Chapter 5. Anarchist-Communism and Individualism

This conclusion is so far from being rash that it is shared, more or less sincerely, by even the most qualified exponents of socialist-collectivism. In addition to Morgari, who, as we have seen, admits that socialist-collectivism represents a lower stage in social evolution than anarchist-communism, there is no other apostle of socialism who, when pressed, would not be willing to call himself a communist[37], even if, in so doing, he forgets that every premise implies a deduction and that only anarchism can correspond to the economic premise of communism.

No, if we pay attention to the text of the Merlino interview, and, if we remember his repeated criticisms of collectivism, and remember the cordial antipathy he has persistently expressed for the programme and action of the Socialist Party, we would have to conclude that he too would agree with our theoretical deductions. In fact, he bases his judgments and funereal prophecies more upon the outward manifestations of anarchism ‘as a movement’, rather than on the essential substance of anarchist doctrine.

We think this irremediably undermines his own thesis.

For Merlino to be right, it would be necessary to conclude that the doctrine which has the greater content of logic, of truth, of progress, of future, is fated to perish ignominiously from starvation, while the other, with the florid complexion of a sudden — too sudden — growth (pars major saepe pejor [the greater part is often the worst part], as old Seneca used to say), the one cuddling the worms of the most putrid conventionalisms and the most absurd contradictions, is fated to survive.

And Merlino, who is an intelligent man, knows that this hypothesis is worse than nonsense: it is a downright aberration.

* * *

One, among others, of Merlino’s arguments deserves special consideration: “ The anarchist movement is divided by the internal struggle between individualists and organizationalists. The latter cannot find an organization compatible with anarchist principles; the former, after the idea of reprisal, which had been the soul of anarchist action, ceased to exist, cannot find a manner of acting, and cannot exist without the organization they strive to reject” .

This statement by Merlino contains something downright absurd: it is that the soul of anarchist action was the notion of reprisal and that this has ceased to exist.

The soul of anarchist action (and no one has understood this better than Merlino in the good old times, when he believed in anarchy and anarchism and was proud to suffer persecution for his faith and with us throughout the jails of Europe) is not reprisal, which is a mere episode and whose causes are far from having ceased to exist. The soul of the anarchist movement is the ardent desire for a society of free and equal people, which the anarchists know cannot be attained without the inevitably violent destruction of the existing order of things, without the social revolution which, in spite of their limited forces, they foster by their criticism of the iniquitous existing social order and by their work in educating the masses to a clear comprehension of the economic and political organisms responsible for their bondage. In supporting the masses against the abuses of capitalism and State as well as against the superstitions and prejudices in which the tyranny of the bourgeoisie finds its most powerful stronghold, they are preparing them for the revolution which is the indispensable way to the final redemption of the proletariat.

There are, along with these previously mentioned absurdities, some shallow truths in Merlino’s statement; among them, the disagreement between anarchists, so-called ‘individualist’ anarchists, and the presumed ‘organizational’ anarchists. But does this disagreement have a really important basis, or is it only the result of incomprehension and equivocation, caused more often by inaction and indolence than by bad faith, and which hard experience is bound to dispel?

What is anarchism by definition?

It is the struggle for a condition of society where the only link among individuals is solidarity, basically the solidarity of material and moral interests, which leads to the elimination of the vicious daily competitions between individuals and among peoples. (A very sad era, and one that, except during periods of famine or of love, the so-called inferior animals have surpassed a long time ago, to our shame.) And it calls upon them to unite for a greater and more noble struggle against the adverse forces of nature in order to realize superior, more complete and more secure forms of social life.

The condition and character of solidarity are spontaneity and freedom. But whereas the bourgeois regime is the domination of a majority over the minority, we aspire to realize the autonomy of the individual within the freedom of association, the independence of his thought, of his life, of his development, of his destiny, freedom from violence, from caprice and from the domination of the majority, as well as of various minorities; and when we refer to libertarian communism, a term which our descendants will take care to amend, we are trying to find an economic ubi consistam [where should I stand] in which this political autonomy of the individual may find an enlightened and happy reality.

It seldom happens that our comrades stop to consider this dual aspect, economic and political, of every institution in all the eras of history.

