in the old social democratic labour movement,
reformism also meant the belief that social reforms could be used to
*transform* capitalism into socialism. In this sense, only the Individualist
anarchists and Mutualists can be considered reformist as they think
their system of mutual banking can reform capitalism into a co-operative
system. However, in contrast to Social Democracy, such anarchists
think that such reforms cannot come about via government action, but
only by people creating their own alternatives and solutions by their
own actions.

So, anarchists oppose reformism because it takes the steam out of revolutionary
movements by providing easy, decidedly short-term "solutions" to deep social
problems. In this way, reformists can present the public with they've done
and say "look, all is better now. The system worked." Trouble is that over
time, the problems will only continue to grow, because the reforms did not
tackle them in the first place. To use Alexander Berkman's excellent
analogy:

"If you should carry out [the reformers] ideas in your personal
life, you would not have a rotten tooth that aches pulled out all
at once. You would have it pulled out a little to-day, some more
next week, for several months or years, and by then you would
be ready to pull it out altogether, so it should not hurt so much.
That is the logic of the reformer. Don't be 'too hasty,' don't
pull a bad tooth out all at once." [_What is Communist Anarchism?_, 
p. 53]

Rather than seek to change the root cause of the problems (namely in 
a hierarchical, oppressive and exploitative system), reformists try 
to make the symptoms better. In the words of Berkman again:

"Suppose a pipe burst in your house. You can put a bucket under the
break to catch the escaping water. You can keep on putting buckets
there, but as long as you do not mean the broken pipe, the leakage
will continue, no matter how much you may swear about it . . . the
leakage will continue until you repair the broken social pipe." 
[Op. Cit., p. 56]

What reformism fails to do is fix the underlying causes of the real
problems society faces. Therefore, reformists try to pass laws which
reduce the level of pollution rather than work to end a system in
which it makes economic sense to pollute. Or they pass laws to improve
working conditions and safety while failing to get rid of the wage
slavery which creates the bosses whose interests are served by them 
ignoring those laws and regulations. The list is endless. Ultimately,
reformism fails because reformists "believe in good faith that it is
possible to eliminate the existing social evils by recognising and
respecting, in practice if not in theory, the basic political and 
economic institutions which are the cause of, as well as the prop
that supports these evils." [Errico Malatesta, _Life and Ideas_, 
p. 82] 

Reformists, in other words, are like people who think that
treating the symptoms of, say, cholera is enough in and of itself.
In practice, of course, the causes that create the disease as well
as the disease itself must be combated before the symptoms will
disappear. While most people would recognise the truth of this in 
the case of medicine, fewer apply it to social problems. 

Revolutionaries, in contrast to reformists, fight both symptoms *and* 
the root causes. They recognise that as long as the cause of the evil
remains, any attempts to fight the symptoms, however necessary, will
never get to the root of the problem. There is no doubt that we have
to fight the symptoms, however revolutionaries recognise that this
struggle is not an end in itself and should be considered purely as
a means of increasing working class strength and social power within 
society until such time as capitalism and the state (i.e. the root
causes of most problems) can be abolished.

Reformists also tend to objectify the people whom they are "helping;" they 
envision them as helpless, formless masses who need the wisdom and guidance 
of the "best and the brightest" to lead them to the Promised Land. Reformists
mean well, but this is altruism borne of ignorance, which is destructive over
the long run. Freedom cannot be given and so any attempt to impose reforms
from above cannot help but ensure that people are treated as children,
incapable of making their own decisions and, ultimately, dependent on 
bureaucrats to govern them. This can be seen from public housing. As 
Colin Ward  argues, the "whole tragedy of publicly provided non-profit 
housing for rent and the evolution of this form of tenure in Britain is 
that the local authorities have simply taken over, though less flexibly, 
the role of the landlord, together with all the dependency and resentment 
that it engenders." [_Housing: An Anarchist Approach_, p. 184] This feature 
of reformism was skilfully used by the right-wing to undermine publicly 
supported housing and other aspects of the welfare state. The reformist 
social-democrats reaped what they had sown.

Reformism often amounts to little more than an altruistic contempt for 
the masses, who are considered as little more than victims who need to
be provided for by state. The idea that we may have our own visions of
what we want is ignored and replaced by the vision of the reformists
who enact legislation *for* us and make "reforms" from the top-down.
Little wonder such reforms can be counter-productive -- they cannot
grasp the complexity of life and the needs of those subject to them.

Reformists may mean well, but they do not grasp the larger picture -- by 
focusing exclusively on narrow aspects of a problem, they choose to believe 
that is the whole problem. In this wilfully narrow examination of pressing 
social ills, reformists are, more often than not, counter-productive. The 
disaster of the urban rebuilding projects in the United States (and similar 
projects in Britain which moved inter-city working class communities into 
edge of town developments during the 1950s and 1960s) are an example of 
reformism at work: upset at the growing slums, reformists supported 
projects that destroyed the ghettos and built brand-new housing for 
working class people to live in. They looked nice (initially), but 
they did nothing to address the problem of poverty and indeed created 
more problems by breaking up communities and neighbourhoods.

Logically, it makes no sense. Why dance around a problem when you can 
attack it directly? Reformists dilute social movements, softening and
weakening them over time. The AFL-CIO labour unions in the USA, like the
ones in Western Europe, killed the labour movement by narrowing and 
channelling labour activity and taking the power from the workers 
themselves, where it belongs, and placing it the hands of a bureaucracy. 
The British Labour Party, after over 100 years of reformist practice, 
has done little more than manage capitalism, seen most of its reforms
eliminated by right-wing governments (and by the following Labour 
government!) and the creation of a leadership of the party (in the 
shape of Tony Blair) which is in most ways as right-wing as the 
Conservative Party (if not more so). Bakunin would not have been 
surprised.

Reformists say, "don't do anything, we'll do it for you." You can see 
why anarchists would loathe this sentiment; anarchists are the consummate
do-it-yourselfers, and there's nothing reformists hate more than people 
who can take care of themselves, who will not let them "help" them.

Also, it is funny to hear left-wing "revolutionaries" and "radicals" put
forward the reformist line that the capitalist state can help working people
(indeed be used to abolish itself!). Despite the fact that leftists blame 
the state and capitalism for most of the problems we face, they usually
turn to the state (run primarily by rich - i.e. capitalist - people) to
remedy the situation, not by leaving people alone, but by becoming more
involved in people's lives. They support government housing, government
jobs, welfare, government-funded and regulated child care, government-funded
drug "treatment," and other government-centred programmes and activities. If
a capitalist (and racist/sexist/authoritarian) government is the problem, 
how can it be depended upon to change things to the benefit of working class
people or other oppressed sections of the population like blacks and women? 
Surely any reforms passed by the state will not solve the problem? As
Malatesta pointed out, "[g]overnments and the privileged classes are
naturally always guided by instincts of self-preservation, of 
consolidation and the development of their powers and privileges;
and when they consent to reforms it is either because they consider
that they will serve their ends or because they do not feel strong
enough to resist, and give in, fearing what might otherwise be a
worse alternative" (i.e. revolution) [Op. Cit., p. 81] Therefore,
reforms gained by direct action are of a different quality and
nature than reforms passed by reformist politicians -- these latter
will only serve the interests of the ruling class as they do not
threaten their privileges while the former have the potential of
real change.

Instead of encouraging working class people to organise themselves and
create their own alternatives and solutions to their problem (which can
supplement, and ultimately replace, whatever welfare state activity which 
is actually useful), reformists and other radicals urge people to get the 
state to act for them. However, the state is not the community and so
whatever the state does for people you can be sure it will be in *its*
interests, not theirs. As Kropotkin put it:

"We maintain that the State organisation, having been the force to
which the minorities resorted for establishing and organising their
power over the masses, cannot be the force which will serve to 
destroy these privileges . . . the economic and political liberation
of man will have to create new forms for its expression in life,
instead of those established by the State.

"Consequently, the chief aim of Anarchism is to awaken those
constructive powers of the labouring masses of the people which
at all great moments of history came forward to accomplish the
necessary changes . . .

"This is also why the Anarchists refuse to accept the functions of
legislators or servants of the State. We know that the social
revolution will not be accomplished by means of *laws.* Laws only
*follow* the accomplished facts . . . [and] remains a dead letter
so long as there are not on the spot the living forced required
for making of the *tendencies* expressed in the law an accomplished
*fact.*

"On the other hand . . . the Anarchists have always advised taking
an active part in those workers' organisations which carry on
the *direct* struggle of Labour against Capital and its protector,
-- the State.

"Such a struggle . . . better than any other indirect means, permits
the worker to obtain some temporary improvements in the present
conditions of work [and life in general], while it opens his [or
her] eyes to the evil that is done by Capitalism and the State
that supports it, and wakes up his thoughts concerning the
possibility of organising consumption, production, and exchange
without the intervention of the capitalist and the State." 
[_Environment and Evolution_, pp.82-3]

Therefore, while seeking reforms, anarchists are against reformism
and reformists. Reforms are not an end in themselves but rather a
means of changing society from the bottom-up and a step in that
direction:

"Each step towards economic freedom, each victory won over capitalism will
be at the same time a step towards political liberty -- towards liberation
from the yoke of the state. . . And each step towards taking from the
State any one of its powers and attributes will be helping the masses to
win a victory over capitalism." [Kropotkin, Op. Cit., p. 95]

However, no matter what, anarchists "will never recognise the institutions;
we will take or win all possible reforms with the same spirit that one
tears occupied territory from the enemy's grasp in order to keep advancing,
and we will always remain enemies of every government." Therefore, "[i]t 
is not true to say . . . [that anarchists] are systematically opposed to 
improvements, to reforms. They oppose the reformists on the one hand because 
their methods are less effective for securing reforms from government and 
employers, who only give in through fear, and because very often the 
reforms they prefer are those which not only bring doubtful immediate 
benefits, but also serve to consolidate the existing regime and to give 
the workers a vested interest in its continued existence." [_Life and Ideas_, 
p. 81 and p. 83]

Only by working class people, by their own actions and organisation, getting 
the state and capital out of the way can produce an improvement in their 
lives, indeed it is the only thing that will lead to *real* fundamental 
changes for the better. Encouraging people to rely on themselves instead 
of the state or capital can lead to self-sufficient, independent, and, 
hopefully, more rebellious people -- people who will rebel against the 
real evils in society (capitalist and statist exploitation and oppression, 
racism, sexism, ecological destruction, and so on) and not their neighbours.

Working class people, despite having fewer options in a number of areas in 
their lives, due both to hierarchy and restrictive laws, still are capable 
of making choices about their actions, organising their own lives and are 
responsible for the consequences of their decisions, just as other people 
are. To think otherwise is to infantilise them, to consider them less fully 
human than other people and reproduce the classic capitalist vision of
working class people as means of production, to be used, abused, and
discarded as required. Such thinking lays the basis for paternalistic
interventions in their lives by the state, ensuring their continued 
dependence and poverty and the continued existence of capitalism 
and the state.

Ultimately, there are two options:

"The oppressed either ask for and welcome improvements as a benefit
graciously conceded, recognise the legitimacy of the power which is over
them, and so do more harm than good by helping to slow down, or divert . . .
the processes of emancipation. Or instead they demand and impose improvements
by their action, and welcome them as partial victories over the class
enemy, using them as a spur to greater achievements, and thus a valid
help and a preparation to the total overthrow of privilege, that is,
for the revolution." [Errico Malatesta, Op. Cit., p. 81]

Reformism encourages the first attitude within people and so ensures the
impoverishment of the human spirit. Anarchism encourages the second
attitude and so ensures the enrichment of humanity and the possibility
of meaningful change. Why think that ordinary people cannot arrange
their lives for themselves as well as Government people can arrange it
not for themselves but for others?

J.1.4 What attitude do anarchists take to "single-issue" campaigns?

Firstly, we must note that anarchists do take part in "single-issue"
campaigns, but do not nourish false hopes in them. This section
explains what anarchists think of such campaigns.

A "single-issue" campaign are usually run by a pressure group which
concentrates on tackling issues one at a time. For example, C.N.D.
(The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) is a classic example of
"single-issue" campaigning with the aim of getting rid of nuclear
weapons as the be all and end all of its activity. For anarchists,
however, single-issue campaigning can be seen as a source of false
hopes. The possibilities of changing one aspect of a totally
inter-related system and the belief that pressure groups can
compete fairly with transnational corporations, the military and
so forth, in their influence over decision making bodies can both
be seen to be optimistic at best.

In addition, many "single-issue" campaigns desire to be "apolitical",
concentrating purely on the one issue which unites the campaign and
so refuse to analyse or discuss the system they are trying to change.
This means that they end up accepting the system which causes the
problems they are fighting against. At best, any changes
achieved by the campaign must be acceptable to the establishment
or be so watered down in content that no practical long-term good
is done.

This can be seen from the green movement, where groups like
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth accept the status quo as a given
and limit themselves to working within it. This often leads to them
tailoring their "solutions" to be "practical" within a fundamentally
anti-ecological political and economic system, so slowing down (at
best) ecological disruption.

For anarchists these problems all stem from the fact that social
problems cannot be solved as single issues. As Larry Law argues:

"single issue politics . . . deals with the issue or problem in
isolation. When one problem is separated from all other problems,
a solution really is impossible. The more campaigning on an issue
there is, the narrower its perspectives become . . . As the perspective
of each issue narrows, the contradictions turn into absurdities . . .
What single issue politics does is attend to 'symptoms' but does
not attack the 'disease' itself. It presents such issues as nuclear
war, racial and sexual discrimination, poverty, starvation, pornography,
etc., as if they were aberrations or faults in the system. In reality
such problems are the inevitable consequence of a social order based
on exploitation and hierarchical power . . . single issue campaigns
lay their appeal for relief at the feet of the very system which
oppresses them. By petitioning they acknowledge the right of those
in power to exercise that power as they choose." [_Bigger Cages, Longer
Chains_, pp. 17-20].

Single issue politics often prolong the struggle for a free society
by fostering illusions that it is just parts of the capitalist system
which are wrong, not the whole of it, and that those at the top of
the system can, and will, act in our interests. While such campaigns
can do some good, practical, work and increase knowledge and education
about social problems, they are limited by their very nature and can
not lead to extensive improvements in the here and now, nevermind a
free society.

Therefore, anarchists often support and work within single-issue
campaigns, trying to get them to use effective methods of activity
(such as direct action), work in an anarchistic manner (i.e. from
the bottom up) and to try to "politicise" them into questioning
the whole of the system. However, anarchists do not let themselves
be limited to such activity as a social revolution or movement is
not a group of single-issue campaigns but a mass movement which
understands the inter-related nature of social problems and so the
need to change every aspect of life.

