Anarchism and the unions: a critique of Malatesta's ahistorical perspective

Cigar workers in Tampa, Florida

This piece looks at Malatesta's anti-syndicalist arguments, and critiques them for not having a perspective that looks at workers struggle across time. Looking at the role of struggle in cognition, it argues for seeing workplace struggle as a shifting plane of social action and the construction of proletarian subjectivities.

There is an old argument amongst anarchists. The argument starts with the nature of unions, and ends with the conclusion that revolutionaries shouldn't attempt to build libertarian alternatives outside the unions, and instead should enter into the established unions and agitate for anarchism there. Though the argument doesn't derive from Malatesta, he wrote it most succintly and is an inspiration for many. Looking at the argument we can see the missing pieces, and why this orientation towards unions is mistaken.

Malatesta's argument goes as follows.

A union is set up to improve working conditions. In order for it to make good on their demands, the unions have to bring together large enough groups. If workers must be anarchists before they join then, it would be unnecessary since the workers are already revolutionary, and could just launch a revolution. The union would just be a duplicate of a political organization. The members would merely be anarchists on paper. Assume that the union has a revolutionary program. In times when it is inactive, it is possible for active revolutionaries to maintain the program. In times when the union is active and attracts large numbers, there will be a number of conflicting ideas. Short term interests will be more expedient and win more gains, and thereby win out over the program.

The conclusion of the argument is the anarchists should not form unions built on anarchist principles (even ones built on a libertarian character without anarchist ideology). “In general to me it seems better that the anarchists remain, when they can, within the largest possible groupings” (Malatesta 19261). Within the unions anarchist argue for anarchist tactics and ideas, and organize against cooptation and authoritarian currents.

The structure of the argument then is to begin with the nature of the union [“a union is set up to defend the day to day interests of the workers and to improve their conditions” (Malatesta 19252).], elaborate the anarchist's goals in unions [“in the labour movement I see only a means of raising the morale of the workers, accustom them to free initiative and solidarity in a struggle for the good of everyone and render them capable of imagining, desiring and putting into practice an anarchist life” (Malatesta 1925b3).], derive a contradiction between an anarchist union and a union's nature [“A labour organisation that were to style itself anarchist, that was and remained genuinely anarchist and was made up exclusively of dyed-in-the-wool anarchists could be a form... of [an] anarchist grouping; but it would not be the labour movement and it would lack the purpose of such a movement, which is to attract the mass of the workers into the struggle, and... to create a vast field for propaganda and to make new anarchists” (Malatesta 1925b)], and conclude that we should organize within the biggest non-ideological unions.

Malatesta's conclusion is actually ambiguous. Within the same paragraph he asserts

“The whole point at issue is whether it suits our aims, in terms of action and propaganda, for the labour organisations to be open to all workers, irrespective of philosophical or social creed, or whether they should be split into different political and social tendencies”

and finishes with the prior quoted

“In general to me it seems better that the anarchists remain, when they can, within the largest possible groupings” (Malatesta 1926).

He somehow misses the logical leap between the largest unions, and unions merely open to all workers. The CNT and the IWW of the time had policies of being open to all workers willing to join, though having revolutionary ideology. The issue is further confused when he agrees with Vittorio when the author states ““I disagree that the National Confederation of Labour (CNT) in Spain should directly call itself anarchist, when, unfortunately, the immense majority of its members do not know what this means, what libertarian ideology is about.”” (Malatesta 19264), and yet does not call for the CNT to dissolve and enter into the UGT.

There are three main errors in Malatesta's argument that will lead us to different conclusions. Malatesta botches the role of history in union's structure, the function of struggle in transforming the consciousness of its participants, and the variations in the forms of workers organizations.

1. Ideology is less a product of will than of history.

In his reply to de Santillan, Malatesta claims he recognizes this point. It may be that he did, but he fails to see the problem for his argument. The basic idea is that unions can be revolutionary to the extent that the class or sections of the class are revolutionary. This is a historical matter. History and society develops unevenly, there will always be sections of the working class moving into and away from various revolutionary praxis embedded in their organizations. Likewise the success and failure of these movements depend on their context, i.e. The ruling class, the other workers organizations, the region's position in global capital, etc. When we move away from the abstract and timeless perspective Malatesta uses, one leg of his argument crumbles (that it is not possible to have mass unions that have revolutionary ideas and practice).

