Building the Revolution in Greece

The New Anarchism (1974-2012)

The New Anarchism

Below I reproduce excerpts from a recent report at Truthout by Joshua Stephens on the constructive efforts by Greek anarchists to create alternatives to capitalism and the nation-state. The approaches they have been developing since the uprising in 2008 are similar to those proposed by Alexander Berkman based on his experiences during the Russian Revolution. Directly democratic popular assemblies formed the basis of the anarchist collectives during the Spanish Revolution, and were later championed by Murray Bookchin. Stephens refers to Colin Ward, whose ground breaking article on anarchism as a theory of organization is included in Volume Two of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas. Anarchist alternatives to capitalism and hierarchical organization are well documented in all three volumes of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, now on sale at AK Press.

Joshua Stephen’s on the situation in Greece:

“On the first day of the uprising, we smashed the police stations,” an anarchist in Thessaloniki told me last spring.  “On the second, we smashed the banks.  On the third, there was nothing left to smash, and we were suddenly faced with the fact that we didn’t really know what to do.”  It seems to have been a widespread frustration.  The occupations of academic and political institutions that occurred amidst the uprising gave way to what are called Popular Assemblies in some 70 neighborhoods across Athens.

About half of these are still operating, composed of an often unlikely spectrum of participants.  Anarchists, local workers, even municipal employees and officeholders all collaborate off the political grid in democratically administering needs, redistributing available resources and bolstering existing struggles against both austerity and the steady creep of fascism.

Their strategy can be read in a short 1958 article by Colin Ward in the British anarchist journal Freedom, entitled “The Unwritten Handbook”:  “The choice between libertarian and authoritarian solutions occurs every day and in every way, and the extent to which we choose, or accept…  or lack the imagination and inventiveness to discover alternatives to the authoritarian solutions to small problems is the extent to which we are their powerless victims in big affairs.”  When a round of austerity measures included a new and often unaffordable property tax in electricity bills, many Greeks saw their power abruptly cut.  Popular Assemblies began compiling lists of households without power, ranking them based on vulnerability (age, the presence of infants, etc.), and deploying qualified people to restore electricity, illegally.

On a cool April evening in the neighborhood of Peristeri, assembly participants debated models for localizing economic transactions through alternative currencies and non-monetary programs like time-banks.  Over drinks following a talk I gave last spring, the bulk of the questions from local anarchists known the world over for bravado and street warfare were about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, an overwhelmingly liberal phenomena back home, hardly considered political (much less radical).  In Greece, however, forging direct relationships with the agricultural sector amounts to a fuck-you to the International Monetary Fund and its threats of import cutoffs, issued to leverage passage of austerity measures.

During my few days on the ground in Athens this trip, I was invited to an anti-fascist march organized by the Popular Assemblies of south Athens.  It marked what felt like an expansion of their role into directly confronting Golden Dawn, where the state has proved either unwilling or unable to tread. “If we don’t resist in every neighborhood, they will soon become our prisons” could be heard reverberating off the facades of buildings.

Counting by tens, I estimated roughly a thousand marching from the commercial plaza adjacent to the Dafni Metro, winding through a number of its various neighborhoods before reaching a former military installation occupied and renamed Asyrmatos Greek for “wireless,” referring to the towering antennas jutting out of what is now a sizable community garden and community-managed conservatory.

In the adjacent neighborhood of Aghios Dimitrios, where much of the march was organized, the Popular Assembly meets weekly in theatrical space of a local municipal building.  On the surface, it appears quite innocuous, as though it’s scheduled through an arrangement with the local government.  I was surprised to learn that each week’s meeting is a sort of micro-occupation; participants simply walk in and seize the space, with zero visible pushback from employees, and no police response.  “In 2008 (during the uprising), we seized the building for a month,” one local told me.  “So, I think that, for them, two hours a week is a bargain.”

The oldest Popular Assembly in Athens operates in the neighborhood of Petralona, the site of a recent, widely publicized murder of a Pakistani man at the hands of fascists.  When I visited with them last spring, they were opening a kitchen and cafe space for educating people about nutrition and food production, and operating an extensive calendar of peer-led health and mental health events, inspired in part by Mexico’s Zapatistas.  Today, they operate medical, dental and eye clinics in coordination with other Popular Assemblies, based on non-monetary mutual aid.

As we weaved through commercial corridors and narrow neighborhood  arteries last week, all of this seemed to be shifting from a sort of quiet mode of survival into an overt assertion of power.  Scattered action commanded the attention of onlookers.  Quarter-sheet fliers were tossed into open bus windows, open supermarkets and even into the day’s light breeze, scattering like ticker tape. Two masked young women darted out of the crowd periodically, spray-painting a stencil onto walls featuring a sort of close-up frontal image of a boy with his fist forward, reading “The sons of Adolf will receive a red and black punch” (a reference to the colors of the traditional anarchist flag).

The smell of fresh spray paint hung in the air, the fire to its smoke appearing on walls, the sides of buses, and a newly favorite target in the country’s crisis establishments set up to buy people’s gold.  These entrepreneurs are referred to as mavragoriters a termcoined during Greece’s years under Nazi occupation. “They were Greeks, usually friends of or sympathetic to the Nazis, and they took advantage of the crisis and the starvation that existed all over the country,” explained a young woman, who asked not to be named.  “It reached a point where they were buying houses in exchange for two bottles of olive oil, or quantities of rice.”

The subtext of the young woman’s description seems the soul of the Popular Assemblies:  dignity.  She later pointed me to a communique posted at Indymedia Athens, in which anarchists in the city set about countering the neoliberal mantra heard around the country, and the ethics of the mavragoriters “No job is a shame.”  The Popular Assemblies appear to operate from the inverse that appears in the communique “Shame is not a job.” Surviving merely to revive histories of foreign occupation or homegrown fascism, for them, is a path without hope.

Joshua Stephens is a board member with the Institute for Anarchist Studies, and has been active in anti-capitalist, international solidarity and worker-cooperative movements across the last two decades.  He currently divides his time between the northeastern US and various parts of the Mediterranean.

Anarchist Demonstration in Athens

Anarchist Demonstration in Athens

The Emergence of the New Anarchism: Herbert Read

Herbert Read (1893-1968)

Volume Two of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, opens with excerpts from Herbert Read’s 1940 essay, “The Philosophy of Anarchism.” Read had declared himself in favour of anarchism in his 1938 publication, Poetry and Anarchism, with which I closed Volume One of the Anarchism anthology.  There he wrote that  he sought to “balance anarchism with surrealism, reason with romanticism, the understanding with the imagination, function with freedom.” Read was under no illusions regarding how people would react to his endorsement of anarchism.  At the time, the world’s various anarchist movements were in eclipse, and most radical intellectuals supported the Soviet Union with its Marxist ideology.  It was the era of “Popular Fronts” against Fascism, which the Stalinist Communists used to co-opt other forces on the left, resulting in the further isolation of the anarchists, their inveterate foes and frequent victims (see Chapter 18 of Volume One, “The Russian Revolution”).

Herbert Read (1893-1968) had served in the First World War, which helped turn him into a pacifist.  By 1938, he was a noted poet, essayist and art critic. In the 1930s, he helped introduce Surrealism to an English audience. After the Second World War, he did the same for existentialism, the philosophy that was being popularized in France by people like Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. He was current with the latest  intellectual and artistic trends, including Freudian psychoanalysis, which helped to inform his approach to anarchism, art and education. Read was one of a few better known intellectuals at the time who expressed anarchist ideas in a contemporary idiom, helping to pave the way for the remarkable resurgence of anarchism that surprised many, including some anarchists, in the 1960s. Other noteworthy contributors to this anarchist renaissance were Paul Goodman and Dwight Macdonald in the United States, Marie Louise Berneri, Alex Comfort and George Woodcock in England, and Giancarlo de Carlo in Italy. I have included extensive selections from all of these writers in Volume Two of the Anarchism anthology.

Not all anarchists were enamoured with these new currents in anarchist theory. Anarchists who took a “class struggle” approach, which emphasized the revolutionary role of the working class and the need for anarchists to take part in working class struggles, such as the Impulso group in Italy, denounced the “new” anarchism as counter-revolutionary, referring to it as “resistencialism,” because writers like Read had purportedly abandoned any hope for a successful social revolution and instead advocated resistance to authority, rather than its abolition (Anarchism, Volume Two, Selection 38).

Read, however, had not abandoned the idea of a social revolution. He simply conceived of it in broader terms, and distinguished it from more conventional conceptions of revolution by reviving Max Stirner’s (Volume One, Selection 11) distinction between revolution and insurrection. A revolution is “an exchange of political institutions.” An insurrection “aims at getting rid of these political institutions altogether.” Consequently,  he looked forward to a “spontaneous and universal insurrection” (Volume Two, Selection 1), but discarded “the romantic conception of anarchism — conspiracy, assassination, citizen armies, the barricades. All that kind of futile agitation has long been obsolete: but it was finally blown into oblivion by the atomic bomb.” Today, “action must be piecemeal, non-violent, insidious and universally pervasive” (Volume Two, Selection 36).

Defining the measure of progress as “the degree of differentiation in society” (Volume Two, Selection 1), Read sought to create an organic society in which everyone is free to develop and express their unique talents and abilities, bringing forth “the artist latent within each one of us” (Volume Two, Selection 19). Arguing that “real politics are local politics,” Read proposed a system of direct democracy based  on functional and communal groups federated with each other, with their activities being coordinated by ad hoc delegates who are never separated from their “natural productive” functions (Volume One, Selection 130).

When Murray Bookchin started drawing the connections between anarchism and ecology in the 1960s, he cited Read as one of his inspirations (Volume Two, Selection 48). Read’s emphasis on local politics can also be found in Bookchin’s writings, in his concept of “libertarian municipalism.” Bookchin’s distinction between a libertarian politics of directly democratic community assemblies and the bureaucratic authoritarianism of the state can therefore be found in Read’s earlier writings.

In the following excerpts from Read’s 1947 BBC lecture, “Neither Liberalism Nor Communism,” he further develops his conception of anarchism as an alternative kind of politics without the state, emphasizing, as Bookchin did later, the insight of the ancient Greek philosophers that a truly democratic politics requires decentralization and human-scale.

Herbert Read: Neither Liberalism Nor Communism (1947)

It has always been recognized since the time of the Greek philosophers that the practicability of a free democracy was somehow bound up with the question of size — that democracy would only work within some restricted unit  such as the city-state. This was the conclusion of Plato and Aristotle in the ancient world, and their view has been supported in modern times by great political philosophers like Rousseau, Proudhon, Burckhardt and Kropotkin.

Based on this realization, a political philosophy has arisen which opposes the whole conception of the State. This theory, which would abolish the State, or reduce it to insignificance, is sometimes known as distributivism, sometimes as syndicalism, sometimes as guild socialism, but in its purest and most intransigent form it is called anarchism. Anarchism, as the Greek roots of the word indicate, is a political philosophy based on the idea that a social order is possible without rule, without dictation — even the dictation of a majority. Señor de Madariaga in his broadcast used the word as an antithesis to order, which is a common misuse of the word. Anarchism, indeed, seeks a very positive form of social order, but it is order reached by mutual agreement, not order imposed by unilateral dictation.

Though anarchism as a political doctrine has a respectable ancestry and has numbered great poets and philosophers like Godwin and Shelley, Tolstoy and Kropotkin among its adherents: though even now it is the professed faith of millions of people in Spain, in Italy and, alas, in Siberia: though it is the unformulated faith of millions more throughout the world — though, that is to say, it is one of the fundamental political doctrines of all time, it has never been given a place in our insular discussions of the political problems of our time.

Why this conspiracy of silence? I shall not spend any time on that interesting speculation, but I shall try, in the few minutes left to me, to give you the main principles of this distinct political theory

Believing that an expanding democracy leads to the delegation of authority to the creation of a governing class of politicians and bureaucrats — believing, in Acton’s words, that democracy tends to unity of power, and inevitably to the abuse of power by power-corrupted politicians, we who are anarchists seek to divide power, to decentralize government down to the localities in which it is exercised, so that every man has a sense of social responsibility and participates immediately in the conduct of his social order.

That is the political aspect of the theory. But it is equally in the economic field that democracy tends to unity of power — either the power of the capitalist monopoly or the power of the nationalized industry. We believe in the decentralization of industry and in the deproletarization of labour in the radical transformation and fragmentation of industry, so that in place of a few powerful trade combines and trade unions, we should have many small co-operative farms and workshops, administered directly by the workers themselves.

