Interview with José Peirats – Josep Alemany


A complete transcript of a 1977 interview with José Peirats, in which the Spanish historian and former militant of the CNT and FAI reminisces about his youth and discusses many of the controversies that plagued the CNT before as well as during the civil war, including the impact of the Russian Revolution, Angel Pestaña’s mission to Russia in 1920, the Asturian insurrection of October 1934, the CNT’s policy of collaboration with the government during the war, and the role of the Stalinists in the Republican coalition government’s counterrevolution against the anarchist revolutionary achievements of July 1936.

Introductory Note

This interview took place in Barcelona, in an apartment on the Carretera de Collblanc, where the Peirats family has resided since before the war. Part of this interview was published in Catalunya. Revista d’Opinió Confederal, CNT-AIT, Series II, May 1977, no. 4, pp. 12-24. The rest of the interview, approximately half, is published here for the first time.

The editors of Anthropos have translated the original Catalan text to Castilian, and, with the permission of the author, have restructured the original order of the interview in order to provide a more cohesive arrangement of the various topics that are addressed.

We consolidated all the most directly autobiographical parts of the interview and those that express some of Peirats’ fundamental ideas, and present them first; in the second part of the interview the reader will find the opinions and testimonies of José Peirats concerning more diverse and specific topics.

What kind of ideological environment did you experience in your youth and how were the young people raised and what were they like?

In my ideological environment there are many phases but all with a convergent orientation towards anarchism. In my family there were socialists and republicans and even anarchists. None of them was able to influence me directly. But to them I owe my predilection for reading from a very young age, from before adolescence. The rest came later. I consider myself to be of the generation of Primo de Rivera. In those days I made very close friends, with a true hunger for reading. Our favorite authors, before we discovered the bearded ones of anarchy, were the famous French novelists of the previous century. Never in my life did I even flirt with Marxism. But I studied Marxism in depth, with reference to anarchism, which had by then won my heart. Despite the fact that I was very young when I joined the confederal organization I was always most attracted to its cultural activities: rationalist schools, social centers (I founded the one at La Torrassa L’Hospitalet) and the libertarian youth. That was my ideological context. The FAI came later although in fact I never really felt comfortable in it, since it did not make any truly anarchist proposals. The FAI was, above all else, a revolutionary organization that called itself anarchist.

In what kinds of activities were you involved in the libertarian movement?

I began my life as an activist working with the bricklayer comrades. I started by writing in their Bulletin. That was my debut as a writer. At the La Torrassa Social Center I taught at night and acted in plays. As a trade unionist I participated in the organization of strikes, boycotts and acts of sabotage. When necessary I carried a small pistol in my pocket, although I have never fired a gun at anybody. It was the fashion at the time. I told you about my experiences in the Libertarian Youth and the anarchist groups. What else? Oh, I spent two years as editor of Solidaridad Obrera, the confederal newspaper of Barcelona, and I contributed to numerous other publications. I would prefer not to speak of my books.

What was the orientation and kind of reader that the various libertarian publications were aimed at?

I have to admit that our publications were generally of low quality with the exception of Estudios (Generación Consciente) in Valencia. It did not occur to us to write for a broader audience. Our press was principally for combat purposes and was largely sectarian and demagogic. This caused us much harm. It was a misfortune to lose the tradition of writing in Catalan. The Castilian speakers dominated us.

I think that this oversight caused us to lose the Catalan peasantry, whom we served up on a platter to the politicians of the Esquerra. This is a lesson that we must heed.

Could you tell us a little about the experience of the Collectivizations?

The collectivist experience is made clear if you read the entire libertarian press from before July 19: the campaign of Isaac Puente with his famous pamphlet, Libertarian Communism, the articles by Carbó in Estudios in Valencia, the contributions of Martínez Rizo, even though he was not an anarchist…. In short, there was a group of people who dared to prefigure a libertarian communist future. At that time an environment was taking shape that was favorable to reflection concerning the question of how to structure the future. This environment was penetrating the people and when July 19 arrived we put it into practice, without orders from any committee. There is one thing that very few people are aware of and that is that there was no directive issued … I have very carefully scrutinized the documentary record of that time and I have not found any directive from any confederal committee (I am referring to the Local, Regional and National Federations, not to the enterprise trade union committees, the rank and file committees…), not one directive that gave the signal to carry out collectivizations.

The collectivizations were carried out spontaneously by the workers. For two reasons: first, because they wanted to; second, because the bourgeoisie, having fled, had cleared the way for them. Everyone knows that when someone opens up a new road, everyone imitates him; collectivism was amplified and became a reality.

However, to engage in a methodical study of this collectivism, I think is a project that has not yet been undertaken, because many elements are lacking for judgment. The revolution was carried out one way and then the historians come along and study it. Those who make revolution do not write it, they make it. This is the problem we face. Now is the time to carry out this labor, to unite all the elements of judgment of those times that we can.

They are looking for testimonies; people are running around like crazy looking for documents. They come to me and say: “Where can we find…?” There are those who are interested in the pedagogical work of the revolution…. Everyone talks about Ferrer and the Modern School. Hardly anyone talks about how the “Comité de l’Escola Nova Unificada” [Committee of the Unified New School] was structured.

Before the war, the trade unions, the libertarian social centers, and also certain individuals, promoted and sometimes even financed the rationalist schools inspired by the pedagogy of Francesc Ferrer. There, boys and girls were taught without religious or official dogmas of any kind, and teaching was carried out in the most scientific way possible. These schools were officially recognized when the CENU was formed and its teachers were granted the official recognition that many of them lacked.

Militias or popular army? Was the dilemma correctly posed: war or revolution?

Every revolution is a war and every war is counterrevolutionary. This principle might lead us to curse the revolution. On the other hand, war can be imposed upon us. I only know two ways to wage war: by means of continuous fronts or on the basis of guerrillas. The latter method is more consistent with the Spanish temperament. In a war of continuous fronts, the winner is the better army. From this point of view it was a mistake to accept classic warfare. Guerrilla war would have had better results. In the era of aviation, it has its shortcomings, but it is the only way to dislocate a better-organized army. The guerrillas first yield ground, and then carry out surprise attacks. But preparation is needed. The CNT and the FAI did not train their people for guerrilla war but for barricade combat in small or large cities. This was an error on the part of our strategists.

War or Revolution? Both. If one wages war instead of the revolution, the politicized militiaman or soldier will know that there will be no revolution and thus loses his will to fight. In our case, the counterrevolution in the rearguard was one of the main factors of the defeat.

What is the balance sheet of activities carried out during the years of exile?

Despite the numerous confrontations, conflicts and disagreements, as far as the CNT is concerned, I think that, taking into account the forty years of being separated from the land where we were born, our emigration can offer a positive balance at the level of cultural and other tasks. It never stopped publishing newspapers, pamphlets, journals and books, some of which were even original. On the other hand, in exile we had children and nieces and nephews who will no longer be Spanish but who have been integrated in all the classes and professions of the countries throughout the world that welcomed us. Soon enough our descendants will no longer feel the Spanish influence in so many countries. But in France I noted this during the events of May ’68. I think that, aside from the Jewish diaspora, our case is one of the most meaningful in the history of emigrations.

Considering the development of modern trade unionism, which has become an instrument of integration into the system and has given rise to a bureaucracy that controls the workers, to what extent are the concepts of anarchism and anarchosyndicalism antithetical?

This topic has always been the subject of polemics and will probably continue to be. I recall quite vividly, when I first became an anarchist, around 1927-1928: we accepted the trade unionist framework because there were no others. In our speeches at the assemblies of the bricklayers, for example, we always spoke of Rousseau, Han Ryder, Voltaire and the Russian revolutionary classics. And the bricklayers, with vacant stares, told us: “Good, we’ll see when you are done!”. The bulletin that we published was written in the same style. By this I mean that, to a young person, anything that had to do with the trade unions, economics, industry … seemed foreign. Such topics seemed to be more suited to people with more settled lives rather than romantics who were born for action. But in the history of anarchism both tendencies have always coexisted. The anarchist tendency, that we used to call the old anarchists; I am referring to the turn of the century, in 1905-1907 and even before, when the famous metal workers strike took place in 1902. During that time the group, “Tierra y Libertad” was formed, they were the purists, they did not even want to hear or talk about trade unions, they proclaimed they were integral, pure and specifically anarchists and who knows what else. And there were also the syndicalists, the anarchosyndicalists, influenced to a certain degree by the French CGT, which was then anarchosyndicalist. They tended to deal with trade union type problems, which entailed a lot of violence then.

In the book by Xavier Quadrat, Socialismo y Anarquismo en Catalunya: Los orígenes de la CNT, there is a discussion of the “Solidaridad Obrera” organization, which was formally constituted in 1907, but which seems to have been really operative since 1904. That organization, with the passing years, became the CNT. There were two tendencies within it: socialists and anarchists. The socialists….

Marxist socialists?

Yes, that is how they described themselves. They were the socialists associated with Pablo Iglesias. The UGT was formed in 1888 in Barcelona, and “Solidaridad Obrera” was founded later, as I mentioned. And this is what the reader of the book by X. Quadrat will ask himself: how is it possible that there were socialists in Solidaridad Obrera, the author grants them as much or more importance than the anarchists, and on the other hand why does he not tell us why these Catalan socialists did not join the ranks of the UGT? He gives the excuse—or more correctly, the argument, since it is a very well-documented book—that the reason for this was the centralism of Pablo Iglesias, who lived in Madrid, and who saw everything from the point of view of the center, and here the Catalan socialists saw things differently, and preferred to be in “Solidaridad Obrera” instead of the UGT.

You are one of those people who think that the entry of the CNT in the government and the republican state was disastrous for the Libertarian Movement. To what extent, however, did the bureaucratization and authoritarianism that corrupted the CNT merely highlight a tendency and a reality that had already existed?

Obviously, nothing is created by spontaneous generation. I recall that before the movement erupted, I had already criticized certain tendencies that were surreptitiously favorable to a certain degree of collaboration with the politicians. And Carbó did, too (Carbó and I published a newspaper called Más Lejos [Further]). I even published an article critical of García Oliver, whom I reproached for some declarations he made that indicated he was an advocate of the seizure of power. This article turned up in the proceedings at the Zaragoza Congress. The delegate of the Leatherworkers Trade Union of Barcelona issued a challenge to me: “We challenge the delegate of L’Hospitalet.” “All right, let’s see, why? Explain it to me.” “Because of this!” And he began to read my article. The Congress broke out in laughter. García Oliver himself mounted the podium and said: “Please, comrades, enough, stop making fools of yourselves”. García Oliver had already revealed himself, during that period, as a supporter of the seizure of power; we (we may say we were the redskins) called this anarcho-bolshevism. That is, this tendency was clearly expressed. And this is not even taking into account the backsliding evidenced by the sector of the reformists, the Treintistas, of those who precipitated the split (well, I don’t know who brought about the split; surely all of them). In fact, what happened was that there were many tendencies that were often rebuffed, but finally these refutations convinced nobody, as in the case of Pestaña, Juan López … who were noted to have a certain understanding with the authorities, especially in Catalunya.

Anyway, I began by saying that nothing is created by spontaneous generation. All movements have their antecedents…. Anarchism, in the final analysis, is a movement of men, and men are complex and we have our weaknesses.

Caballero government ministers (November 1936). From left to right: Jaume Aigudé i Miró (ERC), Federica Montseny (CNT-FAI), Joan García Oliver (CNT-FAI) and Anastasio de Gracia (PSOE)

Caballero government ministers (November 1936). From left to right: Jaume Aigudé i Miró (ERC), Federica Montseny (CNT-FAI), Joan García Oliver (CNT) and Anastasio de Gracia (PSOE)

There are some people (this is most forcefully argued by such critics of syndicalism as Richards, C. Semprún…) who claim that the fact that the CNT participated in state power and accepted—at least part of the CNT—authoritarian discipline, this was due not just to the fact that authoritarian tendencies had already previously arisen within the trade unions, but also to the very nature of syndicalism itself.

This is looking at things with a very particular focus. It is looking at the defects rather than the virtues. While what you say is true, there is also an opposite tendency. There are people who would sacrifice everything for their ideas. They were so suspicious that they condemned anyone, as if they were trying people for thought crimes. And on occasions the consequences of this attitude were that they really did drive the individual they were criticizing to do precisely what they were accusing him of wanting to do. This was the case with Medína González, an Andalusian who wrote a pamphlet and some quite dubious articles. Everyone put him down and I think that this guy finally ended up in the hands of the communists. Another example is what happened to Sender. Sender did not get a warm welcome from us. He worked for Solidaridad Obrera, and was its chief correspondent in Madrid for more than a year; and just when the editorial team of the moderates, led by Peiró, was swept away by the wave of the extremists, led by Felipe Alaiz, the first thing the latter did was to refuse to accept any more of Sender’s articles. Alaiz was a great writer, an individual whose work was very illuminating; in fact, I was a disciple of his to some extent. But this did not prevent me from perceiving his many defects, in the sense that someone who has risen very high, can then fall very far.

During those days there was a great deal of unrest caused by practical problems. There was a maximalist tendency in favor of action, you could call it a Bakuninist tendency, which claimed that destruction would lead to construction. At the same time, there were those who said, “no, it is necessary for us to have as accurate as possible of an idea and a design of the revolution that we are going to carry out”. This is where Isaac Puente comes in. Carbó himself wrote a series of futuristic articles. And so did Higinio Noja Ruiz, one of the best anarchist writers of the thirties. He was the driving force behind the journal Estudios. He is the only anarchist of that period who wrote novels for a mass audience. He was concerned with economic problems of a constructive type, and he was just as accomplished a journalist and art critic as he was a novelist.

So all these tendencies already existed before the war.

So what lessons can we learn from the CNT’s participation in power?

Catastrophic, overwhelmingly catastrophic, since the CNT took on a heart-rending burden. The CNT was in no condition to leave its own terrain and take up a position on another terrain that was full of traps and deceits. The CNT could not adapt in one month, or in two years, or even in four years. It could not make this transition, this involution of a political, despotic type, with its deceptions and fakery. It was incapable of doing this.

First of all, because it conflicted with its own psychology; secondly, because it could not undertake a program of self-reeducation for an accelerated conversion into a political organization with all the prerequisites of such an organization, like the others. All of this is assuming that the CNT was on the right road—I think it was not. The CNT could not, neither from the tactical point of view nor that of principles, accept unlimited collaboration. The CNT was capable of engaging in limited collaboration, without the need to have to dress up their militants like clowns and make them sit on stools, and make them haunt the hallways of government like ghosts.

The CNT could have engaged in very positive work without leaving its own terrain, which was that of the trade unions, and the economy; the latter was the decisive factor in the war and in the revolution.

And by leaving this terrain not only did it leave its own home territory but it also was obliged to combat its own comrades. We need only recall those speeches of the Marxists in which they insulted those who dared to uphold a classic position.

That is, without extremism, without throwing temper tantrums, without closing ourselves off in a 100% intransigent position from the philosophical point of view, the CNT, with the economic lever in its hands, with the collectives, and with so many things that it had in its reach, could have mounted an effective opposition, while by acting otherwise its enemies managed to crush the opposition of the CNT and turn the confederal institutions against it. In conclusion, participation in the government was negative from every point of view.

Federica now says that it could not have been done any other way. This means that in a similar situation she would do the same thing. I ask myself: how could someone call herself an anarchist when she accepts not just that she was, but even that she would once again be a minister?

Who represented the FAI within the libertarian movement and what tendencies existed within it? Don’t you think that the group that you call anarcho-bolshevik was in some respects very libertarian? I am asking you about the FAI because after the war both the bourgeoisie as well as the Marxists have depicted the militants of the FAI as monsters and those of the CNT as decent fellows.

This opens up a whole detective novel. Here you have right before you two persons who were members of the FAI (during the interview, J. Peirats was accompanied by his friend Canela); I was the secretary of the Local Federation of Groups and my friend Canela was the secretary of the Regional Federation of Groups. We were totally opposed to a certain kind of FAIsta propaganda that was not exactly emitted by the FAI itself. That is, there were individuals who did not even belong to the FAI, because I was, from the Local Federation, in a position to control them but was actually unable to do so, and I assume that Canela could not control them, either, from his position in the Regional Federation.

These individuals were the ones who mounted the podiums, who spoke in the name of the FAI. And we became aware of all of this through the newspapers, and it reached the point where one day we held a meeting with Ascaso, García Oliver and Aurelio Fernández at the Local Federation. And we told them that this had to stop, that in order to speak the way they were speaking they had to first make it clear what organization they belonged to and who they represented. And their response was that they did not represent the FAI, but certain authorized Defense Committees, which were organizations that existed at the time, created specifically for action, for strikes and times of unrest, and up to a point we must admit that they were effective: on July 19, for example, these committees worked quite well.

That is, there were people who were speaking in the manner I mentioned above, thus giving the impression that the FAI was a secret Masonic or Jacobin group. They spoke in the name of the FAI. But the truth is that we, at the Local Federation, had no control over them, although they had their supporters among our ranks.

