Nestor Makhno. Platform, June 1926

General Section


1. Class struggle, its role and meaning

There is no one single humanity
There is a humanity of classes
Slaves and Masters

Like all those which have preceded it, the bourgeois capitalist society of our times is not 'one humanity'. It is divided into two very distinct camps, differentiated socially by their situations and their functions, the proletariat (in the wider sense of the word), and the bourgeoisie.

The lot of the proletariat is, and has been for centuries, to carry the burden of physical, painful work from which the fruits come, not to them, however, but to another, privileged class which owns property, authority, and the products of culture (science, education, art): the bourgeoisie. The social enslavement and exploitation of the working masses form the base on which modern society stands, without which this society could not exist.

This generated a class struggle, at one point taking on an open, violent character, at others a semblance of slow and intangible progress, which reflects needs, necessities, and the concept of the justice of workers.

In the social domain all human history represents an uninterrupted chain of struggles waged by the working masses for their rights, liberty, and a better life - In the history of human society this class struggle has always been the primary factor which determined the form and structure of these societies.

The social and political regime of all states is above all the product of class struggle. The fundamental structure of any society shows us the stage at which the class struggle has gravitated and is to be found. 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.

Such is the general, universal scope and meaning of class struggle in the life of class societies.

2. The necessity of a violent social revolution

The principle of enslavement and exploitation of the masses by violence constitutes the basis of modern society. All the manifestations of its existence: the economy, politics, social relations, rest on class violence, of which the servicing organs are: authority, the police, the army, the judiciary. Everything in this society: each enterprise taken separately, likewise the whole State system, is nothing but the rampart of capitalism, from where they keep a constant eye on the workers, where they always have ready the forces intended to repress all movements by the workers which threaten the foundation or even the tranquillity of that society.

At the same time the system of this society deliberately maintains the working masses in a state of ignorance and mental stagnation; it prevents by force the raising of their moral and intellectual level, in order to more easily get the better of them.

The progress of modern society: the technical evolution of capital and the perfection of its political system, fortifies the power of the ruling classes, and makes the struggle against them more difficult, thus postponing the decisive moment of the emancipation of labour.

Analysis of modern society leads us to the conclusion that the only way to transform capitalist society into a society of free workers is the way of violent social revolution.

3. Anarchists and libertarian communism

The class struggle created by the enslavement of workers and their aspirations to liberty gave birth, in the oppression, to the idea of anarchism: the idea of the total negation of a social system based on the principles of classes and the State, and its replacement by a free non-statist society of workers under self-management.

So anarchism does not derive from the abstract reflections of an intellectual or a philosopher, but from the direct struggle of workers against capitalism, from the needs and necessities of the workers, from their aspirations to liberty and equality, aspirations which become particularly alive in the best heroic period of the life and struggle of the working masses.

The outstanding anarchist thinkers, Bakunin, Kropotkin and others, did not invent the idea of anarchism, but, having discovered it in the masses, simply helped by the strength of their thought and knowledge to specify and spread it.

Anarchism is not the result of personal efforts nor the object of individual researches.

Similarly, anarchism is not the product of humanitarian aspirations. A single humanity does not exist. Any attempt to make of anarchism an attribute of all present day humanity, to attribute to it a general humanitarian character would be a historical and social lie which would lead inevitably to the justification of the status quo and of a new exploitation.

Anarchism is generally humanitarian only in the sense that the ideas of the masses tend to improve the lives of all men, and that the fate of today's or tomorrow's humanity is inseparable from that of exploited labour. If the working masses are victorious, all humanity will be reborn; if they are not, violence, exploitation, slavery and oppression will reign as before in the world.

The birth, the blossoming, and the realisation of anarchist ideas have their roots in the life and life and the struggle of the working masses and are inseparably bound to their fate.

Anarchism wants to transform the present bourgeois capitalist society into a society which assures the workers the products of their labours, their liberty, independence, and social and political equality. This other society will be libertarian communism, in which social solidarity and free individuality find their full expression, and in which these two ideas develop in perfect harmony.

