Today I had hits from every continent, including Australia. Always liked Anarchy Comics, especially the front cover of Issue No. 1 showing anarchy igniting a detourned globe. PM Press will be publishing a complete edition of all four issues later this year.
Some statistics from the past year. Emma Goldman’s essay on Mary Wollstonecraft was by far the most popular posting. The second most popular was the Encyclopedie Anarchiste definitions of anarchy and hierarchy. Glad to see that people are interested in this material. Hopefully Volume Three of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas will be out in early 2011. Best wishes for the New Year.
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.
The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 5 fully loaded ships.
In 2010, there were 20 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 52 posts. There were 48 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4mb. That’s about 4 pictures per month.
The busiest day of the year was October 6th with 173 views. The most popular post that day was Emma Goldman and Mary Wollstonecraft.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were stumbleupon.com, en.wikipedia.org, reddit.com, revolutionbythebook.akpress.org, and facebook.com.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for anarchy, mary wollstonecraft, emma goldman, cnt, and cnt fai.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
Emma Goldman and Mary Wollstonecraft August 2010
Encyclopédie Anarchiste: Anarchy & Hierarchy October 2009
Kropotkin: Prisons and Their Moral Influence on Prisoners (1886) January 2010
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
Here is the second part of the revised and previously unpublished version of Geoffrey Ostergaard’s The Relevance of Syndicalism, the original version of which was published in Anarchy magazine in 1963. It is in this portion of his article that Ostergaard argues that the syndicalists’ anti-statism and direct action tactics retained their relevance in the context of the post-war peace movement. Because “War is the health of the State,” as Randolf Bourne once wrote, it will continue to plague humanity until nation states are abolished.
The Relevance of Syndicalism: Part 2
Leninists have often classified the syndicalists as ‘economistic’ and accused them of ignoring politics and the State and, more generally, the problem of power. The label and the accusation, however, are both unwarranted. To the Leninist, the syndicalists might have replied thus: ‘Our actions demonstrate clearly that we appreciate what real politics are about. Nor are we unaware that the bourgeoisie will use the coercive forces of the State to try to repress our movement: that is why we envisage the workers having to resort to arms to defend what they will capture in the course of the revolution. And as for ignoring the problem of power, far from doing that we propose the most realistic way open to the workers to acquire power. We propose to begin to acquire power at the point of production where, according to the logic of Marxist theory, we ought to begin; that is, in the factories and mines. We propose this because we are convinced that, unless the workers win power bases within capitalist society, there will be no proletarian revolution, whatever other kind of revolution there might be. As we syndicalists see it, the revolution must begin in the workshop. Our message to our fellow workers is much the same as Goethe’s message to the emigrant in search of liberty: Here, or nowhere, is your America. Here, in the workshop and in the mine, we must accomplish the revolution or it will be accomplished nowhere. So long as we are a subject class industrially, so long will we remain a subject class politically. The real revolution must be made not in Parliament, not even at the barricades, but in the places where we earn our daily bread. The organizations that we have built up to carry on our daily struggle must be the foundations of the new order and we must be its architects. The law and morality that we have evolved in our long struggle against capitalism must be the law and morality of the future workers’ commonwealth. All other proposals are but snares and delusions.’
The syndicalist strategy of revolution did, therefore, involve a struggle for social power — a struggle to be conducted through direct action based on the workers’ own class organizations. The tactics of direct action included ca’canny or go-slow, the use of the boycott, insistence that goods produced should carry a trade union label, sabotage, and, of course, industrial strikes. What is common to all these tactics is a determined refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of bourgeois rule. It is not, argued the syndicalists, a proper function of trade unions to make agreements with the employers. Negotiations, agreements, contracts all necessarily involve bargaining and compromise within the framework of rules contrived by capitalists. The proper function of trade unions is not to participate with employers in ruling workers but, as far as they able, to impose the will of the workers on the employers. Vincent St. John, a Wobbly leader, expressed clearly the syndicalist attitude when he described how the Industrial Workers of the World operated among the miners in Goldfield, Nevada: ‘The minimum wage for all kinds of labour was $4.50 a day and the 8 hour day was universal. No committee was ever sent to any employers. The unions adopted the wage scales and regulated hours. The secretary posted the same on a bulletin board outside the union hall, and it was the LAW. The employers were forced to come and see the union committee.’ The only kind of contract syndicalists were prepared to consider was ‘the collective contract,’ conceived as part of a strategy of ‘encroaching control’; that is, a contract according to which workers within a factory or shop would undertake a specific amount of work in return for a lump sum, to be allocated among the work-group as the workers saw fit, and on condition that the employers abdicated their control of the productive process itself.
After a period of vigorous pursuit of the various tactics of direct action, the syndicalists envisaged that the workers in their unions would have gained sufficient power to make a successful General Strike possible. Such a strike, seen as the form which the proletarian social revolution would take, could not be planned in advance: the conditions had to be ripe for it. It would probably begin as a local strike or as a national strike confined to a single industry. Class solidarity would lead to its extension to other industries, and rapidly it would build up to a strike general in its dimensions. Symbolized as a mass ‘folding of arms,’ such a strike would constitute a total withdrawal by the workers of their consent to a continuance of the system of class servitude. The legitimacy of the bourgeois order would be finally shattered and in its place would emerge the new proletarian order based on the unions.
