Neither Democrats, nor Dictators: Anarchists

This article first appeared in Malatesta’s journal Pensiero e Volontà in May 1926. This translation by Gillian Fleming and was published in The Anarchist Revolution: Polemical Articles 1924-1931, edited and introduced by Vernon Richards (London: Freedom Press, 1995)

Theoretically ‘democracy’ means popular government; government by all for everybody by the efforts of all. In a democracy the people must be able to say what they want, to nominate the executors of their wishes, to monitor their performance and remove them when they see fit.

Naturally this presumes that all the individuals that make up a people are able to form an opinion and express it on all the subjects that interest them. It implies that everyone is politically and economically independent and therefore no-one, to live, would be obliged to submit to the will of others.

If classes and individuals exist that are deprived of the means of production and therefore dependent on others with a monopoly over those means, the so-called democratic system can only be a lie, and one which serves to deceive the mass of the people and keep them docile with an outward show of sovereignty, while the rule of the privileged and dominant class is in fact salvaged and consolidated. Such is democracy and such it always has been in a capitalist structure, whatever form it takes, from constitutional monarchy to so-called direct rule. Continue reading “Neither Democrats, nor Dictators: Anarchists”

Gradualism

Originally published as “Gradualismo,” Pensiero e Volantà (Rome) 2, No. 12, 1 October 1925. Appears in The Anarchist Revolution: Polemical Articles 1924-1931, edited and introduced by Vernon Richards (London: Freedom Press, 1995), p. 82-87.

In the course of those polemics which arise among anarchists as to the best tactics for achieving, or approaching the creation of an anarchist society – and they are useful, and indeed necessary arguments when they reflect mutual tolerance and trust and avoid personal recriminations – it often happens that some reproach others with being gradualists, and the latter reject the term as if it were an insult.

Yet the fact is that, in the real sense of the word and given the logic of our principles, we are all gradualists. And all of us, in whatever different ways, have to be.

It is true that certain words, especially in politics, are continually changing their meaning and often assume one that is quite contrary to the original, logical and natural sense of the term.

Thus the word possibilist. Is there anyone of sound mind who would seriously claim to want the impossible? Yet in France the term became the special label of a section of the Socialist Party who were followers of the former anarchist, Paul Brousse – and more willing than others to renounce socialism in pursuit of an impossible co-operation with bourgeois democracy. Continue reading “Gradualism”

Democracy and Anarchy

This article first appeared in Malatesta’s journal Pensiero e Volontà in March 1924. This translation by Gillian Fleming was published in The Anarchist Revolution: Polemical Articles 1924-1931, edited by Vernon Richards, Freedom Press 1995.

The rampant dictatorial governments in Italy, Spain and Russia, which arouse such envy and longing among the more reactionary and timid parties across the world, are supplying dispossessed ‘democracy’ with a sort of new virginity. Thus we see the creatures of the old regimes, well-accustomed to the wicked art of politics, responsible for repression and massacres of working people, re-emerging — where they do not lack the courage — and presenting themselves as men of progress, seeking to capture the near future in the name of liberation. And, given the situation, they could even succeed.

There is something to be said for the criticisms made of democracy by dictatorial regimes, and the way they expose the vices and lies of democracy. And I remember that anarchist, Hermann Sandomirski, a Bolshevik fellowtraveller with whom we had bittersweet contact at the time of the Geneva conference, and who is now trying to couple Lenin with Bakunin, no less; I say I remember Sandomirski who in order to defend the Russian regime dragged out his Kropotkin to demonstrate that democracy is not the best imaginable form of social structure. His method of reasoning, as a Russian, put me in mind and I think I told him so — of the reasoning made by some of his compatriots when, in response to the indignation of the civilised world at the Tsar’s stripping, flogging and hanging of women, they argued that if men and women were to have equal rights they should also accept equal responsibilities. Those supporters of prison and the scaffold remembered the rights of women only when they could serve as a pretext for new outrages ! Thus dictatorships oppose democratic governments only when they discover that there is a form of government which leaves even greater room for despotism and tyranny for those who manage to seize power. Continue reading “Democracy and Anarchy”

Further Thoughts on Anarchism and the Labour Movement

March 1926

Obviously I am unable to make myself understood to the Spanish speaking comrades, at least as regards my ideas on the labour movement and on the role of anarchists within it. I tried to explain these ideas in an article that was published in El Productor on 8th January (an article whose heading, ‘The Labour Movement and Anarchism’ was wrongly translated as ‘Syndicalism and Anarchism’). But from the response that I saw in those issues of El Productor that reached me I see I haven’t managed to make myself understood. I will therefore return to the subject in the hope of greater success this time.

