Reply to an article by "Outcast"
"What is to be done?" is the question that, more or less intensely,always troubles the minds of all men struggling for an ideal, andurgently comes back in moments of crisis, when a failure, adisillusionment induces one to re-examine the tactics adopted, tocriticize possible errors and to seek more effective means. ComradeOutcast is right to bring up the question again and invite thecomrades to think and decide about what to do.
Today our situation is difficult, and even dreadful in some areas.However, he who was anarchist before, remains anarchist after all;although we have been weakened by many defeats, we have also gained avaluable experience, which will increase our effectiveness, if onlywe are able to treasure it. The defections occurred on our side,which were actually rare, help us after all, because they rid us ofweak and unreliable persons.
So, what is to be done?
I am not going to dwell upon the unrest occurred abroad againstthe Italian reaction. Certainly we can only expect benefits fromanything that helps the proletariat of the world to know about thetrue conditions of Italy and the incredible infamies that have beencommitted and keep being committed by the bourgeoisie cops in orderto stifle and destroy any emancipatory movement. We just read aboutan international rally of protest against fascism, that took place inNew York on the 18th of the current month - and we are sure that ourfriends and those who have a sense of freedom and justice will dowhatever they can in America, England, France, Spain, etc.
However, we are mainly interested in what is to be done here inItaly, because this is what is to be done by us. Although it is goodto take into account all the auxiliary forces, it is very importantnot to rely too much on others, and seek our well being in ourselvesand our own work.
In recent years we have approached the different avantgard partieswith a view to joint action, and we have always been disappointed.Must we for this reason isolate ourselves, or take refuge from impurecontacts and stand still trying to move only when we have thenecessary strength and in the name of our complete programme?
I think not.
Since we cannot make the revolution by ourselves, i.e. our forcesalone are not sufficient to attract and mobilize the large massesnecessary to win, and since, no matter how long one waits, the massescannot become anarchist before the revolution has started, and wewill necessarily remain a relatively small minority until we can tryout our ideas in the revolutionary practice, by denying ourcooperation to others and by postponing the action until we arestrong enough to act by ourselves, we would practically end upencouraging sluggishness, despite the high-sounding words and theradical intentions, and refusing to get started, with the excuse ofjumping to the end with one big leap.
I know very well - if I had not known for a long time I would havelearnt recently - that we anarchists are alone in wishing therevolution for good and as soon as possible, except some individualsand groups that champ the bit of the authoritarian parties'discipline, but remain in those parties in the hope that theirleaders will resolve someday upon ordering a general action. However,I also know that the circumstances are often stronger than theindividuals' will, and one day or another our cousins from alldifferent sides will have to resolve upon venturing the finalstruggle, if they do not want to ignominiously die as parties andmake a present to the monarchy of all their ideas, their traditions,their best sentiments. Today they could be induced to that by thenecessity of defending their freedom, their goods, their life.
Therefore we should always be prepared to support those who areprepared to act, even if it carries with it the risk of later findingourselves alone and betrayed.
But in giving others our support, that is, in always trying to usethe forces at the disposal of others, and taking advantage of everyopportunity for action, we must always be ourselves and seek to be ina position to make our influence felt and count at least in directproportion to our strength.
To this end it is necessary that we should be agreed amongourselves and seek to co-ordinate and organize our efforts aseffectively as possible.
Let others keep misunderstanding and slandering our goals, forreasons we do not want to qualify. All comrades that seriously wantto take action will judge what is better for them to do.
At this time, as at any time of depression and stagnation, we areafflicted by a recrudescence of hair-splitting tendencies; somepeople enjoy discussing whether we are a party or a movement, whetherwe have to associate into unions or federations, and hundreds ofother similar trifles; perhaps we will hear again that "groups canhave neither a secretary nor a cashier, but they have to entrust onecomrade to deal with the group's correspondence and another to keepthe money". Hair-splitters are capable of anything; but let practicalmen see to taking action, and let hair-splitters in good faith, andthose in bad faith above all, stew in their own juice.
Let anyone do whatever they like, associate with whoever theylike, but let them act.
No person of good faith and common sense can deny that actingeffectively requires agreeing, uniting, organizing.
Today the reaction tends to stifle any public movement, andobviously the movement tends to "go underground", as the Russian usedto say.
We are reverting to the necessity of a secret organization, whichis fine.
However, a secret organization cannot be all and cannot includeall.
We need to preserve and increase our contact with the masses, weneed to look for new followers by propagandizing as much as possible,we need to keep in the movement all the individuals unfit for asecret organizations and those who would jeopardize it by being toowell-known. One must not forget that the persons most useful to asecret organization are those whose beliefs are unknown to theadversaries, and who can work without being suspected.
Therefore, in my opinion, nothing that exists should be undone.Rather, it is a matter of adding something more; something with suchcharacteristics as to respond to the current needs.
Let nobody wait for someone else's initiative; let anyone take theinitiatives they deem appropriate in their place, in theirenvironment, and then try, with due precautions, to connect their ownto others' initiatives, to reach the general agreement that isnecessary to a valid action.
We are in a time of depression, it is true. However, history is moving fast nowadays: let us get ready for the events to come.
(UmanitÃ Nova, n. 185, August 26, 1922)