Multi-tendency political organisations, especially left-wing groups, accommodate members who are affiliated or identify with different political ideologies, agendas, interests or perspectives. The word has been used to describe groupings of social democrats, socialists, communists, environmentalists, human rights advocates, anti-war activists, LGBT rights activists, feminists, African-American activists, anti-racist and anti-fascist activists as well as anarchists  who work together in support of a common cause. Multi-tendency pluralistic groups are distinguished from those groups that strictly adhere to a party line or a stringent credo.
The term "multi-tendency" was first used by Philip Selznick. Selznick (1919–2010), later professor emeritus of law and society at the University of California, Berkeley, under his party name of Philip Sherman, first used the term in the Workers Party's Internal Bulletin (April 1941, 4). He used it to represent the opinion of Trotskyists who rejected the leadership of James Cannon and who left the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) to found the Workers Party in 1940. In 1941, Selznick was head of a faction in the Workers Party known as the Shermanites. In the Bulletin he used the term to criticize the leadership of Max Schachtman who was criticized for a leadership style that was considered too close to that of the democratic centralism of James Cannon. Therefore, the term was first used simply as an antonym of democratic centralism. In 1949, the Workers Party renamed itself the Independent Socialist League (ISL) and later, in 1957, joined the Socialist Party of America.