Ukrainian civil war caused another heavy blow to those social forces in Russia, who call themselves “left”, “anti-fascist” or “anarchist movement”. Unable to withstand the tests about the infamous “national question”, or more precisely the examination on internationalism, this milieu splinted into supporters of one of the bourgeois camp who grappled with each other in the struggle for power in Ukraine.
The logic of support of Maidan coup and the regime in Kiev established by it, on the one hand, or of pro-Russian regimes in Donetsk and Lugansk, declared their secession from Kiev, on the other hand, inevitably led their apologists to the justification either of imperialist interests of NATO, or 0f predatory expansionism of Kremlin – that is, those powers which confront each other on the Ukrainian soil through their puppets and satellites.
The failure of the “left”
Many of the “left wingers” and “anarchists” in the former “Soviet Union” long time ago abandoned internationalist position and – in the pursuit of popularity in the “masses” – were ready to compromise with the various forms of nationalism. The Ukrainian war was the push that helped complete this evolution toward “right”. The left camp in Ukraine crashed into two main groups. The Leninists of “Borotba”, faced with open anti-left and Ukrainian nationalist rhetoric and practice of the Maidan, in fact, supported the opposing “Antimaydan” movement and declared the pro-Russian eruptions in the East of the country “anti-fascist”, despite of an active presence of ultra right-wingers on the very first roles in these activities. At the same time, leaders of the “Autonomous workers union” (AST) not only welcomed Maidan as “antidictatorial” protest, despite the leading role of ultra-rightist fighters on Maidan, but then got up on the side of Ukrainian centralized bourgeois state, denying any existence of dissatisfaction with the Kiev coup in the East of the country and reducing the whole problem solely to the aggressive actions of the Kremlin. Some groups suffered a brutal split. For example, some members of platformist RKAS went to the Maidan, others condemned the struggle for power in Kiev, but then proclaimed the intention to defend the “homeland against the aggressor”, Russia, the third is rumored to have entered into military formations of separatist “Donetsk People`s Republic” (DPR)…
No less confusion reigned among the Russian “left”. Some people (including most of the “anarchists”) from the outset sympathized Maidan as the alleged “people`s” and “self-organized” movement, ready to justify a tactical alliance with the Ukrainian nationalists and ultra-rightists. Someone supports Kiev in its conflict with the East and the Kremlin, guided by simplest “anti-Putin” motives and by the motto “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Others are still in captivity of idea of “progressive” national “liberation” movements, and have seen in the Maidan orientation toward NATO a manifestation of the progressive struggle against centuries-old yoke of “Russian Empire”. Fourth group, on the contrary, leaned in favor of the Republics of Donbass or even began to express more or less cautious support for the Kremlin’s policy by announcing the Russian imperialism a counterweight to “more terrible” enemy – imperialism of the West. Fifth group continues to declare the insurgency in the East an anti-fascist manifestation, claiming that “anti-fascism” should unite the entire political spectrum from the ultra-right-wing up to the ultra-leftists. Sixth tendency interprets the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the secession of Ukrainian East in the sense of “the right to self-determination” …
The inability of most of the “left” (in the broadest sense of the word) movement in Ukraine and Russia to take a consistently internationalist position in this conflict, of course, is not an accident, and – unfortunately – not a surprise. Its roots are the same, that once, with the onset of the First World War, splinted the Second International: nationalism, patriotism, statism and political logic of opportunism (“lesser evil” and “graduality”).
The position of KRAS-IWA
The anarcho-syndicalists of Russia from the outset took a position against all confronting bourgeois groups in Ukraine and against the imperialist powers behind them – NATO and Russia. Our anti-nationalism was formulated clearly in the statement “war on war” signed by the Russian section of the IWA in early March. We condemned the struggle for power between the oligarchic clans in Ukraine, manifested in the confrontation between the Maidan and Antimaydan, and we emphasized expansionary policy of powers with regard to Ukraine, which has become a bone of contention between the emerging military-political blocs. Even before the annexation of the Crimea, we warned that “Russian capitalism intends to use redistribution of Ukrainian state power in order to implement their long-standing imperial and expansionist aspirations in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine where it has strong economic, financial and political interests. On the background of the next round of the impending economic crisis in Russia, the regime is trying to stoking Russian nationalism to divert attention from the growing workers’ socio-economic problems: poverty wages and pensions, dismantling of available health care, education and other social services. In the thunder of the nationalist and militant rhetoric it is easier to complete the formation of a corporate, authoritarian state based on reactionary conservative values and repressive policies”. And we warned from the interests and aspirations of Western powers too, because “their intervention in the conflict could lead to World War III” (http://www.aitrus.info/node/3607)
We were well aware that – in the situation of the current weakness – the workers movement and of the social-revolutionary forces in the Ukraine and Russia will hardly be able at this stage to provide an organized resistance to the war. But this does not mean that they should not resist the nationalist hysteria and they must go to shed their blood for the interests of their masters, whoever they may be. We called for the deployment of a wide antinationalist, anti-war, anti-capitalist and antistatist agitation, seeing it as a necessary step on the way toward the future social-revolutionary upsurge.
This internationalist position was reaffirmed in an extensive interview that one of our militants gave to German anti-militarist libertarian newspaper “Graswurzelrevolution”. Although he did it in a personal manner, his words reflect on this issue the point of view of our organization. The comrade said that “pro-Russian movement in the East and in the Crimea is as heterogeneous as the Maidan. And just in the same degree nationalist and reactionary in its predominant orientation. The leaders of pro-Russian forces in the Crimea are prominent representatives of the local Russian-speaking bourgeoisie”. He said about “the participation of Russian (Russian-speaking) ultra-rightists in the current anti-Kiev protests in the east, south of Ukraine and Crimea. First of all, they are the Cossacks, which are now something like the KKK in the United States, and members of various pro-fascist groups”.
Of course, special attention was paid in the interview to the plans and actions of the imperialist powers. “It is clear that Putin’s regime took advantage of the chaotic situation in Ukraine in order to carry out its own hegemonic plans”, our comrade said. “The interests of the Russian state and capital in the Crimea are diverse. Geopolitically, Russia sees itself as a regional superpower, which claims at least for hegemony in the former space of the “Soviet Union”. Ukraine has become a conflict zone in the imperialist contradictions between Russia and the EU. In contrast to association projects of Ukraine with the EU, Moscow launched membership of the southern neighbor in the block under its domination, the Customs Union. Logically, Russia is not would like to tolerate an anti-Russian government in Kiev. (…) Putin’s regime even prefer to take the risk to find a stable and lasting enemy with future revanchist aspirations in Kiev, only to capture the region of Crimea. Crimea is for the Russian state of great military importance. There are the main bases of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and these term expires in 2017. From a strategic point of view, the peninsula jutting out into the deep sea is the key to the Black Sea. And possible prospects of Ukraine’s membership in NATO scares the Russian government. Also and economic interests having an importance. Russian capitalists make their business in the Crimea and have real estate there. New profitable projects are in planning. (…)The information about the presence of rich oil and gas resources in the sea in the vicinity of the Crimea gives the additional excitement”. Finally,” there are clear internal political motives (for the intervention). The Russian government is increasingly intensifying its neo-liberal policies of austerity, and on the background of very low salaries. Many analysts based on the fact that the economic crisis in the country this year will worsen. So that incitement to nationalist and military hysteria is the best means to distract discontent of population, which is pushed to patriotically close ranks around the government “.