We believe, that is to say, in a federal or co-operative commonwealth, and we believe that this represents an ideal which is distinct from any offered by liberalism or communism. You may be inclined to dismiss it as an impracticable ideal, but within limits we can prove that it does work, in spite of unfavourable economic conditions and in the face of ruthless opposition from capitalists or communists. There have been many failures and many false starts, but these have been studied by the sociologists of the movement, and we know pretty accurately why certain co-operative communities have failed. We think we know for what reasons others have survived for a century or more — the Hutterites, a religious community was founded in Moravia in the 16th century and has carried out these principles successfully ever since. More remarkable, because operating within the economic structure of a modern society, are the highly successful co-operative agricultural communities established in Palestine, in Mexico and under the Farm Security Administration in the USA. At Valence in France a very successful experiment is taking place. In this case the co-operative community combines a highly skilled industry (the manufacture of watch-cases) with agriculture. I do not pretend that these experiments prove the case for an anarchist society. But they are highly significant tests of the human capacity for co-operative living — experiments which give us every confidence in the social and economic soundness of our wider proposals.

I am old enough to remember the days, before 1917, when people would say: Oh, socialism is all right in theory, but it could never be put into practice. Against such an argument socialists of that time could only put their faith — a faith which, we must admit, has been amply justified. Now on every side we meet the same argument against anarchism, against the co-operative commonwealth. No feudal baron could have believed in a world ruled by merchants and money-lenders; and in their turn these merchants and money-lenders refused for a long time to believe in the possibility of a world ruled by bureaucrats. I do not expect that many of my listeners can believe in a world in which the very idea of rule is abolished, in which we live by mutual aid, in which all thought of profit, all aggressive impulses, the concept of national sovereignty and the practice of armed imperialism, are forever absent. But when you consider the world in all its moral and economic chaos, when you see humanity fearfully transfixed by the threat of atomic warfare, can you for a moment believe that our civilization will be saved by any change less profound than that which I have described tonight?

Reprinted in A One-Man Manifesto and Other Writings for Freedom Press (London: Freedom Press, 1994), ed. David Goodway

Noir et Rouge: Majority and Minority (1958)

In Volume 2 of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, I included several selections from the French anarchist journal, Noir et Rouge (1956-1970), including material on national liberation and anti-colonialism, draft resistance against the French war against Algerian independence (Selection 31), and new directions in anarchist theory (Selection 47). Noir et Rouge (Black and Red, the traditional colours of class struggle anarchism) was published by the Groupes Anarchistes d’Action Revolutionaire (Revolutionary Action Anarchist Groups), one of the many French anarchist groups that emerged following the split in the French anarchist movement between Georges Fontenis and the Libertarian Communist Federation, which tried to unite anarchists and other ultra-leftists into a more conventional revolutionary party, and those anarchists who felt the Fontenis approach was dogmatic and authoritarian (see the previous post from Giovanna Berneri). In the following excerpts from Noir et Rouge, translated by Paul Sharkey, the GAAR sets forth its position on the debate regarding majority rule, defending the right of the minority to follow its own path. Noir et Rouge, with its more fluid conception of anarchist organization, influenced the student revolutionaries of May 1968 in France.

Majority and Minority

Can a majority claim to speak for on organization? Are its decisions binding upon the organization? How is the minority treated in terms of its expression, its conduct, its very existence within the ranks of that organization?

At first glance, all these questions appear to be of secondary interest, but in fact they are of considerable significance when one wishes to live inside an organization and wants that organization to live. And there can be no “laissez-faire, time will tell, every case is a case apart, with a little good will…” approach, for often experience is very convincing but by the time it is noticed it is too late to change anything and everything has to be embraced or allowed to fall by the wayside. Right from the very first steps taken together, we must devise a theoretical and practical line of policy acceptable to all and, in this context, the minority-majority issue can tilt the balance in one direction or the other.

As we see it, the operation of a federalist organization is incompatible with retention of the principle of majority rule. There is a real majority in the form of a freely conceived, freely accepted unanimity. Any other majority, be it a two thirds majority, an absolute or simple majority, with all manner of implications, constitutes a majority only as far as those who accept it are concerned; as far as others are concerned, it is worthless and cannot be considered binding.

Every time an attempt is made to foist a policy upon others, on one ground or another, one arrives at a contrived, fragile, unstable unity. Of course, in every case one finds and is going to find “special circumstances, historical necessities” — but then, what moment in humanity’s march towards its happiness is not historical? And it is not hard for those in need of that majority to prate on about special circumstances.

But… “without a majority, no decision can be arrived at and in the absence of decisions, an organization is worthless, a shambles.” This is the chief charge levelled at libertarians by authority lovers and, it has to be said, by certain libertarians. But experience flies in the face of such reasoning. Not only are there organizations in existence that are built on this foundation, but there have been instances where, without any votes being counted, there was a real majority… 19 July 1936, the May events in Barcelona in 1937… but there was no majority when the anarchists were “obliged” to collaborate with the government, at which point our adversaries started to roil about the existence of an opposition and a minority and to carp about the anarchists’ weakness and lack of discipline. Yet it was the existence of that very minority that salvaged the movement’s honour, including the honour of those who had consented to compromise.

The majority principle derives from the practice of the political struggle, from universal suffrage, from parliamentarianism. There, it is necessary, nay, the only indispensable factor in the smooth running of the system. The struggle to win a majority has never been and never will be open and honest. In order to win votes, no one shows his true face, the mechanisms of his game or the real aims he has in mind. The most revolutionary appeals are merely vague propositions likely to attract a brood swathe of individuals: the most po-faced sermons are only the ravings of rabble-rousers trying to stir the basest sentiments of the mob, be it selfish or sham-humanitarian. This grand parade of fine talkers is well orchestrated from behind the scenes through the use of intimidation, economic and other threats, as well as promises and special advantages. In authoritarian regimes, this backstage activity is even more transparent and the real agents of the majority (the official and political police, direct or indirect oppression) tread the boards, flourishing their “arguments”; they do not even trouble to mount a few minor displays against the recalcitrant so as to make an example for the rest, and to arrive at the ideal majority… 99.99%. But that danger lurks even within non-authoritarian, democratic, indeed, libertarian organizations, when the principle of majority rule is embraced along with the competition to win a majority. We have seen supposedly libertarian congresses hatched behind the scenes, with the parts and the speeches allocated in advance and even propaganda tailor-mode for each delegate, and we have also witnessed the outcome.

This “Fontenis-style” phenomenon ought not to be repeated.

But there will always be some who are not convinced, some who hold back, even if only for strictly personal reasons: we know about the unconfessed role that has been played by personal relations, even in strictly political, economic or ideological organizations. We cannot make it a requirement that everyone hits it off with everybody else. So we will run into nonsensical, unsolicited obstruction which can paralyze and stymie the organization just when it ought to be acting with the greatest speed — and what, then, are we to do? It happens.

But this argument is founded upon two mistakes: the notion of a homogeneous specific organization and the notion of anarchist morality.

When the members of an organization are bound together not only by reasonably friendly personal relations, but also and primarily by a given number of ideological and tactical principles — enough common ground to justify the claim that that organization is homogeneous — the dangers of significant differences of opinion are minimal. This is one of the reasons why we stick to the views and practice of a “specific anarchist group” which we refuse to dilute or see diluted for us. Just let a new practice be adopted — “come all ye who are for freedom” or “against the State,” or even “anarchism generally” — and the next day, friction on some issue will be inevitable. Heterogeneity carries another consequence: the existence of groups of “initiates” (with a foot in several groups at once, maybe) which are, most of the time, secret or semi-secret: and every one them aims to make the running) their consciences clear that they are “leading others along the righteous path”… which will very quickly degenerate into internecine squabbling, into an OPB*, into leaders and masses. Thus there are not just a majority and a minority but a number of concentric circles, most often revolving around some “master-mind” (which releases the others from any requirement to think), each suspicious of the other, each of them pursuing his own little schemes behind the scenes or in the open, trying to win others over to his faction, and all of this overlaid with a blithe semblance of unity. This is an unwholesome climate that neither educates nor builds upright, honest individuals. It is a “den of parliamentarianism” in miniature.

Even so, though, and in spite of the variety of the views, differences of opinion and debates that may emerge, we should be overly•starry-eyed. Ideas themselves are not set in stone and are liable to evolve. So if the differences of opinion are of a significantly theoretical order, it would be better for the organization if it were to fall apart and for there to be two or several new more or less homogeneous organizations, than for one heterogeneous organization to be retained. This is inevitable, and if any attempt is made to stem this trend, it is at that point that there is a risk of everything coming to a halt and grinding to a standstill, through the quest for anodyne compromises that forestall disintegration but also prevent movement in any direction at all.

The other factor mentioned earlier — anarchist morality — if properly understood and implemented in life will help greatly to smooth over minor frictions, and also the disintegration of the organization should it come — through acceptance of an opinion that differs from one’s own, without writing it off as the opinion of an enemy or taking up arms against it. Provided, of course, that we are not dealing with a view completely outside the parameters of anarchism. The history of anarchism has had only a few specific instances of this sort to show and this latter likelihood can virtually be discounted.

There is a considerable part to be played in anarchist organizations by an internal bulletin wherein there can be an open forum for all matters of concern to the organization, including dissenting viewpoints.

There is a further factor tied to the organization: comrades joining this organization must freely embrace its necessity and its role. That much is self-evident. Anybody who cannot see beyond the narrow confines of the individual, who cannot imagine social structures beyond scattered, isolated individuals, will be better advised to stay isolated, helping others as and when he sees fit, but not hampering the organization through uncompromising, maverick practices. Some other designation will have to be devised for comrades of this sort, who are often very good comrades in fact, and they will have to be accepted for what they are.

A genuinely democratic organization can be identified on the basis of its behaviour vis-a-vis its own opposition. This is all the more true of a libertarian organization which aims to lay the groundwork for the society of the future. Every time that a majority discusses and enforces the majority-prescribed parameters within which the opposition has to operate, there can be two reasons far this: either the membership was very widely based, or, inside that organization, there are persons itching to play the parts of leaders. These two possibilities are not mutually exclusive: such and such a member keen to take charge of the organization will draft in new members in order to boost his chances of winning majority support.

Outside our own organizations, can we require and practice rejection of majority rule? This is a thornier issue, for circumstances differ, and the aim is primarily to promote our ideas without betraying them. But here too, we must ensure that even the victorious majority does not crush the spirit of the minority, not just because of the danger of finding ourselves in the same position someday (revolutionary movements being most often minority movements) but also because of our anti-totalitarian outlook and tolerance. Every time that a leader or panel of leaders starts to claim absolute mastery, they end up turning on one another and will arrive at a dictatorship, camouflaged or brazen. The first sign of a future “head of State” or “people’s leader’ is the hatred he bears his own comrades who cannot stand him in that role. After which there is no stopping his appetite for authority, the parameters of which become increasingly broadened and boundless.

Every organization, no matter what it may be, is a compromise between one person and the rest vis-a-vis the imperatives of social life. Meaning that every individual must inevitably renounce certain tendencies or habits which are unacceptable or harmful to society. And as a result, inside every organization, there is a risk of the sacrifices required of individuals for society’s sake going beyond the needs of society per se and turning an abstraction like the State, the bureaucracy, the leader, historical necessity, etc… One barrier against this threat is for the individual to have the option to dissent from certain things or certain tendencies which he deems inappropriate and of no social utility, the chance of switching across to the opposition, which is to say, the minority. There are other barriers as well: federalist organization per se, direct and limited election of officers, genuine participation by ordinary members of the organization, the struggle being economic rather than political, etc…

* Organisation Pensée Bataille

Noir et Rouge, No. 10, June 1958

Luis Andrés Edo: Redefining Syndicalism (1984)

Luis Andrés Edo (1925-2009) was very active in the anarchist resistance to Franco following the Spanish Civil War. He joined the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist trade union federation, the CNT (Confederación  Nacional del Trabajo see Volume One, Selection 124) in 1941, at the age of 16, two years after Franco took over Spain. He was involved in various attempts to overthrow the Franco dictatorship, working clandestinely in Spain and sometimes from exile in France. He was imprisoned several times, and participated in the mutiny at the Model Prison in Barcelona in 1975. He recounts his experiences in his memoirs, La CNT en la encrucijada: Aventuras de un heterodoxo (Barcelona: Flor del Viento, 2006). In the following piece from 1984, Andrés Edo argues, echoing Maurice Joyeux (Volume Two, Selection 61), that there remains an important role for anarcho-syndicalist trade union organizations to play, as they can provide an ongoing structure that can serve as a revolutionary example and catalyst without absorbing other forms of anarchist organization and activity. Andrés Edo opposed attempts to turn the CNT into a broader based anarchist federation which would include cultural centres (ateneos), alternative lifestyle and other anarchist groups that emerged in Spain following the death of Franco in 1975, so that the CNT could remain focused on its role as a revolutionary trade union. He also opposed the “institutionalization” of the CNT (the participation of the CNT in the government controlled system of union elections and representation). In 2002, he published La Corriente (originally entitled El pensamiento antiautoritario), a collection of more theoretical essays that he had written during his many years of imprisonment. In his later years, Andrés Edo moved closer to Murray Bookchin’s then anarchist social ecology (Volume Two, Selections 48, 62 & 74), endorsing the concept of ecological communities based on popular assemblies. The following piece was originally published in Anarcho Syndicalisme et Luttes Ouvrieres (Lyon: Atelier de Creation Libertaire, 1985). The translation is by Paul Sharkey.

