Historical Introduction

NESTOR MAKHNO and PIOTR ARSHINOV with other exiled Russian and Ukrainian anarchists in Paris, launched the excellent bimonthly Dielo Trouda in 1925. It was an anarchist communist theoretical review of a high quality. Years before, when they had both been imprisoned in the Butirky prison in Moscow, they had hatched the idea of such a review. Now it was to be put into practice. Makhno wrote an article for nearly every issue during the course of three years. In 1926 the group was joined by IDA METT (author of the expose of Bolshevism, "The Kronstadt Commune"), who had recently fled from Russia. That year also saw the publication of the 'Organisational Platform'.

The publication of the "Platform" was met with ferocity and indignation by many in the international anarchist movement. First to attack it was the Russian anarchist Volin, now also in France, and founder with Sebastian Fauré of the "Synthesis" which sought to justify a mish-mash of anarchist communism, anarcho-syndicalism and individualist anarchism. Together with Molly Steiner, Fleshin, and others, he wrote a reply stating that to "maintain that anarchism is only a theory of classes is to limit it to a single viewpoint".

Not to be deterred, the Dielo Trouda group issued, on 5th February 1927 an invitation to an "international conference" before which a preliminary meeting was to be held on the 12th of the same month. Present at this meeting, apart from the Dielo Trouda group, was a delegate from the French Anarchist Youth, Odeon; a Bulgarian, Pavel, in an individual capacity; a delegate of the Polish anarchist group, Ranko, and another Pole in an individual capacity; several Spanish militants, among them Orobon Fernandez, Carbo, and Gibanel; an Italian, Ugo Fedeli; a Chinese, Chen; and a Frenchman, Dauphlin-Meunier; all in individual capacities. This first meeting was held in the small backroom of a Parisian cafe.

A provisional Commission was set up, composed of Makhno, Chen and Ranko. A circular was sent out to all anarchist groups on 22nd February. An international conference was called and took place on 20nd April 1927, at Hay-les-Roses near Paris, in the Cinema Les Roses.

As well as those who attended the first meeting was one Italian delegate who supported the "Platform", Bifolchi, and another Italian delegation from the magazine "Pensiero e Volonta", Luigi Fabbri, Camillo Berneri, and Ugo Fedeli. The French had two delegations, one of Odeon, favourable to the "Platform" and another with Severin Ferandel.

A proposal was put forward to:

  1. Recognise the class struggle as the most important facet of the anarchist idea;
  2. Recognise Anarchist Communism as the basis of the movement;
  3. Recognise syndicalism as a principal method of struggle;
  4. Recognise the need for a 'General Union of Anarchists' based on ideological and tactical unity and collective responsibility;
  5. Recognise the need for a positive programme to realise the social revolution.

After a long discussion some modifications of the original proposal were put forward. However nothing was achieved as the police broke up the meeting and arrested all those present. Makhno risked being deported and only a campaign led by the French anarchists stopped this. But the proposal to set up an 'International Federation of Revolutionary Anarchist Communists' had been thwarted, and some of those who had participated in the conference refused to sanction it any further.

Other attacks on the 'Platform' from Fabbri, Berneri, the anarchist historian Max Nettlau, and the famed Italian anarchist Malatesta followed. The Dielo Trouda group replied with 'A Reply to the Confusionists of Anarchism' and then a further statement by Arshniov on the 'Platform' in 1929. Arshinov was soured by the reaction to the 'Platform' and returned to the USSR in 1933. He was charged with 'attempting to restore Anarchism in Russia' and executed in 1937, during Stalin's purges.

The 'Platform' failed to establish itself on an international level, but it did have an effect on several movements. In France, the situation was marked by a series of splits and fusion's, the 'Platformists' sometimes controlling the main anarchist organisation, at other times forced to leave and set up their own groupings. In Italy the supporters of the 'Platform' set up a small 'Unione Anarcocomunista Italiana' which soon collapsed. In Bulgaria, the discussion over organisation caused the reconstitution of the Anarchist Communist Federation of Bulgaria (F.A.C.B.) on a "concrete platform" "for a permanent and structured anarchist specific organisation" "built on the principles and tactics of libertarian communism". However, the hard-line 'Platformists' refused to recognise the new organisation and denounced it in their weekly `Probuzhdane', before collapsing shortly afterwards.

Similarly in Poland, the Anarchist Federation of Poland (AFP) recognised the overthrow of capitalism and the state through class struggle and social revolution, and the creation of a new society based on workers and peasants councils and a specific organisation built on theoretical unity but rejected the 'Platform' saying it had authoritarian tendencies. In Spain, as Juan Gomez Casas in his "Anarchist Organisation - The History of the F.A.I." says "Spanish anarchism was concerned with how to retain and increase the influence that it had since the International first arrived in Spain". The Spanish anarchists did not at that time have to worry about breaking out of isolation, and of competing with the Bolsheviks. In Spain the Bolshevik influence was still small. The 'Platform' hardly affected the Spanish movement. When the anarchist organisation the 'Federación Anarquista Iberica' was set up in 1927, the 'Platform' could not be discussed, though it was on the agenda, because it had not yet been translated. As J. Manuel Molinas, Secretary at the time of the Spanish-language Anarchist Groups in France later wrote to Casas "The platform of Arshinov and other Russian anarchists had very little influence on the movement in exile or within the country... The 'Platform' was an attempt to renew, to give greater character and capacity to the international anarchist movement in light of the Russian Revolution . Today, after our own experience, it seems to me that their effort was not fully appreciated."

The World War interrupted the development of the anarchist organisations, but the controversy over the 'Platform' re-emerged with the founding of the Federation Communiste Libertaire in France, and the Gruppi Anarchici di Azione Proletaria in Italy in the early '50s. Both used the 'Platform' as a reference point (there was also a small Federación Comunista Libertaria of Spanish exiles). This was to be followed in the late '60s - early '70s by the founding of such groups as the Organisation of Revolutionary Anarchists in Britain and the Organisation Revolutionnaire Anarchiste in France.

The 'Platform' continues to be a valuable historical reference when class-struggle anarchists, seeking greater effectiveness and a way out of political isolation, stagnation and confusion, look around for answers to the problems they face.

Nick Heath, 1989

With the rapid growth of anarchism in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin wall the Platform has again become an important document for groups and individuals seeking to overcome the anti-organisational tendencies of parts of the new anarchism.

By February of 2001 the influence of the Platform is wider than it has ever been with translations into Turkish, Polish, Swedish, French, Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and Italian on the internet. New groups have emerged in Eastern Europe and South America quite often with the core ideas of the Platform being 're-invented' before these groups discovered the historic text. There are anarchist groups in France, Italy, Uruguay, Lebanon, Switzerland, Britain, Poland, Ireland, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, USA, Canada and the Czech Republic that source their current organisational methods on some of the ideas in the Platform.

Andrew Flood, Feb 2001

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