Malatesta, 1907

In the syndicates we must remain as anarchists, with all the force and breadth of the term. The workers’ movement is nothing more than a means – albeit obviously the best of all the means at our disposition. But I refuse to take this means as an end, and I would reject it if it were to make us lose sight of the other elements of our anarchist ideas, or more simply our other means of propaganda and action.

The syndicalists on the other hand teach us to make an end of the means, to take the partial for the whole. That is how in the minds of some of our comrades syndicalism is about to become a new doctrine, threatening the very existence of anarchism.

Now, even if it is reinforced by the pointless use of the adjective revolutionary, syndicalism is and always will be a legalitarian, conservative movement with no other possible goal – at best – than the improvement of working conditions. I need go no further for proof than the example offered by the great North American unions. Having presented themselves as radically revolutionary, at a time when they were still weak, once they grew in size and wealth these unions these unions became markedly conservative organizations, solely occupied with creating privileges for their members in the factory, workshop or mine, and are much less hostile to the bosses’ capitalism than the non-organized workers, that ragged proletariat so maligned by the social democrats! Now, this continually-growing proletariat of the unemployed, which counts for nothing with syndicalism, or rather which counts only as an obstacle, cannot be forgotten by us anarchists and we must defend it because it is subjected to the worst sufferings.

Let me repeat: anarchists must enter the workers’ syndicates. Firstly, in order to carry out anarchist propaganda; secondly, because it is the only means that can provide us with groups that will be in a position to take over the running of production come the day; furthermore, we must join in order to counteract to the best of our abilities that detestable state of mind that leads the unions to defend only particular interests. (…)

One can no longer deny that union action carries risks. The greatest of these risks certainly lies in militants accepting official positions in the unions, above all when they are paid positions. As a general rule, the anarchist who accepts permanent, paid office within a union is lost to propaganda, and lost to anarchism! He becomes indebted to those who pay him and, as they are not anarchists, the paid official who finds himself torn between his own conscience and his own interests will either follow his conscience and lose his position or else follow his interests and so, goodbye anarchism!


Kropotkin, 1902

IT IS NOT LOVE TO MY NEIGHBOR-whom I often do not know at all-which induces me to seize a pail of water and to rush towards his house when I see it on fire; it is a far wider. even though more vague feeling or instinct of human solidarity and sociability
which moves me. So it is also with animals. It is not love. and not even sympathy (understood in its proper sense) which induces a herd of ruminants or of horses to form a ring in order to resist an attack of wolves; not love which induces wolves to form a pack for hunting; not love which induces kittens or lambs to play, or a dozen of species of young birds to spend their days together in the autumn; and it is neither love nor personal sympathy which induces many thousand fallow-deer scattered over a territory as large as France to form into a score of separate herds. all marching towards a given spot, in order to cross there a river. It is a feeling infinitely wider than love or personal sympathy-an instinct that has been slowly developed among animals and men in the course of an extremely long evolution, and which has taught animals and men alike the force they can borrow from the practice of mutual aid and support, and the joys they can find in social life.

Kropotkin, 1890

This fertility of mind, of feeling or of goodwill takes all possible forms. It is in the passionate seeker after truth, who renounces all other pleasures to throw his energy
into the search for what he believes true and right contrary to the affirmations of the ignoramuses around him. It is in the inventor who lives from day to day forgetting even his food, scarcely touching the bread with which perhaps some woman devoted to him feeds him like a child, while he follows out the invention he thinks destined to change the face of the world. It is in the ardent revolutionist to whom the joys of art, of science, even of family life, seem bitter, so long as they cannot be shared by all, and who works despite misery and persecution for the regeneration of the world. It is in the youth who, hearing of the atrocities of invasion, and taking literally the heroic legends of patriotism, inscribes himself in a volunteer corps and marches bravely through snow and hunger until he falls beneath the bullets. It was in the Paris street arab, with his quick intelligence and bright choice of aversions and sympathies, who ran to the ramparts with his little brother, stood steady amid the rain of shells, and died murmuring: “Long live the Commune!” It is in the man who is revolted at the sight of a wrong without waiting to ask what will be its result to himself, and when all backs are bent stands up to unmask the iniquity and brand the exploiter, the petty despot of a factory or great tyrant of an empire. Finally it is in all those numberless acts of devotion less striking and therefore unknown and almost always misprized, which may be continually observed, especially among women, if we will take the trouble to open our eyes and notice what lies at the very foundation of human life, and enables it to enfold itself one way or another in spite of the exploitation and oppression it undergoes …

Errico Malatesta, 1894

In the 1890’s various governments passed repressive laws as part of a campaign against anarchists and other revolutionaries, allegedly in response to anarchist terrorism. In this article from the August 1 894 edition of Liberty, an anarchist communist paper published in England by James Tochatti (1852- 1 928), Malatesta, while rejecting terrorism, advocates principled resistance to these repressive laws.