J.1.5 Why do anarchists try to generalise social struggles?

Basically, we do it in order to encourage and promote solidarity. This
is *the* key to winning struggles in the here and now as well as creating 
the class consciousness necessary to create an anarchist society. At its
most simple, generalising different struggles means increasing the chances 
of winning them. Take, for example, a strike in which one trade or one
workplace goes on strike while the others continue to work:

"Consider yourself how foolish and inefficient is the present form of labour
organisation in which one trade or craft may be on strike while the other
branches of the same industry continue to work. Is it not ridiculous that
when the street car workers of New York, for instance, quit work, the
employees of the subway, the cab and omnibus drivers remain on the job? . . .
It is clear, then, that you compel compliance [from your bosses] only when
you are determined, when your union is strong, when you are well organised,
when you are united in such a manner that the boss cannot run his factory
against your will. But the employer is usually some big . . . company that
has mills or mines in various places. . . If it cannot operate . . . in
Pennsylvania because of a strike, it will try to make good its losses by
continuing . . . and increasing production [elsewhere]. . . In that way
the company . . . breaks the strike." [Alexander Berkman, _The ABC of
Anarchism_, pp. 53-54]

By organising all workers in one union (after all they all have the same
boss) it increases the power of each trade considerably. It may be easy
for a boss to replace a few workers, but a whole workplace would be far
more difficult. By organising all workers in the same industry, the
power of each workplace is correspondingly increased. Extending this
example to outside the workplace, its clear that by mutual support between
different groups increases the chances of each group winning its fight.

As the I.W.W. put it, "An injury to one is an injury to all." By generalising
struggles, by practising mutual support and aid we can ensure that when
we are fighting for our rights and against injustice we will not be
isolated and alone. If we don't support each other, groups will be picked
off one by one and if we are go into conflict with the system there will
be on-one there to support us and we may lose.

Therefore, from an anarchist point of view, the best thing about generalising
different struggles together is that it leads to an increased spirit of
solidarity and responsibility as well as increased class consciousness.
This is because by working together and showing solidarity those involved
get to understand their common interests and that the struggle is not
against *this* injustice or *that* boss but against *all* injustice and
*all* bosses.

This sense of increased social awareness and solidarity can be seen from the
experience of the C.N.T in Spain during the 1930s. The C.N.T. organised all 
workers in a given area into one big union. Each workplace was a union branch
and were joined together in a local area confederation. The result was that:

"The territorial basis of organisation linkage [of the C.N.T. unions] brought
all the workers form one area together and fomented working class solidarity
over and before corporative [i.e. industrial] solidarity." [J. Romero Maura, 
"The Spanish Case", in _Anarchism Today_, D. Apter and J. Joll (eds.), p. 75]

This can also be seen from the experiences of the syndicalist unions in Italy
and France as well. The structure of such local federations also situates
the workplace in the community where it really belongs (particularly if
the commune concept supported by social anarchists is to be realistic).

Also, by uniting struggles together, we can see that there are really no
"single issues" - that all various different problems are inter-linked. For 
example, ecological problems are not just that, but have a political and
economic basis and that economic and social domination and exploitation 
spills into the environment. Inter-linking struggles means that they can 
be seen to be related to other struggles against capitalist exploitation 
and oppression and so encourage solidarity and mutual aid. What goes on in 
the environment, for instance, is directly related to questions of domination
and inequality within human society, that pollution is often directly
related to companies cutting corners to survive in the market or increase
profits. Similarly, struggles against sexism or racism can be seen as
part of a wider struggle against hierarchy, exploitation and oppression in 
all their forms. As such, uniting struggles has an important educational
effect above and beyond the benefits in terms of winning struggles.

Murray Bookchin presents a concrete example of this process of linking
issues and widening the struggle:

"Assume there is a struggle by welfare mothers to increase their
allotments . . . Without losing sight of the concrete issues that
initially motivated the struggle, revolutionaries would try to
catalyse an order of relationships between the mothers entirely
different from [existing ones] . . . They would try to foster a
deep sense of community, a rounded human relationship that would
transform the very subjectivity of the people involved . . . Personal
relationships would be intimate, not merely issue-orientated.
People would get to *know* each other, to *confront* each other;
they would *explore* each other with a view of achieving the
most complete, unalienated relationships. Women would discuss
sexism, as well as their welfare allotments, child-rearing as
well as harassment by landlords, their dreams and hopes as
human beings as well as the cost of living.

"From this intimacy there would grow, hopefully, a supportive
system of kinship, mutual aid, sympathy and solidarity in
daily life. The women might collaborate to establish a rotating
system of baby sitters and child-care attendants, the co-operative
buying of good food at greatly reduced prices, the common cooking
and partaking of meals, the mutual learning of survival skills
and the new social ideas, the fostering of creative talents, 
and many other shared experiences. Every aspect of life that 
could be explored and changed would be one part of the kind 
of relationships . . .

"The struggle for increased allotments would expand beyond the
welfare system to the schools, the hospitals, the police, the
physical, cultural, aesthetic and recreational resources of the
neighbourhood, the stores, the houses, the doctors and lawyers
in the area, and so on - into the very ecology of the district.

"What I have said on this issue could be applied to every issue --
unemployment, bad housing, racism, work conditions -- in which an
insidious assimilation of bourgeois modes of functioning is
masked as 'realism' and 'actuality.' The new order of relationships
that could be developed from a welfare struggle . . . [can ensure
that the] future penetrates the present; it recasts the way people
'organise' and the goals for which they strive." [Op. Cit., pp.
231-3]

As the anarchist slogan puts it, "Resistance is Fertile." Planting
the seed of autonomy, direct action and self-liberation can result, 
potentially, in the blossoming of a free individual due to the
nature of struggle itself (see also section A.2.7) Therefore, the 
generalisation of social struggle is not only a key way of winning
a specific fight, it can (and should) also spread into different 
aspects of life and society and play a key part in developing free
individuals who reject hierarchy in all aspects of their life. 

Social problems are not isolated from each other and so struggles 
against them cannot be. The nature of struggle is such that once 
people start questioning one aspect of society, the questioning
of the rest soon follow. So, anarchists seek to generalise
struggles for these three reasons -- firstly, to ensure the 
solidarity required to win; secondly, to combat the many social 
problems we face as *people* and to show how they are inter-related; 
and, thirdly, to encourage the transformation of those involved into 
unique individuals in touch with their humanity, a humanity eroded 
by hierarchical society and domination.

J.2 What is direct action?

Direct action, to use Rudolf Rocker's words, is "every method of
immediate warfare by the workers [or other sections of society] against
their economic and political oppressors. Among these the outstanding are:
the strike, in all its graduations from the simple wage struggle to the
general strike; the boycott; sabotage in all its countless forms;
[occupations and sit-down strikes;] anti-militarist propaganda, and 
in particularly critical cases, . . . armed resistance of the people for 
the protection of life and liberty." [_Anarcho-Syndicalism_, p. 66]

Not that anarchists think that direct action is only applicable within
the workplace. Far from it. Direct action must occur everywhere! So, in 
non-workplace situations, direct action includes rent strikes, consumer 
boycotts, occupations (which, of course, can include sit-in strikes by 
workers), eco-tage, individual and collective non-payment of taxes, 
blocking roads and holding up construction work of an anti-social nature 
and so forth. Also direct action, in a workplace setting, includes strikes 
and protests on social issues, not directly related to working conditions 
and pay. Such activity aims to ensure the "protection of the community 
against the most pernicious outgrowths of the present system. The social 
strike seeks to force upon the employers a responsibility to the public. 
Primarily it has in view the protection of the customers, of whom the 
workers themselves [and their families] constitute the great majority." 
[Op. Cit., p. 72]

Basically, direct action means that instead of getting someone else to act 
for you (e.g. a politician) you act for yourself. Its essential feature is 
an organised protest by ordinary people to make a change by their own efforts.
Thus Voltairine De Cleyre's excellent statement on this topic:

"Every person who ever thought he had a right to assert, and went boldly and
asserted it, himself, or jointly with others that shared his convictions,
was a direct actionist. Some thirty years ago I recall that the Salvation
Army was vigorously practicing direct action in the maintenance of the
freedom of its members to speak, assemble, and pray. Over and over they were
arrested, fined, and imprisoned; but they kept right on singing, praying,
and marching, till they finally compelled their persecutors to let them
alone. The Industrial Workers [of the World] are now conducting the same 
fight, and have, in a number of cases, compelled the officials to let them 
alone by the same direct tactics.

"Every person who ever had a plan to do anything, and went and did it, or who
laid his plan before others, and won their co-operation to do it with him,
without going to external authorities to please do the thing for them, was a
direct actionist. All co-operative experiments are essentially direct
action.

"Every person who ever in his life had a difference with anyone to settle,
and went straight to the other persons involved to settle it, either by a
peaceable plan or otherwise, was a direct actionist. Examples of such action
are strikes and boycotts; many persons will recall the action of the
housewives of New York who boycotted the butchers, and lowered the price of
meat; at the present moment a butter boycott seems looming up, as a direct
reply to the price-makers for butter.

"These actions are generally not due to any one's reasoning overmuch on the
respective merits of directness or indirectness, but are the spontaneous
retorts of those who feel oppressed by a situation. In other words, all
people are, most of the time, believers in the principle of direct action,
and practicers of it. . ." [_Direct Action_]

So direct action means acting for yourself against injustice and oppression.
It can, sometimes, involve putting pressure on politicians or companies, for 
example, to ensure a change in an oppressive law or destructive practices. 
However, such appeals are direct action simply because they do not assume
that the parties in question we will act for us -- indeed the assumption is
that change only occurs when we act to create it. Regardless of what the
action is, "if such actions are to have the desired empowerment effect,
they must be largely self-generated, rather than being devised and 
directed from above." [Martha Ackelsberg, _Free Women of Spain_, p. 33]

So, in a nutshell, direct action is any form of activity which people
themselves decide upon and organise themselves which is based on their 
own collective strength and does not involve getting intermediates to act 
for them. As such direct action is a natural expression of liberty, of
self-government for "[d]irect action against the authority in the shop,
direct action against the authority of the law, direct action against 
the invasive, meddlesome authority of our moral code, is the logical,
consistent method of Anarchism." [Emma Goldman, _Red Emma Speaks_, 
pp. 62-63] It is clear that by acting for yourself you are expressing 
the ability to govern yourself. Thus its a means by which people can
take control of their own lives. It is a means of self-empowerment and
self-liberation:

"Direct action meant that the goal of any and all these activities was 
to provide ways for people to get in touch with their own powers and 
capacities, to take back the power of naming themselves and their lives."
[Martha Ackelsberg, Op. Cit., p. 32]

In other words, anarchists reject the view that society is static and that
people's consciousness, values, ideas and ideals cannot be changed. Far from 
it and anarchists support direct action *because* it actively encourages
the transformation of those who use it. Direct action is the means of
creating a new consciousness, a means of self-liberation from the chains
placed around our minds, emotions and spirits by hierarchy and oppression.

Because direct action is the expression of liberty, the powers that be are 
vitally concerned only when the oppressed use direct action to win its 
demands, for it is a method which is not easy or cheap to combat. Any 
hierarchical system is placed into danger when those at the bottom start 
to act for themselves and, historically, people have invariably gained more 
by acting directly than could have been won by playing ring around the 
rosy with indirect means.

Direct action tore the chains of open slavery from humanity. Over the 
centuries it has established individual rights and modified the life and 
death power of the master class. Direct action won political liberties
such as the vote and free speech. Used fully, used wisely and well, 
direct action can forever end injustice and the mastery of humans 
by other humans.

In the sections that follow, we will indicate why anarchists are in
favour of direct action and why they are against electioneering as
a means of change.

J.2.1 Why do anarchists favour using direct action to change things?

Simply because it is effective and it has a radicalising impact on those
who practice it. As it is based on people acting for themselves, it
shatters the dependency and marginalisation created by hierarchy. As
Murray Bookchin argues, "[w]hat is even more important about direct action 
is that it forms a decisive step toward recovering the personal power 
over social life that the centralised, over-bearing bureaucracies have 
usurped from the people . . . we not only gain a sense that we can control 
the course of social events again; we recover a new sense of selfhood 
and personality without which a truly free society, based in self-activity 
and self-management, is utterly impossible." [_Toward an Ecological 
Society_, p. 47]

By acting for themselves, people gain a sense of their own power and 
abilities. This is essential if people are to run their own lives. As
such, direct action is *the* means by which individuals empower themselves,
to assert their individuality, to make themselves count as individuals. It 
is the opposite of hierarchy, within which individuals are told again and 
again that they are nothing, are insignificant and must dissolve themselves 
into a higher power (the state, the company, the party, the people, etc.) and
feel proud in participating in the strength and glory of this higher power.
Direct action, in contrast, is the means of asserting ones individual
opinion, interests and happiness, of fighting against self-negation:

"man has as much liberty as he is willing to take. Anarchism therefore
stands for direct action, the open defiance of, and resistance to, all 
laws and restrictions, economic, social and moral. But defiance and
resistance are illegal. Therein lies the salvation of man. Everything
illegal necessitates integrity, self-reliance, and courage. In short, it
calls for free independent spirits, for men who are men, and who have
a bone in their back which you cannot pass your hand through." [Emma
Goldman, _Red Emma Speaks_, pp. 61-62]

In addition, because direct action is based around individuals solving 
their own problems, by their own action, it awakens those aspects of 
individuals crushed by hierarchy and oppression - such as initiative, 
solidarity, imagination, self-confidence and a sense of individual and 
collective power, that you do matter and count as an individual and that 
you, and others like you, *can* change the world. Direct Action is the 
means by which people can liberate themselves and educate themselves in 
the ways of and skills required for self-management and liberty. Hence:

"anarchists insisted that we learn to think and act for ourselves by 
joining together in organisations in which our experience, our perception 
and our activity can guide and make the change. Knowledge does not precede
experience, it flows from it. . . People learn to be free only by 
exercising freedom. [As one Spanish Anarchist put it] 'We are not going 
to find ourselves. . . with people ready-made for the future. . . Without
continued exercise of their faculties, there will be no free people. . .
The external revolution and the internal revolution presuppose one
another, and they must be simultaneous in order to be successful.'"
[Martha Ackelsberg, _Free Women of Spain_, pp. 32-33]

So direct action, to use Murray Bookchin's words, is "the means whereby 
each individual awakens to the hidden powers within herself and himself, 
to a new sense of self-confidence and self-competence; it is the means 
whereby individuals take control of society directly." [Op. Cit., p. 48] 

In addition, direct action creates the need for new forms of social 
organisation. These new forms of organisation will be informed and shaped
by the process of self-liberation, so be more anarchistic and based upon
self-management. Direct action, as well as liberating individuals, can also
create the free, self-managed organisations which can replace the current
hierarchical ones. In other words, direct action helps create the new world
in the shell of the old:

"direct action not only empowered those who participated in it, it also
had effects on others. . . [including] exemplary action that attracted 
adherents by the power of the positive example it set. Contemporary
examples. . . include food or day-care co-ops, collectively run businesses,
sweat equity housing programmes, women's self-help health collectives, urban
squats or women's peace camps [as well as traditional examples as industrial
unions, social centres, etc.]. While such activities empower those who
engage in them, they also demonstrate to others that non-hierarchical
forms of organisation can and do exist - and that they can function
effectively." [Martha Ackelsberg, Op. Cit., p. 33]

Also, direct action such as strikes encourage and promote class consciousness
and class solidarity. According to Kropotkin, "the strike develops the
sentiment of solidarity" while for Bakunin it "is the beginnings of the
social war of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. . . Strikes are a
valuable instrument from two points of view. Firstly, they electrify the
masses, invigorate their moral energy and awaken in them the feeling of
the deep antagonism which exists between their interests and those of
the bourgeoisie. . . secondly they help immensely to provoke and establish
between the workers of all trades, localities and countries the consciousness
and very fact of solidarity: a twofold action, both negative and positive, 
which tends to constitute directly the new world of the proletariat, 
opposing it almost in an absolute way to the bourgeois world." [cited
in Caroline Cahm, _Kropotkin and the Rise of Revolutionary Anarchism
1872-1886_, p. 256, pp. 216-217]

Direct action and the movements that used it (such as unionism) would be 
the means to develop the "revolutionary intelligence of the workers" and 
so ensure "emancipation through practice" (to use Bakunin's words). 

