The anarchists in the present time

A section of our movement is eagerly discussing about the practicalproblems that the revolution will have to solve.

This is good news and a good omen, even if the solutions proposedso far are neither abundant nor satisfactory.

The days are gone when people used to believe that an insurrectionwould suffice for everything, that defeating the army and the policeand knocking down the powers that be would be enough to bring aboutall the rest, i.e. the most essential part.

It used to be claimed that providing sufficient food, adequateaccommodations and good clothes to everyone immediately after thevictorious uprising would be enough for the revolution to be foundedon unshakable ground and be able to readily proceed towards higherand higher ideals. Nobody took the trouble to check whether therewould be actually enough goods for everyone and whether the existinggoods were or not in the places where they were most needed. Thedisplay of stores overflowing with goods deceptively influenced thehungry and ragged crowds. The agitators, whether conscious or not ofthe error, found that illusion an effective means of propaganda.However, if on the one hand it is well known today that theproduction done by everyone for the benefit of everyone else with theaid of mechanics and chemistry can indefinitely grow, on the otherhand it is also true that the current system's rule is thatcapitalists get the workers to produce only as much as they canprofitably sell, stopping the production at the point where theirprofit stops growing. If by mistake or by competition amongcapitalists an overproduction occurs, a crisis comes and drives themarketplace back to that condition of relative scarcity which is mostadvantageous for manufacturers and dealers. Hence it is clear howdangerous it is to spread the belief that goods abound and that thereis no urge to set to work.

Gone are also the days when we could say that demolishing is ourtask, and that our descendants will see to reconstructing. That was acheap statement that could only be accepted back when an imminentrevolution was unlikely. It only aimed at arousing aversion and hateagainst the present situation, to sharpen the desire of change.However, the European situation is now full of revolutionarypotential; at any time we might have to pass from theory to practice,from propaganda to action. Now it is time to remember that the socialand individual lives allow no interruption: both we and our childrenhave to eat and live every day, before our children can start seeingto it.

So, we are agreed in thinking that apart from the problem ofassuring victory against the material forces of the adversary thereis also the problem of giving life to the revolution after victory.We are in agreement that a revolution which were to result in chaoswould not be a vital revolution.

But one must not exaggerate; it should not be thought that wemust, and can, find, here and now, a perfect solution for everypossible problem. One should not want to foresee and determine toomuch, because instead of preparing for anarchy we might findourselves indulging in unattainable dreams or even becomingauthoritarians, and consciously or otherwise, proposing to act like agovernment which in the name of freedom and the popular will subjectpeople to its domination.

I happen to read the strangest things: strange if one considersthat they were written by anarchists.

For instance, a comrade says that "the crowd wouldrightly rail against us if we had first urged them to the painfulsacrifices of a revolution and then we told them: do what your willsuggests you, get together, produce and live together as it bestsuits you".

What! Did not we always tell the crowd that they can expect theirgood neither from us nor from others? That they have to win theirgood for themselves? That they will get only what they can take andthey will keep only what they can defend? It is just and natural forus, initiators, animators and part ourselves of the mass, to try andpush the movement in the direction that seems us best, and be asready as possible for anything that needs to be done. However, thefundamental principle is still that making decisions is up to thefree will of those concerned.

I also read: "We will create a regime that, though notfully libertarian, will have our mark and above all will pave the wayto the progressive realization of our principles."

What is this? A little tiny government, a model of goodness, whichwill kill itself as soon as possible to give way to anarchy!!!

Were not we already in agreement that governments do not tend tokill themselves, but rather to perpetuate themselves and become moreand more despotic? Were not we agreed that the mission of theanarchists is to fight, while enduring it, any regime not based on acomplete freedom? Did not we also use to claim that anarchists inpower would not fare better than the others?

Another comrade, who is among those who most care about thenecessity of having a "plan", and basically puts all his hope in theworkers' unions, says:

"After the triumph of the revolution, let themanagement of all the means of production, transportation, exchange,etc. be given to the working class, previously educated by us to thisgreat social function."

Previously educated by us to this great social function! How manycenturies should go by before the revolution wished by that comrade?If only centuries were sufficient! The fact is that one cannoteducate the masses if they are not in a position, or obliged bynecessity, to act for themselves; the revolutionary organization ofthe workers, useful and necessary as it is, cannot be stretchedindefinitely: at a certain point if it does not erupt inrevolutionary action, either the government strangles it or theorganization itself degenerates and breaks up - and one has to startall over again from the beginning.

How true that the most 'practical' people are often the most naiveutopians!

Would not all this discussion sound quite academic if in theconcrete it was about a country where the free workers' organizationis destroyed and prohibited, the freedoms of press, assembly andassociation are abolished, and the agitators, be they anarchist,socialist, communist or republican are either abroad as refugees, oron forced residence on an island, or locked in prison, or put in thecondition of being unable to speak, to move about and almost even tobreath?

Can one reasonably hope that the next upheaval, in a country insuch conditions, will be a social revolution, in the broad and uttersense that we attribute to this word? Does not it look like winningback the necessary conditions for propaganda and organization israther the one possible and urgent task nowadays?

