ANARCHIST COMMUNISTS: A QUESTION OF CLASS
If the political organization of Anarchist Communists is not to limit itself to simple propaganda of sacred principles, its work in the struggles of the exploited must be incisive, effective and recognizable. For this reason the political and strategic line which the organization follows must be seen outside the organization as being united, capable of representing a solid reference point for the proletariat in its process of acquiring consciousness. The functional principle which allows this is known as "collective responsibility" and was outlined by the Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad in France (Delo Truda), in the "Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists - Project". The definition of this function sparked off a great scandal within the Anarchist movement, to the extent that the word "Platformist" is still used as an insult against Anarchist Communists. However, it is based on a misunderstanding which we will now seek to clear up.
The confusionists of Anarchism mistakenly identified the collective responsibility of the Anarchist Communist political organization with the democratic centralism of Leninism. But it is a facetious comparison. In democratic centralism, a group of leaders take decisions which the members are then obliged to apply. As membership of the party is voluntary, at least in those places where it is not in power, this is perfectly legitimate as those who agree to join the organization agree with its way of functioning. All this, however, has absolutely nothing to do with collective responsibility, which instead provides for the maximum democracy in decision-making (at the Congress, where each member counts as much as any other). But once decisions have been accepted by the majority, the entire organization is bound by them. The minority can always decide not to apply the decision, but they cannot block the work of the organization or damage the external image of the organization by working against the decision. At the following Congress it will be able to make its case once more and try to convince a majority of members, either should the previous line have clearly failed or else through greater success in setting out their case.
The Anarchist Communist organization has four basic principles on which it bases its work: theoretical unity, strategic unity, tactical homogeneity and collective responsibility. Theoretical unity means that all members must share the general principles which inspire the organization - in other words, the principles outlined in this work. If this were not the case they would be working for different causes and should therefore belong to different organizations. Strategic unity means that all members must share the common path which the organization establishes to the social revolution - in other words, those guidelines which all agree on regarding the organization's actions from now until (it is hoped) a not-too-distant future. Without a common strategy, the actions of members or groups of members would follow different paths and the organization per se would be unable to play any meaningful role in the struggles of the masses. Tactical homogeneity means that the daily, local activities of the various members and groups must tend to agree with the general strategic line, though there can be some diversification according to the varying local situations. If the tactics of the various components of the organization did not run along similar lines, the organization's actions would be confused and incoherent.
The Anarchist movement has known two types of organization: organizations of synthesis and organizations of tendency. Synthesist organizations accept members who declare themselves to be Anarchists, without any further specification. It is possible, therefore, for members to be Educationalists, Communists, Syndicalists, Insurrectionalists and even Individualists. The range is not always quite so wide and the level of theoretical unity required can vary from one organization to another. For example, in 1965 the class-struggle wing of the Federazione Anarchica Italiana succeeded in having Malatesta's 1920 programme adopted by the organization, thereby provoking a split with the anti-organizationalist and individualist elements. Whatever the level of theoretical unity may be (and it is never complete), the absence of any strategic unity means that any decisions taken need be observed only by those who agree with them, leaving the others to do as they please. This means that the decisions are of little value, that Congresses can make no effective resolutions, that internal debate is unproductive (as everyone maintains their own positions) and that the organization goes through the motions of its internal rites without presenting a common face outside the organization. The absence of any formal structure not only does not guarantee greater internal democracy but can permit the creation of informal groups of hidden leaders. These groups come together on the basis of affinity, they can co-opt new adherents and they can generate an uncontrolled and uncontrollable leadership, hard to identify but nonetheless effective.
Organizations of tendency gather their members on the basis of a shared theory (there are also organizations of anti-organizationalists!). This was the case in 1919 with Fabbri's Unione Comunista Anarchica d'Italia (Anarchist Communist Union of Italy) before Malatesta, with his Programme, transformed it into the synthesist Unione Anarchica Italiana (Italian Anarchist Union) out of a desire for unanimity and maybe in the hope of dragging towards class-struggle positions those who did not want to know anything about the class struggle. Obviously, Anarchist Communists organizations are organizations of tendency. The strong tendency towards homogeneity which is accepted by members when they join places a great limit on the apparently coercive nature of the principle of collective responsibility. Indeed, when a known member of any party takes a certain position, it inevitably reflects (even if they do not intend it to) on their organization in the eyes of the public. For this reason it can be even more dangerous for members to speak "different tongues", just because they do not wish to accept a single method of communication, than it is when the communicative vocabulary to be adopted is previously agreed on.
5.6. The Programme