* * *

Is property unstable, wandering, fortuitous — like crops and herds, exposed to all kinds of dangers? Then it can be protected only by god — the god who thunders in the storm and shines in the sun and glitters in the stars, which are the compass of the tribes migrating into the unknown. Only god commands, or in his name, the high priest. the prophet, the wizard; that is, hieratic despotism.

Does property present itself as omnipotent. legalistic, exacting, sanctum jus [the letter of the law] even if summa injuria [the greatest injustice]? Then the political advocates of this economic regime will require harsh laws, general dependence upon a single supreme power, which will long for expansion and colonies, which will live for war, and will be forced to carry it to the last corners of the world: this will be empire, or better. Roman imperialism, arrogant, voracious, insatiable.

Is it aristocratic? Then the economy, the whole economy of the middle ages will flow into the political organization of feudalism and serfdom with the inevitable servitude of the massses.

Will property free itself from the thick net of bondage, tributes, barriers, frontiers, with no other limit but the competition of other economic forces, equally unchecked? Then, the corresponding political regime can only be the modern State, the constitutional and representative regime where, with god’s grace confined to the attic and the nation’s will under its feet, the bourgeoisie, empowered by its sole ownership of the national wealth, will seize the reins of the State, make and enforce all the laws by every means.

Will the common ownership of all the means of production and exchange be the economic substratum of the social life of the future?

Having realized, through the fundamental solidarity of interests, the suspension of the rivalries which have torn mankind asunder for centuries, the first experiment of a society understood to mean a union of individuals united by the same interests for the same purpose’) will set as its corresponding goal, the first opportunity to realize a social order, one that has been looked for in vain up to this day by the wisdom of legislators, the shrewdness of laws, or the violence of the police — in sum the uselessness of the State with its coercive and monstrous hierarchies. And then we shall have anarchy.

Between communism (of course, understood, not as another aspect of the State, compelled to reproduce in itself all the iniquities of the preceding governments, but as a free, united co-operation of all people for production) and individualism (in the sense that no institutional authority, neither that of the majority nor of a minority, can interfere with the development and freedom of the individual or in any way diminish his autonomy) there is no contradiction, no incompatibility. Communism is simply the;foundation by which the individual has the opportunity to regulate himself and carry out his functions

They are two terms which complement each other.

Every anarchist who is faithful to his denial of any privilege, especially of the most fundamental and nefarious of all privileges, that of the private ownership of the means of production and exchange, and who, for this reason, aspires to realize an economic regime where land, mines, factories and every other Labour or exchange tool, all means of production, will be indivisible common property, is, in his economic aspirations, a communist. Likewise, if he is faithful to his denial of authority and supports a regime which will realize the complete independence and autonomy of the individual from any economic, political and moral boss, he is inevitably an individualist.

Antithesis? No, integration.

Anarchy is not a metaphysic abstraction. The anarchist idea did not spring alive, complete, perfect from the minds of Babeuf, Proudhon, or Bakunin, the way Minerva, according to the myth, is said to have sprung from Jove’s brain. It has budded, grown, ripened, slowly and painfully by the experience of centuries, during which the common people have besought from time to time, god, the State, the law, or universal suffrage to give them a good master, a good judge, a little piece of bread, a little compassion, a little rest, a little light and love — always in vain.

As their trust in gods and demigods was fading, under continual mocking and repulsions, into the twilight of disenchantment and defeat; as their strength was revealing itself in their heroic and glories, but unfortunate struggles, and as they were gaining solidarity — instinctive at first, then through sacrifices and disaster — the common people came to understand that the faith they had spent in vain on the threshold of temples, thrones, parliaments and masters was to be revived in their own right and in their own strength. They began to believe in themselves and could see themselves freed from their chains.

They alone knew how to create wealth; and they alone, with the inexhaustible fertility of their labour and sweat, were seeking, protecting, supporting life . . . for the others, for those who, conceited as they were useless, were degrading it in idleness and orgy.

