Bibliography of Anarchy — II — First Works of Anarchist Literature in England


First Works of Anarchist Literature in England.

A Vindication of Natural Society: or, a view of the miseries and evils arising to mankind from every species of artificial society. By a late noble writer, namely St-John Viscount Bolingbroke (London, 1756, in-8°). Its true author was Edmund Burke.

Other editions: in Fugitive pieces on various subjects by several authors, vol. 2 (London, 1761; Dublin 1762; London, 1765, 1771; London, 1780, XIV, 106 pp., 81);

A Vindication of Natural Society… in a letter to Lord ***, by Edmund Burke, a new edition (Oxford, 1796, VIII, 62 pp. in-8°);

The Inherent Evils of all State Government demonstrated, being a reprint of Edmund Burke’s Celebrated Essay, entitled A Vindication of Natural Society, with Notes and an appendix briefly enunciating the principles through which “Natural Society” may be gradually realized (London, Holyoake and Co.,… 1858, VI, 66 pp. in-8°), publication anarchiste-individualiste; Boston edition (B. R. Tucker), 1885, 36 pp. in-8°.


An Enquiry concerning Political Justice and its influence on general virtue and happiness, by William Godwin, in two volumes (London, 1793, in February, XIII, 378 and 379 — 895 pp. in-4°), the first strictly anarchist book; second edition, London, 1796; 3rd edition, 1798; Philadelphia edition, 1796, 2 vol.; there has been a 4th edition in this century, in 184 ?. The chapter on property (On Property) has been republished and forms vol. X of the Social Science Series (London 188?), published par H. S. Sait; — German translation: Untersuchung uber die politische by…. (WUrzburg, 1803, in-8°);

Cf. also: The Enquirer. Reflections on education, manners and literature. In a séries of essays (London, 1797; Dublin, 1797; London, 1823); and: William Godwin, his friends and contemporaries, by C. Kegan Paul (2 vol. London, 1876, 387, 340 pp.) and the article Godwin in the Dictionary of National Biography.


The French mutualists have a distinguished precursor in William Thompson, the author of An Inquiry into the Principles of the distribution of wealth most conductive to human happiness, applied to the neicly proposed System of voluntary Equality of Wealth (London, 1824, XXIV, 600 pp., in-8″);

Other editions (abridged?), 1850 and 1869, published by William Pare.

Thompson, who first instituted a strict mutualism, turned to communism, in the course of that work, and his other works were communist (Owenite): Appeal of one half of the human race, Women, against the pretentions of the other half, Men,…. (London, 1825. XVI, 221 pp.) and Labour rewarded… (ib. 1827, VIII, 127 pp., in-8″).

Others were consistent mutualists, like John Gray, author of: A Lecture on Human Happiness (1825); The Social System, a treatise on the principle of Exchange…. (Edinburgh, 1831); An Efficient Remedy for the Distress of Nations... (Edinburgh, 1842), etc. The systems of banks, exchage bazaars, etc., etc., had already been préconisés and even put into practice in England and in America.

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Bibliography of Anarchy — I — Precursors of Anarchy


Precursors of Anarchy.

The anarchist literature has no determined origin, not being the expression of a system invented and progressively elaborated, but the very of systems. It is born of the need to demolish arbitrary power in all its forms, the rules and duties imposed by prejudices or by force, and to give rise to the free development of humanity. Therefore every act that was accomplised and every word that was spoken in hatred of that constraint and in favor of that liberty are conscious or unconscious works of anarchy.

Not having made detailed studies in the ancient literatures, my labor will necessarily be incomplete. Moreover, it is not my intention here to give a list of all the works of libertarian tendencies which, most often, only touch upon the question without seeking its deep roots, but to rediscover the traces of some thinkers who have glimpsed a state of society beyond laws and government, something bolder, in a time when superstition and authority allows to be discussed, only the act of imagining a society, communist perhaps, but still authoritarian as we see so often emerge.

Without going back to the fabulous, evocative tales of the legends, like those of Prometheus, Cain and so many others, History, from its origins, always shows us here and there, and often from all sides at one, some deniers of the principle of authority. In the Middle Ages, we see it attached, in Germany and in all of western Europe, by some heretical sects, formulating with regard to religion their social aspirations, and of which we will only mention the Association of the Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit. François Rabelais enumerated the precepts of the Abbey of Thélème, which the practitioners of anarchy could still claim. In the Mondo Savio (V. Mondi celesti, terrestri ed infernali degli Academici Pellegnni…. Vinegia, 1562, irr-8″, pp. 172-184), A. F. Doni presents a theory that would not deny libertarian communism. The peasants of the Bétique (chap. VII of Télémaque) live in communitarian society along with the indigenous people of the Southern Land [Terre australe], in the customs of which the Aventures de Jacques Sadeur…. (1676) have initiated us. Without entering into more details, the descriptions of the golden age in every country and in all the literatures described essentially libertarian customs, but that golden age, relegated to a past so remote that even the memory of it is erased, how few have understood that it is in the future and that it depends on us to realize it; how many invoked Liberty without seeing anything there but an ideal of perfectible democracy!

Let us cite Etienne de la Boëtie with his work: la Servitude Volontaire ou le Contr’un [Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, aka Slaves to Duty](reprinted from the manuscript of Henry de Mesmes by D. Jouaust, Paris, Librairie des Bibliophiles, 1872, XII-66 pp.; many other editions, one of which had a preface by A. Vermorel).

The French literature of the XVIth century has been studied from our point of view by comrade Körner, recently dead, who has recovered, among other interesting works, the Apophthegmes et Discours notables recueillis de divers auteurs: contre la Tyrannie et les Tyrans, fol. 522-554 of Mémoires de l’Estât de France sous Charles IX, vol. II, 1578, s. 1., 12°, second edition (Simon Goulart).

It would be necessary to scour the works of the English socialists anglais of the era of Cromwell and those, incomparably more numerous, fo the French writers of the 18th century, among them Dom Dèschamps (see Emile Beausdre, Antécédents de l’Hégélianisme.., Paris, 1863, in-8° and B. Malon: Dom Deschamps. Un Bénédictin du XVIIIe siècle, précurseur de l’Hegelianisme, du Transformisme et du Communisme Anarchiste, Revue Socialiste, Sept. 1888, pp. 256-266), but especially Diderot (see, for example, the Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville et Les Eleutheromanes, edition of the Centenaire, Paris, 1884, pp. 87-101, 16°; pp. 5-83: commentaire); cf. I costumi del Popolo di Taiti…, Venezia, 1892, 17 pp. (brochure of propaganda published by Carlo Monticelli); with long extracts in Le Glaneur Anarchiste, 1, 2, in the supplement to La Révolte and in El Productor.

  • Emile Beausdre, Antécédents de l’hégélianisme dans la philosophie française Dom Deschamps: son système et son école []
  • Benoit Malon, “Dom Deschamps. Un Bénédictin du XVIIIe siècle, précurseur de l’Hegelianisme, du Transformisme et du Communisme Anarchiste” [Google Books]
  • Denis Diderot, Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville [Wikisource]
  • Denis Diderot, Les Eleutheromanes [Google Books]

From the literature of the Revolution, I will only cite: Dame Nature à la Barre de l’Assemblée Nationale (Mother Nature at the Bar of the National Assembly) by Sylvain Maréchal (1791, 46pp., in-8″), asking the Assembly to declare that Nature imposes neither god nor laws on man. But I must say that not having read this lampoon, I cannot affirm the accuracy of the information. The Adresse of Jacques Roux, presented to the National Convention (1793, in-8°) and the Vœux formés par des Français libres…., by Jean Varlet (1791 ? in-4″) could be claimed by the socialists, but not by the libertarians. The Hébertists have still not been sufficiently studied in this regard (See G. Tridon, les Hébertistes, plainte contre une calomnie de l’Histoire, 48 pp.; lre édit. dans “Candide,” end of 1864; Anacharsis Clootz…, of G. Avenel, 1805). Les Enragés, etc.

  • Sylvain Maréchal, Dame Nature à la Barre de l’Assemblée Nationale [Google Books]
  • Jacques Roux, Manifesto of the Enragés []
  • Jean Varlet, Voeux formés par des Français libres, ou Pétition manifeste d’une partie du souverain à ses délégués pour être signée sur l’autel de la patrie et présenté [sic] le jour où le peuple se lèvera en masse pour résister à l’oppression avec les seules armes de la raison [Gallica]
  • Gustave Tridon, les Hébertistes, plainte contre une calomnie de histoire []
  • Georges Avenel, Anacharsis Cloots, l’orateur du genre humain []

The German literature of the 18th century, represented by Schiller, Lessing, etc., is crossed by a strong libertarian current. (V. Siurm und Drang, die Räuber [The Robbers], etc.; see also E. Weller: Die Freiheitsbestrebungen der Deutschen im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert, dargestellt in Zeugnissen ihrer Literatur [German Aspirations to Freedom in the 18th and 19th Centuries, Represented in their Literary Testimonies], Leipzig, 1847, 344 pp. in-8″). Ideen zu einem Versuch, die Grenzen der Wirksamkeit des Staates zu bestimmen by Wilhelm von Humboldt, 1792, is a curious mixture of essentially anarchist ideas and authoritarian prejudices (edition of 1851, Œuvres de W. v. Humboldt, and that of Leipzig 189?, 206 pp., in16°);—French translation: Essai sur les limites de l’Action d’Etat, two editions, 1866 and 1867;—English translation: The Sphere and Duties of Government,…. (London 1854, new edition 1870).

  • Friedrich Schiller, The Robbers [Gutenburg]
  • Emil Weller, Die Freiheitsbestrebungen der Deutschen im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert, dargestellt in Zeugnissen ihrer Literatur [Google Books]
  • Wilhelm von Humboldt, Ideen zu einem Versuch, die Grenzen der Wirksamkeit des Staates zu bestimmen []; The Sphere and Duties of Government []


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Max Nettlau, “Bibliography of Anarchy” (1897)

Bibliography of Anarchy



The work that we publish today could only be attempted by an erudite bibliophile, having in addition the devoted collaboration of numerous friends. The friends have presented themselves and this unselfish convergence of forces appears to us to be one proof among a thousand that the anarchists, just by “doing as they wish,” know however how to unite their individual wills in a collective will. No leader, no elected or self-imposed council has given the that his book should appear.

The bibliographic essay composed by our friend Nettlau will certainly be very useful to the sincere seekers, to the conscientious historians of socialism, to all those who want to go back to the sources in order to study the problems of the contemporary movement. How many times have honest interlocutors have naively asked us if an anarchist literature existed. We can now respond to them: “Look!”

I admit for my part that I did not know we were so rich: the importance that this collection has assumed, though still incomplete, has greatly surprised me. Anarchist ideas, consciously developed in their present form, are of such recent origin that we willingly imagine that we still find ourselves in an undeveloped period of propaganda. Doubtless, the largest part of the documents cited in this collection are destined to disappear and even to hardly merit being preserved, but some of these works will certainly date in the history of the nineteenth century. Admittedly, if can be hard sometimes for the anarchists to say what they believe to be truth, but no one will be able to accuse them of “hiding their light under a bushel.” We have raised it as high as we can lift our hands, and from now one, no none in the world, let him love us or hate us, can’t pretend to ignore us.

Moreover, the anarchist literature properly speaking is only a tiny part of that which forms the vehicle of our idea. Now our adversaries themselves are responsible for spreading the seeds of revolt. There is hardly a word written, there is not even a single word worth reading, in which is not found a ferment of renewal, either with regard to the formerly conventional morals or traditional religion, or else with regard to the castes in power or orthodox political economy. What is the man of conviction who, in his statements, is not something of a revolutionary? If he can hope to have a certain influence, it is always through the new ideas, socialist or anarchist, of his teaching, for the rest is only a simple repetition, only pure reiteration of what thousands of individuals had reported before him. From their point of view as uncompromising conservatives, the fanatics of law or religion who do not want any book but the Code, the Koran or the Bible were absolutely right! “Every new work is useless if it corroborates the truth, and deadly if it differs from it.” That is to say that all contemporary literature is anarchist in some sense; our direct propaganda is joined by a thousand acts of indirect propaganda from the crowd of poets, novelists, philosophers and sociologists.

