Kropotkin, 1896

… It is often said that anarchists live in a world of dreams to come, and do not see the things which happen today. We see them only too well, and in their true colours, and that is what makes us carry the hatchet into the forest of prejudices that besets us.

Far from living in a world of visions and imagining men better than they are, we see the m as they are; and that is why we affirm that the be st of men is made essentially bad by the exercise of authority, and that the theory of the “balancing of powers” and “control of authorities” is a hypocritical formula, invented by those who have seized power. to make the “sovereign people,” whom they despise, believe that the people themselves are governing. It is be cause we know men that we say to those who imagine that men would devour one another without those governors: “You reason like the king. who, being sent across the frontier, called out. ‘What will be come of my poor subjects without me?’ ”

Ah, if men were those superior beings that the utopians of authority like to speak to us of, if we could close our e yes to reality and live like them in a world of dreams and illusions as to the superiority of those who think themselves called to power, perhaps we also should do like the m; perhaps we also should believe in the virtues of those who govern.
But it is not enough to destroy. We must also know how to build, and it is owing to not having thought about it that the masses have always been led astray in all their revolutions. After having demolished they abandoned the care of reconstruction to the middle-class people who possessed a more or less precise conception of what they wished to realize, and who consequently reconstituted authority to their own advantage.

That is why anarchism, when it works to destroy authority in all its aspects, when it demands the abrogation of laws and the abolition of the mechanism that serves to impose them, when it refuses all hierarchical organization and preaches free agreement, at the same time strives to maintain and enlarge the precious kernel of social customs without which no human or animal society can exist. Only instead of demanding that those social customs should be maintained through the authority of a few, it demands it from the continued action of all. “

Gustav Landauer, 1895

Anarchistic ideas first received expression in Germany during the 18th century among members of the Illuminati, a secret society for free thought that spread throughout German speaking areas in Europe. One of the founders of the Illuminati, Adam Wieshaupt (1 748- 1830), presented an address to the society in which he spoke of national states disappearing ”from the face of the earth without violence,” with reason becoming “the only law for humanity” . During the 1840’s, a variety of writers adopted an anarchist position of one sort or another, not only Max Stirner, but also some of the other Young Hegelians, such as Arnold Ruge and Edgar Bauer, Karl Grun and the journalist Wilhelm Marr. Marx, Engels and their supporters in Germany engaged in lengthy polemics against anarchist ideas and actions, misrepresenting and even vilifying them. By the 1890’s the German socialist movement was dominated by the orthodox Marxist Social Democratic Party. It was within the Social Democratic Party that Gustav Landauer (1870-1919) first became active in the socialist movement in the early 1890’s, quickly associating himself with a dissident group of young libertarian socialists, the Berliner jungen. He later wrote a critique of the Social Democratic Party, one of his few publications translated into English, Social Democracy in Germany. He was murdered in 1919 by troops sent by the then Social Democratic government to suppress tile revolution in Bavaria, in which Landauer had played a prominent role.

Anarchists do not even claim, however, that the majority of oppressed people today even consider themselves victims. It may also be the case that among our own ranks, compassion and love are not necessarily the right words to describe our deepest motives. As for my animating force, it lies in the repugnance at the humanity that encircles us, a rage at the indolence of the rich who blithely build their happiness on the ruins of the joyless existence of the dehumanized multitude. My rage dissipates not one iota when I consider the extent of the squalor to which the oppressed are subjected. As they emerged from the mother’s womb, the haves and the have-nots are as indistinguishable as one egg is from another. And then, at the end of their miserable lives, spent as it is among the outcasts of society: slogging, these skeletons-the shadow remaining from an exhausting struggle for life-have scarcely enough money to bury their kin with dignity …

For, it is a great mistake … that anarchism means individualism and therefore stands, when so misunderstood, in opposition to socialism. Certainly, socialism for us means something quite different from the “abolition of the private ownership of the means of production.” Our socialism doesn’t speak even of collective property, since behind it hides nothing other than the domination of a bureaucratic cabal . No, we speak rather of, to use Benedikt Friedlander’s [Iibertarian socialist (1866- 1 908)], delightful expression, the “ownerlessness of nature’s bounty.”
Insight alone tells him that the improvement of his economic lot, as present circumstances dictate, remains intimately linked with the success of vigorous mass actions by workers. As long as the owners and the powerful have at their disposal all of the means they allow themselves to uphold the wretched conditions of today, so too will organized people fight back with all allowable methods for the comprehensive improvement of their lot. We don’t preach class war but we acknowledge that it is often forced on the persons who desire an improvement in their condition. It isn’t a matter of the destruction of modern culture, it’s rather a matter of a vast army of those previously locked out, and who have by now acquired an appetite to also sit at the table and feast.