Since the social wealth was growing and increasing only because of and in proportion to this patient, courageous and necessary human effort; the idle, the indolent and the poltroons, many and superfluous, had no right to that wealth. Thus the propertied class came to be considered by the common people, or at least by the peoples vanguard, not only as iniquitous and shameful, but also as a monstrously parasitic, hateful and expensive class, from which it was urgent to be freed.

This judgment was taking form early, even while the bourgeoisie was still unsure on its newly-conquered throne and needed the common people in order to defeat the aristocracy’s repeated attempts to regain its lost power. It was ready to pay for that alliance by acknowledging the right and the competence of the people to select their own rulers, even from those outside the dubious sanctions of divine right.

But whoever has the political competence to choose his own rulers is, by implication, also competent to do without them, especially when the causes of economic enmity are uprooted. Likewise the bitterness, hatred, discord and disorder that branch out from that fatal trunk must yield before the ever more conscious and widespread solidarity that renders the role of the state and its hierarchies totally superfluous, and confers on everybody the full consciousness and the incontestable right of self-rule.

Thus, in the mind of the proletarian vanguard, the rejection of private property became enmeshed with and completed by the rejection of authority in all its varied and unfortunate forms. At the same time, the first libertarian aspiration based on experience and critical thought was asserted as a doctrine which foresaw libertarian communism as the indispensable condition for the development and security of the individual’s autonomy in a free society. “ Isn’t it so?” If it were so, there would be no disagreement. But in the real world the interpretations of communism as well as of individualism, are quite different and arbitrary, varying without end, a confusion! “ Clarification is needed, and then agreement will find its guarantees, its sources, and its basis in an honest and mutual comprehension. Shall we try?”

Let us begin by making an uncontested point: anarchy is the antithesis of authority. Among anarchists, at least, there is no possibility of disagreement on this point.

And now, let us ask ourselves if communists, on the one hand, and individualists, on the other, can deviate from this fundamental definition to the point of forgetting it, placing themselves against this first tenet, against their own conscience, against all the positions it implies, and finally against themselves.

In the field of economics, individualists are inconceivable.

We must bear in mind that work is an unavoidable necessity, because nature does not yield the abundance of its products without the strong and productive grip of labour. And since it is necessary to work in order to live, and the act of living physically is the indispensable condition for attaining the higher life of knowledge, beauty, harmony; work must be performed with all possible economy, without pain, without strain, without the humiliations and degradation which are now its sad fate and paltry wage.

If the sheer craving for speculation, large interest rates, fast and fabulous profit, has prompted the bourgeoisie to adopt mechanical means of production, substituting, wherever it was possible, the steel-lunged machine operating at a rhythmic tireless pace, for the frail arms of man; it is certainly believable that when production — instead of being at the mercy of a bunch of entrenched pirates, who have sunk their ferocious claws into the land, its crops and herds, its mines and treasures, its factories, railroads and ships — is steered with more concern and eagerness by all the workers, arisen from vile servitude to the full consciousness of their worth and destiny, discoveries, inventions, new economy of physical energy in production will be gained, and more of the day will be left for scientific, technical, literary, or aesthetic culture.

Is it conceivable that where it is possible to obtain maximum satisfaction with minimum effort, some eccentric will persist in choosing to live outside of society and, terrified by the fear of social contact and the tyranny of regimentation, he will want to do everything by himself, only for himself: house, clothes, library, cooking? And under the illusion of living individualistically, he will sacrifice the twenty-four hours of each day (which would not be enough) for the satisfaction of the most elementary needs, without taking a minute for recreation, rest or respite?

There have always been eccentrics, and most probably they will also exist in an anarchist regime ... but such a society will have no reason for apprehension, since it will be able to provide odd and eccentric persons, who are generally intelligent, a place to live in and a work space with all the instruments and tools for study, observation, research and work they might want to perform in their disdainful and misanthropic solitude.

But this is not an issue involving economic individualism; a limb, a member cannot, except under pain of immediate death, be cut off from the main organism.

The only economic individualism we know is the one erected upon the private ownership of the means of production and exchange; ie, the bourgeois regime, with which we are now so blessed and from which we are trying to find refuge and safety in communism and anarchy, by means of the social revolution.

In theory I do not find any other individualist tendency . . .