The syndicalist General Strike, as we now know, proved to be a dream. It was not, however, a dream that has simply faded. The syndicalist theory of revolution was never put to the test, except perhaps in Spain under the exceptionally difficult conditions of civil war. But long before that the syndicalist movement elsewhere had disintegrated, the Bolshevik Revolution marking the turning point. For many syndicalists who had not drunk deep the waters of anarchism, Lenin appeared to offer a superior strategy. Thus syndicalism was relegated to the list of history’s failures. The reasons for the movement’s failure are varied and complex, but one may be noted here. There was a basic weakness in the syndicalist strategy, a weakness that was revealed only as the movement developed. The strategy, as we have seen, assigned to the unions a dual role: the traditional role of acting as the workers’ defensive organizations, and the revolutionary role of transforming capitalism and constituting themselves the nuclei of the future socialist society. The idea was plausible in theory but, in practice, the two roles proved difficult to combine. To be effective as defensive organizations, the unions needed to embrace as many workers as possible — ideally, all of them. But the more they succeeded in doing this, the more diluted became their revolutionary membership — the mass of their members or potential members being, for commonsense reasons, more interested in the short-term aims than in the ultimate long-term aims. So, in practice, syndicalists found themselves faced with a dilemma, or painful choice. They had to choose between unions which were either large, basically defensive and reformist, or small, composed of convinced revolutionaries but, for that reason, relatively ineffective as defensive organizations. Given the democratic structure of union organization, there was a natural tendency to make the first of these two choices. In this connection, it is significant that even the Spanish CNT, although its leaders were committed revolutionaries, tended to become reformist in practice — some avowed anarchists going so far as to swallow their principles by joining the Republican Government.
But the most interesting thing about syndicalism is not why it failed but that it failed — and what that failure implies. In retrospect, syndicalism can be seen as the great heroic movement of the industrial proletariat. It was the first and, indeed, the only socialist movement to take really seriously Marx’s injunction that the emancipation of the workers must be the work of the workers themselves. As we have noted, syndicalism sought to achieve the emancipation of labour (as the phrase then was) unaided by middle class intellectuals and politicians, and it aimed at establishing a genuinely working class conception of socialism and culture, free from all bourgeois taints. That it failed suggests that, whatever else they may be, the socialist revolutions that have occurred since the eclipse of syndicalism are not the proletarian revolutions that the ideologists of these revolutions would have us believe.
We are, indeed, living in a revolutionary epoch in which dramatic changes are taking place in the composition and structure of the ruling class. The changes are unevenly spread but in East and West, North and South, the emerging rulers, displacing the old capitalist class, are not the workers but the managerial bureaucrats whose privileges and power are based on their command of organizational resources and control of the major instruments of physical coercion. In the West the rule of this new class is being legitimized in terms of a rationalized corporate capitalism operating in a mixed economy; in Communist countries, the formula of legitimization is ostensibly socialist and the economy is state-owned and managed. But, in both, the rulers, like all ruling classes known in history, accord to themselves superior rewards and privileges; and the mass of humankind continue to toil and to spin for inferior rewards and for the privilege of keeping their rulers in a state to which they show every sign of becoming accustomed.
The new society, rationalized managerial capitalism or bureaucratic state socialism, is in many respects a more tolerable society than competitive capitalism. Given industrialization and modern economic techniques, mass poverty can be and is being abolished, at least in advanced industrial countries. For this reason, among others, in such countries the acute class divisions that marked 19th and early 20th century capitalism are becoming increasingly blurred and it is no longer possible to locate in the social arena a simple straight forward contest between two main classes, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. At the same time, the techniques of social control available to the rulers in the shape of the mass media of communications, mass political parties and sophisticated police forces have enormously increased their power vis-à-vis the ruled. All in all, the rulers of the emerging managerial-bureaucratic society possess historically unparalleled potentialities for maintaining a stable system of exploitation. There is only one major flaw in the system: its patent inability to solve the problem of war in an age when, for technological reasons, war has become a truly deadly institution.
The omnipresent threat of nuclear annihilation has now clearly vindicated the anti-statism of the anarchists and the syndicalists. For modern war is a function of the state and of the state system into which humankind is politically divided. War can be defined as the use of armed force by states and by those who aspire to build or control states. From its origins some 6,000 years ago, the institution of the state has been harnessed with the institution of war. States have made wars and wars have made states — bigger and better states. Both have thrived together in unholy wedlock. Certainly, war is not an accidental or incidental institution. War is no aberration or sickness: all historical evidence confirms the judgment of Randolph Bourne that ‘War is the health of the state.’
The emerging new social order has modified the classical bourgeois state system; it is no longer a system of many balancing sovereign nation-states but rather a system of two superstates each surrounded by their satellites plus a group of uneasy non-aligned and relatively undeveloped states. The state system has been rationalized but not rationalized enough: for, within the framework of a state system, nothing short of one world state would be adequate to solve the problem of war in our nuclear age. And a world state — set up by mutual agreement — is just not on the political agenda of the great powers. But the reasons which led the capitalist ruling classes in their several states to engage in mutually destructive wars still operate to make possible, and perhaps almost inevitable, a third world war between states dominated by the managerial-bureaucrats. Such a war is likely to be humanity’s final war, a supremely ironical version of ‘the war to end all wars.’
The great tragedy of our epoch is the lamentable failure of the socialist movement, with its fine promise of universal peace and human brotherhood, to appreciate that an indispensable condition for achieving its objective was the liquidation of that quintessentially bourgeois institution, the modern sovereign state. Failing to appreciate this, the socialists after one hundred and seventy-five years of endeavour have succeeded not in making socialism but only in making socialist states. Not surprisingly, in this situation the socialist leaders have found what the anarchists and syndicalists predicted they would find: that it is impossible for socialists to accept the responsibility of governing states without thereby becoming defenders of them. The role that they occupy as state leaders inevitably impels them to act like state leaders, even to the extent, as in the case of the USSR, of making them subordinate, in the interests of the Soviet State, revolutionary Communist movements in other countries. That the Soviet leaders have not always and everywhere succeeded in this attempted subordination, with the result that in recent decades we have witnessed the development of national rivalries within the international Communist sector of the world, is no consolation. It makes only more obvious the fact that socialist revolutions within states, even socialist revolutions within all states of the world, would not solve the problem that now confronts humankind. If the American continent were to sink beneath the ocean tomorrow, the state system in the rest of the world would not prevent, for example, the possibility of war sooner or later between a Communist Russia and a Communist China. To think otherwise is to put far too high a value on the beneficent effects of a common ideology, to ignore the material interests that divide one state from another, and to overlook the disastrous increase in nationalist sentiment that is a feature of the contemporary world.