Anarchists do not comprise a political party, since our scorn for the state forecloses our treading on the same ground with it and especially since we despise bargaining and haggling. We Anarchists want to be preachers: a revolution of spirit is, for us, the first order. What end can come from the obstinacy of today’s elite when they repress the aspirations and desires of the masses of our people? We shall not abdicate responsibility, rather, we will quietly take it on, safe in the knowledge that future generations will thank us for helping them respect themselves once again . The consciousness that we will not only not see the culmination of our victory, but rather will suffer fresh disappointments and setbacks-to say nothing of persecution-will not hold us back. In spite of this, we will devote ourselves to our life’s work and to the expansion of enlightenment to all layers of society. We think, along with Schopenhauer: “Life is short and even though truth appears remote, the truth lives long: so tell the truth!” Of course, most anyone, after a bit of honest and courageous study, can name his own truth. Whoever believes it is in order to demand the imposition of “his Truth” along with the violent suppression of those with a divergent belief, may wish to wander down that road. The anarchists will walk down theirs.

Jean Grave, 1893

At the invitation of Elisee Reclus, Jean Grave (1854-1939) became the editor of Le Revolte [The Rebel] in 1883, after Kropotkin, one of its founding editors, and several other anarchists were imprisoned in France for advocating anarchy. In 1887, Grave changed the name of the publication to la Revolte {Revolt], which he continued to publish until it was suppressed by the French government in 1 894 and Grave was also imprisoned for publishing anarchist propaganda. He began a new paper in 1895, les Temps nouveaux {New Times], which lasted until the First World War in 1914, publishing the works of leading anarchist theorists, including Kropotkin and Reclus, as well as contemporary art and literature by anarchist artists and sympathizers, such as the painter, Camille Pissarro (1830- 1903), and the writer, Octave Mirbeau (1850-1917). The following excerpts are taken from Voltairine de Cleyre’s 1899 translation of Grave’s Moribund Society and Anarchy.

THE STRONGEST OBJECTION … persons have so far been able to bring against the Anarchists is to say to them, “Your theories are very fine, but they cannot be realized.” This is not an argument. “Why can they not be realized?” we ask, and instead of answering us with reasons they bring forward their fears. They tell us that with man’s evil nature it is to be feared that he would profit by his liberty to stop working altogether; that when no mediating power existed it might happen that the stronger would exploit the weaker, etc. The Anarchists have shown the lack of foundation for these fears by proving that this evil tendency in man, these shortcomings in his character, are stimulated and encouraged by the present social organization which sets one against the other, forcing them to tear from each other the pittance it apportions with such exceeding parsimony. They also show … that every social system based upon authority cannot but beget evil effects; since power is vested in persons subject to the same defects as other men, it is clear that if men do not know how to govern themselves, still less do they know how to govern others …

For our own part we are not exactly partisans of a propaganda accomplished by means of sonorous or sentimental phrases; their effect is to make people hope for an immediate triumph, which is impossible … Our ideal is to fulfill a less brilliant and grandiose task, but a more lasting one. Instead of confining our efforts to capturing people through sentiment, we seek above all to win them through logic and reason. We certainly do not want to underrate those whose ability consists in winning people through an appeal to feeling. To
each his task, according to his temperament and his conceptions. But for ourselves we p refer securing conviction rather than belief All those who take part in the propaganda should know what difficulties await them, that they may be ready to meet them and not be discouraged by the first obstacle in the way …

Another very generally accepted prejudice among Anarchists is to consider the
masses as plastic dough, which may be molded at will and about which there is no necessity of troubling oneself. This notion comes from the fact that, having made one
step in advance of the rest, these people consider themselves in a way as prophets,
and as much more intelligent than common mortals. “We shall make the masses do so-and-so,” “we shall lead them at our backs ,” etc. Verily a dictator would not talk differently.

This way of regarding the masses is an inheritance from our authoritarian past. Not that we wish to deny the influence of minorities upon the crowd; it is because we are convinced of such influence that we are so concerned. But we think that, in the time of revolution, the only weight the Anarchists can have with the masses will be through action: putting our ideas in practice, preaching by example; by this means only can the crowd be led. Yet we should be thoroughly aware that, in spite of all, these acts will have no effect upon the masses unless their understanding has been thoroughly prepared by a clear and well-defined propaganda, unless they themselves stand on their own feet, prompted by ideas previously received. Now, if we shall succeed in disseminating our ideas, their influence will make itself felt; and it is only on condition that we know how to explain and render them comprehensible that we shall have any chance of sharing in the social transformation. Hence we need not be afraid of not obtaining followers, but rather to be on the watch for hindrance from those who consider themselves leaders.

In times of revolution its precursors are always outdone by the masses. Let us spread our ideas, explain them, elucidate them, remodel them if necessary. Let us not fear to look the truth in the face. And this propaganda, far from alienating the adherents of our cause, cannot but help to attract thereto all who thirst after justice and liberty.

