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The Need for Strategy, Tactics and Programme

category brazil/guyana/suriname/fguiana | anarchist movement | policy statement author Tuesday February 14, 2012 16:47author by Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro - FARJ Report this post to the editors
It is essential that the specific anarchist organisation works with a strategy. We can define strategy from the formulation of answers to three questions: 1.) Where are we? 2.) Where do we want to go? 3.) How do we think we can leave where we are and arrive at where we want to be? Strategy is, then, the theoretical formulation of a diagnosis of the present situation, the conception of the situation one wants to reach and a set of actions that will aim to transform the present situation, causing it to reach the desired situation. We can also say that “we understand strategy as a set of elements, united in a systematic and coherent way that points towards great final objectives. [... and] unites the final objectives with the specific historical reality”.



It is essential that the specific anarchist organisation works with a strategy. We can define strategy from the formulation of answers to three questions: 1.) Where are we? 2.) Where do we want to go? 3.) How do we think we can leave where we are and arrive at where we want to be? Strategy is, then, the theoretical formulation of a diagnosis of the present situation, the conception of the situation one wants to reach and a set of actions that will aim to transform the present situation, causing it to reach the desired situation. We can also say that “we understand strategy as a set of elements, united in a systematic and coherent way that points towards great final objectives. [... and] unites the final objectives with the specific historical reality” [174].

Devising our strategy of social transformation is what we are trying to accomplish in this text. Firstly, reflecting on the first question and mapping capitalism and the state, which give body to the society of domination and exploitation, then; reflecting on the second question, trying to conceive our final objectives of social revolution and libertarian socialism. Finally, reflecting on the third question and proposing a social transformation that takes places through social movements, constituted into the popular organisation, in constant interaction with the specific anarchist organisation. All this while considering as priority the interests of the exploited classes. Thus, behind the conception of all this theoretical material is a strategic rationale. In this case strategy was used to conceive a proposal for the social transformation of the current society, seeking to channel it towards libertarian socialism – what we call permanent strategy; a very broad strategy for the realisation of our long-term goals.

Strategy can also be conceived in less broad, even restricted ways. Any action that the specific anarchist organisation, or even its militants, aims to carry out can be strategically conceived. A front of the anarchist organisation, for example, can conceive its work “responding” to the three questions above: 1.) Today we do not have insertion in the community movement of a particular neighbourhood that is growing a lot and we think that good work could be developed there. 2.) In one year we want to be able to carry out regular social work with some insertion. 3.) Therefore, we will try to approach this movement, getting to know it from closer, and start a permanent practice of social work, seeking social insertion.

Similarly a militant can, for example, make a proposal for political self-education, also responding to the three questions. 1.) I have deficiencies on a particular theoretical question that I believe is hampering my militancy. 2.) I would like to resolve this problem in six months, because I think this will open more possibilities for my militancy. 3.) I will do this, firstly, by conversing with the more experienced comrades in my organisation and asking for guidance on where I can find material on the subject, then I will read all the material and propose a debate with other comrades and, finally, I will formalise my ideas into a text and present it to the organisation for the comrades to give their opinions.

In short everything in the organisation, from the most complex to the most simple, can and should be done strategically.

In the specific anarchist organisation the question of strategy development is treated as follows. There should always be wide debate about strategy, including the three questions listed above. The specific anarchist organisation should seek to perform a diagnosis of the reality within which it operates, set the final long-term objectives and, most importantly, determine the different periods and cycles of struggle, each one with their respective objectives. This “macro” line (of diagnostics, medium- and long-term objectives) is called strategy, and the grand objectives (are called) the strategic objectives. Strategy, then, is detailed in a more “micro” line, or tactics, which determines the short-term objectives and the actions that are put into practice by militants or groups of militants that aim to achieve the short-term tactical objectives. Obviously, the achievement of tactical objectives should contribute to the approximation, or even to the achievement, of the strategic objectives.