“ Bravo! And what about those who proclaim the inevitability of power? And those who yell that tomorrow, if urged by need, they would, without a moment’s hesitation, snatch from a mother’s hand the last bite of bread meant for her hungry child?”

Some of these I have heard also, but I am sorry to have to admit that I was not impressed at all.

I know, and you know as well, that whatever we do, however much we try to sharpen our insight and our wisdom in order to reach the new society — redeemed from the master and exploitation, from the state and oppression, from superstition and humiliation — and want to be worthy of it, we succeed only to a very small degree. We are the offshoots of the bourgeois trunk, and we carry its vicious and malignant stigma. At best, we carry inside us only the intention, the aim to be better, to wish that those who surround us, suffering, unhappy, wild, or wicked, should be better off.

But, to these people, whom we love and to whom we would like to give our most serious and assuring trust, we can offer only a magnificent profile of the free society, drawn from hope, imagination, and some positive logical deduction, rather than a certain mathematical reality. Besides, we could not produce a more accurate and complete architecture without being arbitrary and ridiculous. The most ideal construction might appear shabby or even grotesque to our descendants, who would have to live in it — and who will be able to build their own houses, suitable to their own needs, according to their own taste, worthy of the more advanced and superior civilization in which they will live.

Our task is more modest and even more peremptory. We must leave them a clear ground, without the gloomy ruins, the filthy jails, the greedy privileges, the predatory monopolies, the eunuch fears, and the poisoned prejudices among which we roam like shadows in pain. We must leave them an earth clear of churches, barracks, tribunals, brothels and, above all, clear of ignorance and fear, which preserve these establishments much more faithfully than the sanctions of laws and police forces

We can look at the future only through the prism of the present, and our vision is obscured by the muddy reality that surrounds us. So, is it surprising that any one of the poor wretches who have known foodless days, sleepless nights and the bitterness of ever-increasing unsatisfied desires, should suppose that even in anarchy the same hunger may exist that turns the citizen of the twentieth century into a savage troglodyte, a blind puppet of his bestial instincts? But, if tomorrow people should still slaughter one another for a crust of bread, this one single truth, however sad, would have to be admitted: that not only have we failed to make the social revolution, but we have also turned many centuries backward. And then certain survivals could be explained.

However my experience — and perhaps even better for you, your own experience — tells me that certain big words, uttered pour epater le bourgeois, to stun the clumsy crowd, are generally contradicted by the whole activity of these innocuous matamoros,[38] who know, perhaps more profoundly than anybody else, the satisfaction of having restored the smile on the lips of their suffering neighbour, by offering him their own piece of bread.

It is seldom, in fact, that the wealthy give more than crumbs, while the chronicles of poverty have never told of a strong healthy but poor man who has snatched a crust of bread from a child. Generally speaking, the poor who have only rags and torments, who know only hunger and pain, give their penny without regret for any worthy cause and are inclined to bend mercifully and delicately over any anguish or wound.

Only the poor give in such a manner — by impulse, with generosity and gentle kindness. At least, I have seen them this way during my whole life, always. All the rest is sophistry — original, witty, stunning at times — but sheer sophistry.

No less sophistical is the tendency of those who, under the comfortable cloak of anarchist individualism, would welcome the idea of domination. They stretch Rabelais’s aphorism: fais ce que veux! beyond its reasonable meaning, and they ignore that he did not suggest his merry, “ Do what you wish” to a few rich people or loafers, but to everybody, with no exceptions.[39] He was certain that nothing but co-operation and harmony can result from the free play of initiatives, attitudes and multiform energies (like the natural cohesion of the cells of an organism, vigorously carrying out their unceasing function of nourishing and renewing tissues and organs. Thus, they keep the torch of life ignited, with no incentive other than their chemistry). But the heralds of domination presume to practice individualism in the name of their ego, over the obedient, resigned, or inert ego of others.[40]

And against such pretence — which might encounter more than one obstacle at the time of its practice — we would have nothing to oppose, if it did not claim from anarchy its right, its investiture, its justification.

