The Revolutionary "Haste"

Let us deal again with G. Valenti's article republished by the ReggioEmilia newspaper Giustizia.

Valenti dwells on enumerating all the masses that are indifferentor hostile to subversive propaganda. Writing about the United States,he claims that there are 60 (?) million Catholics organized inreligious associations who go to church and pray God, and he invitesthe anarchists to go and make propaganda among those 60 millions, ifthey want to speed up the revolution. He claims that only 4 and a half million producers out of 40 million are organized in organizations, the majority of which, as a matter of fact, are still opposed to socialism; he also invites trade unionists to start working at organizing workers in unions, if they really want to speedup the revolution. He claims that only one million voters out oftwenty-five million voted for Debs in the last polls, he recalls thatin the South socialist speakers get beaten and driven out of towns bymobs intoxicated with patriotism; finally, he invites communists togo and propagandize their 21 points in the South, instead of "buggingsocialists into accepting them".

This is all too true and right, if it means that we have to makepropaganda and do our best to win over as many individuals, as manymasses as possible to the ideas of emancipation.

On the other hand, the argument is completely wrong if it meansthat the demolition of capitalism has to wait until those 60 millionCatholics become free thinkers, all workers (or their majority) areorganized for class struggle, and Debs gets out of prison thanks tothe majority of voters.

Let us not misunderstand. It is an axiomatic, self-evident truththat a revolution can only be made when there is enough strength tomake it. However, it is an historical truth that the forcesdetermining evolution and social revolutions cannot be reckoned withcensus papers.

Catholics in the United States and elsewhere will remain asnumerous as they are, or even grow, as long as there is a class,holding the power of wealth and science, interested in keeping themasses in their intellectual slavery, in order to dominate them moreeasily. Workers will never be fully organized, and theirorganizations will always be subject to breaking down ordegenerating, as long as poverty, unemployment, fear of losing one'sjob, desire to improve one's conditions feed the antagonism amongworkers, and give the masters the opportunity to profit from anycircumstances and any crises to make the workers compete against eachother. And voters will always be sheep by definition, even ifsometimes they happen to kick back.

Given certain economic conditions and a certain socialenvironment, it is proven that the intellectual and moral conditionsof the masses stay basically the same. Until an external, ideally ormaterially violent event comes and changes that environment,propaganda, education and instruction remain helpless; they only actupon those individuals who can overcome the environment in which theyare forced to live, in virtue of natural or social privileges.However, that small number, that self-conscious and rebelliousminority born by every social order in consequence of thoseinjustices to which the masses are subject, acts like a historicalferment, which suffices, as it always did, to make the worldprogress.

Every new idea and institution, all progress and every revolutionhave always been the work of minorities. It is our aspiration and ouraim that everyone should become socially conscious and effective; butto achieve this end, it is necessary to provide all with the means oflife and for development, and it is therefore necessary to destroywith violence, since one cannot do otherwise, the violence whichdenies these means to the workers.

Naturally, the "small numbers", the minority, must be sufficient,and those who imagine that we want to have an insurrection a daywithout taking into account the forces opposing us, or whethercircumstances are in our favour or against us, misjudge us. In the,now remote, past, we were able, and did, carry out a number of minuteinsurrectionary acts which had no probability of success. But inthose days we were indeed only a handful, and wanted the public totalk about us, and our attempts were simply means of propaganda.

Now it is no longer a question of uprising to make propaganda; nowwe can win, and so we want to win, and only take such action when wethink we can win. Of course we can be mistaken, and on the grounds oftemperament may be led into believing that the fruit is ripe when itis still green; but we must confess our preference for those who erron the side of haste as opposed to those who always play a waitinggame and let the best opportunities slip through their fingers forthey, through fear of picking a green fruit then let the whole cropgo rotten!

In conclusion, we completely agree with La Giustizia when itemphasizes the necessity of making a lot of propaganda and ofdeveloping proletarian struggle organizations as much as possible;but we definitely depart from it when it maintains that we should nottake action until we have drawn the majority of that inert mass,which will only be converted by the events and will only accept therevolution after the revolution has begun.

(Umanità Nova, n. 125, September 6, 1921)

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Jul 27 2005 09:29


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