When this strategic-tactical line of the organisation is established a plan of action is determined, and every militant has a well-defined function and clear objectives to be achieved. It is important to set deadlines for the accomplishment of actions, with assessments of the results at the end of each period or cycle. These assessments are done by evaluations of how the activities are proceeding, whether they are heading towards where we had imagined, if we were wrong about something. In sum: we see if we are moving towards the established objectives, or if we are distancing ourselves from them. If the former case, we correct the errors, make adjustments and proceed in the same way. If the latter, we change tactical actions and eventually the strategy, carrying out the same process again within a certain timeframe. It is this process of moving, evaluating, pursuing, re-evaluating etc. that causes the organisation to advance with strategy and to proceed correctly in the struggle. Thus,

[...] strategy provides only general lines for a period. It is tactics that embody it in concrete, current reality translating it [the strategy] into deeds. The tactical options, as they respond to more precise, concrete and immediate problems can be more varied, more flexible. However, they cannot be in contradiction with the strategy. An adequate strategic-tactical conception has to take into account, as we have said, the actual situation and the period for which it provides. [175]
The strategy should be the same while the diagnosis of the reality in which one operates and the objectives are the same. “If the general situation experienced very important changes it would alter the conditions under which the organisation has to work and this, if it wanted to act effectively, would have to revise its strategy in order to adapt it to the new situation.” [176] The objectives work in the same way. If the objectives change, for example in a post-revolutionary situation, the strategy can be modified. Hence the importance both of the comprehension of the actual situation in which we live, and also of the establishment of clear and precise objectives; essential components in the development of strategy, since “in politics there is no honest and useful practice possible without a clearly defined theory and objective” [177]. The diagnosis of the present society that we intend to transform and “the end at which we wish to arrive, by will or by necessity” already [having been] established, “the great problem of life is to find the means that, according to the circumstances, leads with greater security and in the most economic way to the pre-determined end” [178].

The strategic line is formalised into a programme that guides all the actions of the organisation and its militants. “You must never renounce the revolutionary socialist programme, clearly established, both in form and in substance”. [179] We understand, therefore, that

strategy must come alive in a programme of action that establishes general guidelines for a period or stage. A programme must have its roots in the realities of the different levels of our society. Our strategy is unable to advance, to develop, if it does not have fluent contact with concrete problems that exist in the distinct situations that comprise a phase of action. [180]
That is, for the strategic line to be established and formalised into the programme contact with practice, which enables theory with knowledge, is essential. This contact will also enable the correct tactical unfolding of the strategy. The programme
[...] constitutes the common platform for all the militants in the anarchist organisation. Without this platform, the only co-operation that you could have would be based on sentimental, vague and confused desires and would not have a real unity of perspectives.[...] The programme is not a set of secondary aspects that group (or, often, do not divide) people that think in a similar way, but a body of analysis and proposals that is only adopted by those that believe in it and who choose to spread this work and transform it into reality. [181]
Through the programme the specific anarchist organisation makes known its strategic proposal for social transformation. At the same time as it serves to guide the action of the militants of the organisation, it serves to mark the organisation’s positions for other people who are not part of it, making public this set of analyses and proposals.

This set of strategy, tactics and programme gives the organisation a form of planned activities through which it is possible to obtain the best results. Planning is indispensable to any anarchist organisation.

The strategic conception of the specific anarchist organisation has, inevitably, an ideological component. Ideology

constitutes an essential motor of political action and an inevitable component of any strategy. Every political practice assumes certain motives and a direction that is only made clearly discernible by the extent to which it is explicit and organised as ideology. [182]
However, we must not confuse ideology and strategy. In relation to ideology strategy is much more flexible since it varies according to the social context, the current situation. Therefore, anarchist ideology may have different strategies, as each organisation operates in completely different contexts and situations. When we talk about tactics, it is an even greater truth. As the social composition of each location is different, as well as the political forces, government positions, reactionary forces etc. it is natural that in each context and conjuncture you apply different tactics to the political practice of anarchism. For example, there are places and contexts in which it is worth considering syndicalism as a space for social work, there are others in which it is not, and so on.