“(…) We have to deal with competing imperialisms, with another round of struggle for the re-division of the world”, our comrade said. “In the world, there are many players: imperial aspirations of the USA, China, etc. Each state would like to expand its influence and to imperial policy. Not everyone can, but everyone wishes. Hence hypocrisy on all sides. Each state allows such a policy to itself, but denies it to everyone else. I think that the first and most urgent task of the anti-nationalist is to unmask this position and such a situation and to explain it as much as possible to general population. We have always – and as systematically as we can – to explain that the imperial policy and militarism are inseparable part of the system. If we can not contribute to a change of consciousness, we can never break the discursive domination of capitalist-statist system”(http://www.aitrus.info/node/3650)
The dogs bark, but the caravan goes on
Since then, our position has not changed. We continue to oppose NATO and the Kremlin, Kiev and Donetsk-Lugansk, Maidan and Antimaydan. Our slogan is still all the same: “A plague on both your houses, bourgeois!”
But adherence to principle annoying the Russian and Ukrainian “left” which are restless in the chaos. Forgetting what it is, they are willing to condemn any loyalty to the (betrayed by them) ideals of internationalism and class resistance as something naive, marginal and sectarian, and if they can`t, then simply to slander it.
It is clear that today we are burning hatred by both the advocates of Maidan / Kiev and the adherents of the Donetsk and Lugansk “people`s” republics (DPR & LPR) / Kremlin. Someone really does not understand how you can not support any of the warring parties: because politics it’s “art of the possible”. It is useful to reminder to such persons that the anarcho-syndicalists did not engage in “politics” in their understanding, so to get such a sparrow, we simply do not need to bend down. We are not interested in the names and covers of politicians, but in the struggle for social and economic interests of working people.
Someone lives in the logic of Stalinist State prosecutor Vyshinsky: “Who is not with us is against us”. Bifurcating the world schizophrenically, these people believe that anyone not supporting “liberation struggle of the Ukrainian people” (under the leadership of patriotic oligarchs, of course) is direct or indirect agent of the Kremlin. Not being a psychiatrist, we do not know how to treat their political schizophrenia.
Finally, there are those who prefer to just open lies and slander. So there were liars, who invent that the KRAS-IWA refuses to criticize the pro-Russian republics in Eastern Ukraine and even supposedly supports them.
Anyone who understands the logic of our position and who is familiar with the above quote, can notice very easy that this is certainly not the case. Yes, there were more material about social problems and anti-war protests in the area controlled by the Kiev regime on our website until now. But it is, first and foremost, because there was no coherent information on these topics from the areas controlled by the separatists. We know nothing about strikes broke out in these areas, if there are protests against the war, rising prices, mobilization… As soon as we receive the relevant information, we intend to publish and distribute them in the same way as we do with the materials about strikes in the Crimea annexed by Russia.
Nevertheless, in order to avoid any misunderstanding (we believe unnecessary to refute open slander of our enemies), we can only confirm frankly that we don`t consider the regimes of DPR/LPR some “better” than the Kiev regime. Even with all the widely scattered and fragmentary nature of objective information, we have enough sufficient grounds for this opinion:
– The regimes of DPR and LPR are bourgeois (as the regime of Kiev). At the head of them, there are representatives of the local middle or petty bourgeoisie and the security forces, and behind them is quite clearly seen the interests of large Russian corporations, repeatedly sent their trusted men to the governing structures of these republics;
– The regimes in Eastern Ukraine are extremely nationalistic, but, in contrast to Kiev, it is not Ukrainian nationalism but Russian. To see this, it is enough not only to get acquainted with the constitution of the DPR saturated with the Black Hundreds style exclamations about “Russian World” and “Russian civilization”, about the primacy of Orthodox Christianity and traditional values, but also to listen to or read the relevant statements of statesmen and military leaders of the two republics. Evidence of this give also direct references of these leaders to the traditions of the Russian White Guards.
– The regimes in eastern Ukraine (as well as in Kiev) are ready to receive support from their own and foreign neo-fascists. It is hardly possible to believe that the militants of “Russian national unity”, of “National bolshevist party”, the Cossacks and the heirs of the White Guards are something “better” than the battalion “Azov”, an openly neo-Nazi Ukrainian unit of “the National Guard.”
– The regimes in Eastern Ukraine are extremely repressive (as in Kiev). International human rights organizations fix numerous human rights violations in the both zones of the country. As in the territory controlled by the Kiev authorities, the DPR and LPR installed and practice censorship, the political opponents are persecuted; arrests, kidnappings and beatings occur. Of both parts of Ukraine, there are reports about forced mobilization in the army or the construction of fortifications. In August, the DPR adopted a law on the establishment of courts-martial and the restoration of the death penalty. We have no reliable information about who and when it was executed, but the fact that such laws are extremely disturbing .
– The regimes in Eastern Ukraine are antisocial (though, unlike the Kiev government, yet do not follow the dictates of the IMF and the EU in matters of “austerity”). None of the leaders of the republics doesn`t want to encroach on the property of the capitalists; there is no information about any attempts to freeze prices, to raise the salary or to declare additional social guarantees…
Enough said. Those “leftists” who can declare their support for such regimes, are just out of mind … or they are not more than “left” fig leaf of the bourgeoisie.
Anarcho-syndicalists remain in their principled positions. We have never supported, will not support and will not support any state, any ruling class, or any bourgeois or national movement. Our course toward social revolution and anarchy is unchanged. Here we stand and we can do none other.
original available on russian
London Dockworkers Strike
In August 1889, London dockworkers went on strike. The anarchist communist, Peter Kropotkin, recognized the significance of the event, and published the article below in September 1889. As Kropotkin points out, the dockworkers were the kind of unskilled labourers that Marxist and other socialists at the time regarded as less likely to embrace socialism, looking instead to factory workers “united” by the systems of mass production in which they worked. Anarchists, on the other hand, considered all the oppressed and exploited as potential revolutionaries, including unskilled labourers, peasants and even the lumpenproletariat, the homeless and unemployed. Kropotkin suggests that anarchists could accomplish much more if they worked with these groups towards organizing a general strike against capitalism and the state. I included excerpts from several of Kropotkin’s works in Volume One of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas. The translation is by N.C., and has been kindly provided by Iain McKay, editor of the most comprehensive anthology of Kropotkin’s writings, Direct Struggle Against Capital, published by AK Press.