So, with respect to the question of the influence of the CNT and the FAI: the CNT is an organization that was formed in 1910. It is therefore one of the oldest revolutionary organizations, socially speaking, that has ever existed in Spain. Actually, the CNT and the FAI were two separate organizations. The relation between them has been tendentiously falsified, since the creation of the FAI has been attributed to the need to control the CNT. This is false. Not long ago I discovered the summaries of the minutes of the Valencia Conference of July 1927 where the FAI was founded. The complete minutes of this conference do not exist. They were lost. Fortunately someone drafted summaries of them that fell into my hands when I was secretary of the FAI in 1933-1934. In this summary of the minutes CNT-FAI Committees are mentioned, at local, regional and national levels. That is, it mentioned collaboration, rather than the subordination of one organization to the other.

During the revolution, the FAI adopted the same policy as the CNT. And this allowed me to reach a conclusion that is very interesting. It has been claimed that the FAI was the one that dictated orders to the CNT. I always maintained the opposite: it was the CNT that gave the orders to the FAI; it was the CNT that influenced, absorbed and impressed the FAI with its own distinctive traits. The CNT was an organization of a syndicalist revolutionary type and the FAI had to be an organization of an ideological type. Problems of an economic nature and those that arose from the revolutionary context of the moment that affected the CNT also absorbed the FAI. Furthermore, all the militants of the FAI came from the CNT: for both these reasons, the FAI had to be the reflection of the CNT. That is why I always maintained that it was not the FAI that dominated the CNT, but the CNT that dominated the FAI. This was confirmed during the revolutionary period: it was the CNT that took the lead, and the FAI was nothing but a fellow traveler, a friend, a poor relation of the CNT.

So those who made the decision to join the government—García Oliver, Federica Montseny—were not members of the FAI? I only mention this because people normally associate them with the FAI.

García Oliver, Ascaso and others had their own FAI: the group, “Los Solidarios”. In any event, I have always said that there were two ministers from the CNT in the government, and two ministers from the FAI. Officially, however, there were four ministers from the CNT. The fact that the ministers were Peiró and López, on the one side, and García Oliver and Federica Montseny, on the other, clearly shows that there were two currents: the FAIsta and the trade union currents. It is true that Federica Montseny had always identified herself with the activities of the FAI, but I do not believe she belonged to any FAI grouping prior to the movement of 1936.

As for García Oliver, Ascaso, Durruti, etc., I have already mentioned that they had their own FAI. It had about thirty members. And this group worked autonomously. It spoke in the name of the FAI, because the FAI was its shield, its sword and its myth. And, of course, it would have been hard for them to invent a new organization.

The anarcho-bolsheviks identified with the FAI, although Federica Montseny was not a member of this tendency and could not be considered to be on the side of García Oliver. García Oliver, before and even during the first few days of the revolution, had already defined himself as an advocate of the seizure of power. I think that it is quite questionable whether he was sincere about this, however. I have always said, half seriously and half jokingly, that García Oliver was an advocate of the seizure of power during the first few days of July, because he knew that the CNT could not hold power alone. This is demonstrated by the fact that García changed his mind and not only changed his mind, but ended up where he did: in the cabinet.

Canela, myself, and four or five other people formed the group, “Afinitat”. We were always in the opposition within the FAI. We argued that the FAI should carry out work of an ideological, anarchist and doctrinal type in order to thus be capable of justifying the existence of two organizations: one that spoke of ideas and the other that addressed problems of a trade union type like the CNT. We believed that there should not be an FAI that is a copy of the CNT, because then one of the two was superfluous.

How did the CNT react to the course of events in Russia beginning in 1917, and with regard to the news of the extermination of the Russian libertarians at the hands of the Marxist Bolsheviks? And more generally, what position did the CNT take with regard to the Russian Revolution and the bureaucratic counterrevolution of the Marxists?

The Russian Revolution, like all revolutions, always, entailed confusions of an ideological and tactical type. At the time I was a very young child. In 1917, I was not yet a member of the organization; I joined it in 1922 at the age of 14. At the age of fourteen I was incapable of really understanding these things. I was only to get to know them later, through documents.

I remember quite well, as a cause of commotion, that my cousin, who was a militant, came to this very house (I was very young then), and spoke to my mother about the soviets. My cousin was a member of the CNT; he had already been arrested, and had already passed through his baptism of fire. He spoke to my mother about all these things and for the first time I heard talk of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and this idea became fixed in my mind. “Because,” my cousin told her, “there is universal dictatorship and universal suffrage.” (I said to myself: “Universal suffrage? That must be some kind of casserole or something.”) “There is the tendency of Bakunin and there is the tendency of Karl Marx and Lenin.” And I heard all this, and I was bemused but did not understand it. These were my first memories. Later, when I began to take up the sword and go in search of adventures, that was when we informed ourselves about these things.

In Spain it was a time of great confusion. During the Russian Revolution, the anarchists here were quite agitated because the Bolsheviks would say they were anarchists at one time and Marxists at another time. The anarchists of that period and the cenetistas both called themselves Bolsheviks as well as anarchists. That is, they made no distinctions between them. If you have read Lenin’s book, The State and Revolution, you will agree that it is a text that utilizes an anarchoid phraseology, although its true colors show through, and this book certainly created a great deal of confusion because it was published precisely in 1917. And in 1918 a second edition was published. But The State and Revolution was never finished, it was interrupted. Lenin explained that this was because the revolution itself was still not finished. But it turned out that in 1918 there was a second edition, and he neither added nor revised anything, which indicates that he already had a bad conscience about it.

But this book, taking into account the mentality of that era, the fever for action that existed then (the Russian Revolution, the unrest in Germany and Italy), only increased the confusion. The socialists themselves in Spain felt the pressure from the supporters of the Third International. Up to a point this is understandable.

The consequence of all this was that the CNT officially confronted this problem for the first time at its 1919 Congress, the Congress that we call the Comedia, because it was held at the Comedia de Madrid (the socialists always call it the “Congress of the Comedy”, which is their way of saying that we were just a bunch of comedians). There, a very comprehensive debate took place. There one could perceive the disorientation that affected even people who had a clear view of things like Carbó and Buenacasa. Carbó himself said: “We want the dictatorship of the proletariat, we love it, we defend it, we shall defend it.” That is what he said; anyone who knows Carbó, who knows that he was an anarchist from head to toe, would ask himself: how is it possible that Carbó would say such a contradictory thing at that moment? Buenacasa’s speeches were also catastrophic. In opposition, there was the speech of Quintanilla, who was a leader of the opposition. The speeches of Quintanilla, the old Asturian syndicalist, are much more clear. He was a man more firmly rooted in doctrine and with a vision of the future. He saw the development of the process of the revolution in Russia and he allowed himself to criticize it and to confront the Bolshevizing current that was led by precisely Hilari Arlandís (who was later to join the Communist Party).

The speeches in favor of the dictatorship of the proletariat were the result of a lack of information and the demagogy of the Bolsheviks. The word revolution is something that moves the minds of men. Whenever a revolution takes place there is confusion at first, although this confusion is later dissipated. But the mere fact of a revolution is something that causes men to seethe and to boil. It has an enormous attractive force. And these men were in the midst of this phase. I think—I have not seen any copies of it—that a newspaper was even published that was called El Soviet. It was published by the CNT.

Anyway, this polemic that developed at the Congress is summarized in a speech by El Noi del Sucre [“the sugar boy’], Seguí. It appears that he was trying to unite the two tendencies. He proposed that the CNT request provisional membership in the Third International, while awaiting the convocation in Spain of an international congress so that the International would have a consistent doctrine recognized by all its component groups.

This was the reason for Pestaña’s mission. Pestaña went to Russia, and soon after his arrival he began to notice a series of irregularities. While he was there he naturally made contact with the anarchists, who had been subjected to a massacre in 1918. The reaction against the Russian anarchists began in 1918. And in 1919, the anarchists, those who were not dead or in prison, began to wage an anti-Bolshevik struggle.

Among them we find, for example, Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, who had been deported from the United States to their country of origin, for having carried out propaganda against the war.

Goldman and Berkman, despite their Bolshevoid tendencies (in the United States, Goldman had published a pamphlet defending the Bolsheviks), once having arrived in Russia quickly recognized what was really going on there; Goldman was the first to react, since Berkman, who was more sceptical, took a little longer to face the facts, because he thought that the situation might have been the product of improvisation, but that with the passage of time it would find its equilibrium point, undergoing changes and that finally the revolution would reach its true goal. Finally, however, he became convinced that the situation was irreversible.

When Pestaña arrived in Russia in 1920, he found all these people there. And the Bolsheviks could no longer deceive him. He made contact with the comrades. They informed him about the situation. Goldman and Berkman themselves were in contact with what we could call the anarchist resistance. So was Kropotkin, who was still living then. Pestaña visited him, too. So when Pestaña returned from Russia, he brought with him a rectification. What happened was that when he arrived in Barcelona, it was under the dictatorship of Martínez Anido, so Pestaña could not deliver his report. The organization was underground. Some time later, his report was published in the form of a pamphlet. Pestaña was dispatched to Russia to attend the Second Congress of the Third International, where he was the delegate of the CNT. In his report he explains all the outrages and underhanded machinations carried out behind closed doors by the Bolsheviks and their lackeys, at a congress where they had complete control over the proceedings. This situation led Pestaña to write that “the presidency was the congress and the congress was a caricature”. I am not referring here to his book, Seventy Days in Russia, but to the official report he submitted in his name to the Committee of the CNT.

This pamphlet by Pestaña, unfortunately, could not be published until much later. The report is dated 1921, from prison. This means that it was not published until the Confederal Conference of Zaragoza in 1922. In 1921 there had already been a reaction because the Russian anarchists who had not been shot succeeded, by means of a hunger strike in the Moscow prison, in drawing attention to their plight and the persecution to which they were subjected.

In 1921 another CNT delegation went to Russia. This delegation was composed of Nin, Maurín, Ibáñez and Hilari Arlandís. If Pestaña could have delivered his report in 1921, it is possible that the organization would have taken care not to send these particular delegates, since some of them were known for their Bolshevoid tendencies. Also, this was during a period of harsh repression and the most important elements of the organization were in jail and some had been assassinated under the “law of flight”: such was the fate of Evelio Boal (who was one of the best secretaries the Organization had ever had, according to Buenacasa).

It was these circumstances that allowed Nin to become the secretary of the CNT during that period, because the organization was young and its inexperienced members voted for him. The notice concerning the convocation of the Plenum stated that it would be held in Barcelona, but its location was then changed to Lérida, where Maurín had a lot of influence. So there is something very fishy about the whole history of this era. Anyway, since Pestaña’s report was not yet widely disseminated, this delegation was appointed, which left for Russia to attend the First Congress of the Red Trade Union International.

This mission was not a total catastrophe, since the delegation insulted Trotsky himself. At one point, right in the middle of the congress proceedings, as a result of the efforts of Emma Goldman and other anarchists who were in hiding, a loud protest was staged to obtain the release of the prisoners held in the Cheka prison at Taganka. They threatened, right in the middle of the congress, that if the prisoners were not freed they would speak out until the whole affair was totally exposed. The Bolsheviks were frightened and promised to free the prisoners. There were many machinations before they fulfilled their promise. Nin’s delegation played a role in the campaign. This is a relatively unknown fact that Emma Goldman comments on in her memoirs…. To the Bolsheviks, all the prisoners were bandits….

When the Congress adjourned the prisoners were released, but they were given bogus passports. When they arrived at their destinations, the authorities were warned that they were Soviet spies. That is, Lenin gave them some passports in order to screw them once they were outside of the Soviet Union. Thus, for example, when Goldman and Berkman arrived in Lithuania they were imprisoned. Finally, thanks to various protests, these comrades could finally live legally in other countries.

At that time in Germany there was a very small but most interesting and active organization: the FAUD. Its leading figure was Rocker. It had some very capable men, men who were actually the founders of the new anarchosyndicalism, since the old anarchosyndicalism of the CGT was in decline: the socialists were taking it over and those who were at first part of the anarchist tendency, like Monatte, were moving towards Bolshevism….

This organization, the FAUD, had direct contacts with the Russian anarchists; their geographical proximity allowed them to establish channels for the exchange of information. The FAUD was the organization that was most well informed with regard to the Russian reality and was engaged in making it known to the world. It published Rocker’s pamphlets, Bolshevism and Anarchism and Soviet or Dictatorship. Then it published Arshinov’s book about the Makhnovist movement, which was first published in a Spanish language edition in Argentina.

In 1922, the National Conference of the CNT was held in Zaragoza, after the fall of the regime of the executioner Martínez Anido. At this Conference everything could be told. Nin was not present because he remained in Russia; Maurín was not there, either, certainly because he had not even been invited. The only member of the delegation to the Red Trade Union International who attended the Conference was Arlandís: he was totally overwhelmed. Pestaña was there, and so was Peiró. Leval submitted a report that caused an uproar. That was when the 1919 resolution, which was provisional, was revised.

Some people say that Salvador Seguí was a “Marxist avant la lettre”. Do you think there is any truth to this opinion?

Frankly, this is an absurd opinion. Seguí was never a Marxist. He was a man who positioned himself in the center. He believed in the organization. He abhorred extremism, he was a constructive man, a syndicalist most of all. There was nothing Marxist about him.

Why were the Russian anarchists, even though they were more numerous than the Bolsheviks, crushed by them?

Look, I don’t know if there were more numerous. They were crushed because the more brutal will always crush those who are less brutal. If you analyze in a little more detail the conditions within which the Bolsheviks operated, their political skills, their Jesuitism, their endless verbiage, the motives they adduced to justify their actions, one will understand the difficult and disadvantageous situation faced by the anarchists. First of all, for example, there was the poverty of the people, which required many sacrifices. Then, there was the White offensive that attempted to conquer territory; and the international conspiracy of all the great powers, and so many other reasons. All of this was like our war, when we were appalled by the sight of Federica Montseny and all the others who were in the government bad-mouthing the collectives. We told ourselves: “What do you want? If we choose any other way, the whole world will turn against us, we will have to break with our policy of collaboration, and collaboration is the only thing that keeps the war going and the war […]” Anyway, those of us who have passed through such a situation will have a good understanding of the Russian case. Revolutions are dangerous because they lead to this kind of psychological situation not just on a mass level, but on the individual level as well. Hunger, for instance. “There is hunger because the economy has not yet been reconstructed”; fear of the reactionary forces: “We have to concentrate state power in an iron grip in order to confront the troops of the White generals”; and the lack of preparation of the people; and the international embargo. All of these things are crucial, just as they were crucial in our war. We were beating ourselves over the head. “We are heading for catastrophe”, we said to ourselves, “towards the negation of what we once were.” Not only did the mass of the people falter, so did many individuals, starting with the leaders, who made a 180-degree turn.

What was the reason for the Stalinist repression and assassination campaign directed against the POUMistas and the libertarians, especially following the political hegemony the Stalinists achieved after the events of May 1937?

The reasons for all these things must be sought in the influence of the GPU, the Russian secret police, in whose hands one might say that the decision-making powers regarding public order had been placed. The police forces were in the hands of these people. That is, they had so thoroughly infiltrated the republican regime that the time came when the government was no longer a government (if we grant that a government can cease to be a government). There was a state within a state. And this state within a state was composed, for example, of the sinister forces unleashed here by Stalin, and with the mentality of Stalin, everything has an explanation. What happened here was nothing but a reflection of the same policies that Stalin had implemented in Russia. You know that in Russia, contrary to what one would assume, against Russia’s own interests, Stalin murdered everyone, even the most talented people. Russia needed generals, officers and instead Stalin did away with them. It was an unreal reality.

These people could not have proceeded any other way. It was the physical elimination not just of the enemy but also of those who never considered themselves to be enemies. It was a purge, pure and simple. There are people who are ready to offer their services to carry out this purge; it was not the Russians themselves who did the work. The Spaniards are also capable of acting in this manner in certain circumstances, when there is fanaticism, as there was at the time, especially if interests of a bureaucratic type are created.

What social and political interests were the actions of the Stalinists supposed to serve?

The Stalinists in Spain did not have their own personalities. They executed the orders of Moscow and they were satisfied with the acquisition of political and military positions. Their interests were those of the Soviet state, not those that they might have had as Spaniards. They were puppets manipulated by Stalin, who flattered their personal ambitions. In general one can say that there were those who acted and those who ceased to act. Those who acted were, naturally, the communists, who were for their part acting on behalf of the secret agents of the GPU. And those who ceased to act were the liberal and bourgeois forces who feared the revolution and who preferred reaction to an actual revolution. I am referring above all to the petty bourgeoisie, such as the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, and the republicans more generally. To these people the revolution caused greater terror than fascism; it was the revolution that terrorized them first of all, to such an extent that when July 19 came around, you know that Martínez Barrio offered general Mola the Ministry of War. This shows how afraid they were of the revolution; they did not want it to continue.