Direct action, therefore, helps to create anarchists and anarchist
alternatives within capitalism and statism. As such, it plays an 
essential role in anarchist theory and activity. For anarchists, 
direct action "is not a 'tactic'. . . it is a moral principle, an 
ideal, a sensibility. It should imbue every aspect of our lives and 
behaviour and outlook." [Murray Bookchin, Op. Cit., p. 48]

J.2.2 Why do anarchists reject voting as a means for change?

Simply because electioneering does not work. History is littered with 
examples of radicals being voted into office only to become as, or even
more, conservative than the politicians they replaced.

As we have discussed previously (see B.2 and related sections) any 
government is under pressure from two sources of power, the state 
bureaucracy and big business. This ensures that any attempts at 
social change would be undermined and made hollow by vested 
interests, assuming they even reached that level of discussion 
to begin with (the de-radicalising effects of electioneering is 
discussed below in section J.2.6). Here we will highlight the 
power of vested interests within democratic government.

In section B.2 we only discussed the general nature of the state and 
what its role within society is (i.e. "the preservation of the economic
'status quo,' the protection of the economic privileges of the ruling
class," in the words of Luigi Galleani). However, as the effectiveness of 
the vote to secure change is now the topic we will have to discuss how and
why the state and capital restricts and controls political action.

Taking capital to begin with, if we assume that a relatively
reformist government was elected it would soon find itself facing 
various economic pressures. Either capital would disinvest, so forcing 
the government to back down in the face of economic collapse, or the 
government in question would control capital leaving the country and so 
would soon be isolated from new investment and its currency would become 
worthless. Either way, the economy would be severely damaged and the 
promised "reforms" would be dead letters. In addition, this economic 
failure would soon result in popular revolt which in turn would lead 
to a more authoritarian state as "democracy" was protected from the 
people.

Far fetched? No, not really. In January, 1974, the FT Index for the 
London Stock Exchange stood at 500 points. In February, the miner's went 
on strike, forcing Heath to hold (and lose) a general election. The new 
Labour government (which included many left-wingers in its cabinet) talked 
about nationalising the banks and much heavy industry. In August, 74, Tony 
Benn announced Plans to nationalise the ship building industry. By December
of that year, the FT index had fallen to 150 points. By 1976 the British
Treasury was spending $100 million a day buying back of its own money to 
support the pound [_The London Times_, 10/6/76]. The economic pressure 
of capitalism was at work:

"The further decline in the value of the pound has occurred despite the high 
level of interest rates. . . dealers said that selling pressure against the 
pound was not heavy or persistent, but there was an almost total lack of 
interest amongst buyers. The drop in the pound is extremely surprising in 
view of the unanimous opinion of bankers, politicians and officials that the 
currency is undervalued" [_The London Times_, 27/5/76]

The Labour government faced with the power of international capital ended up 
having to receive a temporary "bailing out" by the I.M.F. who imposed a 
package of cuts and controls which translated to Labour saying "We'll do 
anything you say", in the words of one economist [Peter Donaldson, _A 
Question of Economics_, p. 89]. The social costs of these policies was
massive, with the Labour government being forced to crack down on strikes
and the weakest sectors of society (but that's not to forget that they "cut 
expenditure by twice the amount the I.M.F. were promised." [Ibid.]). In
the backlash to this, Labour lost the next election to a right-wing, 
pro-free market government which continued where Labour had left off.

Or, to use a more recent example, "The fund managers [who control the 
flow of money between financial centres and countries] command such vast
resources that their clashes with governments in the global marketplace
usually ends up in humiliating defeat for politicians. . . In 1992, US
financier George Soros single-handedly destroyed the British government's
attempts to keep the pound in the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). 
Soros effectively bet, and won, that he could force the British government
to devalue. Using his huge resources, he engineered a run on the pound,
overwhelming the Bank of England's attempts to use its reserves to keep
sterling within its ERM band. The British government capitulated by
suspending sterling's membership of the ERM (an effective devaluation) and
Soros came away from his victory some $1bn richer. Fund managers then 
picked off other currencies one by one, derailing the drive for European
monetary union, which would, incidentally, have cut their profits by making
them unable to buy and sell between the different European currencies."
[Duncan Green, _The Silent Revolution_, p. 124]

The fact is that capital will not invest in a country which does not meet 
its approval and this is an effective weapon to control democratically 
elected governments. And with the increase in globalisation of capital over
the last 30 years this weapon is even more powerful (a weapon we may add 
which was improved, via company and state funded investment and research in 
communication technology, precisely to facilitate the attack on working class 
reforms and power in the developed world, in other words capital ran away
to teach us a lesson -- see sections C.8.1, C.8.2, C.8.3 and D.5.3).

As far as political pressures go, we must remember that there is a difference 
between the state and government. The state is the permanent collection of 
institutions that have entrenched power structures and interests. The 
government is made up of various politicians. It's the institutions that 
have power in the state due to their permanence, not the representatives 
who come and go. In other words, the state bureaucracy has vested interests
and elected politicians cannot effectively control them. This network
of behind the scenes agencies can be usefully grouped into two parts:

"By 'the secret state' we mean. . . the security services, MI5 [the FBI in 
the USA], Special Branch. . . MI6 [the CIA]. By 'the permanent government' 
. . . we mean the secret state plus the Cabinet Office and upper echelons 
of Home and Foreign and Commonwealth Offices, the Armed Forces and Ministry 
of Defence, the nuclear power industry and its satellite ministries; and
the so-called 'Permanent Secretaries Club,' the network of very senior
civil servants - the 'Mandarins.' In addition. . . its satellites"
including M.P.s (particularly right-wing ones), 'agents of influence' in 
the media, former security services personnel, think tanks and opinion
forming bodies, front companies of the security services, and so on.
[Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsay, _Smear! Wilson and the Secret State_,
p. X, XI]

These bodies, while theoretically under the control of the elected government,
can effectively (via disinformation, black operations, bureaucratic slowdowns,
media attacks, etc.) ensure that any government trying to introduce policies 
which the powers that be disagree with will be stopped. In other words
the state is *not* a neutral body, somehow rising about vested interests
and politics. It is, and always will be, a institution which aims to protect
specific sections of society as well as its own. 

An example of this "secret state" at work can be found in _Smear!_, where 
Dorril and Ramsay document the campaign against the Labour Prime Minister of 
Britain, Harold Wilson, which resulted in his resignation. They also indicate 
the pressures which Labour M.P. Tony Benn was subjected to by "his" Whitehall
advisers:

"In early 1985, the campaign against Benn by the media was joined by the
secret state. The timing is interesting. In January, his Permanent Secretary
had 'declared war' and the following month began the most extraordinary
campaign of harassment any major British politician has experienced. While
this is not provable by any means, it does look as though there is a clear
causal connection between withdrawal of Prime Ministerial support, the
open hostility from the Whitehall mandarins and the onset of covert
operations." [Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsay, Op. Cit., p. 279]

Not to mention the role of the secret state in undermining reformist and 
radical organisations and movements. Thus involvement goes from pure 
information gathering on "subversives", to disruption and repression. 
Taking the example of the US secret state, Howard Zinn notes that in 1975 
"congressional committees.  . . began investigations of the FBI and CIA.

"The CIA inquiry disclosed that the CIA had gone beyond its original mission
of gathering intelligence and was conducting secret operations of all kinds
. . . [for example] the CIA - with the collusion of a secret Committee of
Forty headed by Henry Kissinger - had worked to 'destabilize' the 
[democratically elected, left-wing] Chilean government. . .

"The investigation of the FBI disclosed many years of illegal actions to
disrupt and destroy radical groups and left-wing groups of all kinds. The
FBI had sent forged letters, engaged in burglaries. . . opened mail 
illegally, and in the case of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, seems to
have conspired in murder. . .

"The investigations themselves revealed the limits of government willingness
to probe into such activities. . . [and they] submitted its findings 
on the CIA to the CIA to see if there was material the Agency wanted 
omitted." [_A People's History of the United States_, pp. 542-3]

Also, the CIA secretly employs several hundred American academics to write
books and other materials to be used for propaganda purposes, an important
weapon in the battle for hearts and minds. In other words, the CIA, FBI
[and their equivalents in other countries] and other state bodies can hardly 
be considered neutral bodies, who just follow orders. They are a network of 
vested interests, with specific ideological viewpoints and aims which usually 
place the wishes of the voting population below maintaining the state-capital 
power structure in place.

This can be seen most dramatically in the military coup in Chile against
the democratically re-elected (left-wing) Allende government by the military,
aided by the CIA, US based corporations and the US government cutting economic
aid to the country (specifically to make it harder for the Allende regime). 
The coup resulted in tens of thousands murdered and years of terror and 
dictatorship, but the danger of a pro-labour government was stopped and the 
business environment was made healthy for profits. An extreme example, we 
know, but important ones for any believer in freedom or the idea that the 
state machine is somehow neutral and can be captured and used by left-wing 
parties. 

Therefore we cannot expect a different group of politicians to react in 
different ways to the same economic and institutional influences and 
interests. Its no coincidence that left-wing, reformist parties have 
introduced right-wing, pro-capitalist ("Thatcherite/Reaganite") policies 
at the same time as right-wing, explicitly pro-capitalist parties introduced 
them in the UK and the USA. As Clive Ponting (an ex-British Civil Servant) 
points out, this is to be expected:

"the function of the political system in any country in the world is to
regulate, but not alter radically, the existing economic structure and
its linked power relationships. The great illusion of politics is that
politicians have the power to make whatever changes they like. . . On a
larger canvas what real control do the politicians in any country have 
over the operation of the international monetary system, the pattern of
world trade with its built in subordination of the third world or
the operation of multi-national companies? These institutions and the
dominating mechanism that underlies them - the profit motive as a sole
measure of success - are essentially out of control and operating on
autopilot." [quoted in _Alternatives_, # 5, p. 10]

Of course there have been examples of quite extensive reforms which
did benefit working class people in major countries. The New Deal in 
the USA and the 1945-51 Labour Governments spring to mind. Surely these
indicate that our claims above are false? Simply put, no, they do not.
Reforms can be won from the state when the dangers of not giving in
outweigh the problems associated with the reforms. Reforms can therefore
be used to save the capitalist system and the state and even improve their
operation (with, of course, the possibility of getting rid of the reforms
when they are no longer required). 

For example, both the reformist governments of 1930s USA and 1940s UK
were under pressure from below, by waves of militant working class
struggle which could have developed beyond mere reformism. The waves 
of sit-down strikes in the 1930s ensured the passing of pro-union laws 
which while allowing workers to organise without fear of being fired. 
This measure also involved the unions in running the capitalist-state 
machine (and so making them responsible for controlling "unofficial"
workplace action and so ensuring profits). The nationalisation of roughly 
20% of the UK economy during the Labour administration of 1945 (the 
most unprofitable sections of it as well) was also the direct result of 
ruling class fear. As Quintin Hogg, a Tory M.P. at the time, said, 
"If you don't give the people social reforms they are going to give you 
social revolution". Memories of the near revolutions across Europe after 
the first war were obviously in many minds, on both sides. Not that 
nationalisation was particularly feared as "socialism." Indeed it was
argued that it was the best means of improving the performance of the 
British economy. As anarchists at the time noted "the real opinions of 
capitalists can be seen from Stock Exchange conditions and statements of 
industrialists than the Tory Front bench . . . [and from these we] see that 
the owning class is not at all displeased with the record and tendency of 
the Labour Party" [_Neither Nationalisation nor Privatisation: Selections 
from Freedom 1945-1950_, Vernon Richards (ed.), p. 9]

So, if extensive reforms have occurred, just remember what they were in
response to militant pressure from below and that we could have got so
much more.

Therefore, in general, things have little changed over the one hundred years 
since this anarchist argument against electioneering was put forward:

"in the electoral process, the working class will always be cheated and
deceived. . . if they did manage to send, one, or ten, or fifty of
them[selves to Parliament], they would become spoiled and powerless.
Furthermore, even if the majority of Parliament were composed of workers,
they could do nothing. Not only is there the senate . . . the chiefs of
the armed forces, the heads of the judiciary and of the police, who would
be against the parliamentary bills advanced by such a chamber and would
refuse to enforce laws favouring the workers (it has happened [for example
the 8 hour working day was legally created in many US states by the 1870s,
but workers had to strike for it in 1886 as it as not enforced]; but 
furthermore laws are not miraculous; no law can prevent the capitalists
from exploiting the workers; no law can force them to keep their factories
open and employ workers at such and such conditions, nor force shopkeepers
to sell as a certain price, and so on." [S. Merlino, quoted by L. Galleani,
_The End of Anarchism?_, p. 13]

Moreover, anarchists reject voting for other reasons. The fact is 
that electoral procedures are the opposite of direct action - they 
are *based* on getting someone else to act on your behalf. Therefore, 
far from empowering people and giving them a sense of confidence and 
ability, electioneering *dis*-empowers them by creating a "leader" figure 
from which changes are expected to flow. As Martin observes:

"all the historical evidence suggests that parties are more a drag 
than an impetus to radical change. One obvious problem is that parties 
can be voted out. All the policy changes they brought in can simply be 
reversed later. 