“There are comrades who expect the triumph of our ideas from the multiplication of acts of individual violence. Well, we may differ in our opinions on the moral value and the practical effect of individual acts in general and of each act in particular, and there are in fact on this subject among Anarchists various  divergent and even directly opposed currents of opinion; but one thing is certain, namely, that with a number of bombs and a number of blows of the knife, a society like bourgeois society cannot be overthrown, being based, as it is, on an enormous mass of private interests and prejudices, and sustained, more than it is by the force of arms, by the inertia of the masses and their habits of submission.

Other things are necessary to bring about a revolution, and specially the Anarchist revolution. It is necessary that the people be conscious of their rights and their strength; it is necessary that they be ready to fight and ready to take the conduct of their affairs into their own hands. It must be the constant preoccupation of the revolutionists, the point towards which all their activity must aim, to bring about this state of mind among
the masses. The brilliant acts of a few individuals may help in this work, but cannot replace it, and in reality, they are only useful if they are the result of a collective movement of spirit of the masses … being accomplished under such circumstances that the masses understand them, sympathize with, and profit by them …

While our ideas oblige us to put all our hopes in the masses, because we do not believe in the possibility of imposing the good by force and we do not want to be commanded, we have despised and neglected all manifestations of popular life; we contented ourselves with simply preaching abstract theories or with acts of individual revolt, and we have become isolated. Hence the want of success of what I will call, the first period of the Anarchist movement. After more than twenty years of propaganda and struggle, after so much devotion and so many martyrs , we are today nearly strangers to the great popular commotions which agitate Europe and America, and we find ourselves in a situation which permits the governments to foster, without plainly appearing absurd , hopes to suppress us by some police measures.

Let us reconsider our position.

Today, that which always ought to have been our duty, which was the logical outcome of our ideas, the condition which our conception of the revolution and reorganization of society imposes on us, namely, to live among the people and to win them over to our ideas by actively taking part in their struggles and sufferings, today this has become an absolute necessity imposed upon us by the situation which we have to live under. “

Kropotkin, 1886

In this essay [Law and Authority] , Kropotkin argues that law serves a dual purpose-firstly, it codifies and enforces accepted moral standards, and secondly, it furthers the particular interests of the ruling classes. According to Kropotkin, the former purpose is unnecessary, and the latter purpose is positively harmful.

Customs, absolutely essential to the very being of society, are, in the code, cleverly intermingled with usages imposed by the ruling caste, and both claim equal respect from the crowd. “Do not kill,” says the code, and hastens to add, “And pay tithes to the priest.” “Do not steal ,” says the code, and immediately after, “He who refuses to pay taxes, shall have his hand struck off.”

Such was law; and it has maintained its two-fold character to this day. Its origin is the desire of the ruling class to give permanence to customs imposed by themselves for their own advantage. Its character is the skillful commingling of customs useful to society, customs which have no need of l aw to insure respect, with other customs useful only to rulers, injurious to the mass of the people, and maintained only by the fear of punishment. Like individual capital , which was born of fraud and violence, and developed under the auspices of authority, law has no title to the respect of men. Born of violence and superstition, and established in the interests of conqueror, priest, and rich exploiter, it must be utterly destroyed on the day when the people desire to break their chains …

Howard Zinn, “Objectivity”

“Why should we cherish “objectivity”, as if ideas were innocent, as if they don’t serve one interest or another? Surely, we want to be objective if that means telling the truth as we see it, not concealing information that may be embarrassing to our point of view. But we don’t want to be objective if it means pretending that ideas don’t play a part in the social struggles of our time, that we don’t take sides in those struggles.