No! In anarchy only one domination is justifiable, legitimate and desirable, and it is the domination each one exerts on himself To exceed this is authority, command, despotism and, as anarchy is by definition absence of authority, anyone who calls for or sustains domination, that is authority, places himself, by his own action, against and outside anarchy, without the bother of excommunication or anathema by councils or popes.

We do not excommunicate anybody. We acknowledge anybody’s right to seek power if he has a taste for it, to obtain it if he can, and to wield it if there are eunuchs who submit to it. We only find the disguise unfair and grotesque. But what pleasure can there be in masking such desire — a devout, perhaps perpetual desire for power and authority — as anarchism?

Alas! Fundamentally there is always the soul of the slave who despairs of emancipation, who carries in his memory and, even more, in his scars, the experience of his suffering, a tragedy in which he sees only two characters — himself, chained to the millenarian column of serfdom, and, in front of him, his master, dull, herculean, bestial, scourging and choking him.

When we mention to our peasants — the old ones, especially — the radiant hypothesis of a brotherly society of equals, where they will be able to rest, their women be able to smile and their children can grow-free, enlightened and strong, the old peasants shake their heads perplexed. Their look, which had been for a moment enlivened by hope, fades and vanishes as they murmur, “There have always been rich and poor, and there always will be” . And because being rich or poor is the fatal crossroad of life, they don’t eat, and they yoke their women and children into a servitude even worse than their own in order to save the few coins which, they ingeniously hope (a hope that will die with the dream in a squalid hospital bed), will place them some day on the side of the blessed possidentes, the wealthy and from where they will, in turn, exert the same savage exploitation of which they are now the victims.

They cannot realize that the master does not have to exist. In the same way, the proponents of power are unable to conceive of a society without government. Called to choose between being governed and governing, they dream of aligning themselves with the latter, not now, because nobody in government has any use for them, but when anarchy has come into existence, when each one will be able to do anything he pleases. They suppose, of course, that the masses, having rejected the refined and progressive political wisdom of the bourgeoisie, will want to submit to their will and to their rod — in vain, if the social revolution has prevailed and anarchy has been realized. One can only smile and go on!

Yet, we have met some who were able to cover their sophisms with a less vulgar appearance and with more ingenious tricks — they object that personalities emerge from the masses, who are endowed by nature with an extraordinarily powerful mind, or are favoured with special means of education and learning, keenness in study, perseverance in research. As a result they succeed in penetrating enigmas, in discovering natural laws which were unknown before, drawing from them applications of great and uncontested value for the advancement of civilization as well as for the well-being of mankind. They succeed in grasping a truth which surpasses not only all usual and normal knowledge, but also that which, pertains to the specialized technology of a particular branch of learning, becoming the teachers of it, pioneers, masters, if you please, because no one else can compete with them or share in their eminence. When Galileo, for instance, or Pascal, or Newton enuniciated the law concerning universal gravitation, the equilibrium of fluids, or the immobility of the sun at the centre of its system with the Earth and other planets circling around it and reflecting its light, where could they find competent, conscientious and worthy opponents? — With the exception of the Holy Inquisition, which has the special, unenviable task and mission of defending the dogmatic absurdity of the Genesis against the rights of reason.

We are compelled to believe in and to swear in verba magistri [in the words of the master] to the truths they have revealed and which we cannot verify nor contest. Isn’t this, in many branches of the human knowledge, an absolute and incontestable authority?

The authority of genius? Well, one is almost tempted to accede. But, if, according to Bovio (and so far no one has said it with more seriousness and clarity), genious is the highest degree of synthesis with which human thought discovers truth in an original manner and in remote relationships, how much will this synthesis (ie, the method which in philosophy as well as in chemistry proceeds from causes to effects, from principles to conscquences, from the elements to the whole) owe to analysis and to those who, with their labour, with their persistence and, equally, with their intuition, have collected the elements, discovered and urrunged the causes, established the fundamental principles from which the new discovery has taken its start, and without which the new relationship could never have been grasped, nor the superior truth been able to reveal and assert itself? How much does Marconi owe Galvani, Volta, Righi, Hertz, Maxwell, Crookes, for his wireless telegraphy?[41]

The thought, which uncovers a new truth in an original manner and in a remote relationship, has arisen from the thought, the study, the work, the pain, the tragic disenchantment of all those who took the first steps on the harsh road of research, who dissipated the first clouds of darkness, who overcame the first and most arduous obstacles, boldly challenging mockery, contempt, the angry conservatism of the vulgar, and the even more furious hatred of the entrenched interests, and who, in so doing, opened a gleam into the future.