2. Malatesta misses the role of struggle radicalizing workers consciousness.

This makes growth without watering down principles possible, since workers in participating can be radicalized (not saying it will, just that it is possible, which destroys the fork in his argument). This is a similar issue as above with Malatesta's lack of understanding of struggle across time. Workers' ideas are not static, but rather shift in a dynamic between the notions they have, their activity, and the ideas they encounter. Throughout history workers have built libertarian organizations not necessarily from anarchist agitation within movements so much as being radicalized by the dynamics of struggle itself (though of course there are other examples too). This means that it is also possible for workers in libertarian unions to develop revolutionary consciousness without being required to be anarchists before joining. Since libertarian unions' structure/principles are voluntarily built, there is always a struggle around the orientation of the union. That doesn't mean however (as Malatesta argues) that unions by their nature will cease being revolutionary when struggle progresses. Otherwise we would not have seen libertarian institutions grow at all, they would have turned reformist while growing and never had the chance to be repressed. This isn't negated by the fact that the CNT or whoever did in fact turn towards reformist activities, since in fact that was true by default. All revolutionary movements either produced reformism or were destroyed. There are other factors that explain cooptation (and this was not in fact Malatesta's argument, he argues unions will become reformist before reaching revolutionary conclusions).

It is also worth pointing out that alternative libertarian institutions such as anarchosyndicalist unions, workers councils, militias, peasants' councils, etc., formed perhaps the only significant anarchist movements. Given this history, the burden of proof falls on those who claim Malatesta's strategy, which as of yet has no significant historical precedent.

3. Not all unions were created equal.

Since Malatesta died before seeing the integration of unions into the social partnership of the state and capital, it is not useful to view Malatesta's unions as identicle to ours. For that reason, it is likewise naïve to think that one can merely exist within organizations that are setup for and schooled in repressing radical organizing and carry out propaganda effectively. Over 80 years of communist infultration into the unions failed to produce any significant shifts in the unions nor revolutionary movements. Again the burden of proof lies with anarchists who think otherswise, and who have next to nothing to show for anarchist attempts at such.

Malatesta's arguments rely on the idea that all unions are the same, some just want ideology. But in fact the structure, methods, and aims of unions vary considerably. The fundamental division in our time is between unions (or workers' organizations) that seek to mediate between capital and workers, and those that are spaces for autonomous organizing that don't exist beyond the activities of workers. The former is the traditional American union, which exists mostly as a bureaucratic layer of paid staff with specialized skills who negotiate a contract for the workers. The contracts exchange workers control for largely economic gains. Workers interact with the unions, and struggle for changes through (and sometimes against it), but the union remains a third party with seperate interests of its own. The 20th century is filled with examples of the unions are highly efficient repressive organizations for class cooptation and collaboration.

We can likewise show our own fork. If you try to bore within the existing repressive unions, either you do so autonomously (with workers' own seperate structures to organize with) or you don't. If you work within the union's framework, you work on their terms and must fight against their superior resources both economically and in alliance with the boss and the state if you are successful. If you build a parallel structure, then you are pursuing what Malatesta argued against, it is a union of one form or another.

The conclusion we should draw is that we need our own autonomous organizations built on a libertarian basis. Like Malatesta though I have some skepticism about organizations that are built to win reformist gains within capitalism. This is why there has been recent debate within the present day anarchosyndicalist movement around the structure of anarchist unions. Instead of trying to be bodies that represent the workers and that try to become the institutional framework for boss-worker relations, the union should be the vehicle of struggle of the workers but not for the workers. We should build workers organizations that (a) build consciousness through struggle itself, (b) can initiate and widen struggle, and (c) create a framework for workers/community councils. The union is the historical memory of our experiences in struggle, maintaining resources for learning from struggle and pushing further fights, and for defending against the coordinated attacks of the capitalists and state. These conclusions are not far from what the councilists came to from similar premises that Malatesta has. What sets anarchosyndicalists apart from others is our belief that it is possible to build libertarian mass organizations that will prefigure and train us for the task of constructing a new society from the ashes of the old.