Luigi Galleani, 1907

Luigi Galleani (1861-1931) was an intransigent Italian anarchist communist critical of all conventional organization, including trade unions and any attempts to create any “anarchist party.” Although published in 1 925, The End of Anarchism actually dates from 1907. Malatesta, one of the “organizationalists” criticized by Galleani, nevertheless described it as “a clear, serene, eloquent exposition of communist anarchism, ” although he personally found it “too optimistic, too simplistic and too trusting in natural harmonies”.

A farmer who lives in an Alpine valley, in the present conditions of his development, may have satisfied all his needs-eaten, drunk, and rested to his heart’s content; while a worker who lives in London, in Paris, or in Berlin, may willingly give up a quarter of his salary and several hours of his rest, in order to satisfy a whole category of needs totally unknown to the farmer stranded among the gorges of the Alps or the peaks of the Apennine mountains-to spend an hour of intense and moving life at the theatre, at the museum or at the library, to buy a recently published book or the  latest issue of a newspaper, to enjoy a performance of Wagner or a lecture at the Sorbonne.

Since these needs vary, not only according to time and place, but also according to the temperament, disposition and development of each individual, it is clear that only he or she who experiences and feels them is in a position to appreciate them and to measure adequately the satisfaction they may give.

Therefore, in drawing the measure of each person’s share in the total social production from need, from the complex and infinite needs of each organism, rather than from the social use-value of each one’s labour, anarchist-communism is inspired not only by a logical motive, but also by an eminently practical criterion of equality and justice …

In order to believe in the possibility, in the realization of a society without private property and without government, it is not necessary that men be angels. It will be enough that this society be capable of satisfying the needs of all its members on the land which has become again the great mother of us all, made fertile by human labour, redeemed from all humiliations and yokes. The bourgeois, who a re in a position to satisfy these needs in large measure are the best witnesses to the fact that if energy can be diverted, it cannot be constrained, so that our opponents’ fears of inertia and vagrancy are plainly absurd: fencing, horsemanship, boating, motoring, mountain-climbing, oceanic cruising, politics, diplomacy, philanthropy, tropical and polar expeditions are nothing but the different aspects, physical or intellectual, frivolous or noble, of the energy and vital exuberance which burst forth from the full satisfaction of needs enjoyed by the ruling classes.

When everyone’s physical, intellectual and moral needs are fully satisfied, we shall have in every human being the exuberance of energy that is at present the exclusive privilege of the ruling classes …

Jose Llunas Pujols, 1882

The anarchist movement in Spain developed out of the Spanish sections of the First International, which sided with the anti-authoritarian wing following the split in the International in 1872. The Spanish government attempted to suppress the International but by 1 881 the Spanish sections were revived under a new name, the Workers’ Federation of the Spanish Region.

“Our Anarchy is not disorder nor is it chaos as our foes maliciously imagine. The word Anarchy signifies non-government, for which reason we anarchists support the abolition of the political and juridical States currently in existence and seek to replace them with a free federation of free associations of free producers. In our organization, we already practice the anarchist principle, the most graphic expression of Freedom and Autonomy. Every individual is free and autonomous within his Section. The latter is free and autonomous within the Local Federation and within its Union, and the Local Federations
are free and autonomous within the Region; just as the Spanish Region is free and autonomous with regard to other regions where the federated workers are, as we are, sensible of the great need for our emancipation, the abolition of frontiers, and for the world, for humanity, to cease being divided into classes, all of which will melt back into that of the free producers.”

Elisee Reclus, 1894

In his time, Elisee Reclus (1830- 1905) was as venerated as Kropotkin by the international anarchist movement. Reclus had been associated with Bakunin in the First International and fought for the Paris Commune. He was one of the first anarchists to advocate libertarian communism, and to adapt Darwinian ideas regarding evolution to anarchist notions of revolution, seeing the latter as the outcome of multifarious, gradual, sometimes imperceptible and unconscious changes in society.

“Generally, no one has dared to prepare for a change of princes or dynasties without having paid homage or pledged obedience to some future sovereign. ”The king is dead! Long live the king!” cried the eternally loyal subjects even as they revolted. For many centuries this has been the unvarying course of history. “How could one possibly live without masters!” said the slaves, the spouses, the children, and the workers of the cities and countryside, as they quite deliberately placed their shoulders under the yoke, like the ox that pulls the plow …

In contrast to this instinct, anarchy truly represents a new spirit. ..

