WSM Points of Unity Explained: 4 - Platformism (2)


'4. The core ideas of this tradition that we identify with are the need for anarchist political organisations that seek to develop:

  1. Theoretical Unity
  2. Tactical Unity       
  3. Collective Action and Discipline       
  4. Federalism’

Federalism is an organisational structure based on “the free agreement of individuals and organisations to work collectively towards a common objective”. It is finding the best balance between independence and coherence. This means, for example, that all decisions are made by those affected by them as opposed to centralism, where decisions are made by a central committee for those affected by them. Or that while all WSM branches are united under a common national policy, they can make their own local decisions. It also means that we have no leaders or officials with higher authority than others. Rather, we have 'officers' who are delegated temporary authority to perform certain tasks as mandated by the membership (for instance, to be treasurer).

Theoretical Unity means simply that if you fundamentally disagree with someone, don’t be in a political group with them. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree all the time but there does need to be a certain baseline amount of ideological unity – for instance in the WSM's nine points of unity. Otherwise, basic ideological disagreements will frequently break out and make effective organising very difficult - are we communists or mutualists, do we work in the unions or not, etc. Further to this, theoretical unity also means developing a more advanced collective political understanding which carries over time. The WSM does this formally by producing substantial 'position papers' on certain topics (like racism, or ecology). Though it is not required to agree with every point, these position papers represent the collectively agreed politics of the WSM. This theoretical unity allows us to act more decisively, to concentrate our resources and hence have greater influence.

Tactical Unity means that the members of an organisation should struggle together as an organised force rather than as individuals. Once a strategy has been agreed by the collective all members should work towards ensuring its success, saving resources and time and multiplying our effect as individuals by concentrating in a common direction. For example, making intervening in a particular campaign the main focus of our collective activity, or forming a working group to host an event.

Collective Action and Discipline means that there is a minimum expected commitment of each member, that they should take part in the collective decision-making process and respect the decisions of the collective, and also that the organisation is accountable to the individual.

In this manner we try to tackle some of the problems that have faced the anarchist movement, which we believe are partly due to lack of organisation, while at the same time being consistent with the libertarian ideas of free association, self-management, and democracy.

This is one in a series of short articles explaining the WSM Points of Unity.
To listen to all these pieces together, click here.
To read all the WSM Points of Unity, click here.
To read about the next Point of Unity - Trade Unions - click here.