Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft)
I. Class struggle, its role and its value
“There is no ONE humanity.
There is the humanity made up of classes:
slaves and masters.”
Like all the societies that preceded it, contemporary bourgeois capitalist society is not united. It is split into two distinct camps, differing sharply in their social position and social function: the proletariat (in the broadest sense of the word) and the bourgeoisie.
The lot of the proletariat has for centuries been to bear the burden of hard physical labour, the fruits of which, however, devolve not to itself but to another, privileged class that enjoys property, authority and the products of spiritual culture (science, education, art) – the bourgeoisie.
The social enslavement and exploitation of the working masses form the basis upon which modern society stands and without which it could not exist.
This fact has given rise to a centuries-long class struggle sometimes assuming an open, tempestuous form, sometimes undetectable and slow, but always fundamentally directed towards transforming the existing society into a society that would satisfy the workers’ needs, requirements and conception of justice.
In social terms, the whole of human history represents a continuous chain of struggles waged by the working masses in pursuit of their rights, freedom and a better life. At all times throughout the history of human societies, this class struggle has been the principal factor determining the form and structure of those societies.
The socio-political system of any country is primarily the product of the class struggle. The structure of any society is an indication of what stage the class struggle has reached. The slightest change in the tide of the class struggle and the relative strengths of the antagonistic classes immediately produces changes in the fabric and structure of class society.
This is the general, universal significance of the class struggle in the life of class societies.
II. The necessity of violent social revolution
The principle of the enslavement and exploitation of the masses through force lies at the root of modern society. All areas of society – economics, politics, social relations – rely on class violence, whose official organs are state bodies, the police, the army and the courts. Everything in this society, from each individual factory right up to the entire political system of the state, is nothing but a fortress of capital , where the workers are forever being monitored, and where special forces are on constant alert to crush any movement of the workers that may threaten the foundations of the present society or as much as disturb its tranquillity.
At the same time, the structure of present society automatically keeps the working masses in a state of ignorance and mental stagnation; it forcibly prevents their education and enlightenment so that they will be easier to control.
The advances of contemporary society – the technological development of Capital and the perfecting of its political system – reinforce the might of the ruling classes and make the struggle against them increasingly difficult, thereby postponing the crucial moment when labour achieves its emancipation.
Analysis of contemporary society shows that there is no other way to achieve a transformation of capitalist society into a society of free workers except through violent social revolution.
III. Anarchism and Anarchist Communism
The class struggle, born in violence out of the age-old desire of working people for freedom, gave rise among the oppressed to the idea of anarchism – the idea of the complete negation of the social system based on classes and the State, and of the replacement of this by a free, stateless society of self-governing workers.
Anarchism thus developed, not from the abstract reflections of some scientist or philosopher, but out of the direct struggle waged by the working people against capital, out of their needs and requirements, out of their psychology, their desire for freedom and equality, aspirations that become especially vivid in the most heroic stages of the working masses’ life and struggle.
Anarchism’s outstanding thinkers – Bakunin, Kropotkin, and others – did not invent the idea of anarchism, but, having discovered it among the masses, merely helped develop and propagate it through the power of their thought and knowledge.
Anarchism is not the product of individual creation, nor the object of individual experiments.
Likewise, anarchism is in no way the product of general humanitarian aspirations. There is no “single” humanity. Any attempt to make anarchism an attribute of the whole of humanity, as it presently stands, or to credit it with a generally humanitarian character, would be a historical and social falsehood that would inevitably result in justification of the current order and fresh exploitation.
Anarchism is broadly humanitarian only in the sense that the ideals of the working masses improve the lives of all people, and that the fate of humanity today or tomorrow is bound up with the fate of enslaved labour. Should the working masses prove victorious, the whole of humankind will be reborn. If they should fail, then violence, exploitation, slavery and oppression will prevail in the world as before.
The inception, unfolding and realization of anarchist ideals have their roots in the life and struggle of the working masses and are indissolubly bound up with the general fate of the latter.
Anarchism aims to turn today’s bourgeois capitalist society into a society that will guarantee working people the fruits of their labour, freedom, independence and social and political equality. This society is Anarchist Communism. It is in Anarchist Communism that there will be the fullest expression not only of social solidarity, but also the idea of free individuality, and these two notions will develop together closely, in perfect harmony.
