The grotesque wrongness of Marxism

There is something about the mainstream Marxist “Left” that turns the stomach of many an anarchist.

It’s not simply the blinkered obsession with “organising in the workplace”, the permanent party recruitment drives, the endless time-wasting loop of electoral hope and disappointment, or the depressing and disempowering officially-authorised and heavily-stewarded marches that culminate in the inevitable tedium of the same old faces delivering the same old pointless speeches.

There is something else, something even greater than the sum of all these, which pollutes the very atmosphere of this pseudo-radical sub-culture. And this “something” is essentially a “nothing”, an absence or void which sucks into it all the superficially good intent of the politicking around it.

One anarchist who brilliantly described this phenomenon was Gustav Landauer. And the fact that he did so 100 years ago goes to show that there is nothing new or passing about the failings of the Left.

In his brilliant booklet For Socialism, (which he updated just before he was murdered by proto-fascists in 1919) he contrasted his own anarchist-socialism with the Marxist version.

This ideological broadside was born specifically out of his frustration with the Social Democratic Party in Germany, but his criticism of Marxist ideology itself went much deeper and is every bit as relevant today.

Landauer said that by insisting that socialism can only result from the rise and fall of capitalism, Marxism had declared itself dependent on capitalism, rather than a completely opposing tendency.

It even shared the capitalist mindset of regarding human life and relationships in purely mechanical terms.

He rejected the “the grotesque wrongness of their materialist conception of history” in which Marxists reduced everything to “what they call economic and social reality”.

For Landauer, greater and much more powerful factors were at work in society, on which he rested his hopes of revolution. He wrote constantly about the existence of Geist, or spirit, as the force capable of inspiring a revolt with the necessary vitality and resonance to overthrow the capitalist order.

But this element of human culture had no place in Marxism, which Landauer condemned as “a negating, destructive and crippling appeal to impotence, lack of will, surrender and indifference”.

He noted: “The Marxists have, in their declarations and views, excluded the spirit for a very natural, indeed almost excellent material reason: namely, because they have no spirit”.

LandauerAufruf

Landauer was, of course, far from the only anarchist to have criticised the Left on these grounds.

Bakunin, for instance, described a number of “natural traits” ignored by Marxist theory, including “the intensity of the instinct of revolt, and by the same token, of liberty, with which it is endowed or which it has conserved. This instinct is a fact which is completely primordial and animal; one finds it in different degrees in every living being, and the energy, the vital power of each is to be measured by its intensity”.

Emma Goldman, too, described her first impressions of Marxism as “colourless and mechanistic”, in stark contrast to the “beautiful ideal” of anarchism to which she dedicated her life.

But, unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped anarchists from making the same mistakes and, by mimicking Marxist approaches, undermining the vital spirit which historically inspires anarchism.

It seems this process was already happening in Landauer’s day – he refers disparagingly to “the syndicalists and the anarcho-socialists, recently so-called by a pitiful misuse of two noble names” as the Marxists’ “brothers” and specifically extends his condemnation to all Marxists “whether they call themselves Social Democrats or anarchists”.

Since then, with the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia and the 20th century predominance of Marxist ideas in anti-capitalist thought, the problem has probably got worse.

We have all encountered quasi-anarchists who shy away from labelling themselves as such, who are keen to disassociate themselves from “illegal” revolutionary activity, who insist on constraining and confining the scope of anarchist thought within the narrow boxes they have drawn for it.

At the same time there have been, and always will be, anarchists who feel in their blood that their beliefs are infinitely wider and deeper than such limited outlooks can ever concede.

The Russian anarchist Voline and other comrades, for instance, had this to say in response to the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists, written by the Dielo Truda group of Russian exiles in 1926: “To maintain that anarchism is only a theory of classes is to limit it to a single viewpoint. Anarchism is more complex and pluralistic, like life itself.

“Its class element is above all its means of fighting for liberation; its humanitarian character is its ethical aspect, the foundation of society; its individualism is the goal of mankind”.

A quarter of a century after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there are signs that Marxism’s grip on global anti-capitalist thinking is finally loosening.

Now is the perfect time for anarchists to shake ourselves free of its deadening influence, distance ourselves from the tired reformist rhetoric of the political Left and rekindle the revolutionary fire of the timeless anarchist spirit once embraced by the likes of Bakunin, Goldman and Landauer.

Adapted from The Stifled Soul of Humankind

Anarchy is Life!

