Chapter 5

Chapter 5

The editors of Der Sozialist considered publishing it abroad, but after a seven month stand-still they managed to publish it in Berlin again. But the style and content of the writing changed. The new Sozialist lost the tone from its first years of a brave youth; it now dealt exclusively with purely theoretical questions. It highly contributed to these questions; I remember for instance its admirable studies of Marxism and, especially, its critical analysis of Historical Materialism, which were widely studied.

The articles of Dr. Eugene Smith, Ladislauer, Gumplowicz, Benedict Fried-lander, Bruno Wille, Ommerborn, Brude, etc., despite all their kindness, could not answer the needs of the anarchist workers that weren’t instructed enough to appreciate their intellectual idealizations. Logically this led to a deep confusion within the Berlin movement and it later extended into other localities. The editors of Der Sozialist realized that something needed to be done to attempt to smooth out the contradictions that kept getting more significant. So, in 1896, they founded the Annen Konrad (The poor Conrad). It was a sort of popular supplement to the Sozialist. This new periodical, also under the guidance of Albert Weidner, was also well designed, but its format was too small to occupy the existing void. Meanwhile the divergences caused by Der Sozialist’s nature deepened. Even though with a bit of good will, a compromise that would have been favorable and reasonable for the whole movement could have been reached that was not the case as in Germany these disputes dated back to a time with a much more hostile character, more hostile than anywhere else.

That’s why in 1897 some of the elements that were unhappy with Der Sozialist formed a new anarchist periodical, Neues Leben (New Life). But the new periodical didn’t generate any particular honor for its promising title, despite their editors’ good motives they lacked the capacity that is needed to publish a well edited and formatted periodical. Despite all of this it managed to outlive Der Sozialist, which, in 1899, after long and difficult financial struggles stopped being published.

Obviously this wasn’t a good sign for the spiritual strength of the movement that a paper like the Neues Leben managed to muscle out an excellent and restrained paper such as Der Sozialist. But such events have to be judged from another point of view as well. There’s no doubt that at the time, among German anarchists there were some elements that were more disillusioned socialist than they were anarchists. That element still hasn’t disappeared from all of Germany.

It is easy to understand that Der Sozialist wasn’t a periodical that they found appropriate for them, but there was another cause that took an important part in the disputes among anarchists that may have had a decisive importance. Some of the anarchist workers instinctively felt that the positions taken by Der Sozialist were getting farther and farther away from those of the working class, this was due to the fact that a considerable part of its writers got stuck in ideals and completely lost touch with the daily struggles faced in life. One could feel that the internal contact with the worker’s movement in general was getting weaker day by day, and that there would an accident that would hurt the development of the movement.

These things are, generally, better understood and felt by the simple worker than by the intellectual, despite sometimes not having the same ease to express such feelings. The majority of German comrades wanted an anarchist worker’s movement and they instinctively felt that overly unilateral accentuation of purely abstract theories over the unlimited sovereignty of the individual and other analogous things from which one can conclude everything that is possible and impossible, would remove the masses from the movement and convert it to a fossilized sect. This led many to have a firm attitude against Der Sozialist and to take other paths. The bitter injustice to people like Gustav Landauer that resulted from this is truly a shame, both from the Humanitarian point of view and of the interests of the movement. A quick look at his excellent Manifest to Socialism is enough to recognize that Landauer was one of the few in Germany that deeply understood the social side of Anarchism. But it would also be unfair to attribute everything, in those disputes, to clashes of personality and spiritual restrictions, even though they are unfortunate occurrences that accompanied the events.

Common sense led a lot of anarchist workers to desire a more powerful root for the union between Anarchism and the worker’s movement. For many it was probably more due to instinct than knowledge. One could feel the internal necessity, but there wasn’t any certainty over the right path to take. The period of the Neues Leben wasn’t even an actual path, though to some it accelerated their internal understandings, despite its strong influence from events abroad. The young syndicalist movement in France developed with an astonishing speed and many active anarchists committed all their energies to it, participating in numerous struggles. The mass movement rose after years of hibernation during the time of the State of Exception. The grandiose idea of a General Strike started to get supporters among the masses in the Latin countries and under the direct influence of the worker’s struggles that during the present century affected Spain, France, Italy, French Switzerland, Netherlands, Hungary and other countries the anarchist movement started a new evolutionary phase, that brought it closer to its founders.