It seems to me that all these difficulties, uncertainties andcontradictions crop up when one wants to make anarchy withoutanarchists, or believes that propaganda is enough to convert thewhole of the population, or its vast majority, before the surroundingconditions have radically changed.

Some people claim that "the revolution will be anarchist or willnot be at all". This is yet another of those pretentious phrases thata thorough analysis proves to be either meaningless or greatlymistaken. In fact, if one means that the revolution, as we intend it,must be anarchist, such claim is just a tautology, i.e. a roundaboutthat explains nothing, as if one claimed, for instance, that whitepaper must be white. If it is meant, instead, that there cannot beany other revolution but an anarchist one, then the claim is a greatmistake, as the life of human societies has already seen and willcertainly see again movements that radically change the existingconditions and give a new direction to the history to come, thusdeserving the name of revolutions. I would be unable to accept theview that all past revolutions though they were not anarchistrevolutions were useless, nor that future ones which will still notbe anarchist will be useless. Indeed, I incline to the view that thecomplete triumph of anarchy will come by evolution, gradually, ratherthan by violent revolution: when an earlier or several earlierrevolutions will have destroyed the major military and economicobstacles which are opposed to the spiritual development of thepeople, to increasing production to the level of needs and desiresand to the harmonizing of contrasting interests.

In any case, if we take into account our sparse numbers and theprevalent attitudes among the masses, and if we do not wish toconfuse our wishes with the reality, we must expect that the nextrevolution will not be an anarchist one, and therefore what is morepressing, is to think of what we can and must do in a revolution inwhich we will be a relatively small and badly armed minority.

***

Some comrades, perhaps still under the spell of the socialistbrags and illusions born by the Russian revolution, believe that theauthoritarians have an easier task than ourselves, because they havea 'plan': get hold of the power and forcibly impose their system.

Such belief is wrong. Communists and socialists certainly wish tograb the power, and in certain circumstances they may succeed.However, the most intelligent among them know too well that, once inpower, they could well tyrannize the people and submit it towhimsical and dangerous experiments, they could well replace thebourgeoisie with a new privileged class, but they could not realizesocialism, they could not apply their 'plan'. How can a millenarysociety be destroyed and a new and better society be established bythe decrees made by few people and imposed by bayonets! This is theone honest reason (I do not want to deal with others that can be lesseasily confessed) why in Italy socialists and communists withheldtheir co-operation and blocked the revolution when it was possible tomake one. They felt they would not be able to keep control of thesituation and would have to either give way to the anarchists orbecome an instrument of reaction. As for the countries where theyactually got the power... what they did is well-known.

If only we had the material force to get rid of the material forcethat oppresses us, our task would be much easier, because we requirenothing of the masses but what the masses can and want to do; we onlydo all that we can to develop their capability and will.

But we must, however, beware of ourselves becoming less anarchistbecause the masses are not ready for anarchy. If they want agovernment, it is unlikely that we will be able to prevent a newgovernment being formed, but this is no reason for our not trying topersuade the people that government is useless and harmful or ofpreventing the government from also imposing on us and other like uswho do not want it. We will have to exert ourselves to ensure thatsocial life and especially economic standards improve without theintervention of government, and thus we must be as ready as possibleto deal with the practical problems of production and distribution,remembering, incidentally, that those most suited to organize workare those who now do it, each in his own trade.

***

We must seek to play an active, and if possible a preponderantrole in the insurrectionary act. But with the defeat of the forces ofrepression which serve to keep the people in slavery; with thedemobilization of the army, the dissolution of the police and themagistrature, etc.; having armed the people so that it can resist anyarmed attempt by reaction to reestablish itself; having called onwilling hands to undertake the organization of public services and toprovide, with concepts of just distribution, for the most urgentneeds, using with care the existing stocks in the various localities- having done all this, we shall have to see to it that there must beno wasted effort and that those institutions, those traditions andhabits, those methods of production, exchange and aid should berespected and utilized, if they perform, even insufficiently orbadly, necessary services, seeking by all means to destroy everytrace of privilege, but being chary of destroying anything thatcannot be replaced by something which serves the general good moreeffectively. We must push the workers to take possession of thefactories, to federate among themselves and work for the community,and similarly the peasants should take over the land and the produceusurped by the landlords, and come to an agreement with theindustrial workers on the necessary exchange of goods.

If we are unable to prevent the constitution of a new government,if we are unable to destroy it immediately, we should in either caserefuse to support it in any shape or form. We should reject militaryconscription, and refuse to pay taxes. Disobedience on principle,resistance to the bitter end against every imposition by theauthorities, and an absolute refusal to accept any position ofcommand.

If we are unable to overthrow capitalism, we shall have to demandfor ourselves and for all who want it, the right of free access tothe necessary means of production to maintain an independentexistence.

Advise when we have suggestions to offer; teach if we know morethan others; set the example for a life based on free agreementbetween individuals; defend even with force if necessary andpossible, our autonomy against any government provocation... butcommand - never.

In this way we shall not achieve anarchy, which cannot be imposedagainst the wishes of the people, but at least we shall be preparingthe way for it.

(Vogliamo!, June, 1930)

Posted By

libcom
Jul 27 2005 09:55

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