Later there was another factor. The communists have a way of going about things that is always manifested in such situations. It was also manifested in May ’68 in Paris: they do not allow a leftist movement to their left to exist. They cannot tolerate the existence of a revolution alongside their revolution. I believe this was the reason for their declaration of war against the CNT. Because the war was against the CNT, not against the POUM. The POUM was caught in the crossfire, the weakest force. This was analyzed quite well by Broué and Temime in their book, La révolution et la guerre d’Espagne. It is the technique of the sausage that cuts one little slice at a time; everyone looks out for themselves and no one stops them; they cut off the weakest parts. When the republicans were in their hands and they saw how they had managed to divide the socialists, then they went straight for the CNT. The socialist party was already divided before the war. But as the war progressed, the communists exploited the rivalries between the Prieto and Caballero factions.

Prieto (Negrín’s patron) is the single person who is most responsible for the socialist crypto-communism of the war. Prieto was not really a Negrinist. He was a man with a grudge against Largo Caballero and prosecuted this grudge to the extent of playing the game of the others, precisely those who would later, with complete justice, get rid of him. The policy of Prieto is the policy of vengeance. Largo Caballero already shunned him even before the war. Do you remember that meeting in Egea held by the Caballero faction where they captured the Young Socialists? He never forgot this. And those young socialists were young socialists, but then they were young unified socialists, that is: Russified. Largo Caballero engaged in that maneuver of uniting the two youth organizations with the conviction that he would absorb the communists because the socialists were in the majority. And the result was just the opposite; the socialists were devoured. This is just one more proof that you cannot play with unity with the communists. They are more sly and always get their way.

During the war the communists succeeded in dividing the socialist party and the UGT. And this made them powerful…. And finally they attacked the Generalitat of Catalunya. It is a lie that the Statute of Autonomy was abolished by Franco: it had already been abolished by the Republic itself, it was abolished by Negrín. And if Negrín abolished it, this was because Companys had to do it after he made his move against the CNT and the POUM. Companys dug his own grave. It was Companys who played the communist hand during the May Events. Companys played the counterrevolutionary hand and then discovered that when the counterrevolution arrived the Statute of Autonomy was annulled.

For the most objective specialists, the May Events constituted a provocation, whose strategist and organizer was Antonov Ovseenko. The comrades, that is, the confederal comrades, reacted, some with the belief that it was another July 19, that the revolution was in danger and that it had to be defended; others, whom we may refer to as the bureaucrats of the organization, came out with other arguments, which in my view were not very sincere: they said that it is better not to respond to this provocation. I think that this was the opinion of those who had comfortable positions and were bureaucratized.

There was also the Group, “The Friends of Durruti”, concerning which a great deal has been said but to which I frankly do not grant much importance. There were people who were not from the CNT, and they spoke a Jacobin language: “Let’s cut off their heads, smash the committees, shoot them”. Knowing these people, they were certainly not the most capable of waging a coherent campaign.

The harshest repression was directed against the POUM. The circumstances surrounding the arrest of the POUM central committee and the kidnapping of Nin are well known. They killed the anarchist Berneri like a rabbit. There is evidence that they kidnapped him; that elements of the PSUC went after him and they got him. Just as they caught all the hostages of the libertarian youth that they had in their hands, and many of them reappeared in the cemetery of Cerdanyola. Alfred Martínez was never found. He disappeared.

When the expeditionary forces of the Valencia Government were on their way to Barcelona, in every area they passed through the elements of the PSUC and the republicans of the Esquerra were emboldened and hunted down the libertarian elements.

They could not go after the libertarians here in Barcelona because they were afraid to do so. At that time I was in Lérida. In Lérida we made them back down. They did not dare to attack us. In that city the POUM was the most powerful force, we were the second most powerful force and they had few supporters. The PSUC, in Lérida, was an import.

There is currently a campaign underway to mythologize President Companys. They are particularly exploiting the fact that he was shot by the fascists. What is your view of the political role of President Companys and the mythologization of his memory that is currently underway?

I think that they will succeed in creating a myth of Companys. However, speaking not just as an anarchist but as a citizen, I think that the policies of President Companys featured many errors and not just during the war.

Let’s just focus on the events of October [1934]: no statesman with his head screwed on right would participate in such a scheme and join such people, the way he did, counting on such sparse forces as he had at his disposal. It was a catastrophic movement. In addition, Companys could not have felt that he would have the support of those who were fighting in Asturias. He could not have felt that he would have the support of what the socialists in Madrid did or did not do, since I doubt that they had any idea of what they were doing. And we still do not know today what they thought they could gain from the events of October.

In any event, the actions of an individual can be as debatable as you like, but if they have a tragic outcome, some considerations of a humanist type arise which are quite understandable. I think that we all sympathize with his death. The shooting of Companys is something ignominious, shameful, outrageous, any adjective you want…. Anyway, except for that, his activity is not very impressive.

I think that he never was a politician in the classical meaning of the word. He committed many blunders. He allowed himself to be dragged along by elements that he believed could help him but it was in fact just those elements that caused him to falter. That is what the PSUC did. Companys was the one they heaped praise upon. And it was Companys whom they helped to undermine and towards the end, the PSUC was even more powerful than the Esquerra Republicana itself, since the latter did not possess a mass of militants that it could mobilize at a moment’s notice, while the PSUC had the UGT. It had managed to attract the most active elements of the petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry and had successfully constructed a powerful UGT. And of course, this base had always been the base of the Esquerra—the peasants, the white-collar workers—but the PSUC won it over to its side. The PSUC conducted an anti-FAIsta propaganda that flattered the small and large landowners and in this sector it was a formidable competitor of the Esquerra itself. It went on undermining his position and Companys kept playing its game. Companys could have relied on other forces….

Getting back to the events of October; according to Munis, the socialist party threatened to revolt unless the government accepted its participation in the cabinet; in the north, the insurrection only made serious headway in those locations where the bureaucracy of the socialist party could not control the rank and file. The workers started a revolution, but Largo Caballero and company used the insurrection of the Asturian workers as leverage to compel the President of the Republic to accept another republican socialist coalition government.

This is the thesis of my book. I think that those people did not really intend to start a revolution. And I also add one other argument; I am referring to the document of Prieto, which I copied from a pamphlet by Llopis, which includes the program of that movement. If you examine it in detail, you will see that it is a completely bourgeois program. There is no mention of a social revolution. And besides, it is a fact that neither in Madrid nor anywhere else in Spain did the socialists mobilize their forces.

I think that the few leaders who did mobilize were dragged along by the rank and file, a particular kind of rank and file. The origin of the Asturian socialist movement is basically anarchist. That is, in Asturias it was the opposite of the way it was in Catalonia. Just as in Catalonia the socialists were active but it was the anarchists who finally dominated the organization, in Asturias the opposite was the case, the anarchists lit the fire, it was the anarchists who trained the Asturian temperament: but then the socialists arrived with electoral promises and they conquered the miners movement and only left the islands of La Felguera and Gijón. In any event, the Asturian miner had always been a revolutionary element. And he left his leaders behind. Because this is not what his leaders wanted: they just wanted to strike fear into the hearts of Gil Robles and company, in order to get them to back down.

Cruells, in El 6 d’octobre a Catalunya, mentions the inferiority complex of the UGT with respect to the CNT, with reference to the revolutionary question, due to the fact that the UGT (Largo Caballero) had collaborated with Primo de Rivera and then with the republican-bourgeois government. To overcome this complex, they had to do something….

I share this opinion because the socialists constituted the pillar of the republican position; the government was republican-socialist. This discouraged them and even discredited them because the Republic had to resort to arms to suppress the insurrection.

Then, in the Center, which had been the private preserve of the socialist party, the organization, the CNT, which had always been in a minority there, began to raise its head—beginning with the construction trade union and continuing with the rest of them—and it was gaining ground.

And this naturally aroused in the socialists, if not an inferiority complex, at least a certain degree of alarm. These people became alarmed and said: “OK, here, against a CNT that is always in the streets, with strikes, which fights and has a critical attitude and attracts the masses, we have to do something.” It was in this context that Largo Caballero delivered those incendiary speeches about the dictatorship of the proletariat. That was the most catastrophic thing he could have done. Gradually it was becoming more and more clear just how insincere he was. I think that it was electoral propaganda. Everyone knows that Largo Caballero discovered Lenin while he was in prison.

Before July 1936, was an alliance between the CNT and the UGT possible, which, according to some historians, could have prevented the “glorious national uprising”?

The fact that the UGT was an appendage of the PSOE and comprised its electoral base, rendered a CNT-UGT pact almost impossible. Besides, the CNT, at its congress of Zaragoza, imposed, as a condition for such a pact, the practical separation of the UGT from the PSOE. I don’t think that a CNT-UGT pact would have prevented the military coup d’état. Instead, it would have precipitated it. The revolutionary pact between the CNT and the UGT in Asturias horrified all the right wing elements, who rapidly encouraged the military to revolt. We already saw what happened in 1934 with that catastrophic plan. And I say that with all due respect for those who sacrificed their lives there.

To what factors do you attribute the loss of ground by the organized anarchist workers movement after the Second World War?

Communism, making use of its populist demagogy, has shaken all the social and political foundations of the world. What is unfortunate is that, by doing so, the classic humanitarian values have been suppressed, more than one might think.

These scholastics and Jesuits of the 20th century have robbed us of the flag of liberty in order to give it a modern touch-up. What they have not been able to conquer they have crushed. This accursed invasion, which has even affected the intellectual classes of the entire world, has transformed the meaning of the revolutionary mystique that represented the spearhead of anarchosyndicalism, and the workers camp has been seriously weakened as a result.

On the other hand, the anarchists have attempted to confront this situation by withdrawing into themselves and carrying out a witch-hunt against all those persons and things that are suspected of heresy. The result has been that new values have not arisen and that we continue to nourish ourselves on the legacy of the old masters. Unless this pernicious trend ceases and unless man recovers his sense of direction, it will be hard for libertarian syndicalism to once again make progress. Another factor of decline has been the invasion of all domains by the state. Social reform laws have brought many benefits to the workers but they have tranquilized their non-conformist spirit, intensified the process of their embourgeoisification within consumer society. Finally, industrialization, with its accompanying technocracy, has shattered the proletarian class into little pieces, transforming it into a scattering of categories, and it thus lost its unity. The anarchists have not yet found their tactical equilibrium within this constantly shifting context.

Published in Anthropos, no. 102, November 1989, pp. 26-35.

Translated from the Spanish in October-November 2013.

Source in spanish, Alasbarricadas

Republication from

Marx, Theoretician of Anarchism – Maximilien Rubel (1973)

also available in greek, here

marx5Marx has been badly served by disciples who have succeeded neither in assessing the limits of his theory nor in determining its standards and field of application and has ended up by taking on the role of some mythical giant, a symbol of the omniscience and omnipotence of homo faber, maker of his own destiny.

The history of the School remains to be written, but at least we know how it came into being: Marxism, as the codification of a misunderstood and misinterpreted body of thought, was born and developed at a time when Marx’s work was not yet available in its entirely and when important parts of it remained unpublished. Thus, the triumph of Marxism as a State doctrine and Party ideology preceded by several decades the publication of the writings where Marx set out most clearly and completely the scientific basis and ethical purpose of his social theory. That great upheavals took place which invoked a body of thought whose major principles were unknown to the protagonists in the drama of history should have been enough to show that Marxism was the greatest, if not the most tragic, misunderstanding of the century. But at the same time this allows us to appreciate the significance of the theory held by Marx that it is not revolutionary ideas or moral principles which bring about changes in society, but rather human and material forces; that ideas and ideologies very often serve only to disguise the interest of the class in whose interests the upheavals take place. Political Marxism cannot appeal to Marx’s science and at the same time escape the critical analysis which that science uses to unmask the ideologies of power and exploitation.

Marxism as the ideology of a master class has succeeded in emptying the concepts of socialism and communism, as Marx and his forerunners understood them, of their original meaning and has replaced it with the picture of a reality which is its complete negation. Although closely linked to the other two, a third concept – anarchism – seems however to have escaped this fate of becoming a mystification. But while people know that Marx had very little sympathy for certain anarchists, it is not so generally known that despite this he still shared the anarchist ideal and objectives: the disappearance of the State. It is therefore pertinent to recall that in embracing the cause of working class emancipation, Marx started off in the anarchist tradition rather than in that of socialism or communism; and that, when finally he chose to call himself a “communist,” for him this term did not refer to one of the communist currents which then existed, but rather to a movement of thought and mode of action which had yet to be founded by gathering together all the revolutionary elements which had been inherited from existing doctrines and from the experience of past struggles.

In the reflections which follow we will try to show that, under the name communism, Marx developed a theory of anarchism; and further, that in fact it was he who was the first to provide a rational basis for the anarchist utopia and to put forward a project for achieving it. In view of the limited scope of the present essay we will only put this forward as an item for discussion. Proof by means of quotations will be reduced to a minimum so as to better bring out the central argument: Marx theoretician of anarchism.


When in Paris in February 1845, on the eve of his departure for exile in Brussels, Marx signed a contract with a German publisher he committed himself to supplying in a few months a work in two volumes entitled “A Critique of Politics and Political Economy” without suspecting that he had imposed on himself a task which would take up his while life and of which he would be able to carry out only a largish fragment.

The choice of subject was no accident. Having given up all hope of a university career, Marx had carried over into his political journalism the results of his philosophical studies. His articles in the Rheinische Zeitung of Cologne led the fight for freedom of the press in Prussia in the name of a liberty which he conceived of as the essence of Man and as the attire of human nature; but also in the name of a State understood as the realisation of rational freedom, as “the great organism, in which legal, moral, and political freedom must be realised, and in which the individual citizen in obeying the laws of the state only obeys the natural laws of his own reason, of human reason.”[1] But the Prussian censorship soon silenced the philosopher-journalist. Marx, in the solicitude of a study retreat, did not take long to ask himself about the real nature of the State and about the rational and ethical validity of Hegel’s political philosophy. We know what was the fruit of this meditation enriched by the study of the history of the bourgeois revolutions in France, Great Britain and the United States: apart from an incomplete and unpublished work, The Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of the State (1843), two polemical essays, Introduction to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and On the Jewish Question (Paris, 1844). These two writings in fact form a single manifesto in which Marx identifies once and for all and condemns unreservedly the social institutions – the State and Money – which he saw as at the origin of the evils and defects from which modern society suffered and would go on suffering until a new social revolution came to abolish them. At the same time Marx praised the force – the modern proletariat – which, after having been the main victim of these two institutions, was going to put an end to their reign as well as to every other form of class domination, political and economic. The self-emancipation of the proletariat would be the complete emancipation of humanity; after the total loss of humanity the total victory of the human.

In the intellectual development of Marx the rejection of the State and Money and the affirmation that the proletariat was a liberating class came before his studies of political economy; they preceded also his discovery of the materialist conception of history, the “guiding line” which directed his later historical researches. His break with Hegel’s philosophy of law and politics on the one hand and his critical study of bourgeois revolutions on the other allowed him to establish clearly the ethical postulates of his future social theory for which the scientific basis was to be provided by the critique of political economy. Having understood the revolutionary role of democracy and legislative power in the genesis of the bourgeois State and governmental power, Marx made use of the illuminating analysis of two shrewd observers of the revolutionary possibilities of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville and Thomas Hamilton, to lay down a rational basis for an anarchist utopia as the conscious aim of the revolutionary movement of the class which his master Saint Simon had called “the most numerous and most poor.” Since the critique of the State led him to envisage the possibility of a society free from all political authority, he had to go on to make a critique of the economic system which ensured the material basis of the State. The ethical rejection of money also implied an analysis of political economy, the science of the enrichment of some and of the impoverishment of others. Later he was to describe the research he was about to begin on the “anatomy of bourgeois society” and it was by engaging in this work of social anatomy that he was to work out his methodology. Later the rediscovery of the Hegelian dialectic would help him to establish the plan of the “Economy” under six “headings” or “books”: Capital, Landed Property, Wage Labour; The State, Foreign Trade, World Market (see Preface to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859). In fact, this double “triad” of items for research corresponds to the two problems which he had proposed to deal with fourteen years previously in the work which was to contain a critique of both political economy and politics. Marx began his work with the critical analysis of the capitalist mode of production, but he hoped to live and work long enough not only to complete this but also, once he had completed the first triad of headings, to begin on the second triad which would thus have found the Book on the State.[2] The theory of anarchism would thus have found in Marx its first recognised exponent without there being any need to prove this indirectly. The misunderstanding of the century of Marxism as an ideology of the State was the result of the fact that Marx never wrote this book. It was this which has allowed the masters of a State apparatus labelled socialist to include Marx among the proponents of State socialism or communism, indeed even of “authoritarian” socialism.