Libertarian communism believes that the only creator of social value is labour, physical or intellectual, and consequently only labour has the right to manage social and economic life. Because of this, it neither defends nor allows, in any measure, the existence of non-working classes.

Insofar as these classes exist at the same time as libertarian communism the latter will recognise no duty towards them. This will cease when the non-working classes decide to become productive and want to live in a communist society under the same conditions as everyone else, which is that of free members of the society, enjoying the same rights and duties as all other productive members.

Libertarian communism wants to end all exploitation and violence whether it be against individuals or the masses of the people. To this end, it will establish an economic and social base which will unite all sections of the community, assuring each individual an equal place among the rest, and allowing each the maximum well-being. The base is the common ownership of all the means and instruments of production (industry, transport, land, raw materials, etc.) and the building of economic organisations on the principles of equality and self-management of the working classes.

Within the limits of this self-managing society of workers, libertarian communism establishes the principle of the equality of value and rights of each individual (not individuality "in general", nor of "mystic individuality", nor the concept of individuality, but each real, living, individual).

4. The negation of democracy
Democracy is one of the forms of bourgeois capitalist society

The basis of democracy is the maintenance of the two antagonistic classes of modern society: the working class, and the capitalist class and their collaboration on the basis of private capitalist property. The expression of this collaboration is parliament and the national representative government.

Formally, democracy proclaims freedom of speech, of the press, of association, and the equality of all before the law.

In reality all these liberties are of a very relative character: they are tolerated only as long as they do not contest the interests of the dominant class i.e. the bourgeoisie. Democracy preserves intact the principle of private capitalist property. Thus it (democracy) gives the bourgeoisie the right to control the whole economy of the country, the entire press, education, science, art - which in fact make the bourgeoisie absolute master of the whole country. Having a monopoly in the sphere of economic life, the bourgeoisie can also establish its unlimited power in the political sphere. In effect parliament and representative government in the democracies are but the executive organs of the bourgeoisie.

Consequently democracy is but one of the aspects of bourgeois dictatorship, veiled behind deceptive formulae of political liberties and fictitious democratic guarantees.

5. The negation of the state and authority

The ideologies of the bourgeoisie define the State as the organ which regularises the complex political, civil and social relations between men in modern society, and protecting the order and laws of the latter. Anarchists are in perfect agreement with this definition, but they complete it by affirming that the basis of this order and these laws is the enslavement of the vast majority of the people by an insignificant minority, and that it is precisely this purpose which is served by the State.

The State is simultaneously the organised violence of the bourgeoisie against the workers and the system of its executive organs.

The left socialists, and in particular the bolsheviks, also consider the bourgeois State and Authority to be the servants of capital. But they hold that Authority and the State can become, in the hands of socialist parties, a powerful weapon in the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat. For this reason these parties are for a socialist Authority and a proletarian State. Some want to conquer power by peaceful, parliamentarian means (the social democratic), others by revolutionary means (the bolsheviks, the left social revolutionaries).

Anarchism considers these two to be fundamentally wrong, disastrous in the work of the emancipation of labour.

Authority is always dependent on the exploitation and enslavement of the mass of the people. It is born of this exploitation, or it is created in the interests of this exploitation. Authority without violence and without exploitation loses all raison d'etre.

The State and Authority take from the masses all initiative, kill the spirit of creation and free activity, cultivates in them the servile psychology of submission, of expectation, of the hope of climbing the social ladder, of blind confidence in their leaders, of the illusion of sharing in authority.

Thus the emancipation of labour is only possible in the direct revolutionary struggle of the vast working masses and of their class organisations against the capitalist system.

The conquest of power by the social democratic parties by peaceful means under the conditions of the present order will not advance by one single step the task of emancipation of labour, for the simple reason that real power, consequently real authority, will remain with the bourgeoisie which controls the economy and politics of the country. The role of socialist authority is reduced in this case of reforms: to the amelioration of this same regime. (Examples: Ramsay MacDonald, the social democratic parties of Germany, Sweden, Belgium, which have come to power in a capitalist society.)