We are living today in a corrupt and debased civilization. Shallow and amoral, its vision is built not on any sense of value but merely on a grasping love of money and power. Worse than that, this civilization tells us time and time again that there is no other possible way of living than its own, that we can never even dream of an alternative, let alone bring one about.

In the face of all this, something quite extraordinary is called for. What we need is a collective cry of courageous refusal; a ruthless and relentless rebuttal that slices through the centuries-old layers of lies; an ebullient and explosive ethos that blasts apart the ill-founded illusion of democracy and consensus; a fearless and flaming surge of authenticity that dares to expose the wretched relic of a humanity reduced to a state of near-fatal despair and disease by the forces of tyranny, violence, exploitation and greed.

Luckily, we already have such a set of ideas, such a movement, in the shape of anarchism. In the blood of each and every anarchist flows the need to question everything, to accept no limits to the freedom of the individual and – therefore, as a logical consequence – the community.

The anarchist does not merely stray outside the framework of acceptable thinking as carefully assembled by the current system – she smashes it to pieces and dances on the wreckage.

No assumption is left unchallenged, no state of affairs regarded as inevitable, no righteous struggle not considered worth waging, no future seen as unreachable. It is not for nothing that street posters in Paris during the uprisings of 1968 declared: “Be realistic – demand the impossible!”. This is the whole energy unleashed by the call-to-arms of anarchy: the perpetual power of possibilities denied but never dead.

The philosophical pillars of our prison-society have been rocked time and time again by the eloquence of these critics. Leo Tolstoy warned us that we are being ruled “by means of organized violence” and Alexander Berkman told us that whatever kind of authority we are up against, “it is always the same executioner wielding power over you through your fear of punishment in one form or another”.

There is no more powerful life experience for an anarchist than the realisation that all they have been brought up to believe is false, and Emile Henry – a brilliant young student in Paris in the final decade of the 19th century – was no exception.

He recalled: “I had been told that our social institutions were founded on justice and equality; I observed all around me nothing but lies and impostures… I brought with me into the struggle a profound hatred which every day was renewed by the spectacle of this society where everything is base, everything is equivocal, everything is ugly, where everything is an impediment to the outflow of human passions, to the generous impulses of the heart, to the free flight of thought”.

From its earliest beginnings, anarchism has rejected the idea that certain privileged people can “own” parts of the surface of the planet to the detriment of others, and has looked forward to a tomorrow where property and its associated evils have been abolished.

Following in the footsteps of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who famously defined property as theft, Gustav Landauer wrote at the start of the 20th century: “All ownership of things, all land-ownership is in reality ownership of men. Whoever withholds the earth from others, from the masses, forces these others to work for him. Private ownership is theft and slave-holding”.

There is no room here to detail all the areas of contemporary life in which anarchy contests the capitalist con-sensus. It rejects the idea that in order to be able to survive on this planet we must submit to “working” for someone else’s profit.

It stands resolutely opposed to the cynical conversion of natural solidarity into a fake sense of collective identity termed “patriotism” and the warmongering this is used to justify.

Glorying in the variety of human manifestation, it fiercely refuses to allow people to be pigeon-holed, classified, condemned, allocated or stigmatised on account of their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical abilities or other individual difference, whether innate or chosen.

Most fundamentally, of course, anarchism is opposed to the existence of a state – the main heresy for which it is attacked by the Establishment. Once the fantasy has been dispelled that people need the state, rather than the other way round, the house of cards of authority and obedience will quickly tumble.

It will not be easy to rid the people of this notion, though, as Errico Malatesta explained when he imagined a man whose legs had been tied up from birth, but managed to hobble around anyway. He might believe, like the citizen does of a state, that it was necessary to be tied up: “Suppose a doctor brought forward a complete theory, with a thousand ably invented illustrations, to persuade the man with bound limbs that, if his limbs were freed, he could not walk, or even live. The man would defend his bands furiously and consider anyone his enemy who tried to tear them off”.

Always we see the anarchist mind leaping over the walls with which society would confine it, seeing afresh what others have always taken for granted, looking around itself in puzzlement at the holes humanity has dug for itself and fashioning, from its insights, rope ladders of thought with which we might save ourselves.

Take, for instance an article by George Woodcock on the way in which modern Western life is run according to the mechanical and mathematical symbols of clock time. He wrote: “In a sane and free society such an arbitrary domination of man by man-made machines is even more ridiculous than the domination of man by man. Complete liberty implies freedom from the tyranny of abstractions as well as from the rule of men”.

