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Synthesis anarchism, synthesist anarchism, synthesism or synthesis federations is a form of anarchist organization that seeks diversity upon its participants, which tries to join anarchists of different tendencies under the principles of anarchism without adjectives. In the 1920s, this form found as its main proponents the anarcho-communists Voline and Sébastien Faure, bringing together anarchists of three main tendencies, namely individualist anarchism, anarchist communism and anarcho-syndicalism. It is the main principle behind the anarchist federations grouped around the contemporary global International of Anarchist Federations.
The originators of the expression "anarchism without adjectives" were Cuban-born Fernando Tarrida del Mármol and Ricardo Mella, who were troubled by the bitter debates between mutualist, individualists and communist anarchists in the 1880s. Their use of the phrase "anarchism without adjectives" was an attempt to show greater tolerance between anarchist tendencies and to be clear that anarchists should not impose a preconceived economic plan on anyone—even in theory. Anarchists without adjectives tended either to reject all particular anarchist economic models as faulty, or take a pluralist position of embracing them all to a limited degree in order that they may keep one another in check. Regardless, to these anarchists the economic preferences are considered to be of "secondary importance" to abolishing all coercive authority, with free experimentation the one rule of a free society.
This conflict soon spread outside of Spain and the discussion found its way into the pages of La Revolte in Paris. This provoked many anarchists to agree with Errico Malatesta's argument that "[i]t is not right for us, to say the least, to fall into strife over mere hypotheses". Over time, most anarchists agreed (to use Max Nettlau's words) that "we cannot foresee the economic development of the future" and so started to stress what they had in common, rather than the different visions of how a free society would operate. As time progressed, most anarcho-communists saw that ignoring the labour movement ensured that their ideas did not reach the working class while most anarcho-syndicalists stressed their commitment to communist ideals and their arrival sooner, rather than later, after a revolution.
Similarly, in the United States there was an intense debate at the same time between individualist and communist anarchists. Anarchists like Voltairine de Cleyre "came to label herself simply 'Anarchist,' and called like Malatesta for an 'Anarchism without Adjectives,' since in the absence of government many different experiments would probably be tried in various localities in order to determine the most appropriate form". Voltarine sought conciliation between the various schools and said in her essay Anarchism: "There is nothing un-Anarchistic about any of [these systems] until the element of compulsion enters and obliges unwilling persons to remain in a community whose economic arrangements they do not agree to. (When I say 'do not agree to' I do not mean that they have a mere distaste for...I mean serious differences which in their opinion threaten their essential liberties...)...Therefore I say that each group of persons acting socially in freedom may choose any of the proposed systems, and be just as thorough-going Anarchists as those who select another".
Volin was a prolific writer and anarchist intellectual who played an important part in the organization and leadership of Nabat. The Nabat Confederation of Anarchist Organizations, better known simply as Nabat (Набат), was an anarchist organization that came to prominence in Ukraine during the years 1918 to 1920. The area where it held the most influence is sometimes referred to as the Free Territory, though Nabat had branches in all of the major cities in southern Ukraine.
Volin was charged with writing a platform for Nabat that could be agreeable to all the major branches of anarchism, most importantly anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-collectivism, anarcho-communism, and anarcho-individualism. The uniform platform for Nabat was never truly decided upon, but Volin used what he had written and the inspiration from Nabat to create his Anarchist Synthesis. The proposed platform for Nabat included the following sentence which anticipated synthesis anarchism: "These three elements (syndicalism, communism and individualism) are three aspects of a single process, the building, of the organization of the working class (syndicalism), of the anarcho-communist society which is nothing more than the material base necessary for the complete fullness of the free individual".
The discussion about the anarchist synthesis arises in the context of the discussion on the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists, written by the Dielo Truda group of Russian exiles in 1926. The Platform attracted strong criticism from many sectors on the anarchist movement of the time including some of the most influential anarchists such as Voline, Errico Malatesta, Luigi Fabbri, Camillo Berneri, Max Nettlau, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman and Gregori Maximoff. Voline along with Mollie Steimer, Senya Fleshin and others wrote a reply stating that "to maintain that anarchism is only a theory of classes is to limit it to a single viewpoint. Anarchism is more complex and pluralistic, like life itself. Its class element is above all its means of fighting for liberation; its humanitarian character is its ethical aspect, the foundation of society; its individualism is the goal of mankind".
Two texts made as responses to the Platform, each proposing a different organizational model, became the basis for what is known as the organisation of synthesis, or simply "synthesism". Voline published in 1924 a paper calling for "the anarchist synthesis" and was also the author of the article in Sébastian Faure's Encyclopedie Anarchiste on the same topic. The main purpose behind the synthesis was that the anarchist movement in most countries was divided into three main tendencies: communist anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism and individualist anarchism and so such an organization could contain anarchists of these 3 tendencies very well.