1Anarchism and Labour Movement, http://www.marxists.org/archive/malatesta/1926/03/syndic3.htm

2Syndicalism and Anarchism, http://www.marxists.org/archive/malatesta/1925/04/syndic1.htm

3Labour Movement and Anarchism, http://www.marxists.org/archive/malatesta/1925/12/syndic2.htm

4 Ibid.

Posted By

s.nappalos
May 3 2013 12:33

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syndicalist
May 3 2013 14:10

GRIL

Battlescarred
May 8 2013 11:47

I have to say that I find the above a caricature of Malatesta's positions on the workers' movement which does no justice to his activity in Latin America and Britain,(which had a profound influence on his own ideas) and misunderstands what Malatesta ( and Monatte for that matter) said at Amsterdam in 1907. When I have the time ( when will that be, I wonder< I'll compose a reply and post it on libcom , hopefully fairly soon).

ocelot
May 20 2013 12:41

Agree with Battlescarred. This is very poor stuff indeed. Arguments 1 & 2 are actually the complete opposite of the truth. Malatesta's argument was precisely an historical and processual one - how should anarchists act in the here & now, where they are a "militant minority", in relation to worker's organisation? Withdraw or engage? To presuppose the end - "the militant revolutionary union" - as the point of departure is the truly a-historical non-developmental position. Very sad to see the author, who once had intelligent things to say about dual organisationalism, regress to a brain-dead A-S utopianism. Tragic.

syndicalist
May 20 2013 14:48
Quote:
Ocelot: regress to a brain-dead A-S utopianism.

Not a very comradely critique nor very smart.

klas batalo
May 20 2013 16:07

i fail to see how it is abstentionism or rejection of the main thrust of dual organizationalism...

i don't really care about a-historical non-developmental positions or whatever... we make history and we can revise theory to reflect lessons learned.

Quote:
We should build workers organizations that (a) build consciousness through struggle itself, (b) can initiate and widen struggle, and (c) create a framework for workers/community councils. The union is the historical memory of our experiences in struggle, maintaining resources for learning from struggle and pushing further fights, and for defending against the coordinated attacks of the capitalists and state.

this is like dual organizationalism+ IMHO

it is saying that cognition and ideology is relative to all groups and that really it is built through struggle and experiences of struggle. all groups are united around ideas and practice.

the difference with traditional dual organizationalism is seeing a strict abstract division of a professed ideological minority ever being the catalyst or vehicle for "initiating and widening struggle" or "creating a framework for workers/community councils"

maybe some US context would be helpful as well.

union membership in existing platformist/especifist organizations is higher in the IWW than it is in traditional trade/industrial unions. never mind talk about who is organizing in those contexts. this is mostly because unless such organizations picked up a strategy of deliberate entryism in those unions you are not going to see a build up in membership in them from our side.

let's say you are an unorganized restaurant worker are you supposed to call up unite here and say hey will you help me organize my job? they most likely are going to say will you help us salt another job? so it would have to be deliberate choices made to organize for particular unions and campaigns. unless it is the building trades or other professions that similarly have hiring all there is not much of a chance that you will just land a job that is union unless it came from a struggle from 20+ years ago.

the only other option would be to purposefully have cadre quit their jobs to get jobs at union shops.

ANYWAY... after a bunch of study I am mostly under the impression that a lot of especifistas and even neo-platformists don't join the already existing unions or social movements per the established notion of their theory, but social insertion practice looks more like starting up new fronts of struggle or more or less libertarian/independent unions... which doesn't look much different from anarcho/revolutionary syndicalism if you ask me (except being highly confused and contradictory from the supposed theoretical basis).

klas batalo
Jun 3 2013 19:50
Quote:
Historically, there’s a syllogism on the libertarian left about unions that reflects the division between the mass and political levels. The syllogism is some variant of this:

1. A union is organized by people to improve working conditions
2. In order for it to make good on their demands, the unions have to bring together large enough groups to be effective.
3. If workers must be anarchists/revolutionaries/communists before they join then either:
1. It would be unnecessary since the workers are already revolutionary, and could just launch a revolution. The union would just be a duplicate of a political organization. (or)
2. The members would merely be anarchists/revolutionaries/communists on paper.

Another variant:

1. Trade unions exist to win better working conditions
2. An organized working class creates antagonism with a better funded and organized capitalists class
3. Either trade unions:
1. Retain their militancy, and are attacked without restraint
1. Thereby rendering them less/ineffective at winning gains
2. Or they can attempt class collaboration, and (sometimes) wins ground
1. This integrates unions into capitalism, and creates a union bureaucracy with interests separated from the workers
2. The union has an interest in maintaining capitalism, and therefore becomes reactionary.