Luis Andrés Edo: Redefining Syndicalism (1984)

1. Anarcho-syndicalism defined

The anarchist discourse in support of the trade union option has thrown up some arguments of incontestable value as far as the struggles of the workers’ movement are concerned. The devising and propagation of anarchist models of action and organization (direct action, autonomy, the federalist principle, assemblyism, etc.) are contributions offered by militant anarchism and they evolved from within revolutionary labour currents.

Those contributions, taken on board by the structural phenomenon of syndicalism, have been acted upon time and time again, in accordance with their anarchistic content and despite the obvious difficulties inherent in the translation of theory into practice.

That is an undeniably true fact: however, the manifest incapability of anarcho-syndicalist organization to translate these insights into actions without doing injury to their anarchist content is equally a fact. So much so that within the trade union structures one finds a persistent phenomenon whereby these anarchist presentiments are subjected to “redefinition” and where the tendency is for them to be distorted and for the implications of them to be restricted to the narrow confines of the organization.

Repeatedly, even within an anarcho-syndicalist context, distorted notions such as “class union, and  syndicalism sufficient unto itself” have been peddled; these plainly and brazenly fly in the face of anarchist ideas.

Were those two notions to prevail, the anarcho-syndicalist structure would become the exclusive element of the anarchist revolution. And while the accomplishment of any such revolution in the absence of participation by the anarcho-syndicalist organizations is inconceivable, it is every bit as true that revolution can scarcely be achieved without participation by all segments of society toiling away on the fringes of the trade union sector in order to meet libertarian targets.

If the tendencies championing organizational autonomy from the system lapse into this adulterating “redefinition” generated by structures, the adulteration phenomenon takes an even more serious turn when the “redefinition” emanates from these other tendencies ready to embrace institutionalization of anarcho-syndicalism, as is currently the case in Spain where well-known militants with lengthy records as anarchists are beset by some sort of blight (the “institutional syndrome” laying Spanish civil society waste) and are championing institutionalization of the CNT [the participation of the CNT in the government controlled system of union representation]; at which point the “redefinition” turns into unacceptable adulteration.

Calm reflection upon all these contradictions leads us to suspect that any sort of definition limits perspective and that any structure is inclined to lead to a thoroughgoing, final, exclusive and closed “redefinition”…

It is our belief that the anarchist substance of syndicalism should not be feigned by a definition but that this substance should be discernible in the orientation and content of its action.

2. Trade unionism hits a brick wall

Since, following the Second World War, the System agreed to the most significant trade union demands (for social security, the right to work, company recognition of the union) which had been, up until the 1930s, partly but not universally acknowledged, all of the major trade union organizations have voluntarily remained integrated into the system as institutions essential to its proper running.

Furthermore, the process whereby collective bargaining is conducted being, especially in the industrial context, subject to regulation and codification and the ordinances of the governmental administration — endorsed in advance by the legislative authorities — it represents one of the most important, indeed most indispensable, factors in the continuance of capitalist exploitation. By accepting that negotiating process, the trade unions are facilitating the furtherance of the exploitation of workers.

By becoming institutionalized, trade unionism has lost its freedom of action and it believed that this might be replaced by supposed social security and employment.

“Arbitrary dismissal” (whereby the worker loses his right and guarantee to his job), the burgeoning “black economy” (whereby the bosses wriggle out of the payment of taxes destined for social payments to workers) and finally technological readjustment which preaches increases in the rate and volume of production and job cuts are, essentially, the factors that have led to the irresistible rise of a slide into insecurity of employment and social insecurity in the relations of production.

As may be seen from the process of rigorous integration, trade unionism loses its freedom of action as well as its chance to make a genuine defence of workers’ job security and  social security net.

That process of integration has thrown up an utterly irreconcilable and irreversible contradiction. In fact, the members of the trade union apparatus are rewarded by Capital and the State with a privileged status in comparison with the rest of the workforce and this is the start of a widespread process of making the workers subordinate to the trade union machine.

The workers’ very own structures (the trade unions) are thereby stripped of their role as protagonists.

The “machine” replaces the trade union movement and the trade union-organized labour movement’s revolutionary strand finds itself neutralized yet again.

It is against the backdrop of this fact that, undeniably, trade unionism as a revolutionary option has hit a brick wall, that we should analyze the role of anarcho-syndicalism, the only approach to workers’ action that can resist the charms of integration.

Here the first critical observation that needs to be made is that an anarcho-syndicalist organization would have at the core of its activity the escalation of trade union demands (broadening the social security net, lowering retirement age, reducing the working day, additional leisure time, extension of all benefits to victims of discrimination, etc.), that is, broadening and improvement of the application and operation of demands that have made a contribution towards greater refinement of exploitation.

So anarcho-syndicalism is caught in a trap: it cannot make progress in the direction of its goals of transforming society, it remains outraged by and opposed to integration, and at the same time it calls for the extension and escalation of demands which, objectively, have eased the integration of the trade union organized workers’ movement into the system…

The belief that the impasse of collaborationist trade unionism should open the way to anarcho-syndicalism is a mistaken one: the former’s loss of revolutionary élan triggers a chain reaction that damages the trade union movement as a whole.

But there is no reason to speak of trade unionism being in crisis unless the link is made to the general crisis afflicting all of the institutions and trends within civil society, a crisis that triggers that very same “chain reaction” and afflicts the entire body of society, not excepting anarchist organizations, bodies and currents.

Anarchist critiques of trade unionism should be asking whether that is the root cause of the revolutionary crisis or if its loss of élan is simply a side-effect of a wider crisis that also entails a crisis in anarchism.

3. Need for an anarcho-syndicalist structure

Despite the current impasse, despite the contradictions and shortcomings that have become evident within anarcho-syndicalist organization throughout its history, we must resolutely reject the idea of it being dismantled.

The emergence of diverse currents within anarchism has required and continues to require backboned, stable organization capable of serving all of the options emerging from within anarchism as a catalyst for action.

Of all the organizations that the movement has known, none serviced that need so well as anarcho-syndicalism. Wherever the anarcho-syndicalist discourse has not translated into an influential organization, anarchism has simply vegetated. True, the catalyzing action of the anarcho-syndicalist structure is being constantly called into question these days, but no discourse thrown up by the libertarian movement has proposed the creation of a structure with the capacity to fulfill this purpose. The organizational articulation of anarchist federations (which we are not opposed to, of course) cannot in any way be regarded as a substitute for that catalyzing function; at any rate, it has not thus far shown that it is.

Moreover, and by way of an answer to all who consider that there is no need for a structured organization, we need only refer to historical processes and current affinity-based social phenomena for proof of the extent to which anarchism is ineffective when it is afflicted by the absence of some organization capable of serving as a catalyst.

If anarcho-syndicalism’s structure no longer fits the bill, we will have to come up with some other sort of a structure, but the critics have yet to devise one. Which is why we believe we need to hold on to anarcho-syndicalist organization.

4. Prospects of anarcho-syndicalism

By dint of other potential definitions and affording a non-restrictive scope to influences and perspectives that may derive from trade union organization, one can think of a trans-structural and extra-trade union activity at odds with a simple, wholly structural view of trade union action.

In order to demonstrate the incompatible impacts of both positions, we shall refer to two (out of the many) historical phenomena:

1. July 19, 1936, when the army rose in rebellion in Spain and the CNT might not have been able to abort that rebellion but for its organizational structures: this was feasible (in Catalonia in particular) because it was flanked by segments of the people not affiliated to any structure, but who had been exposed to the CNT’s trans-structural and extra-trade union activity for several years;

2. From July 21, 1936 on, the representative bodies of the CNT were caught up in a frantic flurry of meetings, plenarias and plenos, so much so that the unions were unable to keep up this pace without serious operational difficulties; federalism ran out of control, leading to a gulf between the unions and the federal and confederal organs and this was to have a heavy impact on the CNT’s political approach. Thus was triggered intra-structural activity by representative organs which no doubt smoothed the way towards CNT participation in the government. In this particularly limited instance, an intra-structural phenomenon came to light, one to which all organizations are inclined when their representative bodies are no longer responsive to pressures from those whom they represent.

Today, more than ever, when trade unionism finds itself in an undeniable impasse, the anarcho-syndicalist structure must engage in some activity that is trans-structural, extra-trade union, and at all times counter-institutional.

A. Trans-structural

The basic, prime aim of anarcho-syndicalist activity must be to take a hand in the situation of non-institutionalized sectors (ones not part and parcel of some trade union structure) whose numbers are growing daily (the unemployed, new-style, fringe cooperatives, and ‘wildcat’ disputes involving workers, producer sub-groups discriminated against by the ‘black economy,’ etc.).

Paradoxical though it may seem, we must fight shy of playing a leading role geared towards absorbing all sectors and sub-sectors into anarcho-syndicalism; this should be a matter of free and voluntary choosing in which pressure should not be a factor.

B. Extra-trade union

Extra-trade union activity is a way of getting involved in the activities of social, cultural and fringe groups whose anti-authoritarian bent affords them a quasi-anarchistic outlook.

Establishing non-structural, concerted action relations with such movements while rejecting the wrong-headed notion (seen in Spain in 1976-1977) of an “all-embracing CNT”, i.e. a structure wherein there would be room, alongside trade unions, for ateneos, collectives, groups and communes, etc. We look upon such absorption as inadequate for it would introduce into the anarcho-syndicalist organization a factor tending towards destructuring.

The structural and the a-structural should enjoy complete autonomy in their respective operations; the “federal compact” through which the anarcho-syndicalist organization grows cannot be applied to the a-structural development characteristic of such movements; the two formats can only be associated through some “action agreement”.

C. Counter-institutional

Anarcho-syndicalism’s presence and activity are needed as an ongoing pressure on integrated worker macro-sectors, breaking down the institutionalized patterns through which they evolve. The way to go is to intervene in campaigns, demonstrations, strikes, disputes and negotiations which overpower the institutionalized trade union “machinery” and organisms.

Any attempt to introduce qualitative initiatives into the institutional framework by agreeing to participate in its mechanisms is sheer illusion. The only qualitative initiative is to shatter the framework in question. The institutional company committee must be countered by “company delegates” and by representatives receiving their mandate from the workers’ assembly.

Workers’ assemblies (be they company or industrial sector based) can, it is true to say, on certain occasions take decisions at odds with the general accords of the anarcho-syndicalist organization; however recourse to the assembly is not simply a one-off exercise but also an ongoing process regulating and amending relations between the workers; in spite of the contradictions that can be thrown up by these situations, anarcho-syndicalism can get involved, with improved and broader prospects, in the institutional framework.


Giovanna Berneri: The French Anarchist Movement (1954)

When Georges Fontenis (1920-2010) died earlier this year, he was hailed for his dedication to the revolutionary cause. During his lifetime he was a controversial figure who played a divisive role in the French anarchist movement, seeking to create a unified anarchist movement based an adherence to a common platform, essentially a more traditional leftist form of organization resembling a political party. Predictably, his efforts met with much resistance from many anarchists and split rather than united the French anarchist movement. Giovanna Berneri (1897-1962), veteran anarchist activist, widow of Camillo Berneri and mother of Marie Louise Berneri (Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume Two, Selections 4, 15 & 75), criticizes Fontenis’ approach and reviews its results in this article from 1954, an English translation of which was originally published in David Wieck’s anarchist journal, Resistance (see Volume Two, Selections 38, 39 & 40).

