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Errico Malatesta,The Biography of an Anarchist – Max Nettlau

MALATESTAThe short sketch of Malatesta’s life is based on the exhaustive study of Max Nettlau, published in Italian translation by “Il Martello” in New York under the title Vita e Pensieri di Errico Malatesta, and in German translation issued at Berlin by the publishers of the “Syndicalist.” Max Nettlau, the profound scholar of the Anarchist movement, biographer of Michael Bakunin and author of Bibliographie de l’Anarchie, lives in Vienna, and like so many intellectuals in Europe, in distressing economic condition. May I express here the hope that he will find sufficient encouragement to continue his valuable task in the Anarchist movement? He was in contact with the most remarkable men and women in the revolutionary movement of our time and his own reminiscences should prove of great value to the younger generation.

The American publishers refuse to print the Biography on the pretext that it would not pay. No doubt, should an upheaval occur in Italy and Malatesta’s name appear in the foreground, the same publishers would be only to eager to get hold of the manuscript. Meanwhile our comrades of the Jewish Anarchist Federation offer the short sketch as a homage to Malatesta on his seventieth birthday.

In a very sympathetic review of the Vita e Pensieri in the New York “Nation”, Eugene Lyons states that Malatesta’s life symbolized the romantic age of rebellion. True, but it is not the romance of self-conscious knight-errantry, of adventure for adventure’s sake. It is rather the inevitable unfolding of a character unswerving in its devotion to a philosophy of action. Even at the peaks of his adventures Malatesta has remained kindly, retiring, modest in his habits.

Against the background of a Europe misruled by renegade Millerans, Lloyd Georges, Mussolinis, Eberts, Pilsudskis, and other of the fraternity of ex-idealists, the personality of Errico Malatesta attains an idyllic grandeur. At the age of seventy he can look back upon fifty years of intensive revolutionary work, thirty-six of them spent in busy exile. His life has a consistency, an almost apocalyptic directness which more than explains the adulation with which he is regarded among the comrades. It coincides, moreover, with a concentrated half century of social development. Its threads are woven closely into lives of the leaders during this period — Mazzini, Bakunin, Cafiero, William Morris, the brothers Reclus, James Guillaume, Stepniak, Kropotkin, and many others. It is a life that bridges the time of the Paris Commune and the Russian Revolution. Its course consequently has a tremendous significance.

When Malatesta returned to Italy in October, 1919, after being smuggled out of England on a coal boat by the head of the Italian Seamen’s Federation, all the ships in the port of Genoa saluted his arrival, the city stopped work and turned out to greet him. His arrest soon after and the events in Italy which have forced him temporarily into the background of national life are recent enough to be generally known. Despite his age, Malatesta is still a vigorous social rebel, and the most stirring chapters of his life may still have to be written.

The Revolution of Everyday Life – Raoul Vaneigem

I have no intention of revealing what there is of my life in this book to readers who are not prepared to relive it. I await the day when it will lose and find itself in a general movement of ideas, just as I like to think that the present conditions will be erased from the memories of men.

The world must be remade; all the specialists in reconditioning will not be able to stop it. Since I do not want to understand them, I prefer that they should not understand me.

As for the others, I ask for their goodwill with a humility they will not fail to perceive. I should have liked a book like this to be accessible to those minds least addled by intellectual jargon; I hope I have not failed absolutely. One day a few formulae will emerge from this chaos and fire point-blank on our enemies. Till then these sentences, read and re-read, will have to do their slow work. The path toward simplicity is the most complex of all, and here in particular it seemed best not to tear away from the commonplace the tangle of roots which enable us to transplant it into another region, where we can cultivate it to our own profit.

I have never pretended to reveal anything new or to launch novelties onto the culture market. A minute correction of the essential is more important than a hundred new accessories. All that is new is the direction of the current which carries commonplaces along.

For as long as there have been men — and men who read Lautréamont — everything has been said and few people have gained anything from it. Because our ideas are in themselves commonplace, they can only be of value to people who are not.

The modern world must learn what it already knows, become what it already is, by means of a great work of exorcism, by conscious practice. One can escape from the commonplace only by manhandling it, mastering it, steeping it in dreams, giving it over to the sovereign pleasure of subjectivity. Above all I have emphasized subjective will, but nobody should criticize this until they have examined the extent to which the objective conditions of the contemporary world are furthering the cause of subjectivity day by day. Everything starts from subjectivity, and nothing stops there. Today less than ever.

