Malatesta

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!

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