The conclusions of these lines of thought vary, but they share some things in common. This orientation puts forward an ahistorical and overly schematic conception of the mass and political level.

ocelot would do to remember this argument from nappalos and the miami comrades.

ocelot
Jun 4 2013 14:00

Except that the argument is a straw man in that it represents the positions of neither a) Malatesta; or b) Dual organisationalists.

It is the author's two "syllogisms" that are ahistorical and schematic - creating them thus and then attacking them for so being, seems an exercise in pointlessness. Other than that the title asserts that the creation and ritual burning of this straw man amounts to a critique of "Malatesta's ahistorical perspective". Which it does not.

ocelot
Jun 4 2013 14:50

More of that "ahistorical and overly schematic" from Malatesta:

Quote:
Let’s get one thing clear: a labour movement with anarchist objectives is not the same thing as an anarchist labour movement. Naturally everyone desires the former. It is obvious that in their activities anarchists look to the final triumph of anarchy – the more so when such activities are carried out within the labour movement, which is of such great importance in the struggle for human progress and emancipation. But the latter, a labour movement which is not only involved in propaganda and the gradual winning over of terrain to anarchism, but which is already avowedly anarchist, seems to me to be impossible and would in every way lack the purpose which we wish to give to the movement.
[...]
Some believe anarchists must assemble the anarchist workers, or at the least those with anarchist sympathies, in separate associations. But I, on the contrary, would like all wage-earners, whatever their social, political or religious opinions – or non-opinions – bound only in solidarity and in struggle against the bosses, to belong to the same organisations, and I would like the anarchists to remain indistinguishable from the rest even while seeking to inspire them with their ideas and example. It could be that specific circumstances involving personalities, environment or occasion would advise, or dictate the breaking up of the mass of organised workers into various different tendencies, according to their social and political views. But it seems to me in general that there should be a striving towards unity, which brings workers together in comradeship and accustoms them to solidarity, gives them greater strength for today’s struggles or prepares them better for the final struggle and the harmony we shall need in the aftermath of victory.

Clearly, the unity we have to fight for must not mean suppression of free initiative, forced uniformity or imposed discipline, which would put a brake on or altogether extinguish the movement of liberation. But it is only our support for a unified movement that can safeguard freedom in unity. Otherwise unity comes about through force and to the detriment of freedom. The labour movement is not the artificial creation of ideologists designed to support and put into effect a given social and political programme, whether anarchist or not, and which can therefore, in the attitudes it strikes and the actions it takes, follow the line laid down by that programme. The labour movement springs from the desire and urgent need of the workers to improve their conditions of life or at least to prevent them getting worse. It must, therefore, live and develop within the environment as it is now, and necessarily tends to limit its claims to what seems possible at the time

ocelot
Jun 4 2013 15:14

Quote: "What sets anarchosyndicalists apart from others is our belief that it is [equally] possible [in any historical or social context] to build libertarian mass organizations that will prefigure and train us for the task of constructing a new society from the ashes of the old."

Fixed.

Now that's what I call an "ahistorical overly schematic" position.

Battlescarred
Sep 28 2013 08:30

An article In Defence of Malatesta should be appeariing in the next Organise! available at London Anarchist Bookfair where the first two spurious positions are examined in detail with actual quotes from Malatesta showing that this was the opposite to what he thought

s.nappalos
Oct 8 2013 13:02

Malatesta's failure isn't about the relation of anarchist militants to workers, but about the relation between how people's ideas relate to their struggles across time. He doesn't account for how people's ideas change in relationship to their struggles, which makes his argument against syndicalism false. People do become transformed in struggle, and the relationship between people taking action and thinking consciously "I believe this or that" is not that tight. Anarchosyndicalists built off this reality, not because they were dishonest or naive, but because they understood that the process of struggling alongside an anarchosyndicalist union could produce more possibilities than not. The quotes cited above don't address that fundamental point. They only reference tactical flexibility in pursuit of his ideas in a historical context. I think some of the readers are reading my critiques too broadly. Malatesta obviously makes use of history and processes in his thought.

Battlescarred
Oct 8 2013 20:03

Yes, but you keep wilfully misrepresenting Malatesta who did see that people changed through struggle. Yuy seem to have very little ideas of what he actually said and did over the course of time.

klas batalo
Oct 9 2013 03:21

but you are not explaining how he thought that happened battlescarred. i'd love to see the piece, but for now you should at least elaborate in short.

syndicalist
Oct 9 2013 03:38
Battlescarred wrote:
Yes, but you keep wilfully misrepresenting Malatesta who did see that people changed through struggle. Yuy seem to have very little ideas of what he actually said and did over the course of time.