But where anarchist practice really triumphs is in the course of everyday life among common people who would not be able to endure their dreadful struggle for existence if they did not engage in spontaneous mutual aid, putting aside differences and conflicts of interest. When one of them falls ill, other poor people take in his children, feeding them, sharing the meager sustenance of the week, seeking to make ends meet by doubling their hours of work. A sort of communism is instituted among neighbors through lending, in which there is a constant coming and going of household implements and provisions. Poverty unites the unfortunate in a fraternal league. Together they are hungry; together they are satisfied. “

Pedro Kropotkin, 1892

By the 1880 ‘s Kropotkin had become one of the leading exponents of anarchist communism, the basic principles of which he set forth in a series of pamphlets and articles. In 1892 he published his most eloquent and influential argument for anarchist communism, The Conquest of Bread. It was soon translated into several languages and had a considerable impact on the anarchist movement, not only in Europe but also throughout Latin America and Asia, particularly China. The following excerpts are taken from the chapter on the wage system, which has been widely translated and published in pamphlet form. The “collectivists” Kropotkin refers to were for the most part Marxist state socialists.

“We have said that most Collectivist writers demand that in Socialist society remuneration should be based upon a distinction between qualified or professional labor and simple labor. They assert that an hour of the engineer’s, the architect’s or the doctor’s work should be counted as two or three hours’ work from the blacksmith, the mason or the nurse. And the same distinction, say they, ought to be established between workers whose trades require a longer or shorter apprenticeship and those who are mere day laborers.

Yes, but to establish this distinction is to maintain all the inequalities of our existing society. It is to trace out beforehand a demarcation between the worker and those who claim to rule him. It is still to divide society into two clearly defined classes: an aristocracy of knowledge above, a horny-handed democracy below; one class devoted to the service of the other; one class toiling with its hands to nourish and clothe the other, whilst that other profits by its leisure to learn how to dominate those who toil for it.

We know that if the engineer, the scientist and the doctor are paid today ten or a hundred times more than the laborer, and the weaver earns three times as much as the toiler in the fields and ten times as much as a match girl, it is not because what they receive is in proportion to their various costs of production. Rather it is in proportion to the extent of monopoly in education and in industry. The engineer, the scientist and the doctor simply draw their profits from their own sort of capital — their degree, their certificates — just as the manufacturer draws a profit from a mill, or as a nobleman used to do from his birth and title.

Where then is the sense of talking of the cost of production of labor force, and saying that a student who passes a merry youth at the University, has a right to ten times higher wages than the son of a miner who has pined in a pit since he was eleven? Or that a weaver has a right to wages three or four times higher than those of an agricultural laborer? The expenditure needed to produce a weaver is not four times as great as the necessary cost of producing a field worker. The weaver simply benefits by the advantageous position which industry enjoys in Europe as compared with parts of the world where at present there as yet no industries..

To make a distinction between simple and professional work in a new society
would result in the Revolution sanctioning and recognizing as a principle a brutal
fact we submit to nowadays, but that we nevertheless find unjust …

Services rendered to society, be they work in factory or field, or mental services, cannot be valued in money. There can be no exact measure of value (of what has been wrongly-termed exchange value), nor of use value, with regard to production. If two individuals work for the community five hours a day, year in year out, at different work which is equally agreeable to them, we may say that on the whole their labour is equivalent. But we cannot divide their work, and say that the result of any particular day, hour, or minute of work of the one is worth the result of a minute or hour of the other.

We may roughly say that the man who during his lifetime has deprived himself of leisure during ten hours a day has given far more to society than the one who has only deprived himself of leisure during five hours a day, or who has not deprived himself at all. But we cannot take what he has done during two hours and say that the yield is worth twice as much as the yield of another individual, working only one hour, and remunerate him in proportion. It would be disregarding all that is complex in industry, in agriculture, in the whole life of present society; it would be ignoring to what extent all individual work is the result of past and present labour of society as a whole. It would mean believing ourselves to be living in the Stone Age, whereas we are living in an age of steel.

If you enter a coal mine you will see a man in charge of a huge machine that raises and lowers a cage. In his hand he holds a lever that stops and reverses the course of the machine; he lowers it and the cage turns back in the twinkling of an eye; he raises it, he lowers it again with a giddy swiftness. All attention he follows with his eyes fixed on the wall an indicator that shows him, on a small scale, at which point of the shaft the cage is at each second of its progress; as soon as the indicator has reached a certain level he suddenly stops the course of the cage, not a yard higher nor lower than the required spot. And no sooner have the colliers unloaded their coal-wagons, and pushed empty ones instead, than he reverses the lever and again sends the cage back into space.

During eight or ten consecutive hours he must pay the closest attention. Should his brain relax for a moment, the cage would inevitably strike against the gear, break its wheels, snap the rope, crush men, and obstruct work in the mine. Should he waste three seconds at each touch of the lever, in our modern perfected mines, the extraction would be reduced from twenty to fifty tons a day.