Anarchist communism believes that the sole creator of all social assets is labour – physical and intellectual – and, as a result, that only labour has any entitlement to manage the whole of economic and public life. That is why Anarchist Communism in no way justifies or countenances the existence of non-working classes.
If these classes survive and co-exist with Anarchist Communism, the latter will recognize no responsibility towards them. Only when the non-working classes decide to become productive and wish to live within the social system of Anarchist Communism on the same footing as everyone else will they occupy a position in it, i.e. the position of free members of society equal to everyone else, enjoying the same rights of this society and having the same general responsibilities.
Anarchist Communism seeks the eradication of all exploitation and violence, whether against the individual or against the working masses. To that end it creates an economic and social basis that fuses the country’s economic and social life into a harmonious whole and guarantees every individual parity with everyone else and affords the maximum well-being to all. This basis is common ownership in the form of the socialization of all of the means and instruments of production (industry, transport, land, raw materials, etc.) and the construction of national economic agencies on the basis of equality and the self-management of the working classes.
Within the parameters of this self-managing workers’ society, Anarchist Communism lays down the principle of the equal worth and equal rights of every individual (not of “abstract” individuality, or “mystic individuality”, or the concept of “individuality as an idea”).
It is from this principle of the equal worth and equal rights of every individual, and also the fact that the value of the labour supplied by each individual person cannot be measured or established, that the underlying economic, social and juridical principle of Anarchist Communism follows: “From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”.
IV. The negation of democracy
Democracy is one of the forms of bourgeois capitalist society.
The basis of democracy is the retention of the two antagonistic classes of contemporary society – labour and capital – and of their collaboration on the basis of capitalist private property. Parliament and national representative government are the expressions of this collaboration .
Formally, democracy proclaims freedom of speech, of the press, of association, as well as universal equality before the law.
In reality, all these freedoms are of a very relative nature: they are tolerated as long as they do not contradict the interests of the ruling class, i.e. the bourgeoisie.
Democracy preserves intact the principle of capitalist private property. In so doing, it reserves the right of the bourgeoisie to control the entire economy of the country, as well as the press, education, science and art, which in practice makes the bourgeoisie the absolute master of the country. As it enjoys a monopoly in the realm of the country’s economic affairs, the bourgeoisie is free to establish its complete and unlimited authority in the political realm too. Indeed, parliament and representative government are, in democracies, merely executive organs of the bourgeoisie.
As a result, democracy is merely one variety of bourgeois dictatorship, its fictitious political freedoms and democratic guarantees are a smokescreen designed to conceal its true identity.
V. The negation of the state and authority
Bourgeois ideologues define the State as the organ regulating the complex socio-political, civil and social relations of people within contemporary society, protecting the law and order of this society. Anarchists are in perfect agreement with that definition but add that the law and order on which this society is founded hides the enslavement of the vast majority of the people by an insignificant minority, and that the modern State serves to maintain this enslavement.
The State is both the organized violence of the bourgeoisie against the workers and the system of its executive organs.
The left socialists and in particular the Bolsheviks also look upon bourgeois power and the bourgeois State as the tools of capital. But they believe that, in the hands of the socialist parties, State power can become a powerful weapon in the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat. They are therefore in favour of socialist power and the proletarian State. Some of them (the Social Democrats) seek to reach a position of authority by peaceful, parliamentary means, while others (the Communists, the Left Social Revolutionaries) seek to seize power by revolutionary means.
Anarchism considers both these positions fundamentally wrong and detrimental to the emancipation of labour.
State power always goes hand in glove with exploitation and enslavement of the masses. It arises out of that exploitation, or is created for it. State power without violence and exploitation loses all reason to exist.
The State and authority rob the masses of their initiative and kill their spirit of independent activity, nurturing in them the slavish mentality of submission, expectation and a belief in rulers and bosses. Thus, the emancipation of the workers is only possible through the process of direct revolutionary struggle by the working masses and their class organizations against the capitalist system.
The conquest of power by the social democratic parties through parliamentary methods in the framework of the present system will not further the emancipation of labour one little bit for the simple reason that real power, and thus real authority, will remain with the bourgeoisie, which has full control of the country’s economy and politics. The role of the socialist authorities will in that case be confined to reforms, to improving that same bourgeois system (see the example of MacDonald, the Social Democratic parties of Germany, Sweden and Belgium which have attained state power under a capitalist system).