What a Strike Is
We search our recent memories in vain for a single strike that was as important as the one that broke out in the docks of London and is still on going.
There have been more numerous strikes, there have been more violent ones. But none had the same meaning for the revolutionary socialist idea.
Firstly, the socialist movement was born within better-paid trades and has grouped the elite workers, the latter have always looked down on the rough trades. Men from the Fourth-Estate like to talk about “the unconscious masses, incapable of organising themselves, demoralised by poverty”.
We know that we have maintained the opposite view. And now these dock workers, who can neither go to socialist meetings nor read our literature, but who feel oppression and hate it more sincerely than well-read workers, come to confirm the core idea of those who know the people and respect it.
The most complete solidarity rules amongst the dock workers. And, for them, striking is far harder than for mechanics or carpenters.
All that was needed was that Tillet, a very young man and of weak health, devoted himself for two years to work on the beginnings of an organisation within the dock workers – while socialists doubted he could ever succeed in his task – so that all thousand branches of the workers related to the loading of ships cease work with a moving solidarity.
They knew well that for them, strike means hunger; but they didn’t hesitate.
It’s hunger with all its horrors. It’s terrible to see haggard men, already exhausted by lack of food, dragging their feet after a twenty kilometre walk, to Hyde Park and back, collapsing, fainting at the doors of cheap restaurants where the crowd was pushing to receive provision coupons and bowls of soup.
An immense organisation, spontaneous, was born from the centre of these rough workers, often referred to as the herd even by socialists.
Hundreds of leaflets are distributed every day. Sums of 10 to 30,000 Francs in aid – in great part pennies coming from collections – are counted, written down, distributed. Restaurants are improvised, filled with food, etc. And, except Tillet, Burns, Mann and Champion – already experienced – everything is done by dock workers who quite simply came to offer their help. Quite a vast organisation, absolutely spontaneous.
It’s the picture of a people organising itself during the Revolution, all the better for having less leaders.
It is useless to add that if this mass of 150,000 striking men didn’t feel that currently the Bourgeoisie is united and strong, it would walk as a single man against the West-End wealthy. Conversations of groups on the street state it only too well.
But the strike has also a greater impact.
It has confirmed the strength of organisation of a mass of 150,000 men coming from every corner of England, not knowing each other, too poor to be militant socialists. But it has also demonstrated, in a way that produces a shiver down the back of the bourgeois, the extent a great city is at the mercy of two or three hundred thousand workers.
All the trade of England has already been disrupted by this strike. London Bridge, this universal trade centre, is mute. Ships coming from the four corners of the globe, go away from it as if it were a poisoned city and go towards other English ports. Cargoes – mountains – of fresh meat, fruits, food of all sorts, coming each day, rot on board ships guarded by troops. Wheat doesn’t come in to fill the shops empty each day. And if coal merchants hadn’t hastened to grant everything that the coal loaders were asking, London would stay without fuel for its million daily lit homes. It would stay in the dark if the gasmen had left work, as they had suggested, even though they had emerged victorious in a strike that took place last month. London would stay without any means of communication if Burns hadn’t commanded the tram drivers to stay at their work.
The strike spread like an oil leak. A hundred factories of all sorts, some very large, others small, no longer getting the flour, lime, kaolin, oilseeds, etc., etc. that are delivered to them on a daily basis, have extinguished their fires, throwing onto the streets every day new contingents of strikers.
It was the general strike, the stopping of all life in this universal commercial centre, imposed by the strike of three or four branches of work that hold the key to the buffet.
There are articles in the newspapers sensing terror. Never have the bourgeois felt how much they are the subjects of the workers. Never have the workers felt how much they are the masters of society. We had written it, we had said it. But the deed has more impact than the printed word! The deed has proved this strength of the workers.
Yes, they are the masters. And the day when those anarchists who exhaust themselves in empty discussions will do like Tillet, but with firmer and more revolutionary ideas – the day when they will work within the workers to prepare the stopping of work in the trades that supply all the others, they will have done more to prepare the social, economic Revolution, that all the writers, journalists, and orators of the socialist party.
We have often spoken about the general strike. We now see that in order to achieve it, it is not necessary that all workers cease work on the same day. It is necessary to block the supply channels to the Bourgeoisie and to its factories.
La Révolte, 7th September 1889
Photo – members of Istanbul anarchist group DAF after crossing into Syria to take part in the defence of Kobane against Isis / Daesh.
On Friday we repotted that “Istanbul anarchists along other leftists, feminists, and ‘Gezi park types’ have managed to cross over into Syria and the northern town of Kobane which is currently threatened by ISIS.” Below is a more detailed report translated from Alternative libertaire, a sister member of the Anarkismo.net network.
For several days at the Syrian-Turkish border, the city of Kobanê is besieged by forces of the Islamic State (Daesh). Kobanê is a strategic turning point. If the city falls, the whole of Syrian Kurdistan is threatened, and with it a political and social model, that of “democratic autonomy” and “democratic confederalism” built since July 2012.
More than 100,000 inhabitants and residents have become refugees on Turkish territory.
The city is defended by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), militias linked to the PKK, and in which alongside the majority of Kurdish fighters, are also Arabs, Turks, Muslims, Yazidis, Christians or atheists, united against the fanatics of Daesh.
Thousands of young people, socialists, trade unionists, revolutionaries, feminists, libertarians have poured in from all over Turkey to Kobanê. They go there to support the refugees and defend the city.
The Turkish army tries to disperse them, yet is accused of being much more permissive with the jihadists who are also trying to cross the border to join Daesh.
Despite the blockades of the Turkish army, hundreds of activists and militants have managed to cross the border. Among them, the comrades of the Revolutionary Anarchist Action Group, who made the trip to Istanbul to join the defense of Kobanê, and sent these photos.
Kobanê has become a flashpoint where two worlds confront each other: the progressive, secular and revolutionary forces on one side, and the religious fanatics on the other.
