The role of the anarchist organisation - archived version from before Oct 2014


What the Workers Solidarity Movement see the role of the anarchist organisation as being. How we see its relationship with and as part of the working class. How we see a revolution developing.  This is an old version of the position paper - the current version is at

A Workers Solidarity Movement Position Paper

The Role of the Anarchist Organisation

General Principles

1. The role of the Anarchist organisation is to popularise and fight for the creation of a society based on the principles of anarchism, i.e. individual freedom, collective management of society by its workers, participatory democracy.

2. We recognise that such a society can only be built by a conscious movement of the working class using its industrial power.

3. A successful revolutionary transformation is dependent on two essential criteria being present in the working class:
a) Widespread revolutionary consciousness. This has to consist of the following:
i) a rejection of both the exploitation and authoritarianism of Capitalism.
ii) an aspiration in the class to reorganise society in a new and better way around its own direct needs and interests.
iii) recognition in the class of the tenet that only the working class itself can make and secure the revolutionary transformation of society and that following from that only the councils created by the class in the workplaces and communities represent any authority on these matters in the new society. No other power centres in society to be allowable.
b) Industrial organisation and solidarity in the class to be sufficiently developed such that physical control over the means of production and distribution can be achieved and all remnants of the state be abolished.

4. The role of the anarchist organisation is to develop both of these essential criteria in the class. This means the organisation must devote itself to developing both revolutionary class consciousness and the practical capacity for revolutionary self-organisation. The latter demands both the ability to expropriate the means of production from the capitalist class, protect this from reactionary forces, and carry on the running of society via self-management. These aspects of our task are mutually dependent, as the working class's consciousness of itself as a class with a united goal can only develop through experience of collective struggle and cooperation.

The organisation of the class

5. The anarchist organisation sees itself as part of the working-class, its anarchist ideas a historical development of the experiences of workers who as an exploited class seek to create a new world free of tyranny and exploitation of any form.

6. We wish to win the most widespread understanding and influence for our anarchist ideas and methods in the class and in society, but these alone will not expedite a successful revolutionary transformation of society. We recognise our role as facilitating the development of revolutionary class consciousness and self-organisation within the class. In this sense, we see our role within the class as contributing to a broader "leadership of ideas" defined by libertarian means and socialist goals.

7. We reject the notion that the organisation is a vanguard in the class because of its role in developing self-organisation and class consciousness. We recognise that a vanguard does exist within the class but that its central characteristic is that its politics are derived from the concrete experience of fighting Capitalism on the shop floor, in communities and in resistance to forms of oppression targeting particular identities.

8. While recognising the presence of a vanguard within the class which most obviously reflects its uneven development, our aim as an organisation will always be to minimise such unevenness without compromising political content. We recognise and will always fight against that influence in our class that seeks to promote the need for a permanent, unelected leadership no matter what context, explanation or excuse is used.

9. We seek influence for our ideas in all class organisations. In real terms that means WSM will go forward for all positions in the unions and other bodies where there is the possibility of mandating and recall. We will never accept any position that is not under the control of the members of that body. Such positions are not ends in themselves. The struggle to win them must be bound up with a fight for more democracy, more mandating, more control. We are striving for the self-activity of the many.

10. We have to be able to explain and clarify what is happening in society. We have to be capable of combating false ideas such as Social democracy and Leninism. We aim to be a 'collective memory' for the class, both in terms of the above and of keeping alive and developing the traditions of the labour movement and anarchism.

11. Unlike a certain tendency within the anarchist movement we do not fight against the state as if it were some abstraction unrelated to the division of society into classes. The state, in itself, is not the real enemy - states are the product of this division into exploiting and exploited classes. To treat it as something that exists independently of society leads into a swamp of muddle-headed liberal politics. We stand for the "abolition of the state" because we are totally opposed to authoritarianism and to any form of society that needs a state; i.e... a society where a minority rules.

12. Our role is that of educators and instigators. In so far as we are leaders it is because we are a "leadership" of ideas. We have no time for the leadership of personalities or that of a higher committee of a party. We have no wish to be what the Leninists call "The Revolutionary Leadership". That implies their party has reached a stage where it has the "right" to take decisions for the class (whether they like it or not). We reject this sort of leadership as authoritarian and destructive of workers' democracy.