Neither can the seizure of power by way of social revolution and the organization of a so-called proletarian State further the cause of the genuine emancipation of labour. The State, supposedly created initially for the purposes of defending the revolution, inevitably accumulates its own specific needs and becomes an end in itself, spawning privileged social castes upon which it relies, and it forcibly subjugates the masses to its needs and those of the privileged castes, thus restoring the basis of capitalist authority and the capitalist State: the enslavement and the exploitation of the masses by violence (an example being the “workers’ and peasants’ State” of the Bolsheviks).
VI. The masses and the anarchists: the role of each in the social struggle and the social revolution
The principal forces of social revolution are the urban working class, the peasantry and, partly, the working intelligentsia.
NB: While being, like the urban and rural proletariat, an oppressed and exploited class, the working intelligentsia is comparatively more stratified than the workers and the peasants, thanks to the economic privileges which the bourgeoisie awards to certain of its members. That is why, in the early days of the social revolution, only the less well-off strata of the intelligentsia will take an active part in the revolution.
The role of the masses in the social revolution and the construction of socialism is noticeably different from that foreseen for them by the statist parties While bolshevism and its kindred currents take the line that the working mass possesses only destructive revolutionary instincts, and is incapable of creative and constructive revolutionary activity – the main reason why the latter should be placed in the hands of the people making up the government or the Party Central Committee – anarchists think instead that the working masses carry within themselves vast creative and constructive potential, and they aspire to sweep aside the obstacles preventing its manifestation.
Anarchists, in fact, look upon the State as the chief obstacle, since it usurps all the rights of the masses and divests them of all their functions in social and economic life. The State must wither away, but not one fine day in the society of the future. It must be destroyed by the workers on day one of their victory and must not be restored in any other guise whatsoever. Its place will be taken by a system of self-managed workers’ organizations of producers and consumers, unified on a federative basis. This system rules out both the organization of State power and the dictatorship of any party whatsoever.
The Russian revolution of 1917 exemplifies this approach to the process of social emancipation through the creation of the system of workers’ and peasants’ soviets and workplace committees. Its sad error was not to have liquidated the state organization of power at an early stage – at first the authority of the provisional government, then that of the Bolsheviks. The latter, exploiting the trust of the workers and peasants, reorganized the bourgeois State in accordance with the circumstances of the time and then, with the aid of that State, killed off the creative activity of the revolutionary masses by strangling the free system of soviets and workplace committees that represented the first steps towards constructing a stateless society.
The activity of anarchists is divided into two phases: the pre-revolutionary period and the revolutionary period. In each case, anarchists can only carry out their role as an organized force if they have a clear understanding of the goals of their struggle and the methods leading to their attainment.
In the pre-revolutionary period, the basic task of the General Anarchist Union is to prepare the workers and peasants for the social revolution.
By rejecting formal (bourgeois) democracy and State authority and by proclaiming the full emancipation of labour, anarchism places the utmost emphasis on the rigorous principles of class struggle, awakening and nurturing revolutionary class consciousness and revolutionary class intransigence in the masses.
The anarchist education of the masses must be conducted in the spirit of class intransigence, anti-democratism and anti-statism and in the spirit of the ideals of Anarchist Communism, but education alone is not enough. A degree of anarchist organization of the masses is also required. If this is to be accomplished, we have to operate along two lines: on the one hand, by the selection and grouping of revolutionary worker and peasant forces on the basis of anarchist theory (explicity anarchist organizations) and on the other, on the level of grouping revolutionary workers and peasants on the basis of production and consumption (revolutionary workers’ and peasants’ production organizations, free workers’ and peasants’ cooperatives, etc.).
The worker and peasant classes, organized on the basis of production and consumption and imbued with the ideology of revolutionary anarchism, will be foremost among the strong points of the social revolution, and the more anarchist consciousness and anarchist organization is introduced among them now, the more they will demonstrate anarchist purpose, anarchist firmness and anarchist creativity in the hour of revolution.
As far as the working class of Russia is concerned, after eight years of Bolshevik dictatorship, which has bridled the masses’ natural appetite for independent activity, and glaringly demonstrated the true nature of all authority, it is clear that the class harbours within itself enormous potential for the formation of a mass anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist movement. Organized anarchist militants must immediately and with all available resources set about cultivating that appetite and potential, lest it be allowed to degenerate into Menshevism.
Anarchists must therefore, without delay, dedicate all their efforts to organizing the poor peasantry, which is oppressed by the authorities, but is searching for emancipation, and harbours enormous revolutionary potential.