Elisée ReclusBut there has been no book in the world to to set out our ideas as a whole or in their details, the great drama of contemporary society will suffice to show to all thinking people what movement carries us along and what ideal humanity steers towards. We see with how much impatience the individual now suffers the wills and whims of other individuals, noble, rich or constituted in dignity; it is recognized by all that authority no longer maintains itself by the gentle resignation of the weak to poorly understood duties, but that from now on it must be assured by more and more open force, constantly running the risk of breaking: the powers of this world have become the target off all derision and scorn, and their prestige is blown away into space like so many other misleading illusions. On the other hand, we note that the individual, while demanding most energetically what is considers as its individual right to live, associates more closely with all those who are animated by the same ideas and claim to the same extent the complete satisfaction of their needs. We have witnessed the birth of a Workers’ International, which some have constantly sought to destroy, and which has constantly rebuilt itself in greater numbers, promising to soon embrace the whole world, and proclaiming its will in eight, in a hundred different languages, from Europe to the Antipodes.

That is what we are taught by the great book of society open before us, and it is in order to make reading it simpler that Max Nettlau indicates to men of good will all the works of the anarchist propaganda.

Elisée RECLUS.


This bibliography is not presented as definitive: it could not be, given the manner in which it was composed. For a long time I have been occupied, between other labors, with gathering the documents necessary for the elaboration of bibliography as complete as possible — that I hope to publish one day — when some comrades offered to publish a short, succinct selection. This is that selection.

I have neglected to insert here a large number of details of secondary interest, and, on the other hand, having composed it in two months, I have lacked the time to remove the gaps that, in some parts, or only too obvious. There results an inequality in it, a lack of proportion between the different details, that I am the first to recognize.

That inequality seemed inevitable as a result of the difficulties that opposes to the inventory of the majority of the anarchist publications. Those writings, written in more than twenty languages, scattered in more than thirty countries, spread across a whole century, vanished for the most part, literally lost, put out of reach by the great circulation necessary to the propaganda, when they have escaped the continuous prosecutions and police seizures; we must not count on them finding an asylum in the public libraries, which have almost all disregarded them and, as for the most active propagandists, it most often happens that they are least in a position for anyone to make collections of them, being most exposed to the poverty, prison and exile which bourgeois society liberally bestows on them.

However a considerable part of these publications, even of the oldest, has been preserved and I must thank the friends and comrades who have communicated them to me, along with those who have spared neither time nor labor to make this volume appear.

Following the program that I had first sketch out, I will continue to collect the materials for a more sizeable bibliography, which will also include the ephemeral publications, omitted in this attempt: the manifestos, placards, broadsheets, etc., as well as the most important articles from the different newspapers.

For it is especially in the papers that the constant progress of the elaboration of the anarchist idea can be followed. If the bibliographer does not want to only be a bibliophile, if he wants at the same time to see as a historian, his work is quite thankless and retain for him only paltry satisfactions: slave of the printed word, he must — in order to make a bibliography and not a history — resolve himself sometimes to appear to neglect some sympathetic and active militants who, by chance, have only left a few literary traces, while he will mention some mediocre writings which, also by chance, have happened to be printed.

To remedy this problem, I tried to arrange the material of this bibliography, as far as possible, in chronological order and according to the successive evolution of ideas.

I count on the comrades of all countries to help me make from this first attempt a work more worthy of our idea; I ask them to indicate to me the necessary corrections and additions, and to send me all the publications, old or new, that they want to confide in me. They will not be lost: I have taken measures to assure their preservation; let them not disdain to communicate to me even the most ephemeral documents, for they are those which are lost most quickly, and are the most difficult to find.

The reader is requested to take into consideration the corrections indicated in the Errata, placed at the end of the volume.


  1. Precursors of Anarchy
  2. First works of Anarchist Literature in England
  3. Individualist anarchism
  4. P.-J. Proudhon
  5. Mutualism
  6. Precursors of modern anarchism from 1840 to 1865 (in French)
  7. German anarchism from 1840 to 1880
  8. Mikhail Bakunin
  9. Collectivism in the International. — The Congress of the International. — Communist anarchism
  10. Switzerland
  11. France before 1880
  12. Peter Kropotkin
  13. France (1880-1896)
  14. Bourgeois society faces the Anarchists. Persecutions, Trials, etc.
  15. Belgium
  16. Italy
  17. Spain
  18. The Americas (in Spanish)
  19. Portugal. — Brazil
  20. Germany et Switzerland (in German)
  21. Austria-Hungary
  22. England
  23. Australia
  24. United States of (North) America
  25. Netherlands
  26. Scandinavian countries
  27. Russia
  28. Ukraine
  29. Poland
  30. Anarchist literature in Yiddish
  31. Rumania
  32. Bulgaria
  33. Serbia
  34. Greece
  35. Armenia
  36. Japan
  37. Africa
  38. Libertarian Utopias
  39. Libertarian colonies
  40. Authoritarian socialist criticism of Anarchy
  41. The bourgeois literature on Anarchy
  42. Modern libertarian literature.

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Max Nettlau, “Does Socialism Truly Want to Be International?” (1920s)

Does Socialism Truly Want to Be International?

(MS 1951, Max Nettlau Papers, IISH)

(no date, 1920s)

This question would appear to be useless after a century of international socialist professions of faith, after the flowering of several Internationals and the struggles of sincere socialists of all shades against nationalism. But it appears to me that it needs to be raised again in some connections, among other that of natural wealth, raw material dependent on the local fertility of the soil and other raw materials so unequally distributed in the subsoil. To whom do these natural resources, whose local distribution is so unequal, belong?—That question applies not only from continent to continent, from country to country, but also within countries, from favored regions to those that are poor. And it is linked to this other question: Is there a desire, or any factor whatsoever, that would be preferable in the distribution of these social riches to the one I have always considered the essence of all sincere socialism, no matter the school: that all monopolies must be abolished and that social wealth belongs to all,—“without distinction of color, creed and nationality,” as the International described the broad sphere of those towards which one would have as the basis of conduct “Truth, Justice, Morals.”

If we have not insisted much more on the problem offered by the unequal distribution of natural wealth, it is because a century ago, when socialist ideas, applied at first to arbitrarily constructed utopian societies, were finally applied to the real countries of that era—England, France, etc.—that problem was not as important as it is in our times. We had seen then that for many years, under the pressure of the continental blockade imposed by France under the First Empire, overseas commerce was possible and that the [political] separation of the Americas—first North America, then of all of South America fifty years later—only changed European economic life a very little. In the end, if some important materials came from overseas, like (and above all) cotton, the local monopoly on new factories for the production of textiles in England, Belgium, the north of France and the west of Germany counterbalanced the monopoly of the American producers of cotton. Thus, the unequal distribution of natural wealth was at first a legible factor; it made itself felt much more when fast steamships made practical and inevitable the large-scale importation of food, of wheat and meat;—and it was felt still more when the mines dug in every corner of the globe allowed the circulation of all the minerals, of coal, phosphates, etc., and when the multiplication of machines, of factories, spread everywhere where they were closest to the raw materials, put an end to the monopoly of the favored regions in Europe, where mechanization had been the sole master and world-tyrant just a few decades before.

Today the inequality constantly increases. Against those who take advantage of production made under the most favorable circumstances (natural riches, factories in place, new, rich, unexhausted land, isolated from petty European squabbles, etc.), against these capitalists the old European capitalists defend themselves. This is done through a war of capital, without truce and using all the resources of society. These resources are the whole machinery or the State—its commercial and labor policies, but also its national and military policies; they also include the manipulation of public opinion by means of national hatred and greed, aroused in the service of capitalism in each country, as well as the conspiracies among States, industrial and military wars under the pretexts most plausible to a public opinion that is always misled, etc. In short, the struggle against that always increasing inequality—a struggle where the weakest, the European then, and the continental above all, can only win ephemeral victories, infinitely too costly and fruitless—that struggle is destined to prevail more and more in the social life of Europe and to exclude from it, to violently chase from it all solidarity, every humanitarian idea, and all hope. Each year that struggle becomes harder, and inevitably manifests itself by the growing separation and hatred among Europeans, since the strongest among them, powerless to triumph against the worldwide inequality, persist that much more, in Europe at least, to compensate at the cost of the weakest in Europe who, according to them, must in any case perish before them, “every man for himself,” the “sacro egoismo” replacing among rivals any sentiment of solidarity—and how could it be otherwise?

So it appears truly useless to try to remedy that situation by some partial means or movement, since the primary reason, the unequal distribution of natural wealth, which the universal distribution of productive forces and means of transport produces more definitively and more triumphantly each year—since that primary reason becomes stronger every year (something a glance and the agricultural and industrial development of the nations oversees with demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt).

What has socialism done in the face of this development of the productive forces of the globe, which is done in the midst of capitalism, and then mitigated or diminished by absolutely no social or solidarist thought? At most, one party of the European capitalists have protected themselves against that evolution by putting money into the creation of new operations in countries overseas: that increases the complications and inextricable intrigues, but it is of no use to the European social body, which suffers from the results of that inequality, if its profit enters the pockets of some capitalists overseas or those of some European shareholders.

European socialism, having originally at its disposal only small forces—moral, intellectual, sentimental and sometimes rebellious forces, but very weak—has had more than enough to do to extend its ranks by the most elementary propaganda, to gather together some worker organizations in order to obtain some satisfaction palliative in the most urgent questions of the conditions of labor and social hygiene, it has then, after some heroic struggles, 1848, 1871, allowed a large portion of its leader to lead it down the dead end path of parliamentary government, etc.,—in short, it has never seriously considered that question, nor any other question that is truly international.

Socialist internationalism was always only, as they say in English, skin deep; to be international meant, in practice, that no international question was taken up, without being absolutely sure that everyone was in agreement in advance, and that some commonplaces were then repeated. And with the creation of the workers’ parties in each country and also of the large trade-union organizations in various countries, socialism was dominated by the masses of voters and of the workers of each trade, with their local demands and expectations, national demands achievable in each State, thus dependent to a great degree on the strength and prosperity of that State, on its superiority over its rivals. That meant, and means, that the interests of the socialist voters and organized workers of each country were and are indissolubly linked to statism, to nationalism, to the capitalist expansion of each country and that socialist internationalism remains a dead letter, a terribly weak factor in the face of a very strong counter-agent.

If things remain this way, the great mass of workers will always remain the diligent cooperators of the capitalists as since 1914 and from 1918 to this day: they have this reality, their country, before them, while the international idea—its true character, what it could produce—exists only vaguely in their minds, since the real problem, how to eliminate, through solidarity, that inequality and dispersion of the conditions favorable to production, is not posed and no satisfactory solution appears, and indeed quite the contrary.

For this same problem exists within the countries and the solutions that we struggle to give it in our time, or rather the manner in which the strongest exploit that situation, are not stamped principle of solidarity, and thus pull away from internationalism.

In the distant past Europe was made up of numerous little States, territories and cities, each of which provided for its own population or, thanks to some local specialty that they traded, they obtained the remainder of the necessary by the great, time-honored trade routes that branched out everywhere. By a historical evolution that may displease us, but which being an absolutely general fact must have a serious basis, a limited number of large States [were] born of the most aggressive or most materially favored nuclei, and through the situation of these groups of small countries, [they] gradually absorb the small States. This happened in England more than a thousand years ago, in France and in Spain five centuries ago, in Italy in the nineteenth century with the support of liberal opinion the whole world over; in Germany alone that absorption was never complete, and in Austria-Hungary the treaties of 1919 have completely defeated it. There is an obvious differences between these formations that, however disagreeable they are to us as libertarians, have still followed that inherent tendency of every being to grow, to proceed from a small to a larger sphere (and who seriously desires to do the opposite?),—there is a difference between them and the abrupt consequences of a pure and simple conquest; these rapid conglomerations infallibly crumble like the Roman Empire and that of Napoleon I and Turkey, as a continuation of Byzantium, the oriental Rome, has thus had this historical fate.

