It is not satisfactory that within anarchist circles it hasn’t been possible to clear this question, due to its importance for the present anarchist movement and its future development. Here in Germany, is where the perspectives on the question are the most intricate. Naturally the special conditions on which modern anarchism has developed here is largely culpable for the situation of today. A fraction of the anarchists in Germany refuses, as a principle, any kind of organization with certain codes of conduct and argues that the existence of such organisms is in opposition to anarchist ideology. Others recognize the need for small groups, but refuse any union between them, as thin as it may be. In, for instance, the German Anarchist Federation’s fusion of forces they see a restriction upon individual freedom and an authoritarian tutelage by a few. We argue that these points of view come from a complete confusion of the origin of the question, a complete lack of knowledge of what one means by Anarchism.
Even if in Anarchism’s considerations of the diverse social formations and ideological currents it originates from the individual, it is still a social theory that has autonomously developed with communities as the center. Man is above all a social creation, on which the entire species works, slowly but without interruption, and that constantly takes new energies celebrating each second of its resurrection. Man is the heir of social coexistence, not the discoverer. The social instinct was received from animal ancestors when passing the gateway towards humanity. Without society Man is inconceivable, since life and struggle has always been within society. Social coexistence is the precondition and most essential part of individual existence and it’s also the starting shape of all organization.
Maybe the strength of traditional relationships that we observe in the majority of humanity is just a manifestation of this deep social instinct. As Man lacks the conditions to exactly interpret what is new, his fantasy is of the dissolution of all human relations and fearing to drown in the subsequent chaos, he compulsively sustains himself within the historical traditional molds. It is surely one of the errors of coexistence, but at the same time it shows us how social impulses are connected to the life of each individual. That who ignores or doesn’t accept this irrefutable characteristic will never be able to understand with clarity the impulsive forces of human evolution.
The forms of human coexistence aren’t always the same. They transform through-out History, but society remains and works tirelessly over the lives of individuals. Those who are used to always operating within abstract representations – towards which German people have a certain inclination – would eventually extract the individual from these relationships that tie him to society, the result of this would not be a human, but a caricature, a pale and fleshless relative that would only have a spectral life in the nebulous world of the abstract, and that has never existed in the real world. The result would the same of the merchant who tried to make his donkey lose the habit of eating and that when it died yelled with despair: “Such a shame! If he had lived just a couple more days, we would have managed to live without eating!”
The great theoreticians of modern anarchism, Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin, always highlighted the social base of anarchist theory, using it as the starting point for their considerations. They battled the State, not only due to it being the defender of monopoly and social contrasts, but also because it is the greatest obstacle for all natural organization that develops in the heart of the people, from below to the top, and that tends to defend the interests of the whole from the multitude of aggression carried out against them. The State, the violent political apparatus of the privileged minority of society, whose mission is to force on the majority the burden of the employer’s exploitation and spiritual tutelage, is the worst enemy of all natural relations of human beings and it will always ensure that such relations will only happen with the intervention of official representatives. It considers itself the owner of Humanity and cannot allow foreign forces to meddle in its profession.
That is why the history of the State is the history of mankind’s slavery. Only with the existence of the State is the economic exploitation of the people possible and its only task can be synthesized to the defense of such exploitation. It’s the mortal enemy of all natural liberty and solidarity – the two noblest results of social coexistence and that obviously consist of the same thing – by attempting, by all kinds of legal methods, to restrict or at least paralyze all direct initiative of its citizens and all natural fusion of humans with the goal of the defense of general interests. Proudhon had already figured it out and in Confession d’un Révolutionnaire made the following astute observation:
From the Social point of view, Liberty and Solidarity are two identical concepts. As the liberty of each, is not a barrier to the liberty of others, as stated in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1793. It is a support for it, the most free of people is the one that has the most relations with his fellow man.
Anarchism, the eternal opposite of scientifical, political and social Monopolies, battles the monopoly protector and ferocious enemy of direct and indirect human relations, the State, but was never the enemy of organization. Quite the opposite, one of the greatest accusations against the State apparatus is that it is the biggest obstacle to effective organizing based on the equality of interests for all. The great supporters of the universal anarchist conception, clearly understood that the more opposed interested exist in the social structures, the less humans are connected to each other and the bigger is the level of personal freedom for the individual within the collectivity of society. That’s why they saw in Anarchism a social state in which individual desires and the needs of humans surpass their social sentiments and are more or less identical to them. In mutualism they will provide an effective stimulus for all social evolution and the natural expression of general interests. For this reason they refused the coercive law as a way for relationships and developed the idea of the free accord as basis for all social forms of organization. The predominance of laws is always the predominance of the privileged over the majority that is excluded from the prerogatives and under its mask of evened out rights it’s a symbol of brutal violence.
