Part 3: The Revolution of Liberty

Submitted by Juan Conatz on December 22, 2010

Economy and Liberty

Submitted by Juan Conatz on December 22, 2010

ANARCHISM, meaning Liberty, is compatible with the most diverse economic conditions, on the premise that these cannot imply, as under capitalist monopoly, the negation of liberty. Anarchism is an attitude of the spirit towards life and in any and all economic situations not monopolistic, man can be master of himself and should exercise the control of his own will) rejecting imposition from without.

The negation of the principle of authority of man over man is not bound up with the realisation of a predetermined economic level. It is opposed to Marxism, which desires to attain a system, as a corollary of capitalist evolution.

To be an anarchist, one has to attain a certain level of culture, consciousness of power and capacity for selfgovernment. Idiots cannot become anarchists; they must be cared for by society, along with the weak and the incapacitated.

We are cognisant of the fact that the grade of economic development and material conditions of life influence powerfully human psychology. Faced with starvation, the individual becomes an egoist; with abundance he may become generous, friendly and socially disposed. All periods of privation and penury produce brutality, moral regression and a fierce struggle of all against all, for daily bread. Consequently, it is plain that economics influences seriously the spiritual life of the individual and his social relations. That is precisely why we are aiming to establish the best possible economic conditions, which will act as a guarantee of equal and solid relationships among men. We will not stop being anarchists, on an empty stomach, but we do not exactly like to have empty stomachs.

We wish an economic regime in which abundance, wellbeing and enjoyment will be available to all. This aspiration does not distinguish us as revolutionaries. The ideal of wellbeing is shared by all social movements. What distinguishes us is our condition as anarchists, which we place even before wellbeing. At least as individuals, we prefer freedom with hunger to satiation alongside of slavery and subjection.

If we are in favour of communism, it is not because this system is identical with anarchism. Communism can be realised in a multiformity of economic arrangements, individual and collective. Proudhon advocated mutualism; Bakunin, collectivism; Kropotkin, communism. Malatesta has conceived the possibility of mixed agreements, especially during the first period. Tarrida del Marmol y Mella advocated pure anarchism without any economic qualifications, which supposes the freedom of experimenting or establishing on trial, that which every period and locality judges most convenient.

What we can say is that we must aim for an economic system of equal rights and justice, in which abundance will be possible. That is, the proper satisfaction of material needs, which alone will create a favourable social disposition and thus constitute a solid guarantee of liberty and solidarity. Man pitted against man is a wolf and he can never become a real brother to man, unless he has material security.

If anarchism for the anarchists can exist with abundance as well as with misery, communism must have as its basis, abundance. In communism there is a certain generosity, and this generosity in a time of want is replaced little by little by egoism, distrust, competition; in a word, the struggle for bread. We repeat, therefore: abundance is indispensable to assure a progressive collective life.

We face, therefore, economic reorganisation of the future, free from any preconceived notions, fixed system or dogma. Communism will be the natural result of abundance, without which it will remain only an ideal. In each locality the degree of communism, collectivism or mutualism will depend on the conditions prevailing. Why dictate rules? We who make freedom our banner, cannot deny it in economy. Therefore there must be free experimentation, free show of initiative and suggestions, as well as the freedom of organization.

To make possible this freedom, we must insist on the prerequisite of abundance which we can attain by the thorough use of industrial technique, modern agriculture and scientific development. But modern industry as well as modern agriculture has its own limits and possesses its own rhythm. The human rhythm does not make its mark on the machine; it is the rhythm of the machine which determines human progress.

With the Revolution, private property is suppressed; but the factory must go on and follow the same methods and development of production. What changes, is the distribution of the product; which, instead of obeying the laws of interest and profit, must satisfy the general needs on an equitable basis. The factory is not an isolated organism, nor can it function independently. It is part of a complicated network, spreading throughout the locality, region and nation, and beyond all frontiers.