In January 1904 the Der Freie Arbeiter (The Free Worker) started being published in Berlin, its editors put themselves entirely in the field of the revolutionary movement of the masses, and it defended direct action and the general strike. A strong case for those tactics had already been made by Rudolf Lange and other comrades, which is why they published the Anarchist. But, at the time to place oneself in the mass revolutionary movement, the subject of organization came up once again and, in fact, Lange was one of the strongest supporters of large scale anarchist organization, and his staunch defense of this position frequently stirred up opposition among his German comrades. When the German Anarchist Federation’s Manheim Conference (1907) established lines of conduct in that regard, it, as expected, caused several people to protest against it, in these complaints the autocratic absolute autonomy of the individual played a big role.

Events of the sort happened basically everywhere, that is to say, they were matters that should have the same effect everywhere. The famous Dutch anarchist, reported on it detailly in his interesting study, The Evolution of Anarchism (Ueber die Evolution des Anarchismus), where he states the following opinion:

In several modern countries Anarchism has presented itself as a practical path for opposition to the centralization and discipline of social-democracy. But said opposition, as usually occurs in opposition movements, quickly went to the other extreme. The influence of the libertarian and artist elements greatly contributed to Individualism, lending it some support, as a theory and even causing disorganization all over the movement. Especially at the beginning of the 9th decade of the past century, when individual action was responsible for several bomb attempts. The Individualist critic in Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Bohemia, etc., firstly attacked the form of organization and later the organization itself. In the Unions the individualist spirit of disorganization appeared and many of the recently founded organizations put forward the preliminary question of what statutes and representatives bring with them the seeds for new domination. Not satisfied with criticizing the abuses of the organizations and the using all methods possible to avoid the presidents of the Unions from having too much power, since they are simply the mandataries of the associates, the individualists quickly started to fight the organizations themselves, as they always saw new tyrants where there was a simple regulation of the simplest of Union procedures. In these cases, like others, words like dictatorship of the majority over the minority and repression of individual freedom were used. But, the individualist critic was unable to notice that a worker’s organization not having regulations there is a greater ease for personal authority and the dictatorship of individual action, just like in the old associations. Individualism had a greater effect than the Unions, in the time of transition of which we are talking about, in groups and centers of study and agitation that sought to place themselves directly against social-democracy. Not too long ago several countries discussed problems like: Is it not against individual freedom to vote and establish resolutions in revolutionary groups? Is one authorized to nominate a chairman to take notes of those that ask to speak, a secretary or, especially, a treasurer, since they are all responsible towards the members and this would establish a new domination as that of the social-democrats? Besides, in regards to responsibility, the sovereign individual owes himself responsibility. Don’t think that this is exaggerated. Every time the International Revolutionary Congress of London, in 1896, tried to approve a resolution there would be a Stirnian protesting: What a resolution? I don’t want any resolutions! I didn’t come here to make pacts! I want to be MYSELF! But at the time, the communist current had the supremacy and responded: You could have done that at home! Don’t come here just to bother us.

I quoted Cornelissen in such a detailed manner because he hit it out of the park with his considerations and what he talked about still exists to this day. Unfortunately, the spirit of the time hasn’t yet completely disappeared from the anarchist movement in Germany and continues to drift between people that easily get drunk on hollow sentences and that have no ability to delve into the substance of the concepts. These people are attached to the exterior aspects of things, because they suffer from an incurable fetishism that makes them see the product of their imagination as reality. I only need to remember the pamphlet that the Bolsa de Obreros Mozos conveniently decided to publish at the time of the last syndicalist congress in Dusseldorf. The authoritarian hierarchies remained intact with the passing of time. Only one thing changed, the little paper was called Der Vorgeschobene, and that was new. In a society so concentrated on the sovereign individual, there were still herds; something nobody ever thought would be possible. Apart from that, they were just ghosts of the past returning in the dark of the evening, before the brightness of dawn.

Just when the anarchist movement was returning to the organization of the masses, as their antecessors did in the time of the International, the problem of organization came, naturally, back to surface and it was the main reason for the International Anarchist Congress of Amsterdam (1907) and for the creation of the Anarchist International. The French comrade Dunois started the defense of Anarchism and organization with a small connection, in which he noted the social character of the Anarchist ideals and declared Anarchism not as Individualist, but as Federalist in all subjects. In the discussion all comrades, with the exception of the Dutch Individualist Croiset, defended the need for organization. Errico Malatesta, the eternal champion of organization, did so particularly well.