"More important, though, is the pacifying influence of the radical party 
itself. On a number of occasions, radical parties have been elected to 
power as a result of popular upsurges. Time after time, the 
'radical' parties have become chains to hold back the process of radical 
change." ["Democracy without Elections," _Reinventing Anarchy, Again_, 
Howard J. Ehrlich (ed.), p. 124]

This can easily be seen from the history of the various left-wing parties.
Ralph Miliband points out that labour or socialist parties, elected in
periods of social turbulence, have often acted to reassure the ruling
elite by dampening popular action that could have threatened capitalist
interests [_The State in Capitalist Society_, Weidenfeld and Nicolson,
1969]. For example, the first project undertaken by the Popular Front,
elected in France in 1936, was to put an end to strikes and occupations
and generally to cool popular militancy, which was the Front's strongest
ally in coming to power. The Labour government elected in Britain in 1945
got by with as few reforms as it could, refusing to consider changing
basic social structures. In addition, within the first week of taking office
it sent troops in to break the dockers' strike. Labour has used troops to 
break strikes far more often than the Conservatives have. 

These points indicate why existing power structures cannot effectively be
challenged through elections. For one thing, elected representatives are 
not *mandated,* which is to say they are not tied in any binding way to 
particular policies, no matter what promises they have made or what voters 
may prefer. Around election time, the public's influence on politicians is
strongest, but after the election, representatives can do practically
whatever they want, because there is no procedure for *instant recall.* 
In practice it is impossible to recall politicians before the next
election, and between elections they are continually exposed to pressure
from powerful special-interest groups -- especially business lobbyists,
state bureaucracies and political party power brokers. 

Under such pressure, the tendency of politicians to break campaign
promises has become legendary. Generally, such promise breaking is blamed
on bad character, leading to periodic "throw-the-bastards-out" fervour --
after which a new set of representatives is elected, who also mysteriously
turn out to be bastards! In reality it is the system itself that
produces "bastards," the sell-outs and shady dealing we have come to
expect from politicians. As Alex Comfort argues, political office
attracts power-hungry, authoritarian, and ruthless personalities, or 
at least tends to bring out such qualities in those who are elected
(see his classic work _Authority and Delinquency in the Modern State: 
A Criminological Approach to the Problem of Power_). 

In light of modern "democracy", it is amazing that anyone takes the system
seriously enough to vote at all. And in fact, voter turnout in the US and
other nations where "democracy" is practised in this fashion is typically
low. Nevertheless, some voters continue to participate, pinning their
hopes on new parties or trying to reform a major party. For anarchists,
this activity is pointless as it does not get at the root of the problem.
It is not politicians or parties which are the problem, its a system
which shapes them into its own image and marginalises and alienates 
people due to its hierarchical and centralised nature. No amount of party
politics can change that.

However, we should make it clear that most anarchists recognise there is a 
difference between voting for a government and voting in referendum. Here 
we are discussing the former, electioneering, as a means of social 
change. Referenda are closer to anarchist ideas of direct democracy 
and are, while flawed, far better than electing a politician to office 
once every four years or so.

In addition, Anarchists are not necessarily against all involvement in 
electoral politics. Bakunin thought it could sometimes be useful to 
participate in local elections in relatively small communities where 
regular contact with representatives can maintain accountability. This
argument has been taken up by such Social Ecologists such as Murray
Bookchin who argues that anarchists, by taking part in local elections,
can use this technique to create self-governing community assemblies.
However, few anarchists support such means to create community assemblies 
(see section J.5.14 for a discussion on this).

However, in large cities and in regional or national elections, certain 
processes have developed which render the term "democracy" inappropriate. 
These processes include mass advertising, bribery of voters through government 
projects in local areas, party "machines," the limitation of news coverage to 
two (or at most three) major parties, and government manipulation of the news. 
Party machines choose candidates, dictate platforms, and contact voters by 
phone campaigns. Mass advertising "packages" candidates like commodities,
selling them to voters by emphasising personality rather than policies,
while media news coverage emphasise the "horse race" aspects of campaigns
rather than policy issues. Government spending in certain areas (or more
cynically, the announcement of new projects in such areas just before
elections) has become a standard technique for buying votes. And we have
already examined the mechanisms through which the media is made dependent
of government sources of information (see section D.3), a development that
obviously helps incumbents. 

Therefore, for these related reasons anarchists reject the voting as a
means of change. Instead we wholeheartedly support direct action as
the means of getting improvements in the here and now as well as the
means of creating an alternative to the current system.

J.2.3 What are the political implications of voting?

At its most basic, voting implies agreement with the status quo. It
is worth quoting the Scottish libertarian socialist James Kelman at
length on this:

"State propaganda insists that the reason why at least 40 percent of
the voting public don't vote at all is because they have no feelings one 
way or the other. They say the same thing in the USA, where some 85
percent of the population are apparently 'apolitical' since they don't
bother registering a vote. Rejection of the political system is 
inadmissible as far as the state is concerned. . . Of course the one
thing that does happen when you vote is that someone else has endorsed an
unfair political system. . . A vote for any party or any individual is
always a vote for the political system. You can interpret your vote in
whichever way you like but it remains an endorsement of the apparatus. . .
If there was any possibility that the apparatus could effect a change 
in the system then they would dismantle it immediately. In other words
the political system is an integral state institution, designed and
refined to perpetuate its own existence. Ruling authority fixes the 
agenda by which the public are allowed 'to enter the political arena'
and that's the fix they've settled on" [_Some Recent Attacks_, p.87]

We are taught from an early age that voting in elections is right and a
duty. In US schools, children elect class presidents and other officers. 
Often mini-general elections are held to "educate" children in "democracy".
Periodically, election coverage monopolises the media. We are made to
feel guilty about shirking our "civic responsibility" if we don't vote. 
Countries that have no elections, or only rigged elections, are regarded
as failures [Benjamin Ginsberg, _The Consequences of Consent: Elections,
Citizen Control and Popular Acquiescence_, Addison-Wesley, 1982]. As a
result, elections have become a quasi-religious ritual.

As Brian Martin points out, however, "elections in practice have served
well to maintain dominant power structures such as private property, the
military, male domination, and economic inequality. None of these has been
seriously threatened through voting. It is from the point of view of
radical critics that elections are most limiting." ["Democracy without
Elections", _Reinventing Anarchy, Again_, Howard J. Ehrlich (ed.), p. 124]

Benjamin Ginsberg has noted other ways in which elections serve the
interests of state power. Firstly, voting helps to legitimate government;
hence suffrage has often been expanded at times when there was little
popular demand for it but when mass support of government was crucial, as
during a war or revolution. Secondly, since voting is organised and
supervised by government, it comes to be seen as the only legitimate form
of political participation, thus making it likely that any revolts by
oppressed or marginalised groups will be viewed by the general public as
illegitimate (see his book _The Consequences of Consent_).

In addition, Ginsberg argues that, historically, by enlarging the number
of people who participate in 'politics,' and by turning this participation
into the "safe" activities of campaigning and voting, elections have
reduced the risk of more radical direct action. That is, voting
disempowers the grassroots by diverting energy from grassroots action. 
After all, the goal of electoral politics is to elect a representative 
who will act *for* us. Therefore, instead taking direct action to solve
problems ourselves, action becomes indirect, though the government. This
is an insidiously easy trap to fall into, as we have been conditioned in
hierarchical society from day one into attitudes of passivity and
obedience, which gives most of us a deep-seated tendency to leave
important matters to the "experts" and "authorities." 

Anarchists also criticise elections for giving citizens the false
impression that the government serves, or can serve, the people. As
Martin puts it, "the founding of the modern state a few centuries ago 
was met with great resistance: people would refuse to pay taxes, to 
be conscripted or to obey laws passed by national governments. The
introduction of voting and the expanded suffrage have greatly aided the
expansion of state power. Rather than seeing the system as one of ruler
and ruled, people see at least the possibility of using state power to
serve themselves. As electoral participation has increased, the degree of
resistance to taxation, military service, and the immense variety of laws
regulating behaviour, has been greatly attenuated." [Op. Cit., p. 126]

Ironically, however, voting has legitimated the growth of state power to
such an extent that the state is now beyond any real popular control by
the form of participation that made that growth possible. Nevertheless,
as Ginsberg observes, the idea that electoral participation means popular
control of government is so deeply implanted in people's psyches "that
even the most overtly sceptical cannot fully free themselves from it."
[_The Consequences of Consent_, Op. Cit., p. 241]

Therefore, voting has the important political implication of encouraging
people to identify with state power and to justify the status quo. In 
addition, it feeds the illusion that the state is neutral and that
electing parties to office means that people have control over their
own lives. Moreover, elections have a tendency to make people passive,
to look for salvation from above and not from their own self-activity.
As such it produces a division between leaders and led, with the voters
turned into spectators of activity, not the participants within it. 

All this does not mean, obviously, that anarchists prefer dictatorship 
or an "enlightened" monarchy. Far from it, democratising state power
can be an important step towards abolishing it. All anarchists agree
with Bakunin when he argued that "the most imperfect republic is a 
thousand times better that even the most enlightened monarchy." [cited
by Guerin, _Anarchism_, p. 20] But neither does it mean that anarchists 
will join in with the farce of electioneering, particularly when there 
are more effective means available for changing things for the better.

J.2.4 Surely voting for radical parties will be effective?

There is no doubt that voting can lead to changes in policies, which can
be a good thing as far as it goes. But such policies are formulated and
implemented within the authoritarian framework of the hierarchical
capitalist state -- a framework which itself is never open to challenge by
voting. To the contrary, voting legitimates the state framework, ensuring
that social change will be mild, gradual, and reformist rather than rapid 
and radical. Indeed, the "democratic" process has always resulted in (and
will always result in) all successful political parties becoming committed 
to "more of the same" or tinkering with the details at best (which is 
usually the limits of any policy changes). 

However, given the need for radical systemic changes as soon as possible 
due to the exponentially accelerating crises of modern civilisation, working 
for gradual reforms within the electoral system must be seen as a potentially 
deadly tactical error. In addition, it can never get to the root causes of
our problems. Anarchists reject the idea that our problems can be solved by 
the very institutions that cause them in the first place! What happens in 
our communities, workplaces and environment is too important to be left 
to politicians - or the ruling elite who control governments.

Because of this anarchists reject political parties and electioneering. 
Electioneering has always been the death of radicalism. Political parties 
are only radical when they don't stand a chance of election. However, many
social activists continue to try to use elections, so participating in the
system which disempowers the majority and so helps create the social problems
they are protesting against.

"It should be a truism that elections empower the politicians and not the
voters," Brian Martin writes, "yet many social movements continually are
drawn into electoral politics." There are a number of reasons for this. 
"One is the involvement of party members in social movements. Another is 
the aspirations for power and influence by leaders in movements. Having 
the ear of a government minister is a heady sensation for many; getting 
elected to parliament oneself is even more of an ego boost. What is 
forgotten in all this 'politics of influence' is the effect on ordinary 
activists." ["Democracy without Elections", _Reinventing Anarchy, Again_, 
Howard J. Ehrlich (ed.),p. 125] 

Rudoph Bahro gives an example of how working "within the system"
disempowered grassroots Green activists in Germany during the early
eighties, pointing out that the coalitions into which the Greens entered
with Social Democrats in the German legislature often had the effect of
strengthening the status quo by co-opting those whose energies might
otherwise have gone into more radical and effective forms of activism
[_Building the Green Movement_, New Society Publishers, 1986]. 
 
No doubt the state is more complicated than the simple "executive
committee of the ruling class" pictured by Marxists. There are
continual struggles both within and without the state bureaucracies,
struggles that influence policies and empower different groups of people. 
Because of this, many radical parties believe that it makes sense to work
within the state -- for example, to obtain labour, consumer, and
environmental protection laws. However, this reasoning ignores the fact
that the organisational structure of the state is not neutral.

To quote Martin again, the "basic anarchist insight is that the structure
of the state, as a centralised administrative apparatus, is inherently
flawed from the point of view of human freedom and equality. Even though
the state can be used occasionally for valuable ends, as a means the state
is flawed and impossible to reform. The nonreformable aspects of the state
include, centrally, its monopoly over 'legitimate' violence and its
consequent power to coerce for the purpose of war, internal control,
taxation and the protection of property and bureaucratic privilege.

"The problem with voting is that the basic premises of the state are never
considered open for debate, much less challenge. The state's monopoly over
the use of violence for war is never at issue. Neither is the state's use
of violence against revolt from within. The state's right to extract
economic resources from the population is never questioned. Neither is 
the state's guarantee of either private property (under capitalism) or
bureaucratic prerogative (under state socialism) -- or both" [Op. Cit., 
p. 127]

But, it may be said, if a new political group is radical enough, it will
be able to use state power for good purposes. While we discuss this in
more detail later in section J.2.6, let us consider a specific case:
that of the Greens, many of whom believe that the best way to achieve 
their aims is to work within the representative political system. 

By pledging to use the electoral system to achieve change, Green parties
necessarily commit themselves to formulating their proposals as
legislative agendas. But once legislation is passed, the coercive
mechanisms of the state will be needed to enforce it. Therefore, Green
parties are committed to upholding state power. However, our analysis 
in section B.2 indicated that the state is a set of hierarchical
institutions through which a ruling elite dominates society and
individuals. And, as we have seen in the introduction to section E,
ecologists, feminists, and peace activists -- who are key constituencies
of the Green movement -- all need to *dismantle* hierarchies and
domination in order to achieve their respective aims. Therefore, since
the state is not only the largest and most powerful hierarchy but also
serves to maintain the hierarchical form of all major institutions in
society (since this form is the most suitable for achieving ruling-class
interests), the state itself is the main obstacle to the success of key
constituencies of the Green movement. Hence it is impossible *in
principle* for a parliamentary Green party to achieve essential objectives
of the Green movement. A similar argument would apply to any radical
party whose main emphasis was social justice, which like the goals of 
feminists, radical ecologists, and peace activists, depends on dismantling
hierarchies. 
 
And surely no one who even is remotely familiar with history will
suggest that 'radical' politicians, even if by some miracle they were to
obtain a majority in the national legislature, might dismantle the state. 
It should be axiomatic by now that when a 'radical' politician (e.g. a
Lenin) says to voters, "Give me and my party state power and we will
'wither away'" it's just more campaign rhetoric (in Lenin's case, the 
ultimate campaign promise), and hence not to be taken seriously. And, as
we argued in the previous section, radical parties are under pressure
from economic and state bureaucracies that ensure that even a sincere
radical party would be powerless to introduce significant reforms.