The writer knew economic localism in his own native town, a little hidden valley out of all contact with civilisation, only thirty years ago. The wool was spun from sheep, shoes were made from wood, the wheat was cultivated and made into bread; the herbs of the surrounding hills made the import of medicines from the outside unnecessary. We knew that somewhere beyond our valley there was some kind of superior power, which sent out tax collectors and police forces. This little town, thirty or forty years ago, lived autonomously. But today everything is changed, fortunately. The townsfolk wear clothes woven in Barcelona or Lancashire, made from Argentine or Australian wool, or from Indian or American cotton. They have radios manufactured in England or France, they drink coffee from Brazil. Would it be desirable to return to economic localism? No one would consent to it voluntarily; everyone wishes to enjoy all the good that intelligence and labor have produced. It is plain: a thousand ties unite the most insignificant locality with national and world economy.

We are not interested how the workers, employees and technicians of a factory will organise themselves. That is their affair. But what is fundamental is that from the first moment of Revolution there exist a proper cohesion of all the productive and distributive forces. This means that the producers of every locality must come to an understanding with all other localities of the province and country, which must have an international direct entente between the producers of the world. This cohesion is imperious and indispensable for the very function of all the factors of production. The interdependence of the factory and the electrical plant; the foundries in Bilbao and the production of the mines; the railroads, agriculture, building and a thousand and one trades and activities, all make for an inevitable highest maximum coordination of production and distribution.

We believe there is a little confusion in some libertarian circles between social conviviality, group affinities and the economic function. Visions of happy Arcadias or free communes were imagined by the poets: of the past; for the future, conditions appear quite different. In the factory we do not seek the affinity of friendship but the affinity of work. It is not an affinity; of character, except on the basis of professional capacity and quality of work, which is the basis of conviviality in the factory. The "free commune" is the logical product of the concept of group affinity, but there are n o such free communes in economy, because that would presuppose independence, and there are no independent communes.One thing is the free commune from the political or social standpoint and quite another, from an economic point of view. In the latter, our ideal is the federated commune, integrated in the economic total network of the country or countries in revolution.

Economic communism is also a relic of old juristic concepts of communal property and we who advocate the suppression of all private property do not wish that, in the place of the old individual owner, should appear a new proprietor with many heads. Our work on the land and in the factory does not make of us individual or collective proprietors of the land or of the factory; but it makes of us contributors to the general welfare. Everything belongs to everybody and the product of all labor must be distributed as equitably as the human efforts themselves.

We cannot realise our economic revolution in a local sense; for economy on a localist basis, can only cause collective privation and scarcity of goods. Economy is today, a vast organism and all isolation must prove detrimental. Only with the suppression of specialised labor can we imagine the free commune as an economic ideal. This, needless to add, is quite impossible. We must work with a social criterion, considering the interests of the whole country and if possible, of the whole world.

The Libertarian Revolution

Submitted by Juan Conatz on December 22, 2010

WE have said that anarchism is the expression of our will for a free life. We have affirmed that anarchism can exist in penury or in abundance, under one or another form of economy. We will now dwell on another phase of libertarian thought.

Our chief distinction as individuals and as a movement is represented in our position on the principle of authority, in our perennial affirmation of respect for the liberty of all and of each. Apart from the method, we can coincide in economic solutions with other social forces. In the political solution, we substitute for the principle of authority and its maximum incarnation, the State and its oppressive institutions, the free accord of social groups. In this position, we anarchists are more isolated, and even in a victorious revolution we would still be set off by ourselves. We believe that a great number of people are not with us through ignorance; but the majority have been influenced negatively by their systematic education. Besides, they do not understand our aspirations, not having the same sensitiveness, nor a sufficient development of the sense of liberty, in, dependence and justice.