The anarchists’ role in the revolutionary period cannot be confined to merely preaching anarchist slogans and ideas.
Life can be seen as an arena not just for the preaching of this or that idea, but also and equally as an arena for struggle, where forces aspiring to influence society manoeuvre to gain the ideological high ground. More than any other outlook, anarchism must become the leading idea in the social revolution, for it is only thanks to anarchist ideas that the social revolution will achieve the complete emancipation of labour.
The leading position of anarchist ideas in the revolution implies, at the same time, that anarchists and anarchist theory play an influential role in events. However, this influence must not be confused with the political leadership of statist parties, which only culminates in state power.
Anarchism does not aim to seize political power, to create a dictatorship. Its chief aspiration is to assist the masses in choosing the genuine path of social revolution and socialist construction. But it is not enough just for the masses to embark on the road to social revolution. It must also be ensured that the revolution holds true to its path and objective – the overthrow of capitalist society in the name of the society of free workers. As the experience of the Russian revolution of 1917 has shown us, this is no easy task, mainly on account of the many parties attempting to steer the movement in the opposite direction to that of social revolution.
Although the masses in social upheavals are prompted deep down by anarchist tendencies and slogans, these are not coordinated in any way, and as a result they do not have the coherence and appeal to become leading ideas, which is essential if the social revolution is to retain an anarchist orientation and anarchist objectives. This driving force of ideas can only find expression in a specific collective established by the masses for that express purpose. Organized anarchist elements and the organized anarchist movement will constitute that collective.
During the revolution, that collective, i.e. the General Anarchist Union, will bear great theoretical and practical responsibilities.
It will have to display initiative and demonstrate complete commitment in every aspect of the social revolution, encompassing the orientation and character of the revolution, the civil war and defence of the revolution, the positive tasks of the revolution, the new system of production, consumption, the agrarian question, etc.
On all these and many other issues, the masses will demand clear and precise answers from the anarchists. And once anarchists bring the concept of anarchist revolution and of an anarchist structure of society to public attention, they will have to present a precise answer to all such questions, link the resolution of these problems to the general concept of anarchism and commit all their resources to its effective realization.
Only thus can the General Anarchist Union and the anarchist movement successfully perform their role as a leading force of ideas in the social revolution.
VII. The transition period
Socialist political parties use the term “transition period” to refer to a specific phase in the life of a people, the essential features of which are a break with the old order and the introduction of a new economic and political system, which does not yet imply, however, the full emancipation of all workers.
In this respect, all the minimum programmes of the socialist political parties, for instance the democratic programme of the opportunistic socialists, or the communist programme of the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, are programmes for the transition period.
The essential feature of these minimum programmes is that they regard the complete realization of the workers’ ideals – their independence, freedom and equality – as unrealisable in the short term, and as a result they retain a whole series of the capitalist system’s institutions: the principle of State coercion, private ownership of the means and instruments of production, wage-slavery and much else, according to the goals of each political party’s programme.
Anarchists have always been principled opponents of such programmes, taking the view that the construction of transitional systems retaining the principles of exploitation and coercion of the masses unavoidably leads back to slavery.
Instead of political minimum programmes, anarchists have only ever championed social revolution that would strip the capitalist class of political and economic privileges and place the means and instruments of production, and all other functions of social and economic life, in the hands of the workers.
And that is a position that anarchists have stood firm on to this very day.
The idea of the transition period, according to which the social revolution should culminate not in an anarchist society, but in some other form of system retaining elements and relics of the old capitalist system, is anti-anarchist in its essence. It contains in itself the threat of bolstering and developing these elements to their former proportions, thus sending events into reverse.
One clear example of this is the “dictatorship of the proletariat” regime established by the Bolsheviks in Russia, which according to them was to be only a transitional stage in the march to complete communism, but which in point of fact resulted in the restoration of class society, at the bottom of which, just like before, we find the industrial workers and poorest peasants.
The main focus in the construction of the anarchist society does not consist of guaranteeing every individual, right from day one of the revolution, boundless freedom to seek satisfaction of their needs, but in the conquest of the social basis for that society and in establishing the principles of relations between people. The question of the greater or lesser abundance of resources is not a matter of principle but a technical issue.
The underlying principle upon which the new society will be built, the precept upon which it will rest, so to speak, and which must not be restricted even to the slightest degree is the equality of relations, the freedom and the independence of the workers. This principle encapsulates the prime basic requirement of the masses, in the name of which alone they will rise up in social revolution.