In our time these lines of evolution are despised and cast aside. Economic conquest according to the right of the strongest is at the base of all European politics, disguised as the demanding determination of the nations to manage themselves, but also all the so-called historical, strategic or other reasons that serve as pretexts. We know now perfectly—what we did not know in past centuries—to what degree the social life of each region depends on the richness of the subsoil, on the means of communication, etc. and on its power to obtain an equal or normal payment for it exports. We know the thousand methods of hindering the economic life of an enemy country (and what country is not the enemy of all the others?) in times of peace and relative equilibrium, as even in 1914—then the whole process employed unilaterally by the collective victors of 1918 and their postwar associates have naturally succeeded in completely crushing the normal economic life of the vanquished, as we see at any moment in the commercial statistics. There follows from it a growing and in reality absolutely astonishing inequality, perhaps unforeseen by anyone, between Europeans of the victorious and those of the vanquished race and even the losers differ somewhat, to believe the financial pages.

Thus far we have found no other means than to thrust the dagger every more deeply into the chest of the victims and then to twist it a little on occasion, but never to remove it. The result of all that is before us all, let us pay attention like men who see men suffering or let us leave these things aside like the bourgeois politics which could have no interest for us.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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Max Nettlau, The Struggle against the State (1908)

The Struggle against the State

[Les Temps Nouveaux, 13 no. 51 (April 18, 1908) : 3-4.]


What follows is not a translation, but a free and somewhat expanded summary of an article [“Are there New Fields for Anarchist Activity?”] that I wrote for the revue Mother Earth of New-York (December 1907, pp. 433-444), and as I have been led to make some new digressions, the comrades who publish that revue are completely absolved of any literary responsibility for the present writing.


I have often asked myself why anarchist ideas, which appears so clear to us and add so much to the joy of living in those who embrace them, are accepted in the end by so few people, even where long years of propaganda has encountered the fewest of obstacles. As long as I had faith in the mechanical (so to speak) possibility of an unlimited propagation of ideas though the pedagogical means of education and agitation, such limited success seemed mysterious and disgusting to me. Since then, I have arrived at the following explanation:

What is, in fact, the essence of anarchism? We observe three tendencies in every organism: that of appropriating and assimilating as much as possible of the surrounding matter most useful for its material well-being; that of extending its own sphere of action by an expansion that overcomes, as much as possible, all obstacles; and that of differentiating itself, of creating for itself an individuality it relation with heredity, the environment, etc. In humanity, these are the desire for material well-being, the love of liberty and the development of individuals, who little by little separate themselves from the more homogenous, more gregarious mass of times past. The end of this evolution is obviously a state of things in which the greatest liberty and well-being are accessible to each individual, in the form that best corresponds to their individuality and allows them to approach the greatest possible perfection—and that state of things of Anarchy.

Anarchy is this the state of the greatest happiness of which each individual is capable. It is obvious that this true Anarchy will not be established on the basis of a single economic and social system, but that there would be as many ways of managing things as there are individuals. We must also consider that, during the long period of time demanded for the conversion to anarchy of the most recalcitrant, the first anarchists will not stand still, but will march forward on their own part. So there will never be a future state of development (economic, moral, etc.) that is equal for all, any more than that equality exists in our time or has ever existed.

It cannot exist, for the simple reason that individuals differ from one another, and they are—with the exception of those whose development is still almost entirely crushed by the cruel oppression of the past and present—on the path to further differentiation. All desire well-being and liberty, but each desires it in a different degree and proportion. If certain causes—the common social position, persuasion, propaganda, suggestion, the enthusiasm of these great moments—diminish these differences, others—like heredity, environment, age and some many accidents of everyday life—have the opposite effect, and it is a deadly illusion to believe that it is enough to sway the masses in the manner of our rulers, which only occurs because they have played on the strings of all the prejudices, all the malice accumulated for so many centuries; too often only a feeble echo responds to us, who only count on what is noble and generous.

Each of us contributes to the success of our ideas in a different way, according to the proportion of the desire for liberty and for material well-being that is in them. One is driven by the love of liberty to the greatest sacrifice; the other lives peacefully and will be capable of an extraordinary effort for liberty only some moments of general enthusiasm. Propaganda and the struggle against authority demand a combative temperament that is not given to all, and many people, who are only disposed to put themselves forward through acts that cause the least stir, do nothing, since no occasion in this way seems to present itself for them. We must create a field of action accessible to them as well.

As for the working masses in general, they think above all of improving their material position and relegate liberty to the second rank. That is the effect of the commercial age and of the longstanding statist oppression. I fear that the desire of the working masses is above all revenge against capitalist society and that they only want to be masters in their turn, in order to perpetuate the domination of one class and the authority of a new worker state, just as the bourgeois of the Revolution, after defeating feudalism, no longer wanted liberty, but only the exclusive domination of their class. Those tendencies will perhaps prevail over those of the old good-faith socialists who still survive; and what could the anarchists do against that action of enormous masses that slip from the control of those who which neither to direct nor to dominate them, but to see them go by themselves down the road of liberty? The anarchists could only continue the task of our times, that of awakening the latent forces that tend towards liberty and to struggle, then and always, against authority.

These real tendencies of the masses have already led to the breakdown of socialism, which has realized that it is impossible to bring them together for anything but peaceful electoral struggles or syndical organizations that only pull away from all real socialism. From the other side the State, discredited though it is, tends to regain the confidence of the masses through all sorts of labor laws, retirement retreats, protection foreign workers, etc. I am far from forgetting the deeds in various countries accomplished by a revolutionary syndicalism, that general strikes of trade associations or localities, or even more extended strikes, can break out at any moment; but in this case as well, it always happens that this simple, logical step, the decisive step that leads from general strike to revolution, is not taken; it was not even taken in Russia, in October 1905, and that led to all the defeats and all the disasters of the Russian movement that we now see. Why do the most enthusiastic strikes always end with a lull and the peaceful return to work? It is because the masses do not really want to go any farther, and the few who do want it are powerless.

The initiative of the minorities and the action of the militants have their limits. A new idea, a new experiment sees the light of day first where favorable circumstances permit it; in this sense all progress is naturally due at first to minorities, to the isolated. But to impose that new idea on the majority, by force, is an act of authority, identical to the oppression exercised by the majority over minorities. This is a point that interests the anarchist above all; for if a tyrannical minority has a thousand means to impose its will on a majority, who could we who desire liberty give it to those who are not concerned enough about it to take it for themselves?

Look at science and ignorance: science does not reason with ignorance; it marches in advance, shows its results and little by little makes the less ignorant follow it. Now look at free though and religion: if some liberate themselves from religious absurdities, enormous masses still remain attached to them. In these two cases we end by finding a modus vivendi through a sort of mutual tolerance. Let us compare the infamous brutality of the ignorant bigotry of past centuries, directed against free thought, to the state of relative indifferent in our own time. I know well that what is there is only an armed peace and that the reaction only watches for a suitable moment to regain the lost ground, but the position is still infinitely different from that of the past; science and free thought, previously outlawed, today have a position, still small, but solid and unconquerable. Let us do the same for anarchy!

What has led to the relative cessation of these persecutions? Ignorance and bigotry, wishing to perpetuate their domination, thought that they could exterminate science and free thought by fire and blood: they have not succeed, for you cannot destroy an idea. Science and free thought, on their side, have equally seen that they run up against the firm prejudices of the large masses and have had to advance from their side, limiting themselves to welcoming with open arms those who feel closest to them and come to them. Free thought wishes to destroy all the religions as much as anarchy would love to destroy all authority, but that would be immediately possible only by the material destruction of ninety-nine percent of humanity; and even were that done, the persecutors would, by that work of persecution, have become authoritarians infinitely worse than their victims. So we have seen from both sides of bringing an end to a war of pure attack, of at least softening the forms of the struggle, and those who really wish to leave the field of prejudices and ignorance know how to find, and more easily every day, the path towards science and free thought. Tomorrow they will find, and with an equal ease, the road to anarchy.

*    *

We are not, I think very used to this sort of reasoning. Out of habit, we only contemplate the revolutionary path. So let us suppose the present capitalist regime destroyed. Some energetic minorities are extremely important at the moment of action; let us suppose then that the anarchists had contributed their best to that victory, that the prestige of anarchy was enormously increased, that in many places the old prejudices were forgotten and people had begun to live in anarchy. For that to occur, obviously, there would be no leaders, nor any single set of rules; so things would be very different in different places. Some would reject all organization; others would accept it in differing degrees. There would be groups and communes that would each attempt to practice liberty in their fashion, in or more less different ways. That is all excellent, and it is precisely what must occur; for only experiment will gradually show what is most appropriate and we will proceed in that way from the imperfect to the most perfect. But in the meantime, all these organisms would exist side by side in peace, and the attempts to impose this or that system other than by example would evoke only general scorn and sad memories of the persecutions of past times. If, consequently, in a new society, everyone wanted to practice anarchy, we would see a thousand shades of it, from the most moderate anarchy to the most advanced, without anyone finding fault.

But you will admit that this is to suppose the most favorable outcome. It very well could be that capitalism should be defeated under conditions where the organized workers, which is to say their leaders, would come to power; that would perhaps be the abolition of the salariat, but it would not necessarily be liberty or socialism; they would form a new bureaucracy that would go from an administrative role to a directing, governing role. The anarchists would be viewed as unfavorably by those people as the worker politicians of all labels are today. It would be necessary to make a new struggle against that society, without obvious exploitation but also without liberty, and no one can say if that struggle would be easier (and everyone, rid of economic worries, would make their way towards liberty), or more difficult (due to the indifference of the satisfied), than present struggles. It is likely that certain localities would be more advanced than the others and that at first anarchy would be established more easily in some places since the land and the instruments would be more accessible, while elsewhere difficulties would loom up as a result of the existence of an authoritarian organization that has always monopolized everything and denied the right of secession.

The conditions in which anarchy will perhaps be realized some day, will thus be more or less different in many places and it may be necessary, even then, to live alongside people who do not understand our ideal or who still only approach it gropingly. I ask myself consequently if it is not best to consider that situation future in the present and to act in such a way as to give anarchy the greatest possible chances of being practiced, tested, and respected in that future society?

What we must do, it seems to me, is to accustom ourselves to the idea of a future co-existence, temporary and steadily less noticeable, but a co-existence all the same of anarchist and non-anarchist institutions; in other words, we must accustom ourselves to the idea of a mutual tolerance. This is how it is, inevitably, every day for each of us, with the exception of those who feel themselves pushed toward direct revolt. What I mean is not at all submission to the present order, whether political or social. I think, on the contrary, that the anarchists should completely disregard the laws that hinder their personal liberty and obtain the recognition of the right to act in this way by those who, for reasons that are their own affair for the moment, believe or pretend to believe in the necessity of these laws for themselves and those who will follow them.

I know that these words demand some explanation; I regret that I must defer them until the next article.

(To be continued.)

M. Nettlau.

The Struggle against the State


[Les Temps Nouveaux, 13 no. 52 (25 avril 1908) : 2-4.]



The idea expressed in my first article—that the anarchists, recognizing the necessity of a temporary co-existence with less advanced persons and their institutions, and, consequently, of mutual tolerance, can put it into practice by refusing to submit to the laws on their own account, while leaving others complete liberty to prostrate themselves before them—that idea would appear utopian and unrealizable at first, but, sooner or later, whether to day or in a worker regime without capitalism, it must happen if we finally want to realize anarchy in the only manner possible, by beginning at the beginning. Economic independence, so desirable above all for that struggle, can be obtained, either through cooperation or after the fall of capitalism, taking the earth and tools as they find them. Tolerance, although it is the simplest of things, will not appear all by itself; we must know how to achieve it. There are some struggle that lead only to an increase of mortal hatred, to an absolute intolerance; there are others that, if they do not lead to mutual respect, which is a higher degree, end at least in mutual tolerance; so we must struggle in such a manner that it is tolerance and not intolerance that we find in the end—that is the heart of the matter for me.

