Friday, December 22, 2006
THE ROLE OF AN ANARCHIST ORGANIZATION:
BY JOHN FLOOD
The following is reproduced from the Anarkismo site (see the Links section of this blog) It originates as an article in the latest Workers' Solidarity journal. As previously mentioned on this blog this issue, #94, is available in a downloadable pdf format at http://struggle.ws/pdfs/ws/ws94.pdf . The author of this piece argues for the type of organization favoured by the groups adhering to the Platformist tradition in modern anarchism. The article follows:
Looking around the world today it can be difficult to imagine how the society we want to see can be created. But rather than sitting back and waiting for Capitalism to collapse, or for the Revolution to come, we believe in organizing in the here and now.
Throughout history anarchist-communists have embraced different forms of organization, from the affinity group, to revolutionary cells to anarchist syndicalism. We in the WSM consider ourselves to fall within the 'platformist' tradition. Among other things that means that we think that a group can achieve far more when it works in unison, rather than constantly having the same fundamental and theoretical disagreements.
The role of a group like ours is to popularize the aims and methods of anarchism amongst working class people, mainly because we believe that these alone will result in the free society we want to create. Our ideas link an understanding of the present with a viable vision of the future.
This link involves a practical understanding of the means necessary and acceptable to achieve results but also to help build the confidence of the class in its own abilities and decision-making power. This can be doing simple things like producing our newsletter, pamphlets and leaflets. It also means arguing for anarchist methods as much as possible in campaigns that we are involved in.
This can take the form of fighting for democratic structures in the Ant-Bin Tax campaign, helping to organize the huge Mayday 2004 events, arguing for democracy in our unions or advocating direct action in the anti-war movement but in all cases we try and promote actions that actively transform those that take part in them. Actions that help people gain a sense of their own power and abilities and prepare them for the revolution and libertarian communist society we want to create.
We analyse the society we live in, its history, and try to learn from the mistakes of the past. We also try to elaborate a common strategy that attempts to link the various expressions of the class struggle.
In a sense we attempt to provide leadership of ideas but this does not mean that we come down from the mountaintop like Moses, carrying the blueprint for a new society under our arms. rather we learn from the struggle and the people we interact with.
Anarchists not only want to abolish capitalism, but we also want to abolish all relationships that involve subordination and domination. Our aim is a truly classless society that isn't divided into bosses and workers, or order givers and order takers. So while we see ourselves as offering leadership we reject the idea that we should become some sort of institutional leaders or managers of the movement.
We refuse to take positions of power that would lift us above the broad movement and give us control over it. Instead we rely on the strength of our ideas, and the example we set, to convince people, rather than hoping that our position on some hierarchical ladder will allow us to control the people below us.
In this spirit we look forward to the time when an organization such as ours becomes unnecessary. Following a successful revolution we would gradually lose our reason for existing and disband.
So to summarize, we don't make the revolution for the working class, we don't direct it in their interests and we don't govern them for their own good. We simply exist as an organization within the class that attempts to encourage its development in a libertarian fashion and speed up its emancipation.
Workers' Solidarity 94, Nov/Dec 2006
The essay above is a clear sighted and well written exposition of the platformist position, and there is little for any sensible anarchist to disagree with in what Flood has written. The simple and clear belief of most platformists that their organizations DO NOT "make the revolution" but rather try and hasten the self organization of the people who will do such a thing is expressed in the above. This is merely one more clear example that the platformists are not the "closet Leninists" that their opponents on the "anarcho-crank" fringes try to make them out to be.
Personally I am not a platformist. I do not believe in the need for or the desirability of a "revolution". My ideal society would be a mixed economy with various strands of management and remuneration blended together depending on local and temporal circumstances. I am not a convinced anarcho-communist in other words, but I do believe that any society worth living in has to contain sections of the economy that are "communist" in nature ie depending on voluntary labour and whose product was offered free to all comers. There is a large segment of most societies that operates under such terms today or is at least halfway there. I anticipate that an anarchist society would see this economic section expand. I am also not in agreement with the "orthodox anarcho-communist position" most forcefully argued by the late Murray Bookchin that the direction of the economy should be the exclusive right of the local "commune". I see a much greater role for the producers' coops that would result from syndicalist action, and I see a wide variety of "blended" forms of management where community and workplaces would have a rainbow of different ways of influencing each other. I furthermore believe that at least some elements of a "market" would have to be preserved in such a society and not just for small scale production. The alternative is a naive belief in the power of technology to provide "post-scarcity" which it never actually has, whatever the illusions of some, and to provide this abundance without overwhelming waste. Or perhaps the "alternative" is that the "planning boards" of any libertarian society, syndicalist, communitarian or "parecon" would gradually take up the role of a ruling class. Or perhaps "participatory planning" or the "meetings of the commune" will find some way to extend the day to 89,000 hours so that we can all sit and mull over the economic needs of the world in meetings while leaving 8 hours for sleep, 2 for eating, 4 for recreation and another 4 to actually get something done rather than planning it.
All that being said even a convinced gradualist and a believer in a mixed economy such as myself can find little to disagree with in platformism as expressed by people such as Flood. The platformist trend is characterized by realism and patient organization wherever it may appear in the world. As such it should be applauded as a sterling example of "making anarchism real" unlike numerous, often grotesque, fantasies held by other anarchist currents such as "insurrectionism" or primitivism.
I am all in favour of the establishment of specifically anarchist propaganda groups who will attempt to influence other, more broadly based, organizations. In turn the anarchist groups should try and convert such "interest groups" into actual "popular organizations" such as neighbourhood and workplace councils and functioning democratic unions for industrial sections. Where I part company with the platformists is "when" it is time to dissolve the specific organization. I say not when the mythical "revolution" has succeeded but long before that...when there are functioning mass organizations that operate in a libertarian milieu. The present day unions are not such mass based organizations with the sort of everyday participation(and the democratic control that follows from such) and neither are any of the community based organizations that exist today- with a few rare exceptions.
So, what I say is that the specific anarchist organization has a dual role. It has to generally conduct "propaganda" to influence people in a libertarian direction without reference to any specific group that they belong to. It also has to help to establish interest groups and push such groups towards an anarchist sensibility with all that it may imply. Finally it must push for the democratization of the present unions(or their supercession by other syndicalist unions) and for the establishment of genuine community forums.councils. This means going beyond the "interest groups" that most present day politics revolves around. Such a long term realistic project is something that those who believe in "revolution" but are wise enough to realize that such a thing is not childish street fighting and others such as myself who are sceptical of the whole concept could easily unite around. The two different views would end up doing the same thing on the everyday plane of reality.