It may be that, from the point of view of sheer survival as a species, humanity has already passed the eleventh hour. In the present context of human affairs, Levine’s cryptic phrase, ‘We are all dead men on furlough’, takes on a new significance. In the contemporary crisis, there is only one sensible course open to those who wish to survive to see the year 2000 and beyond: to join the struggle to control, or better still to overthrow, the nuclear warlords, other militarists, the managerial-bureaucrats and political bosses in all states. This struggle in an inchoate form began in earnest in the late 1950s and, after waxing and waning, has been gathering momentum again in many countries. And it is no accident that the most determined participants in the anti-war movement have found themselves adopting the classic stance of the syndicalists: direct action of a basically nonviolent kind. A direct action movement always has been and always will be anathema to the rulers and would-be rulers of states.
For direct action involves a refusal to play the political game according to the rules laid down by our masters. It is a grassroots, do-it-yourself kind of action which recognizes implicitly if not explicitly the truth of what M.K. Gandhi called ‘voluntary servitude’: the fact that, in the last analysis, people are governed in the way they are because they consent to be so governed, the ‘consent’ ranging from active acceptance to sullen acquiescence.
When sufficient numbers of the governed — and ‘sufficient’ here may be less than a majority according to a simple head-count — can be persuaded to withdraw that consent and to demonstrate by their actions that they do not recognize the legitimacy of the rulers to act in their name, the government must either collapse or radically change its policies. When politicians and their pundits warn the participants in Civil Disobedience campaigns that they are undermining the foundations of social order, we should take heed. Civil Disobedience, pressed to its radical and logical conclusion, involves just that. All that we need to add is that it undermines the existing social order which has brought humankind to the edge of the abyss and prepares the way for a new social order in which power will be recovered and retained by the people.
There is thus a clear link between the classical syndicalists and the radical nonviolent direct actionists who constitute the cutting edge of the contemporary peace movement. The link is most obvious at the level of method or political style but it extends also to the level of values. What may be called anarcho-pacifism shares with anarcho-syndicalism both a negative value — rejection of the State as an institution — and a positive value — the construction, in the here and now, of an alternative culture and alternative institutions. Both are strongly internationalist or transnationalist in outlook, and both emphasize the need for a radical dispersion of social power. In connection with the latter, the old syndicalist slogan of ‘workers’ control of industry’ now re-appears as the more generalized demand for collective ‘self-management’ in all areas of social life.
Of course, the differences between the two movements are obvious too. Syndicalism was clearly and self-consciously a class movement of the industrial proletariat: the anti-war movement directs its appeal to the sane-minded in all classes and is thus populistic or universalistic. In terms of revolutionary potential, the contemporary movement may be judged of greater significance. The immediate issues involved are simpler and more dramatic than those raised by the syndicalists, and the crisis is more compelling. In struggling to resolve the present crisis, the new generation of social radicals cannot hope to revive a movement that, in its classical form, is now almost dead. But they would do well to learn the lessons of syndicalism and to draw inspiration by breathing in full measure the syndicalist spirit of militant direct action.
Geoffrey Ostergaard, 1984
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.
THE RELEVANCE OF SYNDICALISM
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.’
I sent the manuscript for Volume Three of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas to Black Rose Books in September 2010. I hope it will be published soon. The mock up cover pictured above will hopefully be changed to show that Volume Three goes all the way to 2010, with a short piece on the 2008-2009 revolt in Greece added to the chapter on direct action. Below I reproduce the Preface and the Table of Contents. Volume Three concludes with my Afterward in which I analyze the history, development and evolution of anarchist ideas from the ancient Chinese Daoists to the present day.
Preface to Volume Three
This is the third and final volume of my anthology of anarchist writings from ancient China to the present day. Volume One, subtitled From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE-1939), begins with an ancient Daoist text, “Neither Lord Nor Subject” (300CE), and ends with the positive accomplishments and defeat of the Spanish anarchists in the Spanish Revolution and Civil War (1936-1939). Volume Two, subtitled The Emergence of the New Anarchism (1939-1977), deals with the remarkable resurgence of anarchist ideas and movements following the Second World War, particularly during the 1960s. This final volume canvasses the many different currents in anarchist thought from the 1970s to the present day and another remarkable resurgence in anarchist ideas and action within the context of global justice movements against neoliberalism.
These movements against neoliberalism are commonly grouped under the rubric of anti-globalization, an inaccurate description for the reasons set forth by David Graeber in Selection 1. While anarchists and assorted left libertarians oppose the global dominance of corporate capitalism, they remain committed internationalists, seeking justice, freedom and equality for all. Anarchists have always been critics of capitalist exploitation and continue to emphasize the interconnections between capitalism, the state, imperialism and domination (Selections 16 & 42 and Chapter 9).
Anarchists have been at the forefront of transnational and transclass liberation movements (Selection 2 and Chapter 11), seeking to develop new and imaginative ways of achieving social liberation, from creating “temporary autonomous zones” (Selection 3) to antiauthoritarian forms of direct democracy (Chapter 2). Anarchists have continued to champion various forms of direct action as means of self-empowerment (Chapter 3), adapting anarchist tactics to a variety of situations and circumstances around the globe (Chapter 11).