Certainly, like every revolutionary teaching, that of Marx is not free from ambiguities. It is by cleverly exploiting these ambiguities and by referring to certain personal attitudes of the master that some of his unscrupulous disciples have succeeded in putting his work at the service of doctrines and actions which represent, in relation to both its basic truth and its declared objective, its complete negation. At a time when many decades of regression in human relations have called into question all theories, values, systems and projects, it is important to gather together the intellectual heritage of an author who, aware of the limits of his research, made the call for critical self-education and revolutionary self-emancipation the permanent principle of the workers’ movement. It is not up to posterity burdened with overwhelming responsibilities to judge a man who can no longer plead his cause; but on the other hand it is our duty to take up a teaching which was completely oriented towards the future, a future which certainly became our catastrophic present but which mostly still remains to be created.


We repeat: the “Book” on the State, foreshadowed in the plan of the Economy but which remained unwritten, could only have contained the theory of society freed from the State, anarchist society. Although not directly intended for this work, the materials and works prepared or published by Marx in the course of his literary activity allow us both to put forward this hypothesis about the content of the planned work and to work out what its general structure would have been. While the first triad of headings was part of the critique of political economy, the second would have put forward essentially a critique of politics. Following on from the critique of capital, the critique of the State would have established what determined the political evolution of modern society, just as the purpose of Capital (followed by the Books on “Landed Property” and “Wage Labour”) was to “lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society” (cf. Preface to Capital, 1867). In the same way that the principles and postulates which motivated Marx when making his critique of capital are to be found in his published and unpublished writings prior to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), so we can extract from these writings those which would have guided him in developing his criticism of the State. It would however be a mistake to suppose that at this time Marx’s thought on the nature of politics was established in its final form, with no possibility of modifying details and closed to all theoretical enrichment. Quite the contrary. The problem of the State never ceased to concern Marx not only because he failed to keep the moral engagement to finish his master work, but above all because it was constantly kept in his mind by his participation and polemical confrontations after September 1864 within the International Workingmen’s Association and by political events, particularly the rivalry for leadership between France and Prussia on the one hand and Russia and Austria on the other. The Europe of the Treaty of Vienna had then become no more than a fiction, while two important social phenomena had made their appearance on the scene of history: movements for national liberation and the workers’ movement. The struggle between nations and the class struggle, which were difficult to reconcile from a purely conceptual point of view, were to raise problems of theory requiring decisions by Marx and Engels which could not but bring them into contradiction with their own revolutionary principles. Engels made a speciality of differentiating between peoples and nations according to how, in his eyes, they could or could not claim the historical right to national existence. Their sense of historical realities prevented the two friends from following Proudhon in the way of a federalism which, in the situation of the time, must have seemed both a pure abstraction and an impure utopia; but they risked falling into a nationalism which was incompatible with the universalism of the modern proletariat they had posited.

If Proudhon, by his federalist aspirations, seems to be nearer than Marx to the anarchist position, the picture changes when we consider Proudhon’s overall conception of the reforms which should lead to the abolition of capital and the State. The almost excessive praise of which Proudhon is the object in the Holy Family (1845) should not mislead us. From this time on there were deep theoretical differences between the two men; the praise had only been conceded to the French socialist with a very important reservation: Proudhon’s critique of property was implicit in the bourgeois economic system, but however valid it might be it did not call into question the social relations of the system which it criticised. Quite the contrary. In Proudhon’s doctrine, the economic categories, which were theoretical expressions of the institutions of capital, were all systematically preserved. Proudhon’s merit was to have revealed the inherent contradictions of economic science and to have shown the immorality of bourgeois morality and law; his weakness was to have accepted the categories and institutions of the capitalist economy and to have respected, in his programme of reforms and solutions, all the instruments of the bourgeois class and its political power: wages, credit, banks, exchange, price, value, profit, interest, taxes, competition, monopoly. After applying the dialectic of the negation in his analysis of the evolution of law and legal systems, he stopped half-way by not extending his critical method of the negation to the capitalist economy. Proudhon opened the way for such a criticism, but it was Marx who was to create this new method of criticism and to try to use it as a weapon in the struggle of labour against capital and the State.

Proudhon had made his critique of bourgeois economics and law in the name of bourgeois morality; Marx was to make his criticism in the name of proletarian ethics, whose standards of judgement were taken from quite a different vision of human society. To do this he only had to follow to its logical conclusion Proudhon’s – or rather Hegel’s – principle of negation: the Justice of which Proudhon dreamed could only be established by the negation of justice just as philosophy could only be put into practice by the negation of philosophy, i.e., by a social revolution which would at last allow humanity to become social and society to be become human. This would be the end of the pre-history of humanity and the beginning of individual life, the appearance of fully-developed Man, with all-round faculties, the coming of complete Man. Marx opposed the realist morality of Proudhon, which sought to save the “good side” of bourgeois institutions, with the ethic of a utopia whose demands would be measured by the possibilities offered by a science and technology sufficiently developed to provide for the needs of the race. Marx opposed an anarchism which respected the plurality of classes and social categories, which favoured the division of labour and which was hostile to the associationists proposed by the utopians, with an anarchism which rejected social classes and the division of labour, a communism which took over all in utopian socialism that could be achieved by a proletariat which was conscious of its emancipating role and which had become master of the forces of production. However, in spite of these divergent means – in particular, as we shall see, a different attitude towards political action – the two types of anarchism aimed at a common end which the Communist Manifesto defined in these terms:

“In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”


Marx refused to invent recipes for the cooking pots of the future, but he did better – or worse – than this: he wanted to show that historical necessity – like some blind fate – was leading humanity to a situation of crisis where it would face a decisive dilemma: to be destroyed by its own technical inventions or to survive thanks to a leap in consciousness which would allow it to break with all the forms of alienation and servitude which had marked the stages of its history. Only this dilemma was fated, the actual choice would be left to the social class which had every reason to reject the existing order and to establish a fundamentally different mode of existence. The modern proletariat was potentially the material and moral force that was capable of taking up this universally significant task of salvation. However this potential force could not become real until the bourgeois period had been completed. For the bourgeoisie too had a historical role to play. If it had not always been conscious of this, then its apologists had had the task of reminding it of its civilising role. In creating the world in its image, the bourgeoisie of the industrially developed countries embourgeoisified and proletarianised the societies which progressively fell under its political and economic control. Seen from the viewpoint of proletarian interests, these instruments of conquest, capital and the State, were just means of servitude and suppression, but when the relations of capitalist production and therefore of capitalist States had been firmly established on a world scale, then the internal contradictions of the world market would reveal the limits of capital accumulation and provoke a state of permanent crisis which would endanger the foundations of the enslaved societies and threaten the very survival of the human race. The hour of the proletarian revolution would sound the world over.

By extrapolating reasonably we have been able to see the logical conclusions of the dialectical method employed by Marx in laying bare the economic law of movement of modern society. We could back up this view with textual references beginning with the remarks on methodology which can be gleaned from many of Marx’s writings dating from different periods. It is no less true that the hypothesis which Marx most frequently offers us in his political works is that of the proletarian revolution in the countries which have known a long period of bourgeois civilization and capitalist economy; such a revolution would mark the beginning of a process of development which would gradually involve the rest of the world, historical progress being hastened through the revolution being contagious. But whatever the hypothesis Marx had in mind, one thing is clear: his social theory had no place for a third revolutionary way where countries which lacked the historical experience of developed capitalism and bourgeois democracy would show the way to proletarian revolution to countries which had had a long capitalist and bourgeois past.

We recall with particular insistence these elementary truths of the conception of history called materialist because the Marxist mythology born with the 1917 Russian revolution has succeeded in imposing on the uniformed – and they were legion – another view of the process of this revolution: humanity divided into two economic and political systems, the capitalist world dominated by the industrially developed countries and the socialist world the model for which, the USSR, had reached the rank of second world power following a “proletarian” revolution. In fact, the industrialisation of Russia has been due to the creation and exploitation of an immense proletariat and not to its triumph and abolition. The fiction of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” forms part of the arsenal of ideas which the new masters have imposed in the interests of their own power: six decades of nationalist and military barbarism on a world scale explain the mental confusion of an intelligentsia which has been completely misled by the myth of “socialist October.” [3]

Since we cannot deepen the discussion here we will restrict ourselves to expressing our point of view in the form of an alternative: either the materialist theory of social development has some scientific validity – Marx himself was naturally persuaded of this – and in this case the “socialist” world is a myth or the socialist world really exists and the materialist theory of social development is completely and totally invalidated. On the first hypothesis the myth of the socialist world is perfectly explained: it would be the fruit of a well-organised ideological campaign by the “first workers’ State” aimed at disguising its real nature. On the second hypothesis the materialist theory of how the world would become socialist would certainly be disproved, but the ethical and utopian demands of Marx’s teaching would have been achieved; in other words, refuted by history as a man of science, Marx would have triumphed as a revolutionary.

The myth of “really existing socialism” has been constructed in order to morally justify one of the most powerful forms of dominating and exploitative society that history had known. The problem of the nature of this society has completely confused those most informed about the theories, doctrines and ideas which together form the intellectual heritage of socialism, communism and anarchism. Of these three schools – or currents – of the movement of ideas which seeks a fundamental change in human society, anarchism has suffered the least from this perversion. Not having created a real theory of revolutionary practice, it has been able to preserve itself from the political and ideological corruption which has struck the two other schools of thought. Originating from dreams and longings for the past as well as from rejection and revolt, anarchism was formed as a radical criticism of the principle of authority in all its forms, and it is above all as such that it was incorporated into the materialist conception of history. This latter is essentially the view that the historical evolution of humanity passes by progressive stages from a permanent state of social antagonism to a mode of existence based on social harmony and individual development. The common aim of pre-Marxian radical and revolutionary doctrines became an integral part of Marx’s anarchist communism just as the social criticism transmitted by the anarchist utopia had. With Marx, utopian anarchism was enriched by a new dimension, that of the dialectical understanding of the workers’ movement as an ethical self-liberation embracing the whole of humanity. The dialectical element in a theory claiming to be scientific, indeed naturalistic, caused an intellectual strain which was inevitably the source of the fundamental ambiguity with which Marx’s teaching and activity is indelibly marked. Marx, who was a militant as well as a theorist, did not always seek to harmonise in his political activity the ends and means of anarchist communism. But the fact that he failed as a militant does not mean that he therefore ceased to be the theoretician of anarchism . It is thus right to apply to his own theory the ethical thesis which he formulated with regard to Feuerbach’s materialism (1845):

“The question whether human thinking can pretend to objective truth is not a theoretical but a practical question. Man must prove the truth, i.e. the reality and power, the ‘this-sideness’ of his thinking in practice” . [4]


The negation of the State and capitalism by the most numerous and most poor class appears in Marx as an ethical imperative before he demonstrated dialectically that it was a historical necessity. In its first form, in Marx’s critical assessment of the French Revolution, it represented a decisive choice to be made: the objective which according to Marx humanity should strive to achieve. This objective was precisely human emancipation by going beyond political emancipation. The freest political State – of which the Unites States of America provided the only example – made Man a slave because it intervened as mediator between Man and his freedom, just like the Christ in whom the religious person vests his own divinity. Man when politically emancipated still only had an imaginary sovereignty. As a sovereign being enjoying the Rights of Man he led a double existence: that of a citizen of the political community and that of an individual member of society; that of a heavenly and that of an earthly being. As a citizen he was free and sovereign in the skies of politics, that universal kingdom of equality. As an individual he was degraded in his real life, bourgeois life, and reduced to the level of a means for his neighbour; he was the plaything of alien forces, material and moral, such as the institutions of private property, culture, religion, etc. Bourgeois society separated from the political State was the realm of egoism, of the war of each against all, of the separation of man from man. Political democracy had not freed Man from religion by ensuring his religious liberty, any more than it freed him from property in guaranteeing him the right to property. Similarly when it granted everyone the freedom to choose his occupation political democracy maintained occupational slavery and egoism. Bourgeois society was the world of trafficking and profiting, the reign of money, the universal power which had subjected politics and hence the State.

Such, in summary, was Marx’s initial thesis. It was a critique of the State and capital and it belonged to anarchist thought rather than to any socialism or communism. There was not yet anything scientific about it, but it implicitly appealed to and based itself on an ethical conception of the destiny of humanity in that it insisted on the need of doing something within the framework of historical time. This is why he did not just make a critique of political emancipation – that it reduced man to being an egoistic monad and an abstract citizen – but put forward both the end to be achieved and the means of achieving it:

“Only when the real, individual man re-absorbs in himself the abstract citizen, and as an individual human being has become a species-being in his everyday life, in his particular work, and in his particular situation, only when man has recognized and organized his “own powers” as social powers, and, consequently, no longer separates social power from himself in the shape of political power, only then will human emancipation have been accomplished.” [5]

Marx developed his own theory by starting from the Social Contract of Rousseau, the theoretician of the abstract citizen and precursor of Hegel. Rejecting only partially the political alienation which these two thinkers proposed, he arrived at the vision of a human and social emancipation that would re-establish the individual as a complete being with fully developed faculties. This rejection was only partial because this state of political alienation, as a fact of history, could not be abolished by an act of will. Political emancipation was “a great progress,” it was even the last form of human emancipation within the established order, and it is as such that it could serve as a means to overthrow this order and inaugurate the stage of real human emancipation. The means and the end were dialectical opposites but were reconciled ethically in the consciousness of the modern proletariat which thus became the bearer and historical subject of the revolution. The proletariat, as a class in which were concentrated all the evils and which embodied the well-known crimes of all society, possessed a universal character as a result of its universal poverty. It could not emancipate itself without emancipating all spheres of society, and it was by putting into practice the demands of this ethic of emancipation that it would abolish itself as a proletariat.

Where Marx speaks of philosophy as the “head” and intellectual arm of the human emancipation of which the proletariat would be the “heart,” we prefer to speak of an ethic in order to show that it is not a question of metaphysical speculation but a problem of existence: people should not interpret a caricature of the world but should change it by giving it a human face. No speculative philosophy had any solution to offer Man for his problems of existence. This was why Marx, when he made the revolution a categorical imperative, reasoned from a normative ethic and not from a philosophy of history or a sociological theory. Because he could not and did not want to limit himself to a purely ethical demand for the regeneration of humanity and society Marx’s interest was then aroused by one particular science: the science of the production of the means of existence according to the law of capital.

Marx thus undertook the study of political economy as a means of struggling for the cause to which from that time on he was to devote his whole declassé “bourgeois” existence. What till then had only been a visionary institution and an ethical choice was to become a theory of economic development and a study of what determined societies. But it was also to be active participation in the social movement whose task was to put into practice the ethical demands which derived from the conditions of existence of the modern proletariat. Both the vision of a society without State, without classes, without monetary exchange, without religious and intellectual fears and the analysis which revealed the process of evolution that would lead by successive steps to forms of anarchist and communist society implied a theoretical critique of the capitalist mode of production. Marx was to write later:

“Even when a society has got upon the right track for the discovery of the natural laws of its movement . . . it can neither clear by bold leaps, nor remove by legal enactments, the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development. But it can shorten and lessen the birth-pangs.” ( Preface to Capital, Volume I)

In short, Marx set out to demonstrate scientifically what he was already persuaded of intuitively and what appeared to him to be ethically necessary. It was in his first attempt at a critique of political economy that he came to analyse capital from a sociological point of view as the power to command labour and its products, a power which the capitalist possessed not by virtue of his personal or human qualities but as the owner of property. The wages system was a form of slavery; any authoritarian raising of wages would only mean better rations for the slaves:

“Even the equality of wages, which Proudhon demands, would merely transform the relation of the present-day worker to his work into the relation of all men to work. Society would then be conceived as an abstract capitalist.” [6]

Economic slavery and political servitude went together. Political emancipation, i.e., the recognition of the Rights of Man by the modern State, had the same significance as the recognition of slavery by the State of antiquity (The Holy Family, 1845). The worker was a slave to his paid occupation and also to his own egoistic needs experienced as alien needs. People were just as much subject to political servitude in the democratic representative State as in a constitutional monarchy. “In the modern world, everybody is at the same time a slave and a member of the community,” although the servitude of bourgeois society takes the form of the maximum of freedom (ibid.). Property, industry and religion, which are generally regarded as guarantees of individual liberty, were in fact institutions which sanctified this state of servitude. Robespierre, Saint-Just and their partisans failed because they did not distinguish antiquity based on real slavery from the modern representative State based on emancipated slavery, i.e., bourgeois society with its universal competition, its unbridled private interests and its alienated individualism. Napoleon, who understood perfectly the nature of the modern State and modern society, considered the State as an end in itself and bourgeois society as the instrument of his political ambitions. To satisfy the egoism of the French nation, he instituted permanent war in place of permanent revolution. His defeat confirmed the victory of the liberal bourgeoisie which in 1830 was finally able to make its dreams of 1789 become true: to make the constitutional representative State the social expression of its monopoly of power and sectional interests.