The French Anarchist Movement

In the French movement—or, to be exact, in the important segment associated with the French Anarchist Federation—many of the young people who played a very active part in the post-war period were motivated chiefly by negative concerns: particularly, their unwillingness to put up with the discipline the already existing parties imposed. These young people didn’t see much worth in the deep unchanging impulses which have been the heart of anarchism. Of the basic anarchist ideas, they assimilated—and badly—only those which seemed somehow to jibe with their passion to lead a political army. Living in a time when authoritarian ideas were ascendant everywhere, they believed—and no doubt many believed it sincerely—that the strength of the movement, and the influence of its ideas on society, depended on it achieving organizational and ideological unity. So they tried to organize the French anarchists, except those who chose to remain in groups outside the FAF, into a centralized structure in which the ideas of a single person, or small group, could prevail. This organization had to be provided also—naturally—with a disciplinary machinery able to ensure the absolute fidelity of the members and the exclusion of non-conformists. For anarchism, which demands room to breathe, the broadest possible horizons, and the rejection of fixed structures, all this was the ultimate absurdity.

One more example, really, of the typical Communist splinter-group: Absolutely, they say, the proletariat must be led by a party, but this party must be led by me— or us—as the vanguard Elite.

In this case the elite was very small. To make their will and plans prevail, they took possession of the responsible jobs in the central organization, and gradually transformed these into posts of command. They gained absolute control of the editorial and business management of the newspaper and internal bulletin—of the means, that is, for “tending the souls” of the militants, of domesticating them, of giving them predeformed information about events in the FAF, of pushing them into that ideological unity around a new Catechism which was said to be the only way to save the unity and cohesion of the organization. So powerful did this intolerance and sectarianism become, that everybody who disagreed with the tactics and ideology of Quai de Valmy had to go. Those who tried to resist were expelled. All this, to repeat, is the usual story of the political sect, of the Bordighist and Trotskyist groups and the like. So that finally there was really nothing strange in the decision to change the name of the FAF to the Libertarian Communist Federation (FCL) and in the explicit repudiation of the word “anarchism” in its official organ.

From the premise that Le Libertaire was aimed at a non-anarchist public, they had deduced, logically and absurdly, that criticism and challenge of its peculiar official viewpoint could not be printed in it. Writings which contradicted the line of the little équipe were not published. The paper became, therefore, more and more political and agitational. Elementary anarchist ideas, such as the need for diversity of opinions and activities, disappeared and were supplanted by propaganda campaigns accompanied by vigorous drum-beating, based on rhetorical slogans, and intended to make people stand up and yell and not to make them think. Exactly the wrong way around. More and more openly, the paper has sought to implant the idea that between the Communist Party’s ideology and anarchist ideas there is more affinity than difference, and that divergence in action has been due to human errors and not to differences in theory. Thus the “parallel texts”—very carefully selected—from Bakunin and Engels, etc.; culminating in the recent episode of Jean Masson’s article on “the meaning of the Djilas affair.”

In analyzing Milovan Djilas’ expulsion from the Central Committee of the Yugoslav CP, Masson developed the familiar Leninist thesis of the role of the vanguard party, the revolutionary organization of the masses to wield a dictatorship in the name of the victorious proletariat. One more translation of Lenin into anarchist terms. In this case the protests within the organization itself seem to have been unusually vigorous and numerous, and the incident was closed with an impudent rectification.

This attempt to sell Communist goods among anarchists was so blatant that it couldn’t be kept quiet. The CRIA (Commission for International Anarchist Relations) felt obliged to invite the FCL delegate to state his position on Masson’s article. Le Libertaire then tried to claim that the theses on dictatorship and the party were Tito’s and not Masson’s: which implied that the heavy thinkers at the Quai de Valmy take all the readers of the paper to be perfect cretins, since one has only to read the article to see that the explanation is utterly absurd.

Another recent incident is one more proof of the sectarian methods and authoritarian purposes of the FCL leaders.

In October, 1953, [Georges] Fontenis, the little boss of the organization, was invited by the Spanish groups in Paris to present his views on anarchist organization to a meeting of comrades. One member of the audience felt he had to express his disagreement with Fontenis: he felt it a duty, in fact, because he was still a member of the FCL. He said it wasn’t right to quote Berneri to justify these Marxist ideas (it’s always the same dishonest game: to use Bakunin, Malatesta or Berneri to put over something quite different), and that this kind of distortion of ideas explained why authoritarianism and centralism reigned within the anarchists’ organization.

These statements were enough to send Fontenis’ critic, together with another comrade who spoke up at the same lecture, before the Commission de Conflit (a kind of internal tribunal, or purge commission, of the FCL), which decided for expulsion. Why? Because they had “publicly”—that was not true, since the lecture was in the headquarters of the Spanish organization—criticized the tactical-ideological “line” adopted by the last Congress, a line that responsible members of the organization were obliged to defend whether they agreed with it or not.

From 1950 forward, the bolshevization of the French anarchist organization, by means of intolerance and sectarianism, has progressed steadily and noticeably. Evidence of growing uneasiness in the groups and regional federations has been increasingly present at the annual congresses. The frankly dishonest methods used by the little équipe in its political manoeuvres were becoming known to many militants, despite the efforts to hide and disguise them. The militants began to see that the shadowy doings at the Quai de Valmy were something other than anarchism. Opposition began to develop, until many individuals and even some groups, in Paris and in the provinces, took a stand.

But the thinner the ranks grew (Fontenis’ following now seems to be around 250 persons), and the more the circulation of the paper declined (probably 5,000 copies are now printed, many unsold [translator’s note: at one time, Le Libertaire was printing 40,000 copies a week]), the more verbally revolutionary has the tone of oratory and articles become. Even if—for example—the “third front” campaign, carried on with great furor, has left no trace except in the sensational Jacobin-style headlines of Libertaire, in the newspaper files in libraries.

Fontenis’ elite guard has itself—it must be said—contributed directly to clearing up the situation. As mentioned, the 1953 Congress of the FAF gave up a word which no longer had any meaning for the leaders of the organization: “anarchist.” The FAF designated itself the FCL. Now we have an exact definition of what the little group around Fontenis is. As there are “Catholic Communists,” or “internationalist Communists,” so in France around Fontenis, holding as gospel the Libertarian Communist Manifesto—a mishmash of a few pages in which all problems and difficulties are disposed of out of hand—there are the “libertarian communists.” Now there is no longer even a formal contradiction between the Statutes of the organization, in which the Leninist principles are re-affirmed, and the activities of the new “leaders,” and the name they have given themselves.

About the work of the group installed in the Quai de Valmy there can no longer be any doubt: they are not working for anarchism but for communism, which means, against anarchism.

At this point the militants who had quit the FAF and had remained apart, and those who had been criticizing the viewpoint and methods of action of the little elite, realized that the only way to deal with the increasingly bolshevik activities of the pseudo-anarchist organization was to re-group themselves and develop their own activity.

On December 25, 26 and 27, 1953, a meeting of opponents of the FCL was held at Paris, and reconstituted the FAF on the basis of clear and honest declarations.

I am not so naive as to base many hopes on the verbal results of a congress. Anyone who has been in the anarchist movement for years, and has taken part in a few congresses, knows the tendency to be satisfied with fine theoretical declarations and to formulate “plans of action” for which means of realization don’t exist. But the FAF congress of last December, even after minimizing it as much as possible, has meaning and importance.

It is the first attempt on any scale (an Entente Anarchiste had been created among opponents of the FAF at a meeting in Mans in 1952) by militants of frankly differing tendencies to bring back to life the anarchism which, if it is not to contradict itself at the start, must do these things: have absolute faith in liberty, repudiate every expression of the principle of authority within it, and be broad and accepting toward ideas which, though not coming from anarchists, imply desires akin to and a direction parallel to our own. These are the characteristics which alone can set our movement apart from the political jungle of our days, from the “left” parties and organizations which are at the service of today’s or tomorrow’s rulers. This is the only way to free ourselves from the aridity of political action, where we are beforehand condemned to futility, so that we can move forward on the multiple levels—not organizable from a Center—of social, personal and local actions, on the job and with our neighbours, freely and with liberating effects.

The French militants in opposition to the FCL have set to work in the revived FAF. They hope to issue a new publication, and to renew and carry on the spirit and work of Louise Michel, Sébastien Faure and all those who gave themselves to defend and clarify anarchist ideas. We know this won’t be easy. In the nearly complete ruin of moral values which authority has brought in our time, anarchism is the last ditch of a radical defence of the remaining vitality, and the beginning of its rebirth. They have to do pioneer work, starting almost from zero (and this is true also for us Italians). Like all pioneer work, it requires clarity and courage, tenacity and uprightness, devotion and sacrifice, and no illusory hope of easy, great, early results.

As I have already mentioned, other groupings within the French movement, but outside the FAF, are active. The existence outside the principal organization of smaller groups, united by affinity of ideas, is characteristic of all anarchist movements. In France there are the groups which publish the papers Défense de l’homme, Contre courant, L’Unique: the first primarily pacifist, the second more integrally anarchist, the third an expression of a typically French individualist tendency.

We must also mention certain groups in Paris and the provinces which oppose the FCL, but are seeking to draw the conclusions of their experience with the “central,” and tend to remain autonomous, that is to belong to no organization but keep in close touch with all. In Paris a noteworthy group is the Kronstadt Group, composed mostly of intelligent young people animated by serious intentions, which may constitute a good promise for the future.


Volontà, May 1954

Geoffrey Ostergaard: The Relevance of Syndicalism

Geoffrey Ostergaard (1926-1990) was an English anarcho-syndicalist who also wrote about non-violence and direct action. His publications include The Gentle Anarchists, with Melville Currell, Nonviolent Revolution in India, and The Tradition of Workers’ Control. I included excerpts from his essay, “Fabianism and the Managerial Revolution” in Volume Two of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas: The Emergence of the New Anarchism (1939-1977). In “The Relevance of Syndicalism,” originally published in Colin Ward’s Anarchy magazine, Volume 3, No. 6, June 1963, he argues for the relevance of syndicalism by connecting the syndicalists’ anti-statism and direct action tactics to the burgeoning peace movements of the 1960s. In the mid-1980s, he revised the article for inclusion in a book of articles on influential anarchist thinkers and movements that I was putting together (but for which I was unable to find a publisher). This is the first time that his revised version of the paper has appeared, in the first of two parts.


Geoffrey Ostergaard

Syndicalism, as a movement of significant size and influence, flourished in the two decades prior to 1917 and, since then, apart from a brief and cruel flowering in Spain during the Civil War, it has been largely a spent force. Avowedly syndicalist groups and organizations still exist in many countries but their memberships are numbered in the hundreds and thousands rather than in tens of thousands and millions; and a dispassionate observer would be forced to place them in that half-submerged world inhabited by ‘the socialist sects.’ Periodical1y attempts are made to regroup the scattered forces of syndicalism in preparation for a new offensive. But it seems unlikely that such attempts will lead to a revival of the movement in its classical form in the foreseeable future.

Why, then, should we bother our heads with syndicalism? Why not leave the subject to the historians? It is clearly one of the failures of history, a movement that did not ‘come off.’ With our eyes on the present and the future, why concern ourselves with the past, especially the unsuccessful past? As T.S. Eliot reminded us, ‘We cannot revive old factions or follow an antique drum’; and perhaps, even if we could, we ought not to do so.

There are at least two good reasons for not adopting the viewpoint implicit in such questions. One is that the present and possible future cannot be understood without an understanding of the past. And by ‘the past’ I mean not only the ‘successful’ past — that part of history which most obviously leads to the present; I include also the ‘unsuccessful’ past — that part of history which from the viewpoint of the present seems to have led nowhere. It is a point often overlooked, even by intelligent historians, that there is as much, if not more, to be learned from the failures as from the successes of history. This, as I shall try to show, is particularly true of syndicalism. An understanding of why syndicalism failed and a pondering of the implications of that failure can illuminate our understanding of the present in a way that no account of ‘successful’ movements could do.

A second reason for not dismissing syndicalism out of hand is perhaps more debatable, since it stems from the values inherent in my own political position. Looked at in the round, the world socialist movement since 1917 has been divided into two great camps the social democratic camp, on the one side, and the Bolshevik or Communist camp, on the other. Initially, what divided the two camps was the question of which road to take to the socialist society. The social democrats or (to avoid the ambiguity this term may now have for British readers) democratic socialists opted for the constitutional road, while the Communists chose the revolutionary road taken by their great hero, Lenin. In recent decades, however, the division between the two has become blurred.

