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.