Marx, as a permanent observer of both the political evolution and economic development of French society, was constantly concerned with the problem of Bonapartism. [7] He considered that the French Revolution was the classic period of the political idea and that the Bonapartist tradition was a constant of the internal and external politics of France. He also outlined a theory of modern Caesarism which, even if it seemed to contradict in part the methodological principles of his theory of the State, did not modify his initial anarchist vision. For at the very time he was getting ready to set out the basic principles of his materialist conception of history he had formulated the following conception of the State which places him amongst the most radical anarchism:

“The existence of the state is inseparable from the existence of slavery … The more powerful a state and hence the more political a nation, the less inclined it is to explain the general principle governing social ills and to seek out their causes by looking at the principle of the statei.e., at the actual organization of society of which the state is the active, self-conscious and official expression.” [8]

The example of the French Revolution seemed to him at that time to be sufficiently convincing to make him put forward a view which only corresponded in part to the political sociology which he was soon to set out in the German Ideology, but which can be found much later in his reflections on the Second Empire and the 1871 Commune.

“Far from identifying the principle of the state as the source of social ills, the heroes of the French Revolution held social ills to be the source of political problems. Thus Robespierre regarded great wealth and great poverty as an obstacle to pure democracy. He therefore wished to establish a universal system of Spartan frugality. The principle of politics is the will.” [9]

When twenty-seven years later in connexion with the Paris Commune Marx was to return to the historical origins of the political absolutism which the Bonapartist State represented, he was to see in the centralisation carried out by the French Revolution the continuation of the traditions of the monarchy:

“The centralized State machinery which, with its ubiquitous and complicated military, bureaucratic, clerical and judiciary organs, entoils (enmeshes) the living civil society like a boa constrictor, was first forged in the days of absolute monarchy as a weapon of nascent modern society in its struggle of emancipation from feudalism … The first French Revolution with its task to found national unity (to create a nation) . . . was, therefore, forced to develop, what absolute monarchy had commenced, the centralization and organization of State power, and to expand the circumference and the attributes of the State power, the number of its tools, its independence, and its supernaturalist sway of real society . . . Every minor solitary interest engendered by the relations of social groups was separated from society itself, fixed and made independent of it and opposed to it in the form of State interest, administered by State priests with exactly determined hierarchical functions.” [10]

This passionate denunciation of the power of the State in some way sums up all the work of study and critical reflection which Marx carried out in this field: his confrontation with the moral and political philosophy of Hegel; the period during which he worked out the materialist conception of history; his fifteen years of political and professional journalism; and, not to be forgotten, his intense activity within the International Workingmen’s Association. The Commune seems to have given Marx the opportunity to put the finishing touches to his thoughts on the problem for which he had reserved one of the six books of his Economy and to give a picture, if only in outline, of that free association of free men whose coming had been announced by the Communist Manifesto.

“This was, therefore, a revolution not against this or that, legitimate, constitutional, republican or imperialist form of State power. It was a revolution against the State itself, of this supernaturalist abortion of society, a resumption by the people for the people of its own social life.” [11]


Comparing how the serfs had been emancipated from the feudal regime with the emancipation of the modern working class, Marx noted that, unlike the proletarians, the serfs had to struggle to allow existing social conditions to develop freely and as a result could only arrive at “free labour.” The proletarians, on the other hand, had, in order to affirm themselves as individuals, to abolish their own social condition; since this was the same as that of the whole of society, they had to abolish wage labour. And he added this sentence which from then on was to serve as the theme of both his literary work and his activity as a communist militant:

“Thus they [the proletarians] find themselves directly opposed to the form in which, hitherto, the individuals, of which society consists, have given themselves collective expression, that is, the State. In order, therefore, to assert themselves as individuals, they must overthrow the State.” [12]

This view, which was nearer to the anarchism of Bakunin than to that of Proudhon, was not uttered in the heat of the moment nor was it the rhetoric of a politician haranguing a workers’ meeting. It was the logical conclusion, expressed as a revolutionary demand, of the whole development of a theory whose purpose was to demonstrate the “historical necessity” of the anarchist commune. In other words, in Marx’s theory, the coming of “human society” was seen as the outcome of a long historical process. Eventually, a social class would arise which would comprise the immense majority of the population of industrial society and which as such would be capable of carrying out a creative revolutionary task. It was to show the logic of this development that Marx sought to establish a causal link between scientific progress – above all that of the natural sciences – and, on the one hand, political and legal institutions and, on the other, the behaviour of antagonistic social classes. Unlike Engels, Marx did not consider that the future revolutionary transformation would take place in the same way as past revolutions, like a cataclysm of Nature crushing men, things and consciousness. With the coming of the modern working class, the human race began the cycle of its real history; it entered on the way of reason and became capable of making its dreams come true and of giving itself a destiny in accordance with its creative faculties. The conquests of science and technology made such an outcome possible, but the proletariat had to intervene in order to prevent the bourgeoisie and capital from changing this evolution into a march into the abyss:

“The victories of art seem bought by the loss of character. At the same pace that mankind masters nature, man seems to become enslaved to other men or to his own infamy.” [13]

So the proletarian revolution would not be a political adventure; it would be a universal act, carried out consciously by the immense majority of the members of society after they had become conscious of the necessity and the possibility of the total regeneration of humanity. As history had become world history the threat of enslavement by capital and its market extended all over the Earth. As a consequence there had to arise a mass consciousness and will fully oriented towards a fundamental and complete change of human relationships and social institutions. So long as people’s survival is threatened by the danger of a barbarism of planetary dimensions, the communist and anarchist dreams and utopias represent the intellectual source of rational projects and practical reforms which can give the human race the taste of a life according to the standards of a reason and an imagination both oriented towards renewing the destiny of humanity.

There is no leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom, as Engels thought, and there cannot be a direct transition from capitalism to anarchism. The economic and social barbarism brought about by the capitalist mode of production cannot be abolished by a political revolution prepared, organised and led by an elite of professional revolutionaries claiming to act and think in the name and for the benefit of the exploited and alienated majority. The proletariat, formed into a class and a party under the conditions of bourgeois democracy, liberates itself by struggling to conquer this democracy: it turns universal suffrage, which up till then had been “an instrument of deception,” into a means of emancipation. A class which comprises the immense majority of modern society only takes alienating political action in order to triumph over politics and only conquers State power to use it against the formerly dominant minority. The conquest of political power is by nature a “bourgeois” act; it only becomes a proletarian action by the revolutionary aim which the authors of this overthrow give to it. This is the meaning of the historical period which Marx was not afraid to call the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” precisely to differentiate it from a dictatorship exercised by an elite, dictatorship in the Jacobin and Blanquist sense of the term. Certainly, Marx, in claiming the merit of having discovered the secret of the historical development of modes of production and domination, could not have foreseen that his teaching would be usurped by professional revolutionaries and other politicians claiming the right to personify the dictatorship of the proletariat. In fact, he only envisaged this form of social transition for countries whose proletariat had been able to make use of the period of bourgeois democracy to create its own institutions and made itself the dominant class in society. Compared with the many centuries of violence and corruption that capitalism had needed to come to dominate the world, the length of the process of transition to anarchist society would be shorter and less violent to the extent that the concentration of political power would bring a mass proletariat face to face with a numerically weak bourgeoisie:

“The transformation of scattered private property, arising from individual labour, into capitalist private property is, naturally, a process, incomparably more protracted, violent, and difficult, than the transformation of capitalistic private property, already practically resting on socialized production, into socialized property. In the former case, we had the expropriation of the mass of the people by a few usurpers; in the latter, we have the expropriation of a few usurpers by the mass of the people.” [14]

Marx did not work out all the details of a theory of the transition; in fact noticeably different views can be found in the various theoretical and practical outlines which are scattered throughout his works. Nevertheless, throughout these differences, indeed contradictory statements, a basic principle remains intact and constant to the extent of allowing a coherent reconstruction of such a theory. It is perhaps on this point that the myth of the founding of “Marxism” by Marx and Engels is seen at its most harmful. While the former made the postulate of a proletarian self-activity the criterion of all genuine class action and all genuine conquest of political power, the latter ended up, particularly after the death of his friend, by separating the two elements in the creation of the workers’ movement: the class action – the Selbsttätigkeit – of the proletariat on the one hand and the policy of the party on the other. Marx thought that communist and anarchist self-education was, more than any isolated political act, an integral part of the revolutionary activity of the workers: it was the workers’ task to make themselves fit for the conquest and exercise of political power as a means of resisting attempts by the bourgeoisie to reconquer and recover its power. The proletariat had to temporarily and consciously form itself into a material force in order to defend its right and project to transform society by progressively establishing the Human Community. It was in struggling to affirm itself as a force of abolition and creation that the working class – which “of all the instruments of production is the most productive” – took up the dialectical project of creative negation; it took the risk of political alienation in order to make politics superfluous. Such a project had nothing in common with the destructive passion of a Bakunin or the anarchist apocalypse of a Coeurderoy. Revolutionary purism had no place in this political project whose aim was to make real the potential supremacy of the oppressed and exploited masses. Marx thought that the International Workingmen’s Association, which combined the power of numbers with a revolutionary spirit conceived of in a quite different way from Proudhonian anarchism, could become such a fighting organisation. In joining the IWMA, Marx did not abandon the position he had taken against Proudhon in 1847, when he put forward an anti-political anarchism to be achieved by a political movement:

“Does this mean that after the fall of the old society there will be a new class domination culminating in a new political power? No … The working class, in the course of its development, will substitute for the old civil society an association which will exclude classes and their antagonism, and there will be no more political power properly so-called, since political power is precisely the official expression of antagonism in civil society. Meanwhile the antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is a struggle of class against class, a struggle which carried to its highest expression is a total revolution. Indeed, is it at all surprising that a society founded on the opposition of classes should culminate in brutal contradiction, the shock of body against body, as its final denouement? Do not say that social movement excludes political movement. There is never a political movement which is not at the same time social. It is only in an order of things in which there are no more classes and class antagonisms that social evolutions will cease to be political revolutions.” [15]

Marx’s point here is quite realistic and free from all idealism. This address to the future must be clearly understood to be the expression of a normative project committing the workers to behave as revolutionaries while struggling politically. “The working class is revolutionary or it is nothing” (letter to J.B. Schweitzer, 1865). This is the language of a thinker whose rigorous dialectic, in contrast to a Proudhon or a Stirner, rejects impressing people by the systematic use of gratuitous paradox and verbal violence. And while everything is not and cannot be settled by this demonstration of means and ends, its merit is at least to urge the victims of alienated labour to understand and educate themselves through undertaking together a great work of collective creation. In this sense, Marx’s appeal remains relevant, despite the triumph of Marxism and even because of it.

The limits of this essay do not allow us to go further in proving this. So we will limit ourselves to citing three texts which demolish in advance the legend – Bakuninist and Leninist – of a Marx “worshipper of the State” and “apostle of State communism” or of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the dictatorship of a party, indeed of a single man:

(a) “Marginal Notes on Bakunin’s book State and Anarchy (Geneva, 1873, in Russian).” Main themes: dictatorship of the proletariat and the maintenance of small peasant property; economic conditions and social revolution; disappearance of the State and the transformation of political functions into administrative functions of self-managed co-operative communes.

(b) Critique of the Programme of the German Workers Party (Gotha Programme) (1875). Main themes: the two phases of communist society based on the co-operative mode of production; the bourgeoisie as a revolutionary class; the international action of the working class; criticism of the “iron law of wages”; revolutionary role of workers’ productive co-operatives; primary education freed from the influence of religion and the State; revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat as a political transition to the transformation of State functions into social functions.

(c) The Peasant Commune and Revolutionary Perspectives in Russia (Reply to Vera Zasulitch)(1881). Main themes: the rural commune as an element of regeneration of Russian society; ambivalence of the commune and influence of historical background; development of the commune and the crisis of capitalism; peasant emancipation and taxation; negative influences and risks of disappearance of the commune; the Russian commune, threatened by the State and capital, will only be saved by the Russian revolution.

These three documents to some extent make up the essence of the book which Marx considered writing on the State.

It can be seen from these remarks that Marx expressly presented his social theory as an attempt at an objective analysis of a historical movement and not as a moral or political code of revolutionary practice aimed at establishing an ideal society; as the laying bare of a process of development involving things and individuals and not as a collection of rules for use by parties and elites seeking power. This, however, is only the external and declared aspect of a theory which has two conceptual tracks, one rigorously determined, the other freely making its way towards the visionary aim of an anarchist society:

“The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped away all superstition about the past.” [16]

The past is an unchangeable necessity; and the observer, equipped with all the instruments of analysis, is in a position to explain the series of phenomena which have been perceived. But while it is a vain hope that all the dreams which humanity, through its prophets and visionaries, has entertained will come true, the future could at least bring an end to the institutions which have reduced people’s lives to a permanent state of servitude in all social fields. This is, briefly, the link between theory and utopia in the teaching of Marx who expressly proclaimed himself an “anarchist” when he wrote:

“All socialists see anarchy as the following program: Once the aim of the proletarian movement – i.e., abolition of classes – is attained, the power of the state, which serves to keep the great majority of producers in bondage to a very small exploiter minority, disappears, and the functions of government become simple administrative functions.” [17]

Post Script [18]

The essay above does not take into account the ideas of Frederick Engels on the State and anarchism. Without entering into the details of his view, we can say that it does not completely coincide with that of Marx, although it too proposes the final disappearance of the State. The most important passages in this connection are to be found in Anti-Dühring (1877-8) which to some extent had Marx’s imprimatur. Engels here sees the conquest of State power and the transformation of the means of production into State property as the self-abolition of the proletariat and the abolition of class antagonisms, indeed of “the suppression of the State as State.” Further on he describes this “abolition” of the State as “a dying out” of the State: “Der Staat wird nicht ‘abgeschafft’, er stirbt ab.” After Marx’s death, drawing his inspiration from the notes left by his friend on Lewis Henry Morgan’s Ancient Society, Engels again dealt with the subject but in a wider socio-historical context. The highest form of the State, the democratic republic, is considered by Engels as the final phase of politics during which the decisive struggle between the bourgeoisie and proletariat will take place; the exploited class becomes ready for self-emancipation and forms itself into an independent party: “universal suffrage is the gauge of the maturity of the working class” – and that suffices to do away with capitalism and the State, and hence with class society. “Along with them [i.e., classes] the State will inevitably fall. The society … will put the whole of the machinery of State where it will then belong: into the Museum of Antiquities, by the side of the spinning wheel and the bronze axe.” [19] See also Engels’s letters to Philip Van Patten of 18 April 1883 and to Edward Bernstein of 28 January 1884. In the latter Engels quotes some passages from the Poverty of Philosophy (1847) and the Communist Manifesto (1848) to prove “that we proclaimed the end [«Aufhören»] of the State before there were really any anarchists.” Engels undoubtedly exaggerated – a mention only of William Godwin would invalidate this view, without referring to the others who were won over to anarchism through reading Political Justice (1793).


1. “The Leading Article in No. 179 of the Kölnische Zeitung.” Rheinische Zeitung, 10-14 July 1842.

2. See “plan et méthode de l’Economie” in M. Rubel, Marx, Critique du Marxisme, Payot, Paris, 1974, pp. 369-401.

3. See Marx, Critique du Marxisme, pp. 63-168, for a further development of the themes of the myth of “proletarian October” and of Russian society as a form of capitalism.

4. Second Thesis on Feuerbach, as translated in Karl Marx, Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, edited T.B. Bottomore and M. Rubel, Pelican, 1963, p. 82.

5. “On the Jewish Question,” Deutsch-französische Jarbücher, February 1844.

6. Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, section on “Estranged Labour,” 1844.

7. See M. Rubel, Karl Marx devant le bonapartisme, Mouton & Co., Paris-The Hague, 1960.

8. “Critical Remarks on the Article: The King of Prussia and Social Reform. By a Prussian,” Vorwärts, 7 and 10 August 1844.

9. Ibid.

10. The Civil War in France, First Draft, section on ‘The Character of the Commune’, 1871.

11. Ibid.

12. The German Ideology, 1845, edited by C.J. Arthur, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1970, p. 85.

13. Speech at anniversary of the People’s Paper, 14 April 1856.

14. Capital, Vol. I, end of chapter XXXII.

15. Poverty of Philosophy, 1847, chapter II, part 5.

16. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, 1851.

17. Fictitious Splits in the International, 1872.

18. 1976, for this translation.

19. The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, chapter IX.

Repiblication from

The Penniless Conformist

4 While public opinion, shown through the (often) distorted lens of the media, seems to be more concerned with the world of celebrities, reality is far from ideal for a large percentage of citizens. The latest figures indicate that 25.699.000 individuals across Europe have no income at all and 24% of all the EU population (over 120 million people) are at risk of poverty or social exclusion (this includes 27% of all children in Europe). Those who work are not better off, as in many countries (not only in the European south) the average wage decreased from 2008 to date at a rate 30% to 35%, whilst 1.2 million workers are paid with delay of three to 12 months and a large number of workers employed in five-month programs, or other slave trade Workfare Schemes, which in fact, abolish the most essential and hard-earned labor rights. In addition, according to 2011 European data, the suicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants in Greece is 4.4 (as a direct result of catastrophic austerity measures), while for Spain in 2012 (an increase of 11% from 2011 to 2012 is noted), 7.6 and for Portugal 8.5. Finally, studies show that the double-dip recession might have driven more than 1000 people to suicide in Britain. This grim reality does not only reflect Europe but almost the entire Western world, as the economic turmoil keeps expanding, despite the ‘optimistic’ grandiose declarations of MPs and out-of-touch economists.

