The State: Our Enemy

Renée Lamberet
Renée Lamberet

An article from 1954 by Renée Lamberet which featured in volume 9 #02 of Direct Action, the newspaper of the Syndicalist Workers Federation. At the time Lamberet was Secretary of the International Working Men's Association (IWMA). The IWMA still exists but is now known as the International Workers' Association (IWA).

Submitted by Mair Waring on November 11, 2023

No compromise with forces of repression and war is IWMA’s call to workers.

Since the First of May, 1886, 68 years have brought changes in the type of struggle the working class must carry out for the emancipation of humanity. In the 19th century, oppression was a direct and brutal tyranny of the employing class, supported by the State, which protected its interests. In 1954, most of the world’s workers no longer know their own “boss”; yet their conditions have not improved. Statistics are not available on this question, but the "Boss" State controls an ever-increasing number of workers, absorbed by State-controlled or nationalised concerns. This evolution should logically, prompt workers to consider the State in this new form, but skilfully-conducted propaganda tends to make them ignore it.

The evolution of relations between capital and labour fully confirms the position of those who drew up our doctrine and our tactics of struggle. The Chicago Martyrs, for example, who were executed proclaiming their undying opposition both to the employing class and the State, their Anarchist belief, not wishing - as did the Marxists - to dissociate the State and capitalism, and to strengthen the State in the false hope of seizing control of it to overthrow capitalism.

Effective domination

Long and conclusive experience has proved them right: all support or collaboration, in whatever form, direct or indirect, with the State only results in strengthening it, and leads eventually to an even worse subjection of the world of labour.

The modern barons of industry and commerce, thanks to the power of finance and to the new means which application of scientific discoveries has made possible, have made of the State a technical apparatus, which strives to give to groups of countries, and through pacts, unified control.

Through a strict system of collective regulation, the State, whether it fights against capitalism to substitute itself, or whether it supports the capitalist system, leads to the subjection of the workers. The absorption of the private sector by the State results in an even more effective domination than that of private capitalism, one of a totalitarian nature; it is the coronation of State Socialism.

Rejuvenated State

State or reformist socialism changed the road of the workers which, up to the end of the 19th century, had been a struggle of conscious minorities to obtain greater freedom and well-being for the people. By launching out on the conquest of the political power of the State, by municipal or parliamentary collaboration, or yet again by secret intercourse with the proletariat's classic enemy, finance, the political parties have brought the majority of the workers to the most facile solutions, to labour or political internationals under Marxist leadership.

Together, they have this way rejuvenated the State: nationalism, once weakened by the action of the International Working Men's Association, our First International, today recruits blind and fanatical supporters among workers decoyed by a false internationalism; in the name of economic salvation of the State, communists and socialists are not afraid to enslave other peoples. This policy can be carried out only with the aid of armed force, to a point where budgets for the army, air force, navy and police absorb, through taxation on wages, half the energy expended by manual and intellectual workers.

Absorption by the State goes even further. When machine production became established, a century or so ago, in the more highly developed countries, socialists foresaw a new world, in which injustice and social inequality would be banished. These struggles of conscious minorities brought together scientists and workers; divided by their origins, they were united in the search for universal well-being. But at the dawn of our own machiavellian century, politicians destroyed this growing unity. If science once represented a hope for conquering obstacles opposed to human emancipation, it is now - to the misery of the oppressed - devoted to channels which lead to the destruction of life.

Towards destruction

How can it be that scientists involved in thermo-nuclear research have directed all their efforts towards total destruction? How is it that men of science, and certain physicists in particular, have abandoned the traditions of pure research to apply themselves to discoveries with a sole purpose: destruction, thus making themselves accomplices in methods of enslavement?

Their position doubtless arises from their ideological and economic integration with a State system: they arrive at total consecration to National Defence, even at the price of total destruction of people and freedom.

It is high time to realise, where this exaltation of the State leads. Times have changed? Yes, but only insofar as forms which were present 50 years ago have now been pushed to their extremes. In this world, which is clouded by the concept of the "Messiah State" and the enslavement of thought to safeguard it, the road to salvation is one of not separating economic struggles from the development and strengthening of human consciousness - ideas posed by the International Working Men's Association in its First Manifesto:-

Our conduct

"The Congress of the International Working Men's Association declares that this association, with the societies and individuals which belong to it, recognises as the basis of its conduct towards all men truth, justice and morality, without distinction of colour, belief or nationality."