Anarchists have sought to uncover the origins of domination, in patriarchal societies and incipient state forms with self-reinforcing and interlocking hierarchies of power (Selections 14 & 29), exploring the interrelationships between the state and the subjection of women (Chapter 7), technology, power and capitalism (Chapter 5), and the human subjugation of nature (Selection 23). At the same time, anarchists have continued to present positive alternatives to the status quo, such as human scale technology (Selection 21), community and worker’s self-management (Chapter 10) and bioregionalism (Selection 25), culminating in a vision of an ecological society where people live in harmony with nature and each other (Selections 23, 26 & 27).
Rejecting the authoritarian hierarchical relationships of exploitation and domination inherent to capitalist economic forms, anarchists have presented a number of libertarian economic proposals, such as directly democratic control through community assemblies (Selection 45), consumer and producer cooperatives (Selection 46), and the elimination of the wage system (Selection 47). As Luciano Lanza argues in Selection 48, in the context of his critique of proposals that emphasize the need for a planned economy, anarchist economic proposals have always sought to maximize individual freedom within the context of a radical egalitarianism.
The idea of anarchy as a counter-cultural current and alternative aesthetic sensibility is explored by Richard Sonn and Max Blechman in Chapter 8. Ba Jin reflects on the negative relationship between authority and creativity (Selection 34). Edward Herman, Noam Chomsky’s long time collaborator, defends their analysis of the corporate media as one of the primary means of manufacturing consent to state policies and capitalist economic relations (Selection 37). Anarchy as a form of social transgression and personal liberation is discussed by Jeff Farrell in his piece on anarchist criminology (Selection 17). Similar ideas have been developed within the context of the anti-psychiatry movement (Selection 28).
Notions of personal and social identity as both constraints on autonomy and as a basis for oppressed groups to further their own liberation, whether psychiatric patients, women, nonheterosexuals or people of colour, are discussed by Alan Mandell (Selection 28), Jamie Heckert (Selection 33), and Ashanti Alston (Selection 61). Richard Day explores recent attempts to go beyond “identity politics,” utilizing post-modernist concepts of groundless solidarity and infinite responsibility (Selection 69).
In the concluding chapter, Todd May and Saul Newman set forth the case for a post-structuralist anarchism (Selections 63 & 64). That perspective is criticized by John Zerzan within the context of his general critique of technology and civilization (Selection 67). Jesse Cohn challenges the accuracy and fairness of the post-structuralist critique of of anarchism (Selection 65), while Daniel Colson extends that critique by showing the connections between post-modernist approaches to anarchism and the “classical” anarchism of Proudhon and Bakunin (Selection 68). Mark Leier discusses the relevance of Bakunin’s anarchism today in the context of his critique of the “post-structuralists” of his own day.
In the Afterword, I discuss the continuity and change in anarchist thought documented in the three volumes of this anthology. Throughout these volumes, I have tried to present the anarchists in their own words, but within their historical context. I believe that they are more than capable of speaking for themselves and that readers can form their own judgments without the editor trying to impose a predetermined conceptual framework. While I have included material on a wide variety of topics, I have focused on anarchist writings that emphasize anarchism as an alternative kind of politics, whether on the personal, social or international level, eschewing more simplistic approaches which conceive of anarchism as simply an “anti-politics” with little or no positive content of any lasting value. I agree with Kropotkin that various anarchist currents can by perceived running throughout human history, representing anti-authoritarian approaches to social change and alternative forms of organization in opposition to the hierarchies of power, control, domination and exploitation characteristic of so-called “civilization.” I hope that the readers of these volumes will come to appreciate the variety and richness of anarchist ideas, and will continue to be inspired by them. Additional material can be found at my blog, robertgraham.wordpress.com, for those interested in continuing their exploration of anarchist ideas.
Table of Contents
ANARCHISM: A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY OF LIBERTARIAN IDEAS
VOLUME THREE: THE ANARCHIST CURRENT (1974-2010)
CHAPTER 1: TOWARD AN ANARCHIST POLITICS
1. David Graeber: The New Anarchists (2002)
2. John P. Clark: The Politics of Liberation (1980)
3. Hakim Bey: Temporary Autonomous Zones (1985)
4. The Gaucho Anarchist Federation: Especifismo (2000)
5. Alfredo Errandonea: Anarchism in the 21st Century (2001)
CHAPTER 2: LIBERTARIAN DEMOCRACY
6. David Graeber: Democracy and Consensus (2004)
7. Eduardo Colombo: On Voting
8. Amedeo Bertolo: Libertarian Democracy (1999)
CHAPTER 3: DIRECT ACTION
9. Murray Bookchin: From Direct Action to Direct Democracy (1979-82)
10. Alfredo Bonanno: From Riot to Insurrection (1985)