If we explain this situation to a man who has just returned from Mars, asking him to guess the climate in Europe, he might probably assume either that societies are in insurrectional unrest, or that a military regime has managed to suppress any revolutionary perspective. Reality, surely, is depressing. The penniless, one from the thousands of people represented in the above numbers, instead of rejecting this nightmare and join a movement against poverty, exclusion and for social justice (as it used to happen 100 and 200 years ago) chooses apathy, normalcy and indifference. Instead of becoming more socialized embraces isolation, instead of breaking his shackles, is caught tightly by his chains. But what are the conditions that force the penniless to this direction?

The decline of the left and the retreat to conformism

The defeat and, subsequently, the decline of the radical Marxist Left and the retreat of emancipatory movements (like those of the ’60s) is probably one of the most serious factors that have contributed to the retreat to conformism. The integration, or even commercialization, of the past movements to the dominant culture, the fall of the Soviet monstrosity, the continuous decline of radical democratic ideas that demanded directly applicable solutions, left to the new poor little room for hope, to demand and claim through the various organizations of the organized left. In fact, nowadays the left has been either degenerated to bourgeois style of social-democracy or in many cases is deeply attached to a failed world-view, unable not to elucidate on the capitalist crisis, whose outbreak resulted in the dramatic proliferation of the penniless; a large social group that is threatened by exclusion, without a common reference or class consciousness [1]. With the sense of belonging becoming weakened, the heterogeneous population is headed directly towards passive individualism, unable to locate its ties of mutual dependence and interaction with the rest of society.

Τhe penniless becomes helpless in a world-jungle that every day goes more and more adrift. Thus, he/she becomes de-politicized (to this, the educational system, the dominant lifestyle reproduced through various postmodern notions of cultural relativism has surely contributed) or adopts a lie that works as a ‘painkiller’ to his/her concerns, anxieties and uncertainties. This lie does not have one shade or one mouthpiece. It has, however, usually common characteristics: populism, conspiracy theories, the Darwinian logic of self-guilt, the belief in metaphysical type of concepts (such as the nation, the ancestors, the laws of history, laws of nature, religion) or fear. Thus, in the European political landscape on one hand the right-wing populist (such as UKIP, Front National and the Five Star Movement) or extreme right parties ((such as Jobbik and Golden Dawn) are emerging, exploiting the insecurity of the penniless, by investing in anti-immigrant hatred and cultural isolation, and exploiting the collapse of traditional liberal ideologies (such as multiculturalism). On the other hand there are bourgeois leftist parties, like Podemos, Sinn Fein and SY.RIZA, that claim to be radical and revolutionary, but in reality they invest in a mild form of social protectionism, such as the social democratic parties of the ’50s.

In the proliferation of different myths, of course, contribute the mass media, who are the sole exponents of the dominant discourse, intervening in the weakened (by fear and uncertainty) psychology of the average new poor. The constant invocations to ‘stability’, to the so called ‘common sense’ and ‘security’ (which in fact has contributed to a generalized instability and perpetuated the sovereignty of social cannibalism) maintains the compliance of the citizen-voter-consumer-viewer type of being, in concurrence with the «responsible forces that fight against the sirens of radicals who call for social unrest and chaos». And finally, we constantly see exerted psychological violence through the promotion of the attitude of self-guilt: those who fail to achieve something within the «healthy» competition of capitalism are the ones who have not worked hard enough, who do not deserve to succeed. Therefore, the penniless has to consider him/herself solely responsible for his/her own fate, in a world that is «inherently cruel to the weak», or will seek scapegoats for such problems: the immigrants, the Jews, the Muslims or… the Illuminati. Thus, it is converted to an average conformist/conservative – or better reactionary – little human, who instead opposing his/her oppressors, being him/herself an obedient servant, supports them with great passion.


Addressing the conservative/conformist

The stimuli received by the penniless do not come from only one direction. It may, indeed, be the State, the enterprises and the mass media that hold the hegemony of the formation of pseudopublic ‘opinion’, but other voices also reach the ears of many citizens, whether they are or not the subject of attention by the social majority. Posters, fliers, banners, marches, newspapers, political events and open discussions, counter-sites, seeking to disseminate speech in opposition to the values of the dominant paradigm supporting different values, relationships, behaviors, goals and methods. The development of anti-systemic grassroots movements ‘from below’ today, especially in the European south, mainly takes place through the anti-authoritarian space, composed of various political groups who refuse representation, the task of solving problems by some third party, mediation and hierarchical structuring. The penniless conformist who, as explained above, internalizes and reproduces the myths of the dominant paradigm and defends it by any means possible, refuses persistently to approach voices that call into question the imaginary of the dominant paradigm. For him/her, the peaceful protester is «a spoilt brat who blocks the traffic for no apparent reason», knows only «how to destroy property» and the striker «prevents the proper operation of the market». But why does he/she adopt such an «easy» answer, served by the hateful tabloids?

Apparently because he/she is addicted to those easy answers and is unable to elucidate on the objective reality in depth. First was the simple memorization of texts for good grades at school, followed by a well-disciplined university degree; then comes the instrumental character of work which not only does not require initiative but overwhelmingly alienates the worker aiming to offer the essential for survival. In addition, the ephemeral relationships (that do not require specific commitments and responsibilities towards others) the supermarket culture and the paid sex (sterilized of true passion) completes the picture of human privitizationThus the penniless conformist refuses to engage in processes that require active participation, not because he/she is not able to, but because he/she has learned to be afraid to risk and does not wish to abandon this incumbent lifestyle he/she has chosen to follow, and passively hopes for the crisis to disappear and the ultra-consumerist abundance to return.

A wrong question is the following: is it worth to sacrifice the quality of speech and action to acquire massive support? It is wrong because a) it assesses the modern antisystemic paradigm as of high quality, without explaining what assumptions lead us to this conclusion and b) a priori underestimates the mass to which it is addressed, confessing the hypocritical – canvassing –  method that could be followed. A false reaction is also to invest in the logic of nihilism and the emergence of antisocial hatred, the apolitical and essentially conservative (and suicidal) turn against society itself, and not the institutions that govern it. How, then, do we seek cognitive conflict, the rupture with the existing imaginary and the promotion of new democratic radical ideas and imperatives? Ideas cannot be planted, nor imposed, but are transmitted and adopted voluntarily. And what is the most accurate method of dissemination, if not informing by example, self-organised experimentation, which aims at challenging the balance of forces between the institutionalized and instutionalizing forces in favor of social re-institutionalization. All texts, drawings, slogans, and stencil graffiti, which are the legacy of the competitive movement, inspire and are revitalized at every self-education project, for every piece of land that is reclaimed from the State and private property, every time the poor expropriate a supermarket.

Instead of an epilogue

If one considers that the conformist citizen of this world should be eradicated or sent into orbit, then his/her dream is our worst nightmare. Human history is full of massive purges, concentration camps for dissidents, crematoria and civil conflicts. The weakening of the ideological hegemony of conservatism requires, along with the understanding and monitoring the evolution of the creation of the second pole, what will concentrate the social forces that besides suffering from the neoliberal onslaught, have been, or are being gradually inclined to resist on every front.


[1] The concept of social class not only concerns a group of people with common (financial) interests but in substance it refers to groups of people with specific social relations (which together form Marx’s so-called class consciousness). In the era of individualism where each such relationship has been replaced by consumerism and apathy, the traditional class stratification gives way to a general average that reflects this decay that characterizes the postmodern world. In addition, these concepts (middle class – working class) apart from becoming problematic since 1968 they have also been relativized. Since homogenization has taken over the entire social prattein, to define the object of study under these terms has become a difficult task. These terms have been in constant negotiation since Marx brought them into the foreground; since the form of the relations of production and the forms of exploitation vary to a great extent, in a sense they constitute prehistory but a very useful one – they have been transformed. This practically means that today the challenge for everybody interested in superseding the system is to acknowledge a struggle far beyond the typical left bureaucracies. Because all the current ‘traditional left wing parties’ implicitly support liberalism as they have nothing to propose but the re-installation of the old liberal world (where class boundaries were live and strong), a world that does not (and should not) exist.

See also: Political apathy as a symptom (Miltos)

The article in greek, here

Postscript on the Societies of Control, Gilles Deleuze


1. Historical
Foucault located the disciplinary societies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; they reach their height at the outset of the twentieth. They initiate the organization of vast spaces of enclosure. The individual never ceases passing from one closed environment to another, each having its own laws: first the family; then the school («you are no longer in your family»); then the barracks («you are no longer at school»); then the factory; from time to time the hospital; possibly the prison, the preeminent instance of the enclosed environment. It’s the prison that serves as the analogical model: at the sight of some laborers, the heroine of Rossellini’s Europa ’51 could exclaim, «I thought I was seeing convicts.»

Foucault has brilliantly analyzed the ideal project of these environments of enclosure, particularly visible within the factory: to concentrate; to distribute in space; to order in time; to compose a productive force within the dimension of space-time whose effect will be greater than the sum of its component forces. But what Foucault recognized as well was the transience of this model: it succeeded that of the societies of sovereignty, the goal and functions of which were something quite different (to tax rather than to organize production, to rule on death rather than to administer life); the transition took place over time, and Napoleon seemed to effect the large-scale conversion from one society to the other. But in their turn the disciplines underwent a crisis to the benefit of new forces that were gradually instituted and which accelerated after World War II: a disciplinary society was what we already no longer were, what we had ceased to be.

We are in a generalized crisis in relation to all the environments of enclosure–prison, hospital, factory, school, family. The family is an «interior,» in crisis like all other interiors–scholarly, professional, etc. The administrations in charge never cease announcing supposedly necessary reforms: to reform schools, to reform industries, hospitals, the armed forces, prisons. But everyone knows that these institutions are finished, whatever the length of their expiration periods. It’s only a matter of administering their last rites and of keeping people employed until the installation of the new forces knocking at the door. These are the societies of control, which are in the process of replacing disciplinary societies. «Control» is the name Burroughs proposes as a term for the new monster, one that Foucault recognizes as our immediate future. Paul Virilio also is continually analyzing the ultrarapid forms of free-floating control that replaced the old disciplines operating in the time frame of a closed system. There is no need to invoke the extraordinary pharmaceutical productions, the molecular engineering, the genetic manipulations, although these are slated to enter the new process. There is no need to ask which is the toughest regime, for it’s within each of them that liberating and enslaving forces confront one another. For example, in the crisis of the hospital as environment of enclosure, neighborhood clinics, hospices, and day care could at first express new freedom, but they could participate as well in mechanisms of control that are equal to the harshest of confinements. There is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons.

2. Logic
The different internments of spaces of enclosure through which the individual passes are independent variables: each time one us supposed to start from zero, and although a common language for all these places exists, it is  analogical. One the other hand, the different control mechanisms are inseparable variations, forming a system of variable geometry the language of which is numerical (which doesn’t necessarily mean binary). Enclosures are molds, distinct castings, but controls are a modulation, like a self-deforming cast that will continuously change from one moment to the other, or like a sieve whose mesh will transmute from point to point.

This is obvious in the matter of salaries: the factory was a body that contained its internal forces at the level of equilibrium, the highest possible in terms of production, the lowest possible in terms of wages; but in a society of control, the corporation has replaced the factory, and the corporation is a spirit, a gas. Of course the factory was already familiar with the system of bonuses, but the corporation works more deeply to impose a modulation of each salary, in states of perpetual metastability that operate through challenges, contests, and highly comic group sessions. If the most idiotic television game shows are so successful, it’s because they express the corporate situation withgreat precision. The factory constituted individuals as a single body to the double advantage of the boss who surveyed each element within the mass and the unions who mobilized a mass resistance; but the corporation constantly presents the brashest rivalry as a healthy form of emulation, an excellent motivational force that opposes individuals against one another and runs through each, dividing each within. The modulating principle of «salary according to merit» has not failed to tempt national education itself. Indeed, just as the corporation replaces the factory, perpetual training tends to replace the school, and continuous control to replace the examination. Which is the surest way ofdelivering the school over to the corporation.

In the disciplinary societies one was always starting again(from school to the barracks, from the barracks to the factory), while in the societies of control one is never finished with anything–the corporation, the educational system, the armed services being metastable states coexisting in one and the same modulation, like a universal system of deformation. In The Trial, Kafka, who had already placed himself at the pivotal point between two types of social formation, described the most fearsome of judicial forms. The apparent acquittal of the disciplinary societies (between two incarcerations); and the  limitless postponements of the societies of control (in continuous variation) are two very different modes of juridicial life, and if our law is hesitant, itself in crisis, it’s because we are leaving one in order to enter the other. The disciplinary societies have two poles: the signature that designates the individual, and the number or administrative numeration that indicates his or her position within a mass. This is because the disciplines never saw any incompatibility between these two, and because at the same time power individualizes and masses together, that is, constitutes those over whom it exercises power into a body and molds the individuality of each member of that body. (Foucault saw the origin of this double charge in the pastoral power of the priest–the flock and each of its animals–but civil power moves in turn and by other means to make itself lay «priest.») In the societies of control, on the other hand, what is important is no longer either a signature or a number, but a code: the code is a password, while on the other hand disciplinary societies are regulated by watchwords (as much from the point of view of integration as from that of resistance). The numerical language of control is made of codes that mark access to information, or reject it. We no longer find ourselves dealing with the mass/individual pair. Individuals have become «dividuals», and masses, samples, data, markets, or «banks«. Perhaps it is money that expresses the distinction between the two societies best, since discipline always referred back to minted money that locks gold as numerical standard, while control relates to floating rates of exchange, modulated according to a rate established by a set of standard currencies. The old monetary mole is the animal of the space of enclosure, but the serpent is that of the societies of control. We have passed from one animal to the other, from the mole to the serpent, in the system under which we live, but also in our manner of living and in our relations with others. The disciplinary man was a discontinuous producer of energy, but the man of control is undulatory, in orbit, in a continuous network. Everywhere surfing has already replaced the older sports.

Types of machines are easily matched with each type of society–not that machines are determining, but because they express those social forms capable of generating them and using them. The old societies of sovereignty made use of simple machines–levers, pulleys, clocks; but the recent disciplinary societies equipped themselves with machines involving energy, with the passive danger of entropy and the active danger of sabotage; the societies of control operate with machines of a third type, computers, whose passive danger is jamming and whose active one is piracy or the introduction of viruses. This technological evolution must be, even more profoundly, a mutation of capitalism, an already well-known or familiar mutation that can be summed up as follows: nineteenth-century capitalism is a capitalism of concentration, for production and for property. It therefore erects a factory as a space of enclosure, the capitalist being the owner of the means of production but also, progressively, the owner of other spaces conceived through analogy (the worker’s familial house, the school). As for markets, they are conquered sometimes by specialization, sometimes by colonization, sometimes by lowering the costs of production. But in the present situation, capitalism is no longer involved in production, which it often relegates to the Third World, even for the complex forms of textiles, metallurgy, or oil production. It’s a capitalism of higher-order production. It no-longer buys raw materials and no longer sells the finished products: it buys the finished products or assembles parts. What it wants to sell is services but what it wants to buy is stocks. This is no longer a capitalism for production but for the product, which is to say, for being sold or marketed. Thus is essentially dispersive, and the factory has given way to the corporation. The family, the school, the army, the factory are no longer the distinct analogical spaces that converge towards an owner–state or private power–but coded figures–deformable and transformable–of a single corporation that now has only stockholders. Even art has left the spaces of enclosure in order to enter into the open circuits of the bank. The conquests of the market are made by grabbing control and no longer by disciplinary training, by fixing the exchange rate much more than by lowering costs, by transformation of the product more than by specialization of production. Corruption thereby gains a new power. Marketing has become the center or the «soul» of the corporation. We are taught that corporations have a soul, which is the most terrifying news in the world. The operation of markets is now the instrument of social control and forms the impudent breed of our masters. Control is short-term and of rapid rates of turnover, but also continuous and without limit, while discipline was of long duration, infinite and discontinuous. Man is no longer man enclosed, but man in debt. It is true that capitalism has retained as a constant the extreme poverty of three-quarters of humanity, too poor for debt, too numerous for confinement: control will not only have to deal with erosions of frontiers but with the explosions within shanty towns or ghettos.

3. Program
The conception of a control mechanism, giving the position of any element within an open environment at any given instant (whether animal in a reserve or human in a corporation, as with an electronic collar), is not necessarily one of science fiction. F lix Guattari has imagined a city where one would be able to leave one’s apartment, one’s street, one’s neighborhood, thanks to one’s (dividual) electronic card that raises a given barrier; but the card could just as easily be rejected on a given day or between certain hours; what counts is not the barrier but the computer that tracks each person’s position–licit or illicit–and effects a universal modulation.