‘Revisionists’ have been at work in both camps. In the Communist camp, failure to make much progress along the revolutionary road in advanced capitalist countries led to doubts which eventually expressed themselves in the form of ‘Eurocommunism.’ Essentially, what Eurocommunism boils down to is the reluctant acceptance of the basic idea of the first ‘revisionist’ of Marxism, Eduard Bernstein: the road to socialism, in some countries at least, must be constitutional and democratic. But at the same time as many Communists were re-routing themselves, democratic socialists engaged in a revisionism even more radical. In their case, the definition of socialism itself was involved. Henceforth, socialism was not to be defined as it once had been by every kind of socialist: the social ownership of all the means of production, distribution and exchange. So long as the State controls ‘the governing heights of the economy,’ it is not necessary, so it was argued, to abrogate capitalist ownership completely. Abrogation is necessary, if at all, only for certain ‘basic’ industries; in others, State regulation will suffice.

However, despite the curious cavortings of both Communists and democratic socialists, they have remained united in one underlying belief: the road to socialism lies through the acquisition by their respective parties of the political power of the State, the institution claiming, within its territory, a monopoly of the major means of physical coercion and, within its territory but also in relation to other States, the attribute of sovereignty. In this respect, both differ from the socialists of what may be called the third camp: the anti-state or non-state libertarian socialists.

In the first forty years after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, not much was heard from this camp. The notable exception was in Spain; but, even there, the victory in 1939 of Franco’s fascist forces appeared to mark for most socialists the final liquidation of libertarian socialism. Historically, this third camp has comprised a variety of groups and movements, both constitutional and revolutionary. These include the so-called pre-Marxian ‘utopian socialists’; the cooperative movement; anarchists of all hues other than ‘individualist’; the guild socialists; and, of course, the syndicalists. Apart from the doubtful exception of the cooperators, the list may look like a catalogue of history’s ‘failures.’ Twenty years ago, certainly, that is how most historians would have read the list. But things have changed in the third camp as well as in the other two camps.

In the late ‘fifties and the ‘sixties, under the umbrella of ‘The New Left,’ libertarian socialism resurfaced. The starting point of New Left thinking was disillusionment with both democratic socialism and Marxian Communism as then extant in the shape of Welfare Statism and Stalinism, respectively. As New Left movements proliferated, various themes, theories and actions, all distinctly libertarian, began to come to the fore: anti-militarism, nonviolent direct action, the rediscovery of community, community action and politics, radical decentralism, participatory democracy, the organization of the poor and oppressed inter-racially, and the building of a counter culture and counter-institutions (such as new co-ops, collectives and communes). For many youthful New Leftists all these were novel ideas which they believed they themselves had invented. But it was not long before the more historically-minded among them began to realize that the ‘new’ ideas were essentially a rediscovery of old insights and a reassertion of a once-honoured but submerged tradition. As a consequence, there was a revival of serious study of old masters and old movements. In Academia, even anarchism became a respectable subject of enquiry and discussion.

For a brief moment in 1968 it looked as though forces ranged behind the New Left banner might succeed in making a spectacular breakthrough in the heartlands of advanced industrial capitalism. But, for a variety of complex reasons, the prospect (or dream) of a libertarian revolution speedily vanished, and by the early ‘seventies the New Left – ‘a movement of movements’ rather than a single movement – had dissolved into disputatious rival fragments. Libertarian socialism had been reasserted and today, in the mid-eighties, it remains a lively current of thought, infecting in some degree socialists from the other two camps. But it has not yet succeeded in firmly establishing itself as a distinctive third camp with a coherent analysis of the contemporary world and a clear strategy for achieving the classical socialist goal of a free, egalitarian, classless and transnational society.

This is unfortunate, since there is no doubt that at the present time we are witnessing the continuing decomposition of both democratic socialism and Marxian communism. The democratic socialist road, it is now clear, leads not to socialism as traditionally understood but to the managerial-bureaucratic Welfare-cum-Warfare State. It is equally clear that the Communist road leads to a variant of the same end. Overall, in the period since 1917, Communism has gained ground at the expense of democratic socialism. In relatively undeveloped countries, usually in alliance with the old enemy of nationalism, Communism has demonstrated in a way that democratic socialism has never done its capacity to make a revolution, to establish a new social order. What, alas, it has not demonstrated, and shows no signs of demonstrating, is its capacity to create a new social order remotely resembling that of the classical socialist ideal. If the future does, indeed, lie with Communism, so much the worse for the socialist dream! For, if one has to choose between them, a managerial-bureaucratic State run on the basis of a state socialist economy is even more tyrannical than one run on the basis of a capitalist  or mixed economy.

From this perspective, the libertarian socialist tradition takes on a special significance for the present generation of socialists. It may be — we have cause enough to be skeptical — that there is no road to the truly socialist society. The whole ideology of socialism over the last 175 years may come to be seen in the future — if humanity has any future — as yet one more ideology preparing the ground for the rise of yet one more historic ruling class. But, if there be a road, I am convinced that it is the third road which the syndicalists among others helped to pave. It is for this reason that syndicalism remains a subject of continuing relevance.

The most striking feature of syndicalist thought and action is the importance attached to the class struggle. Classical syndicalism, it should be noted, emerged at about the same time as the first revisionist controversy within Marxism at the turn of the century. Led by Bernstein, the revisionists questioned, among other things, Marx’s analysis of class development and his theory of the State. They argued, in effect, for what I have called the democratic socialist position — the view that socialism could be achieved gradually by a broad democratic movement acquiring, peacefully and constitutionally, control of the existing machinery of the State. This amounted to a right-wing revision of Marxism. Syndicalism, in contrast, was a revision of Marxism to the left. The struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie was seen by the syndicalists as the very essence of Marxism — ‘the alpha and omega of socialism’, as Sorel put it. All their energies were directed toward the relentless pursuit of this struggle: the class war was to be fought to a victorious finish with no compromise given or taken. Any form of class collaboration was seen as anathema. Like orthodox Marxists, the syndicalists regarded the existing State as an instrument of coercion for maintaining bourgeois domination. Where they parted company from the orthodox, however, was in their opposition to any form of the State. Marx had argued that the task of the proletariat was to destroy, in the course of the revolution, the bourgeois State and to put in its place a proletarian State. The new State would socialize the means of production, distribution and exchange, thereby abolishing social classes, and this would be the prelude to the eventual liquidation of the coercive apparatus of society. The State, as Engels put it, would ‘wither away.’. The syndicalists, in contrast, and influenced in this respect by the anarchists, insisted that the State as such must be destroyed in the course of the revolution: to build a new State on the ruins of the old would simply result in the perpetuation of class rule over the proletariat in a new, possibly more vicious, form.

This view implied a rejection not only of parliamentary action — the contesting of elections for bourgeois parliaments — but also of political action in the narrow Statist sense of the term. The syndicalists insisted that the class war must be waged, as the French put it, on the terrain de classe by direct action. Fighting the class war involves, of course, political action in the wider sense of a struggle for social power. What distinguished the syndicalists was the view that this struggle for social power, the struggle to achieve proletarian ascendancy, did not involve setting up a specialized political organization, to wit, a political party. Quite the contrary. To try to achieve socialism through such an organization, argued the syndicalists, would be fatal to the very aims of the proletariat.

It is important to grasp this point and the reasoning behind it if we are to begin to understand syndicalism. To Communists rejection of party organization appears as the fatal error of the syndicalists. The Marxist revolutions of our century, they would argue, have all been carried through only by means of the highly disciplined form of the proletarian party perfected by Lenin. As Lenin put it to some syndicalists who visited Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution: ‘You cannot lead the proletariat without a Party.’ No Communist Party means no revolution; at best, only revolt that stops short of revolution. How, it might be asked, could the syndicalists have made such a stupid mistake?

This, of course, is to beg the question. But leaving aside for the moment the suggestion that the syndicalists were in error, and noting as we do so that some syndicalists, such as Tom Mann, did admit to error and joined the Communist Party, it is relatively easy to see how the classical syndicalists arrived at their position. In a sense, they did so because they were more Marxist than Marx himself, and perhaps less heretical Marxists than Lenin. (There is a strong case for arguing that Bolshevism is the greatest Marxist heresy, turning the materialist conception on its head and, by its political success, invalidating the theory.) The classical syndicalists accepted wholeheartedly the materialist conception of history, and deduced from it the conclusion that political power is essentially a derivative from economic power. As James Connolly put it, ‘It is an axiom, enforced by the experience of the ages, that they who rule industrially will rule politically.’ A class that possesses economic power will thus necessarily, sooner rather than later, acquire political power. If, then, the proletariat, like the bourgeoisie before it, sets about acquiring economic power and is able to do so, it need not worry overmuch about political power. For the proletariat, as for the industrial bourgeoisie, economic power means power over and within industry. So, if the workers can win control of industry, the battle for proletarian ascendancy will have been won. James Connolly, again, expressed the point succinctly in these words ‘The workshop is the cockpit of civilization…. The fight for the conquest of the political state is not the battle, it is only the echo of the battle. The real battle is being fought out every day for the power to control industry.’

But there is more to the syndicalist case than this. Taking seriously, indeed, the theory of the class struggle, the syndicalists worked for a clean-cut, uncompromising proletarian victory. Socialism for them meant the replacement of bourgeois culture and institutions by proletarian culture and institutions. Their whole conception of socialism was, in the words of a Freedom editorial of the time, a thoroughly ‘working class conception.’ They had no time at all for middle class socialists. They had little patience even for the guild socialists whose ideas were closest to their own. Because guild socialists retained in some form the institution of the State, conceived in a Fabian-way as representing the interests of consumers, the syndicalists thought, as one of them put it, that they were ‘incapable of conceiving a commonwealth which is not designed on the canons of bourgeois architecture.’ Designing and building a commonwealth on the canons of proletarian architecture was what the syndicalists were about. When Marx in his Address to the First International had said that the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the workers themselves, the syndicalists thought he meant it. They did not think he meant that emancipation would come through the organization of a self-styled proletarian party led principally by people of bourgeois origins who, for one reason or another — and not always, they suspected, for creditable reasons — had taken up the cause of the workers. Bourgeois socialist intellectuals — professors, students, publicists and the like — had, the syndicalists thought, only a strictly limited and auxiliary role to play in the workers’ movement. The task of such people was to make explicit what was implicit in the social relations of capitalist society. Most definitely, it was not their task to instruct the proletariat, to guide the workers, and to lead them into correct courses of action. A workers’ movement which allowed itself to be directed by bourgeois intellectuals, even déclassé intellectuals, would, they believed, end up either compromising with the status quo or establishing a new form of class rule over the proletariat.

From this perspective, the syndicalists proceeded to juxtapose the concept of class against the concept of party. As social formations, the two are quite different. A class is a natural product of historical development, comprising individuals who occupy essentially the same position in the economic order of society. A party, in contrast, is an artificial aggregate, a consciously contrived organization, a social artifact, composed of heterogeneous elements drawn from all or, at least, a variety of classes. A class is based on a homogeneity of origin and conditions of life, and the bond of unity between its members is primarily economic. A party, however, represents essentially an intellectual unity: the bond uniting its members is primarily ideological. When individuals are approached on the basis of their class, the focus is on their role in the economic order, a role which sharply separates them from members of other classes. Thus the opposition of class interests is highlighted. But when individuals are approached on the basis of party, the focus is on their role as citizens and electors in the political order, and this role they share with members of all classes. Inevitably, on this approach, the opposition of class interests is muted. Parties may, and often do, express particular class interests — hence the view, held by political sociologists, that elections are the democratic expression of the class struggle. But parties also serve to moderate and to contain class antagonism. And, whatever the function of particular parties may be, the party system as a whole works to mitigate class conflicts and to preserve the existing socio-economic and political system.

The syndicalists, of course, appreciated that classes as such do not act. Social action involves the action of individuals in and through organizations. Organization of the proletariat, therefore, was an admitted necessity. In this respect, the syndicalists differed from those among the classical anarchists who minimized the importance of organization and who pinned their hopes on spontaneous revolutionary uprisings, stimulated by catalytic agents like Bakunin.

But, if the class struggle was the basic reality, why, asked the syndicalists, set up a special organization — a political party — which from its very nature would inevitably undermine the struggle? Why, indeed, when the proletariat already had an organization of its own: the trade or labour union — an organization based on the working class, confined (at that time) to the working class, and set up by the workers for the purpose of defending their interests in the daily struggle against their capitalist masters? True, the trade unions had been conceived, even by their creators, as mainly ameliorative instruments, as a means to win concessions for the workers within the social framework of capitalism. But there was no a priori reason why the role of unions should be so limited. Given proper direction, it was argued, they could be transformed into revolutionary instruments.