Further, seizing power by means of a social upheaval and organising a so called "proletarian State" cannot serve the cause of the authentic emancipation of labour. The State, immediately and supposedly constructed for the defence of the revolution, invariably ends up distorted by needs and characteristics peculiar to itself, itself becoming the goal, produces specific, privileged castes, and consequently re-establishes the basis of capitalist Authority and State; the usual enslavement and exploitation of the masses by violence. (Example: "the worker-peasant State" of the bolsheviks.)

6. The role of the masses and the role of the anarchists in the social struggle and the social revolution

The principal forces of the social revolution are the urban working class, the peasant masses and a section of the working intelligentsia.

Note: while being an exploited and oppressed class in the same way as the urban and rural proletariats, the working intelligentsia is relatively disunited compared with the workers and peasants, thanks to the economic privileges conceded by the bourgeoisie to certain of its elements. That is why, during the early days of the social revolution, only the less comfort able strata of the intelligentsia take an active part in it.

The anarchist conception of the role of the masses in the social revolution and the construction of socialism differs, in a typical way, from that of the statist parties. While bolshevism and its related tendencies consider that the masses assess only destructionary revolutionary instincts, being incapable of creative and constructive activity - the principle reason why the latter activity should be concentrated in the hands of the men forming the government of the State of the Central Committee of the party - anarchists on the contrary think that the labouring masses have inherent creative and constructive possibilities which are enormous, and anarchists aspire to suppress the obstacles impeding the manifestation of these possibilities.

Anarchists consider the State to be the principle obstacle, usurping the rights of the masses and taking from them all the functions of economic and social life. The State must perish, not "one day" in the future society, but immediately. It must be destroyed by the workers on the first day of their victory, and must not be reconstituted under any guise whatsoever. It will be replaced by a federalist system of workers organisations of production and consumption. united federatively and self- administrating. This system excludes just as much authoritarian organisations as the dictatorship of a party, whichever it might be.

The Russian revolution of 1917 displays precisely this orientation of the process of social emancipation in the creation of the system of worker and peasant soviets and factory committees. Its sad error was not to have liquidated, at an opportune moment, the organisation of state power: initially of the provisional government, and subsequently of bolshevik power. The bolsheviks, profiting from the trust of the workers and peasants, reorganised the bourgeois state according to the circumstances of the moment and consequently killed the creative activity of the masses, in supporting and maintaining the state: choking the free regime of soviets and factory committees which represented the first step towards building a non-statist socialist society.

Action by anarchists can be divided into two periods, that before the revolution, and that during the revolution. In both, anarchists can only fulfil their role as an organised force if they have a clear conception of the objectives of their struggle and the roads leading to the realisation of these objectives.

The fundamental task of the General Union of Anarchists in the pre-revolutionary period must be the preparation of the workers and peasants for the social revolution.

In denying formal (bourgeois) democracy, authority and State, in proclaiming the complete emancipation of labour, anarchism emphasises to the full the rigorous principles of class struggle. It alerts and develops in the masses class consciousness and the revolutionary intransigence of the class.

It is precisely towards the class intransigence, anti-democratism, anti-statism of the ideas of anarcho-communism. that the libertarian education of the masses must be directed. but education alone is not sufficient - What is also necessary is a certain mass anarchist organisation - To realise this, it is necessary 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, towards regrouping revolutionary workers and peasants on an economic base of production and consumption (revolutionary workers and peasants organised around production: workers and free peasants co-operatives). The worker and peasant class, organised on the basis of production and consumption, penetrated by revolutionary anarchist positions, will be the first strong point of the social revolution.

The more these organisations are conscious and organised in an anarchist way, as from the present, the more they will manifest an intransigent and creative will at the moment of the revolution.

As for the working class in Russia: it is clear that after eight years of bolshevik dictatorship, which enchains the natural needs of the masses for free activity, the true nature of all power is demonstrated better than ever; this class conceals within itself enormous possibilities for the formation of a mass anarchist movement. Organised anarchist militants should go immediately with all the force at their disposal to meet these needs and possibilities, in order that they do not degenerate into reformism (menshevism).

With the same urgency, anarchists should apply themselves to the organisation of the poor peasantry, who are crushed by state power, seeking a way out and concealing enormous revolutionary potential.