The only real response to the problems of representative democracy is to 
urge people not to vote. This can be a valuable way of making others aware 
of the limitations of the current system, which is a necessary condition 
for their seriously considering the anarchist alternative, as we have
outlined in this FAQ. The implications of abstentionism are discussed
in the next section.

J.2.5 Why do anarchists support abstentionism and what are its
      implications?

At its most basic, anarchists support abstentionism because "participation
in elections means the transfer of one's will and decisions to another,
which is contrary to the fundamental principles of anarchism." [Emma
Goldman, "Anarchists and Elections", _Vanguard_ III, June-July 1936,
p. 19]

If you reject hierarchy and government then participating in a system
by which you elect those who will govern you is almost like adding insult
to injury! And as Luigi Galleani points out, "[b]ut whoever has the political
competence to choose his own rulers is, by implication, also competent
to do without them." [_The End of Anarchism?_, p. 37] In other words,
because anarchists reject the idea of authority, we reject the idea 
that picking the authority (be it bosses or politicians) makes us free.
Therefore, anarchists reject governmental elections in the name of
self-government and free association. We refuse to vote as voting is
endorsing authoritarian social structures. We are (in effect) being asked
to make obligations to the state, not our fellow citizens, and so anarchists
reject the symbolic process by which our liberty is alienated from us.

For anarchists, then, when you vote, you are choosing between rulers. 
Instead of urging people to vote we raise the option of choosing to rule 
yourself, to organise freely with others - in your workplace, in your 
community, everywhere - as equals. The option of something you cannot
vote for, a new society. And instead of waiting for others to do make some 
changes for you, anarchists urge that you do it yourself. This is the 
core of the anarchist support for abstentionism.

In addition, beyond this basic anarchist rejection of elections from a
anti-statist position, anarchists also support abstentionism as it allows
us to put across our ideas at election time. It is a fact that at election
times individuals are often more interested in politics than usual. So,
by arguing for abstentionism we can get our ideas across about the
nature of the current system, how elected politicians do not control
the state bureaucracy, now the state acts to protect capitalism and so
on. In addition, it allows us to present the ideas of direct action and
encourage those disillusioned with political parties and the current
system to become anarchists by presenting a viable alternative to the
farce of politics.

And a sizeable percentage of non-voters and voters are disillusioned
with the current set-up. According to the US paper _The Nation_
(dated February 10, 1997):

"Protest is alive and well in the growing non-electorate, now the majority
(last fall's turnout was 48.8 percent). According to a little-noticed
post-election survey of 400 nonvoters conducting by the Polling Company, a
Washington-based firm, 38 percent didn't vote for essentially political
reasons: they 'did not care for any of the candidates' (16 percent), they
were 'fed up with the political system' (15 percent) or they 'did not feel
like candidates were interested in people like me' (7 percent). That's at 
least 36 million people--almost as many as voted for Bob Dole. The nonvoting 
majority is also disproportionately liberal-leaning, compared with those 
who did vote."

So, anarchist abstentionism is a means of turning this negative reaction
to an unjust system into positive activity. So, anarchist opposition to 
electioneering has deep political implications which Luigi Galleani addresses 
when he writes that the "anarchists' electoral abstentionism implies not 
only a conception that is opposed to the principle of representation 
(which is totally rejected by anarchism), it implies above all an absolute 
lack of confidence in the State. . . Furthermore, anarchist abstentionism 
has consequences which are much less superficial than the inert apathy 
ascribed to it by the sneering careerists of 'scientific socialism' 
[i.e. Marxism]. It strips the State of the constitutional fraud with 
which it presents itself to the gullible as the true representative
of the whole nation, and, in so doing, exposes its essential character 
as representative, procurer and policeman of the ruling classes.

"Distrust off reforms, of public power and of delegated authority, can 
lead to direct action [in the class struggle]. . . It can determine the 
revolutionary character of this . . . action; and, accordingly, anarchists 
regard it as the best available means for preparing the masses to manage their 
own personal and collective interests; and, besides, anarchists feel that even 
now the working people are fully capable of handling their own political and
administrative interests." [_The End of Anarchism?_, pp. 13-14]

Therefore abstentionism stresses the importance of self-activity and
self-libertarian as well as having an important educational effect in
highlighting that the state is not neutral, but serves to protect class
rule, and that meaningful change only comes from below, by direct action. 
For the dominant ideas within any class society reflect the opinion of the 
ruling elite of that society and so any campaign at election times which 
argues for abstentionism and indicates why voting is a farce will obviously 
challenge these dominant ideas. In other words, abstentionism combined with 
direct action and the building of socialist alternatives is a very effective 
means of changing people's ideas and encouraging a process of self-education 
and, ultimately, self-liberation.

Anarchists are aware that elections serve to legitimate government. We
have always warned that since the state is an integral part of the system 
that perpetuates poverty, inequality, racism, imperialism, sexism, 
environmental destruction, and war, we should not expect to solve
any of these problems by changing a few nominal state leaders every four
or five years (see P. Kropotkin, "Representative Government," _The
Commonweal_, Vol. 7, 1892; Errico Malatesta, _Vote: What For?_, Freedom
Press, 1942). Therefore anarchists (usually) advocate abstentionism
at election time as a means of exposing the farce of "democracy", the
disempowering nature of elections and the real role of the state.

Therefore, anarchists urge abstentionism in order to *encourage* activity,
not apathy. The reasons *why* people abstain is more important than the act.
The idea that the USA is closer to anarchy because around 50% of people
do not vote is nonsense. Abstentionism in this case is the product of
apathy and cynicism, not political ideas. So anarchists recognise that 
apathetic abstentionism is *not* revolutionary or an indication of anarchist
sympathies. It is produced by apathy and a general level of cynicism at 
*all* forms of political ideas and the possibility of change. 

Not voting is *not* enough, and anarchists urge people to *organise* and 
*resist* as well. Abstentionism must be the political counterpart of class
struggle, self-activity and self-management in order to be effective - 
otherwise it is as pointless as voting is.

J.2.6 What are the effects of radicals using electioneering?

While many radicals would be tempted to agree with our analysis of the
limitations of electioneering and voting, few would automatically
agree with anarchist abstentionist arguments. Instead, they argue that
we should combine direct action with electioneering. In that way (it is
argued) we can overcome the limitations of electioneering by invigorating
the movement with self-activity. In addition, it is argued, the state
is too powerful to leave in the hands of the enemies of the working
class. A radical politician will refuse to give the orders to crush
social protest that a right-wing, pro-capitalist one would.

This reformist idea met a nasty end in the 1900s (when, we may note, social 
democracy was still considered revolutionary). In 1899, the Socialist 
Alexandre Millerand joined the cabinet of the French Government. The 
Marxian-Socialist Second International approved of this with such leaders 
as Lenin and Kautsky supporting it at the 1904 conference. However, nothing
changed:

"thousands of strikers. . . appealed to Millerand for help, confident that,
with him in the government, the state would be on their side. Much of this
confidence was dispelled within a few years. The government did little 
more for workers than its predecessors had done; soldiers and police were
still sent in to repress serious strikes." [Peter N. Stearns, _Revolutionary
Syndicalism and French Labour_, p. 16]

In 1910, the Socialist Prime Minister Briand used scabs and soldiers to again 
break a general strike on the French railways. And these events occurred 
during the period when social democratic and socialist parties were 
self-proclaimed revolutionaries and arguing against anarcho-syndicalism 
by using the argument that working people needed their own representatives
in office to stop troops being used against them during strikes!

Looking at the British Labour government of 1945 to 1951 we find the same
actions. What is often considered the most left-wing Labour government 
ever used troops to break strikes in every year it was in office, starting 
with a dockers' strike days after it became the new government. And again 
in the 1970s Labour used troops to break strikes. Indeed, the Labour Party 
has used troops to break strikes more often than the right-wing Conservative 
Party. 

In other words, while these are important arguments in favour of radicals
using elections, they ultimately fail to take into account the nature of 
the state and the corrupting effect it has on radicals. If history is 
anything to go by, the net effect of radicals using elections is that by 
the time they are elected to office the radicals will happily do what they 
claimed the right-wing would have done. Many blame the individuals elected
to office for these betrayals, arguing that we need to elect *better* 
politicians, select *better* leaders. For anarchists nothing could be more
wrong as its the means used, not the individuals involved, which is the 
problem.

At its most basic, electioneering results in the party using it becoming
more moderate and reformist - indeed the party often becomes the victim 
of its own success. In order to gain votes, the party must appear "moderate"
and "practical" and that means working within the system. This has meant
that (to use Rudolf Rocker words):

"Participation in the politics of the bourgeois States has not
brought the labour movement a hair's-breadth nearer to Socialism, but
thanks to this method, Socialism has almost been completely crushed
and condemned to insignificance. . . Participation in parliamentary
politics has affected the Socialist Labour movement like an insidious
poison. It destroyed the belief in the necessity of constructive Socialist
activity, and, worse of all, the impulse to self-help, by inoculating 
people with the ruinous delusion that salvation always comes from above." 
[_Anarcho-Syndicalism_, p. 49]

This corruption does not happen overnight. Alexander Berkman indicates how 
it slowly develops when he writes:

"[At the start, the Socialist Parties] claimed that they meant to use politics
only for the purpose of propaganda . . . and took part in elections on order
to have an opportunity to advocate Socialism

"It may seem a harmless thing but it proved the undoing of Socialism. 
Because nothing is truer than the means you use to attain your object soon
themselves become your object . . . [so] There is a deeper reason for this
constant and regular betrayal [than individual scoundrels being elected]
. . . no man turns scoundrel or traitor overnight.

"It is *power* which corrupts . . . Moreover, even with the best intentions
Socialists [who get elected] . . . find themselves entirely powerless to
accomplishing anything of a socialistic nature . . . The demoralisation and
vitiation [this brings about] take place little by little, so gradually
that one hardly notices it himself . . . [The elected Socialist] perceives
that he is regarded as a laughing stock [by the other politicians] . . .
and finds more and more difficulty in securing the floor . . . he knows
that neither by his talk nor by his vote can he influence the proceedings
. . . His speeches don't even reach the public . . . [and so] He appeals to 
the voters to elect more comrades . . . Years pass . . . [and a] number . . .
are elected. Each of them goes through the same experience. . . [and]
quickly come to the conclusion . . . [that] They must show that they are
practical men . . . that they are doing something for their constituency. . .
In this manner the situation compels them to take a 'practical' part in the
proceedings, to 'talk business,' to fall in line with the matters actually
dealt with in the legislative body . . . Spending years in that atmosphere,
enjoying good jobs and pay, the elected Socialists have themselves become
part and parcel of the political machinery . . . With growing success in
elections and securing political power they turn more and more conservative
and content with existing conditions. Removal from the life and suffering
of the working class, living in the atmosphere of the bourgeoisie . . . they
have become what they call 'practical' . . . Power and position have
gradually stifled their conscience and they have not the strength and
honesty to swim against the current . . . They have become the strongest
bulwark of capitalism."[_What is Communist Anarchism?_, pp. 78-82]

And so the "political power which they had wanted to conquer had gradually
conquered their Socialism until there was scarcely anything left of it."
[Rudolf Rocker, Op. Cit., p. 50] Not that these arguments are the result
of hindsight, we may add. Bakunin was arguing in the early 1870s that
the "inevitable result [of using elections] will be that workers' deputies,
transferred to a purely bourgeois environment, and into an atmosphere
of purely bourgeois political ideas. . . will become middle class in their
outlook, perhaps even more so than the bourgeois themselves." [_The
Political Philosophy of Bakunin_, p. 216] History proved Bakunin's 
prediction correct (as it did with his prediction that Marxism would
result in elite rule).

History is littered with examples of radical parties becoming a part of
the system. From Marxian Social Democracy at the turn of the 19th
century to the German Green Party in the 1980s, we have seen radical
parties, proclaiming the need for direct action and extra-parliamentary
activity denouncing these activities once in power. From only using
parliament as a means of spreading their message, the parties involved
end up considering votes as more important than the message. Janet
Biehl sums up the effects on the German Green Party of trying to combine 
radical electioneering with direct action:

"the German Greens, once a flagship for the Green movement worldwide, 
should now be considered stink normal, as their *de facto* boss himself
declares. Now a repository of careerists, the Greens stand out only for
the rapidity with which the old cadre of careerism, party politics, and
business-as-usual once again played itself out in their saga of 
compromise and betrayal of principle. Under the superficial veil of their
old values - a very thin veil indeed, now - they can seek positions and
make compromises to their heart's content. . . They have become 'practical,'
'realistic' and 'power-orientated.' This former New Left ages badly, not
only in Germany but everywhere else. But then, it happened with the S.P.D."
[The German Social Democratic Party] in August 1914, then why not with
Die Grunen in 1991? So it did." ["Party or Movement?", _Greenline_, no.
89, p. 14]

This, sadly, is the end result of all such attempts. Ultimately, 
supporters of using political action can only appeal to the good 
intentions and character of their candidates. Anarchists, however, 
present an analysis of the structures and other influences that 
will determine how the character of the successful candidates will 
change. In other words, in contrast to Marxists and other radicals, 
anarchists present a materialist, scientific analysis of the dynamics 
of electioneering and its effects on radicals. And like most forms of 
idealism, the arguments of Marxists and other radicals flounder on the 
rocks of reality as their theory "inevitably draws and enmeshes its 
partisans, under the pretext of political tactics, into ceaseless 
compromises with governments and political parties; that is, it pushes 
them toward downright reaction." [Bakunin, Op. Cit., p. 288]

However, many radicals refuse to learn this lesson of history and keep 
trying to create a new party which will not repeat the saga of compromise 
and betrayal which all other radical parties have suffered. And they say
that anarchists are utopian! In other words, its truly utopian to
think that "You cannot dive into a swamp and remain clean." [Alexander 
Berkman, Op. Cit., p. 83] Such is the result of rejecting (or 
"supplementing" with electioneering) direct action as the means to
change things, for any social movement "to ever surrender their commitment 
to direct action for 'working within the system' is to destroy their 
personality as socially innovative movements. It is to dissolve back 
into the hopeless morass of 'mass organisations' that seek respectability 
rather than change." [Murray Bookchin, _Toward an Ecological Society_, 
p. 47]

Moreover, the use of electioneering has a centralising effect on the
movements that use it. Political actions become considered as parliamentary
activities made *for* the population by their representatives, with the
'rank and file' left with no other role than that of passive support.
Only the leaders are actively involved and the main emphasis falls upon
the leaders and it soon becomes taken for granted that they should
determine policy (even ignoring conference decisions when required - how
many times have politicians turned round and done the exact opposite of
what they promised or introduced the exact opposite of party policy?). In
the end, party conferences become simply like parliamentary elections,
with party members supporting this leader against another.

