At The Café: Conversations on Anarchism

Dated 1922. Translated by Paul Nursey-Bray with the assistance of Piero Ammirato. Edited with an introduction by Paul Nursey-Bray. Retrieved from http://libcom.org/files/At_The_Cafe_-_Errico_Malatesta_-_Conversations_on_Anarchism.pdf

INTRODUCTION

Malatesta began writing the series of dialogues that make up At the Cafe: Conversations on Anarchism in March 1897, while he was in hiding in Ancona and busy with the production of the periodical L’Agitazione. Luigi Fabbri, in his account of this period, written to introduce the 1922 edition of the full set of dialogues (Bologna, Edizioni di Volontà), edited by Malatesta (Reprint, Torino, Sargraf, 1961), gives us a beguiling picture of Malatesta, clean-shaven as a disguise, coming and going about the city, pipe in mouth, smiling impudently at his friends, who, for the sake of his safety, wished him elsewhere.

The idea of the dialogues was suggested to him by the fact that he often frequented a café that was not usually the haunt of subversives such as himself. Indeed, one of the regulars, who was a member of the police, used to engage Malatesta in conversation without, of course, as Fabbri notes, any idea that a real prize lay within his grasp. Anarchism would almost certainly been one of the topics of conversation since the anarchists of the city constantly bombarded their fellow townspeople with a barrage of propaganda that occasioned frequent trials.

The form that the dialogues were to take was drawn then from an actual venue and from Malatesta’s own experience. It resulted in a literary device excellently well suited to his particular genius, which is his ability to render complex ideas into straightforward language and to make them directly accessible. The dialogue form also allowed Malatesta to debate the ideas of his opponents, while subjecting his own anarchist views to a critical scrutiny aimed at communicating to his readers their political import and their practical applicability. Indeed one of the strengths of the dialogues is the absence of straw men. The inquisition of anarchism is searching and genuine, often highlighting what its opponents would regard as points of weakness and vulnerability. It makes Malatesta’s spirited defence all the more impressive. Continue reading “At The Café: Conversations on Anarchism”

Towards Anarchism

Towards Anarchism by Errico Malatesta (1853-1932) first appeared in English in the Depression era periodical MAN!.

It is a general opinion that we, because we call ourselves revolutionists, expect Anarchism to come with one stroke – as the immediate result of an insurrection which violently attacks all that which exists and which replaces all with institutions that are really new. And to tell the truth this idea is not lacking among some comrades who also conceive the revolution in such a manner.

This prejudice explains why so many honest opponents believe Anarchism a thing impossible; and it also explains why some comrades, disgusted with the present moral condition of the people and seeing that Anarchism cannot come about soon, waver between an extreme dogmatism which blinds them to the realities of life and an opportunism which practically makes them forget that they are Anarchists and that for Anarchism they should struggle. Continue reading “Towards Anarchism”

Anarchy

L’Anarchia was written in 1891, appeared in English translation in the monthly journal Freedom (September 1891—June 1892) and was reprinted as a pamphlet by Freedom Press in 1892

1

The word Anarchy comes from the Greek and its literal meaning is without government: the condition of a people who live without a constituted authority, without government.

Before such an organisation had begun to be considered both possible and desirable by a whole school of thinkers and accepted as the objective of a party, which has now become one of the most important factors in the social struggles of our time, the word anarchy was universally used in the sense of disorder and confusion; and it is to this day used in that sense by the uninformed as well as by political opponents with an interest in distorting the truth.

We will not enter into a philological discussion, since the question is historical and not philological. The common interpretation of the word recognises its true and etymological meaning; but it is a derivative of that meaning due to the prejudiced view that government was a necessary organ of social life, and that consequently a society without government would be at the mercy of disorder, and fluctuate between the unbridled arrogance of some, and the blind vengeance of others.

Continue reading “Anarchy”