From now on the struggle between subjectivity and what degrades it will extend the scope of the old class struggle. It revitalizes it and makes it more bitter. The desire to live is a political decision. We do not want a world in which the guarantee that we will not die of starvation is bought by accepting the risk of dying of boredom.

The man of survival is man ground up by the machinery of hierarchical power, caught in a mass of interferences, a tangle of oppressive techniques whose rationalization only awaits the patient programming of programmed minds.

The man of survival is also self-united man, the man of total refusal. Not a single instant goes by without each of us living contradictorily, and on every level of reality, the conflict between oppression and freedom, and without this conflict being strangely deformed, and grasped at the same time in two antagonistic perspectives: the perspective of power and the perspective of supersession. The two parts of this book, devoted to the analysis of these two perspectives, should thus be approached, not in succession, as their arrangement demands, but simultaneously, since the description of the negative founds the positive project and the positive project confirms negativity. The best arrangement of a book is none at all, so that the reader can discover his own.

Where the writing fails it reflects the failure of the reader as a reader, and even more as a man. If the element of boredom it cost me to write it comes through when you read it, this will only be one more argument demonstrating our failure to live. For the rest, the gravity of the times must excuse the gravity of my tone. Levity always falls short of the written words or overshoots them. The irony in this case will consist in never forgetting that.

This book is part of a current of agitation of which the world has not heard the last. It sets forth a simple contribution, among others, to the recreation of the international revolutionary movement. Its importance had better not escape anybody, for nobody, in time, will be able to escape its conclusions.

My subjectivity and the Creator : This is too much for one brain.

— Lautréamont

(from the introduction)

The Conquest of Bread – Peter Kropotkin

Peter Kropotkin’s «The Conquest of Bread», along with his «Fields Factories and Workshops» was the result of his extensive research into industrial and agricultural production; originally published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York and London, 1906.

Whereas Marx’s main contribution to economics was his analysis of the commodity relationship in Capital – capitalism rather than communism – Kropotkin assesses what would need to be done, and most importantly how, in a communist society.

Now, almost 100 years later, technology and society has changed enormously, but the practical consideration Kropotkin gives to the question of production and distribution in a revolutionary society has taken on a new importance in the context of our globalised, interdependent, and resource intensive economic system.

Source: libcom.org

Woman, Church and State – Matilda Joslyn Gage

During the second wave of feminism in the 1960s and 70s a popular slogan was «not the church, not the state, women shall decide their fate». Matilda Joslyn Gage would have approved. Vehemently anti-clerical, Women, Church and State was one of the first books to draw the conclusion that Christianity is a primary impediment to the progress of women, as well as civilization. Then, as now, religious doctrine was used as a justification for the dehumanization of women, depriving them of civil, human, economic and political rights, even denying them the right to worship alongside men. Gage reviews extensive evidence of this complex. From a 21st Century perspective it is both astounding how far we have progressed, and dismaying how little has changed.

Gage was one of the first writers to emphasize the ancient Matriarchy and the witch trials as key episodes of women’s history. Her statement that nine million people were killed during the witch trials has been widely quoted; more recent estimates range from 50 to 100 thousand, which does not lessen the horror.

Comments on the Society of the Spectacle – Guy Debord

First published in 1967, Guy Debord’s stinging revolutionary critique of contemporary society, The Society of the Spectacle, has since acquired a cult status. Credited by many as being the inspiration for the ideas generated by the events of May 1968 in France, Debord’s pitiless attack on commodity fetishism and its incrustation in the practices of everyday life continues to btirn brightly in today’s age of satellite television and the soundbite In Comments on the Society of the Spectacle published twenty years later, Debord returned to the themes of his previous analysis and demonstrated how they were all the more relevant in a period when the ‘integrated spectacle’ was dominant. Resolutely refusing to be reconciled to the system, Debord trenchantly slices through the doxa and mystification offered tip by journalists and pundits to show how aspects of reality as diverse as terrorism and the environment, the Mafia and the media, were caught in the logic of the spectacular society. Pointing the finger clearly at those who benefit from the logic of domination, Debord’s Comments convey the revolutionary impulse at the heart of situationism.