The references to “a political and social model, that of “democratic autonomy” and “democratic confederalism” built since July 2012″ are in relation to the claimed change in organisational methods of the PKK, under the influence of US anarchist Murray Bookchin’s writings on Libertarian Municipalism. We’ve not had any real chance to evaluate these claims but there was some discussion of them at our recent Dublin branch meeting, recording below
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the International Workingmen’s Association (IWMA), better known as the First International. In the following excerpt from my forthcoming book, ‘We Do Not Fear Anarchy – We Invoke it’: The First International and the Origins of the Anarchist Movement, I discuss the founding congress of the First International in London, England on September 28, 1864. I included the original statutes of the First International in Volume One of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, together with several other selections setting forth anarchist views regarding the structure and purpose of the International.
The Founding of the First International
At the beginning of September 1864, English workers announced that a congress of European workers would be held on September 28, 1864 at St. Martin’s Hall in London (Mins, 1937: 54).
Prior to the meeting, the French exile, Le Lubez, asked Karl Marx if he could, in Marx’s own words, “supply a German worker to speak at the meeting” (Mins, 1937: 46). Marx nominated his friend, Johann Georg Eccarius (1818-1889), a German tailor and former member of the Communist League, to attend as a representative of the German workers. It was only on the day of the meeting that the English trade unionist, Cremer, asked Marx himself to attend (Mins, 1937: 57). Marx sat on the main platform but did not speak at the meeting. He did manage to get himself appointed to the newly constituted General Committee of the International (later the General Council), with Eccarius as the Vice President, and later persuaded its members to entrust him with writing the Inaugural Address and provisional Statutes of the Association.
The meeting at St. Martin’s Hall was packed. There was standing room only, with some 2,000 people in attendance, (Archer, 1997: 19). Odger read out the address from the English workers welcoming the French delegation. Tolain responded on behalf of the French workers, calling for “the people’s voice” to “make itself heard on all the great political and social questions, thus letting the despots know that the end of their tyrannical tutelage has arrived” (Mins, 1937: 8).
Tolain decried how, under capitalism, “the division of labour tends to make of each workman a machine in the hands of the high lords of industry,” with the workers being “reduced to starvation” (Mins, 1937: 9-10). He urged “labourers of all countries” to unite against the division of “humanity into two classes—an ignorant common people, and plethoric and big-bellied mandarins,” for the only way for the workers to save themselves was “through solidarity” (Mins, 1937: 11)
Le Lubez, on behalf of the French delegation, then proposed that workers’ commissions be established throughout Europe, with a central commission in London to “suggest questions for discussion” (Mins, 1937: 11). George Wheeler, on behalf of the English workers, endorsed the proposal to create an international workers’ association, and a resolution was passed to create a committee (which became the General Council), “to draw up the rules and regulations for such an association” and to organize a congress for the following year in Brussels (Mins, 1937: 16).
Marx regarded the International as a useful vehicle for spreading his ideas, particularly among the English workers, whom he regarded as the most advanced proletariat in Europe. He had little respect for anyone else’s ideas, describing a draft “declaration of principles” that Le Lubez prepared based on the statutes of the Mazzinian Italian Workers’ Societies as “appallingly wordy, badly written and utterly undigested… crusted over with the vaguest tags of French socialism” (Mins, 1937: 48). Marx “was firmly determined that if possible not one single line of the stuff should be allowed to stand” (Mins, 1937: 49).
Marx ensured that he was appointed to the subcommittee responsible for drafting the provisional statutes of the International, and persuaded the subcommittee to have him prepare, in addition to the provisional statutes, an “Address to the Working Classes,” which became known as the Inaugural Address of the International Workingmen’s Association, despite the fact that it was written several weeks after the actual inauguration of the International (Mins, 1937: 49). He was careful to couch the Address in terms that would not alienate the English trade unionists, avoiding “the old boldness of speech” found in his earlier writings, such as the Manifesto of the Communist Party, at least for the time being (Mins, 1937: 50).
Nevertheless, the Address was carefully crafted by Marx to incorporate, among other things, elements of his thought antithetical to Proudhonism and anarchism. Immediately after extolling “co-operative factories” as a “victory of the political economy of labour over the political economy of property,” something with which Proudhon and his followers would agree, Marx then argued that “cooperative labour,” without the assistance of the state, “will never be able to arrest the growth in geometrical progression of monopoly, to free the masses, nor even to perceptibly lighten the burden of their miseries” (Mins, 1937: 36).
Contrary to Proudhon’s mutualist schemes, Marx argued that cooperatives, dependent on what he somewhat dismissively referred to as “the casual efforts of private workmen,” could never displace capitalism (Mins, 1937: 36). To develop “co-operative labour” on a scale capable of supplanting capitalism required “national,” i.e. governmental, “means.” Consequently, Marx claimed, to “conquer political power has… become the great duty of the working classes.” This, in turn, would require “the political reorganisation of the working men’s party” (Mins, 1937: 37). Thus, the seeds of the conflict in the International between Marx, the Proudhonists and later, the anarchists, were planted by Marx himself in the Inaugural Address.
True to his word, Marx was able to “throw out” Le Lubez’s “declaration of principles,” despite the fact that the subcommittee had endorsed the “sentiments” contained within it (Mins, 1937: 49-50). All that remained were two phrases from the statutes of the Italian Workers’ Societies which Marx “was obliged” to include in the preamble to the provisional statutes of the International: the acknowledgment of “truth, justice and morality” as the standard of conduct for the International and its members, and the Mazzinian slogan, “no rights without duties, no duties without rights” (Mins, 1937: 40 & 50).
Marx also managed to repeat in the preamble to the provisional statutes, albeit more ambiguously, the commitment to political action, writing that “the economical emancipation of the working classes is… the great end to which every political movement ought to be subordinate as a means” (Mins, 1937: 39). But this was far too subtle for the French members of the International, who often translated this part of the preamble simply to read: “the great end to which every political movement ought to be subordinate.” The French language version of the Statutes of the International adopted at the 1866 Geneva Congress used this wording, which was later relied upon by the anarchist tendencies in the International in support of their rejection of the Marxist insistence on the need for working class political parties (Anarchism, Vol. 1: 78).
The Anarchist International
Some 16,000 people rallied Tuesday 23/09 in Tokyo against the government’s plan to restart nuclear reactors, more than three years after the Fukushima disaster. It was one of the largest anti-nuclear demonstrations since the state nuclear watchdog on September 10 approved plans to restart two reactors at the Sendai plant in southern Japan.
“Three and a half years has passed since the nuclear accident, but self-examination has yet to be made,” Nobel literature laureate Kenzaburo Oe told the Tokyo rally, according to public broadcaster NHK. “The government is going ahead with the plan to resume operation at the Sendai plant without compiling sufficient anti-disaster plans,” Oe said.
After the rally demonstrators marched through the capital, carrying banners like: “We don’t need nuclear plants”.