Either the social revolution will end in the defeat of the workers, in which case we have to start all over again to prepare for another struggle, a fresh offensive against the capitalist system; or it will lead to the victory of the workers, in which case, having seized the wherewithal to fend for themselves – the land, production and social functions – they will set about building a free society.
That moment will be the beginning of the construction of an anarchist society which, once started, will then develop continuously, gathering strength and constantly being improved upon.
Therefore, the takeover of production and social functions will be the watershed between the statist and the non-statist eras.
In order to become the rallying point of the struggling masses and the social revolutionary epoch, anarchism must not hide its basic principles nor accommodate its programme to assimilate vestiges of the old order, opportunistic tendencies of transitional systems and periods; instead, it must develop its principles and refine them as far as possible.
VIII. Anarchism and syndicalism
The tendency to contrast anarchist communism with syndicalism, and vice versa, is one that we consider totally artificial and bereft of all basis and meaning.
The ideas of communism and of syndicalism occupy two different planes. Whereas communism, i.e. the free society of equal workers, is the goal of the anarchist struggle, syndicalism, i.e. the revolutionary movement of industrial workers based on trades, is but one of the forms of the revolutionary class struggle.
In uniting the industrial workers on the basis of production, revolutionary syndicalism, like any trade-union movement, has no specific ideology: it has no world view embracing all the complex social and political issues of the current situation. It always reflects the ideologies of a range of political groupings, notably of those most intensively at work within its ranks.
Our standpoint with regard to revolutionary syndicalism follows from what has just been said. Without wanting to resolve in advance the question of the role of revolutionary syndicalist organizations on day two of the revolution (i.e. are they to be the organizers of the new system of production in its entirety, or will they leave that role to the workers’ councils or workplace committees?), it is our view that anarchists must be involved in revolutionary syndicalism as one of the forms of the workers’ revolutionary movement.
However, the question now is not whether anarchists should or should not play a part in revolutionary syndicalism, but rather, how and to what end they should play a part.
We regard the whole period up to our own times, when anarchists were part of the revolutionary syndicalist movement as individual workers and propagandists, as a period when relations with the industrial labour movement were amateurish.
Anarcho-syndicalism, which attempts to firmly establish anarchist ideas within the left wing of revolutionary syndicalism through the creation of anarchist-type unions, represents a step forward in this respect, but it has not yet improved on its amateurish methods. This is because anarcho-syndicalism does not link the drive to “anarchize” the syndicalist movement with the organization of anarchist forces outside of that movement. Only if just such a link is established does it become possible to “anarchize” revolutionary syndicalism to prevent any slide towards opportunism.
We regard revolutionary syndicalism solely as a trade-union movement of the workers with no specific social and political ideology, and thus incapable by itself of resolving the social question; as such it is our opinion that the task of anarchists in the ranks of that movement consists of developing anarchist ideas within it and of steering it in an anarchist direction, so as to turn it into an active army of the social revolution. It is important to remember that if syndicalism is not given the support of anarchist theory in good time, it will be forced to rely on the ideology of some statist political party.
A striking example of this is French syndicalism, which once shone out on account of its anarchist slogans and anarchist tactics, before falling under the sway of the communists and, above all, the right-wing opportunist socialists.
But the task of anarchists within the ranks of the revolutionary labour movement can only be performed if their efforts there are closely connected and coordinated with the activity of the anarchist organization outside the syndicalist union. Put differently, we must enter the revolutionary labour movement as an organized force, answerable to the general anarchist organization for our work inside the syndicalist unions, and receiving guidance from that organization.
Without limiting ourselves to the establishment of anarchist syndicalist unions, we must seek to exert our theoretical influence on revolutionary syndicalism as a whole in all its forms (the Industrial Workers of the World, the Russian trade unions, etc.). But we can only accomplish this by setting to work as a rigorously organized anarchist collective, and certainly not as tiny amateurish groups, without organizational links or a common theoretical base.
Groups of anarchists in the workplace, working to create anarchist syndicalist unions, campaigning within revolutionary syndicalism for the prevalence of anarchist ideas within syndicalism and its theoretical orientation and themselves guided in their activity by the general anarchist organization to which they belong – this is the significance of the relationship between anarchists and revolutionary syndicalism and the related revolutionary syndicalist movements (and the form it should take).
On to Constructive Section
Back to Index
Return to The Nestor Makhno Archive