People are connected by common interests that create common tendencies, under which free accords serve them as codes of conduct. A convention between equals is the moral foundation for all true organization, all other forms of human grouping are violent and without prerogatives. That was how Proudhon understood the idea of the social organization of humanity; he expresses this in his great work Idée générale de la Révolution du XIX siècle, in the following:
In place of laws, we will use agreements. No more laws voted by a consenting majority, each citizen, each town, each industrial union, make their own laws. In place of political powers, we will use economic forces. In place of the ancient classes of citizens, nobles, bourgeois and proletarians we will use the general titles and specialization of their function: Agriculture, Manufacture, Commerce, etc. In place of public force, there will be collective force. In place of permanent armies, we will use industrial associations. In place of police, we will use equality of interests. In place of political centralization, we will centralize economy. Do you see now how there can be order without employers, a profound intellectual unity? You, who cannot conceive unity without a whole apparatus of legislators, prosecutors and attorneys-general, you have never known what unity is. What you call unity and centralization is nothing but perpetual chaos, serving as a pedestal for a real situation that has no other goal than anarchy (naturally Proudhon is using the word anarchy in its popular and false interpretation as disorder) of the social forces, of which you made a base for a despotism which could exist without such anarchy.
A similar ideological notion was developed frequently in Bakunin’s writings and publications. I only recall his conclusions in the first Congress of the League of Peace and Liberty in 1867 in Genebra. Of Kropotkin we will not speak in this piece, as his mains works are well known by all. We will just point out that the admirable book Mutual Aid, in which he studies the history of human organizations until the most remote times proclaiming solidarity, the most wonderful of results of social coexistence, as the biggest and most important factor of the evolution of social life.
Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin were not amoral, unlike some loud wishy-washy Nietzsche fans from Germany who call themselves anarchists and which are quite honest on how they consider themselves super-humans. They haven’t constructed a lord and slave moral from which all kind of conclusions can be taken. On the contrary, they have preoccupied themselves with finding the origin of moral feelings in Man and subsequently discovered it in social coexistence. Far from giving moral a religious and metaphysical significance, they saw that moral feelings are the natural expression of social existence that slowly crystallized into certain conducts and behaviors and that served as a pedestal for all forms of organization that come from the people. This was observed with clarity by Bakunin and even more profoundly by Kropotkin, who occupied himself until the end of his days with this question and provided us with the results of his investigations in a special piece, that so far has only had a few chapters published1 . Certainly because they observed the social origin of the moral is why they were such vocal prophets of a social justice that finds its expression complemented with the eternal combat of the human being towards individual freedom and economic equality.
The majority of the countless bourgeois and state socialists that so far have occupied themselves with the critic of Anarchism, haven’t noted the deep character of the basic anarchist doctrine – Wilhelm Liebknecht, Plekanoff and several others did this on purpose – because it’s the only way to explain the artificial difference between Socialism and Anarchism, an absurd and unfounded difference, that they seek to show. For their classification they have mostly based their work on Stirner, without considering that his genius piece didn’t have the slightest influence in the origin and evolution of the true anarchist movement and that at most Stirner can be considered, as the Italian anarchist Luis Fabbri astutely observed, one of the most distant precursors and ancestor of Anarchism. Stirner’s piece The Ego and Its Own appeared in 1845 and passed by unnoticed. Ninety nine percent of anarchists hadn’t ever heard of the German philosopher and his work, until around 1890 when the book was unearthed in Germany and since then translated into several languages. And still the influence of Stirner’s ideas on the anarchist movement in Latin countries, where the theories of Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin have had decisive influence for decades in working class circles, was miniscule and never increased. In certain French intellectual circles that at the time played around with anarchism, of which the majority have for some time now joined the other side of the barricades, Stirner’s work had a great effect, but the majority of workers of the time had never any contact with it.
To none of theoreticians of Anarchism did it even occur that the day would come where they would be denominated as anarcho-socialists. All of them felt they were socialists, since they were deeply dedicated to the social character of their theory. For this same reason they did not call themselves more frequently revolutionaries or anti-authoritarian socialists, in opposition to state-socialists, only later did the name Anarchist become natural to them.
- 1Ethics: Origin and Development