Platformism is a form of anarchist organization that seeks unity from its participants, having as a defining characteristic the idea that each platformist organization should include only people that are fully in agreement with core group ideas, rejecting people who disagree. It stresses the need for tightly organized anarchist organizations that are able to influence working class and peasant movements.
Platformist groups reject the model of Leninist vanguardism, instead aiming to "make anarchist ideas the leading ideas within the class struggle". According to platformism, the four main principles by which an anarchist organisation should operate are ideological unity, tactical unity, collective responsibility and federalism.
In general, platformist groups aim to win the widest possible influence for anarchist ideas and methods in the working class and peasantry—like especifismo groups, platformists orient towards the working class, rather than to the rest of the far left. This usually entails a willingness to work in single-issue campaigns, trade unions and community groups; and to fight for immediate reforms while linking this to a project of building popular consciousness and organisation. They therefore reject approaches that they believe will prevent this, such as insurrectionary anarchism, as well as "views that dismiss activity in the unions" or that dismiss anti-imperialist movements.
The name derives from the 1926 Organisational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft), published by the Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad, in their journal Dielo Truda ("Workers' Cause"). The group, which consisted of exiled Russian anarchist veterans of the 1917 October Revolution (notably Ukrainian Nestor Makhno who played a leading role in the anarchist revolution in Ukraine of 1918–1921), based the Platform on their experiences of the revolution and the eventual victory of the Bolsheviks over the anarchists and other groups. The Platform attempted to address and explain the anarchist movement's failures during the Russian Revolution outside Ukraine. The document drew praise and criticism from anarchists worldwide and sparked a major debate within the anarchist movement.
Today, platformism is an important current in international anarchism. Around thirty platformist and especifista organisations are linked together in the Anarkismo.net project, including groups from Africa, the Americas, and Europe. At least in terms of the number of affiliated organisations (if not in actual membership in some countries), the Anarkismo network is larger than other anarchist international bodies, like the synthesist International of Anarchist Federations and the anarcho-syndicalist International Workers' Association.
The Platform describes four key organisational features which distinguish platformism:
The Platform argues that "[w]e have vital need of an organisation which, having attracted most of the participants in the anarchist movement, would establish a common tactical and political line for anarchism and thereby serve as a guide for the whole movement". In short, unity means unity of ideas and actions as opposed to unity on the basis of the anarchist label.
The Organisational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft) was written in 1926 by the Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad, a group of exiled Russian and Ukrainian anarchists in France who published the Dielo Truda journal. The pamphlet is an analysis of basic anarchist beliefs, a vision of an anarchist society and recommendations as to how an anarchist organisation should be structured.
The authors of the Platform insisted that its basic ideas were not new, but had a long anarchist pedigree. Platformism is not therefore a revision away from classical anarchism, or a new approach, but a "restatement" of existing positions.
They cited Peter Kropotkin arguing that "the formation of an anarchist organisation in Russia, far from being prejudicial to the common revolutionary task, on the contrary it is desirable and useful to the very greatest degree" and argued that Mikhail Bakunin's "aspirations concerning organisations, as well as his activity" in the First International, "give us every right to view him as an active partisan of just such an organisation". Indeed, "practically all active anarchist militants fought against all dispersed activity, and desired an anarchist movement welded by unity of ends and means".
The Platform used to be known in English as the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists, a result of its having been translated from the French edition popularized in the early 1970s. In his book Facing the Enemy: A history of Anarchist Organization from Proudhon to May 1968 (p. 131), Alexandre Skirda attributes much of the controversy about the Platform to the original 1926 French translation made by its opponent Voline. Later translations to French have corrected some of the mistranslations and the latest English translation, made directly from the Russian original, reflects this.
Some platformist organisations today are unhappy with the designation, often preferring to use descriptions such as "anarchist communist", "social anarchist", "libertarian communist/socialist" or even especifist. Most agree that the 1926 Platform was sorely lacking in certain areas and point out that it was a draft document, never intended to be adopted in its original form. The Italian Federation of Anarchist Communists (FdCA), for example, do not insist on the principle of "tactical unity", which according to them is impossible to achieve over a large area, preferring instead "tactical homogeneity".
Today, there are organisations inspired by the Platform in many countries, including:
|Argentina||Federación Anarco-Comunista de Argentina||FACA|||
|Australia||Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group||MACG||Anarkismo|
|Brazil||Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira||CAB||Anarkismo|
|Colombia||Grupo Anarquista Bifurcación & Grupo Libertario Via Libre||GAB & GLVL||Anarkismo|
|France||Union communiste libertaire||UCL||Anarkismo|||
|Ireland||Workers Solidarity Movement||WSM||Anarkismo|
|New Zealand||Aotearoa Workers' Solidarity Movement||AWSM|
|South Africa||Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front||ZACF||Anarkismo|||
|South Korea||Anarchist Yondae||AY|||
|Switzerland||Libertäre Aktion Winterthur & Organisation Socialiste Libertaire||LAW & OSL||Anarkismo|
|United Kingdom||Anarchist Communist Group||ACG|||
|United States||Black Rose Anarchist Federation / Federación Anarquista Rosa Negra & Humboldt Grassroots||BRRN & HG||Anarkismo|||
|Uruguay||Federación Anarquista Uruguaya||FAU||Anarkismo|
Organisations inspired by the Platform were also among the founders of the now-defunct International Libertarian Solidarity network and its successor, the Anarkismo network, which is run collaboratively by roughly 30 platformist and especifista organisations around the world.
The Platform attracted strong criticism from some sectors on the anarchist movement of the time, including some of the most influential anarchists such as Voline, Errico Malatesta, Luigi Fabbri, Camillo Berneri, Max Nettlau, and Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman and Gregori Maximoff.
In place of the Platform's stress on tight political and organisational unity, the "synthesist" approach argued for a far looser organization that would maximise numbers i.e. a big tent approach. Platformists view such organisations as weak despite their numbers as the lack of common views means an inability to undertake common actions—defeating the purpose of a common organisation.
While such criticisms indicated a direct rejection of the Platform's proposals, others seem to have arisen from misunderstandings.
Notably, Malatesta initially believed that the Platform was "typically authoritarian" and "far from helping to bring about the victory of anarchist communism, to which they aspire, could only falsify the anarchist spirit and lead to consequences that go against their intentions".
However, after further correspondence with Makhno--and after seeing a platformist group in formation--Malatesta concluded that he was actually in agreement with the positions of the Platform, but had been confused by the language they had used:
But all this is perhaps only a question of words.
In my reply to Makhno I already said: "It may be that, by the term collective responsibility, you mean the agreement and solidarity that must exist among the members of an association. And if that is so, your expression would, in my opinion, amount to an improper use of language, and therefore, being only a question of words, we would be closer to understanding each other."
And now, reading what the comrades of the 18e say, I find myself more or less in agreement with their way of conceiving the anarchist organisation (being very far from the authoritarian spirit which the "Platform" seemed to reveal) and I confirm my belief that behind the linguistic differences really lie identical positions.