What I would propose on the anti-statist terrain is already practiced by the anarchists on the economic terrain. There, not just since the emergence of syndicalism, but at all times they are united in solidarity with all the workers who feel that they are exploited, even without having any conscious desire for a complete economic change. An analogous solidarity must be established between all those who are in some way enemies of the State, without having clearly come to desire anarchy, nor to having the same economic ideas as us—just as we do not ask the workers unionized against capital to have the same political ideas as us. There is a vast field of labor there almost entirely unexplored and uncleared. The hatred for the State, scorn for the law and for the personnel who live under the laws, the unquenched thirst for liberty; that immense indignation that accumulates in almost everyone at each step, when we see that, despite all the so-called advanced institutions, we do not enjoy the least bit of real liberty, that we encounter the thousand obstacles and nuisances of Statism at each step—from all that, it would be necessary to create, in the manner of the syndicates, but on the freer and broader basis of groups that gather all those who, without being anarchists, begin to move closer to us, through their opposition to some particularly odious form of State influence. All the present methods of syndicalist struggle, and new ones too, which we will doubtless find, would be applied to that struggle against the State, the laws ad authority. There would result from this an anti-statist current that would, on the day of the economic victory, prevent a fall back into the errors of authority and all anarchy, if not a full or partial realization, which could still be impossible, at least a freer experimentation.

If this was an entirely new method, I would not speak of it; for it is impossible to create something of which the seeds do not already exist. But we see that at every moment, in real life, the majority of the laws remain completely ignored; and life would be impossible otherwise. The most brutal laws are one day trampled under foot, made impossible by a whole nation—the history of Ireland, of the abolitionist enemies of slavery in America, at base, the history of all political movements shows it to be so. If statistics were kept of the laws that were obeyed and those that were disobeyed, the absurdity of all legislation would be palpable; for society can only develop by trampling them underfoot, by sweeping away, at each step, the obstacles called rules and regulations.

There even exist some feeble attempts to recognize this state of affairs and to manage things accordingly. In England, it has been enough, for several years, to declare that one has a conscientious objection against vaccination, in order to be exempted from that law making vaccination mandatory for all; quite recently the formalities that exist in that regard have been reduced to a simple declaration. It is the result of long struggles directed against that special law; the adversaries of the law have not convinced its defenders to the point of revoking it for all, but they have managed to be left alone and all have been given the possibility of imitating them by a simple declaration. That would appear without great importance, but if, on other points, efforts had been made, we would already have won exemption from other laws, or at least that work would be well on its way; but in the past it has always been all or nothing—and with the principle of exemption, based on the natural right of secession, that each goes their own way and acts after their own fashion has never been a question. The Englishman Auberon Herbert advocates voluntarism with regard to taxes—tax paid by those who are interested in the object for which the money would be used and not payable for other. That has the air of a utopia, but the tax-strike is something rather serious and would be more popular than the act of outdoing one another to invent a new tax, as the statists do, the socialists included. The various projects for proportional representation show that the anarchists are not alone in not being indifferent to the crushing of minorities by traditional democracy. We also see the little nationalities that rise up against the large States, which must renounce forever the hope of leveling them and making them disappear in the vast mass of the cattle of the taxpayers and cannon-fodder. I do not speak of those whom religious fanaticism has always won a situation outside the law, of soldiers who refuse to touch a rifle from religious conviction, etc., but all that seems to me to demonstrate that true, determined efforts have always led to some solution, insufficient perhaps, but which all the same counters the principle of the equal crushing of all by the law. I recognize that these are still only feeble beginnings; so many other movements, in fact, tend to reinforce statism, that tendency that is so accommodating to the indolent and indifferent who are unconcerned about their liberty. There is also a living proof of it, these millions of socialist electors of all countries, and we would be badly fooled believing that syndicalism could ever do that anti-statist work that we demand, even if it calls itself anti-political or anti-parliamentary.

For, finally, let us cease to be hypnotized by syndicalism. The collective resistance of the workers against capital is an absolute struggle for them; that struggle must be made according to the demands of the hour and thus has nothing to do with the struggle against existing society of socialism and anarchy. With the disappearance of capitalism, syndicalism will necessarily come to an end and if some syndicalist theories appear according to which the raw materials and instruments of labor should enter afterwards into the possession of the corporations of the individual trades, that would be a new appropriation, a new monopoly that would contradict the first principle of socialism, which says that everything will belong to everyone. So syndicalism, which is excellent for the moment, has no future; it is a military dictatorship that the war against an equally concentrated enemy can justify for the moment, from a strictly technical point of view, but the continuation of which would be desired by no one after the battle. Now we know that it is in the nature of all authority to wish to perpetuate itself; an authoritarian syndicalist regime is thus as possible as the dictatorships of the two Napoleons have been. Plebiscites, direct government of the people by the people (the chimera of 1851 and of Considérant, Ledru-Rollin and Rittinghausen) and direct action (not the ideal, but the reality), are displacements of authority, which passes from parliament into the hands of a larger mass, so-called improvements of democracy, an incorrigible thing. I feel more than I can express in words that there between all that and our beloved “do what you will” there is an abyss. Besides, syndicalism is powerful enough and makes its way, asking nothing better than to be left alone by the anarchists and socialists who do not interest it; it gets along on its own. It is young in France and has still not yet entirely swallowed up and assimilated the libertarians who were so useful to it when it was still weak. You must go see it in England and America where it dates from the last century, devoid of all the idealism that some socialists also added to it there in its beginning; it is collective selfishness succeeding individual selfishness, the “labor trust,” as it has been called in America. The young become old and the old do not grow young again—as long as we do not demolish this natural fact no one will convince me that the trades-unions will become revolutionary syndicalists and that French revolutionary syndicalism will always remain young.

*    *

It appears to me that a great breath of authority still issues from every collective movement and more than ever I see the necessity of a broad anti-statist propaganda, alongside a deeper propaganda of the ideas of anarchy in their entirety. Here, what we must deeply regret is that the anarchist idea has been, from its debut, so to speak, yoked to economic hypotheses (1) that have gradually passed to the state of doctrines and theories. In order to prove the practical possibility of anarchy, we erect economic utopias and anarchy is divided into schools: communist, collectivist, individualist, etc. It is very sad; for on the one hand we raise the veil of the future and we show the pleasure of the enjoyment of the greatest liberty and on the other we chain ourselves to some economic doctrine, the merit of which I do not contest, but which can only be an unverified hypothesis. We lack experience and it is absurd to believe that we can surmise what will be appropriate in a society that is still unknown or even that we could have a single doctrine instead of experimentation, on the largest scale, with all the economic possibilities compatible with the needs of liberty. When a newcomer comes to anarchy, they truly find no group, no book, no newspaper that has not long since rallied to one of the other of the economic schools and their doubts meet with little sympathy among the believers in found systems and solutions. So let us leave that all aside; the work of anti-statist and anarchist action and propaganda is so immense that it will require assembling all those who love liberty without immediately wishing to indoctrinate them and unify them of the economic terrain. Each will make their own utopia and group together, if it suits them, which those who come closest to it.

I know well that the altruistic sentiment is so well developed in the majority of anarchists that for some time they will still give all their support to syndicalism; others will act as rebels or as propagandists of the ideas in their ensemble. But those who do not find a complete satisfaction in all that, who want to escape the relative isolation of pure propaganda and at the same time not be swallowed up by syndicalism, those will perhaps find a new terrain for action in the anti-statist agitation, which will put them in contact as many people as syndicalism and allowed them more pronounced libertarian actions. Anti-militarism is an excellent precedent; it remains to carry similar sentiments into still larger milieus and, by attacking the State, the laws and authority in all its forms, to create a current of anti-statist opinion and anarchist sympathy that will one day facilitate the creation of a true anarchist milieu. Besides, everywhere, on the terrain of the struggle against the prejudices of the old morality, for liberty of thought and art,—there are vague aspirations that, through the propaganda and action of libertarians, can become more conscious, directed against the source of the evil: authority.

I believe that you will understand my point of view more easily if you consider once more what I have said about the inevitability of the co-existence of institutions of various characters. For example, it appeared impossible in the past that there could be two religions in the same State, and from that followed centuries of religious wars; today, free thought and all the religions exist side by side. It will be the same for social systems. The new and the old always live side by side. The old wants to stifle the new with persecutions, and the new wants to crush the old with proud attacks. A great deal of evil is done, but no party triumphs because there always remain men attached by all their inclinations, either to the old or to the new and because, moreover, the two camps are connected by countless intermediate shades. One day, the anarchists will be left to go their own way and lose interest in the State to such a degree that the State will lose interest in them, in the same way that today free thought and the churches are clearly separated. It remains to establish the economic basis of that independence—it will be cooperation or an expropriated portion of social capital. It will always be the case that anarchy will exist at first only for anarchists and the others will come around as at the speed and in the numbers that they wish—just as there will be fewer serious obstacles for anyone to accept free thought or free union—we will leave the State as today we leave the church or the moral systems of our grandfathers. That evolution—which is, in my opinion desirable—will be assisted, accelerated, and perhaps only made possible by the existence of widespread anti-statist sympathies, which will be equally indispensable for preventing any new authoritarian socialist or syndicalist regime. So it is a question of creating these sympathies and I have striven to demonstrate how, by supporting with all our strength, with an extreme patience and tolerance, all the anti-statist and anti-authoritarian tendencies that appear—and they will be more numerous than we believe. They we will give some serious basis to a true political libertarian and create the true support necessary for a final economic emancipation.

February 1908.

M. Nettlau.

(1) Which, moreover, have never been given except as hypotheses and are not at all the shackles that comrade Nettlau sees them as.—Editor’s note.

 [Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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Fernando Tarrida del Mármal, “Questions of Tactics” (1890)



We have received the following letter from one of our comrades at El Productor of Barcelona. It seems good to reproduce it, for, aside from a few errors of judgment, it contains advice worth considering, and, in the response that we expect to make to our friends in Spain, if we manage to find and demonstrate the causes of the disorganization of the anarchists, the cause of the inconsistency of the groups and their inactivity, we could find there the remedy and some indications of the tactics to follow:


Barcelona, August 7, 1890.

Comrades of La Révolte,

I would like to clearly explain the idea that I have of the revolutionary tactics of the French anarchists. That is why, being unable to write a series of articles, as one might, I am writing you a personal letter. You will draw from it whatever good it contains.

Revolutionary decisiveness has never been lacking in the French character, and the anarchists have demonstrated it all sorts of circumstances that they lack neither agitators nor revolutionaries. The number of adherents is great enough and [yet]… with some great thinkers, some dedicated agitators, some enthusiastic disciples, France, we must admit, is the country that produces the fewest important acts for anarchy. That is my nightmare. That is why I have said that I believe that your revolutionary tactics are not good. Nothing fundamental divides the French and Spanish anarchy, and yet, in practice, we find ourselves widely separated.

We all accept Anarchy as the integration of all liberties, and as their sole guarantee; as the impetus and sum of human well-being. No laws, no repressions; spontaneous, natural development of all acts. No superiors, nor inferiors, nor governments, no governed; only conscious beings who seek one another, who attract one another, who discuss, resolve, and produce together, who love one another without any other aim but the well-being of all. This is how we all understand Anarchy, how we conceive of the society of the future; and it is towards the realization of the conception that we all labor. Where are our differences?

I my opinion, enraptured by the contemplation of the ideal, you have drawn up for yourselves a line of ideal conduct, an unproductive puritanism in which you squander a great deal of your strength, which could destroy the strongest organisms and which, thus badly used, produce nothing at all. You forget that you are not surrounded by free beings, possessive of their liberty and dignity, but by slaves who wait for someone to save them. You forget that our enemies are organized and strive every day to strengthen themselves more so that they can continue to rule. You forget, finally, that even those who work for good live in the present social disorganization and are full of vices and prejudices.