We stated earlier that the specific anarchist organisation should work with strategic and tactical unity, which occurs through the decision-making process described above, that seeks consensus and in cases where it is not possible opts for the vote, the majority winning. In this case all the militants of the organisation are required to follow the winning position. As with any other decision-making process, the issues are clearly posed, debated, and there is an attempt to reconcile the different points of view. This reconciliation not being possible, the organisation must summarise the main proposals and vote. Thus, the organisation decides, by consensus or by vote, the answers to the three questions of strategy. It formulates the tactical-strategic line and everyone goes in the same direction. It periodically evaluates this line, and can reformulate it.

We have stressed that all decisions are made collectively, without any kind of imposition. However, with established priorities and responsibilities each militant cannot do what they wish, by themselves. Each one has an obligation pertaining to the organisation to accomplish that which they committed to and that which was defined as a priority. Obviously, as we have emphasised, we must always try to reconcile the activities that each one likes to do with the responsibilities established by the organisation, but we do not always have to do only what we like.

The model of the specific anarchist organisation implies that the militants have to do things that they do not like very much or stop doing some of the things they like. This is to ensure that the organisation progresses with strategy. Progressing with strategy makes the anarchist organisation a coherent and effective organisation; an organisation dedicated to serious, committed militancy in which the militants do that which they have established as priority and work on the tasks that contribute in the most effective way possible to the consolidation of their strategic objectives. The relatively common practice of many anarchist groups and organisations performing different actions, to the left and to the right, while understanding that they are contributing to a common whole is not accepted. Contrary to this model, practice with strategy

relates to not doing what one wants, nor isolatedly estimating everything that appears, nor being discouraged because the advance is not immediately visible. It deals with setting objectives and advancing towards them. Of choosing action and establishing priorities in support of these objectives. This clearly implies that there will be activities that we do not realise, events in which we are not involved. They can be important and even spectacular, but they do not count if they do not fit with the proposals for the stage of our programme. In other cases we will be in absolute minority, or with major complications, in activities that are consistent with our objectives. To choose what we like most or what brings fewer complications is not correct politics.[183]
Returning to the issue of voting for the setting of strategy, it is important to state that who is deliberating is the organisation and not one individual or another. So when a strategic issue is settled by the vote, regardless of the vote of each one, all the militants of the organisation have the obligation to follow the collectively determined position. This is an important position in the model of organisation that we advocate because the collectively taken positions are not recommendations, but rather part of a strategic line that must necessarily be followed by all. For us, “organisation means co-ordination of forces with a common objective, and an obligation not to promote actions contrary to this objective” [184]. We must emphasise that the freedom to join an organisation is equal to the freedom to disconnect from one, and, in the case of an individual or minority often feeling neglected by the decisions of the majority, they have the freedom to split. It is important to emphasise that the strategic decisions, even if taken by means of a vote, are collective decisions and not individual disputes within the organisation.

In strategic terms this unity will allow for everyone in the organisation to row the boat in the same direction and can multiply the results of militant forces. Thus, everyone has a similar reading of where we are, were we want to go and how to progress from one point to another.


174. FAU. Resoluciones Sobre el Tema Estrategia.

175. Juan Mechoso. Op. Cit. p. 196.

176. Ibid.

177. Mikhail Bakunin. "Programa Revolucionário e Programa Liberal". In: Conceito de Liberdade, p. 188.

178. Errico Malatesta. "Los Fines y los Medios". Excerpt from L’En Dehors, 17 August 1892. In: Vernon Richards. Op. Cit. p. 69.

179. Mikhail Bakunin. "Programa Revolucionário e Programa Liberal". In: Conceito de Liberdade, p. 188.

180. FAU. Resoluciones Sobre el Tema Estrategia.

181. George Fontenis. "Libertarian Communist Manifesto".

182. Juan Mechoso. Op. Cit. p. 197.

183. FAU. Resoluciones Sobre el Tema Estrategia.

184. Errico Malatesta. "A Organização II". In: Escritos Revolucionários, pp. 59-60.

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