A single-minded emphasis on the potentialities of the trade union is in fact the most distinctive single feature of classical syndicalism. Syndicalists differed among themselves about how unions should be organized, many favouring industrial rather than craft unions, but all agreed that they had a dual role to perform: first, the traditional role of defending the interests of the workers under capitalism; and, secondly, the revolutionary role of overthrowing capitalism and constituting themselves as the basic units of the succeeding socialist society. Referring to this second role, James Connolly put it thus: ‘to build up an industrial republic with the shell of the political state, in order that, when the industrial republic is fully organized, it may crack the shell of the political state and step into its place in the scheme of the universe.’ As these words suggest, the more important second role became operative at once and not simply during and on the morrow of the revolution. In other words, syndicalism was not just a blueprint of the future socialist society in which unions would be the basic units of all social organization and would federate at the local, regional, national and transnational levels in order to carry out all the useful functions presently performed by bourgeois organizations. The task of the unions was to struggle here and now to divest the existing organizations of capitalist society of all life and to transfer whatever value they might have to the proletarian organizations. This part of the syndicalist strategy was summed up in Sorel’s words: ‘to snatch from the State and from the Commune, one by one, all their attributes in order to enrich the proletarian organisms in the process of formation.’

Anarchy & Organization: The Debate at the 1907 International Anarchist Congress

I have now created a separate page which includes the previously posted speeches by Amédée Dunois, Errico Malatesta, Emma Goldman and Max Baginsky from the debate on anarchy and organization at the 1907 International Anarchist Congress in Amsterdam. Despite his membership in the revolutionary syndicalist CGT in France, whose slogan was “syndicalism is sufficient unto itself,” Dunois advocated the creation of a dual, explicitly anarchist organization, similar to those Spanish anarchists who later created the FAI in Spain to work alongside and within the anarcho-syndicalist CNT. While Malatesta disagreed with the claim that syndicalism is sufficient unto itself and argued against the creation of specifically anarchist trade unions (Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume One, Selection 60), he was also in favour of separate anarchist organizations through which anarchists could coordinate their activities. However, he was opposed to the Platformists and other like-minded anarchists who sought to create a single anarchist organization which required adherence to its policies and programs because this would inevitably lead to disagreements and schisms (Anarchism, Volume One, Selection 115). Neither Emma Goldman nor Max Baginski was opposed to syndicalist or anarchist organization, but both were careful to emphasize the need for individual autonomy, as was Malatesta. More recently, anarchists as diverse as latter-day Platformists, with their doctrine of especifismo, student anarchists during the May-June 1968 events in France (Anarchism, Volume Two, Selection 51), eco-anarchists such as Murray Bookchin in the 1960s and 70s (Volume Two, Selection 62), Colin Ward (Volume Two, Selection 63), the Open Road anarchist newsjournal in the  1970s and 80s, anarcha-feminists (Volume Two, Selections 78 & 79) and anarchists involved in global justice and indigenous movements against neo-liberalism have moved toward a position which emphasizes the self-organization of the people instead of the creation of separate anarchist organizations, raising questions regarding the utility of or need for the latter.

The Haymarket Martyrs: Anarchy on Trial (1886)

On May 3, 1886, the Chicago police shot and killed several striking workers. At the time, Chicago was the centre of a militant working class movement with significant anarchist involvement. The Chicago anarchists had been instrumental in creating the North American International Working People’s Association (IWPA) in 1883, which drew its inspiration from the anti-authoritarian wing of the so-called First International, in which Michael Bakunin (1814-1876), Carlo Cafiero (1846-1892) and many other anarchists played a prominent role (Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume One: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE to 1939), Chapter 6). The IWPA’s program was largely written by the anarchist collectivist and advocate of armed struggle, Johann Most (1846-1906). Consistent with the view of the anarchists in the First International, the IWPA declared that the workers “must achieve their liberation by their own efforts.” But because, as “in former times a privileged class never surrendered its tyranny, neither can it be expected that the capitalists of this age will give up their rulership without being forced to do it,” the IWPA invoked the example of the American Revolution and War of Independence in support of a new revolution of the toiling masses: “By force our ancestors liberated themselves from political oppression, by force their children will have to liberate themselves from economic bondage. ‘It is, therefore, your right, it is your duty,’ says [Thomas] Jefferson-’to arm!’” (Anarchism, Volume One, Selection 55).

On May 4, 1886, a protest meeting was held in the Haymarket area of Chicago to denounce the police violence. Two prominent IWPA members, August Spies and Albert Parsons, spoke at the meeting. While another Chicago anarchist, Samuel Fielden, was making his concluding remarks, the police ordered the crowd to disperse, a bomb was thrown, the police opened fire into the crowd and scores of people were killed and injured. Despite the fact that most of the victims, including several police officers, had been shot by the police themselves, eight Chicago anarchists were arrested, tried and convicted of murder. After four of them  (Parsons, Spies, George Engel and Adolph Fischer) were executed on Novermber 11, 1887 (a fifth, Louis Lingg, committed suicide before the executions), they became known as the Haymarket Martyrs.

Originally, I had planned to devote an entire chapter to the Haymarket Martyrs in Volume One of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Ideas, but due to space limitations was unable to do so (I did include the IWPA’s program, the “Pittsburgh Proclamation,” as Selection 55). The Haymarket Martyrs made lengthy speeches at their trial in which they presented a clear exposition of views then current among revolutionary anarchists in Europe and the Americas. As a result of their trial and executions, their expositions of anarchist ideas received wide publicity, particularly within the international anarchist movement, which commemorated their executions every November 11th. The Chicago anarchists advocated armed struggle, as noted above, but also worked for immediate change to benefit the working class, such as the 8 hour day. For them, anarchism was a form of socialism. Their critique of capitalism was informed not only by the writings of European anarchists, but by Karl Marx’s analysis in Capital. In his book, Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis, which Albert Parsons wrote and edited while awaiting execution, he included extensive excerpts from both Marx’s Capital and the Communist Manifesto. Bakunin himself had translated the Communist Manifesto into Russian, Johann Most had published a popular summary of the main themes from Marx’s Capital, and the Pittsburgh Proclamation itself contained passages taken from the Communist Manifesto. Errico Malatesta was later to remark that anarchists of this era, himself included, and Bakunin before them,  were “too Marxistin their “political economy and in the interpretation of history” (Life and Ideas, page 209).

It was Peter Kropotkin who developed a more original anarchist “political economy” in The Conquest of Bread (first published in 1892), in which he  also criticizes Marx’s analysis in Capital (the 1995 Cambridge University Press edition includes additional critical remarks on Marx’s Capital taken from Kropotkin’s Memoirs). In Modern Science and Anarchism (first published in 1901), Kropotkin presents a critique of Marx’s theory of surplus value. At the time of the trial of the Chicago anarchists, Kropotkin’s writings were just being introduced to English language readers. In 1886, Kropotkin help found and began writing for the venerable English anarchist publication, Freedom, in London. Parsons included two articles by Kropotkin in Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis, “The Scientific Basis of Anarchy” and “The Coming Anarchy,” which had only just been published in the February and August 1887 editions of the English journal, The Nineteenth Century, while Parsons was awaiting execution (Kropotkin’s two articles were reprinted in 1891 as a single pamphlet, Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles). Parsons also included in his book an 1884 essay by Elisée Reclus, “An Anarchist on Anarchy,” which I hope to post at a later date.

What follows is the first in a series of excerpts I will be posting from the speeches the Haymarket Martyrs delivered at their trial. This first post is taken from the speech of August Spies (1855-1887). He refers to Police Inspector Bonfield, a sadistic brute who specialized in cracking the heads of striking workers, and whose men were responsible for shooting on the crowd, and prosecuting Attorney Grinnell, who orchestrated the conviction and judicial murder of the Haymarket Martyrs. During the trial itself, Grinnell was successful in preventing the defendants from explaining their anarchist views, arguing that they and not anarchism were on trial. Yet in his concluding address to the jury, he said that “anarchy is on trial,” urging them to convict the defendants and to condemn them to death on the basis of their political views, as there was no real evidence connecting them to the bomb that was thrown on May 4, 1886. Spies was immortalized by the words he cried out just before he was hanged: “the day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”

August Spies

It is not likely that the honorable Bonfield and Grinnell can conceive of a social order not held intact by the policeman’s club and pistol, nor of a free society without prisons, gallows, and State’s attorneys. In such a society they [would] probably fail to find a place for themselves. And is this the reason why anarchism is such a ‘pernicious and damnable doctrine?’

Grinnell has intimated to us that anarchism was on trial. The theory of anarchism belongs to the realm of speculative philosophy. There was not a syllable said about anarchism at the Haymarket meeting. At that meeting the very popular theme of reducing the hours of toil was discussed. But, ‘anarchism is on trial’ foams Mr. Grinnell. If that is the case, your honor, very well; you may sentence me, for I am an anarchist. I believe with Buckle, with Paine, Jefferson, Emerson, and Spencer, and many other great thinkers of this century, that the state of castes and classes—the state where one class dominates over and lives upon the labor of another class, and calls this order—yes: I believe that this barbaric form of social organization, with its legalized plunder and murder, is doomed to die, and make room for a free society, voluntary association, or universal brotherhood, if you like. You may pronounce the sentence upon me, honorable judge; but let the world know that in A. D. 1886, in the State of Illinois, eight men were sentenced to death because they believed in a better future; because they had not lost their faith in the ultimate victory of liberty and justice!

‘You have taught the destruction of society and civilization,’ says the tool and agent of the Bankers’ and Citizens’ Association, Grinnell. That man has yet to learn what civilization is. It is the old, old argument against human progress. Read the history of Greece, of Rome; read that of Venice; look over the dark pages of the church, and follow the thorny path of science. ‘No change! No change! You would destroy society and civilization!’ has ever been the cry of the ruling classes. They are so comfortably situated under the prevailing system that they naturally abhor and fear even the slightest change. Their privileges are as dear to them as life itself, and every change threatens these privileges. But civilization is a ladder whose steps are monuments of such changes! Without these social changes—all brought about against the will and the force of the ruling classes—there would be no civilization. As to the destruction of society which we have been accused of seeking, sounds this not like one of Aesop’s fables—like the cunning of the fox? We, who have jeopardized our lives to save society from the fiend—the fiend who has grasped her by the throat; who sucks her life-blood, who devours her children—we, who would heal her bleeding wounds, who would free her from the fetters you have wrought around her; from the misery you have brought upon her—we her enemies!!

Honorable judge, the demons of hell will join in the laughter this irony provokes!

We have preached dynamite. Yes, we have predicted from the lessons history teaches, that the ruling classes of today would no more listen to the voice of reason than their predecessors; that they would attempt by brute force to stay the wheel of progress. Is it a lie, or was it the truth we told? Are not already the large industries of this once free country conducted under the surveillance of the police, the detective, the military and the sheriffs—and is this return to militancy not developing from day to day? American sovereigns—think of it—working like galley convicts under military guards! We have predicted this, and predict that soon these conditions will grow unbearable. What then? The mandate of the feudal lords of our time is slavery, starvation and death! This has been their program for the past years. We have said to the toilers, that science had penetrated the mystery of nature—that from Jove’s head once more has sprung a Minerva—dynamite! If this declaration is synonymous with murder, why not charge those with the crime to whom we owe the invention? To charge us with an attempt to overthrow the present system on or about May 4th by force, and then establish anarchy, is too absurd a statement, I think, even for a political office-holder to make. If Grinnell believed that we attempted such a thing, why did he not have Dr. Bluthardt make an inquiry as to our sanity? Only mad men could have planned such a brilliant scheme, and mad people cannot be indicted or convicted of murder. If there had existed anything like a conspiracy or a pre-arrangement, does your honor believe that events would not have taken a different course than they did on that evening and later?