Malatesta said that we shouldn’t fall into the false conception, that the lack of organization is a guaranty of freedom; past events have shown us the contrary of this statement. An example: there are periodicals in France that don’t depend on any organization, but that are closed to all whose ideas, style and attitude aren’t what the editor wants. This results in a situation where a few individuals possess the power to limit the freedom of expression of others, unlike a periodical that is edited by an organization. Authority and authoritarianism are frequently spoken of. Let’s make it clear, once and for all, what one means by it. There’s no doubt that we rebel, and will always rebel, against the authority from the State, which only seeks to maintain society’s economic slavery, but no anarchist, without exceptions, would refuse to respect the purely moral authority that results from experience, intelligence and talent. It’s a serious error to accuse the adherents of organization, the Federalists, of authoritarianism and it’s a big error to believe that the so called enemies of organization, Individualists, voluntarily doomed themselves to complete isolation. I’m of the opinion that the conflict between Individualists and adherents to organization, consists mostly of phrases which are void of any value in practical situations. In Italy, it’s frequent for Individualists to not realize that they are against organization, them being better organized than the defenders of organization, which are always defending the necessity for organization, but never implement it. Also, frequently in groups where individual freedom is so advocated that there’s more authoritarianism than in societies that are called, by them, authoritarian only because they have a Chairman and pass resolutions. Enough of empty words, let’s dedicate ourselves better on practical actions. Words separate, actions unite. It’s about time that we organize our forces to obtain decisive influence over social events.

With that in mind, the Congress took several decisions, subsequently creating an International Bureau in order to ease the relationships between the different national organizations. The second congress of the Anarchist International, which was supposed to happen in the summer of 1914 in London and of which the delegates of 21 European and American countries had been notified, was interrupted by the World War. The war broke out just when it was most needed for the congress to occur and the five members of the Bureau were later on dispersed in several countries.

The first part of the gigantic catastrophe was now behind us and it would be impossible to predict what would come with the second part. We can only make vague assumptions. We have numerous problems awaiting solutions. The anarchist movement suffered the consequences of war and comrades everywhere should do everything they can to unite and reinvigorate our dispersed forces back into the action. It’s now known that the anarchist movement need an organizing base in order to obtain effective results in the great struggles that are ahead of us and so that the State Socialists, of one current or another, to reap the fruits of the seeds of our activity and sacrifice. Russia gave us a great example in that sense, there the anarchist movement, despite its huge influence on the people and sacrifices of anarchists for the revolution, ended as a victim of its own internal scatter and disorganization. It helped the Bolsheviks climb to power and now our comrades feel the bitter result. The same will happen everywhere while we fail to unite with certain lines of conduct and unite our forces into organizations.

In France our comrades united in the Union Anarchiste and have been carrying out satisfactory activity. In Italy the Union Anarquista is one of the most important and influential organizations in the Italian worker’s movement. In Spain, where anarchists have always concentrated their propaganda and organizing activities in the revolutionary syndicalist movement, right after the war the Confederación del Trabajo was marvelously developed. After a whole string of struggles it was in a way dispossessed of their publicity by the reaction that once again occurred there, during the last couple of years, but despite these persecutions that it suffered and still suffers it has not disappeared. Thanks to their unbreakable organizing activity, our Spanish comrades managed to resist the violent attacks of the reaction and to reaffirm the stability of the movement. In Portugal and South America, where the movements are similar to the Spanish one, our comrades have greatly contributes in the fields of organization and they hold the best of hopes for the future.

In Germany Anarchism has gained some solid ground, from the revolution, due to the strong development of the anarcho-syndicalist movement which includes all elements of the anarchist worker’s movement. In my opinion this is the most significant event in the evolution of Anarchism in Germany, despite it not being valued enough by the comrades who supposedly should form the base of the worker’s movement and organization. The person who values the whole odyssey of said development will conclude that those comrades that are no longer new to the movement should be particularly interested in accelerating it as much as possible, since a big divisionism as we see today with most extremist organizations would mean a collapse of the anarchist movement from which it would not be able to piece itself back together.