This edition of Rudolf Rocker’s book fundamentally seeks to:
1. End the myth, based on actual events, that Anarchism as a political theory opposes any form of organization;
2. Provide knowledge of the general history of a period in German Anarchism.
We chose this essay because the author’s participation in the German anarchist movement allows him to treat it with a critical view. Furthermore his militancy in the international anarchist forum establishes credibility in his analysis of the organization subject.
As this work was written in the 1920’s, it falls on us to try to modernize his main ideas, which are:
a) In the plan of the international theoretical-practical development, the classical anarchist authors, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin and Piotr Kropotkin, don’t establish any anti-organization theory.
b) In the plan for the development of the German anarchist movement, the lack of anarchist political preparation from certain militant sector annulled the completed comprehension of the specifically anarchist objectives giving way to the words anarchism, anarchist and anarchy, being gradually distanced from their original meaning. Reaching the extreme of being interpreted in the same way as the bourgeoisie interprets them.
c) In the “discovery” by J. Mackay of the writings of Johan Gaspar Schmidt (better known as Max Stirner), the level of inconsistencies that these incentivized in a sector of both the German and international anarchist movement, culminated in the absolute denial of any organizational intentions.
Over the first point there’s a lot to take, but that does not correspond to the objectives to which we proposed ourselves since the organizational alternatives provided by the classical and non-classical writers are numerous.
On the other hand, it’s necessary to raise a critic of Rocker’s analysis of the disorganization of the German anarchist movement. He exposes the reality of the views and actions of certain groups who continually refused to organize themselves in the bosom of the German Anarchist Federation, but fails to indicate, situate and explain when, where and why the aforementioned federation originated. That is, he doesn’t explain which needs it was responding to, if it was effectively an organism or simply a… cadaver. Of the parties involved in the supposed conflict, federation and anti-federation groups, he puts to judgment the attitude of the anti-federation group. But does not tackle, and from here comes our critic, the theoretical and practical positions of the members of the federation.
Summarizing, according to Rocker, the responsibility for anarchism not progressing in the time falls on the hostile attitude of the supposed anti-organization. When in reality, and if we see this objectively, that responsibility should be put on the G.A.F., since it was the Federation who was directly interested in organizing the diverse anarchist groups. As such the responsibility fell solely to the Federation to seek a way to achieve this, and not to the anti-organizers.
On the second point, we think that this problem is much more pronounced now than it was then. Several causes have generated and, in our opinion, the most important ones are:
1. The lack of spreading, at a general level, of the anarchist alternatives and approaches through books, pamphlets, periodicals, magazines, comics, etc.
2. As a consequence, there’s a shutting off of the groups from the outside which brings about stagnation both at a cultural and political level, in turn leading to a lack of imagination, investigation, creation, analysis and opinion. From that the most astonishing monster of ideology resulted, fanaticism. This is antagonic to the anarchist plans. Fanaticism and Anarchism are diametrically opposed poles.
3. The lack of appreciation among the adherents of anarchism of their own work and that of other anarchists, all the while any outside action or declaration, distant from anarchism by its own actions, is profoundly commented and discussed by these same anarchists. It seems as if one searches, maybe unconsciously, (her)himself in that which is outside of him(her). The few anarchist publications with a periodical character, mainly survive due to the constant effort of little, sometimes minuscule, groups of people and not actual support from the anarchist community in general. There’s no doubt that the origin for such attitudes is the defeatist sentiment that’s present. That who considers himself adherent to anarchism ideology and doesn’t intent to do nothing in favor of the alternatives of the ideology, is bringing with this attitude future defeat.
4. The product of the aforementioned is constituted by a lack of consistency in any activity. It starts with an overall enthusiasm and determination without a match, but after a short amount of time these dissipate with surprising speed. The fatigue sets in and the little or big amount of work performed is wasted, not to mention that the time spent during the process was wasted too, which is lamentable. This immaturity, this inconsistency, in what is carried out, has been for the last two decades a common denominator in anarchist circles.
On the third point, the resurgence of Stirnian positions, we think that this phenomenon has returned, with several causes to it. It’s obvious that the work of Marx Stirner The Ego and its Own (Der Einzige und sein Eigentum), is almost a jolt for every young, adolescent almost, reader that searches diligently the ideological spectrum to justify their presence in the world. And for this work to find a group of followers there needs to be an adequate atmosphere, whose bases, in our opinion, are the following elements:
1. Urban centers of such proportion that they form a dam to inter-individual communication;
2. Overcrowding of such inhuman proportions that it minimizes, or destroys, the value of each individual, practically reducing them to nothing;
3. Urban architecture designed so irrationally, that they are a daily threat to individual integrity.
While such environmental characteristics exist, the field will be fertile enough for Stirnian crops to bloom. And if this problem is not resolved, if we don’t resolve it, there will remain plenty of the negative characteristics which it leads to. While the atomization of the individual is the constant, while humongous buildings populate the cities, while avenues are designed for machines, while collective transportation is designed for cattle and not human beings, anti-social/anti-communitarian actions will certainly remain present, expressed with the bitter angst shown throughout Stirner’s work. They will keep signaling through their own irrationality the irrationality of their environment, and that new Frankenstein’s monster, that terrible Horla will curse his own creator and will be present in his creators happiest moment – prophetic Shelleynian warning – the flawed and abhorrent authoritarian way.
Let’s hope that this work is useful, by as little as it may be, to try to overcome the identified flaws, and that with self-critics and objective arguments we can find the breadcrumb path that will enable us to leave this terrible maze in which we apparently find ourselves.