As the government tries to convince a skeptical public about the necessity of nuclear power, on Sunday 21/9, new industry minister Yuko Obuchi said the resource-poor nation should be “realistic about its energy needs”. In pre-Fukushima Japan, nuclear power accounted for nearly one-third of the country’s energy needs.
The Nuclear Regulatory Authority has said the two reactors were satisfactory but hurdles still remain, including getting the consent of local communities in a country still scarred by the catastrophe where all 48 viable reactors are offline. Widespread angry anti-government and anti-nuclear sentiment has simmered ever since the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 caused meltdowns at Fukushima, sparking the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl.
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes, many of whom have not been allowed to return. Scientists say some areas might have to be abandoned forever. There have been anti-fascist and anti-government demonstrations taking place, and angry protestors accuse the media and state of hiding the news of them occurring and so trying to stop the people’s rage from being known.
We claim responsibility for the attack on the National Parks and Wildlife Service on the morning of Thursday 18th September.
NPWS were targeted for their part in the war on wildlife, with an extended history, and a continuing habit of dumping 1080 poison (sodium fluoroacetate) into wild places, all under the public guise of ‘conservation’. Killing and destroying indiscriminately, how many more lives and lands must be destroyed by this groups insane, ecocidal visions and experiments?
To express our outrage, under the cover of night, we entered their depot on Darug/Gundungurra Country (Blackheath, NSW). During our short visit, two vehicles were set upon leaving tyres slashed, windscreens smashed and a little additive into the fuel, just to sweeten the deal.
If you choose to continue to use this land as your dumping ground, you will encounter us again. Our rage will only burn bigger and stronger.
In defense of predators. In defense of wildness.
AK Press has just published Davide Turcato’s selection of writings by Errico Malatesta, The Method of Freedom, part of a bigger project of publishing Malatesta’s collected works in English. In Volume One of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, I included several selections from Malatesta. One of them was from an article first published in 1894, “The Duties of the Present Hour,” in which Malatesta offered some ideas on how anarchists could best respond to increasingly draconian laws intended to make anarchist groups and propaganda illegal. Malatesta’s article was republished in a French anarchist paper, Devoir d’aujourd’hui, which added a phrase to Malatesta’s text, suggesting that his principled approach rejecting “imposing the good by force,” was merely a temporary expedient. Below, I reproduce Malatesta’s reply to the French paper, taken from The Method of Freedom, in which he corrects this misapprehension.
“Doing Good by Force”
Where I say that “our ideas oblige us to put all our hopes in the masses, because we do not believe in the possibility of imposing the good by force,” you have added “for the time being at least.” Meaning that, later, once we are the strongest, we shall impose Good… or whatever we take to be such, by force.
What, in that case, is the difference between us and the authoritarian parties?
We are anarchists because we hold that no one owns the absolute truth, nor is anyone blessed with infallibility; because we think that the sort of social arrangement that should best answer everyone’s needs and sentiments, can only be the result—the always adjustable result—of the free play of all the interested parties; and because we believe that force renders brutish both the user and the target, whereas only through freedom and the responsibility that derives from it can men better themselves morally and intellectually to a point where they can no longer bear government.
Besides, if, as you seem to reckon, a day will come when we too could and would impose our ideas by force, what, precisely, are the ideas that are to be imposed? Mine, say, or the ideas of comrade A or comrade B!… For you will agree that there are no four anarchists who see completely eye to eye with one another; which is all very natural, by the way, and a sign of the party’s vitality.
I thought the essential point upon which we were all agreed and that made anarchists of us was this principle: no imposition and no force other than force of argument and example. If I am wrong here, I cannot see that there is very much else to anarchism.
Now, if—perhaps on account of some lack of clarity on my part—you thought that I was referring to force as the means necessary to fend off the force of government, place all the means of production currently hogged by a few at bayonet-point at the disposal of all and open the way to free social evolution with everyone’s contribution, then again I take exception to the phrase “for the time being at least,” which you have ascribed to me. It was not my intention in my article to turn to the issue of a recourse to arms; and it might well be that I am of the opinion that, in certain countries and in certain circumstances, right now might be the right time to ward off violence with violence.
I am relying, dear comrades, upon your sense of fairness and your love of truth in the publication of this letter. Like me, you will think that the best way for us to get acquainted with one another and achieve the greatest possible measure of agreement between us, is to leave each person the freedom to articulate his thoughts such as they are, without any sort of censorship.
Best wishes to you and to the cause.
E. MALATESTA, October 1894
The First International
In this installment from the Anarchist Current, the Afterword to Volume Three of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, I discuss the First International and the emergence of a European anarchist movement. I am currently finishing the manuscript to We Do Not Fear Anarchy – We Invoke It: The First International and the Origins of the Anarchist Movement, in which I deal with these matters in much more detail.
Paper of the French International
The First International
Bellegarrigue, Déjacque and Coeurderoy were dead or forgotten by the time the International Association of Workingmen (the First International) was founded in 1864 (Volume One, Selection 19). It was only after the emergence in Europe of self-identified anarchist movements in the 1870s that Pisacane’s writings were rediscovered. Of the anarchists from the 1840s and 50s, only Proudhon and Pi y Margall continued to exercise some influence, but by then both identified themselves as federalists rather than anarchists (Volume One, Selection 18). Prouhon’s followers in the First International supported his mutualist ideas, advocating free credit, small property holdings and equivalent exchange. They agreed with Proudhon that a woman’s place was in the home and argued that only workingmen should be allowed into the First International, which meant that intellectuals, such as Karl Marx, should also be excluded. They shared Proudhon’s critical view of strikes, regarding them as coercive and ineffective, but in practice provided financial and other support to striking workers.
Within the First International there were more radical elements that gave expression to a renewed sense of militancy among European workers. These Internationalists, such as Eugène Varlin (1839-1871) in France, were in favour of trade unions, seeing them as a means for organizing the workers to press their demands through collective direct action, such as strikes and boycotts. The ultimate aim was for the workers to take control of their workplaces, replacing the state and capitalism with local, regional, national and international federations of autonomous workers’ organizations.
Opposing these “anti-authoritarian” Internationalists were not only the orthodox Proudhonists, but Karl Marx and his followers, as well as some Blanquists, who favoured centralized organization and the subordination of the trade unions to political parties that would coordinate opposition to capitalism and seek to achieve state power, either through participation in bourgeois politics, revolution or a combination of both. Disagreements over the International’s internal form of organization and participation in politics would lead to the split in the International in 1872.