Is it he who is of greatest use in the mine? Or, is it perhaps the boy who signals to him from below to raise the cage? Is it the miner at the bottom of the shaft, who risks his life every instant, and who will some day be killed by fire damp? Or is it the engineer, who would lose the layer of coal, and would cause the miners to dig on rock by a simple mistake in his calculations? And lastly, is it the mine owner who has put all his capital into the mine, and who has perhaps, contrary to expert advice asserted that excel lent coal would be found there?

All the miners engaged in this mine contribute to the extraction of coal in proportion
to their strength, their energy, their knowledge, their intelligence, and their skill. And we may say that all have the right to live, to satisfy their needs, and even their whims, when the necessaries of life have been secured for all. But how can we appraise their work?

And, moreover, is the coal they have extracted their work? Is it not also the work of men who have built the railway leading to the mine and the roads that radiate from all its stations? Is it not also the work of those that have tilled and sown the fields, extracted iron, cut wood in the forests, built the machines that burn coal, and so on?

No distinction can be drawn between the work of each man. Measuring the work by its results leads us to absurdity; dividing and measuring them by the hours spent on the work also leads us to absurdity. One thing remains: put the needs above the works, and first of all recognize the right to live, and later on, to the comforts of life, for all those who take their share in production. ”


Carlo Cafiero, 1880

In 1876, various anarchists, such as Elisee Reclus, then a refugee from the Paris Commune, Francois Dumartheray and L ‘Avenir section of French refugees in Switzerland, and the Italian Federation of the anti-authoritarian International, began to advocate “anarchist communism, “the revolutionary abolition of the state and wage labour, voluntary association and distribution according to need. Carlo Cafiero (1846-1892), Bakunin ‘s former comrade and one of the leading militants of the Italian Federation, together with Errico Malatesta, was instrumental in convincing the Italian Federation to adopt an anarchist communist stance.

At a congress held in Paris by the Centre region, one speaker, who stood out because of his fierceness against anarchists, said: “Communism and anarchy would scream to find themselves together.”

Another speaker who also spoke against anarchists, though less harshly, cried out, in speaking of economic equality:

“How can liberty be violated, if equality exists?”

Well! I think that both speakers are wrong.

There can absolutely be economic equality, without having liberty in the slightest. Certain religious communities are living proof of this, because the most complete equality exists there as well as despotism. Complete equality, because the leader dresses himself in the same cloth and eats at the same table as the others; he distinguishes himself in no other way than by his right to command. And the supporters of the “Popular state?” If they did not meet obstacles of any sort, I am certain that they would eventually achieve perfect equality, but at the same time as perfect despotism, because, let us not forget, the despotism of the present State would augment economic despotism of all capital that passed through the hands of the State, and all would be multiplied by all the centralization necessary to this new State. And that is why we, the anarchists, friends of liberty, propose an all-out attack on them.

Thus, contrary to what was said, we have perfect reason to fear for liberty, even where equality exists; though there can be no fear for equality anywhere where true liberty exists, that is to say, anarchy.

Finally, anarchy and communism, far from screaming to find themselves together, would scream at not finding themselves together, because these two terms, synonyms of liberty and equality, are the two necessary and indivisible terms of the revolution.

Our ideal revolutionary is very simple, we will see: he is composed, like all of our predecessors, of these two terms: liberty and equality. Only there is a slight difference.

Educated by the dodging that reactionaries of all sorts and of all times have done of liberty and equality, we are wise to place next to these two terms an expression of their exact value.

We thus place, next to these two terms: liberty and equality, two equivalents of which the clear significance cannot give rise to ambiguity, and we say: “We want liberty, that is to say, anarchy, and equality, that is to say, communism.”

Anarchy today is an attack, a war against all authority, against all power, against all States. In future societies, anarchy will be a defense, the prevention brought against the reestablishment of all authority, of all power, of any State: full and entire liberty of the individual who, freely and pushed only by his needs, by his tastes and his liking, combines with other individuals in groups or partnership; free development of partnership which federates itself with others in the commune or in the neighborhood; free development of communes which federate themselves in the region – and so on: regions in the nation, nations in humanity.

Communism, the question that occupies us most specifically today, is the second point of our ideal revolutionary.

Communism today is still an attack; it is not the destruction of authority, but the taking, in the name of humanity, of all the wealth that exists on the globe. In the society of the future, communism will be the enjoyment of all existing wealth, by all men and according to the principle: From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs, that is to say: from each to each according to his will.

It is necessary to remark – and this responds to our adversaries, authoritarian and statist communists – that the taking of possession and the enjoyment of all existing wealth must be, according to us, the doing of the people themselves. The people, humanity, not being individuals capable of seizing wealth and taking it into their own two hands, we must conclude, it is true, that it is necessary, for this reason, to institute a ruling class, of representatives and agents of the common wealth. But we do not share this opinion. No intermediaries, no representatives who always end up representing nobody but themselves! No moderators of equality, moreover, no moderators of liberty! No new government, no new state, whether it calls itself popular or democratic, revolutionary or provisional.