Indeed, it is impossible to be neutral. In a world already moving in certain directions, where wealth and power are already distributed in certain ways, neutrality means accepting the way things are now. It is a world of clashing interests – war against peace, nationalism against internationalism, equality against greed, and democracy against elitism – and it seems to me both impossible and undesirable to be neutral in those conflicts.”

Errico Malatesta, 1895

Errico Malatesta (1853- 1932) was renowned in the international anarchist movement as an organizer, revolutionary, editor and writer. He began his career in the Italian Federation of the First International, associated with Bakunin. He was one of the first Internationalists to adopt an anarchist communist position. He was with Carlo Cafiero at Benevento, and was imprisoned many times for his revolutionary activities. He was active not only in Italy, but also in Latin America, the United States and England. The following article, “Violence as a Social Factor, .. was first published in the English anarchist paper, The Torch, in April 1895, in response to some comments by a pacifist named T.H. Bell criticizing anarchists for having recourse to violence and terrorism.

In short it is our duty to call attention to the dangers attendant on the use of violence,to insist on the principle of the inviolability of human life, to combat the spirit of hatred and revenge, and to preach love and toleration. But to blind ourselves to the true conditions of the struggle, to renounce the use of force for the purpose of repelling and attacking force, relying on the fanciful efficacy of “passive resistance,” and in the name of a mystical morality to deny the right of self-defence, or to restrain it to the point of rendering it illusionary, can only end in nothing, or i n leaving a free field of action to the oppressors.

If we really wish to strive for the emancipation of the people, do not let us reject in principle the means without which the struggle can never be ended; and, remember, the most energetic measures are also the most efficient and the l east wasteful. Only do not let us lose sight of the fact that ours is a struggle inspired by love and not by hatred, and that it is our duty to do all in our power to see that the necessary violence does not degenerate into mere ferocity, and that it be used only as a weapon in the struggle of right against wrong.

Kropotkin, 1885

If social wealth remains in the hands of the few who possess it today; if the factory, the warehouse and the workshop remain the property of the owner; if the railways and the other means of transport continue in the hands of the companies and individuals who have made them monopolies; if the mansions in the cities and the villas of landlords remain in the possession of their present owners instead of being placed, on the day of the revolution, at the free disposition of all the workers; if all the accumulated treasures, in the banks or in the houses of the rich, do not return immediately to the collectivity-because all of us have contributed to produce them; if the insurgent people does not take possession of all the goods and provisions accumulated in the great cities and does not organize affairs so that they are put at the disposal of those who need them; if the land, finally, remains the property of bankers and usurers-to whom it belongs today, in fact if not by right-and if the great properties are not taken away from the great proprietors to be placed in the hands of those who wish to cultivate the soil; if, finally, there emerges a new class of rulers who give orders to the ruled, the insurrection will not have been a revolution, and we shall have to start all over again …

Expropriation-that is the guiding word of the coming revolution, without which it will fail in its historic mission: the complete expropriation of all those who have the means of exploiting human beings; the return to the community … of everything that in the hands of anyone can be used to exploit others …

Paul Brousse, 1877

Propaganda by the deed is often wrongly equated with terrorism, when it really means is nothing more than leading by example, on the basis that actions speak louder than words. While this concept was articulated by earlier revolutionaries, such as Carlo Pisacane and Bakunin, it was made current by Paul Brousse ( 1844- 1912), at the time one of the most militant members of the anti-authoritarian International, whose article on the subject was printed in the Bulletin of the Jura Federation in August 1877, translated here by Paul Sharkely. The events referred to involved a demonstration in Berne, Switzerland. ill which Brousse took part, where the workers showed the revolutionary red flag. and an abortive uprising in Benevento, Italy, in which Cafiero and Malatesta participated. 

The Swiss bourgeoisie nurtures in the mind of the Swiss workingman a prejudice that he enjoys every possible freedom. We never weary of repeating to him: “No serious public freedom without economic equality. And what is it that underpins inequality? The State!” The people has little grasp of such abstractions; but offer it a tangible fact and it gets the point. Show it the article in the constitution allowing him to bring out the red flag, then bring out that flag: the State and the police will attack him; defend him: crowds will show up for the ensuing meeting; a few words of plain talk, and the people get the point. 18 March 1 877 was a practical demonstration laid on for Swiss working folk in the public square, that they do not, as they thought they did, enjoy freedom.