The socio-technological study of the mechanisms of control, grasped at their inception, would have to be categorical and to describe what is already in the process of substitution for the disciplinary sites of enclosure, whose crisis is everywhere proclaimed. It may be that older methods, borrowed from the former societies of sovereignty, will return to the fore, but with the necessary modifications. What counts is that we are at the beginning of something. In the _prison system_: the attempt to find penalties of «substitution,» at least for petty crimes, and the use of electronic collars that force the convicted person to stay at home during certain hours. For the school system: continuous forms of control, and the effect on the school of perpetual training, the corresponding abandonment of all university research, the introduction of the «corporation» at all levels of schooling. For the hospital system: the new medicine «without doctor or patient» that singles out potential sick people and subjects at risk, which in no way attests to individuation–as they say–but substitutes for the individual or numerical body the code of a «dividual» material to be controlled. In the corporate system: new ways of handling money, profits, and humans that no longer pass through the old factory form. These are very small examples, but ones that will allow for better understanding of what is meant by the crisis of the institutions, which is to say, the progressive and dispersed installation of a new system of domination. One of the most important questions will concern the ineptitude of the unions: tied to the whole of their history of struggle against the disciplines or within the spaces of enclosure, will they be able to adapt themselves or will they give way to new forms of resistance against the societies of control? Can we already grasp the rough outlines of the coming forms, capable of threatening the joys of marketing? Many young people strangely boast of being «motivated»; they re-request apprenticeships and permanent training. It’s up to them to discover what they’re being made to serve, just as their elders discovered, not without difficulty, the telos of the disciplines. The coils of a serpent are even more complex that the burrows of a molehill.

Gilles Deleuze, «Postscript on the Societies of Control», from OCTOBER59, Winter 1992, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp.3-7.

Revolutionary Catechism, Mikhail Bakunin

Written: while in prison in Russia, and by command of the Czar, in 1851;
Source: Bakunin on Anarchy, translated and edited by Sam Dolgoff, 1971.

While there are many inclinations of the libertarian direction of Bakunin’s thought before and after his escape from Siberia in 1861, it was not until the period between 1864 and 1867, when he lived in Italy, that his anarchist ideas took final shape. This period marks the last step in Bakunin’s transition from revolutionary nationalism to the mature revolutionary anarchism expounded by him toward the end of his eventful life.

In 1864 Bakunin founded the secret International Revolutionary Association (better known as the International Fraternity) which published its program and statutes in 1865-66 in three related documents: The International Family, the Revolutionary Catechism, and the National Catechism, in which Bakunin outlined the basic tenets of his doctrine. They are, as H. E, Kaminski writes, “the spiritual foundation of the entire anarchist movement….” As Bakunin’s ideas evolved, he modified some and elaborated others, but never departed from the fundamental principles defined in these documents. They were reproduced in the original French in Dr. Max Nettlau’s definitive biography of Bakunin. Nettlau made fifty copies of them which he deposited in the principal libraries of the world. They were then included in the excellent anthology of the anarchist movement, Ni Dieu, Ni Maître, edited by the noted libertarian-socialist historian and sociologist Daniel Guérin. In his introduction Guérin remarks that these texts are “…the least known and the most important of Bakunin’s writings … they should not be confused with the Rules That Should Inspire a Revolutionist, written much later in 1869, during Bakunin’s brief association with the young Russian nihilist Sergei Nechaev whose credo was ‘the end justifies the means.’ …The men who, in Italy, founded the Fraternity with Bakunin were former disciples of the republican nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini, from whom they acquired their fondness for secret societies. They left their mentor because they rejected his Deism and his purely ‘political’ conception of the revolution as bourgeois and devoid of social content….”

It is necessary to point out that when dissent is outlawed, revolutionaries are forced to organize secret societies. Bakunin was not alone; everybody conspired – the Poles, the Italians, the Russians, the Blanquists, and the nascent unions camouflaged as social clubs.

Like all radicals at that time, Bakunin believed that the fall or death of Napoleon III would precipitate a new revolution, a new 1848. He directed all his energy toward safeguarding the expected revolution from the mistakes which had led to the collapse of the revolution of 1848. Despite the encouraging revival of the socialist and labor movements, Bakunin saw that the workers were still very far from attaining the necessary revolutionary consciousness. To imbue the masses with this consciousness and to prevent the deformation of the revolution, Bakunin felt that the only alternative was to organize the secret International Fraternity. Bakunin was convinced that this kind of vanguard movement was indispensable to the success of the Social Revolution; that the Revolution must simultaneously destroy the old order and take on a federalist and anarchistic direction.

The Revolutionary Catechism is primarily concerned with the immediate practical problems of the revolution. It was meant to sketch out for new and prospective members of the International Fraternity both the fundamental libertarian principles and a program of action. The Revolutionary Catechism does not attempt to picture the perfect anarchist society – the anarchist heaven. Bakunin had in mind a society in transition toward anarchism. The building of a full-fledged anarchist society is the work of future generations.

The Revolutionary Catechism indicates that Bakunin did not at first favor the direct expropriation of those sectors of private industry which did not employ hired labor. He expected that with the abolition of the right of inheritance, private ownership would disappear within a generation, to be gradually superseded by workers’ productive associations. He feared that an immediate massive expropriation might find the workers unprepared to take control. This would leave the way open for a bureaucratic administrative apparatus. It would lead to a worse evil, namely, the restoration of authoritarian institutions. The fact that Bakunin called for the destruction of all oppressive institutions does not mean that he favored premature changes in certain areas. However, some years later he included expropriation in his program when the workers demanded it.

In touching on the constructive potentialities of cooperative workers’ associations, Bakunin speculated that in the future mankind would not be politically organized into nations. National frontiers would be abolished. Human society would be organized industrially according to the needs of production. In view of the existing situation, it was not a matter of immediate concern and he merely mentioned it in passing. Later on, this idea occupied a key place in Bakunin’s anarcho-syndicalist program for the International.

To avoid misunderstanding, the reader should know that before anarchism became an organized movement, Bakunin and the anarchists in general used the term “State” and allied expressions in a twofold sense: with reference to the social collectivity or social order, and as designating the complex of repressive institutions exercising intrusive political authority over society and the individual. To avoid this confusion, anarchists today use the word “State” only in the second, negative sense.

II. Replacing the cult of God by respect and love of humanity, we proclaim human reason as the only criterion of truth; human conscience as the basis of justice; individual and collective freedom as the only source of order in society.

III. Freedom is the absolute right of every adult man and woman to seek no other sanction for their acts than their own conscience and their own reason, being responsible first to themselves and then to the society which they have voluntarily accepted.

IV. It is not true that the freedom of one man is limited by that of other men. Man is really free to the extent that his freedom, fully acknowledged and mirrored by the free consent of his fellowmen, finds confirmation and expansion in their liberty. Man is truly free only among equally free men; the slavery of even one human being violates humanity and negates the freedom of all.

V. The freedom of each is therefore realizable only in the equality of all. The realization of freedom through equality, in principle and in fact, is justice.

VI. If there is one fundamental principle of human morality, it is freedom. To respect the freedom of your fellowman is duty; to love, help, and serve him is virtue.

VII. Absolute rejection of every authority including that which sacrifices freedom for the convenience of the state. Primitive society had no conception of freedom; and as society evolved, before the full awakening of human rationality and freedom, it passed through a stage controlled by human and divine authority. The political and economic structure of society must now be reorganized on the basis of freedom. Henceforth, order in society must result from the greatest possible realization of individual liberty, as well as of liberty on all levels of social organization.

VIII. The political and economic organization of social life must not, as at present, be directed from the summit to the base – the center to the circumference – imposing unity through forced centralization. On the contrary, it must be reorganized to issue from the base to the summit – from the circumference to the center – according to the principles of free association and federation.

IX. Political organization. It is impossible to determine a concrete, universal, and obligatory norm for the internal development and political organization of every nation. The life of each nation is subordinated to a plethora of different historical, geographical, and economic conditions, making it impossible to establish a model of organization equally valid for all. Any such attempt would be absolutely impractical. It would smother the richness and spontaneity of life which flourishes only in infinite diversity and, what is more, contradict the most fundamental principles of freedom. However, without certain absolutely essential conditions the practical realization of freedom will be forever impossible.

These conditions are:

A. The abolition of all state religions and all privileged churches, including those partially maintained or supported by state subsidies. Absolute liberty of every religion to build temples to their gods, and to pay and support their priests.

B. The churches considered as religious corporations must never enjoy the same political rights accorded to the productive associations; nor can they be entrusted with the education of children; for they exist merely to negate morality and liberty and to profit from the lucrative practice of witchcraft.

C. Abolition of monarchy; establishment of a commonwealth.

D. Abolition of classes, ranks, and privileges; absolute equality of political rights for all men and women; universal suffrage. [Not in the state, but in the units of the new society. Note by Max Nettlau]

E. Abolition, dissolution, and moral, political, and economic dismantling of the all-pervasive, regimented, centralized State, the alter ego of the Church, and as such, the permanent cause of the impoverishment, brutalization, and enslavement of the multitude. This naturally entails the following: Abolition of all state universities: public education must be administered only by the communes and free associations. Abolition of the State judiciary: all judges must be elected by the people. Abolition of all criminal, civil, and legal codes now administered in Europe: because the code of liberty can be created only by liberty itself. Abolition of banks and all other institutions of state credit. Abolition of all centralized administration, of the bureaucracy, of all permanent armies and state police.

F. Immediate direct election of all judicial and civil functionaries as well as representatives (national, provincial, and communal delegates) by the universal suffrage of both sexes.

G. The internal reorganization of each country on the basis of the absolute freedom of individuals, of the productive associations, and of the communes. Necessity of recognizing the right of secession: every individual, every association, every commune, every region, every nation has the absolute right to self-determination, to associate or not to associate, to ally themselves with whomever they wish and repudiate their alliances without regard to so-called historic rights [rights consecrated by legal precedent] or the convenience of their neighbors. Once the right to secede is established, secession will no longer be necessary. With the dissolution of a “unity” imposed by violence, the units of society will be drawn to unite by their powerful mutual attraction and by inherent necessities. Consecrated by liberty, these new federations of communes, provinces, regions, and nations will then be truly strong, productive, and indissoluble.’

H. Individual rights.

1. The right of every man and woman, from birth to adulthood, to complete upkeep, clothes, food, shelter, care, guidance, education (public schools, primary, secondary, higher education, artistic, industrial, and scientific), all at the expense of society.

2. The equal right of adolescents, while freely choosing their careers, to be helped and to the greatest possible extent supported by society. After this, society will exercise no authority or supervision over them except to respect, and if necessary defend, their freedom and their rights.

3. The freedom of adults of both sexes must be absolute and complete, freedom to come and go, to voice all opinions, to be lazy or active, moral or immoral, in short, to dispose of one’s person or possessions as one pleases, being accountable to no one. Freedom to live, be it honestly, by one’s own labor, even at the expense of individuals who voluntarily tolerate one’s exploitation.

4. Unlimited freedom of propaganda, speech, press, public or private assembly, with no other restraint than the natural salutary power of public opinion. Absolute freedom to organize associations even for allegedly immoral purposes including even those associations which advocate the undermining (or destruction) of individual and public freedom.

5. Freedom can and must be defended only by freedom: to advocate the restriction of freedom on the pretext that it is being defended is a dangerous delusion. As morality has no other source, no other object, no other stimulant than freedom, all restrictions of liberty in order to protect morality have always been to the detriment of the latter. Psychology, statistics, and all history prove that individual and social immorality are the inevitable consequences of a false private and public education, of the degeneration of public morality and the corruption of public opinion, and above all, of. the vicious organization of society. An eminent Belgian statistician [Quételet] points out that society opens the way for the crimes later committed by malefactors. It follows that all attempts to combat social immorality by rigorous legislation which violates individual freedom must fail. Experience, on the contrary, demonstrates that a repressive and authoritarian system, far from preventing, only increases crime; that public and private morality falls or rises to the extent that individual liberty is restricted or enlarged. It follows that in order to regenerate society, we must first completely uproot this political and social system founded on inequality, privilege, and contempt for humanity. After having reconstructed society on the basis of the most complete liberty, equality, and justice – not to mention work – for all and an enlightened education inspired by respect for man – public opinion will then reflect the new humanity and become a natural guardian of the most absolute liberty [and public order. Ed.].

6. Society cannot, however, leave itself completely defenseless against vicious and parasitic individuals. Work must be the basis of all political rights. The units of society, each within its own jurisdiction, can deprive all such antisocial adults of political rights (except the old, the sick, and those dependent on private or public subsidy) and will be obliged to restore their political rights as soon as they begin to live by their own labor.

7. The liberty of every human being is inalienable and society will never require any individual to surrender his liberty or to sign contracts with other individuals except on the basis of the most complete equality and reciprocity. Society cannot forcibly prevent any man or woman so devoid of personal dignity as to place him- or herself in voluntary servitude to another individual; but it can justly treat such persons as parasites, not entitled to the enjoyment of political liberty, though only for the duration of their servitude.

8. Persons losing their political rights will also lose custody of their children. Persons who violate voluntary agreements, steal, inflict bodily harm, or above all, violate the freedom of any individual, native or foreigner, will be penalized according to the laws of society.

10. Individuals condemned by the laws of any and every association (commune, province, region, or nation) reserve the right to escape punishment by declaring that they wish to resign from that association. But in this case, the association will have the equal right to expel him and declare him outside its guarantee and protection.

I. Rights of association [federalism]. The cooperative workers’ associations are a new fact in history. At this time we can only speculate about, but not determine, the immense development that they will doubtlessly exhibit in the new political and social conditions of the future. It is possible and even very likely that they will some day transcend the limits of towns, provinces, and even states. They may entirely reconstitute society, dividing it not into nations but into different industrial groups, organized not according to the needs of politics but to those of production. But this is for the future. Be that as it may, we can already proclaim this fundamental principle: irrespective of their functions or aims, all associations, like all individuals, must enjoy absolute freedom. Neither society, nor any part of society – commune, province, or nation – has the right to prevent free individuals from associating freely for any purpose whatsoever: political, religious, scientific, artistic, or even for the exploitation or corruption of the naive or alcoholics, provided that they are not minors. To combat charlatans and pernicious associations is the special affair of public opinion. But society is obliged to refuse to guarantee civic rights of any association or collective body whose aims or rules violate the fundamental principles of human justice. Individuals shall not be penalized or deprived of their full political and social rights solely for belonging to such unrecognized societies. The difference between the recognized and unrecognized associations will be the following: the juridically recognized associations will have the right to the protection of the community against individuals or recognized groups who refuse to fulfill their voluntary obligations.’ The juridically unrecognized associations will not be entitled to such protection by the community and none of their agreements will be regarded as binding.

J. The division of a country into regions, provinces, districts, and communes, as in France, will naturally depend on the traditions, the specific circumstances, and the particular nature of each country. We can only point out here the two fundamental and indispensable principles which must be put into effect by any country seriously trying to organize a free society. First: all organizations must proceed by way of federation from the base to the summit, from the commune to the coordinating association of the country or nation. Second: there must be at least one autonomous intermediate body between the commune and the country, the department, the region, or the province. Without such an autonomous intermediate body, the commune (in the strict sense of the term) would be too isolated and too weak to be able to resist the despotic centralistic pressure of the State, which will inevitably (as happened twice in France) restore to power a despotic monarchical regime. Despotism has its source much more in the centralized organization of the State, than in the despotic nature of kings.

K. The basic unit of all political organization in each country must be the completely autonomous commune, constituted by the majority vote of all adults of both sexes. No one shall have either the power or the right to interfere in the internal life of the commune. The commune elects all functionaries, law-makers, and judges. It administers the communal property and finances. Every commune should have the incontestable right to create, without superior sanction, its own constitution and legislation. But in order to join and become an integral part of the provincial federation, the commune must conform its own particular charter to the fundamental principles of the provincial constitution and be accepted by the parliament of the province. The commune must also accept the judgments of the provincial tribunal and any measures ordered by the government of the province. (All measures of the provincial government must be ratified by the provincial parliament.) Communes refusing to accept the provincial laws will not be entitled to its benefits.

L. The province must be nothing but a free federation of autonomous communes. The provincial parliament could be composed either of a single chamber with representatives of each of the communes or of two chambers, the other representing the population of the province, independent of the communes. The provincial parliament, without interfering in any manner whatsoever in the internal decisions of the communes will formulate the provincial constitution (based on the principles of this catechism). This constitution must be accepted by all communes wishing to participate in the provincial parliament. The provincial parliament will enact legislation defining the rights and obligations of individuals, communes, and associations in relation to the provincial federation, and the penalties for violations of its laws. It will reserve, however, the right of the communes to diverge on secondary points, though not on fundamentals.