I'm all ears...xplain...educate...illuminate then

Juan Conatz
Oct 9 2013 04:22

The thing about Maletesta though is that everyonets from anarcho-syndicalists, platformists to insurrectionaries and snythesists can find something he wrote to prove them right and the others wrong.

Battlescarred
Oct 9 2013 08:06

The same could be said in different ways for Marx, etc etc. Stating the obvious surely?

Battlescarred
Oct 9 2013 08:45

Alright here's an excerpt: but buy Organise! for the whole article:
n 1889 Malatesta moved to London and remained there, off and on, for the next decade. Shortly after his arrival, the Great Dock strike broke out. This ran from 14th August to 16th September. Like his fellow anarchist Kropotkin, Malatesta was much impressed by the action of the workers. As DiPaola notes, he had : “ close contact with anarchist, labour and trade union militants. …Thanks to his deep knowledge of British trade unionism he could examine both its positive and negative aspects, particularly those arising from the danger of greater bureaucracy in the labour movement. This contributed to the development of his ideas about the organisation and political role of labour and trade unions in Italy. He used the experience he achieved in Britain when he published the newspaper L’Agitazione in Ancona in 1897, and later when the Italian anarchists led the Unione Sindacale Italiana.”
In the paper he brought out in London L’Associazione, Malatesta began to consider the implications of the great strike. Issue 1. contained an article by him A Proposito di Uno Sciopero ( Regarding A Strike). He noted that soon as the casual workers strike was called, all other trades connected to loading and unloading of cargoes stopped work, some of them purely in sympathy. Simultaneously other trades not connected to the docks put forward their own demands and went out on strike, amounting to a total number of 180,000 on strike. The gas workers offered to come out on strike with the prospect of London “plunged into darkness at night” and the homes of the bourgeois “exposed to great danger”. He was deeply impressed by the self-discipline and “remarkable” ability to get organised. Feeding a population of half a million, managing donations and collections, organising meetings and demonstrations, and keeping watch on the bosses’ attempts to employ scabs, “All this was done marvellously and spontaneously, by the work of volunteers”. Above all the workers’ collective action earned his admiration. “Those workers were not lacking a broad and often instinctive notion of their rights and social usefulness, nor did they lack the combativeness required to make a revolution; a vague desire of more radical measures arose in them…”
Turcato notes that: “ The positive implications of the Great Dock Strike and the tactics of new unionism can hardly be over-estimated. He (Malatesta) came to regard strikes as the most promising path to revolution, in contrast to any other means that anarchists had practised until then”. As Malatesta himself wrote in his article after considering both movements originally initiated by the bourgeoisie and wars as catalysts for social unrest, where reliance on them led to fatalism: “Fortunately there are other ways by which a revolution can come, and it seems to us that the most important among them are workers’ agitations that manifest themselves in the form of strikes…The most fruitful lesson of all was the huge dock labourer strike which recently occurred in London”.
Malatesta further expanded these ideas in his paper, calling for the intervention of anarchists in struggles for immediate economic gains.. Further, he stated that the Revolution was a longer process than anarchists had believed. What was needed was a daily and long term involvement in unions, cooperatives and educational societies.
For Malatesta economic struggle implied a political one. He used the First of May mobilisations to illustrate a point. The most important thing was for workers to collectively assert themselves, not the limited reforms they demanded. Furthermore, it was a mistake to dismiss agitation around the eight hour day, as Malatesta admitted a poor reform, because struggle would produce class consciousness. Commenting on the joint congress of the CGT and Bourses de Travail in Toulouse in 1897 he wrote: “The conscious part of the French proletariat, even when they do not comprehend or accept our general principles, can devise the way that must lead to the end of human exploitation”. Malatesta repeatedly emphasised that these forms of struggle were means towards social revolution.

syndicalist
Oct 9 2013 13:15

I've copied BS above comments. Look forward to seeing the full article.

A quick scan does not imply anything more then support for workers actions, not anarcho
or revolutionary syndicalist unions. And Malatesta argued as such against the at the 1907 Anarchist Congress. Seemingly a tactical and, perhaps, strategic understanding of the role of the workers, not necc.. libertarian organization within the workers struggle.

Looking forward to the longer article in Organise!