By 1868 the International had adopted a policy in favour of strikes and collective ownership of the means of production. However, collective ownership did not necessarily mean state ownership, as many Internationalists advocated workers’ control of industry through the workers’ own organizations and continued to support other aspects of Proudhon’s mutualism, such as workers’ mutual aid societies, cooperatives and credit unions. Varlin, for example, organized a cooperative restaurant with Nathalie Lemel (who later converted Louise Michel to anarchism). Some Geneva Internationalists proposed that half of the cooperatives’ profits be paid into the workers’ “resistance” funds, with the cooperatives also providing workers with financial aid and credit during strikes (Cutler, 1985: 213, fn. 69).
Bakunin: “We do not fear anarchy, we invoke it”
Bakunin had begun to articulate a revolutionary anarchist position in the mid-1860s, prior to his entry into the International in 1868. He advocated socialism and federalism based on “the most complete liberty for individuals as well as associations,” rejecting both bourgeois republicanism and state socialism (Volume One, Selection 20). He rejected any “call for the establishment of a ruling authority of any nature whatsoever,” denouncing those revolutionaries who “dream of creating new revolutionary states, as fully centralized and even more despotic than the states we now have” (Volume One, Selections 20 & 21).
“We do not fear anarchy,” declared Bakunin, “we invoke it. For we are convinced that anarchy, meaning the unrestricted manifestation of the liberated life of the people, must spring from liberty, equality, the new social order, and the force of the revolution itself against the reaction.” The new social order will be created “from the bottom up, from the circumference to the center… not from the top down or from the center to the circumference in the manner of all authority” (Volume One, Selection 21).
Bakunin opposed any attempts to justify the sacrifice of human lives in the name of some ideal or “abstraction,” including patriotism, the state, God or even science. Someone who is “always ready to sacrifice his own liberty… will willingly sacrifice the liberty of others” (Volume One, Selection 20). The revolutionary socialist, “on the contrary, insists upon his positive rights to life and to all its intellectual, moral, and physical joys.” In addition to rejecting any notions of individual self-sacrifice, Bakunin argued against revolutionary terrorism as counter-revolutionary. To “make a successful revolution, it is necessary to attack conditions and material goods, to destroy property and the State. It will then become unnecessary to destroy men and be condemned to suffer the sure and inevitable reaction which no massacre had ever failed and ever will fail to produce in every society” (Volume One, Selection 21).
Bakunin argued that the means adopted by revolutionaries should be consistent with their ends. Accordingly, the International should itself be organized “from the bottom up… in accordance with the natural diversity of [the workers’] occupations and circumstances.” The workers’ organizations would “bear in themselves the living seeds of the new society which is to replace the old world. They are creating not only the ideas, but also the facts of the future itself.” Consequently, he rejected the view that the majority of the workers, even within the International itself, should accept the “fraternal command” of those who claimed to know what is best for them, as this would divide the International “into two groups—one comprising the vast majority… whose only knowledge will be blind faith in the theoretical and practical wisdom of their commanders,” and a minority of “skilled manipulators” in control of the organization (Volume One, Selection 25).
Bakunin speaking at the Basel Congress 1869
Bakunin’s anarchist critique went well beyond attacking property, religion and the state. In addition to arguing against hierarchical and authoritarian organization within the revolutionary movement itself, Bakunin sought to free women from their domestic burdens, with society taking collective responsibility for raising and educating children, enabling women to marry and divorce as they please. Bakunin rejected patriarchy in general, denouncing the “despotism of the husband, of the father, of the eldest brother over the family,” which turns the family “into a school of violence and triumphant bestiality, of cowardice and the daily perversions of the family home” (Volume One, Selection 67).
With respect to education, Bakunin argued that “one who knows more will naturally rule over the one who knows less.” After the revolution, unless differences in education and upbringing are eliminated, “the human world would find itself in its present state, divided anew into a large number of slaves and a small number of rulers” (Volume One, Selection 64). Bakunin looked forward to the day when “the masses, ceasing to be flocks led and shorn by privileged priests,” whether secular or religious, “may take into their own hands the direction of their destinies” (Volume One, Selection 24).
Bakunin argued against the rule of the more learned, the savants, the intellectuals and the scientists, whether within the International or in society at large. His targets here were the followers of Auguste Comte (1798-1857) and Karl Marx, with their pretensions to “scientific government” and “scientific socialism.” To confide “the government of society” to any scientific body, political party or group would result in the “eternal perpetuation” of that group’s power “by rendering the society confided to its care ever more stupid and consequently in need of its government and direction” (Volume One, Selection 24). Bakunin was perhaps the first to develop this critique of the role of intellectuals, the “new class,” and their rise to power, either by taking over leadership of the revolutionary workers’ movement or through control of the state bureaucracy, for the “State has always been the patrimony of some privileged class: the priesthood, the nobility, the bourgeoisie, and finally, after every other class has been exhausted, the bureaucratic class, when the State falls or rises… into the condition of a machine” (Volume One, Selection 22).
Noam Chomsky has described Bakunin’s analyses and predictions in this regard as being perhaps “among the most remarkable within the social sciences” (Volume Two, Selection 68). Subsequent anarchists adopted Bakunin’s critique (Berti, Volume Two, Selection 67) and his suggestion that the inequalities that arise from differences in knowledge can be prevented by “integral education,” which breaks down the barriers between practical and scientific education, and by the elimination of any distinction between manual and “intellectual” or “brain” work (Volume One, Selection 64). In his highly influential book, Fields, Factories and Workshops (1898), Peter Kropotkin set forth practical alternatives to the present “division of society into brain workers and manual workers,” with all its “pernicious” distinctions, advocating, much like Fourier had before him, a daily combination of manual and intellectual work, human-scale technology and the integration of the fields, factories and workshops in a decentralized system of production, providing for “the happiness that can be found in the full and varied exercise of the different capacities of the human being” (Volume One, Selection 34).
Bakunin was instrumental in spreading anarchist ideas among revolutionary and working class movements in Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Russia and within the International itself. According to Kropotkin, it was Bakunin more than anyone else who “established in a series of powerful pamphlets and letters the leading principles of modern anarchism” (1912).
The Anarchist International
Cutler, Robert. Ed. From Out of the Dustbin: Bakunin’s Basic Writings, 1869-1871. Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1985.
Kropotkin, Peter. Modern Science and Anarchism (1912). In Evolution and Environment. Ed. G. Woodcock. Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1995.
In Volume One of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, I included several anarchist writings against the First World War, which is yet again being portrayed on the hundredth anniversary of its commencement by the governments involved and the political parties and interests that control them as a great patriotic war, the enormous human, environmental and financial costs of which were supposedly justified in defending “freedom” and “democracy,” and in building nations, such as Canada and Australia, out of British colonies.