The revolution may awake in many men the forces of liberation, held in lethargy by daily routine and by a hostile environment. But it cannot by art or magic convert the anarchist minority into an absolute social majority. And even if tomorrow we were to become a majority, there would still remain a dissident minority which would suspect and oppose our innovations, fearing our experimental audacity.

However, if today we do not renounce violence in order to fight enslaving forces, in the new economic and social order of things we can follow only the line of persuasion and practical experience. We can oppose with force those who try to subjugate us in behalf of their interests or concepts, but we cannot resort to force against those who do not share our points of view, and who do not desire to live as we attempt to. Here, our respect for liberty must encompass the liberty of our adversaries to live their own life, always on the condition that they are not aggressive and do not deny the freedom of others.

If, in the social revolution, in spite of all the obstacles, we were to become a majority, the practical work of economic reconstruction would be enormously facilitated, because we could immediately count on the good will and support of the great masses. But even so, we would have to respect the experiments of different minorities, and reach an understanding with them in the exchange of products and services. Surely, as an historical minority, we anarchists have the right of revindicating this same liberty of experimentation and to defend it with all our might against any individual party or class which would attempt to crush it. Any totalitarian solution is of fascist tailoring, even though it may be defended in the | name of the proletariat and the revolution. The new mode of life is a social hypothesis, which only practical experience should evaluate.

We are convinced that right and justice are on our side, although at the same time we recognise the rights of other social tendencies, methods and aspirations. We believe that the truth is nearer our concepts but we do not consider ourselves infallible, nor do we deny the sincerity and good faith of other doctrines. Which is to be the method to prove these or other social hypotheses: our own or some other revolutionary program?

In the Middle Ages, one inclined to the judgment of God. Later men would resolve their dispute by a duel. The one who crushed the head of the other would be the victor of justice and truth. Do we wish in our day, in place of the judgment of God, to accept force as the sole means of resolving the truth between different revolutionary tendencies? We reflect back to anarchism in Russia: has its practical extermination by the new dictatorship proved that it had no right to exist? If we condemn this procedure in demonstrating the superiority of a given revolutionary party, we do not do so because it was practiced in Russia, but we would have to condemn it even were it attempted in Spain by ourselves. We want, first of all, to recognise the right of free experimentation for all social tendencies in our revolution; for this reason, it will not be a new tyranny, but the entrance into a reign of freedom and well being, in which all forces can show themselves, all initiative be tried out and all progress be put in practice.

Violence is justified in the destruction of the old world of violence, but it is counterrevolutionary and antisocial when it is employed as a reconstructive method.

In Asturias, during the October revolution, two well-defined tendencies came into relief -- in some localities a socialist republic was proclaimed and in others, libertarian communism. If the revolution had had a different outcome, what would have been the consequence? Unfortunately the respect for free experimentation would have had to depend on the force our tendency had at its disposal, in defence against contrary pretensions of a totalitarian regime. The anarchists would have had no objection to the innovation in Oviedo of the methods of labor and distribution proposed by the Socialists, while in Gijon and La Felguera, libertarian communism was put into practice. Perhaps the Socialist and Communist tendencies not being identical, on the day following the triumph over the bourgeoisie and the State, a Civil War might have broken out, to determine whether the future would be social, democratic, bolshevist or libertarian, a war between brothers, which would have annihilated the spirit and the promises of the revolution.

We do not know if our friends in Asturias would have been able to defend their right of existence against a socialist or communist totalitarianism. Perhaps there, they would have found themselves in minority. But in the rest of Spain, in the event of a revolution, we would have been an indisputable majority, as manifested in Aragon, Rioja and Navarre, in Andalusia, in Catalonia and in Levante. Imagine the disaster and the death of the revolution, were we to affirm the same totalitarian criterion maintained by socialists and bolshevists.

In the political aspect, naturally, we must renounce; the hegemony of a committee, of a party, of a given tendency; that is, we must renounce the State as an institution which demands obedience from all with or without their consent. Without this renunciation of a State dictating the law for all, there can be no true revolution or social wellbeing, because the maintenance of the State is the maintenance of the largest source of exploitation of human labor.