The provincial parliament, in strict accordance with the Charter of the Federation of Communes, will define the rights and obligations existing between the communes, the parliament, the judicial tribunal, and the provincial administration. It will enact all laws affecting the whole province, pass on resolutions or measures of the national parliament, without, however, violating the autonomy of the communes and the province. Without interfering in the internal administration of the communes, it will allot to each commune its share of the provincial or national income, which will be used by the commune as its members decide. The provincial parliament will ratify or reject all policies and measures of the provincial administration which will, of course, be elected by universal suffrage. The provincial tribunal (also elected by universal suffrage) will adjudicate, without appeal, all disputes between communes and individuals, communes and communes, and communes and the provincial administration or parliament. [These arrangements will thus] lead not to dull, lifeless uniformity, but to a real living unity, to the enrichment of communal life. A unity will be created which reflects the needs and aspirations of the communes; in short, we will have individual and collective freedom. This unity cannot be achieved by the compulsion or violence of provincial power, for even truth and justice when coercively imposed must lead to falsehood and iniquity.

M. The nation must be nothing but a federation of autonomous provinces. [The organizational relations between the provinces and the nation will, in general, be the same as those between the communes and the province – Nettlau]

N. Principles of the International Federation. The union of nations comprising the International Federation will be based on the principles outlined above. It is probable, and strongly desired as well, that when the hour of the People’s Revolution strikes again, every nation will unite in brotherly solidarity and forge an unbreakable alliance against the coalition of reactionary nations. This alliance will be the germ of the future Universal Federation of Peoples which will eventually embrace the entire world. The International Federation of revolutionary peoples, with a parliament, a tribunal, and an international executive committee, will naturally be based on the principles of the revolution. Applied to international polity these principles are:

1 . Every land, every nation, every people, large or small, weak or strong, every region, province, and commune has the absolute right to self-determination, to make alliances, unite or secede as it pleases, regardless of so-called historic rights and the political, commercial, or strategic ambitions of States. The unity of the elements of society, in order to be genuine, fruitful, and durable, must be absolutely free: it can emerge only from the internal needs and mutual attractions of the respective units of society….

2. Abolition of alleged historic right and the horrible right of conquest.

3. Absolute rejection of the politics of aggrandizement, of the power and the glory of the State. For this is a form of politics which locks each country into a self-made fortress, shutting out the rest of humanity, organizing itself into a closed world, independent of all human solidarity, finding its glory and prosperity in the evil it can do to other countries. A country bent on conquest is necessarily a country internally enslaved.

4. The glory and grandeur of a nation lie only in the development of its humanity. Its strength and inner vitality are measured by the degree of its liberty.

5. The well-being and the freedom of nations as well as individuals are inextricably interwoven. Therefore, there must be free commerce, exchange, and communication among all federated countries, and abolition of frontiers, passports, and customs duties [tariffs]. Every citizen of a federated country must enjoy the same civic rights and it must be easy for him to acquire citizenship and enjoy political rights in all other countries adhering to the same federation. If liberty is the starting point, it will necessarily lead to unity. But to go from unity to liberty is difficult, if not impossible; even if it were possible, it could be done only by destroying a spurious “unity” imposed by force….

7. No federated country shall maintain a permanent standing army or any institution separating the soldier from the civilian. Not only do permanent ,armies and professional soldiers breed internal disruption, brutalization, and financial ruin, they also menace the independence and well-being of other nations. All able-bodied citizens should, if necessary, take up arms to defend their homes and their freedom. Each country’s military defense and equipment should be organized locally by the commune, or provincially, somewhat like the militias in Switzerland or the United States of America [circa 1860-7].

8. The International Tribunal shall have no other function than to settle, without appeal, all disputes between nations and their respective provinces. Differences between two federated countries shall be adjudicated, without appeal, only by the International Parliament, which, in the name of the entire revolutionary federation, will also formulate common policy and make war, if unavoidable, against the reactionary coalition.

9. No federated nation shall make war against another federated country. If there is war and the International Tribunal has pronounced its decision, the aggressor must submit. If this doesn’t occur, the other federated nations will sever relations with it and, in case of attack by the aggressor, unite to repel invasion.

10. All members of the revolutionary federation must actively take part in approved wars against a nonfederated state. If a federated nation declares unjust war on an outside State against the advice of the International Tribunal, it will be notified in advance that it will have to do so alone.

11. It is hoped that the federated states will eventually give up the expensive luxury of separate diplomatic representatives to foreign states and arrange for representatives to speak in the name of all the federated States.

12. Only nations or peoples accepting the principles outlined in this catechism will be admitted to the federation.

X. Social Organization. Without political equality there can be no real political liberty, but political equality will be possible only when there is social and economic equality.

A. Equality does not imply the leveling of individual differences, nor that individuals should be made physically, morally, or mentally identical. Diversity in capacities and powers – those differences between races, nations, sexes, ages, and persons – far from being a social evil, constitutes, on the contrary, the abundance of humanity. Economic and social equality means the equalization of personal wealth, but not by restricting what a man may acquire by his own skill, productive energy, and thrift.

B. Equality and justice demand only a society so organized that every single human being will – from birth through adolescence and maturity – find therein equal means, first for maintenance and education, and later, for the exercise of all his natural capacities and aptitudes. This equality from birth that justice demands for everyone will be impossible as long as the right of inheritance continues to exist.

D. Abolition of the right of inheritance. Social inequality – inequality of classes, privileges, and wealth – not by right but in fact. will continue to exist until such time as the right of inheritance is abolished. It is an inherent social law that de facto inequality inexorably produces inequality of rights; social inequality leads to political inequality. And without political equality – in the true, universal, and libertarian sense in which we understand it – society will always remain divided into two unequal parts. The first. which comprises the great majority of mankind, the masses of the people, will be oppressed by the privileged, exploiting minority. The right of inheritance violates the principle of freedom and must be abolished.

G. When inequality resulting from the right of inheritance is abolished, there will still remain inequalities [of wealth] – due to the diverse amounts of energy and skill possessed by individuals. These inequalities will never entirely disappear, but will become more and more minimized under the influence of education and of an egalitarian social organization, and, above all, when the right of inheritance no longer burdens the coming generations.

H. Labor being the sole source of wealth, everyone is free to die of hunger, or to live in the deserts or the forests among savage beasts, but whoever wants to live in society must earn his living by his own labor, or be treated as a parasite who is living on the labor of others.

I. Labor is the foundation of human dignity and morality. For it was only by free and intelligent labor that man, overcoming his own bestiality, attained his humanity and sense of justice, changed his environment, and created the civilized world. The stigma which, in the ancient as well as the feudal world, was attached to labor, and which to a great extent still exists today, despite all the hypocritical phrases about the “dignity of labor” – this stupid prejudice against labor has two sources: the first is the conviction, so characteristic of the ancient world, that in order to give one part of society the opportunity and the means to humanize itself through science, the arts, philosophy. and the enjoyment of human rights, another part of society, naturally the most numerous, must be condemned to work as slaves. This fundamental institution of ancient civilization was the cause of its downfall.

The city, corrupted and disorganized on the one hand by the idleness of the privileged citizens, and undermined on the other by the imperceptible but relentless activity of the disinherited world of slaves who, despite their slavery, through common labor developed a sense of mutual aid and solidarity against oppression, collapsed under the blows of the barbarian peoples.

Christianity, the religion of the slaves, much later destroyed ancient forms of slavery only to create a new slavery. Privilege, based on inequality and the right of conquest and sanctified by divine grace, again separated society into two opposing camps: the “rabble” and the nobility, the serfs and the masters. To the latter was assigned the noble profession of arms and government; to the serfs, the curse of forced labor. The same causes are bound to produce the same effects; the nobility, weakened and demoralized by depraved idleness, fell in 1789 under the blows of the revolutionary serfs and workers. The [French] Revolution proclaimed the dignity of labor and enacted the rights of labor into law. But only in law, for in fact labor remained enslaved. The first source of the degradation of labor, namely, the dogma of the political inequality of men, was destroyed by the Great Revolution. The degradation must therefore be attributed to a second source, which is nothing but the separation which still exists between manual and intellectual labor, which reproduces in a new form the ancient inequality and divides the world into two camps: the privileged minority, privileged not by law but by capital, and the majority of workers, no longer captives of the law but of hunger.

The dignity of labor is today theoretically recognized, and public opinion considers it disgraceful to live without working. But this does not go to the heart of the question. Human labor, in general, is still divided into two exclusive categories: the first – solely intellectual and managerial – includes the scientists, artists, engineers, inventors, accountants, educators, governmental officials, and their subordinate elites who enforce labor discipline. The second group consists of the great mass of workers, people prevented from applying creative ideas or intelligence, who blindly and mechanically carry out the orders of the intellectual-managerial elite. This economic and social division of labor has disastrous consequences for members of the privileged classes, the masses of the people, and for the prosperity, as well as the moral and intellectual development, of society as a whole.

For the privileged classes a life of luxurious idleness gradually leads to moral and intellectual degeneration. It is perfectly true that a certain amount of leisure is absolutely necessary for the artistic, scientific, and mental development of man; creative leisure followed by the healthy exercise of daily labor, one that is well earned and is socially provided for all according to individual capacities and preferences. Human nature is so constituted that the propensity for evil is always intensified by external circumstances, and the morality of the individual depends much more on the conditions of his existence and the environment in which he lives than on his own will. In this respect, as in all others, the law of social solidarity is essential: there can be no other moralizer for society or the individual than freedom in absolute equality. Take the most sincere democrat and put him on the throne; if he does not step down promptly, he will surely become a scoundrel. A born aristocrat (if he should, by some happy chance, be ashamed of his aristocratic lineage and renounce privileges of birth) will yearn for past glories, be useless in the present, and passionately oppose future progress. The same goes for the bourgeois: this dear child of capital and idleness will waste his leisure in dishonesty, corruption, and debauchery, or serve as a brutal force to enslave the working class, who will eventually unleash against him a retribution even more horrible than that of 1793.

The evils that the worker is subjected to by the division of labor are much easier to determine: forced to work for others because he is born to poverty and misery, deprived of all rational upbringing and education, morally enslaved by religious influence. He is catapulted into life, defenseless, without initiative and without his own will. Driven to despair by misery, he sometimes revolts, but lacking that unity with his fellow workers and that enlightened thought upon which power depends, he is often betrayed and sold out by his leaders, and almost never realizes who or what is responsible for his sufferings. Exhausted by futile struggles, he falls back again into the old slavery.

This slavery will last until capitalism is overthrown by the collective action of the workers. They will be exploited as long as education (which in a free society will be equally available to all) is the exclusive birthright of the privileged class; as long as this minority monopolizes scientific and managerial work and the people – reduced to the status of machines or beasts of burden – are forced to perform the menial tasks assigned to them by their exploiters. This degradation of human labor is an immense evil, polluting the moral, intellectual, and political institutions of society. History shows that an uneducated multitude whose natural intelligence is suppressed and who are brutalized by the mechanical monotony of daily toil, who grope in vain for any enlightenment, constitutes a mindless mob whose blind turbulence threatens the very existence of society itself.

The artificial separation between manual and intellectual labor must give way to a new social synthesis. When the man of science performs manual labor and the man of work performs intellectual labor, free intelligent work will become the glory of mankind, the source of its dignity and its rights.

K. Intelligent and free labor will necessarily be collective labor. Each person will, of course, be free to work alone or collectively. But there is no doubt that (outside of work best performed individually) in industrial and even scientific or artistic enterprises, collective labor will be preferred by everyone. For association marvellously multiplies the productive capacity of each worker; hence, a cooperating member of a productive association will earn much more in much less time. When the free productive associations (which will include members of cooperatives and labor organizations) voluntarily organize according to their needs and special skills, they will then transcend all national boundaries and form an immense worldwide economic federation. This will include an industrial parliament, supplied by the associations with precise and detailed global-scale statistics; by harmonizing supply and demand the parliament will distribute and allocate world industrial production to the various nations. Commercial and industrial crises, stagnation (unemployment), waste of capital, etc., will no longer plague mankind; the emancipation of human labor will regenerate the world.

L. The land, and all natural resources, are the common property of everyone, but will be used only by those who cultivate it by their own labor. Without expropriation, only through the powerful pressure of the worker’s associations, capital and the tools of production will fall to those who produce wealth by their own labor. [Bakunin means that private ownership of production will be permitted only if the owners do the actual work and do not employ anyone. He believed that collective ownership would gradually supersede private ownership.]

M. Equal political, social, and economic rights, as well as equal obligations for women.

N. Abolition not of the natural family but of the legal family founded on law and property. Religious and civil marriage to be replaced by free marriage. Adult men and women have the right to unite and separate as they please, nor has society the right to hinder their union or to force them to maintain it. With the abolition of the right of inheritance and the education of children assured by society, all the legal reasons for the irrevocability of marriage will disappear. The union of a man and a woman must be free, for a free choice is the indispensable condition for moral sincerity. In marriage, man and woman must enjoy absolute liberty. Neither violence nor passion nor rights surrendered in the past can justify an invasion by one of the liberty of another, and every such invasion shall be considered a crime.

O. From the moment of pregnancy to birth, a woman and her children shall be subsidized by the communal organization. Women who wish to nurse and wean their children shall also be subsidized.

P. Parents shall have the right to care for and guide the education of their children, under the ultimate control of the commune which retains the right and the obligation to take children away from parents who, by example or by cruel and inhuman treatment, demoralize or otherwise hinder the physical and mental development of their children.

Q. Children belong neither to their parents nor to society. They belong to themselves and to their own future liberty. Until old enough to take care of themselves, children must be brought up under the guidance of their elders. It is true that parents are their natural tutors, but since the very future of the commune itself depends upon the intellectual and moral training it gives to children, the commune must be the tutor. The freedom of adults is possible only when the free society looks after the education of minors.

R. The secular school must replace the Church, with the difference that while religious indoctrination perpetuates superstition and divine authority, the sole purpose of secular public education is the gradual, progressive initiation of children into liberty by the triple development of their physical strength, their minds, and their will. Reason, truth, justice, respect for fellowmen, the sense of personal dignity which is inseparable from the dignity of others, love of personal freedom and the freedom of all others, the conviction that work is the base and condition for rights – these must be the fundamental principles of all public education. Above all, education must make men and inculcate human values first, and then train specialized workers. As the child grows older, authority will give way to more and more liberty, so that by adolescence he will be completely free and will forget how in childhood he had to submit unavoidably to authority. Respect for human worth, the germ of freedom, must be present even while children are being severely disciplined. The essence of all moral education is this: inculcate children with respect for humanity and you will make good men….

S. Having reached the age of adulthood, the adolescent will be proclaimed autonomous and free to act as he deems best. In exchange, society will expect him to fulfill only these three obligations: that he remain free, that he live by his own labor, and that he respect the freedom of others. And, as the crimes and vices infecting present society are due to the evil organization of society, it is certain that in a society based on reason, justice, and freedom, on respect for humanity and on complete equality, the good will prevail and the evil will be a morbid exception, which will diminish more and more under the pervasive influence of an enlightened and humanized public opinion.

T. The old, sick, and infirm will enjoy all political and social rights and be bountifully supported at the expense of society.

XI. Revolutionary policy. It is our deep-seated conviction that since the freedom of all nations is indivisible, national revolutions must become international in scope. just as the European and world reaction is unified, there should no longer be isolated revolutions, but a universal, worldwide revolution. Therefore, all the particular interests, the vanities, pretensions, jealousies, and hostilities between and among nations must now be transformed into the unified, common, and universal interest of the revolution, which alone can assure the freedom and independence of each nation by the solidarity of all. We believe also that the holy alliance of the world counterrevolution and the conspiracy of kings, clergy, nobility, and the bourgeoisie, based on enormous budgets, on permanent armies, on formidable bureaucracies, and equipped with all the monstrous apparatus of modern centralized states, constitutes an overwhelming force; indeed, that this formidable reactionary coalition can be destroyed only by the greater power of the simultaneous revolutionary alliance and action of all the people of the civilized world, that against this reaction the isolated revolution of a single people will never succeed. Such a revolution would be folly, a catastrophe for the isolated country and would, in effect, constitute a crime against all the other nations. It follows that the uprising of a single people must have in view not only itself, but the whole world. This demands a worldwide program, as large, as profound, as true, as human, in short, as all-embracing as the interests of the whole world. And in order to energize the passions of all the popular masses of Europe, regardless of nationality, this program can only be the program of the social and democratic revolution.

Briefly stated, the objectives of the social and democratic revolution are: Politically: the abolition of the historic rights of states, the rights of conquest, and diplomatic rights [statist international law. Tr.]. It aims at the full emancipation of individuals and associations from divine and human bondage; it seeks the absolute destruction of all compulsory unions, and all agglomerations of communes into provinces and conquered countries into the State. Finally, it requires the radical dissolution of the centralized, aggressive, authoritarian State, including its military, bureaucratic, governmental, administrative, judicial, and legislative institutions. ‘ne revolution, in short, has this aim: freedom for all, for individuals as well as collective bodies, associations, communes, provinces, regions, and nations, and the mutual guarantee of this freedom by federation.

Socially: it seeks the confirmation of political equality by economic equality. This is not the removal of natural individual differences, but equality in the social rights of every individual from birth; in particular, equal means of subsistence, support, education, and opportunity for every child, boy or girl, until maturity, and equal resources and facilities in adulthood to create his own well-being by his own labor.

Republication from