The common wealth being disseminated over the whole world, all rights to it belonging to the entirety of humanity, those thus who find themselves on the level of this wealth and in a position to use it will use it in common. People of such a land will use the planet, the machines, the workshops, the houses, etc., of the land and will serve everyone in common of them. Parts of humanity, they will exercise here, de facto and directly, their right to a part of the human wealth. But if a resident of Peking came into this land, he would find himself with the same rights as the others: he would enjoy with the others all the richness of the country, in the same way that he did at Peking.

He was thus quite confused, that speaker who denounced anarchists as wanting to set up property as belonging to corporations. Wouldn’t that be wonderful, if we had destroyed the State to replace it with a multitude of smaller States! To kill the monster with one head to entertain the monster with a thousand heads!

No, we have said it, and we will not stop saying it: no go-betweens, no brokers or helpful servants who always end up becoming the true masters: we want all the wealth existent to be taken directly by the people themselves and to be kept by their powerful hands, and that the people themselves decide the best way to enjoy it, be it for production or consumption.

But people ask us: is communism applicable? Would we have enough products to let everyone have the right to take as they wished, without demanding from individuals more labor than they are willing to give?

We respond: yes. Certainly, we can apply this principle: from each according to their ability, to each according to their need, because, in future societies, production will be so abundant that there will be no need to limit consumption, or to demand from people more work than they are willing or able to give.

Right now, we cannot even begin to imagine this immense growth in production, but we can guess at it by examining the causes that will provoke it. These causes can be summed up in three principles:

1. Harmony of cooperation in the different branches of human activity will replace today’s fighting that translates into competition

2. Large-scale introduction of all kinds of machines

3. The considerable conservation of the forces of labor and of raw materials, facilitated by the abolition of harmful or useless production.

Competition, fighting, is one of the fundamental principles of capitalist production, which has as its motto: Mors tua vita mea, your death is my life. The ruin of one makes the fortune of another. And this relentless fight happens from nation to nation, from region to region, from individual to individual, between workers as well as between capitalists. It’s a war of the knife, a combat of all forms: body to body, by groups, by squads, by army corps. A worker finds work where another has lost it; one industry or many industries prosper where other industries decline.

Well! Imagine when, in the society of the future, this individualistic principle of capitalist production, every man for himself against all others, and everyone against everyone, will be replaced by the true principle of human society: all for one and one for all – what immense changes will we not obtain in the results of production? Imagine how great will be the growth of production, when each man, far from needing to fight against all the others, will be helped by them, when he will have them not as enemies but as cooperators. If the collective work of ten men attains results absolutely impossible for one man alone, how grand will be the results obtained by the large-scale cooperation of all men who, today, work hostilely against each other?

And machines? The appearance of these powerful helpers of work, as large as it seems to us today, is quite minimal in comparison to what it will be in societies to come.

Today, the machine often has the ignorance of the capitalist against it, but more often still his interest. How many machines are going unapplied only because they do not bring an immediate benefit to the capitalist?

Will a coal mining company, for example, go to great expense to safeguard the interests of the workers and construct costly apparatuses to help the miners descend into the shafts? Will the municipality introduce a machine to break rocks, when this work gives it the means to give cheap alms to the starving? So many discoveries, so many applications of science go unheeded, only because they do not bring enough to the capitalist!

The worker himself is today the enemy of machines, and rightfully so, because they are to him the monster that comes to chase him from use, to starve him, to degrade him, to torture him, to crush him. And what an immense interest he would have, on the contrary, in augmenting their number when he will no longer be at the service of machines; on the contrary, they would be at his service, helping him and working for his well-being!

Finally, it is necessary to take into account the huge savings that will be made on the three elements of work: the force, the instruments and the material, which are horribly wasted today, because they are used for the production of absolutely useless things, when they are not harmful to humanity.

How many workers, how much material, and how many tools are used today by the armies of the land and sea to build ships, fortresses, cannons, and all these arsenals of offensive and defensive arms! How many of these forces are wasted to produce luxury objects that serve nothing but the needs of vanity and corruption!

And when all this force, all these materials, all these tools are used for industry, for the production of objects that themselves will serve to produce, what a prodigious growth in production we will see appearing!

Yes, communism is applicable! We can of course let everyone take according to their will, since there will be enough for everyone. We will no longer need to demand more work than anyone wants to give, because there will always be enough products for tomorrow.

And it’s thanks to this abundance that work will lose the dreadful character of enslavement, in leaving to it only the charm of a moral and physical need, like that of studying, of living with nature.

This is not just to say that communism is possible; we can affirm that it is necessary. Not only may we be communist; we must be communist, or else risk missing the point of the revolution.