This does not imply that the economic order would exclude solidarity, mutual aid and agreement. On the contrary, where economic localism is impossible, libertarian communist Gijon needs socialist Oviedo. Just as in the question of economic organization, what is most important is reciprocal good will between the parties to a pact. Assuming this good will, agreement must follow, notwithstanding political and social divergences, which might separate the interested parties. In this way, it is possible to organise a magnificent network of relations and exchanges, on an entire national scale, without the precondition of a sole regime regulating life and production on a monopolistic basis.

For over half a century, Marxism has produced division in the ranks of the workers by its dogmatic embrace of the totalitarian state concept. We aim for the unity of the workers; for, without unity, they will continue to serve as cannon fodder, or as beasts of burden, for the benefit of the privileged class in power. But we want this unity to emerge from the common interests of all and to guarantee the freedom of the individual within the collective organism. There is a common basis of accord, and it is the sincere recognition of differences of character, temperament and education, and the solemn promise of mutual understanding, through mutual respect, in our common aspiration: the suppression of capitalism and the totalitarian state, towards the triumph of the Revolution.

Spain and the Revolution

Submitted by Juan Conatz on December 22, 2010

WE are living in a crisis, in a universal decomposition of values, institutions and systems. Unfortunately, the people have not been prepared for so great a demoralisation, either psychologically or materially. That is why, surrounded with misery, they have not been able to throw off the old fetishes. And so, they fall from one idolatry to another, from one serfdom to another; instead of gathering in their forces and gaining confidence in themselves and in their capacity for a better life.

It is deplorable to look at the spectacle of whole nations bending down on their knees in subjection imploring for a chief, a leader, or remaining subordinated to those, who promise to strengthen the chains of slavery. Germany is satisfied with her Fuhrer, Italy has faith in the Duce, Russia confides in Stalin. The opinion of minorities, in opposition, does not count. We believe that it isn't all the result of violence, oppression and savagery; to our mind, this situation is explained by voluntary servitude. The people have no confidence in themselves through no fault of their own but due to the centuries of perverted education. The seeds of mental slavery yield their fruit, and only the anarchists, against all currents, have been able to maintain their incorruptible faith in themselves.

Never in the history of the world has there been a more favourable situation for a change of regime. The old institutions, the old moral, political, social and economic interpretations are in plain disruption. All that is needed is the final impetus, to throw all the decrepitude over the precipice, so that the people may at last assume the responsibility for their own destiny. But the years pass on, the privileged classes grope in the dark for solutions, applying panaceas; and although they go from failure to failure, the game goes on, at the expense of those who labor and suffer. And the most notable thing is, instead of fortifying the revolutionary battlefront, the world panorama offers us a contrary picture: we see the reactionary front fortified towards the restoration of the old powers, intensified.

Insecurity and discontent are general. The bourgeoisie and the magnates of industry, commerce and agriculture are also very unhappy. They vegetate in the high spheres under a continuous strain of shocks. The crash of 1929 in New York threw thousands and thousands from lordly comfort to the depths of despair. It seemed at first a temporary crisis, which needed only some readjustments; but the years passed on and we see that it is not a crisis but a definite bankruptcy of the entire system of capitalism. A new economy is necessary. Everybody agrees to this and still solutions are being sought on the basis of privilege and the exclusion of the productive masses from the direction of their work and destiny.

The totalitarian state appears as a solution. The direction of economy, having failed under private capitalism, will in the future rest upon the power of the state. This is all the intelligence of the bourgeoisie, seconded by the Marxist tendency, has known how to propose. It is said a totalitarian state will eliminate the contradictions of rival capitalist groups, suppress the friction of the struggle of classes and convert the economic apparatus of an entire country into a single power, responding to a single will.