As a result, you accept an absolute liberty and you expect everything from individual initiative, pushed to such a point that no pact or understanding is possible. No agreements, no meetings at which revolutions are made; the important, the essential things is that everyone does as they please.

The result: someone wants to do something good, but there is no means of gathering with all those who think like them in order to explain their initiative, to gain advice and assistance; they are obliged to proceed alone or not to proceed at all.

To create commissions for administrative work, to set contributions in order to accomplish some necessary task—this is an imposition. And in this way, if a comrade or group wants to enter into relations with all the anarchists of France, or of the world, for some private aim, they is no means and they must renounce the idea. Anything that is not the Social Revolution is a stupidity; what is it to the anarchists if wages become more inadequate, if the workday is increased, if the workers are insulted in the workshops, or if the women are prostituted by the bosses? As long as the bourgeois regime endures, all that will endure and it is only necessary to concern ourselves with the final goal—meanwhile, the mass of proletarians, who suffer and do not believe in an imminent deliverance, do not listen to the anarchists.

I could continue in this way, piling up example, and the result would always be the same: powerlessness. Powerlessness, not because they lack elements, but because they find themselves scattered, with no link between them.

In Spain, we pursue completely different tactics; certainly for you this will be a heresy worthy of the most complete excommunications, a false practice that must be dismissed from the field of anarchist action, and, yet, we believe that only in this way could we make our ideas enter in among the proletariat and destroy the bourgeois world. We cling, just like you, to the purity of the anarchist program. There is nothing as intransigent, as categorical as the Ideas, and we accept neither compromises, nor attenuation of any sort. For that, we strive in our writings to be as clear, as explicit as we can. Anarchy is our true north; it is the point that we want to reach and towards which we direct our advance. But there are all sorts of obstacles on our path and to overcome them we use the means we think best. If we cannot adapt our conduct to our ideas, we note the fact and attempt to come as close as possible to the ideal. We do as a traveler would who wanted to go to a country in a temperate climate, but who, in order to arrive there, must pass through tropics and glacial zones: they would furnish themselves with heavy blankets and very light clothing, which they would cast aside when they arrived. It would be stupid, ridiculous even, to want to fight with your fists against a well-armed and armored enemy.

Our tactics follow from what I have said. We are anarchists; we preach Anarchy without adjectives. Anarchy is an axiom; the economic question is a secondary matter. It will be said that it is through the economic question that Anarchy is a truth; but we believe that to be anarchist means to be the enemy of all authority, of every imposition, and consequently, whatever system we recommend, it is because we believe it is the best defense for Anarchy, and we have no desire at all to impose it on those who do not accept it.

This does not mean that we set aside discussion on economic questions. On the contrary, we love to discuss them, but only in order to bring new data for the definitive solution or solutions. Some very good things have been said by Cabet, Saint-Simon, Fourier, Robert Owen and the others; but all their systems have disappears, because they wanted to lock away society with the conceptions of their brains; they have, however, done a great deal of good clarifying the question.

Note it well: from the moment that you propose to give the general lines of the future society, from the one side the objections and demands of adversaries, and from the other the natural desire to make a complete, perfect work, will lead us to invent, to sketch out a system that, you can be certain, will disappear like the others.

From the anarchist individualism and other Spencer and other bourgeois thinkers—if you’ll pardon the expression—to the socialist anarchist-individualists—I find no other adequate expression—there is a great distance, as there is between the Spanish collectivists and those of another region; as there is between the English and American mutualists; as there is among the communists.

Kropotkin, for example, speaks to us of the industrial village, reducing his system, his conception, if you wish, to a gathering of little communities that produce what they want, realizing so to speak the biblical fiction of the terrestrial paradise with the progress of civilization added, while Malatesta, who is also an anarchist-communist, would recommend the establishment of large organizations that exchange products among themselves and increase still more that creative power, that astonishing power exerted by the nineteenth century, purged of all harmful action.

Each powerful intelligence announces, creates new paths forward for the future society, and will create disciples by hypnotic force—if we can put it that way—suggesting to others’ brains their own ideas—and all in general we make out own individual plan

Let us agree then, as we have all done in Spain, to simply call ourselves anarchists. In our conversations, in our letters, in our speeches, in our journalism, let us discuss the economic questions, but these questions should never be a cause of division among anarchists.

In order for our propaganda to succeed, for the preservation of the idea, we need to know and see each other, and for that we must establish groups. In Spain there are groups in nearly all the localities where there are anarchists and they are the driving force of every revolutionary movement. The anarchists do not have money or easy means to obtain it; as a precaution against that the majority among us have imposed on themselves a small weekly or monthly contribution; in this way we can maintain the necessary relations among all the associates, and we could maintain relations with the whole world, if the other regions had an organization like our own.

There is no authority in the group; we choose on comrade as a treasurer, another as a secretary to receive correspondence, etc., etc. We ordinarily hold meetings every week or every fortnight, with extraordinary meetings whenever they are required. To spare costs and labor, and also as a prudent measure in case of persecution, we agree on the creation of a commission de relations for the region. That commission has no initiative: those who make up the commission must apply to their group if they want to make proposals. Its mission it to make known to all the groups the proposals and resolutions that have been communicated to it by a group, to account for all the addresses communicated to it and send them to the groups that ask for them, in order to establish direct relations with other groups.

Those are the general lines of the organization, which were agreed upon at the Valencia congress and of which you have spoken in La Révolte. The good that it produces is immense; it is what fans the flames of anarchist ideas; but, you may be certain, if we reduced our action to anarchist organization, we would accomplish very little. We would end up transforming an organization of thinkers that discuss ideas, which would surely degenerate into an organization of metaphysicians who discuss words. Some, and even much, of that has happened to you. Not being engaged in any activity but a discussion of the ideal, you fall into a debate over words. Some call themselves egoists, and the others altruists, but they mean the same thing; these call themselves communists, and those individualists, but at base they have the same ideas.

We must remember that the great mass of proletarians is forced to work an excessive number of hours, that it is in the greatest poverty and consequently they cannot buy the books of Letourneau, Büchner, Darwin, Spencer, Lombroso, Max Nordau, etc., whose names they hardly know. And even if the proletarian could procurer the books, he lacks the preparatory studies in physics, chemistry, natural history and mathematics necessary to comprehend well what he reads; he lacks the time to study methodically, nor is his brain sufficiently exercised to assimilate these studies well. There are exceptions, like that of Etienne in Germinal; made hungry for knowledge, they devour everything that falls into their hands, but retain very little of it.

So our field of action is not in the heart of these groups, but in the midst of the proletarian masses.

It is in the sociétés de résistance that we study and prepare our battle plan. These societies will exist as long as the bourgeois regime endures. The workers, who are not writers, are unconcerned whether or not they have freedom of the press; the workers, who are not orators, do no concern themselves much with the freedom of public gatherings; they consider political liberties secondary things, but all desire to improve their economic conditions, and all wish to shake off the yoke of the bourgeoisie; for that reason, there will be labor unions and societies of resistance as long as there is exploitation of man by man. Our place is there. By neglecting them, as you have done, they become the rendezvous four pleasure-seekers who speak to the workers of scientific socialism, or patricism, or possibilism, or cooperation, or of amassing capital in order to sustain peaceful strikes, or of demanding the aid and support of the authorities, always pacify them and curb the revolutionary urge. If the anarchists were in these societies, at least they would prevent the pacifiers from spreading propaganda against us. And if the anarchists have been found, as in Spain, to be the most active members of the society as well, to be those who do all the necessary work without payment, just the opposite of the false defenders who exploit them, then these societies will always be on our side. In Spain they are the ones who, every week, buy quantities of anarchist newspapers to distribute them free to their members; they are the ones who give money to sustain our publications, or to help the prisoners and the persecuted. We show by our conduct in these societies that we struggle from love of our ideas; besides, we mix in everywhere there are workers and even where there are none, when we believe that our presence can be useful to the cause of anarchy. This is why in Catalonia (and now this also begins in other regions of Spain) there is not a village where we have not created, or at least assisted, associations under the names of circles, athenaeums and worker centers, which, without calling themselves anarchist and without really being anarchist, sympathize with our ideas. We give purely anarchist conferences and mix our revolutionary work with the musical and literary gatherings. There, seated at a table in the cafe, we discuss, we see each other every evening; or we study in the library.

There we establish the editorial staffs of our newspapers, and the papers that come in exchange go into the reading room and all with a free organization, almost without expenses. For example, in the circle of Barcelona one is not even obliged to be a member; those are who wish to be, and the dues of 25 [cents] per month is also voluntary. Of two or three thousand workers who come to the premises of the circle, only 300 are members. E could maintain that these premises are the hotbeds of our ideas; and yet while the government has always sought pretexts to close them, they have never found any, since they do not call themselves anarchist and that is not where we hold the private meetings. There we do nothing that we would not do in any public cafe; but because all the active elements come there, great things often also emerge, and that without formalities, while drinking a cup of coffee or glass of cognac.

Nor do we neglect the cooperative societies for consumption. In nearly all the town of Catalonia, save Barcelona, where it is impossible because of the great distances and the way of life,—consumer cooperatives have been created where the workers find food of better quality at better prices that at other merchants, without any of the members regarding cooperation as the final aim, but only as a means from which they can profit. Some of these societies make large purchases and have a credit of 50 or 60 thousand francs, and have been of great use during strikes giving credit to the workers. In the athenaeums of the gentlemen—of the savants, as they are called—socialism is debated; two of our comrades go then to sign up as members (if they have no money, the association gives it to them) and go there to uphold our ideas.

Our press does the same thing. It never neglects anarchist ideas, but it makes space for manifestos, communications and news, which, although it could appear unimportant, serve however to make our newspapers and our ideas reach into towns or other places where they are not known. That is our tactic, and I believe that if it was adopted in other regions the anarchists would then see their field of action expand.

Consider that in Spain the majority does not know how to read and yet we publish six anarchist newspapers, and a large number pamphlets, books and broadsheets. We constantly have meetings and, without having true agitators, very important acts are performed.

In Spain, the bourgeoisie is heartless and bitter, and will not tolerate anyone from their class sympathizing with us, and when some well-placed or intelligent man places himself on our side, they force him to abandon us, so that he can only help us in private. On the contrary, the bourgeoisie will give him everything he desires, if he will distance himself from us. So all the work in favor of anarchy remains the responsibility of the manual laborers who must find the time during their hours of repose.

If we changed tactics in France, England, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium and North America, where they are a large number of good elements, what progress we could make!

I believe that I have said enough to make my ideas understood.

My all to you and to the Social Revolution.

[in progress…]

[La Révolte, 3 no. 51 (September 6-12, 1890): 1-2. ; 4 no. 1 (September 13-19, 1890) : 2.]

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur.]

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Fernando Tarrida del Mármal, “Questions de Tactique” (1890)

[The available scan of La Révolte has minor damage, so a few words and phrases, marked by square brackets, have been translated back from English and Spanish translations.]



Nous avons reçu d’un de nos camarades du Productor de Barcelone, la lettre ci-dessous, que nous croyons bon de reproduire ; care à côté de quelques erreurs d’appréciation, elle contient de conseils bon à méditer, et, dans la réponse que nous comptons faire à nos amis d’Espagne, si nous arrivons à trouver et à démontrer les causes de la désorganisation des anarchistes, la cause du peu consistance des groupes, de leur inactivité, nous pourrons y trouver le remède et des indications sur la tactique à suivre :


Barcelone, 7 août 1890.

Compagnons de la Révolte,

Je voudrais expliquer avec clarté l’idée que je me fais de la tactique révolutionnaire des anarchistes français ; c’est pour cela, que, ne pouvant pas faire une série d’articles comme on pourrait en faire, je vous écris une lettre intime. Vous en tirerez ce qu’il peut y avoir de bon.