This ‘conspiracy’ nonsense is based upon an oration I delivered on the anniversary of Washington’s birthday at Grand Rapids, Mich., more than a year and a half ago. I had been invited by the Knights of Labor for that purpose. I dwelt upon the fact that our country was far from being what the great revolutionists of the last century had intended it to be. I said that those men if they lived today would clean the Augean stables with iron brooms, and that they, too, would undoubtedly be characterized as ‘wild socialists.’ It is not unlikely that I said Washington would have been hanged for treason if the revolution had failed. Grinnell made this ‘sacrilegious remark’ his main arrow against me. Why? Because he intended to inveigh the know-nothing spirit against us. But who will deny the correctness of the statement? That I should have compared myself with Washington, is a base lie. But if I had, would that be murder? I may have told that individual who appeared here as a witness that the workingmen should procure arms, as force would in all probability be the ultima ratio; and that in Chicago there were so and so many armed, but I certainly did not say that we proposed to ‘inaugurate the social revolution.’ And let me say here: Revolutions are no more made than earthquakes and cyclones. Revolutions are the effect of certain causes and conditions. I have made social philosophy a specific study for more than ten years, and I could not have given vent to such nonsense! I do believe, however, that the revolution is near at hand—in fact, that it is upon us. But is the physician responsible for the death of the patient because he foretold that death? If anyone is to be blamed for the coming revolution it is the ruling class who steadily refused to make concessions as reforms became necessary; who maintain that they can call a halt to progress, and dictate a stand-still to the eternal forces, of which they themselves are but the whimsical creation…

If the opinion of the court given this morning is good law, then there is no person in this country who could not lawfully be hanged. I vouch that, upon the very laws you have read, there is no person in this courtroom now who could not be ‘fairly, impartially and lawfully’ hanged! Fouche, Napoleon’s right bower, once said to his master: ‘Give me a line that any one man has ever written, and I will bring him to the scaffold.’ And this court has done essentially the same. Upon that law every person in this country can be indicted for conspiracy, and, as the case may be, for murder. Every member of a trade union, Knights of Labor, or any other labor organization, can then be convicted of conspiracy, and in cases of violence, for which they may not be responsible at all, of murder, as we have been. This precedent once established, and you force the masses who are now agitating in a peaceable way into open rebellion! You thereby shut off the last safety valve—and the blood which will be shed, the blood of the innocent—it will come upon your heads!

…This verdict against us is the anathema of the wealthy classes over their despoiled victims—the vast army of wage workers and farmers. If your honor would not have these people believe this; if you would not have them believe that we have once more arrived at the Spartan Senate, the Athenian Areopagus, the Venetian Council of Ten, etc., then sentence should not be pronounced. But, if you think that by hanging us, you can stamp out the labor movement—the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil and live in want and misery—the wage slaves— expect salvation—if this is your opinion, then hang us! Here you will tread upon a spark, but there, and there, and behind you, and in front of you, and everywhere, flames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out.

The ground is on fire upon which you stand. You can’t understand it. You don’t believe in magical arts, as your grandfathers did who burned witches at the stake, but you do believe in conspiracies; you believe that all these occurrences of late are the work of conspirators! You resemble the child that is looking for his picture behind the mirror. What you see, and what you try to grasp is nothing but the deceptive reflex of the stings of your bad conscience. You want to ‘stamp out the conspirators’— the ‘agitators?’ Ah, stamp out every factory lord who has grown wealthy upon the unpaid labor for his employees. Stamp out every landlord who has amassed fortunes from the rent of over-burdened workingmen and farmers. Stamp out every machine that is revolutionizing industry and agriculture, that intensifies the production and ruins the producer, that increases the national wealth, while the creator of all these things stands, amidst them, tantalized with hunger! Stamp out the railroads, the telegraph, the telephone, steam and yourselves—for everything breathes the revolutionary spirit.

You, gentlemen, are the revolutionists! You rebel against the effects of social conditions which have tossed you, by the fair hand of fortune, into a magnificent paradise. Without inquiring, you imagine that no one else has a right in that place. You insist that you are the chosen ones, the sole proprietors. The forces that tossed you into the paradise, the industrial forces, are still at work. They are growing more active and intense from day to day. Their tendency is to elevate all mankind to the same level, to have all humanity share in the paradise you now monopolize. You, in your blindness, think you can stop the tidal wave of civilization, and human emancipation by placing a few policemen, a few gatling guns, and some regiments of militia on the shore—you think you can frighten the rising waves back into the unfathomable depths, whence they have risen, by erecting a few gallows in the perspective. You, who oppose the natural course of things, you are the real revolutionists. You and you alone are the conspirators and destructionists!

…[S]ocialism does not mean the destruction of society. Socialism is a constructive and not a destructive science. While capitalism expropriates the masses for the benefit of the privileged class; while capitalism is that school of economics which teaches how one can live upon the labor (i.e., property) of the other; socialism teaches how all may possess property, and further teaches that every man must work honestly for his own living, and not be playing the ‘respectable board of trade man,’ or any other highly (?) respectable businessman or banker, such as appeared here as talesmen in the jurors’ box, with the fixed opinion that we ought to be hanged… Socialism in short, seeks to establish a universal system of co-operation, and to render accessible to each and every member of the human family the achievements and benefits of civilization, which, under capitalism, are being monopolized by a privileged class and employed, not as they should be, for the common good of all, but for the brutish gratification of an avaricious class. Under capitalism the great inventions of the past, far from being a blessing for mankind, have been turned into a curse! Under socialism the prophecy of the Greek poet, Antiporas, would be fulfilled, who, at the invention of the first water-mill, exclaimed: ‘This is the emancipator of male and female slaves’; and likewise the prediction of Aristotle, who said: ‘When, at some future age, every tool, upon command or by predestination, will perform its work as the art works of Daedalus did, which moved by themselves; or like the three feet of Hephaestus, which went to their sacred work instinctively, when thus the weaver shuttles will weave by themselves, then we shall no longer require masters and slaves.’ Socialism says this time has come, and can you deny it? You say: ‘Oh, these heathens, what did they know?’ True! They knew nothing of political economy; they knew nothing of christendom. They failed to conceive how nicely these man-emancipating machines could be employed to lengthen the hours of toil and to intensify the burdens of the slaves. These heathens, yes, they excused the slavery of one on the ground that thereby another would be afforded the opportunity of human development. But to preach the slavery of the masses in order that a few rude and arrogant parvenues might become ‘eminent manufacturers,’ ‘extensive packing-house owners,’ or ‘influential shoe-black dealers,’ to do this they lacked that specific Christian organ.

Socialism teaches that the machines, the means of transportation and communication are the result of the combined efforts of society, past and present, and that they are therefore rightfully the indivisible property of society, just the same as the soil and the mines and all natural gifts should be. This declaration implies that those who have appropriated this wealth wrongfully, though lawfully, shall be expropriated by society. The expropriation of the masses by the monopolists has reached such a degree that the expropriation of the expropriators has become an imperative necessity, an act of social self-preservation. Society will reclaim its own, even though you erect a gibbet on every street corner. And anarchism, this terrible ‘ism,’ deduces that under a co-operative organization of society, under economic equality and individual independence, the ‘State ‘—the political State—will pass into barbaric antiquity. And we will be where all are free, where there are no longer masters and servants, where intellect stands for brute force, there will no longer be any use for the policemen and militia to preserve the so-called ‘peace and order’—the order that the Russian general spoke of when he telegraphed to the Czar after he had massacred half of Warsaw, ‘Peace reigns in Warsaw.’

Anarchism does not mean bloodshed; does not mean robbery, arson, etc. These monstrosities are, on the contrary, the characteristic features of capitalism. Anarchism means peace and tranquility to all. Anarchism, or socialism, means the reorganization of society upon scientific principles and the abolition of causes which produce vice and crime. Capitalism first produces these social diseases and then seeks to cure them by punishment…

It is true we have called upon the people to arm themselves. It is true that we have told them time and again that the great day of change was coming. It was not our desire to have bloodshed. We are not beasts. We would not be socialists if [we] were beasts. It is because of our sensitiveness that we have gone into this movement for the emancipation of the oppressed and suffering. It is true we have called upon the people to arm and prepare for the stormy times before us.

This seems to be the ground upon which the verdict is to be sustained.

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce the people under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and provide new guards for their future safety.”

This is a quotation from the Declaration of Independence. Have we broken any laws by showing to the people how these abuses, that have occurred for the last twenty years, are invariably pursuing one object, viz: to establish an oligarchy in this country as strong and powerful and monstrous as never before has existed in any country? I can well understand why that man Grinnell did not urge upon the grand jury to charge us with treason… You cannot try and convict a man for treason who has upheld the constitution against those who try to trample it under their feet. It would not have been as easy a job to do that, Mr. Grinnell, as to charge ‘these men’ with murder.

Now, these are my ideas. They constitute a part of myself. I cannot divest myself of them, nor would I, if I could. And if you think that you can crush out these ideas that are gaining ground more and more every day, if you think you can crush them out by sending us to the gallows—if you would once more have people to suffer the penalty of death because they have dared to tell the truth—and I defy you to show us where we have told a lie—I say, if death is the penalty for proclaiming the truth, then I will proudly and defiantly pay the costly price! Call your hangman. Truth crucified in Socrates, in Christ, in Giordano Bruno, in Huss, Galileo, still lives—they and others whose number is legion have preceded us on this path. We are ready to follow!

Colin Ward (1924-2010)

Colin Ward, one of the most interesting anarchist writers of the post-Spanish Revolution/Second World War time period, died on February 11, 2010 at the age of 85. I included excerpts from his 1966 article, “Anarchy as a Theory of Organization,” in Volume Two of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas. His three best known anarchist books were Anarchy in Action (1973),  Talking Anarchy (2003) and Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction (2004). A selection of his writings is available online at the Anarchy is Order website. He wrote many books and articles on a wide variety of topics, from children, education and social policy to water resources, transportation and housing. The following paragraphs from the Introduction to Anarchy in Action aptly summarize Ward’s approach:

How would you feel if you discovered that the society in which you would really like to live was already here, apart from a few little, local difficulties like exploitation, war, dictatorship and starvation? The argument of this book is that an anarchist society, a society which organises itself without authority, is always in existence, like a seed beneath the snow, buried under the weight of the state and its bureaucracy, capitalism and its waste, privilege and its injustices, nationalism and its suicidal loyalties, religious differences and their superstitious separatism.

Of the many possible interpretations of anarchism the one presented here suggests that, far from being a speculative vision of a future society, it is a description of a  mode of human organisation, rooted in the experience of everyday life, which operates side by side with, and in spite of, the dominant authoritarian trends of our society. This is not a new version of anarchism. Gustav Landauer saw it, not as the founding of something new, ‘but as the actualisation and reconstitution of something that has always been present, which exists alongside the state, albeit buried and laid waste.’ And a modern anarchist, Paul Goodman, declared that: ‘A free society cannot be the substitution of a ‘new order’ for the old order; it is the extension of spheres of free action until they make up most of social life.’

One of Ward’s favourite quotes was Landauer’s comment that the “state is a relationship between human beings, a way by which people relate to one another… one destroys it by entering into other relationships, by behaving differently to one another” (Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume One: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE-1939), page 165). Goodman’s statement that a free society is the extension of spheres of free action is taken from his 1945 publication, The May Pamphlet, included in Volume Two of Anarchism, The Emergence of the New Anarchism (1939-1977), Selection 11, under the heading, “Reflections on Drawing the Line.”

Kropotkin: An Anarchist Society

Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) was perhaps the best known exponent of anarchist communism. In Modern Science and Anarchism, he sets forth an anarchist conception of society as a dynamic equilibrium, constantly changing, except when forced into a particular path or pattern by authoritarian institutions, which such patterns will eventually be superseded as society bursts asunder the artificial constraints of coercive institutions. The following passages are taken from the revised 1912 edition of Modern Science and Anarchism.

An Anarchist Conception of Society

[A] variety of considerations, historical, ethnological, and economical, have brought the Anarchists to conceive a society very different from what is considered as its ideal by the authoritarian political parties. The Anarchists conceive a society in which all the mutual relations of its members are regulated, not by laws, not by authorities, whether self-imposed or elected, but by mutual agreements between the members of that society and by a sum of social customs and habits — not petrified by law, routine, or superstition, but continually developing and continually readjusted, in accordance with the ever-growing requirements of a free life, stimulated by the progress of science, invention, and the steady growth of higher ideals.

No ruling authorities, then. No government of man by man; no crystallization and immobility, but a continual evolution — such as we see in Nature. Free play for the individual, for the full development of his individual gifts — for his individualization. In other words, no actions are imposed upon the individual by a fear of punishment; none is required from him by society, but those which receive his free acceptance. In a society of equals this would be quite sufficient for preventing those unsociable actions that might be harmful to other individuals and to society itself, and for favouring the steady moral growth of that society…

Of course, up till now no society has existed which would have realized these principles in full, although the striving towards a partial realization of such principles has always been at work in mankind. We may say, therefore, that Anarchism is a certain ideal of society, and that this ideal is different from the ideal of society which has hitherto been advocated by most philosophers, scientists, and leaders of political parties, who pretended to rule mankind and to govern men.

But it would not be fair to describe such a conception as a Utopia, because the word “Utopia” in our current language conveys the idea of something that cannot be realized.