Undoubtedly an economic coordination is necessary, but when attained by the State, the remedy is worse than: the illness, because it is achieved at the cost of exterminating all the values, initiatives, etc., which have no origin in the State.

Moreover, the totalitarian state represents authority raised to the maximum degree. It must fortify its institutions, maintain an army, police force and bureaucracy, which increases enormously the burden of taxation. This sole fact is the best argument to ordain its failure. The modern state is insupportable not only because of its tyranny but because it is excessively expensive and because its essential functions are obstacles to social development. The totalitarian state increases parasitism in great magnitude, as is evidenced in the countries, where it has been put into practice. Under these conditions, the crisis of a system is not remedied. On the contrary, the economic disruption is made worse. The suppression of the cry of pain and protest does not imply the suppression of the pain itself, nor of the right of protest. As a logical complement of the totalitarian state appears the doctrine of nationalism, of racism, of anything which suppresses the personality before a more powerful divinity. And nationalism is war. And war is the cause of new calamities, the harbinger of new degradations of feelings and of human thought.

The modern state, having failed in its liberal dressings and in its democratic aspects, has left only the alternative of a totalitarian state, with omnipotent power in economy, and no restraint or moral scruple of any kind, when defending its existence.

We have to choose once for all. On the one side we have the state, that is, capitalism, which means war, which means unemployment and the crushing of producers by heavy taxation, and the persecution of free thought. On the other side, we have the socialization of economy, the direct understanding between producers, to regulate production and distribution according to necessities, without economic, political or social parasitism. We wish to point out again to those who still have illusions as to a proletarian government, that the capitalism of the state does not suppress capitalism, but conduces to a temporary revival of capitalism; that the government of the proletariat is like any other government, only worse, because it ties the workers spiritually to its institutions, in the hope of impossible solutions.

There is another way, our way, that of socialization and the entente of all the producers as such, and all the consumers, on the basis of their possession of the product of their labor. Religious, political and social ideas need not enter into this accord. What does it matter if people believe in God or the devil, if they are religious or atheists, Catholics or Protestants, conservatives or Socialists? We are interested simply in realising the ideal of all who work, which ideal is the possession of the integral product of labor, possible only in a socialised economy. The workers' organisations have already in Spain the framework of an immediate economic coordination, through the network of syndical and cooperative organisations. Neither capitalism nor the state has an economic basis of action, as complete as our workers' organisations. For them, it would be relatively easy even now to take over the production and distribution on the basis of the principle of the satisfaction of necessities. This would benefit even the parasites who by birth, education or inherent conditions, find themselves on the margin of productive activity, performing a function, which is perhaps secretly repugnant to them, of being simply watchdogs of the wealth of the privileged classes.

The revolution of 1917 in Russia awakened millions and millions of slaves to the consciousness of a new life. The fall of the Czar and the intervention of the proletariat in the direction of their destinies was greeted with an indescribable joy. Russia became the symbol for all the revolutionary proletarian forces. We were not the last but among the first to be on the side of Russia when it was the great hope of the oppressed.

Politics of the state have killed the socialist spirit and in a few years that great country left off being a symbol of liberty to become the ideal of bureaucrats. Today it is an imperialistic power among other powers, preparing for war just like all the other nations and having as little to do with socialism and the ideals of the proletariat, as any other state. This development might astonish and surprise many, but not the anarchists, who have pointed out the danger by their constant criticism.

Once more history confirms the certitude of our predictions. The politics of State and Socialism harmonise as little as water with fire. If one triumphs, the other must succumb, and vice versa. Socialism can be created only in the measure that the State is destroyed and popular institutions are erected to take over a direct control of production and distribution. With a disappearance of the symbol of the Orient (the myth of Russia as Berkman defined it), there has risen for the revolting slaves of the world a new symbol, the symbol of Spain. Today, Spain represents the last standard bearer of the spirit of liberty, the last hope of resurrection in this dark age.

