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.