In effect, after the collectivization of tools and raw materials, if we conserve the individual appropriation of products of work, we will find ourselves forced to save money, subsequently an accumulation of greater or lesser wealth, according more or less to merit, or rather, to the skill, of individuals. Equality would thus have disappeared, because those who had managed to accumulate more wealth would already have been thus elevated above the level of the others. There would no longer remain more than one step before counter-revolutionaries could establish the right of heritage. And, in effect, I heard a renowned socialist, a so-called revolutionary, who supported the individual attribution of products, finish by saying that he saw no drawbacks of a society that accepted the passing on of these products by inheritance: this, according to him, would be unlikely to have any repercussions. For those of us who know closely the results at which society has arrived with this accumulation of wealth and their passing on by inheritance, there can be no doubt on this subject.

But the individual attribution of products would re-establish not only inequality among men, but also inequality among different forms of work. We would almost immediately see the reappearance of “clean” and “dirty” work, of “noble” and “dreadful” work: the former would be done by the rich, the latter would be the assignment of the poor. So it would no longer be calling and taste that led a man to dedicate himself to one type of activity as opposed to another: it would be self-interest, the hope of gaining more in a certain profession. In this way, laziness and diligence, merit and lack of merit, good and bad, vice and virtue, and, by consequence, “reward” on one hand and “punishment” on the other, the law, the judge, the henchman, the prison, would all reappear.

There are socialists who cling to supporting the idea of individual attribution of products of work, arguing the sense of justice.

Strange illusion! With collective work, that imposes upon us the necessity of large-scale production and large-scale implementation of machines, with this ever-growing tendency of modern work to serve itself of the work of preceding generations – how will we be able to determine which parts of the product belong to whom? It’s absolutely impossible, and our adversaries themselves know this so well that they end up saying “Well, we will use as a basis for distribution the hours spent working,” but, at the same time, they themselves admit that this would be unjust, because three hours of work from Pierre might produce as much as five hours of work from Paul.

In the old days, we called ourselves “collectivists” because this was the word that distinguished us from individualists and from authoritarian communists; but, in the end, we were all quite simply anti-authoritarian communists, and, in calling ourselves “collectivists,” we thought we were expressing by this name our idea that everything must be pooled, without distinguishing between the instruments and materials of work and the products of collective work.

But, one day, we saw a new shade of socialists sprout up who, resuscitating the errors of the past, admiring themselves philosophizing, distinguishing themselves on this question, finished by making themselves the apostles of the following thesis:

“There exist,” they say, “use value and production value. Use value is that which we use to satisfy our personal needs: the house we live in, the food we consume, clothing, books, etc., while production value is that which we use to produce: it is the workshop, the sheds, the cowshed, the warehouse, the machines and tools of all sorts of work, the sun, raw materials, etc. The former, which serve to satisfy the needs of the individual,” they say, “must be attributed to the individual, while the latter, which help everyone to produce, should be commonly owned.”

This is the newly discovered – or rather, renewed as needed – economic theory.

But I ask you, you who give the favorable title of “production value” to the carbon that feeds machines, to the oil that serves to oil it, to the oil that illuminates its work – why do you refuse this title to bread, to the meat I eat, to the oil with which I season my salad, to the gas that illuminates my work, to all that aids the living and working of that most perfect of all machines, the father of all machines: the man?

You class as production value the meadow and the stable that serve to shelter cows and horses, and you exclude the houses and the gardens that serve the most noble of all the animals: the man?

Where is your logic?

Besides, you yourselves who imagine yourselves as the apostles of this theory, you know perfectly well that this demarcation does not exist in reality, and that if it is difficult to draw it today, it will disappear completely the day that we are all producers as well as being consumers.

Thus, it is not this theory, we see, which could give a new force to the supporters of individual attributions of the products of labor. This theory has only obtained one result: that of unmasking the game of these few socialists who would like to limit the range of revolutionary thought; it has opened our eyes and shown us the necessity of saying straight out that we are communists.

But finally, let’s address the one and only serious objection that our adversaries have brought against communism.

We all agree that we are necessarily moving towards communism, but we observe that at the beginning, products will not be abundant enough; it will be necessary to establish rations and to divide up resources, and that the best part of the products of labor will be based on the quantity of work that each person has done.

To this we respond that, in a future society, even when we are obligated to ration resources, we must remain communists: this is to say that the rationing must be done according not to merits, but to needs.

Take the family, that small model of communism (of an authoritarian communism more than anarchist, it is true, which, besides, in our example, changes nothing).