In addition to the patriotic media onslaught, the internet is inundated with misinformation, particularly from Marxist-Leninist groups, regarding the anarchist response to the war, repeating the falsehood that the majority of European anarchists were pro-War. The fact is, only a small minority of anarchists supported the war and those who did, even very prominent ones like Kropotkin, soon found themselves isolated from the various anarchist movements.
One of the best anarchist publications against the war was this one, “International Anarchist Manifesto on the War,” included in Chapter 17, “War and Revolution in Europe,” of From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE-1939), Volume One of the Anarchism anthology. It was signed by a number of well known anarchists from a wide variety of places, including Alexander Berkman, Joseph Cohen and Emma Goldman in the United States, Luigi Bertoni, Errico Malatesta and several other Italians, Russian anarchists who were to play a role in the 1917 Russian Revolution, such as Alexander Schapiro and Bill Shatoff, F. Domela-Nieuwenhuis from the Netherlands, George Barrett, Tom Keel, Lillian Woolf from England, and several other anarchists from additional countries.
Emma Goldman Speaking at Anti-Conscription Rally
International Anarchist Manifesto on the War
EUROPE IN A BLAZE, TWELVE MILLION MEN engaged in the most frightful butchery that history has ever recorded; millions of women and children in tears; the economic, intellectual, and moral life of seven great peoples brutally suspended, and the menace becoming every day more pregnant with new military complications – such is, for seven months, the painful, agonizing, and hateful spectacle presented by the civilized world.
But a spectacle not unexpected – at least, by the Anarchists, since for them there never has been nor is there any doubt – the terrible events of today strengthen this conviction – that war is permanently fostered by the present social system. Armed conflict, restricted or widespread, colonial or European, is the natural consequence and the inevitable and fatal outcome of a society that is founded on the exploitation of the workers, rests on the savage struggle of the classes, and compels Labour to submit to the domination of a minority of parasites who hold both political and economic power.
The war was inevitable. Wherever it originated, it had to come. It is not in vain that for half a century there has been a feverish preparation of the most formidable armaments and a ceaseless increase in the budgets of death. It is not by constantly improving the weapons of war and by concentrating the mind and the will of all upon the better organization of the military machine that people work for peace.
Therefore, it is foolish and childish, after having multiplied the causes and occasions of conflict, to seek to fix the responsibility on this or that government. No possible distinction can be drawn between offensive and defensive wars. In the present conflict, the governments of Berlin and Vienna have sought to justify themselves by documents not less authentic than those of the governments of Paris and Petrograd. Each does its very best to produce the most indisputable and the most decisive documents in order to establish its good faith and to present itself as the immaculate defender of right and liberty and the champion of civilization.
Saving ‘civilization’ by destroying it
Civilization? Who, then, represents it just now? Is it the German State, with its formidable militarism, and so powerful that it has stifled every disposition to revolt? Is it the Russian State, to whom the knout, the gibbet, and Siberia are the sole means of persuasion? Is it the French State, with its Biribi, its bloody conquests in Tonkin, Madagascar, Morocco, and its compulsory enlistment of black troops? France, that detains in its prisons, for years, comrades guilty only of having written and spoken against war? Is it the English State, which exploits, divides, and oppresses the populations of its immense colonial empire?
No; none of the belligerents is entitled to invoke the name of civilization or to declare itself in a state of legitimate defence.
The truth is that the cause of wars, of that which at present stains with blood the plains of Europe, as of all wars that have preceded it, rests solely in the existence of the State, which is the political form of privilege.
The State has arisen out of military force, it has developed through the use of military force, and it is still on military force that it must logically rest in order to maintain its omnipotence. Whatever the form it may assume, the State is nothing but organized oppression for the advantage of a privileged minority. The present conflict illustrates this in the most striking manner. All forms of the State are engaged in the present war; absolutism with Russia, absolutism softened by Parliamentary institutions with Germany, the State ruling over peoples of quite different races with Austria, a democratic constitutional régime with England, and a democratic Republican régime with France.
The misfortune of the peoples, who were deeply attached to peace, is that, in order to avoid war, they placed their confidence in the State with its intriguing diplomatists, in democracy, and in political parties (not excluding those in opposition, like Parliamentary Socialism). This confidence has been deliberately betrayed, and continues to be so, when governments, with the aid of the whole of their press, persuade their respective peoples that this war is a war of liberation.
We are resolutely against all wars between peoples, and in neutral countries, like Italy, where the governments seek to throw fresh peoples into the fiery furnace of war, our comrades have been, are, and ever will be most energetically opposed to war.
Make Revolution Not War
The role of the Anarchists in the present tragedy, whatever may be the place or the situation in which they find themselves, is to continue to proclaim that there is but one war of liberation: that which in all countries is waged by the oppressed against the oppressors, by the exploited against the exploiters. Our part is to summon the slaves to revolt against their masters.
Anarchist action and propaganda should assiduously and perseveringly aim at weakening and dissolving the various States, at cultivating the spirit of revolt, and arousing discontent in peoples and armies.
To all the soldiers of all countries who believe they are fighting for justice and liberty, we have to declare that their heroism and their valour will but serve to perpetuate hatred, tyranny, and misery.
To the workers in factory and mine it is necessary to recall that the rifles they now have in their hands have been used against them in the days of strike and of revolt and that later on they will be again used against them in order to compel them to undergo and endure capitalist exploitation.
To the workers on farm and field it is necessary to show that after the war they will be obliged once more to bend beneath the yoke and to continue to cultivate the lands of their lords and to feed the rich.
To all the outcasts, that they should not part with their arms until they have settled accounts with their oppressors, until they have taken land and factory and workshop for themselves.
To mothers, wives, and daughters, the victims of increased misery and privation, let ut show who are the ones really responsible for their sorrows and for the massacre of their fathers, sons, and husbands.
We must take advantage of all the movements of revolt, of all the discontent, in order to foment insurrection, and to organize the revolution to which we look to put an end to all social wrongs.
No despondency, even before a calamity like the present war. It is periods thus troubled, in which many thousands of men heroically give their lives for an idea, that we must show these men the generosity, greatness, and beauty of the Anarchist ideal: Social justice realized through the free organization of producers; war and militarism done away with forever; and complete freedom won, by the abolition of the State and its organs of destruction.
Signed by – Leonard D. Abbott, Alexander Berkman, L. Bertoni, L. Bersani, G. Bernard, G. Barrett, A. Bernardo, E. Boudot, A. Calzitta, Joseph J. Cohen, Henrry Combes, Nestor Ciele van Diepen, F.W. Dunn, Ch. Frigerio, Emma Goldman, V. Garcia, Hippolyte Havel, T.H. Keell, Harry Kelly, J. Lemaire, E. Malatesta, H. Marques, F. Domela Nieuwenhuis, Noel Panavich, E. Recchioni, G. Rijnders, I. Rochtchine, A. Savioli, A. Schapiro, William Shatoff, V.J.C. Schermerhorn, C. Trombetti, P. Vallina, G. Vignati, Lillian G. Woolf, S. Yanovsky.
