Platformism, non-vanguardist direct democracy and some opponents

There are three main "hesitant" tendencies within social class-struggle anarchism.

There is the anarcho-syndicalist trend that still has the urge to organize the working wage slaves.

Then there is the "hesitant trend" that finds it difficult to accept the quick transition to a money-less libertarian communist social order after the defeat the capitalist class system.

And finally there are those individualism-infested comrades, who shift the dynamic balance of freedom-equality-solidarity from solidarity to (individualist) freedom.

The first trend still looks to union organizing as power building and diminishes the value of the propaganda of leading ideas by means of direct action of a wide spectrum of direct action.

The "hesitant trend" does not really respect the common sense of working-class people who, once they throw away the authoritarian, capitalist class system (and unless they fall prey to the authoritarians of the left who will tempt them to adopt another authoritarian system), will adopt the obvious libertarian communist system, which is the only viable anti-authoritarian alternative.

The individualism-infested comrades cannot imagine what real fraternal solidarity is. They cannot grasp that once class-struggle social anarchist activists (who recognize the value of direct action and promote libertarian communism) team up together, the differences within their ranks are not about principles or basic theory... or ego. The differences are about the assessment of probabilities, the best strategies and tactics to adopt. Minor differences, if not inflated by considerations of ego. Individualists, with their over-sensitive egos, cannot even understand how anyone can accept the majority's wisdom on a particular question or regard unity in struggle as more empowering than having one's wisdom win out 100% of the time.

The hot polemics around the "Platformist" unity of theory-strategy-action development and bi-directional responsibility (or "collective responsibility") are an expression of the above three main trends.

Many of those engaged in these polemics, with a distinct lack honesty and wishing to gain points more than anything, confound the differences between the direct democracy and organisational principles among like-minded activists within the capitalist system, with the direct democracy of grassroots communities and other social structures after the revolution, in the heterogeneous society. (Trends which lie outside the world of revolutionary class-struggle social anarchism are beyond the scope of this discussion.)

The individualist-leaning people find it hard to entrust any part of their precious individual independence to the hands of other comrades when it comes to delegating them to mandated tasks on behalf of the collective ("No-one tells me what to do... not even my doctor!"). The price one has to pay in relinquishing part of one's control over one's activity (freedom) in order to have a part in control over what the collective will do (solidarity) is too painful for them. Almost as difficult for them as this is the pain caused by mandating others in return for their being accountable - or being mandated, but under the control of being accountable to others.

Basically they abhor direct democracy, even though it is the best way to crystallize the collective wisdom and will and to guide the common activity.

In the libertarian communist organization I belonged to, it was obvious that one should consider the collective solidarity more important and respect it - even when one's own wisdom differs from the majority opinion in some detail or other. When feasible, one is expected to present personal opinions (i.e. opinions that are not those of the collective) to non-members, in private or in public, in a clear and comradely way, without confounding or exaggerating the differences. Direct democracy is not only about specific acts in one specific area of activity. There can be many ongoing discussions and projects and many times certain collective members may hold a "minority" opinion with respect to the one decided on as the formal, collective position. But as long as it is a matter of fact and can be contained in a comradely way, there is no problem. When an individual or minority is in disagreement with the basics of the collective (or federation), the best thing is to part company. Activist collectives within the capitalist system are not the same as the grassroots communities of libertarian communist society.

The individualists try to justify their rejection of collective direct democracy by claiming that the majority is not always correct. But no libertarian communist would ever claim that the majority is imbued with some sort of divine wisdom. The majority probably never holds the ultimate truth but, in the long run, the best answer available in any situation is generally considered to be that held by the majority, simply due to the fact that more brain cells are involved with respect to any individual genius or that of a minority.

Most objections to the direct-democratic bi-directional unity and responsibility of anarchist communist organizations comes from people who are not anarchist communists but who simply wish to federate (loosely) with a wide spectrum of anarchists. Some objections do come from anarchists who genuinely want a libertarian communist society and who, as a result of certain misconceptions and emotional objections, refuse to accept what it takes.

Critics of the direct democracy of delegation, majority decisions, unity and responsibility often hide their more basic non-rational objections to the anarchist communist mode of organization - whether it is the organizational mode of collectives within the capitalist system or the organizational mode needed during the post-capitalist libertarian communist society. If you ask them to state how anarchist communists can adapt their present mode of operation (the means) in such a way that it will be compatible with the operational system of a post-capitalist society (the end), they will just evade the question as in order to do so, they would need to state how the world could be organized in a viable way, without direct democracy and all that it entails.

The most ironic answer is that of the pure "consensus" people to the method of decision making when hundreds or more people are involved. Instead of following the wisdom of the majority of assembly members, they propose to delegate the power of decision making to a small group of delegated spokespersons who will reach consensus among themselves.

The objectors to bi-directional responsibility oppose "limiting" the spectrum of membership to people who are clearly anarchist communists, where the differences among them are minimal. They do not accept the need for a relatively homogeneous grouping (which is required in order to be able to develop together theory, strategies, and tactics) because while they may at times act collectively, they only think individually. Thus, their objection to offending some people in a minor way because of decisions they do not fully agree with ("the cost") for joint activities is exaggerated by both individualist ego sensitivity and disregard for the value of collective superior wisdom ("the benefits").

People are just people - not angels. Not even red'n'black angels. There will always be conflicting tendencies within each person, between different people, and between people and society regarding urges and wills. Thus, there will always be the need to delegate with specific mandates, subject to ongoing accountability, potential recall and rotation. There will always be the tension between tendency to strive for consensus in order to minimize frustration and to decide by majority when time is pressing.

Solidarity does not only mean that "an injury to one is an injury to all". It also signifies that "the happiness of one is part of the common happiness".