In the family, let’s suppose that the father brings home a hundred cents every day, the eldest son three francs, a younger boy forty cents, and the youngest only five cents a day. Each brings this money to the mother who keeps the cash and feeds them. Everyone earns different amounts, but at dinner, everyone serves themselves as they please according to their appetites; there is no rationing. But the bad days come, and being entirely broke forces the mother to no longer rely on the appetite and taste of each person for distribution at dinner. It is necessary to ration and, be it by the initiative of the mother or by the tacit agreement of the whole table, the portions are reduced. But see, this sharing does not happen according to earnings, because it’s the youngest children who receive the most generous helpings, and the best piece of the meat is reserved for the old woman who earns nothing at all. Even during a food shortage, the family operates on the principle of rationing according to needs. Could it be otherwise in the human family of the future?

It is obvious that there would be more to say on this subject, if I were not speaking in front of anarchists.

We cannot be anarchists without being communists. In effect, the slightest idea of limitation already contains the seeds of authoritarianism. It could not be realized without immediately creating the law, the judge, the policeman.

We must be communists because it is in communism that we will realize true equality. We must be communists because the people, who do not understand the collectivist sophistry, understand communism perfectly, as our friends Reclus and Kropotkin have already remarked. We must be communists, because we are anarchists, because anarchy and communism are the two terms necessary for the revolution.


Bakunin, 1871

“All that individuals can do is formulate, clarify, and propagate ideas expressing the instinctive desires of the people, and contribute their constant efforts to the revolutionary organization of the natural powers of the masses. This and nothing more; all the rest can be accomplished only by the people themselves. Otherwise we would end up with a political dictatorship – the reconstitution of the State, with all its privileges, inequalities, and oppressions; by taking a devious but inevitable path we would come to reestablish the political, social, and economic slavery of the masses.

Contrary to the belief of authoritarian communists – which I deem completely wrong – that a social revolution must be decreed and organized either by a dictatorship or by a constituent assembly emerging from a political revolution, our friends, the Paris socialists, believed that revolution could neither he made nor brought to its full development except by the spontaneous and continued action of the masses, the groups and the associations of the people.

Our Paris friends were right a thousand times over. In fact, where is the mind, brilliant as it may be, or – if we speak of a collective dictatorship, even if it were formed of several hundred individuals endowed with superior mentalities – where are the intellects powerful enough to embrace the infinite multiplicity and diversity of real interests, aspirations, wishes, and needs which sum up the collective will of the people? And to invent a social organization that will not be a Procrustean bed upon which the violence of the State will more or less overtly force unhappy society to stretch out? It has always been thus, and it is exactly this old system of organization by force that the Social Revolution should end by granting full liberty to the masses, the groups, the communes, the associations and to the individuals as well; by destroying once and for all the historic cause of all violence, which is the power and indeed the mere existence of the State. Its fall will bring down with it all the inequities of the law and all the lies of the various religions, since both law and religion have never been anything but the compulsory consecration, ideal and real, of all violence represented, guaranteed, and protected by the State.

The future social organization should be carried out from the bottom up, by the free association or federation of workers, starting with the associations, then going on to the communes, the regions, the nations, and, finally, culminating in a great international and universal federation. It is only then that the true, life-giving social order of liberty and general welfare will come into being, a social order which, far from restricting, will affirm and reconcile the interests of individuals and of society.”

The St. Imier Congress, 1872

A General Congress of the International was held at the Hague in 1872. but instead of dealing with the concerns of the anti-authoritarian, federalist Sections, Marx and his supporters had Bakunin and James Guillaume, one of the most active members of the Jura Federation, expelled from the International on trumped up charges. And then had the seat of the International transferred to New York rather than risk losing control of the organization. The anti-authoritarians responded by holding their own Congress at St. Imier in Switzerland, where they reconstituted the International along anti-authoritarian lines. Ironically, despite Marx and Engel’s claims that the anti-authoritarians wanted to replace the organization of the International with anarchy and chaos, or worse, the personal dictatorship of Bakunin, the anti-authoritarian international outlived by several years the one transferred at Marx and Engel’s instigation to New York, where it soon expired. Needless to say, Bakunin never assumed
personal control of the anti-authoritarian International, from which he withdrew in 1873, and it had no difficulty continuing on without him.

 “As we see it, the worker will never be able to free himself of the age-old oppression,
unless he replaces that insatiable, demoralizing body [the state] with a free federation of
all producer groups on a footing of solidarity and equality. Consequently, by leaving the details of positive organization to be worked out by the Social Revolution, we intend to organize and marshal resistance on a broad scale. We regard the strike as a precious weapon in the struggle, but we have no illusions about its economic results. We embrace it as a product of the antagonism between labor and capital, the necessary consequence of which is to make workers more and more alive to the gulf that exists between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, to bolster the toilers’ organization, and, by dint of ordinary economic struggles, to prepare the proletariat for the great and final revolutionary contest which, destroying all privilege and all class difference, will bestow upon the worker a right to the enjoyment of the gross product of his labors and thereby the means of developing his full intellectual , material and moral powers in a collective setting.”