Soon the party reflects the division between manual and mental labour
so necessary for the capitalist system. Instead of working class
self-activity and self-determination, there is a substitution and
a non working class leadership acting *for* people replaces self-management
in social struggle and within the party itself. Electoralism strengthens
the leaders dominance over the party and the party over the people it
claims to represent. And, of course, the real causes and solutions to
the problems we face are mystified by the leadership and rarely discussed
in order to concentrate on the popular issues that will get them elected.

And, of course, this results in radicals "instead of weakening the false 
and enslaving belief in law and government . . . actually work[ing] to
*strengthen* the people's faith in forcible authority and government."
[A. Berkman, Op. Cit., p. 84] Which has always proved deadly to encouraging
a spirit of revolt, self-management and self-help -- the very keys to 
creating change in a society. 

Thus the 1870 resolution of the Spanish section of the _First International_
seems to have been proven to be totally correct:

"Any participation of the working class in the middle class political
government would merely consolidate the present state of affairs and
necessarily paralyse the socialist revolutionary action of the proletariat.
The Federation [of unions making up the Spanish section of the International]
is the true representative of labour, and should work outside the political
system." [quoted by Jose Pierats, _Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution_, 
p. 169]

Instead of trying to gain control of the state, for whatever reasons, 
anarchists try to promote a culture of resistance within society that
makes the state subject to pressure from without. Or, to quote Proudhon,
we see the "problem before the labouring classes . . . [as] consist[ing of]
not in capturing, but in subduing both power and monopoly, -- that is, in
generating from the bowels of the people, from the depths of labour, a
greater authority, a more potent fact, which shall envelop capital and
the state and subjugate them." For, "to combat and reduce power, to 
put it in its proper place in society, it is of no use to change the
holders of power or introduce some variation into its workings: an
agricultural and industrial combination must be found by means of which
power, today the ruler of society, shall become its slave." [_System of 
Economical Contradictions_, p. 398 and p. 397]

To use an analogy, the pro-election radical argues that the state is like 
an person with a stick that intends to use it against you and your friends. 
Then you notice that their grasp of that stick is uncertain, and you can 
grab that stick away from them. If you take the stick away from them, that 
does not mean you have to hit them. After you take the weapon away from 
them, you can also break it in half and throw it away. They will have 
been deprived of its use, and that is the important thing.

In response the anarchist argues that instead of making plans to take 
their stick, we develop our muscles and skill so that we don't need a 
stick, so that we can beat them on our own. It takes longer, sure, to 
build up genuinely libertarian working class organs, but it's worth it 
simply because then our strength is part of us, and it can't be taken 
away by someone offering to "wield it on our behalf" (or saying that 
they will break the stick when they get it). And what do socialist and 
radical parties do? Offer to fight on our behalf and if we rely on others 
to act for us then we will be disarmed when they do not (and instead use
the stick against us). Given the fact that power corrupts, any claim
that by giving the stick of state power to a party we can get rid of
it once and for all is naive to say the least.

And, we feel, history has proven us right time and time again.

J.2.7 Surely we should vote for reformist parties in order to show
      them up for what they are?

Some Leninist socialists (like the British Socialist Workers Party and their
offshoots like ISO in the USA) argue that we should urge people to vote for
Labour and other social democratic parties. This is because of two reasons.

Firstly, it is argued, radicals will be able to reach more people by 
being seen to support popular, trade union based parties. If they do not,
then they are in danger of alienating sizeable sections of the working class 
by arguing that such parties will be no better than explicitly pro-capitalist 
ones. 

The second argument, and the more important one, is that by electing reformist 
parties into office the experience of living under such a government will 
shatter whatever illusions its supporters had in them. In other words, by 
getting reformist parties elected into office they will be given the test of 
experience. And when they betray their supporters to protect the status 
quo the experience will radicalise those who voted for them, who will then 
seek out *real* socialist parties (namely the likes of the SWP and ISO).

Anarchists reject these arguments for three reasons. 

Firstly, it is a deeply dishonest tactic as it hides the true thoughts of 
those who support the tactic. To tell the truth is a revolutionary act. 
Radicals should not follow the capitalist media by telling half-truths or 
distorting the facts or what they believe. They should not hide their 
politics or suggest they support a system or party they are opposed to. If 
this means being less popular in the short run, then so be it. Attacking 
capitalism, religion, or a host of other things can alienate people but few 
radicals would be so opportunistic as to hold their tongues attacking these.
In the long run being honest about your ideas is the best way of producing
a movement which aims to get rid of a corrupt social system. Starting such
a movement with half-truths is doomed to failure.

Secondly, anarchists reject the logic of this theory. The logic underlying
this argument is that by being disillusioned by their reformist leaders
and party, voters will look for *new,* "better" leaders and parties. However,
this fails to go to the root of the problem, namely the dependence on
leaders which hierarchical society creates within people. Anarchists do not
want people to follow the "best" leadership, they want them to govern 
themselves, to be *self*-active, manage their own affairs and not follow 
any would-be leaders. If you seriously think that the liberation of the 
oppressed is the task of the oppressed themselves (as these Leninists claim 
to do) then you *must* reject this tactic in favour of ones that promote 
working class self-activity.

And the third reason is that this tactic has been proven to fail time and
time again. What most of its supporters seem to fail to notice is that 
voters have indeed put reformist parties into office many times (for example, 
there have been 7 Labour Party governments in Britain before 1997, all of 
whom attacked the working class) and there has been no movement away from 
them to something more radical. Lenin suggested this tactic over 70 
years ago and there has been no general radicalisation of the voting 
population by this method, nor even in reformist party militants. Indeed, 
ironically enough, most such activists have left their parties when its 
been out of office and they have become disgusted by the party's attempts 
to appear "realistic" in order to win the next election! And this disgust
often expresses itself as a demoralisation with socialism *as such*, 
rather than with their party's watered down version of it.

This total failure, for anarchists, is not surprising, considering the
reasons why we reject this tactic. Given that this tactic does not attack
hierarchy or dependence on leaders, does not attack the ideology and
process of voting, it will obviously fail to present a real alternative 
to the voting population (who will turn to other alternatives available
at election time and not embrace direct action). Also, the sight of a 
so-called "socialist" or "radical" government managing capitalism, imposing 
cuts, breaking strikes and generally attacking its supporters will damage the 
credibility of any form of socialism and discredit all socialist and radical
ideas in the eyes of the population. And if the experience of the Labour
Government in Britain during the 1970s is anything to go by, it may result 
in the rise of the right-wing who will capitalise on this disillusionment. 

By refusing to argue that no government is "on our side," radicals who urge 
us to vote reformist "without illusions" help to disarm theoretically the 
people who listen to them. Working class people, surprised, confused and 
disorientated by the constant "betrayals" of left-wing parties may turn 
to right wing parties (who can be elected) to stop the attacks rather 
than turn to direct action as the radical minority within the working 
class did not attack voting as part of the problem.

How many times must we elect the same party, go through the same process,
the same betrayals before we realise this tactic does not work? And, if
it *is* a case of having to experience something before people reject it, few
state socialists take this argument to its logical conclusion. We rarely
hear them argue we must experience the hell of fascism or Stalinism or the
nightmare of free market capitalism in order to ensure working class people
"see through" them.

Anarchists, in contrast, say that we can argue against reformist politics 
without having to associate ourselves with them by urging people to vote for 
them. By arguing for abstentionism we can help arm theoretically people who 
will come into conflict with these parties once they are in office. By arguing 
that all governments will be forced to attack us (due to the pressure from 
capital and state) and that we have to reply on our own organisations and 
power to defend ourselves, we can promote working class self-confidence in 
its own abilities, and encourage the rejection of capitalism, the state and 
hierarchical leadership as well as encouraging the use of direct action.

And, we may add, it is not required for radicals to associate themselves with 
the farce of parliamentary propaganda in order to win people over to our 
ideas. Non-anarchists will see us use *direct action,* see us *act,* see 
the anarchistic alternatives we create and see and read our propaganda. 
Non-anarchists can be reached quite well without taking part or associating 
ourselves with parliamentary action.

J.2.8 Will abstentionism lead to the right winning elections?

Possibly. However anarchists don't just say "don't vote", we say "organise"
as well. Apathy is something anarchists have no interest in encouraging. So,
"[i]f the anarchists could persuade half the electorate to abstain from
voting this would, from an electoral point of view, contribute to the 
[electoral] victory of the Right. But it would be a hollow victory, for 
what government could rule when half the electorate by not voting had 
expressed its lack of confidence in all governments?" [Vernon Richards,
_The Impossibilities of Social Democracy_, p. 142]

In other words, whichever party was in office would have to rule over a
country in which a sizeable minority, even a majority, had rejected 
government as such. This would mean that the politicians "would be 
subjected to real pressures from people who believed in their own power" 
and acted accordingly. So anarchists call on people *not* to vote,
but instead organise themselves and be conscious of their own power 
both as individuals and as part of a union with others. Only this 
"can command the respect of governments, can curb the power of government 
as millions of crosses on bits of paper never will." [Ibid.]

As Emma Goldman pointed out, "if the Anarchists were strong enough to
swing the elections to the Left, they must also have been strong enough
to rally the workers to a general strike, or even a series of strikes. . .
In the last analysis, the capitalist class knows too well that officials,
whether they belong to the Right or the Left, can be bought. Or they are
of no consequence to their pledge." [_Vision on Fire_, p. 90]

The mass of the population, however, cannot be bought off and if they
are willing and able to resist then they can become a power second to none. 
Only by organising, fighting back and practising solidarity where we live 
and work can we *really* change things. That is where *our* power lies, that 
is where we can create a *real* alternative. By creating a network of 
self-managed, pro-active community and workplace organisations we can 
impose by direct action that which politicians can never give us from 
Parliament. And only such a movement can stop the attacks upon us by whoever 
gets into office. A government (left or right) which faces a mass movement 
based upon direct action and solidarity will always think twice before 
proposing cuts or introducing authoritarian laws.

Of course, all the parties claim that they are better than the others
and this is the logic of this question -- namely, we must vote for the
lesser evil as the right-wing in office will be terrible. But what this 
forgets is that the lesser evil is still an evil. What happens is that 
instead of the greater evil attacking us, we get the lesser evil doing 
what the right-wing was going to do. And, since we are discussing the
"lesser evil," let us not forget it was the "lesser evil" of the Democrats 
(in the USA) and Labour (in the UK) who introduced the monetarist and
other policies that Reagan and Thatcher made their own (and we may add
that the US Air Traffic Controllers union endorsed Reagan against Carter
in 1980 because they thought they would get a better deal out of the
Republicans. Reagan then went on to bust the union once in office). Simply 
put, we cannot expect a different group of politicians to react differently 
to the same economic and political pressures and influences.

So, voting for other politicians will make little difference. The reality
is that politicians are puppets. As we argued above (in section J.2.2) 
real power in the state does not lie with politicians, but instead within 
the state bureaucracy and big business. Faced with these powers, we have 
seen left-wing governments from Spain to New Zealand introduce right-wing
policies. So even if we elected a radical party, they would be powerless 
to change anything important and soon be forced to attack us in the 
interests of capitalism. Politicians come and go, but the state bureaucracy 
and big business remain forever!

Therefore we cannot rely on voting for the lesser evil to safe us from 
the possible dangers of a right-wing election victory brought about by
abstentionism. All we can hope for is that no matter who gets in, the
population will resist the government because it knows and can use its
real power - direct action. For the "only limit to the oppression of
government is the power with which the people show themselves capable
of opposing it." [Errico Malatesta, _Life and Ideas_, p. 196] Hence
Vernon Richards:

"If the anarchist movement has a role to play in practical politics
it is surely that of suggesting to, and persuading, as many people
as possible that their freedom from the Hilters, Francos and the
rest, depends not on the right to vote or securing a majority of
votes 'for the candidate of ones choice,' but on evolving new
forms of political and social organisation which aim at the direct
participation of the people, with the consequent weakening of the
power, as well of the social role, of government in the life of
the community." [_The Raven_, no. 14, pp. 177-8]

We discuss what new forms of political and social organisations 
anarchists encourage in section J.5.

J.2.9 What do anarchists do instead of voting?

While anarchists reject electioneering and voting, it does not mean
that we are politically apathetic. Indeed, part of the reason why
anarchists reject voting is because we think that voting is not part of 
the solution, its part of the problem. This is because it endorses an 
unjust and unfree political system and makes us look to others to fight 
our battles for us. It *blocks* constructive self-activity and direct 
action. It *stops* the building of alternatives in our communities and 
workplaces. Voting breeds apathy and apathy is our worse enemy. 

Given that we have had universal suffrage for well over 50 years in many
countries and we have seen the rise of Labour and Radical parties aiming
to use that system to effect change in a socialistic manner, it seems
strange that we are probably further away from socialism than when 
they started. The simple fact is that these parties have spent so much
time trying to win elections that they have stopped even thinking about
creating socialist alternatives in our communities and workplaces. That
is in itself enough to prove that electioneering, far from eliminating
apathy, in fact helps to create it.

So, because of this, anarchists argue that the only way to not waste your 
vote is to spoil it! We are the only political movement who argue that 
nothing will change unless you act for yourself, take back the power 
and fight the system *directly.* Only direct action breaks down apathy 
and gets results -- and its the first steps towards real freedom, towards 
a free and just society.

Therefore anarchists are the first to point out that not voting is not 
enough -- we need to actively struggle for an alternative to both voting 
*and* the current system. Just as the right to vote was won after a long 
series of struggles, so the creation of a free, decentralised, self-managed, 
libertarian socialist society will be the product of social struggle. 

Anarchists are the last people to deny the importance of political
liberties or the importance in wining the right to vote. The question we
must ask is whether it is a more a fitting tribute to the millions of people 
who used direct action, fought and suffered for the right to vote to use 
that victory to endorse a deeply unfair and undemocratic system or to use 
other means (indeed the means they used to win the vote) to create a system
based upon true popular self-government? If we are true to our (and
their) desire for a real, meaningful democracy, we would have to reject 
political action in favour of direct action. So, if we desire a truly 
libertarian and democratic society then its clear that the vote will not 
achieve it (and indeed put back the struggle for such a society).