La décision révolutionnaire n’a jamais fait défaut au caractère français, et les anarchistes ont démontré dans une infinité de circonstances, qu’ils ne manquent pas d’agitateurs ni de révolutionnaires. Le nombre d’adhérents est assez grand et… avec des grands penseurs, des agitateurs décidés, des adeptes enthousiastes, la France, il faut l’avouer, est le pays où il se produit le moins d’actes important pour l’anarchie. Voilà mon cauchemar. Voilà pourquoi je vous ai dit que je croyais que votre tactique révolutionnaire n’était pas bonne. Rien de fondamental ne divise les anarchistes français des anarchistes espagnols, et, cependant, en pratique, nous nous trouvons à une grande distance.

Nous tous, acceptons l’Anarchie comme intégrations de toutes les libertés, et leur seule garantie ; comme l’impulsion et la somme du bien-être humain. Pas de lois, pas de répression ; développement spontané, naturel de tous les actes. Ni supérieurs, ni inferieurs, ni gouvernements, ni gouvernés ; seulement des êtres conscients que se cherchent, qui s’attire, qui discutent, qui résolvent, qui produisent, qui s’aiment, sans autre but que le bien-être de tous. C’est comme cela que nous tous concevons l’Anarchie, que nous concevons la société de l’avenir ; et c’est pour la réalisation de cette conception que nous tous travaillons. Où sont donc nos différences ?

A mon avis, vous autres, ravi par la contemplation de l’idéal, vous vous êtes tracé une ligne de conduite idéale, un puritanisme improductif, dans lequel vous gaspiller une quantité de forces, qui pourraient détruire les organismes les plus forts et que, ainsi mal employées, ne produisent rien du tout. Vous oubliez que vous n’êtes pas environnés par des êtres fibres, jaloux de leur liberté et de leur dignité, mais par des esclaves qui attendent qu’on les délivre. Vous oubliez que nos ennemis sont organisés et tâchent tous les jours de se fortifier davantage pour continuer à régner. Vous oubliez enfin que même ceux qui travaillent pour le bien vivent dans la désorganisation social actuelle et sont pleins de vices et préjugés.

De cela, il dérive que vous acceptez une liberté absolue et vous attendez tout de l’initiative individuelle, poussée à un point tel, qu’il n’y a plus de pacte ou entente possible. Pas d’entente, pas de réunions dans lesquelles on prenne des résolutions ; l’important, l’essentiel, c’est que chacun fasse ce qui lui plait.

Résultat : quelqu’un voudrait faire quelque chose de bon, il n’y a pas le moyen de se réunir avec tous ceux qui pensent comme lui pour lui exposer son initiative, prendre leur conseil et leur concours ; il est obligé à faire tout seul ou à ne pas faire du tout.

Créer des commissions pour des travaux administratifs, fixer des contributions pour faire face à telle ou telle autre nécessité—c’est une imposition. Et comme ça, si un compagnon ou groupe veut se mettre en relations avec tous les anarchistes de France ou du monde pour une chose privée, il n’en a pas le moyen et doit renoncer à l’idée. Tout ce qui n’est pas la Révolution sociale, c’est une bêtise ; qu’est-ce que ça fait aux anarchistes que les salaires deviennent encore plus insuffisants, que la journée de travail s’allonge, que les ouvriers soient insultés dans les ateliers, que les femmes soient prostituées par les patrons ? tant que durera le régime bourgeois cela durera, et il faut seulement se préoccuper du but final—en y attendant la masse des prolétaires qui souffre et ne croit pas à une délivrance prochaine, n’écoute pas les anarchistes.

En continuant ainsi, je pourrais amasser des exemples, et le résultat serait toujours la même : impuissance. Impuissance, pas parce qu’ils manquent des éléments, mais parce qu’il se trouvent disséminés, sans aucun lien entre eux.

En Espagne, nous suivons une tactique complètement différente ; certainement pour vous cela sera une hérésie digne de la plus grande excommunications, une pratique fallacieuse, qu’il faut écarter du champ d’action anarchiste, et, cependant, nous croyons que seulement comme cela nous pourrons faire pénétrer nos idées parmi les prolétaires et détruire le monde bourgeois. Nous tenons, autant que vous, à la pureté du programme anarchiste. Il n’y a rien d’aussi intransigeant, d’aussi catégorique que les Idées, et nous n’admettons ni termes moyens, ni atténuation de nulle sorte. Pour cela, nous tâchons d’être dans nos écrits aussi clairs, aussi explicites que nous savons. L’Anarchie, c’est notre nord, c’est le point que nous voulons joindre et vers lequel nous dirigeons notre marche. Mais sur notre chemin il y a toute sorte d’obstacles et pour les renverser nous nous servons des moyens que nous croyons meilleurs. Si nous ne pouvons pas faire adapter notre conduite à nos idées, nous le faisons remarquer et nous tâchons de nous rapprocher le plus possible de l’idéal. Nous faisons ce que ferait un voyageur qui voudrait aller dans un pays de climat tempéré et qui pour arriver devrait passer par les tropiques and par les zones glaciales : il se fournirait de fortes couvertures et d’habits très légers, qu’il jettera de côté quand il sera arrivé. Ce serait stupide, ridicule même, de vouloir se battre avec les poings contre un ennemi bien armé et cuirassé.

De ce que j’ai dit découle notre tactique. Nous sommes anarchistes ; nous prêchons l’Anarchie sans adjectifs. L’Anarchie c’est un axiome ; la question économique c’est un chose secondaire. On nous dira que c’est par la question économique que l’Anarchie est une vérité ; mais nous croyons qu’être anarchiste signifie être ennemie de toute autorité, de tout imposition, et par conséquence, quel que soit, le système qu’on préconise, c’est parce qu’on croit que c’est le meilleur rempart de l’Anarchie, et on ne veut pas du tout l’imposer à ceux qui ne l’acceptent pas.

Cela ne veut pas dire que nous mettons de côté la discussion sur la question économique. Au contraire, nous aimons bien les discuter, mas seulement pour apporter des données pour la solution ou les solutions définitives. De bien bonnes choses ont dit Cabet, Saint-Simon, Fourier, Robert Owen et les autres ; mais tous leurs systèmes ont disparus, parce qu’ils voulaient enfermer la société dans les conceptions de leur cerveau ; cependant ils ont fait beaucoup de bien éclaircissant la grande question.

Remarquez-le ; dès le moment que vous vous proposez de donner les lignes générales de la société future, d’un côté les objections et les demandes des adversaires, d’un autre côté le désir naturel de faire une œuvre complète et perfectionnée, nous amèneront à inventer, à tracer un system qui, soyez-en sûrs, disparaître comme les autres.

De l’individualisme anarchiste de Spencer et autres penseurs bourgeois—passez-moi le mot—aux individualistes-anarchistes socialistes—je ne trouve pas d’autres expression—il y a une grande distance, comme il y a entre les collectivistes espagnols et les autres d’une autre région ; comme entre les mutuellistes anglais et américains ; come entre les communistes.

Kropotkine, par exemple, nous parle du village industriel, réduisant son système, sa conception, si l’on veut, à la réunion de petites communautés qui produisent ce qu’elles veulent, réalisant pour ainsi dire la fiction biblique du paradis terrestre avec les progrès de la civilisation en plus, tandis que Malatesta, qui est aussi communiste-anarchiste, indiquera la constitution de grandes organisations qui entr’échangeront les produits et qui augmenteront encore plus cette puissance créatrice, cette étonnante activité que déploie le dix-neuvième siècle, purgée de toute action malfaisante.

Chaque intelligence puissante signale, crée des nouvelles voies pour la société future, et fera des adeptes par la force hypnotique—si on peut dire ainsi—suggestionnant à d’autres cerveaux ses propres idées—et tous en général nous nous faisons notre plan particulier.

Convenons donc, comme nous avons fait tous en Espagne, de nous appeler simplement anarchistes. Dans nos conversations, dans nos lettres, dans nos conférences, dans nos presse, discutons sur les questions économiques, mais jamais ces questions devraient être une cause de division entre anarchistes.

(à suivre)


(suite et fin)

[Pour notre propagande pour réussir,] pour la conservation de l’idée, nous avons besoin de nous connaître, et de nous voir et pour cela il faut constituer des groupes. En Espagne il y en a presque dans toutes les localités où il y a des anarchistes et ils sont la force impulsive de tout mouvement révolutionnaire. Les anarchistes n’ont pas d’argent ni moyens facile de s’en procurer ; pour obvier à cela le plus grand nombre parmi nous, s’est imposé une petite contribution hebdomadaire ou mensuelle ; comme ça nous pouvons maintenir les relations nécessaires entre tous les associés, et nous pourrions les entretenir avec toute la terre, si les autres régions avaient une organisations comme la notre.

Dans le groupe il n’y a pas d’autorité ; on choisi un compagnon comme caissier, un autre comme secrétaire pour recevoir la correspondance, etc., etc. On tient des réunions toutes les semaines ou tous les quinze jours ordinairement et extraordinairement toutes les fois qu’il le faut. Pour épargner des frais et du travail et aussi par mesure de prudence en cas de persécution, on convient sur la création d’une commission de relations pour la région. Cette commission n’a aucune initiative : ceux qui la composent doivent s’adresser à leur groupe s’il veulent faire des propositions. Sa mission c’est de faire connaître à tous les groups [les résolutions et les] propositions qui lui sont communiqué par un groupe, prendre [compte] de toutes les adresses qu’on lui communique et les envoyer aux groupes que les demandent pour se mettre en relations direct avec d’autres groupes.

Voilà les lignes générales de l’organisation, qui fut acceptée au congrès de Valence et dont vous parlâtes dans la Révolte. Le bien qu’elle produit est immense ; c’est elle qui attise le feu des idées anarchistes ; mais, soyez-en sûrs, si nous réduisons notre action à l’organisation anarchiste, nous obtiendrons bien peu de chose. Nous finirons par la transformer dans une organisations qui discutent sur des idées dégénèrent sûrement dans une organisation de métaphysiciens qui discutent sur des mots. Quelque chose et même beaucoup de ça vous arrive à vous autres. N’employant pas votre activité en autre chose qu’à discuter sur l’idéal, vous tomber dans les questions de mots. Les uns se disent égoïstes, les autres altruistes et ils veulent dire la même chose ; ceux-ci s’appellent communistes, ceux-là individualistes, et au font ils ont les mêmes idées.

Il faut se rappeler que la grande masse de prolétaires est obligée de travailler un nombre d’heures excessives, qu’elle est dans le plus grande misère et par conséquent ne peut pas [acheter les] livres de Letourneau, Büchner, Darwin, Spencer, Lombroso, Max Nordau, etc. dont elle ne peut guère connaître que les noms. Et si même le prolétaire pouvait procurer les livres, il manque des études préparatoires de physique, chimie, histoire naturelle et mathématique, nécessaire pour bien comprendre ce qu’il lit ; il n’a pas le temps pour étudier avec méthode, ni son cerveau assez exercé pour pouvoir bien assimiler ces études. Il y a des exceptions ; comme celle d’Etienne dans Germinal, altérées de savoir elles dévorent tout ce qui leur tombe dans les mains, mais en retiennent très peu de choses.

Notre champ d’action n’est donc pas dans le sein de ces groupes, mais dans le milieu de la masse prolétarienne.