The role of the anarchists in the revolutionary period cannot be restricted solely to the propagation of the keynotes of libertarian ideas. Life is not only an arena for the propagation of this or that conception, but also, to the same degree, as the arena of struggle, the strategy, and the aspirations of these conceptions in the management of economic and social life.

More than any other concept, anarchism should become the leading concept of revolution, for it is only on the theoretical base of anarchism that the social revolution can succeed in the complete emancipation of. labour.

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.

Anarchism aspires neither to political power nor to dictatorship. Its principal aspiration is to help the masses to take the authentic road to the social revolution and the construction of socialism. But it is not sufficient that the masses take up the way of the social revolution. It is also necessary to maintain this orientation of the revolution and its objectives: the suppression of capitalist society in the name of that of free workers. As the experience of the Russian revolution in 1917 has shown us, this last task is far from being easy, above all because of the numerous parties which try to orientate the movement in a direction opposed to the social revolution.

Although the masses express themselves profoundly in social movement in terms of anarchist tendencies and tenets, these tendencies and tenets do however remain dispersed, being unco-ordinated, and consequently do not lead to the organisation of the driving power of libertarian ideas which is necessary for preserving the anarchist orientation and objectives of the social revolution. This theoretical driving force can only be expressed by a collective especially created by the masses for this purpose. The organised anarchist elements constitute exactly this collective.

The theoretical and practical duties of this collective are considerable at the time of the revolution.

It must manifest its initiative and display total participation in all the domains of the social revolution: in the orientation and general character of the revolution; in the positive tasks of the revolution, in new production, consumption, the agrarian question etc.

On all these questions, and on numbers of others, the masses demand a clear and precise response from the anarchists. And from the moment when anarchists declare a conception of the revolution and the structure of society, they are obliged to give all these questions a clear response, to relate the solution of these problems to the general conception of libertarian communism, and to devote all their forces to the realisation of these.

Only in this way do the General Union of Anarchists and the anarchist movement completely assure their function as a theoretical driving force in the social revolution.

7. The transition period

By the expression 'transition period' the socialist parties understand a definite phase in the life of a people of which the characteristic traits are: a rupture with the old order of things and the installation of a new economic and social system - a system which however does not yet represent the complete emancipation of workers. In this sense, all the minimum programmes* (A minimum programme is one whose objective is not the complete transformation of capitalism. but the solution of certain of the immediate problems facing the working class under capitalism.) of the socialist political parties, for example, the democratic programme of the socialist opportunists or the communists' programme for the 'dictatorship of the proletariat', are programmes of the transition period.

The essential trait of all these is that they regard as impossible, for the moment, the complete realisation of the workers' ideals: their independence, their liberty and equality - and consequently preserve a whole series of the institutions of the capitalist system: the principle of statist compulsion, private ownership of the means and instruments of production, the bureaucracy, and several others, according to the goals of the particular party programme.

On principle anarchists have always been the enemies of such programmes, considering that the construction of transitional systems which maintain the principles of exploitation and compulsion of the masses leads inevitably to a new growth of slavery.

Instead of establishing political minimum programmes , anarchists have always defended the idea of an immediate social revolution, which deprives the capitalist class of its economic and social privileges, and place the means and instruments of production and all the functions of economic and social life in the hands of the workers.

Up to now, it has been the anarchists who have preserved this position.

The idea of the transition period, according to which the social revolution should lead not to a communist society, but to a system X retaining elements of the old system, is anti-social in essence. It threatens to result in the reinforcement and development of these elements to their previous dimensions, and to run events backwards.

A flagrant example of this is the regime of the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' established by the bolsheviks in Russia.

According to them, the regime should be but a transitory step towards total communism. In reality, this step has resulted in the restoration of class society, at the bottom of which are, as before, the workers and peasants.

The centre of gravity of the construction of a communist society does [not?] consist in the possibility of assuring each individual unlimited liberty to satisfy his needs from the first day of the revolution; but consists in the conquest of the social base of this society, and establishes the principles of egalitarian relationships between individuals: As for the question of the the abundance, greater or lesser, this is not posed at the level of principle, but is a technical problem.