This obviously gives an idea of what anarchists do instead of voting,
we agitate, organise and educate. While we will discuss the various
alternatives anarchists propose and attempt to organise in more detail
in section J.5 ( What alternative social organisations do anarchists 
create?) it is useful to give a brief introduction to anarchist activity
here, activity which bases itself on the two broad strategies of encouraging
direct action and building alternatives where we live and work.

Taking the first strategy, anarchists say that by using direct action we
can force politicians to respect the wishes of the people. For example,
if a government or boss tries to limit free speech, then anarchists would
try to encourage a free speech fight to break the laws in question until
such time as they were revoked. If a government or landlord refuses to
limit rent increases or improve safety requirements for accommodation, 
anarchists would organise squats and rent strikes. In the case of 
environmental destruction, anarchists would support and encourage attempts
at halting the damage by mass trespassing on sites, blocking the routes 
of developments, organising strikes and so on. If a boss refuses to 
introduce an 8 hour day, then workers should form a union and go on 
strike or stop working after 8 hours. Unlike laws, the boss cannot ignore
direct action (and if such action is successful, the state will hurry to
pass a law about it).

Similarly, strikes combined with social protest would be effective means of 
stopping authoritarian laws being passed. For example anti-union laws would 
be best fought by strike action and community boycotts (and given the utterly
ineffectual defence pursued by pro-labour parties using political action
to stop anti-union laws who can seriously say that the anarchist way would
be any worse?). And of course collective non-payment of taxes would ensure
the end of unpopular government decisions. The example of the poll tax
rebellion in the UK in the late 1980s shows the power of such direct
action. The government could happily handle hours of speeches by opposition
politicians but they could not ignore social protest (and we must add
that the Labour Party which claimed to oppose the tax happily let the
councils controlled by them introduce the tax and arrest non-payers). 

As Noam Chomsky argues, "[w]ithin the constraints of existing state
institutions, policies will be determined by people representing
centres of concentrated power in the private economy, people who,
in their institutional roles, will not be swayed by moral appeals
but by the costs consequent upon the decisions they make -- not
because they are 'bad people,' but because that is what the 
institutional roles demands." He continues by arguing that "[t]hose
who own and manage the society want a disciplined, apathetic and
submissive public that will not challenge their privilege and the
orderly world in which it thrives. The ordinary citizen need not
grant them this gift. Enhancing the Crisis of Democracy by organisation
and political engagement is itself a threat to power, a reason to
undertake it quite apart from its crucial importance in itself as an
essential step towards social change." [_Turning the Tide_, pp. 251-2]

In this way, by encouraging social protest, any government would think 
twice before pursuing authoritarian, destructive and unpopular policies. In
the final analysis, governments can and will ignore the talk of opposition
politicians, but they cannot ignore social action for very long. In
the words of a Spanish anarcho-syndicalist, anarchists 

"do not ask for any concessions from the government. Our mission and our 
duty is to impose from the streets that which ministers and deputies are 
incapable of realising in parliament." [quoted by Graham Kelsey, 
_Anarchosyndicalism, Libertarian Communism and the State_, p. 79]

The second strategy of building alternatives flows naturally from the
first. Any form of campaign requires organisation and by organising in
an anarchist manner we build organisations that "bear in them the living
seed of the new society which is replace the old world" (to use Bakunin's
words). In organising strikes in the workplace and community we can create a 
network of activists and union members who can encourage a spirit of revolt 
against authority. By creating assemblies where we live and work we can create 
an effective countering power to the state and capital. Such a union, as the 
anarchists in Spain and Italy proved, can be the focal point for recreating 
self-managed schools, social centres and so on. In this way the local 
community can ensure that it has sufficient independent, self-managed 
resources available to educate its members. Also, combined with credit 
unions (or mutual banks), co-operative workplaces and stores, a self-managed 
infrastructure could be created which would ensure that people can directly 
provide for their own needs without having to rely on capitalists or 
governments.

In other words, an essential part of anarchist activity is (in the
words of a C.N.T. militant):

"We must create that part of libertarian communism which can be created 
within bourgeois society and do so precisely to combat that society with 
our own special weapons." [quoted Op. Cit., p. 79] 

So, far from doing nothing, by not voting the anarchist actively encourages 
alternatives. As the British anarchist John Turner argued, anarchists "have
a line to work upon, to teach the people self-reliance, to urge them to
take part in non-political [i.e. non-electoral] movements directly started
by themselves for themselves. . . as soon as people learn to rely upon
themselves they will act for themselves. . . We teach the people to place
their faith in themselves, we go on the lines of self-help. We teach them
to form their own committees of management, to repudiate their masters,
to despise the laws of the country. . ." [quoted by John Quail, _The
Slow Burning Fuse_, p. 87] In this way we encourage self-activity,
self-organisation and self-help -- the opposite of apathy and doing
nothing.

But what about government policies which actually do help people? 
While anarchists would "hesitate to condemn those measures taken by 
governments which obviously benefited the people, unless we saw the 
immediate possibility of people carrying them out for themselves. This
would not inhibit us from declaring at the same time that what initiatives
governments take would be more successfully taken by the people themselves
if they put their minds to the same problems. . . to build up a hospital
service or a transport system, for instance, from local needs into a national
organisation, by agreement and consent at all levels is surely more
economical as well as efficient than one which is conceived at top level
[by the state]. . . where Treasury, political and other pressures, not
necessarily connected with what we would describe as *needs*, influence the
shaping of policies." [_The Raven_, no. 14, p. 179]

Ultimately, what the state and capital gives, they can also take away.
What we build by our own self-activity can last as long as we want it
to and act to protect it. And anarchists are convinced that:

"The future belongs to those who continue daringly, consistently, to fight
power and governmental authority. The future belongs to us and to our
social philosophy. For it is the only social ideal that teaches independent
thinking and direct participation of the workers in their economic struggle
[and working class people in their social struggles, we may add]. For it is
only through he organised economic [and social] strength of the masses that
they can and will do away with the capitalist system and all the wrongs 
and injustices it contains. Any diversion from this stand will only retard
our movement and make it a stepping stone for political climbers." [Emma
Goldman, _Vision on Fire_, p. 92]

J.2.10 Does rejecting electioneering mean that anarchists are apolitical?

No. Far from it. The "apolitical" nature of anarchism is Marxist nonsense. 
As it desires to fundamentally change society, anarchism can be nothing
but political. However, anarchism does reject (as we have seen) "normal"
political activity as ineffectual and corrupting. However, many (particularly
Marxists) imply this reject of the con of capitalist politics means
that anarchists concentration on purely "economic" issues like wages,
working conditions and so forth. And, by so doing, Marxists claim that
anarchists leave the political agenda to be dominated by capitalist
ideology, with disastrous results for the working class.

This view, however, is *totally* wrong. Indeed, Bakunin explicitly rejected
the idea that working people could ignore politics and actually agreed
with the Marxists that political indifference only led to capitalist 
control of the labour movement:

"[some of] the workers in Germany . . . [were organised in] a kind of 
federation of small associations. . . 'Self-help'. . .  was its slogan,
in the sense that labouring people were persistently advised not to 
anticipate either deliverance or help from the state and the government,
but only from their own efforts. This advise would have been excellent
had it not been accompanied by the false assurance that liberation for
the labouring people is possible under *current conditions of social
organisation* . . . Under this delusion. . . the workers subject to [this]
influence were supposed to disengage themselves systematically from all
political and social concerns and questions about the state, property,
and so forth. . . [This] completely subordinated the proletariat to the
bourgeoisie which exploits it and for which it was to remain an obedient
and mindless tool." [_Statism and Anarchy_, p. 174]

In addition, Bakunin argued that the labour movement (and so the anarchist
movement) would have to take into account political ideas and struggles
but to do so in a working class way:

"The International does not reject politics of a general kind; it
will be compelled to intervene in politics so long as it is forced
to struggle against the bourgeoisie. It rejects only bourgeois
politics." [_The Political Philosophy of Bakunin_, p. 313]

So, anarchists reject capitalist politics (i.e. electioneering), but we 
do not ignore politics nor wider political discussion. Anarchists have 
always recognised the importance of political debate and ideas in social 
movements. As Bakunin argued should "the International [an international 
organisation of working class unions and groups]. . . cease to concern itself 
with political and philosophical questions? Would [it] . . . ignore progress 
in the world of thought as well as the events which accompany or arise from 
the political struggle in and between states[?] . . . We hasten to say that it 
is absolutely impossible to ignore political and philosophical questions. An 
exclusive pre-occupation with economic questions would be fatal for the 
proletariat. . . [I]t is impossible for the workers to stop there without 
renouncing their humanity and depriving themselves of the intellectual and 
moral power which is so necessary for the conquest of their economic rights." 
[_Bakunin on Anarchism_, p. 301]

Nor do anarchists ignore elections. As Vernon Richards argues, anarchists
"cannot be uninterested in . . . election results, whatever their view 
about the demerits of the contending Parties. The fact that the anarchist
movement has campaigned to persuade people not to use their vote is
proof of our commitment and interest. If there is, say, a 60 per cent.
poll we will not assume that the 40 per cent. abstentions are anarchists,
but we would surely be justified in drawing the conclusion that among
the 40 per cent. there are a sizeable minority who have lost faith in
political parties and were looking for other instruments, other values."
[_The Impossibilities of Social Democracy_, p. 141] 

Thus the charge anarchists are apolitical or indifferent to politics
(even capitalist politics) is a myth. Rather, "we are not concerned 
with choosing between governments but with creating the situation
where government can no longer operate, because only then will we
organise locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to
satisfy real needs and common aspirations." For "so long as we 
have capitalism and government, the job of anarchists is to fight
both, and at the same time encourage people to take what steps 
they can to run their own lives." [Vernon Richards, _The Raven_,
no. 14, p. 179] 

Part of this process will be the discussion of political, social and 
economic issues in whatever self-managed organisations people create 
in their communities and workplaces (as Bakunin argued) and the use 
of these organisations to fight for (political, social and economic)
improvements and reforms in the here and now using direct action and 
solidarity. 

This means, as Rudolf Rocker points out, anarchists desire a 
unification of political and economic struggles as the two as 
inseparable:

"The Anarchists represent the viewpoint that the war against capitalism 
must be at the same time a war against all institutions of political power,
for in history economic exploitation has always gone hand in hand with
political and social oppression. The exploitation of man by man and the
domination of man over man are inseparable, and each is the condition
of the other." [_Anarcho-Syndicalism_, p. 15]

Such a unification must take place on the social and economic field, not
the political, as that is where the working class is strongest. In other 
words anarchists "are not in any way opposed to the political struggle, but 
in their opinion this struggle. . . must take the form of direct action. . .
It would. . . be absurd for them [the working class] to overlook the
importance of the political struggle. Every event that affects the live of
the community is of a political nature. In this sense every important
economic action. . . is also a political action and, moreover, one of
incomparably greater importance than any parliamentary proceeding."
[Rudolf Rocker, Op. Cit., pp. 65-66] Hence the comments in the 
C.N.T.'s newspaper _Solidaridad Obrera_:

"Does anyone not know that we want to participate in public life? Does
anyone not know that we have always done so? Yes, we want to participate.
With our organisations. With our papers. Without intermediaries, delegates
or representatives. No. We will not go to the Town Hall, to the Provincial
Capitol, to Parliament." [quoted by Jose Pierats, _Anarchists in the
Spanish Revolution_, p. 173]

So, anarchists reject the idea that political and economic struggles can
be divided. Such an argument just reproduces the artificially created
division of labour between mental and physical activity of capitalism
within working class organisations and within anti-capitalist movements.
We say that we should not separate out politics into some form of
specialised activity that only certain people (i.e. our "representatives")
can do. Instead, anarchists argue that political struggles, ideas and
debates must be brought into the *social* and *economic* organisations
of our class where they must be debated freely by all members as they
see fit and that political and economic struggle and change must go
hand in hand.

History indicates that any attempt at taking social and economic issues 
into political parties has resulting in wasted energy and the watering down
of these issues into pure reformism. In the words of Bakunin, such activity
suggests that "a political revolution should precede a social revolution . . . 
[which] is a great and fatal error, because every political revolution taking 
place prior to and consequently without a social revolution must necessarily 
be a bourgeois revolution, and a bourgeois revolution can only be instrumental 
in bringing about bourgeois Socialism", i.e. State Capitalism. [_The Political 
Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 289] 

We have discussed this process of socialist parties becoming reformist in
section J.2.6 and will not repeat ourselves here. Only by rejecting the
artificial divisions of capitalist society can we remain true to our
ideals of liberty, equality and solidarity. Anarchists "maintain that
the State organisation, having been the force to which minorities resorted
for establishing and organising their power over the masses, cannot be
the force which will serve to destroy these privileges." [Peter Kropotkin,
_Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets_, p. 170]. Every example of radicals 
using the state has resulted in them being changed by the system instead of 
them changing it and, to use Bakunin's words, "tied the proletariat to
the bourgeois towline" (i.e. resulted in working class movements becoming
dominated by capitalist ideas and activity - becoming "realistic" and 
"practical").

Therefore Anarchist argue that such a union of political ideas and social 
organisation and activity is essential for promoting radical politics as it 
"digs a chasm between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and places the 
proletariat outside the activity and political conniving of all parties 
within the State. . . in placing itself outside all bourgeois politics, the 
proletariat necessarily turns against it." So, by "placing the proletariat 
outside the politics in the State and of the bourgeois world, [the union 
movement] thereby constructed a new world, the world of the united 
proletarians of all lands." [Michael Bakunin, Op. Cit., p. 303, p. 305]

In addition, so-called "economic" struggles do not occur in a social vacuum. 
They take place in a social and political context and so, necessarily, there 
can exist an separation of political and economic struggles only in the 
mind. Strikers or eco-warriors, for example, face the power of the state
enforcing laws which protect the power of employers and polluters. This
necessarily has a "political" impact on those involved in struggle. As
Bakunin argued social struggle results in "the spontaneous and direct 
development of philosophical and sociological in the International [i.e. 
union/social movement], ideas which inevitably develop side by side with and
are produced by the first two movements [of strikes and union organising]." 
[Op. Cit., p. 304] By channeling any "political" conclusions drawn by 
those involved in struggle into electoral politics, this development of
political ideas and discussion will be distorted into discussions of what
is possible in the current system, and so the radical impact of direct
action and social struggle is weakened.

Therefore anarchists reject electioneering not because they are "apolitical"
but because they do not desire to see politics remain a thing purely for
politicians and experts. Political issues are far too important to leave to
such people. Anarchists desire to see political discussion and change
develop from the bottom up, this is hardly "apolitical" - in fact with our
desire to see ordinary people directly discuss the issues that affect them,
act to change things by their own action and draw their own conclusions 
from their own activity anarchists are very "political." The process of
individual and social liberation is the most political activity we can think
of!

