My latest article on this topic drew the attention of many comradesand procured me numerous questions and remarks.
Perhaps I was not clear enough; perhaps I also disturbed themental habits of some, who love to rest on traditional formulas morethan tormenting their brain, and are bothered by anything that forcesthem to think.
In any case I will try to make myself clearer, and I will be happyif those who consider what I say quite heretical will enter thediscussion and contribute to define a practical program of action,which can be used as a guide in the next social upheavals.
So far our propagandists have been mainly concerned withcriticizing the present society and demonstrating the desirabilityand possibility of a new social order based on free agreement, inwhich everyone could find the conditions for the greatest material,spiritual and intellectual development, in brotherhood and solidarityand with the fullest freedom.
They strove above all to inflame with the idea of a condition ofindividual and social perfection, called 'utopia' by some and 'ideal'by us; they did a good and necessary work, because they set the goalto which our efforts must aim, but they (we) were insufficient andalmost indifferent with respect to the search of ways and means thatcan lead us to that goal. We were very much concerned with thenecessity of radically destroying the bad social institutions, but wedid not pay enough attention to the positive actions that we neededto take, or let others take, on the day and the morrow of thedestruction, in order for individual and social life to be able tocontinue in the best possible way. We thought, or we acted as wethought, that things would fix themselves, by natural law, withoutany will consciously intervening to direct the efforts towards thegoal previously set. This is probably the reason of the relativeunsuccess of our work.
It is about time to look upon the problem of social transformationin all its broad complexity, and try to examine more closely thepractical side of the issue. The revolution could happen tomorrow,and we must enable ourselves to act within it in the most effectivepossible way.
Since at this transitory time the triumphant reaction prevents usfrom doing much to broaden our propaganda among the masses, let ususe our time to examine more closely and clarify our ideas about whatis to be done, while we try, by wishes and deeds, to hasten the timeof acting and accomplishing.
I based my remarks upon two principles:
First: Anarchy cannot be made by force. Anarchist communism,applied in its full breadth and with all its beneficial effects, isonly possible when it is understood and wanted by large popularmasses that embrace all the elements necessary to creating a societysuperior to the present one. One can conceive selected groups, whosemembers live in relationships of voluntary and free association amongthem and with similar groups, and it will be good that such groupsexist, and it will be our task to create them as experiments andexamples; however, such groups will not constitute the anarchistcommunist society, yet, rather they will be cases of devotion andsacrifice for the cause, until they succeed in involving all or largepart of the population. Therefore, on the morrow of the violentrevolution, if it has to come to a violent revolution, it will not bea matter of accomplishing anarchist communism, but one of setting offtowards anarchist communism.
Second: the conversion of the masses to anarchy and communism -and even to the mildest form of socialism - is not possible as longas the present social and economic conditions last. Since suchconditions, which keep workers slave for the benefit of thoseprivileged, are preserved and perpetuated by brutal force, it isnecessary to change them violently through the revolutionary actionof conscious minorities. Hence, if the principle is granted thatanarchy cannot be made by force, without the conscious will of themasses, the revolution cannot be made to accomplish anarchy directlyand immediately, but rather to create the conditions that make arapid evolution towards anarchy possible.
The following sentence is often repeated: "The revolution will beanarchist or will not be at all". This claim may look very"revolutionary", very "anarchist"; however, it is actually nonsense,when it is not a means, worse than reformism itself, to paralyze goodwill and induce people to keep quiet, to peacefully put up with thepresent, waiting for the forthcoming heaven.
Evidently, either "the anarchist revolution" will be anarchist orit will not be at all. However, did not revolutions happen in theworld, when the possibility of an anarchist society was yet to beconceived? Won't any revolution ever happen again until the massesare converted to anarchism? As we fail to convert to anarchism themasses brutalized by their life conditions, should we give up anyrevolution and submit to living in a monarchical and bourgeoisregime?
The truth is that the revolution will be what it may be, and ourtask is to speed it up as much as possible and strive to make it asradical as possible.
However, let us be quite clear.