1907 Anarchist Congress: http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=6605

klas batalo
Oct 10 2013 02:22
Quote:
For Malatesta economic struggle implied a political one. He used the First of May mobilisations to illustrate a point. The most important thing was for workers to collectively assert themselves, not the limited reforms they demanded. Furthermore, it was a mistake to dismiss agitation around the eight hour day, as Malatesta admitted a poor reform, because struggle would produce class consciousness. Commenting on the joint congress of the CGT and Bourses de Travail in Toulouse in 1897 he wrote: “The conscious part of the French proletariat, even when they do not comprehend or accept our general principles, can devise the way that must lead to the end of human exploitation”. Malatesta repeatedly emphasised that these forms of struggle were means towards social revolution.

I don't know syndicalist, look above...it gets a bit more at the content of what S. Nappalos and Battlescarred are debating about. I mean let's take it line by line:

"For Malatesta economic struggle implied a political one"

i know this is just the starting assertion that this was true for him but the future sentences bear this out a bit.

"he used the first of may mobilizations to illustrate a point"

this seems to be about the power of affective politics, till this day we use this anti-capitalist and anarchist inspired holiday as a way to try to celebrate today and inspire workers for a better future.

"the most important thing was for workers to collectively assert themselves, not the limited reforms they demanded"

this gets a lot at sorta the direct unionist stuff... that really it is the struggle, and trying to build capacitation and a class for itself that leads more to cognition than just the reforms or a union election won.

later goes on that struggle would help create a class consciousness in the workers...

i guess for the most part battlescarred backs this up with his quote here from malatesta about the early cgt

i mean it is sorta an interesting quote because of how much faith malatesta has here in the class conscious minority of the french proletariat, but it is emphasized that this method they had produced of the CGT which was very anarcho-syndicalist influenced as i recall early in its day, these methods, these ways of struggling were the means towards social revolution.

---

anyway i can sorta start to see the argument for this in malatesta but i'm still going to look forward to the new organise, because the framework from the 1907 conference is what most people know, and it just always comes off so static and abstract.

s.nappalos
Oct 12 2013 11:10

Here's the thrust of Malatesta's argument from his 1925 Syndicalism and Anarchism

"For a union to serve its own ends and at the same time act as a means of education and ground for propaganda aimed at radical social change, it needs to gather together all workers – or at least those workers who look to an improvement of their conditions – and to be able to put up some resistance to the bosses. Can it possibly wait for all the workers to become anarchists before inviting them to organise themselves and before admitting them into the organisation, thereby reversing the natural order of propaganda and psychological development and forming the resistance organisation when there is no longer any need, since the masses would already be capable of making the revolution? In such a case the union would be a duplicate of the anarchist grouping and would be powerless either to obtain improvements or to make revolution. Or would it content itself with committing the anarchist programme to paper and with formal, unthought-out support, and bringing together people who, sheeplike, follow the organisers, only then to scatter and pass over to the enemy on the first occasion they are called upon to show themselves to be serious anarchists?"

That argument is syllogistic and makes claims that apply in essentially all contexts except when perhaps all or enough workers are already anarchists. The quote above of Malatesta battlescarred gives doesn't really contradict this, but just points out support for the potential in strikes and actions. The problem is that when it comes to the political content of unions, Malatesta here in these essays (the ones cited in my article from his 1925-1926 period) doesn't give an account that explains how they can adapt and change. There is nothing about the interaction between the consciousness of workers, their actions, and the political content of the union. In practice though that is one of the main features of workers struggle, the way in which action precedes consciousness, and the interaction between ideas in struggle and its impact on people. To reduce this to judging whether or not someone is or isn't an anarchist at the moment is to miss something fundamental.

Maybe Malatesta knew this or 30 years earlier had a different opinion. That could be true. I take issue with this argument in these particular essays because it is repeated many times as a bad argument against politicized forms of mass organizations. Now in Malatesta's life he contradicted his own argument when he, for example, helped build the FORA. He may have even rejected this at certain points, and I'm not interested in writing a biographical account of it. The take away for me is that if you view the politics of a mass organization as static in the way he does above, you will miss both potentials and be surprised by the actions of the class that don't conform to the model of people acting as Malatesta portrays in his essays where he repeats these arguments. At issue is more than just unions we build, but also how we understand the interactions between the elements of people in struggle. If we reject those problematic arguments, then the historical element of Malatesta's life is not really the real issue.