Who can say, that he, alone, equipped exclusively with his limited knowledge, has gone very far on the steep path of progress? That he has created something from nothing, without using the work of his forerunners, the pioneers who proceeded him?

So, it appears that the right to command begins to lose some of its absolute and autocratic character. At the very least, we are on the level of a constitutional regime!

Here again — everything belongs to everybody

But here we do not intend to deal with genius, the debate would take us too far.

Our subject is more modest: does the person who has a wealth of knowledge unknown to most people exert a real and exclusive domination over ignorant laymen? Or does he not?

Our answer is, categorically and without hesitation, no! Even if it be Galileo, Pascal, or Newton, who in the darkness of past centuries raised the torch of hope, of truth, of redemption.

Against the biblical tradition of creation, which claimed that the Earth is the centre of the universe, Galileo affirmed and proved (and his demonstration has since then been validated by many clear proofs which are now accessible to the unskilled in astronomy) that the sun is the immobile centre of our planetary system, and that Earth is only one of many satellites which revolve around the sun at a rhythm that can now be calculated exactly to the second.

Now! Either Galileo has convinced me that his theory is right, and, if so, he has ceased to dominate me because I am able to understand and verify it — and today, even with the help of data and means that were not known in his time. Then, as far as the relationship between the sun and its satellites is concerned, there is such complete agreement between Galileo and me — pardon the comparison that it excludes any form of hierarchy, supremacy, or domination.

Or Galileo has not convinced me. And then, as far as I am concerned, the sun continues to revolve as it did in the time of Joshua, who allowed himself the pleasure of stopping it in order to give him time to destroy A-do-ni-ze-dec, king of Jerusalem. The Earth stands still (and it must stand still — as some peasants I was trying to persuade to the Galilean theory used to say - - because otherwise all of us would go upside down), and the Bible and Moses are right.

But, then, what kind of power would Galileo have over my belies, my ideas and my education, if I remain unmoved in my prejudice, and if he hasn’t the slightest influence or mental jurisdiction over me? I’d remain a stranger, outside his dominion.

And, sadly, that such is the case is proved by the general allegiance, (thanks to the ignorance and superstition cultivated with relish among the common people by those inseparable accomplices, the State and the church) that the great majority continues to pay to Genesis and the Mosaic tradition. And by the rather thin ranks of suspicious ‘characters’ and ‘reprobates’ who accept and trust Galileo’s scientific theory.

One might, with some success, carry the debate into a wider field; ie, the relationship between those who discover a new scientific approach to industry and life, itself, and those who, with the necessary intelligence and co-operation, make possible its realization and benefit. We arrive then at the conclusion of the equivalence of functions, which we have mentioned before, and in which the sources and the security of libertarian equality are found.

But we feel that we have spent too much time arguing about an objection that refutes itself automatically from the anarchist standpoint the rejection of all authority.

Yet, in our opinion, Merlino sees the disintegration, the agony of the anarchist movement, not in these quarrels, but in the struggle between the organizationalists and the individualists on the grounds of immediate action, and in the two trends’ respective internal contradictions:“ . . . the former, the organizationalists, are unable to find a form of organization compatible with their anarchist principles” ; the latter, the individualists,

“. . with the failure of the idea of reprisal, which had been the soul of anarchist action, cannot find a way to action and cannot exist without the organization they strive to reject” .

That the organizationalists cannot find a form of organization compatible with their anarchist principles is perfectly natural and logical, and, on this point, we are in total agreement with Merlino. But, we do not understand why the individualists cannot exist without an organization, since, according to Merlino himself, an organization compatible with anarchist principles is not to be found.

Still, it seems to us that a distinction should be made concerning this designation of organizationalist anarchists, when we consider the frequent statements and the practical attitudes they express and adopt.