The platformists wanted to push their ideas forward through organizing an international anarchist congress on February 12, 1927. Shortly later at the National Congress of the French Anarchist Union (UAF), the Dielo Truda Group achieved making their platform more popular and so they made the UAF change its name into Revolutionary Anarcho-Communist Union (UACR). Sébastian Faure led a faction within the UACR that decided to separate themselves from this organization and form outside it the Association of Federalist Anarchists (AFA), thinking that traditional anarchist ideas were being threatened by the Dielo Truda platform. Shortly later in his text The Anarchist Synthesis, he exposes the view that "these currents were not contradictory but complementary, each having a role within anarchism: anarcho-syndicalism as the strength of the mass organisations and the best way for the practice of anarchism; libertarian communism as a proposed future society based on the distribution of the fruits of labour according to the needs of each one; and anarcho-individualism as a negation of oppression and affirming the individual right to development of the individual, seeking to please them in every way.
In Italy, the synthesis anarchism federation Unione Anarchica Italiana emerged from the Unione Comunista Anarchica Italiana in 1920. The Unione Anarchica Italiana emerged just after the biennio rosso events and lasted until 1929 when it was banned by the Fascist regime. The Programma anarchico (Anarchist Program) of the Unione Anarchica Italiana was written by Errico Malatesta.
The Dielo Truda platform in Spain also met with strong criticism. Miguel Jimenez, a founding member of the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI), summarized this as follows: too much influence in it of Marxism, it erroneously divided and reduced anarchists between individualist anarchists and anarcho-communist sections and it wanted to unify the anarchist movement along the lines of the anarcho-communists. He saw anarchism as more complex than that, i.e. that anarchist tendencies are not mutually exclusive as the platformists saw it and that both individualist and communist views could accommodate anarchosyndicalism. Sébastian Faure had strong contacts in Spain and so his proposal had more impact in Spanish anarchists than the Dielo Truda platform even though individualist anarchist influence in Spain was less strong than it was in France. The main goal there was conciling anarcho-communism with anarcho-syndicalism.
In 1945, the synthesist Italian Anarchist Federation (Federazione Anarchica Italiana or FAI) was founded in Carrara. In it, the individualist anarchist Cesare Zaccaria played an important role in conciling conflicting factions. The Italian FAI adopted an Associative Pact and the Anarchist Program of Errico Malatesta. During its history, it included individualist anarchists such as the important group who in 1965 decided to split off from this organization and created Gruppi di Iniziativa Anarchica as well as the groups who in the 1970s split off to form a platformist group.
The Fédération Anarchiste (FA) was founded in Paris, France on December 2, 1945. It was composed of a majority of activists from the former FA (which supported Voline's synthesis) and some members of the former Union Anarchiste, which supported the CNT-FAI support to the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War, as well as some young Resistants. After a neo-platformist faction led by George Fontenis achieved changing the name of the organization into Libertarian Communist Federation (FCL) along with centralization and unanimous vote internal procedures, a new FA was reestablished on December, 1953 while the FCL broke up shortly after. The new base principles of the FA were written by the individualist anarchist Charles-Auguste Bontemps and the anarcho-communist Maurice Joyeux which established an organization with a plurality of tendencies and autonomy of federated groups organized around synthesist principles.
The International of Anarchist Federations (IAF/IFA) was founded during an international anarchist conference in Carrara in 1968 by the three existing European anarchist federations of France (Fédération Anarchiste), Italy (Federazione Anarchica Italiana) and Spain (Federación Anarquista Ibérica) as well as the Bulgarian federation in French exile. These organizations were also inspired on synthesist principles. Currently alongside the previously mentioned federations, the IAF includes the Argentine Libertarian Federation, the Anarchist Federation of Belarus, the Federation of Anarchists in Bulgaria, the Czech-Slovak Anarchist Federation, the Federation of German speaking Anarchists in Germany and Switzerland and the Anarchist Federation in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
This is the current list of IFA member federations as confirmed during their 11th Congress:
|Argentina||Argentine Libertarian Federation (Federación Libertaria Argentina)||FLA|||
|Belarus||Belarus Anarchist Black Cross (Анархический черный крест Беларусь)||АЧКБ / BABC|||
|Brazil||Iniciativa Federalista Anarquista no Brasil||IFAb|||
|Bulgaria||Federation of Anarchists in Bulgaria (Федерация на анархистите в България)||ФАБ / FAB|||
|Federation for Anarchist Organisation (Federacija za anarhistično organiziranje)||FAO|||
| Czech Republic
|Anarchist Federation (Anarchistická federace/Anarchistická Federácia)||AF|||
|Anarchist Federation (Fédération Anarchiste)||FA / FAF|||
|Federation of German speaking Anarchists (Föderation deutschsprachiger Anarchist*innen)||FdA|||
|Great Britain||Anarchist Federation||AF / AFed|||
|Greece||Anarchist Political Organisation (Αναρχική Πολιτική Οργάνωση)||APO / ΑΠΟ|||
|Italy||Italian Anarchist Federation (Federazione Anarchica Italiana)||FAI|||
|Mexico||Federation of Anarchists in Mexico (Federación Anarquista de México)||FAM|||
|Iberian Anarchist Federation (Federación Anarquista Ibérica)||FAI|||