The fundamental principle upon which the new society will be erected and rest, and which must in no way be restricted, is that of the equality of relationships, of the liberty and independence of the workers. This principle represents the first fundamental demand of the masses, for which they rise up in social revolution.

Either the social revolution will terminate in the defeat of the workers, in which case we must start again to prepare the struggle, a new offensive against the capitalist system; or it will lead to the victory of the workers, and in this case, having seized the means which permit self-administration - the land, production, and social functions, the workers will commence the construction of a free society.

This is what characterises the beginning of the building of a communist society which, once begun, then follows the course of its development without interruption, strengthening itself and perfecting itself continuously.

In this way the take-over of the productive and social functions by the workers will trace an exact demarcation line between the statist and non-statist eras.

If it wishes to become the mouthpiece of the struggling masses, the banner of a whole era of social revolution, anarchism must not assimilate in its programme traces of the old order, the opportunist tendencies of transitional systems and periods, nor hide its fundamental principles, but on the contrary develop and apply them to the utmost.

8. Anarchism and syndicalism

We consider the tendency to oppose libertarian communism to syndicalism and vice versa to be artificial, and devoid of all foundation and meaning.

The ideas of anarchism and syndicalism belong on two different planes. Whereas communism, that is to say a society of free workers, is the goal of the anarchist struggle - syndicalism, that is the movement of revolutionary workers in their occupations, is only one of the forms of revolutionary class struggle. In uniting workers on a basis of production, revolutionary syndicalism, like all groups based on professions, has no determining theory, it does not have a conception of the world which answers all the complicated social and political questions of contemporary reality. It always reflects the ideologies of diverse political groupings notably of those who work most intensely in its ranks.

Our attitude to revolutionary syndicalism derives from what is about to be said. Without trying here to resolve in advance the question of the role of the revolutionary syndicates after the revolution, whether they will be the organisers of all new production, or whether they will leave this role to workers' soviets or factory committees - we judge that anarchists must take part in revolutionary syndicalism as one of the forms of the revolutionary workers' movement.

However, the question which is posed today is not whether anarchists should or should not participate in revolutionary syndicalism, but rather how and to what end they must take part.

We consider the period up to the present day, when anarchists entered the syndicalist movement as individuals and propagandists, as a period of artisan relationships towards the professional workers movement.

Anarcho-syndicalism, trying to forcefully introduce libertarian ideas into the left wing of revolutionary syndicalism as a means of creating anarchist-type unions, represents a step forward, but it does not, as yet, go beyond the empirical method, for anarcho-syndicalism does not necessarily interweave the 'anarchisation' of the trade union movement with that of the anarchists organised outside the movement. For it is only on this basis, of such a liaison, that revolutionary trade unionism could be 'anarchised' and prevented from moving towards opportunism and reformism.

In regarding syndicalism only as a professional body of workers without a coherent social and political theory, and consequently, being powerless to resolve the social question on its own, we consider that the tasks of anarchists in the ranks of the movement consist of developing libertarian theory, and point it in a libertarian direction, in order to transform it into an active arm of the social revolution. It is necessary to never forget that if trade unionism does not find in anarchist theory a support in opportune times it will turn, whether we like it or not, to the ideology of a political statist party.

The tasks of anarchists in the ranks of the revolutionary workers' movement could only be fulfilled on conditions that their work was closely interwoven and linked with the activity of the anarchist organisation outside the union. In other words, we 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.

Without restricting ourselves to the creation of anarchist unions, we must seek to exercise our theoretical influence on all trade unions, and in all its forms (the IWW, Russian TU's). We can only achieve this end by working in rigorously organised anarchist collectives; but never in small empirical groups, having between them neither organisational liaison nor theoretical agreement.

Groups of anarchists in companies, factories and workshops, preoccupied in creating anarchist unions, leading the struggle in revolutionary unions for the domination of libertarian ideas in unionism, groups organised in their action by a general anarchist organisation: these are the ways and means of anarchists' attitudes vis à vis trade unionism.