Organizationalists are, if we do not err, those anarchists who deem it desirable, necessary and possible to organize systematically, on the basis of previously agreed programmes, as a political party, distinguishable from all other proletarian parties, and able, whenever the opportunity appears, to make itself heard in bargainings, alliances and coalitions that might be suggested by the necessities of the moment, the circumstances of the struggle against the ruling class, against any intolerable misdeed that might have occurred.

Other anarchists call themselves organizationalists, not only because they promote the specific establishment of a political party, but also because they believe that the basis of anarchist movement should be the existing labour organizations and, even more, those that would arise under their auspices, with their stimulus, and have an open revolutionary character.

To these two trends, which differ only by degree, and whose action should always be collective in character, Merlino — if we do not misunderstand his thought — opposes those anarchists who prefer individual activity both in the field of propaganda and revolutionary action.

Modestly, but firmly, we are opposed to those anarchists who call themselves organizationalists, whether they wish to organize an anarchist party politically, or whether, in order to strengthen it, they aim to base it on labour organizations as they exist now, or on other ones they might organize that correspond more to their aims.

A political party, any political party, has its programme; ie, its constitutional charter: in assemblies of group representatives it has its parliament: in its management, its boards and executive committees, it has its government. In short, it is a graduated superstructure of bodies a true hierarchy, no matter how disguised, in which all stages are connected by a single bond, discipline, which punishes infractions with sanctions that go from censure to excommunication, to expulsion.

The anarchist party cannot help but be a party like the others. Worse! A government like any other government, enslaved, like all the others, by its constitution which, like all other constitutions, laws and codes, would be overtaken, on the day after its promulgation, by events and needs, by the pressing necessities of the struggle. A government, absurd and illegitimate like the others, based on delegation and representation, though it would be only too clear and obvious, especially from the experience of the anarchists, that every delegate and deputy could represent only his own ideas and feelings, not those of his constituents, which are infinitely variable on any subject. A government, intrusive and arbitrary, like any other government, because its preoccupation with directorial responsibility will, at every development, in every stage of its hierarchy, push it to adopt — always moved, of course, by the most noble and generous purpose — provisions, decisions, measures to which the card-carrying members will submit for the sake of discipline, even though they may be contrary to their opinion and their interest. A government, all-absorbing like any other, because it wants and has an organ for every function, of little or no use, but through which everybody must pass, against which all initiatives will have to collide, and before which all original and unorthodox projects will appear suspicious, if not outright subversive.

Is it necessary to do this or that for propaganda? A committee exists for that purpose and will take care of it. Is it urgent to do this or that for solidarity? What does this appropriate committee exist for, if not for that purpose? Is there an initiative for affirmation or action? Isn’t there a committee charged with these tasks and mustn’t you go through it, under the threat of repudiation, blame, or punishment for lack of discipline?

Many who have been with an organization of any kind have had the bitter occasion to watch its indolence and its negligence. They end up doubting whether the organization is set up to defend the workers and support their aspirations, wondering whether it isn’t at the critical moment, an obstacle or impediment, instead. They can tell you if we are exaggerating.

It would not help to object that here we deal with anarchists, selected people, who know what they want, who are able to choose their road, and who have the good legs and strength to climb it. Like the members of all the vanguard parties, anarchists are children of bourgeois society, carrying its stigma, and, understandably, the crowds that join them are not better and expect the maximum result from the least effort. We have been forced into too many compromise arrangements to be willing to seek more. As we accept wages, as we pay for the house we rent, our revolutionary claims and our anarchist aspirations notwithstanding, we recognize and we legitimize in the most concrete and painful way, capital, rent, profit — the tribute that our exploiters impose on our labour and on our despised sweat.

Compromise, renunciation, betrayal! but there is no other way out; the yoke is on our necks and our hands are tied.

But, wherever possible, we must avoid, we must shun, we must reject compromise and renunciation. We must be ourselves, according to the strict character outlined by our faith and our convictions. These certainly would not draw forth a good omen for the libertarian future if we could not proceed on our own, without the proxies and the tutors, which are inseparable from the notion of organization, be it either the political organization of the anarchist party or the organization of the craft and trade unions.