C’est dans les sociétés de résistance que nous étudions et préparons notre plan de bataille. Ces sociétés existeront tant que durera le régime bourgeois. Les travailleurs qui ne sont pas écrivains, se soucient peu de savoir s’il y a ou non liberté de presse ; les travailleurs, qui ne sont orateurs, ne s’occupent pas beaucoup de la liberté de réunions publiques ; ils considèrent choses secondaires les libertés politiques, mais tous désirent d’améliorer leur conditions économique, tous désirent secouer le joug de la bourgeoisie ; pour cela il y aura [les syndicats et les sociétés de résistance] tant qu’il y aura exploitation de l’homme par l’homme. Là c’est notre place. En les délaissent, comme vous avez fait, elles deviennent le rendez-vous de quatre viveurs qui parlant aux travailleurs de socialisme scientifique, ou de patricisme, ou de possibilisme, ou de coopération, ou d’amasser des capitaux pour soutenir des grèves pacifiques ou de demander l‘aide et le soutien des autorités, les endorment toujours et réfrènent l’élan révolutionnaire. Si les anarchistes étaient dans ces sociétés, tout au moins ils empêcheraient aux endormeurs de faire propagande contre nous. Et si en outre, les anarchistes se trouvaient, comme en Espagne, être les plus actifs de la société, être ceux qui font tous les travaux nécessaires sans rétribution à l’envers des défenseurs de doublé qui les exploitent, il arriverait que ces sociétés seraient toujours de notre côté. En Espagne ce sont elles qui, toutes les semaines, achètent des quantités de journaux anarchistes pour les distribuer gratis à leurs membres ; ce sont elles qui donnent de l’argent pour soutenir nos publications, ou pour secourir les prisonniers et les persécutés. Nous montrons par notre conduite dans ces sociétés que nous lutions par amour à nos idées ; en outre, nous nous fourrons partout où il y a des ouvriers et même où il n’y en a pas, quand nous croyons que notre présence peut être utile à la cause de l’anarchie. C’est comme ça qu’en Catalogne (et maintenant ça commence aussi dans les autres régions de l’Espagne) il n’y a pas de commune où nous n’avons créé, ou au moins aidé, des corporations sous les noms de cercles, athénées, centres ouvriers, qui sans se dire anarchistes et sans l’être réellement, sympathisent avec nos idées. Nous y donnons des conférences purement anarchistes et mêlons avec des réunions musicales et littéraires nos travaux révolutionnaires. Là, assis à la table du café, nous discutons, nous nous voyons tous les soirs ; ou étudions dans la bibliothèque.

Là nous installons la rédactions de nos journaux, et les journaux qui viennent en échange vont dans le salon de lecture et tout ça avec une organisation libre et presque sans dépenses. Par exemple, dans le cercle de Barcelone on n’est pas même obligé d’être associé ; le sont ceux qui veulent, et la contribution de 25 par mois est aussi volontaire. De deux ou trois mille ouvriers qui viennent dans les locaux du cercle, 300 seulement sont associés. Nous pourrions affirmer que ces locaux sont les foyers de nos idées ; et cependant quoique le gouvernement a cherché toujours des prétextes pour les fermer, il n’en a pas trouvé, parce qu’ils ne se disent pas anarchistes et ce n’est pas là qu’on tient des réunions privées. Là on ne fait rien qu’on ne ferait pas dans n’importe quel café publique ; mais comme là viennent tous les éléments actifs, de là sorte souvent des grandes choses, et cela sans formalisme, en prenant une tasse de café ou un verre de cognac.

Nous ne négligeons non plus les sociétés coopératives de consommation. Dans presque toutes les communes de la Catalogne sauf Barcelone, où c’est impossible à cause des grandes distance, et de la façon de vivre,—on a créé des coopératives de consommation où les ouvriers trouvent les comestibles meilleur marché et de meilleur qualité que chez les marchands, et cela sans qu’aucun des associés regarde la coopération comme but final, mais seulement comme un moyen duquel on peut profite. Il y a de ces sociétés qui font de grands achats et ont un crédit de 50 à 60 mille francs, et qui ont été de grande utilité dans les grèves en faisant crédit aux ouvriers. Dans les athénées des messieurs—des savants comme on les appelle—on discute sur le socialisme ; deux de nos compagnons vont de suit s’inscrire comme membres (s’ils n’ont pas argent, la corporation en donne) et y vont soutenir nos idées.

La même chose fait notre presse. Elle ne néglige jamais les idées anarchistes ; mais elle donne place à des manifestes, à des communications, à des nouvelles, qui, quoique elles puissent paraître sans importance, servent cependant à faire pénétrer notre journal et nos idées avec, dans des communes ou dans des milieux où ne le connaissait pas. Voilà notre tactique, et je crois que si on l’adoptait dans les autres régions les anarchistes verraient de suite s’élargir leur champ d’action.

Pensez qu’one Espagne la majorité ne savent pas lire et cependant on publie 6 journaux anarchistes, des brochures, livres, feuilles volantes en quantité. On fait continuellement des meetings et sans avoir de véritables agitateurs, il se produit des faits très importants.

En Espagne, la bourgeoisie est impitoyable et rancunière et ne souffre pas que quelqu’un de sa classe sympathise avec nous, et quand quelque homme en position ou très intelligent se met de notre côté, on l’oblige à nous abandonner, de sorte qu’il peut nous aider seulement en privé. Au contraire, la bourgeoisie lui donne tout ce qu’il désire, s’il s’éloigne de nous. Ainsi, tout le travail en faveur de l’anarchie, reste à la charge des travailleurs manuels qui doivent prendre le temps sure leurs heures de repos.

Si en France, en Angleterre, en Italie, en Suisse, en Belgique, en Amérique du Nord, où il y a un assez grand nombre de bons éléments, on changeait de tactique, quels progrès nous ferions !

Je crois avoir dit assez pour faire comprendre mon idée.

Je suis à vous et à la Révolution sociale.

[La Révolte, 3 no. 51 (6-12 septembre 1890): 1-2. ; 4 no. 1 (13-19 septembre 1890) : 2.]

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Ricardo Mella, “Collectivism” (1891)


Gone are the days when socialist sentimentality expected everything from the mother country and demanded everything of her. Gone are the days when the revolution was just a feeling, and declaimed comically against individualism face to face with the supreme power of the state or of society, its client. Gone are the days when socialism and revolution had no philosophy but that of the heart, no principle of right and justice but that of universal love.

All these concepts, all these ideas are only among us as a remnant of what was never to be, as a residue pointing to our remote origin.

Today, the Revolution has its rational philosophy, its principle of right and its justice. It has fully entered the period of maturity and it is useless to look back. Man no longer expects from society what he should not and cannot expect. Society is not for him a loving mother bound by duty to meet all your needs. He knows that all that depends on his own activity and the activity of those who wish to associate with him. Freedom is enough under conditions of equality, in order to be able to dispense with a being that determines his will alone, society. This is its work and its work is necessary to meet individual deficiencies. There is no mother of the man who comes: this concept died with the idea of the state, and instead there remains only the free individual to make free societies as well.

Man has the right to satisfy all his needs, but to satisfy them for himself, through the judicious use of all his strength and attitudes, through his work. From himself, then, he awaits this satisfaction, not from society or the state. If he is not self-sufficient, he can associate, seeking to supplement his insufficiencies within free associations for cooperation, credit, currency, and security. That is all. Freedom, freedom forever!

If individualism has thrown man into violence and lack of solidarity, communism pushes him to guardianship, self-denial and makes him a mere instrument of society or the state, two identical things with different names.

In the name of freedom we reject communism! In the name of solidarity we reject individualism! Such is our view.

Freedom and solidarity are sufficient to solve the problem. Hence the collectivist school.

We know that collectivism is not identical in every part. We are aware that there are authoritarian schools that support an economic idea similar to ours and are even baptized with the same name. But this matters little. Ideas and more ideas are needed, and the names are simply a matter of convention. Let us agree to call our solution to the problem of property collectivism because it is neither communist nor individualistic. That is all.

Let us explain our ideas and move on.

No doubt there are in the background of individualism and communism two irrefutable principles. The man is absolute master of his work. Humanity is the sovereign of all the means of production that nature contains. Give humanity and man what is their due and you have collectivism.

Man is born with the power to produce and nature is expected to provide the means to carry on business. Leave man free to apply his powers and, in fairness, you have no more to do. Whatever the world holds the man can use for the job. The right is universal, and belongs to all. Nobody can therefore seize the smallest part of that common fund, which costs nothing and no one creates. By virtue of what right or what law shall man be bound to do more? How will he be forced to make his individual work also become part of the common fund? Leave him free. He owns his work, has the property in the product and only by his free will can he donate or not donate to the society. If the former, it will be a very free and spontaneous act of his being. If the latter, it will be by an unquestionable right and unlimited sovereignty. Overstep these limits and freedom will be destroyed.

This is why we affirm the community of all the means of production and doubly affirm the right of ownership and possession of individual and collective product for the individual and the community, the full, absolute right to the product of labor.

Place all men in equal economic conditions, by providing all with the means of production, and you have the principle of justice. Render to all men the freedom to dispose, as best fits them, their feelings, their thoughts and their works and you will have justice in all its magnificent fullness. So says collectivism; so says anarchy.

Do not ask us how it is to determine the product of the work of each, because it would be a foolish question. A state of freedom not fit formulas determined a priori. The diversity of work produces diverse solutions. Liberty guarantees them. In one work [the solution] will be determined by the individual himself. In another, it will be exchange and contract that determine it. In yet another, it will be association, freely governed and freely agreed upon.


[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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Fernando Tarrida del Mármol, “Questions of Tactics” (1890)


290px-Fernando_Tarrida_del_Mármol_et_enfantWe have received from one of our comrades of the Productor of Barcelona the following letter, which we believe it good to reproduce; for, apart from some errors of judgment it contains some advice worth considering, and, in the response that we count on making to our friends in Spain, if we come to find and demonstrate the causes of the disorganization of the anarchists, the cause of the inconsistence of the groups, of their inactivity, we could find the remedy and some information on tactics to follow:


Barcelona, August 7, 1890

Compagnons of the Révolte,

I would like to clearly explain the idea that I have of the revolutionary tactics of French anarchists; that is why, being unable to write a series of articles, as one should, I write you a private letter. You will draw from it whatever good you can.

Revolutionary decisiveness has never been lacking in the French character, and the anarchists have demonstrated, in an infinite number of circumstances, that they do not lack agitators or revolutionaries. The number of adherents is quite large and yet, with some great thinkers, some determined agitators, some enthusiastic disciples, France, we must admit, is the country that produces the fewest important actions for anarchy. That is my nightmare. This is why I have said that I believe your revolutionary tactics are not sound. Nothing fundamental divides the French anarchists from the Spanish anarchists, an yet, in practice, we find ourselves at a great distance.

We all accept Anarchy as the integration of all liberties, and their only guarantee, as the impetus and sum of human well-being. No laws nor repression; spontaneous, natural development of all actions. Neither superiors nor inferiors, neither governors nor governed. The invalidation of every distinction of rank; only conscious beings who seek one other, are attracted to each other, who discuss, resolve and produce together, who love each other, without any other aim than the well-being of all. This is how we all conceive Anarchy, how we all conceive the society of the future; and it is for the accomplishment of this idea that we all work. Where, then, are our differences?

In my opinion, enraptured by the contemplation of the ideal, you have drawn up a line of ideal conduct, an unproductive puritanism in which you squander a good deal of your strength, that could destroy the strongest organisms and that, thus badly used, produce nothing at all. You forget that you are not surrounded by free beings, jealous of their freedom and their dignity, but by slaves who wait for someone to deliver them. You forget that our enemies are organized and strive every day to grow stronger in order to continue to reign. You forget, finally, that even those who work for good live in the present social disorganization and are full of vices and prejudices.

From this it follows that you accept an absolute freedom and expect everything from individual initiative, pushed to a point where no pact or agreement is possible. No agreement, no gatherings at which decisions are made; the important, the essential thing is that each does as that please.

As a result: someone would like to do something good, but there is no means to gather with all the others who think as he does, in order to lay out his initiative, to take hold of their advice and assistance; he is forced to do it all alone, or not do it at all.

Creating commissions for administrative tasks, fixing contributions for some necessity—this is an imposition. And this way, if a comrade or a group wants to establish relations with all the anarchists in France or the world for a private thing, they will not have the means to do it and must abandon the idea. Everything that is not The Social Revolution is a foolish thing: But should it not matter to anarchists that wages become even more insufficient, that the working day is being extended, that workers in the factories are insulted or that women are prostituting themselves for the bosses? While the bourgeois regime lasts those things will always happen, and we need only worry ourselves about the final goal. But in the meanwhile, the masses of proletarians who suffer and who do not believe in the coming liberation, do not listen to the anarchists.