This manifesto is published by the International Anarchist movement and will be printed in several languages and issued in leaflet form.
IWW Anti-Conscription Poster
(Adunata, October 4, 1930)
Everyone has the right to state and defend their ideas, but nobody has the right to misrepresent someone else’s ideas to strengthen their own.
After years without seeing the Martello, the issue of June 21 fell into my hands. I found in it an article signed X., which talks, in a more or less imaginary way, about an insurrectionary project, which was allegedly promoted by myself, Giulietti and… D’Annunzio. From the article it appears that someone else who writes under the name of Ursus had previously written about such events, but I could not manage to find his article.
Never mind. I cannot tell now how the events referred to by X. and Ursus actually happened, because this is not the right time to let the public, and thus the police, know what one may have done or attempted to do. Also, I could not betray the trust that may have been put in me by persons, who would not like to be named now. I can be surprised, though, that these X. and Ursus, moved by the desire to find support to their tactical thesis, have not realized how tactless it is to involve someone who usually does not receive newspapers, and thus does not know what is said about him and cannot reply — in addition to their feeling no duty, in a personal matter, to take at least responsibility for what they say and sign with their real names.
What I care about — and what makes me take the trouble of pointing out said articles — is protesting the completely false statement that, at any moment whatsoever of my political activity, I may have been a supporter of the Constituent Assembly. The issue bears such a theoretical and practical relevance, that it could become topical any moment, and it cannot leave cold anyone who calls himself anarchist and wants to act like an anarchist in any given situation.
To be precise, at the time when the events badly recollected by X. and Ursus occurred, I was striving, with my words and writings, to fight the faith and hope put by many subversives (obviously non-anarchist) in the possibility of a Constituent Assembly.
At that time I claimed, as I have always done before and after, that a Constituent Assembly is the means used by the privileged classes, when a dictatorship is not possible, either to prevent a revolution, or, when a revolution has already broken out, to stop its progress with the excuse of legalizing it, and to take back as much as possible of the gains that the people had made during the insurrectional period.
The Constituent Assembly, with its making asleep and smothering, and the dictatorship, with its crushing and killing, are the two dangers that threaten any revolution. Anarchists must aim their efforts against them.
Of course, since we are a relatively small minority, it is quite possible, and even likely, that the next upheaval will end up in the convocation of a Constituent Assembly. However, this would not happen with our participation and co-operation. It would happen against our will, despite our efforts, simply because we will not have been strong enough to prevent it. In this case, we will have to be as distrustful and inflexibly opposed to a Constituent Assembly as we have always been to ordinary parliaments and any other legislative body.
Let this be quite clear. I am not an advocate of the ‘all or nothing’ theory. I believe that nobody actually behaves in such a way as implied by that theory: it would be impossible.
This is just a slogan used by many to warn about the illusion of petty reforms and alleged concessions from government and masters, and to always remind of the necessity and urgency of the revolutionary act: it is a phrase that can serve, if loosely interpreted, as an incentive to a fight without quarter against every kind of oppressors and exploiters. However, if taken literally, it is plain nonsense.
The ‘all’ is the ideal that gets farther and wider as progresses are made, and therefore it can never be reached. The ‘nothing’ would be some abysmally uncivilized state, or at least a supine submission to the present oppression.
I believe that one must take all that can be taken, whether much or little: do whatever is possible today, while always fighting to make possible what today seems impossible.
For instance, if today we cannot get rid of every kind of government, this is not a good reason for taking no interest in defending the few acquired liberties and fighting to gain more of those. If now we cannot completely abolish the capitalist system and the resulting exploitation of the workers, this is no good reason to quit fighting to obtain higher salaries and better working conditions. If we cannot abolish commerce and replace it with the direct exchange among producers, this is no good reason for not seeking the means to escape the exploitation of traders and profiteers as much as possible. If the oppressors’ power and the state of the public opinion prevent now from abolishing the prisons and providing to any defence against wrongdoers with more humane means, not for this we would lose interest in an action for abolishing death penalty, life imprisonment, close confinement and, in general, the most ferocious means of repression by which what is called social justice, but actually amounts to a barbarian revenge, is exercised. If we cannot abolish the police, not for this we would allow, without protesting and resisting, that the policemen beat the prisoners and allow themselves all sorts of excesses, overstepping the limit prescribed to them by the laws in force themselves…
I am breaking off here, as there are thousands and thousands of cases, both in individual and social life, in which, being unable to obtain ‘all’, one has to try and get as much as possible.
At this point, the question of fundamental importance arises about the best way of defending what one has got and fighting to obtain more; for there is one way that weakens and kills the spirit of independence and the consciousness of one’s own right, thus compromising the future and the present itself, while there is another way that uses every tiny victory to make greater demands, thus preparing the minds and the environment to the longed complete emancipation.
What constitutes the characteristic, the raison d’etre of anarchism is the conviction that the governments — dictatorships, parliaments, etc. — are always instruments of conservation, reaction, oppression; and freedom, justice, well-being for everyone must come from the fight against authority, from free enterprise and free agreement among individuals and groups.
One problem worries many anarchists nowadays, and rightly so.
As they find it insufficient to work on abstract propaganda and revolutionary technical preparation, which is not always possible and is done without knowing when it will be fruitful, they look for something practical to do here and now, in order to accomplish as much as possible of our ideas, despite the adverse conditions; something that morally and materially helps the anarchists themselves and at the same time serves as an example, a school, an experimental field.
Practical proposals are coming from various sides. They are all good to me, if they appeal to free initiative and to a spirit of solidarity and justice, and tend to take individuals away from the domination of the government and the master. And to avoid wasting time in continuously recurring discussions that never bring new facts or arguments, I would encourage those who have a project to try to immediately accomplish it, as soon as they find support from the minimal necessary number of participants, without waiting, usually in vain, for the support of all or many: — experience will show whether those projects were workable, and it will let the vital ones survive and thrive.
Let everyone try the paths they deem best and fittest to their temperament, both today with respect to the little things that can be done in the present environment, and tomorrow in the vast ground that the revolution will offer to our activity. In any case, what is logically mandatory for us all, if we do not want to stop being truly anarchist, is to never surrender our freedom in the hands of an individual or class dictatorship, a despot or a Constituent Assembly; for what depends on us, our freedom must find its foundation in the equal freedom of all.