11. Andrea Papi: Violence and Anti-Violence (2004)
12. Benjamin Franks: The Direct Action Ethic (2003)
13. A.G. Schwarz: The Revolt in Greece (2010)
CHAPTER 4: THE STATE
14. Harold Barclay: Anarchy and State Formation (2003)
15. Alan Ritter: Anarchy, Law and Freedom (1980)
16. Alan Carter: The Logic of State Power (2000)
17. Jeff Ferrell: Against the Law: Anarchist Criminology (1998)
18. Uri Gordon: Israel, Palestine and Anarchist Dilemmas (2007)
CHAPTER 5: TECHNOLOGY AND POWER
19. Campaign Against the Model West Germany: The Nuclear State (1979)
20. David Watson: Nuclear Power (1979)
21. C. George Benello: Putting the Reins on Technology (1982)
22. Brian Tokar: Biotechnology (2003)
CHAPTER 6: ANARCHY AND ECOLOGY
23. Murray Bookchin: Toward an Ecological Society (1974)
24. Noam Chomsky: Human Nature and Human Freedom (1975)
25. Graham Purchase: Anarchism and Bioregionalism (1997)
26. Chaia Heller: Ecology and Desire (1999)
27. Peter Marshall: Liberation Ecology (2007)
CHAPTER 7: PERSONAL LIBERATION
28. Alan Mandell: Anti-Psychiatry and the Search for Autonomy (1979)
29. Rossella Di Leo: On the Origins of Male Domination (1983)
30. Nicole Laurin-Frenette: The State Family/The Family State (1982)
31. Ariane Gransac: Women’s Liberation (1984)
32. Carole Pateman: The Sexual Contract (1988)
33. Jamie Heckert: Erotic Anarchy (2006)
CHAPTER 8: ANARCHY AND CULTURE
34. Ba Jin: Against the Powers that Be (1984)
35. Richard Sonn: Culture and Anarchy (1994)
36. Max Blechman: Toward an Anarchist Aesthetic (1994)
37. Edward S. Herman: The Propaganda Model—A Retrospective (2003)
CHAPTER 9: ANTI-CAPITALISM
38. Brian Martin: Capitalism and Violence (2001)
39. Normand Baillargeon: Free Market Libertarianism (2001)
40. Peter Marshall: Anarchism and Capitalism (1993)
41. Interprofessional Workers’ Union: Russian Capitalism (1999)
CHAPTER 10: LIBERTARIAN ALTERNATIVES
42. Madrid Declaration: For a New Libertarianism (2001)
43. Luc Bonet: Beyond the Revolutionary Model (2005)
44. Graham Purchase: Green Anarcho-Syndicalism (1995)
45. Murray Bookchin: Municipal Control (1986)
46. Kevin Carson: Mutualism Reconsidered (2007)
47. Adam Buick and John Crump: The Alternative to Capitalism (1986)
48. Luciano Lanza: Settling Accounts with Economics (2003)
CHAPTER 11: BEYOND THE BORDERS
49. Sharif Gemie: Beyond the Borders (2003)
50. An African Anarchist Manifesto (1981)
51. Sam Mbah and I.E. Igariwey: African Anarchism (1997)
52. Mok Chiu Yu: An Anarchist in Hong Kong (2001)
53. Mihara Yoko: Anarchism in Japan (1993)
54. Kurdistan Anarchist Concept (1999)
55. The Cuban Libertarian Syndicalist Association: Anarchism and the Cuban Revolution (1960/2003)
56. Ruben G. Prieto: Anarchism in Uruguay (2001)
57. Marina Sitrin: Horizontalidad in Argentina (2003)
58. Andrew Flood: What is Different About the Zapatistas (2001)
59. CIPO-RFM: Enemies of Injustice
60. Colectivo Alas de Xue: Strengthening the Anarcho-Indian Alliance (1997)
61. Ashanti Alston: Black Anarchism (2003)
62. Harsha Walia: No One is Illegal (2006)
CHAPTER 12: NEW DIRECTIONS IN ANARCHIST THEORY
63. Todd May: Post-Structuralism and Anarchism (1989)
64. Saul Newman: The Politics of Post-Anarchism (2003)
65. Jesse Cohn: Anarchism and Essentialism (2003)
66. Mark Leier: Bakunin, Class and Post-Anarchism (2009)
67. John Zerzan: An Abolitionist Perspective (2003)
68. Daniel Colson: Belief and Modernity (2005)
69. Richard Day: Groundless Solidarity and Infinite Responsibility (2005)
Robert Graham: The Anarchist Current: Continuity and Change in Anarchist Thought
I have now set up a Haymarket Martyrs page where I have consolidated the previous posts of the excerpts from their trial speeches. I have also incorporated links to some of the source material, such as the 1883 Pittsburgh Proclamation of the International Working People’s Association, Albert Parson’s Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis and the works of Peter Kropotkin referred to in my commentary. The image above is the Haymarket Memorial in Chicago, inscribed with August Spies‘ last words:
“The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today.”
Samuel Fielden (1847-1922) was one of the few Haymarket defendants whose life was spared after pleading for clemency. Fielden joined the International Working People’s Association in 1884 (Anarchism, Volume One, Selection 55) and became a popular and effective speaker among the Chicago workers. He was speaking at the Haymarket protest meeting when the police arrived, right before the bomb was thrown. As he points out in his trial speech, he successfully defended himself against the charge of murder, only to find out after he had called the evidence in his defence that what he and the other defendants were really on trial for was preaching “anarchy.”
Your Honor, I was brought into this court by the police officers and the civil authorities of the city of Chicago to answer to the charge of murder… I answered that charge in this court. My attorneys on my behalf met that charge; we brought evidence which we thought was competent to rebut and meet the charge of murder. After all our evidence was put in, after all the speeches had been made on both sides, with the exception of one, we were suddenly confronted with the fact—and there is in that statement of the State’s Attorney, in his closing argument, an acknowledgment that the charge of murder had not been proven—when all the witnesses had been heard, I am suddenly told that I am being tried for ‘Anarchy.’
