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.