If I were to continue along these lines, there would be countless examples, each one with the same result: impotence. Not because they lack anything, but because they are scattered, with no link between them.

In Spain we have followed a completely different tactic. Certainly, for you it will be a heresy worthy of excommunication at the highest level, a deceptive practice that must be separated from the anarchist field of action; but nevertheless we think that only thus can we ensure our ideas penetrate the proletariat and destroy the bourgeois world. Like you, we long for the purity of the anarchist program. There is nothing so intransigent and categorical as Ideas, and we admit no middle ground or any sort of extenuating circumstance. We have therefore tried to be as explicit as we can in our writings. Our pole star is Anarchy, the goal we seek to reach and towards which we direct our steps. But our path is blocked by all classes of obstacles and if we are to demolish them we must use the means that seem best to us. If we cannot adapt our conduct to our ideas, we let it be known, and seek to come as close as possible to the ideal. We do what a traveller would do when he wishes to go to a country with a temperate climate but who, in order to reach it, has to go through tropical and glacial zones: he would go well-furnished with furs and light clothes that he would get rid of once he arrived at his destination. It would be stupid and also ridiculous to want to fist-fight against such a well-armed enemy.

Our tactics derive from what has been said. We are anarchists and we preach Anarchy without adjectives. Anarchy is an axiom and the economic question something secondary. Some will say to us that it is because of the economic question that Anarchy is a truth; but we believe that to be anarchist means being the enemy of all authority and imposition and, by consequence, whatever system is proposed must be considered the best defence of Anarchy, not wishing to impose it on those who do not accept it.

This does not mean that we ignore the economic question. On the contrary, we are pleased to discuss it, but only as a contribution to the definitive solution or solutions. Many excellent things have been said by Cabet, Saint Simon, Fourier, Robert Owen and others; but all their systems have disappeared because they wanted to lock Society up in the conceptions of their brains, despite having done much to elucidate the great question.

Remember that from the moment in which you set about drawing up the general lines of the Future Society, on the one hand there arise objections and questions from one’s adversaries; and on the other hand, the natural desire to produce a complete and perfect work will lead one to invent and draw up a system that, we are sure, will disappear like the others.

There is a huge distance between the anarchist individualism of Spencer and other bourgeois thinkers and the individualist-socialist anarchists (I can find no other expression), as there is between Spanish collectivists from one region to another, among the English and North American mutualists, or among the libertarian communists. Kropotkin, for example, speaks to us of the “industrial town”, reducing its system, or if one prefers its concept, to the coming together of small communities that produce what they want, thus making a reality, so to speak, of the biblical heaven-on-earth out of the present state of civilization. Whereas Malatesta, who is also a libertarian communist, points to the constitution of large organizations who exchange their products between them and who will increase this creative power even more, this amazing activity that is unfolded by the 19th century, purged of all injurious action.

Each powerful intelligence gives its indications and creates new roads to the Future Society, winning supporters through some hypnotic power (if we can say so), suggesting these ideas to others’, with everyone in general formulating their own particular plan.

Let us agree then, as almost all of us in Spain have done, to call ourselves simply anarchists. In our conversations, in our conferences and our press, we do discuss economic questions, but these questions should never become the cause of division between anarchists.

For our propaganda to be successful, for the conservation of the idea, we need to know each other and see each other, and for this reason we have to set up groups. In Spain these groups exist in every locality where there are anarchists and they are the driving force of the whole revolutionary movement. Anarchists do not have money, nor easy means to find it. To get around this, most of us voluntarily make a small weekly or monthly contribution, so that we can maintain the relations necessary between every member. We could maintain relations with the whole World, if other countries had an organization like ours.

There is no authority in the group: one comrade is appointed to act as treasurer, another as secretary to deal with correspondence, etc. Ordinary meetings are held every week or fortnight; extraordinary meetings whenever they are necessary. In order to save on expenses and work, and also as a measure of prudence in case of persecution, a commission of relations is created on a national level. But it does not take any initiative: its members must go to their groups if they wish to make proposals. Its mission is to communicate the resolutions and proposals that are communicated to it from one group to all groups, to keep lists of contacts and provide these to any group that should ask for them, and to make direct contact with other groups.

Such are the general lines of the organization that were accepted at the congress of Valencia and about which you spoke in “La Révolte”. The benefits that are produced are immense – and that is what stokes the fire of anarchist ideas. But rest assured that if we reduced action to anarchist organization, we would obtain very little. We would end up transforming it into an organization of thinkers who discuss ideas and which would certainly degenerate into a society of metaphysicists debating words. And this is not unlike the situation you find yourselves in. Using your activity only to discuss the ideal, you end up debating words. The ones are called “egoists” and the others “altruists”, though both want the same thing; some are called “libertarian communists” and others “individualists”, but at the root they express the same ideas.

We should not forget that the great mass of proletarians is forced to work an excessive number of hours, that they live in poverty and that consequently they cannot buy the books of Buchner, Darwin, Spencer, Lombroso, Max Nordau, etc., whose names they will hardly even have heard. And even if the proletarian could obtain these books, he lacks the preparatory studies in physics, chemistry, natural history and mathematics that would be necessary to understand what he is reading well. He has no time to study with method, nor is his brain exercised enough to be able to assimilate these studies. There are exceptions like the case of Esteban in “Germinal”, those whose thirst for knowledge drives them to devour whatever falls into their hands, though often little or nothing is retained.

Our field of action, then, lies not within these groups, but among the proletarian masses.

It is in the societies of resistance where we study and we prepare our plan of struggle. These societies will exist under the bourgeois regime. Workers are not writers and care little whether there is freedom of the press; workers are not orators, and care little for the freedom to hold public meetings; they consider political liberties to be secondary things, but they all seek to improve their economic condition and they all seek to shake off the yoke of the bourgeoisie. For this reason there will be labour unions and societies of resistance even while there still exists the exploitation of one man by another. This is our place. By abandoning them, as you have done, they will become the meeting places of charlatans who speak to the workers of “scientific socialism” or practicism, possibilism, cooperation, accumulation of capital to maintain peaceful strikes, requests for aid and the support of the authorities, etc., in such a way that will send the workers to sleep and restrain their revolutionary urges. If anarchists were part of these societies, at least they would prevent the “sedators” from carrying out propaganda against us. And furthermore, if, as is the case in Spain, the anarchists are the most active members of these societies, those that carry out whatever work is needed for no reward, unlike the deceivers who exploit them, then these societies will always be on our side. In Spain it is these societies who buy large amounts of anarchist newspapers every week to distribute free of charge to their members. It is these societies who give money towards supporting our publications and aiding prisoners and others who are persecuted. We have shown by our work in these societies that we fight for the sake of our ideas. In addition, we go everywhere there are workers, and even where there are not, if we think that our presence there can be useful to the cause of Anarchy. Thus is the situation in Catalonia (and increasingly so in other regions of Spain), where there is hardly a municipality where we have not created or at least helped to create groups – be they called circles, literary society, workers’ centres, etc. – which sympathize with our ideas without describing themselves as anarchist or even being really anarchist. In these places we carry out purely anarchist conferences, mixing our revolutionary work together with the various musical and literary meetings. There, seated at a coffee table, we debate, we meet every evening, or we study in the library.

This is where our newspapers have their editorial offices, and where we send the newspapers we in turn receive to the reading room; and all this is freely organized and almost without expense. For example, in the Barcelona circle it is not even required to become a member; those who so wish can become members and the monthly contribution of 25 centimas is also voluntary. Of the two or three thousand workers who frequent the circle, only three hundred are members. We could say that these places are the focal point of our ideas. Nevertheless, although the government has always sought pretexts to close them down, it has never come up with anything, because they do not describe themselves as anarchist and private meetings are not held there. Nothing is done there that could not be done in any public café; but because all the active elements go there, great things often arise over a cup of coffee or a glass of cognac.

We nearly forgot the cooperative societies for consumption. In almost every town of Catalonia – except Barcelona, where it is impossible due to the great distances involved and the way of life – consumption cooperatives have been created where the workers can find foodstuffs that are cheaper and of better quality than at the retailers, where none of the members considers the cooperative to be an end in itself, but a means to be taken advantage of. There are societies that make large purchases and that have credit of fifty or sixty thousand pesetas, that have been very useful in strikes, giving credit to workers. In the literary societies of the “gentlemen” (or wise men, as they are often known), they discuss socialism; two comrades then register as members (if they do not have the money, the corporation will see to it) and go to stand up for our ideas.

The same happens with our press. It never leaves aside anarchist ideas; but it gives room to manifestos, statements and news which, although they may seem of little importance, serve nonetheless to allow our newspaper – and with it our ideas – to penetrate into towns or areas that know little of our ideas. These are our tactics and I believe that if they were adopted in other countries, anarchists would soon see their field of action widen.

Remember that in Spain most people cannot read; but despite this, six anarchist periodicals, pamphlets, books and a great many leaflets are published. There are continually meetings and, even without any great propagandists, very important results are achieved.

In Spain, the bourgeoisie is ruthless and rancorous, and will not allow one of its class to sympathize with us. When some man of position takes our side, all manner of means are unleashed against him to force him into abandoning us in such a way that he can only support us in private. On the contrary, the bourgeoisie gives him whatever he wishes, if he moves away from us. Therefore, all the work in favour of Anarchy rests on the shoulders of the manual workers, who must sacrifice their hours of rest for it.

While there are a great many fine elements in France, Britain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium and North America, think of the progress we could make with a change of tactics!

I think I have said enough for my ideas to be understood.

Yours, for the Social Revolution,

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Dyer D. Lum, “Communal Anarchy” (1886)


Screen shot 2015-07-31 at 10.55.33 PMA distinction has been sought between what has been termed “Mutualistic Anarchy” and communistic anarchy, but it is one we fail to recognize. Anarchy, or the total cessation of force government, is the fundamental principle upon which all our arguments are based. Communism is a question of administration in the future, and hence must be subordinate to and in accord with the principles of Anarchy and all of its logical deductions. Anarchy proclaims that sovereignty of the individual, the abrogation of all artificial inequalities, and the total cessation of coercion over a minority, even if that minority be a single individual. To secure this end it demands the abolition of the State. This involves the destruction of the privileges now legalized and which are the cause of our social discord. To abolish the state is at one blow to destroy special privilege. With the fall of the legal scaffolding property ceases to be a ravenous beast and is converted into a useful domesticated auxillary to individual effort. Government exists merely for the protection of special privileges their laws confer upon property.

Anarchy being our fundamental principle, no scheme of social administration we may advocate, must be contrary thereto. In using the word communism, therefore, we in no wise abridge the rights of the individual. But why use the word at all? it may be asked. For this reason: In speaking of the individual we believe Anarchy covers the whole ground; but in speaking of society in its associative phase, forming into groups for the purposes of production and distribution, we prefer to use this old term, and by associating it with the qualifying word Anarchy, rescue it from the abuse into which it has fallen.

Each writer in The Alarm is responsible for his own articles, but in giving them editorial space they become representative of principles inculcated by this paper. We would therefore say that The Alarm does not advocate the institution of any system whereby individual right can be invaded. We demand the abolition of the legal sanction to property, believing the destruction of exclusive claim to products for speculative purposes will leave property communal. We recognize the right of each to own and possess the result of his own labor; he may make a machine if he wish and call it his “private property” and no one can object, for under communal anarchy his claim would involve no infringement upon others’ rights. But where the claim has no sanction in law it becomes harmless. In attaching private property we are combating the legalization of privilege. In using the word State we refer to any alleged source of authority and hold the principle to be as operative in the Social Communes of the future as in the political republic of the present. In brief, the only use of force, in any manner whatever, an Anarchist can justify is that used in attaining and defending his natural rights as an individual. Communal Anarchy rejects all assumed “divine rights” to authority of man over man, whether it be asserted by a monarch, priest, or the majority of the people. The destruction of privilege is our sole object.


Dyer D. Lum, “Communal Anarchy,” The Alarm 2 no. 15 (March 6, 1886): 2.

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