If I had known that I was being tried for Anarchy I could have answered that charge. I could have justified it under the constitutional right of every citizen of this country, and more than the right which any constitution can give, the natural right of the human mind to draw its conclusion from whatever information it can gain, but I had no opportunity to show why I was an Anarchist. I was told that I was to be hung for being an Anarchist, after I got through defending myself on the charge of murder. Now, your honor, my reputation, my associations, my history, as far as the lynx-eyed detectives of Chicago could get it, has been raked up, as Mr. Foster has said, from the cradle to the grave. I have been charged here with being a disturber of the peace, an enemy of public order, and generally a dangerous man…
Being of an inquiring disposition or turn of mind, and having observed that there was something wrong in our social system, I attended some meetings of workingmen and compared what they said with my own observation. I knew there was something wrong. My ideas did not become settled as to what was the remedy, but when they did I carried the same energy and the same determination to bring about that remedy that I had applied to ideas which I had possessed years before.
There is always a period in every individual’s life when some sympathetic chord is touched by some other person. That is the open sesame that carries conviction. The ground may have all been prepared. The evidence may all have been accumulated, but it has not formed any shape. In fact, the child has not been born. The new idea has not impressed itself thoroughly when that sympathetic chord is touched, and the person is thoroughly convinced of the truth of the idea. It was so in my investigation of political economy. I knew there was something wrong, but I did not know what the remedy was; but discussing the condition of things and the different remedies one day, a person said to me that socialism meant equal opportunities—and that was the touch. From that time I became a socialist; I learned more and more what it was. I knew that I had found the right thing; that I had found the medicine that was calculated to cure the ills of society. Having found it I had a right to advocate it, and I did. The constitution of the United States, when it says: ‘The right of free speech shall not be abridged,’ gives every man the right to speak his thoughts. I have advocated the principles of socialism and social economy, and for that and no other reason am I here, and is sentence of death to be pronounced upon me?
What is socialism? Taking somebody else’s property? That is what socialism is in the common acceptation of the term. No. But if I were to answer it as shortly and as curtly as it is answered by its enemies, I would say it is preventing somebody else from taking your property. But socialism is equality. Socialism recognizes the fact that no man in society is responsible for what he is; that all the ills that are in society are the production of poverty; and scientific socialism says you must go to the root of the evil.
There is no criminal statistician in the world but will acknowledge that all crime, when traced to its origin, is the product of poverty. It has been said that it was inflammatory for me to say that the present social system degraded men until they became mere animals. Go through this city into the low lodging houses where men are huddled together into the smallest possible space, living in an infernal atmosphere of death and disease, and I will ask you to draw your silks and your broadcloths close to you when these men pass you. Do you think that these men deliberately, with a full knowledge of what they are doing, choose to become that class of animals? Not one of them. They are the products of conditions, of certain environments in which they were born, and which have impelled them resistlessly into what they are. And we have this loadstone. You who wish it could be taken from the shoulders of society. What is it? When those men were children, put them into an environment where they have the best results of civilization around them, and they will never willfully choose a condition like that. Some cynic might say that this would be a very nice thing for these men. Society, with its rapidity of production of the means of existence, is capable of doing that without doing injury to a single individual; and the great masses of wealth owned by individuals in this and the old world have been produced in exactly the same proportion as these men have been degraded—and they never could have been accumulated in any other way.
I do not charge that every capitalist willfully and maliciously conspires to bring about these results; but I do charge that it has been done, and I do charge that it is a very undesirable condition of things, and I claim that socialism would cure the world of that ulcer. These are my ideas in short, on socialism. The ultra patriotic sentiment of the American people—and I suppose the same comparative sentiment is felt in England and France and Germany—is that no man in this country need be poor. The class who are not poor think so. The class who are poor are beginning to think differently; that under existing conditions it is impossible that some people should not be poor.
Why is it that we have ‘over-production?’ And why is it that our warehouses are full of goods, and our workshops have to shut up, and our workmen are turned out on the highway because there is nothing to do? What is this tending to? Let me show the change of conditions as shown in Boston in forty years. Charles Dickens, a man of acute perceptions, visited this country forty years ago, and be said that the sight of a beggar in the streets of Boston at that time would have created as much consternation as the sight of an angel with a drawn sword.
A Boston paper in the winter of 1884-5 stated that there were some quarters in Boston where to own a stove was to be a comparative aristocrat. The poor people who lived in the neighbourhood paid a certain sum of money to rent the holes on the top of the stove that belonged to the aristocrats. You see the change, and there is this comparative change in the working classes of that city, and in every large city in the Union. It is a noted fact that within the last twenty or thirty years the farms of this country have been gradually going out of the possession of the actual cultivators until today there is a little more than a quarter of the actual cultivators of farms in this country who are renters; and within twenty years in the states of Iowa and Illinois the mortgages on farms have increased thirty-three per cent of the actual value of the farms. Is it not enough to make any thinking man ask if there is not something wrong somewhere? Possibly it would be answered ‘yes, a man has a right to inquire whether there is something wrong or not, but for God’s sake, don’t think that socialism will do it any good, or if you do we will hang you! It is all right to think, but we will punish you for your conclusions.’
Albert Parsons (1848-1887) was perhaps the best known of the Haymarket Martyrs prior to their execution on November 11, 1887. Parsons published the Alarm, at the time the leading English language anarchist newspaper in North America. He played a prominent role in the struggle for the 8 hour day and was already well known as an advocate for socialism. Prior to becoming an anarchist in 1880, Parsons had been involved with several political parties, including the Socialist Labor Party of America. He ran for office several times but came to the conclusion that meaningful change could not be achieved through the ballot box. He was influenced by Marx‘s critique of capitalism, as clearly illustrated in the passages set forth below taken from his trial speech. Parsons believed that the capitalist system was destroying the middle class, creating a vast and impoverished working class reduced to starvation wages. While he could have accepted this state of affairs and become himself a successful capitalist, he refused to do so, rejecting the power and privilege of the master. As with many other 19th century socialists, Parsons compared wage labour to chattel slavery, describing the former as a form of “wage slavery.” He denied that he wished to destroy the machinery that was putting thousands out of work, objecting rather to the uses to which modern technology was being put. While awaiting execution he wrote his memoirs and edited a collection of writings, Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis, which included some of Marx’s writings on political economy, essays on anarchism by Peter Kropotkin and Elisée Reclus, and the trial speeches of himself and his fellow defendants. His references to anarchy being the next step in progressive evolution illustrate the influence of Kropotkin and Réclus. As he was about to be hanged he cried out, “Will I be allowed to speak, O men of America? Let me speak Sheriff Matson! Let the voice of the People be heard!”