Taken in its usual current sense, therefore, the word “Utopia” ought to be limited to those conceptions only which are based on merely theoretical reasonings as to what is desirable from the writer’s point of view, but not on what is already developing in human agglomerations. Such were, for instance, the Utopias of the Catholic Empire of the Popes, the Napoleonic Empire, the Messianism of Mickiewicz, and so on. But it cannot be applied to a conception of society which is based, as Anarchism is, on an analysis of tendencies of an evolution that is already going on in society, and on inductions therefrom as to the future — those tendencies which have been… for thousands of years the mainspring for the growth of sociable habits and customs, known in science under the name of Customary Law, and which affirm themselves more and more definitely in modern society.

With regard to what is very often said as to the necessary slowness of every new step that is made by evolution, let us remember that not further than at the end of the eighteenth century — at the very time when the United States had started in life — a society of a somewhat larger size without a monarch was considered a foolish Utopia. But the North and the South American Republics, the Swiss Republic and France have proved since, as we know, that the “Utopians” were not the Republicans but the admirers of monarchy. It was the latter, who, guided by their desires only, did not take into account the tendencies of societies developing far from the yoke of monarchist traditions; the latter, who, and not the Republicans, attributed too much importance and stability to the monarchist institutions — without noticing that they were not an outcome of human nature, but an outcome of temporary historical conditions.

When we look into the origin of the Anarchist conception of society, we see that it has had a double origin: the criticism, on the one side, of the hierarchical organizations and the authoritarian conceptions of society; and on the other side, the analysis of the tendencies that are seen in the progressive movements of mankind, both in the past, and still more so at the present time.

From the remotest, Stone-Age antiquity men must have realized the evils that resulted from letting some of them acquire personal authority — even if they were the most intelligent, the bravest, or the wisest. Consequently, they developed, in the primitive clan, the village community, the medieval guild (neighbours’ guilds, arts and crafts’ guilds, traders’, hunters’, and so on), and finally in the free medieval city such institutions as enabled them to resist the encroachments upon their life and fortunes both of those strangers who conquered them, and those clansmen of their own who endeavoured to establish their personal authority. The same popular tendency was self-evident in the religious movements of the masses in Europe during the earlier portions of the Reform movement and its Hussite and Anabaptist forerunners. At a much later period, namely, in 1793, the same current of thought and of action found its expression in the strikingly independent, freely federated activity of the “Sections” of Paris and all great cities and many small “Communes” during the French Revolution. And later still, the Labour combinations which developed in England and France, notwithstanding Draconian laws, as soon as the factory system began to grow up, were an outcome of the same popular resistance to the growing power of the few — the capitalists in this case.

These were the main popular Anarchist currents which we know of in history, and it is self-evident that these movements could not but find their expression in literature. So they did, beginning with Lao-tse in China, and some of the earliest Greek philosophers (Aristippus and the Cynics; Zeno and some of the Stoics). However, being born in the masses, and not in any centres of learning, these popular movements, both when they were revolutionary and when they were deeply constructive, found little sympathy among the learned men — far less than the authoritarian hierarchical tendencies…

If the revolt against the State, so long as it was advocated, before 1848 and later on till the Paris Commune, by middle-class writers, took the character of a revolt of the individual against society and its hypocrisy — now, when a similar revolt began to take place among the working men, it took a deeper character. It became a research of those forms of society which might get rid of the oppression and exploitation of men by other men which is now going on with the aid of the State. In the International Working Men’s Association its founders saw the embryo of that society which would be called into existence by a social revolution — a society where the functions now belonging to Government would be substituted by free agreements growing out of the direct relations between free groups of producers and consumers. In these surroundings the ideal of the Anarchist ceased to be individual: it became social.

In proportion as the workers of Europe and America began to know each other directly, without the intermediary of Governments, they grew more and more convinced of their own forces and of their capacity for rebuilding society on new bases. They saw that if the people resumed possession of the land and of all that is required for producing all sorts of necessaries of life, and if the associations of men and women who would work on the land, in the factories, in the mines, and so on, became themselves the managers of production, they would be able, in such conditions, to produce with the greatest ease all that is necessary for the life of society, so as to guarantee well-being for all, and also some leisure for all. The recent progress in science and technics rendered this point more and more evident. Besides, in a vast international organization of producers and consumers, the exchange of produce could be organized with the same ease — once it would not be done for the enrichment of the few.

At the same time, the ever-growing thinking portion of the workers saw that the State, with its traditions, its hierarchy, and its narrow nationalism, would always stand in the way of the development of such an organization; and the experiments made in different countries with the view of partially alleviating the social evils within the present middle-class State proved more and more the fallacy of such tactics.

The wider the sphere of those experiments, the more evident it was that the machinery of the State could not be utilized as an instrument of emancipation. The State is an institution which was developed for the very purpose of establishing monopolies in favour of the slave and serf owners, the landed proprietors, canonic and laic, the merchant guilds and the moneylenders, the kings, the military commanders, the “noble-men,” and finally, in the nineteenth century, the industrial capitalists, whom the State supplied with “hands” driven away from the land. Consequently the State would be, to say the least, a useless institution, once these monopolies ceased to exist. Life would be simplified, once the mechanism created for the exploitation of the poor by the rich would have been done away with.

The idea of independent Communes for the territorial organization, and of federations of Trade Unions for the organization of men in accordance with their different functions, gave a concrete conception of society regenerated by a social revolution. There remained only to add to these two modes of organization a third, which we saw rapidly developing during the last fifty years, since a little liberty was conquered in this direction: the thousands upon thousands of free combines and societies growing up everywhere for the satisfaction of all possible and imaginable needs, economic, sanitary, and educational; for mutual protection, for the propaganda of ideas, for art, for amusement, and so on. All of them covering each other, and all of them always ready to meet the new needs by new organizations and adjustments.

More than that. It begins to be understood now that if human societies go on developing on these lines, coercion and punishment must necessarily fall into decay. The greatest obstacle to the maintenance of a certain moral level in our present societies lies in the absence of social equality. Without real equality, the sense of justice can never be universally developed, because Justice implies the recognition of Equality; while in a society in which the principles of justice would not be contradicted at every step by the existing inequalities of rights and possibilities of development, they would be bound to spread and to enter into the habits of the people.

In such a case the individual would be free, in the sense that his freedom would not be limited any more by fear: by the fear of a social or a mystical punishment, or by obedience, either to other men reputed to be his superiors, or to mystical and metaphysical entities — which leads in both cases to intellectual servility (one of the greatest curses of mankind) and to the lowering of the moral level of men.

In free surroundings based upon Equality, man might with full confidence let himself be guided by his own reason (which, of course, by necessity, would bear the stamp of his social surroundings). And he might also attain the full development of his individuality; while the “individualism” considered now by middle-class intellectuals as the means for the development of the better-gifted individuals, is, as every one may himself see, the chief obstacle to this development. Not only because, with a low productivity, which is kept at a low level by Capitalism and the State, the immense majority of gifted men have neither the leisure nor the chance to develop their higher gifts; but also because those who have that leisure are recognized and rewarded by the present society on the condition of never going “too far” in their criticisms of that society, and especially — never going over to acts that may lead to its destruction, or even to a serious reform. Those only are allowed to attain a certain “development of their individualities” who are not dangerous in this respect — those who are merely “interesting,” but not dangerous to the Philistine.

The Anarchists, we have said, build their previsions of the future upon those data which are supplied by the observation of life at the present time.

Thus, when we examine into the tendencies that have prevailed in the life of civilized countries since the end of the eighteenth century, we certainly do not fail to see how strong the centralizing and authoritarian tendency was during that time, both among the middle classes and those working men who have been educated in the ideas of the middle classes and now strive to enter the ranks of their present rulers and exploiters.

But at the same time it is a fact that the anti-centralist and anti-militarist ideas, as well as the ideas of a free understanding, grow stronger and stronger nowadays both among the working men and the better educated and more or less intellectually free portions of the middle classes — especially in Western Europe.

I have shown, indeed, elsewhere (in The Conquest of Bread and in Mutual Aid) how strong at the present time is the tendency to constitute freely, outside the State and the Churches, thousands upon thousands of free organizations for all sorts of needs: economic (agreements between the railway companies, the Labour Syndicates, trusts of employers, agricultural co-operation, co-operation for export, etc.), political, intellectual, artistic, educational and so on. What formerly belonged without a shadow of doubt to the functions of the State, or the Church, enters now into the domain of free organization.

This tendency develops with a striking rapidity under our very eyes. It was sufficient that a breath of emancipation should have slightly limited the powers of Church and State in their never-satisfied tendency towards further extension — and voluntary organizations have already germinated by the thousand. And we may be sure that every new limitation that may be imposed upon State and Church — the two inveterate enemies of freedom — will still further widen the sphere of action of the free organizations.

Future progress lies in this direction, and Anarchism works precisely that way.

Passing now to the economic views of Anarchists, three different conceptions must be distinguished.

So long as Socialism was understood in its wide, generic, and true sense — as an effort to abolish the exploitation of Labour by Capital — the Anarchists were marching hand-in-hand with the Socialists of that time. But they were compelled to separate from them when the Socialists began to say that there is no possibility of abolishing capitalist exploitation within the lifetime of our generation: that during that phase of economic evolution which we are now living through we have only to mitigate the exploitation, and to impose upon the capitalists certain legal limitations.

Contrary to this tendency of the present-day Socialists, we maintain that already now, without waiting for the coming of new phases and forms of the capitalist exploitation of Labour, we must work for its abolition. We must, already now, tend to transfer all that is needed for production — the soil, the mines, the factories, the means of communication, and the means of existence, too — from the hands of the individual capitalist into those of the communities of producers and consumers.

As for the political organization — i.e., the forms of the commonwealth in the midst of which an economic revolution could be accomplished — we entirely differ from all the sections of State Socialists in that we do not see in the system of State Capitalism, which is now preached under the name of Collectivism, a solution of the social question. We see in the organization of the posts and telegraphs, in the State railways, and the like — which are represented as illustrations of a society without capitalists — nothing but a new, perhaps improved, but still undesirable form of the Wage System. We even think that such a solution of the social problem would so much run against the present libertarian tendencies of civilized mankind that it simply would be unrealizable.

We maintain that the State organization, having been the force to which the minorities resorted for establishing and organizing their power over the masses, cannot be the force which will serve to destroy these privileges. The lessons of history tell us that a new form of economic life always calls forth a new form of political organization; and a Socialist society (whether Communist or Collectivist) cannot be an exception to this rule. Just as the Churches cannot be utilized for freeing man from his old superstitions, and just as the feeling of human solidarity will have to find other channels for its expression besides the Churches, so also the economic and political liberation of man will have to create new forms for its expression in life, instead of those established by the State.

Consequently, the chief aim of Anarchism is to awaken those constructive powers of the labouring masses of the people which at all great moments of history came forward to accomplish the necessary changes, and which, aided by the now accumulated knowledge, will accomplish the change that is called forth by all the best men of our own time.

This is also why the Anarchists refuse to accept the functions of legislators or servants of the State. We know that the social revolution will not be accomplished by means of laws. Laws can only follow the accomplished facts; and even if they honestly do follow them — which usually is not the case — a law remains a dead letter so long as there are not on the spot the living forces required for making of the tendencies expressed in the law an accomplished fact.

On the other hand, since the times of the International Working Men’s Association, the Anarchists have always advised taking an active part in those workers’ organizations which carry on the direct struggle of Labour against Capital and its protector — the State.

Such a struggle, they say, better than any other indirect means, permits the worker to obtain some temporary improvements in the present conditions of work, while it opens his eyes to the evil that is done by Capitalism and the State that supports it, and wakes up his thoughts concerning the possibility of organizing consumption, production, and exchange without the intervention of the capitalist and the State.

The opinions of the Anarchists concerning the form which the remuneration of labour may take in a society freed from the yoke of Capital and State still remain divided.

To begin with, all are agreed in repudiating the new form of the Wage System which would be established if the State became the owner of all the land, the mines, the factories, the railways, and so on, and the great organizer and manager of agriculture and all the industries. If these powers were added to those which the State already possesses (taxes, defence of the territory, subsidized religions, etc.), we should create a new tyranny, even more terrible than the old one.

The greater number of Anarchists accept the Communist solution. They see that the only form of Communism that would be acceptable in a civilized society is one which would exist without the continual interference of Government, i.e., the Anarchist form. And they realize also that an Anarchist society of a large size would be impossible, unless it would begin by guaranteeing to all its members a certain minimum of well-being produced in common. Communism and Anarchy thus complete each other.

Peter Kropotkin, 1912


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