The question is this: I agree with the Spanish and South American comrades on the anarchist goals that must guide and inform all our activity. But I disagree with some as to whether the anarchist programme, or rather, label, should be imposed on workers’ unions, and whether, should such a programme fail to meet with the approval of the majority, the anarchists should remain within the wider organisation, continuing from within to make propaganda and opposing the authoritarian, monopolist and collaborationist tendencies that are a feature of all workers’ organisations, or to separate from them and set up minority organisations. Continue reading “Further Thoughts on Anarchism and the Labour Movement”

The Labour Movement and Anarchism

An open letter addressed to the editors of El Productor, an anarchist journal published in Barcelona.
Dated December 1925

Dear comrades

In your journal I came across the following sentence: ‘If we must choose between Malatesta, who calls for class unity, and Rocker, who stands for a labour movement with anarchist aims, we choose our German comrade.’ This is not the first time that our Spanish language press has attributed to me ideas and intentions I do not have, and although those who wish to know what I really think can find it clearly set out in what I myself have written, I have decided to ask you to publish the following explanation of my position.

Firstly, if things were really as you present them, I too would opt for Rocker against your ‘Malatesta’, whose ideas on the labour movement bear little resemblance to my own. Let’s get one thing clear: a labour movement with anarchist objectives is not the same thing as an anarchist labour movement. Naturally everyone desires the former. It is obvious that in their activities anarchists look to the final triumph of anarchy – the more so when such activities are carried out within the labour movement, which is of such great importance in the struggle for human progress and emancipation. But the latter, a labour movement which is not only involved in propaganda and the gradual winning over of terrain to anarchism, but which is already avowedly anarchist, seems to me to be impossible and would in every way lack the purpose which we wish to give to the movement. Continue reading “The Labour Movement and Anarchism”

Syndicalism and Anarchism

Published April-May 1925

The relationship between the labour movement and the progressive parties is an old and worn theme. But it is an ever topical one, and so it will remain while there are, on one hand, a mass of people plagued by urgent needs and driven by aspirations – at times passionate but always vague and indeterminate – to a better life, and on the other individuals and parties who have a specific view of the future and of the means to attain it, but whose plans and hopes are doomed to remain utopias ever out of reach unless they can win over the masses. And the subject is all the more important now that, after the catastrophes of war and of the post-war period, all are preparing, if only mentally, for a resumption of the activity which must follow upon the fall of the tyrannies that still rant and rage [across Europe] but are beginning to tremble.

For this reason I shall try to clarify what, in my view, should be the anarchists’ attitude to labour organisations.

Today, I believe, there is no-one, or almost no-one amongst us who would deny the usefulness of and the need for the labour movement as a mass means of material and moral advancement, as a fertile ground for propaganda and as an indispensable force for the social transformation that is our goal. There is no longer anyone who does not understand what the workers’ organisation means, to us anarchists more than to anyone, believing as we do that the new social organisation must not and cannot be imposed by a new government by force but must result from the free co-operation of all. Moreover, the labour movement is now an important and universal institution. To oppose it would be to become the oppressors’ accomplices; to ignore it would be to put us out of reach of people’s everyday lives and condemn us to perpetual powerlessness. Continue reading “Syndicalism and Anarchism”

The Anarchist Revolution: Polemical Articles 1924-1931, Vernon Richards (ed.), Freedom Press

PDF of The Anarchist Revolution: Polemical Articles 1924-1931, Vernon Richards (ed.), Freedom Press

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II

  • Comments on the Article ‘Science and Anarchy’

  • Note on Hz’s article ‘Science and Anarchy’

  • Pseudo-Scientific Aberrations

  • Further Thoughts on Science and Anarchy

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  • Anarchy and Violence

  • Revolutionary Terror

  • Let’s Demolish – and then?

  • Postscript to Let’s Demolish – and then?

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See also the Writings page

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