Labour is a commodity and wages the price paid for it. The owner of this commodity—of labour—sells it, that is himself, to the owner of capital in order to live. Labour is the expression of energy, the power of the labourer’s life. This energy of power he must sell to another person in order to live. It is his only means of existence, he works to live, but his work is not simply a part of his life; it is the sacrifice of it. His labour is a commodity which under the guise of free labour, he is forced by necessity to hand over to another party. The reward of the wage labourer’s activity is not the product of his labour—far from it. The silk he weaves, the palace he builds, the ores he digs from out the mines—are not for him—oh, no. The only thing he produces for himself is his wage, and the silk, the ores and the palace which he has built are simply transformed for him into a certain kind of means of existence, namely, a cotton shirt, a few pennies, and the mere tenancy of a lodging-house. In other words, his wages represent the bare necessities of his existence, and the unpaid for or ‘surplus’ portion of his labour product constitutes the vast superabundant wealth of the non-producing or capitalist class. That is the capitalist system. It is the capitalist system that creates these classes, and it is these classes that produce this conflict. This conflict intensifies as the power of the privileged classes over the non-possessing or propertyless classes increases and intensifies, and this power increases as the idle few become richer and the producing many become poorer, and this produces what is called the labour movement. Wealth is power, poverty is weakness. If I had time I might answer some suggestions that probably arise in the minds of some persons not familiar with this question. I imagine I hear your honor say, ‘Why, labour is free. This is a free country.’ Now, we had in the southern states for nearly a century a form of labour known as chattel slave labour. That has been abolished, and I hear you say that labour is free; that the [Civil] War has resulted in establishing free labour all over America. Is this true? Look at it. The chattel slave of the past—the wage slave of today; what is the difference? …
Formerly the master selected the slave; today the slave selects his master and he has got to find one or else he is carried down here to my friend, the jailer, and occupy a cell alongside myself. He is compelled to find one. So the change of the industrial system, in the language of Jefferson Davis, ex-president of the Southern Confederacy, in an interview with the New York Herald upon the question of the chattel slave system of the south and that of the so-called ‘free labourer,’ and their wages—Jefferson Davis has stated positively that the change was a decided benefit to the former chattel slave owners who would not exchange the new system of wage labour at all for chattel labour, because now the dead had to bury themselves and the sick take care of themselves, and now they don’t have to employ overseers to look after them… They say: ‘Now, here, perform this piece of work in a certain length of time,’ and if YOU don’t (under the wage system, says Mr. Davis), why, when you come around for your pay next Saturday, you simply find in the envelope containing your money, a note which informs YOU of the fact that YOU have been discharged. Now, Jefferson Davis admitted in his statement that the leather thong dipped in salt brine, for the chattel slave, had been exchanged under the wage slave system for the lash of hunger, an empty stomach and the ragged back of the wage-slave, who, according to the census of the United States for 1880, constitutes more than nine-tenths of our entire population. But you say the wage slave has advantage over the chattel slave. The chattel slave couldn’t get away from it. Well, if we had the statistics, I believe it could be shown that as many chattel slaves escaped from bondage with the bloodhounds of their masters after them as they tracked their way over the snow-beaten rocks of Canada, and via the underground grapevine road—I believe the statistics would show today that as many chattel slaves escaped from their bondage under that system as could, and as many as do escape today from wage bondage into capitalistic liberty. I am a socialist, I am one of those, although myself a wage slave, who holds that it is wrong, wrong to myself, wrong to my neighbour and unjust to my fellowmen, for me, wage slave that I am, to undertake to make my escape from wage slavery by becoming a master. I refuse to do it; I refuse equally to be a slave or the owner of slaves. Had I chosen another path in life, I might be upon the avenue of the city of Chicago today, surrounded in my beautiful home with luxury and ease and slaves to do my bidding. But I chose the other road, and instead I stand here today upon the scaffold. This is my crime. Before high heaven this and this alone is my crime. I have been false, I have been untrue, and I am a traitor to the infamies that exist today in capitalistic society. If this is a crime in your opinion I plead guilty to it. Now, be patient with me; I have been with you, or rather, I have been patient with this trial. Follow me, if you please, and look at the impressions of this capitalistic system of industry. Every new machine that comes into existence comes there as a competitor with the man of labour… as a drag and menace and a prey to the very existence of those who have to sell their labour in order to earn their bread. The man is turned out to starve and whole occupations and pursuits are revolutionized and completely destroyed by the introduction of machinery, in a day, in an hour as it were. I have known it to be the case in the history of my own life— and I am yet a young man—that whole pursuits and occupations have been wiped out or revolutionized by the invention of machinery.
What becomes of these people? Where are they? Tens of thousands are thrown out of employment, and they become competitors of other labourers and are made to reduce wages and increase the work hours. Many of them are candidates for the gibbet, they are candidates for your prison cells. Build more penitentiaries, erect new scaffolds, for these men are upon the highway of crime, of misery, of death. Your honor, there never was an effect without a cause. The tree is known by its fruit.