The I.W.M.A., is spiritual heir, is the only hope of the world of labour. Is not the proof that our aims and principles are so directly bound up with our methods of struggle? No compromise with capitalism or the State: compromises always end by bringing results directly opposed to those which are sought.

Not with H-bomb

No compromise, either, by taking part in wars - a compromise almost everywhere put forward as the lesser evil. After all, what can we have in common with that terrible weapon of destruction, the atomic bomb?

We want to destroy the capitalist and statist structure of the world, and the H-bomb would be of no service to us whatever. We are interested solely in discoveries which can raise the well-being and culture of the people.

We can go forward, without contradicting ourselves and without despair, despite the slowness of our away and the retreats inflicted on us by a coalition of repressive forces; conscious minorities must end by making the right prevail.

After so much experience and the confirmation that is daily given to us through the setbacks of all other systems, the International Working Men's Association reaffirms on this First of May its aims, its principle and its tactics: Against all collaboration with the employers or the State, against all war and all forms of nationalism, against all oppression and colonialism, through direct action and universal solidarity of those who fight for emancipation.

For the Secretariat of the International Working Men's Association, R. Lamberet, Secretary.

Comments

Mair Waring

3 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by Mair Waring on November 11, 2023

Out of curiosity does anybody know when the International Working Men's Association changed its name to the International Workers' Association? I was pleasantly surprised to find out the Secretary was a woman in 1954 - I wonder if she was the first female Secretary of the IWA?

westartfromhere

3 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on November 13, 2023

International Workingmen's Association, the First International,... active 1864–1876
International Workers' Association – Asociación Internacional de los Trabajadores (IWA–AIT), an international federation of... trade unions, founded in 1922

There is no connection between these two associations.

Submitted by R Totale on November 13, 2023

westartfromhere wrote:

International Workingmen's Association, the First International,... active 1864–1876
International Workers' Association – Asociación Internacional de los Trabajadores (IWA–AIT), an international federation of... trade unions, founded in 1922

There is no connection between these two associations.

The 1922 IWA was called the International Workingmen's Association at the time of its founding. Although I suppose this is at least partly a language issue, outside of English it would've been an association of Arbeiter, Trabajadores or Travailleurs - not sure which of these have gender-neutral forms, or would've had gender-neutral terms in use at the time?

Mair Waring

3 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by Mair Waring on November 13, 2023

That is a good point Totale. Perhaps it was in part because the IWMA didn't have much of a presence in first language English countries until after WW2.

adri

3 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by adri on November 13, 2023

The 1922 IWA was called the International Workingmen's Association at the time of its founding. Although I suppose this is at least partly a language issue, outside of English it would've been an association of Arbeiter, Trabajadores or Travailleurs - not sure which of these have gender-neutral forms, or would've had gender-neutral terms in use at the time?

The German name for both organizations is die Internationale Arbeiterassoziation (IAA). Arbeiter is the masculine singular and plural noun for a male worker, so it's basically the same as "workingman/men." Arbeiterin would be the feminine form, with Arbeiterinnen being the feminine plural. However, you can just throw on an *in (or *innen for plural) to make it inclusive, which is what the anarcho-syndicalist IWA does, i.e. die Internationale Arbeiter*innen-Assoziation.

westartfromhere

3 months 1 week ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on November 15, 2023

Of the original International Working Men’s Association, I wonder whether the founders had in mind the German/Yiddish Mensch when the title was conceived.

Reddebrek

3 months 1 week ago

Submitted by Reddebrek on November 15, 2023

"Of the original International Working Men’s Association, I wonder whether the founders had in mind the German/Yiddish Mensch when the title was conceived."

The founders were a coalition of English and French trade unionists who founded it in London so I doubt it. I think it had more to do with a combination of sexism and that industrial work was dominated heavily by men with it being illegal for women to be employed in many professions in many countries.