The revolution will not be anarchist if the masses are notanarchist, as unfortunately it is presently the case. However, we areanarchists, we must remain anarchists and act like anarchists before,during and after the revolution.
Without the anarchists, without the anarchists' activity, if theanarchists accepted any kind of government whatsoever and any socalled transition constitution, the next revolution would bear newforms of oppression and exploitation even worse than the present,instead of marking a progress of freedom and justice and the start ofa complete liberation of mankind. At best, it would only bring abouta shallow improvement, largely delusive and by no means adequate tothe effort, the sacrifices, the pain of a revolution, such asexpected in a more or less near future.
After contributing to overthrow the present regime, our task is toprevent, or try to prevent a new government form arising; failing todo that, at least we must struggle to prevent the new government frombeing exclusive and concentrating all social power in its hands; itmust remain weak and unsteady, it must not be able to have enoughmilitary and financial strength, and it must be acknowledged andobeyed as little as possible. In any case, we anarchist should nevertake part in it, never acknowledge it, and always fight against it aswe fight against the present government.
We must stay with the masses, encourage them to act directly, totake possession of the production means and organize the work and theproduct distribution, to occupy housing, to perform public serviceswithout waiting for resolutions or commands from higher-rankingauthorities. We must contribute to such work with all our forces, andto that end we must immediately start to engage in acquiring as manyskills as possible.
However, as we must uncompromisingly oppose all restraining andrepressing bodies and everything that tends to forcibly hinder thewill of the people and the freedom of minorities, so we must takecare not to destroy those things and disorganize those usefulservices that we cannot replace in a better way.
We must remember that violence, unfortunately necessary to resistviolence, is no use to build anything good: it is the natural enemyof freedom, the procreator of tyranny, therefore it must be keptwithin the limits of strict necessity.
Revolution is useful, necessary to tear down the violence ofgovernments and privileged people; however, the establishment of asociety of free people can only result from a free evolution.
It is the task of the anarchists to watch over the freedom ofevolution, which is always at risk as long as men are thirsty fordomination and privileges.
A question of great, vital importance, nay, the question that muststand out on the revolutionaries' minds, is food.
There was a time when the prejudice spread out that industrial andfarm products were so abundant that it would be possible to live onstockpiles for long, postponing the organization of production to alater time, after the accomplishment of the social transformation. Itmade an inviting propaganda item to be able to say: "People are outof everything, while everything abounds and the warehouses overflowwith every good; people die of starvation and wheat rots in thegranaries". Things were made so much simpler. An expropriation wasenough to secure the well-being of everyone: there would be plenty oftime to deal with all the rest.
Unfortunately, quite the opposite is true.
Everything is running out, and a bad harvest, or some majordisaster, is enough to cause a complete shortage and theimpossibility to provide to everyone's needs, even within the limitsimposed by capitalism to the popular masses.
It is true that the production capacity has become almostunlimited, thanks to the means nowadays provided by mechanics,chemistry, scientific work organization, etc.
However, it's one thing to be able to produce and another to haveproduced. Owners and capitalists do not sufficiently exploit themeans of production they own, and prevent other from exploiting them,partly for incompetence and indifference, and largely because of asystem that often makes profits decrease with abundance and increasewith shortage.
Because of the disorder inherent in the individualistic economy,there are unbalances between one place and the other, overproductioncrises, etc., but all in all the general production is always on theverge of famine.
As a consequence, we must bear in mind that on the morrow of therevolution we shall be faced with the danger of hunger. This is not areason for delaying the revolution, because the state of productionwill, with minor variations, remain the same, so long as thecapitalist system lasts.
But it is a reason for us to pay attention to the problem and ofhow in a revolutionary situation, to avoid all waste, to preach theneed for reducing consumption to a minimum, and to take immediatesteps to increase production, especially of food.
This is a topic about which some essays already exist, but whichneeds to be investigated more thoroughly, mainly focusing on thetechnical means to bring the quantity of food to the level of needs.(1)
(1) I will soon come back to the issue of money.
(UmanitÃ Nova, n. 192, October 14, 1922)