We are not patriots, we do not glorify nationalism, our Fatherland doesn't exist where there is in place of justice only misery and slavery. In the concert of capitalist nations, our country can only represent an insignificant link, a semicolony in which only a minority of privileged rich can enjoy and bless life at the expense of the sweat and the privations of the great mass of Spanish workers and peasants. In the capitalist regime, Spain can represent only an extremely subordinate role on account of her industrial backwardness and the ignorance of her laborious masses. If the Spanish panorama is to be modified under the capitalist regime, it will be the work and initiative of foreign capital, due to the lower mentality and insignificant spirit of enterprise of native capitalists, which would imply forcibly the further dependency of the country.

But if the Spanish people should break their chains and proceed to build up a new order based on work and solidarity, then Spain would rise from the lowest rungs of the scale of modern nations to the supreme head of progressive humanity and serve as an example and stimulus, as the great living symbol of the future for the entire world.

We have seen in other countries how progressive movements have fallen under the crushing weight of regressive hordes. To save Spain from such a destiny, we are ready to suffer the greatest of sacrifices. We aim for a libertarian regime without laws and authoritarians, which we would replace by free federations and solidarity for a common cause. We know and are able to live in accord with our tenets, and we feel that even those most poisoned by the virus of authoritarianism will adapt themselves happily to a regime of life and work of mutual help, which we advocate. We entertain the firm conviction that the world will be happy only when it is free, when it will have exterminated from its institutions and activities and ideas; -- the domination and exploitation of man by man.

The situation is grave. The enemy has shut itself up in fortresses and menaces the total extermination of all the progressive movements. We may be the first to fall, but we will not be the last, as in Italy, as in Germany and other lands. There is talk of defensive alliances, of popular fronts. We have always favoured and worked, to the point of fatigue, for the consolidation of all progressive tendencies, to oppose the imminent retrocession in the direction of fascism. We have warned the liberal and left political parties that all attempts to break down the power of the CNT must of necessity redound to themselves. Our experience has shown us that the change of rudders and ideologies, without removing the State, only aggravates the economic, social and moral evils. That is why we cannot participate in alliances which are concerned more with the aim to divide the spoils in the new State, or simply with the limited objective of opposing a determined form of fascism, a specific type of tyranny, or a special kind of capitalism.

We repeat: we are ready to sacrifice many of ourselves, but it must be for an alliance rising from the heart of the proletariat, and from the centres of production. It must be for a united front of the producers to assure all who work the full mastery of their product. This unity can come only on the terrain of liberty, agreement and mutual respect for the present and future. This is not possible under the premise of a conquered State, which would necessarily afford the force of law to personal ambitions, and thus again become the natural enemy of the people.

To deny the reactionary, antisocial and antiproletarian significance of the State would be equivalent to suicide. The state can no more fraternise with liberty than water with fire; nor can it in any way fulfil the fundamental demand "he who does not work should not eat." How easy would it be for the workers to agree, without the meddling of ambitious opportunists seeking power in the political parties!

The Spanish people possess an immense creative capacity. Spain has traditions of free life, material resources together with brawn and brain. In Spain, everything remains to be done in industry, agriculture, forestry, the means of communication, and culture. The work to be realised is immense in all domains. A revolution cannot do miracles. But it would liberate energies paralysed by the present system and direct all efforts to social utility. In a few years, Spain could clothe, house and feed her population decently. At the same time Spain would become a guiding power of first order, and her word would be heard universally. Her example would not take long in being seconded by other countries, and at last the fatuous edifice of authoritarianism would crumble to the ground together with all its pestilence and human burdens. And while Russia is preparing her million soldiers to fight alongside of capitalist France in the next war, Spain could at last lift her voice and proclaim peace to the world in reply to the mad race of modern states towards degeneration and disaster.

This little peninsula could be the cradle of a new era; and it might be the tomb of a great hope. The future, not very distant, will pronounce the final word.