Socialists are not those who blindly close their eyes and refuse to look, and who refuse to hear, but having eyes to see, they see, and having ears to hear, they hear. Look at this capitalistic system; look at its operation upon the small dealers, the middle class. Bradstreet’s Commercial Statistics tells us in last year’s report that there were 11,000 small business men financially destroyed the past twelve months. What became of those people? Where are they, and why have they been wiped out? Has there been any less wealth? No: that which they had possessed has simply transferred itself into the hands of some other person. Who is that other? It is he who has greater capitalistic facilities. It is the monopolist, the man who can run corners, who can create rings and squeeze these men to death and wipe them out like dead flies from the table into his monopolistic basket. The middle classes, destroyed in this manner, join the ranks of the proletariat. They become what? They seek out the factory gate, they seek in the various occupations of wage labour for employment. What is the result? Then there are more men upon the market. This increases the number of those who are applying for employment. What then? This intensifies the competition, which in turn creates greater monopolists, and with it wages go down until the starvation point is reached, and then what?
Socialism comes to the people and asks them to look into this thing, to discuss it, to reason, to examine it, to investigate it, to know the facts, because it is by this, and this alone, that violence will be prevented and bloodshed will be avoided, because, as my friend here has said, men in their blind rage, in their ignorance, riot knowing what ails them, knowing that they are hungry, that they are miserable and destitute, strike blindly, and do as they did with Maxwell here, and fight the labour-saving machinery. Imagine such an absurd thing, and yet the capitalistic press has taken great pains to say that socialists do these things; that we fight machinery; that we fight poverty. Why, sir, it is an absurdity; it is ridiculous; it is preposterous. No man ever heard an utterance from the mouth of a socialist to advise anything of the kind. They know to the contrary. We don’t fight machinery; we don’t oppose these things. It is only the manner and methods of employing it that we object to. That is all. It is the manipulation of these things in the interests of a few; it is the monopolization of them that we object to. We desire that all the forces of nature, all the forces of society, of the gigantic strength which has resulted from the combined intellect and labour of the ages of the past shall be turned over to man, and made his servant, his obedient slave forever. This is the object of socialism. It asks no one to give up anything. It seeks no harm to anybody. But, when we witness this condition of things, when we see little children huddling around the factory gates, the poor little things whose bones are not yet hard; when we see them clutched from the hearthstone, taken from the family altar, and carried to the bastiles of labour and their little bones ground up into gold dust to bedeck the form of some aristocratic Jezebel, then it stirs me and I speak out. We plead for the little ones; we plead for the helpless; we plead for the oppressed; we seek redress for those who are wronged; we seek knowledge and intelligence for the ignorant; we seek liberty for the slave; socialism secures the welfare of every human being…
Anarchists do not advocate or advise the use of force. Anarchists disclaim and protest against its use, and the use of force is justifiable only when employed to repel force. Who, then, are the aiders, abettors and users of force? Who are the real revolutionists? Are they not those who hold and exercise power over their fellows? They who use clubs and bayonets, prisons and scaffolds? The great class conflict now gathering throughout the world is created by our social system of industrial slavery. Capitalists could not if they would, and would not if they could, change it. This alone is to be the work of the proletariat, the disinherited, the wage-slave, the sufferer. Nor can the wage-class avoid this conflict. Neither religion nor politics can solve it or prevent it. It comes as a human, an imperative necessity. Anarchists do not make the social revolution; they prophesy its coming. Shall we then stone the prophets? Anarchists do not use or advise the use of force, but point out that force is ever employed to uphold despotism to despoil man’s natural rights. Shall we therefore kill and destroy the anarchists? And capital shouts, ‘Yes, yes! exterminate them!’
In the line of evolution and historical development, anarchy—liberty—is next in order. With the destruction of the feudal system, and the birth of commercialism and manufactories in the sixteenth century, a contest long and bitter and bloody, lasting over a hundred years, was waged for mental and religious liberty. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with their sanguinary conflicts, gave to man political equality and civil liberty, based on the monopolization of the resources of life, capital—with its ‘free labourers ‘—freely competing with one another for a chance to serve king capital, and ‘free competition’ among capitalists in their endeavours to exploit the labourers and monopolize the labour products. All over the world the fact stands undisputed that the political is based upon, and is but the reflex of the economic system, and hence we find that whatever the political form of the government, whether monarchial or republican, the average social status of the wage-workers is in every country identical. The class struggle of the past century is history repeating itself; it is the evolutionary growth preceding the revolutionary dénouement. Though liberty is a growth, it is also a birth, and while it is yet to be, it is also about to be born. Its birth will come through travail and pain, through bloodshed and violence. It cannot be prevented. This, because of the obstructions, impediments and obstacles which serve as a barrier to its coming. An anarchist is a believer in liberty, and as I would control no man against his will, neither shall anyone rule over me with my consent. Government is compulsion; no one freely consents to be governed by another, therefore there can be no just power of government. Anarchy is perfect liberty, is absolute freedom of the individual. Anarchy has no schemes, no programs, no systems to offer or to substitute for the existing order of things. Anarchy would strike from humanity every chain that binds it, and say to mankind: ‘Go forth! you are free! Have all; enjoy all!’
Anarchism or anarchists neither advise, abet nor encourage the working people to the use of force or a resort to violence. We do not say to the wage-slaves: ‘You ought, you should use force.’ No. Why say this when we know they must—they will be driven to use it in self-defence, in self-preservation, against those who are degrading, enslaving and destroying them.
Already the millions of workers are unconsciously anarchists. Impelled by a cause, the effects of which they feel but do not wholly understand, they move unconsciously, irresistibly forward to the social revolution. Mental freedom, political equality, industrial liberty!
This is the natural order of things, the logic of events. Who so foolish as to quarrel with it, obstruct it, or attempt to stay its progress? It is the march of the inevitable; the triumph of progress.