13. Our experience of requirements for membership has been difficult.  When we had a loose set of requirements a split developed and it was thought by those who remained that recruitment on too low a political level contributed significantly to that split.  However when we had quite tight membership requirements including a lengthy reading list the organization failed to grow and while it had a good reputation amongst a narrow layer of activists it was unknown outside of that layer.  The return at the end of the 1990's to looser membership requirements saw very significant growth for the WSM but growth that ended in the breakdown of collective agreement and action and significant political differences. From this we conclude that the problem is not so much the level of agreement and work expected from members but rather than there should only be a one size fits all membership.  Moving forward we will seek to have several levels of membership and of engagement with people who are not members.

14. "Only the truth is revolutionary". Whoever first said this was spot on. We do not raise as immediate demands those that are impossible at the time because of the balance of forces. We do not play at politics. We do not fool, intimidate or manipulate workers towards anarchism. We aim to win the arguments for change and anarchism. It is not part of our programme to try to take power "in the name of the workers". Anarchism will either be the creation of a free and politically aware working class....or it will not be anarchism.

15. We understand the centrality of struggle and organisation in the workplace because that is where we have real power. But this does not mean that we neglect or ignore the struggles that take place in other areas of life. We don't. We support all struggles that can improve the conditions we live under. At every opportunity we seek to bring these struggles into the union and workplaces, we try to bring the potential strength of organised workers to bear in their link up the different struggles into an understanding of their common roots in capitalism, and to establish the legitimacy of political issues being taken up on the shopfloor.

16. We support all progressive struggles both for their own aims and for the increased confidence that campaigning can give people.

17. In all modern revolutionary situations workers have thrown up their own organs in the form of workers' councils. They may have gone under different names - revolutionary committees, soviets, etc. - but the essential form has remained the same whether it was in Russia 1917, Spain 1936, or Hungary 1956.

18. These councils act not just as the best means of mobilising the class against the bosses but also lay the basis for the administration of the new society. Within them revolutionaries have to fight the ideas of authoritarian tendencies and continually argue that the new workers' democracy must not delegate away its power to any elite, or allow any minority to seize that power. Within them members of the revolutionary organisation must be the "driving force". This means winning the battle of ideas. It does NOT mean capturing the leading positions, vesting them with undue authority and then dishonestly interpreting this as a mandate for giving orders.

19. We oppose all ideas of power in the post-revolutionary period being wielded by "the party of the working class". The division of labour between those who rule and those who are ruled has lasted too long. It can only be ended by the "self-emancipation" of the working-class. All power must be exercised by the workers council.....and by nobody else. Such power shall be compatible with the libertarian slogan that individual freedom will know no limit except that it does not take away the freedom of others.

20. This is not to deny the need for efficient co-ordination and decision making in all spheres of life. The point is that the ultimate authority will be the democratic, mass organs of the class. Let there be no talk of the state co-existing with the workers councils....the councils would be co-existed out of existence! Instead of the state there will be the federation of workers councils.

21. It is on this issue that our fundamental difference with Leninism is made clear. We agree with Lenin that authority can only be defeated by authority, that the authority of the bosses will be destroyed by the authority of the workers. We agree on the need for a lead to be given within the class. but while our leadership is one of persuasion and education, the Leninist party goes way beyond this and tries to grab power through control of the state. It seeks to exercise the authority of the party over the workers. In doing this it prepares the way for the growth of a new oppressive ruling class.

22. After the initial stage of the revolution when the ruling class are dispossessed of their wealth and power, the revolutionary organisation will continue to grow. There will be a massive surge of workers into its ranks because its politics will seem all the more concrete and realistic. In the transitional period (that time between the overthrow of the old order and consolidation of the new) the main task will be further anarchist ideas and values, and fighting for all power to be taken by workers councils. As the revolution consolidates its gains and begins the reconstruction of society the task is to help the class towards the anarchist ideal. As this ideal becomes more and more established and the obstacles to its achievement fade away, the revolutionary organisation becomes less necessary and eventually vanishes completely.

Amended at National Conference, June 2011, retired at Oct 2014 conference

This is an old version of the position paper - the current version is at