J.3 What kinds of organisation do anarchists build?

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 section J.5 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).

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.

Anarchist organisation in all its forms reflects the anarchist desire 
to "build the new world in the shell of the old" 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.

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:

"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."[_Anarchy_, 
p. 36]

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, "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." [Errico Malatesta, _The Anarchist Revolution_, p. 95]

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 *within* so-called anti-capitalist organisations which originally
motivated us to oppose capitalism in the first place. Because of this,
anarchists regard "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." [_The Spanish Anarchists_, 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, "facts are before ideas; yes, the ideal, 
as Proudhon said, is but a flower whose root lies in the material conditions
of existence." [Bakunin, _God and the State_, 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):

"How could one want an egalitarian and free society to issue from 
an authoritarian organisation? It is impossible." 

We must stress here that anarchists are *not* opposed to organisation
and are *not* opposed to organisations of anarchists (i.e. *political*
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 "real question at issue here is 
not 0organisation versus non-organisation, but rather what *kind* 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 *voluntarily,* by means of a 
self-discipline nourished by conviction and understanding."
[_Post-Scarcity Anarchism_, pp. 214-215]

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 "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" and 
organise their groups accordingly. Section J.3.1 discusses the basic
building block of specifically anarchist organisations, the "affinity 
group." Sections J.3.2, J.3.3, J.3.4 and J.3.5, we discuss the main 
types of federations of "affinity groups" anarchist create to help 
spread our message and influence. Then section J.3.6 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 "Invisible Dictatorship" 
and paint a picture of him (and, by implication, all anarchists)as a 
hierarchical would-be dictator. Section J.3.7 analyses these claims 
and shows why they are wrong. Finally, in section J.3.8 and J.3.9 we 
discuss anarcho-syndicalism and other anarchists attitudes to it.

The power of ideas cannot be under estimated, for "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" [_The Anarchist Revolution_, 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.

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.

J.3.1 What are affinity groups?

Affinity groups are the basic organisation which anarchists 
create to spread the anarchist idea. The term "affinity group" 
comes from the Spanish F.A.I. (_Iberian Anarchist Federation_) 
and refers to the organisational form devised by the Spanish 
Anarchists in their struggles. It is the English translation 
of "grupo de afinidad." 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 *within* 
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:

"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." [Murray Bookchin, _Post-Scarcity Anarchism_, 
p. 221]

The reason for this is simple, for a "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." [_The Spanish 
Anarchists_, p. 180]

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.

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).

Affinity groups exist to achieve these aims and are structured to 
encourage them.

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 "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." [Bookchin, Ibid.] In 
other words, "affinity groups" aim to be the "living germs" of 
the new society in *all* aspects, not purely in a structurally way.

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 "[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." [Errico Malatesta, _The Anarchist Revolution_, p. 101]

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 *why*
anarchists organise in that way. For a discussion on the role these groups 
play in anarchist theory, see section J.3.6. 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 *against* injustice into struggles 
*for* a free society, as we will discuss later.

To aid in this process of propaganda, agitation, political discussion 
and development, anarchists organise federations of affinity groups. 
These take three main forms, "synthesis" federations (see section 
J.3.2), "Platformist" federations (see section J.3.3 and section 
J.3.4 for criticism of this tendency) and "class struggle" groups 
(see section J.3.5). 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 *not* 
mean that other kinds of organisations are not class-struggle!
 
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.

It must be stressed anarchists do not reduce the complex issue of 
political organisation and ideas into *one* 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.

J.3.2 	What are "synthesis" federations?
 
As noted in the last section, there are three main types of affinity 
group federation -- "synthesis", "class struggle" (our term) and  
"platformist." In this section we discuss "synthesis" federations. 

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 "the 
anarchist synthesis" and was also the author of the article 
in Faure's _Encyclopedie Anarchiste_ on the very same topic. 
However, its roots lie in the Russian revolution and the _Nabat_ 
federation (or the "Anarchist Organisations of the Ukraine") 
created in 1918. The aim of the _Nabat_ was "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." [_No Gods, 
No Masters_, vol. 2, p. 117]

The "synthesis" organisation is based on uniting all kinds of 
anarchists in one federation as there is, to use the words of 
the _Nabat_, "validity in all anarchist schools of thought. We 
must consider all diverse tendencies and accept them." [cited 
in "The Reply," _Constructive Anarchism_, p. 32] The "synthesis" 
organisation attempts to get different kinds of anarchists 
"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." [Ibid.] 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.

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:

"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." [Ibid.]

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 
"anarchism without adjectives" approach favoured by many anarchists 
(see section A.3.8 for details). However, in practice many
"synthesis" organisations are more restrictive (for example, 
they could aim to unite all *social* 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.

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 "certain ideological 
and tactical unity among organisations" within the "synthesis" 
federation. [Op. Cit., p. 35]

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 "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." 
[Op. Cit., p. 33] This, as we shall see in section J.3.6, 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).

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.

This is why we find the original promoters of the "synthesis" arguing
that "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." [Ibid., p. 35]

The "synthesis" idea for anarchist organisation was taken up by those 
who opposed the Platform (see next section). 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).

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.

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 
*not* to participate on a specific issue while leaving others to do 
so. Thus groups can concentrate on what they are interested in most.

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.

The _French Anarchist Federation_ is a good example of a successful
federation which is heavily influenced by "synthesis" ideas (as is
the _Italian Anarchist Federation_ 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.

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. 

It is this (potential) disunity that lead the authors of 
the Platform to argue that "[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." [_The Organisational Platform of the 
Libertarian Communists_, p. 12] The Platform suggested 
"Theoretical and Tactical Unity" as a means of overcoming 
this problem, but that term provoked massive disagreement 
in anarchist circles (see section J.3.4). 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 "Theoretical
and Tactical Unity" 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!

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 _Anarchist 
Federation of Britain_, 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 *very* 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 next section). Other social anarchists create the 
"class struggle" type of  federation  (this is a common 
organisational form in Britain, for example) as discussed 
in section J.3.5.

J.3.3 	What is the "Platform"?

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
"The Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists" 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 next section. Here we discuss what the 
Platform argued for.

Like the "synthesis" federation (see last section), 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 section H 
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.

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, 
_The Unknown Revolution_, 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 *before* the revolution. 
In the first paragraph they state:

"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." [_Organisational Platform of the 
Libertarian Communists_, p. 11]

This weakness in the movement derived from a number of causes, the main 
one being "the absence of organisational principles and practices" within 
the anarchist movement. Indeed, they argued, "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." This explained the "contradiction between the positive
and incontestable substance of libertarian ideas, and the miserable state in
which the anarchist movement vegetates." [Ibid.] 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.

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 "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." [Op. Cit., p. 14] And, again, 
like most anarchists, the Platform aimed to "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," one based on a "federalist system of workers 
organisations of production and consumption, united federatively and 
self-administering." In addition, they argued that the "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." [Op. Cit., 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).

In order to create such a free society it is necessary, argue the 
Plaformists, "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)" [Op. Cit., p. 20] Again, most 
anarchists would agree with this along with the argument that 
"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." [Op. Cit., 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.

This "leadership of ideas" (see also section J.3.6 for more on this) 
would aim at developing and co-ordinating libertarian feelings already 
existing within social struggle. "Although the masses," explains the 
Platform, "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." [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.

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 
"Organisational Section," the shortest and most contentious section 
of the whole work. They call this the _General Union of Anarchists_. 
This is where they introduce the concepts of "Theoretical and Tactical 
Unity " and "Collective Responsibility," concepts which are unique 
to the Platform.

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.

By "Theoretical Unity" 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).

Which brings us to "Tactical Unity." By "Tactical Unity" the 
Platform meant that the members of an organisation should struggle 
together *as an organised force* 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.

Thus "Theoretical and Tactical Unity" 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.

Which brings us to "Collective Responsibility," which the Platform 
defines as "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." [Op. Cit., p. 32]

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 "the 
tactic of irresponsible individualism" [Ibid.]). However, with 
"Collective Responsibility," the strength of all the individuals 
that make up the group is magnified and collectively applied. 
However, as one supporter of the Platform notes:

"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." 
[_Red and Black Revolution_, no. 4, p. 30]

The last principle in the "Organisational Section" of the Platform is 
"Federalism," which it defines as "the free agreement of individuals
and organisations to work collectively towards a common objective"
and allows the "reconcil[ing] the independence and initiative of 
individuals and the organisation with service to the common cause."
[Op. Cit., p. 33] However, the Platform argues that this principle has
been "deformed" within the movement to mean the "right" to "manifest
one's 'ego,' without obligation to account for duties as regards the
organisation" one is a member of. [Ibid.] In order to overcome this
problem, they stress that "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." [Op. Cit., pp. 33-4]

As part of their solution to the problem of anarchist organisation, 
the Platform suggested that each group would have "its secretariat, 
executing and guiding theoretically the political and technical
work of the organisation." [Op. Cit., p. 34] Moreover, the Platform 
suggests that "a special organ [must] be created: *the executive 
committee of the Union*" which would "be in charge" of "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." The rights, responsibilities and practical
tasks of the executive committee are fixed by the congress of the 
Union. [Ibid.] This suggestion, unsurprisingly, meet with strong 
disapproval by most anarchists, as we will see in the next section,
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 "secretariat" 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 "Theoretical and Tactical Unity" and "Collective Responsibility").

Similarly, most modern day Platformists reject the idea of gathering
all anarchists into one organisation. The original Platform seemed 
to imply that the _General Union_ 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.

As well as the original Platform, most Platformists place the 
_Manifesto of Libertarian Communism_ by Georges Fontenis and 
_Towards a Fresh Revolution_ by the "Friends of Durruti" as landmark 
texts in the Platformist tradition. A few anarcho-syndicalists 
question this last claim, arguing that the "Friends of Durruti" 
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. 

There are numerous Platformist and Platformist influenced organisations 
in the world today. These include the Irish based _Workers Solidarity 
Movement_, the British _Anarchist Communist Federation_, the French 
_Libertarian Alternative_, the Swiss _Libertarian Socialist 
Organisation_, the Italian _Federation of Anarchist Communists_ 
and the South African _Workers Solidarity Federation_.

In the next section we discuss the objections that most anarchists 
have towards the Platform.

J.3.4	Why do many anarchists oppose the "Platform"?

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 "Bolshevise
anarchism" 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?

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 "Transitional Period" in theory, they accepted it 
in practice, for example) the main bone of contention was found in the
"Organisational Section" with its call for "Tactical and Theoretical Unity,"
"Collective Responsibility" and group and executive "secretariats" 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.

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 "go[ing] into the
masses. . . , work[ing] with them, struggle for their soul, and attempt to win
it *ideologically* [sic!] and give it guidance." [_Constructive Anarchism_, 
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 "not the
rejection of *leadership,* but making certain it is *free* and *natural.*" 
[Ibid.] Malatesta made the same point and posed two 'alternatives': Either 
we "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....'"or we "can 
also direct by taking over command, that is by becoming a government." 
He asked the Platformists, "In which manner do you wish to direct?" 
[_The Anarchist Revolution_, p. 108]

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 "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." This was because of the "Executive
Committee" in the Platform which would "give ideological and organisational
direction to the [anarchist] association." [Op. Cit., p. 110]

Maximoff makes the same point when he notes that when the Platform 
argues that anarchists must "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" [_The
Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists_, p. 25] this
implies that anarchists in the unions are responsible to the anarchist
federation, *not* to the union assemblies that elected them. As he
puts it, according to the Platform, anarchists "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." [_Constructive
Anarchism_, p. 19] However, Maximoff's argument may be considered 
harsh as the Platform argues that anarchism "aspires neither to political 
power nor dictatorship" [Op. Cit., 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
"leadership of ideas" concept (see section J.3.6) 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.

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 "help bring
about the triumph of anarchism." [_The Anarchist Revolution_, 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.

With an structure based round "secretariats" and "executive committees"
the "will of the [General] Union [of Anarchists] can only mean the will
of the majority, expressed through congresses which nominate and 
control the *Executive Committee* 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."  This, he argues, "comes down to a pure 
majority system, to pure parliamentarianism" and so non-anarchist 
in nature. [Op. Cit., p. 100]

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 "has a special character . . . Each 
organisation (i.e. association of members with the right to individual
initiative) has its secretariat which . . . *directs* 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." [_Constructive Anarchism_, p. 18] This seems to
be the logical conclusion of the structure suggested by the Platform. 
"The spirit," argued Malatesta, "the tendency remains authoritarian 
and the educational effect would remain anti-anarchist." [_The
Anarchist Revolution_, p. 98] 

Malatesta, in contrast, argued that an anarchist organisation must be
based on the "[f]ull autonomy, full independence and therefore the
full responsibility of individuals and groups" with all organisational
work done "freely, in such a way that the thought and initiative of
individuals is not obstructed." The individual members of such an
organisation "express any opinion and use any tactic which is not
in contradiction with accepted principles and which does not harm
the activities of others." Moreover, the administrative bodies such
organisations nominate would "have no executive powers, have no
directive powers" 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 "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."
[Op. Cit., p. 101, p. 102, p. 101] Such an organisation does not 
exclude collective decisions and self-assumed obligations, rather
it is based upon them.

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 *really* 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. 

So in what way did Malatesta disagree with this concept? As we 
mentioned in the last section, the Platform defined the idea of 
 "Collective Responsibility" as "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." To which Malatesta commented
as follows:

"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?" [Op. 
Cit., p. 99]

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 "submit to the 
decisions of the majority before they have even heard what those 
might be."[Op. Cit., 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.

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, "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." ["The Reply", _Constructive Anarchism_, pp. 35-6] 

Thus it is likely that "Collective Responsibility" taken to its logical
end would actually *hinder* 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 
"activities of local organisations can be adapted, as far as possible, 
to suit local conditions" but only if they are "consonant with the 
pattern of the overall organisational practice of the Union of 
anarchists covering the whole country." [_The Struggle Against 
the State and Other Essays_, 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.

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:

"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.

"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." [Op. Cit., pp. 107-8]

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.

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 next
section). 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).

_Constructive Anarchism_ 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).
_The Anarchist Revolution_ also contains Malatesta's article and 
the exchange of letters between him and Makhno.

J.3.5	Are there other kinds of anarchist federation?

Another type of anarchist federation is what we term the "class 
struggle" 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!

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.

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 "aims and principles" would show potential 
members where the anarchist group was coming from. 

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]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." [Errico Malatesta, _The Anarchist Revolution_, 
p. 102]

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 i