Freedom from the tyranny of abstractions – nowhere is the overarching ambition of anarchist thought more vividly expressed than here! Here is a political ideology that is ready to soar into the realm of philosophy without pausing for breath, calling for humanity to escape from the unimaginative, functional, narrowness of the capitalist mindset.

Gustav Landauer

“Anarchy is life; the life that awaits us after we have freed ourselves from the yoke”

Bakunin condemned those who hide behind the mask of science to flatten out our lives and our dreams, calling for a “revolt of life” against this dogmatic tyranny. Landauer echoed his call by declaring that “anarchy is life; the life that awaits us after we have freed ourselves from the yoke,” and here we see the motivation and meaning behind all the rejection of contemporary society and its stifling norms.

For an anarchist, this is not how things are meant to be; this is not how we are all meant to live. Like Malatesta’s bound man, others hobble on towards their deaths believing that this is life as it has to be, accepting the slave-masters’ reassurances that there is no alternative on offer; that we should all be grateful to them for keeping us alive; that the whips, chains and CCTV cameras are all provided for our own safety; that there is no other road than this one, no finer task than breaking rocks, no possible place out there to which we could escape – that there is simply no such thing as freedom.

For an anarchist, the tender green shoot of each new-born child, the precious potential of each wonderfully unique and beautiful human being, is blocked, crushed, destroyed by the steel toe-capped boots of capitalism. Emma Goldman said that the health of society could be measured by a person’s “individuality and the extent to which it is free to have its being, to grow and expand unhindered by invasive and coercive authority”, and Landauer wrote that “anarchism’s lone objective is to end the fight of men against men and to unite humanity so that each individual can unfold his natural potential without obstruction”.

This, ultimately, is what anarchists mean by freedom. The freedom to be what we are meant to be, to become what we were born and destined by nature to become, if we had not been thwarted and distorted by this capitalist civilization. Left to our own devices, freed from the control of rulers and exploiters, we individuals would co-operate and combine in the way that we were intended to, in the same way as our fellow creatures, plants, insects, fungi and microbes. This is the basis of the classic anarchist argument for a stateless society founded on mutual aid and solidarity. As Bakunin said: “Nature, notwithstanding the inexhaustible wealth and variety of beings of which it is constituted, does not by any means present chaos, but instead a magnificently organized world wherein every part is logically correlated to all the other parts”.

Natural laws – these are the basis of the anarchist vision of a proper society and the reason why we reject the man-made variety as imposters and destroyers of all that is good and true and real. They are the interwoven and infinitely complex limbs of a living community, a vital entity that is the only form of “authority” that anarchists can respect, with the difference between a governmental society and an anarchic society being, as Woodcock said, “the difference between a structure and an organism”.

Rejecting the pitiful idea that we come into this world devoid of purpose and principle, helplessly amoral blank sheets of living paper on which the state, in its wisdom, must write down the rules by which it demands we should live, anarchists know that inherent laws have already laid down a sense of justice in our souls.

It is precisely because we already know true justice – in our blood, in our bones, in our guts, in our dreams – that anarchists are so revolted by the sick parody that is served up to us by the state.

Our innate sense of right and wrong is mortally offended and the pressure of a true justice repressed, of a natural inner authority denied, of inherent laws smothered, builds up in our spirits – individually and en masse, consciously and unconsciously – and becomes the force behind the need for revolution. This force becomes a living entity itself – not the passive, patient entity that would animate human societies in times when all was going as it should, but an active, dynamic entity that has formed itself with the one purpose of breaking through the obstruction to life that it finds blocking nature’s path.

For Landauer, this revolutionary entity becomes a source of cohesion, purpose and love – “a spiritual pool” – for a humanity stranded in a desolate and despotic age: “It is in revolution’s fire, in its enthusiasm, its brotherhood, its aggressiveness that the image and the feeling of positive unification awakens; a unification that comes through a connecting quality: love as force”.

This raw, spiritual, power of revolutionary enthusiasm can enable anarchy to turn its theoretical rejection of the chains of our fake society into a real one. That enthusiasm, that fire, that aggressiveness, can be shared by real people, in real towns and cities who take to real streets with real intent. What other hope for change is there than this joyous release of the mighty dammed-up waters of justice, of nature, of life?

Emile Henry, the young Parisian student dismayed by the sick society that he saw around him, was impelled by that same force of revolution to hurl himself at corrupt society and try to spark uprising through propaganda by deed. After killing several policemen with a bomb in the offices of a mining company renowned for strike-breaking, and then targeting the swanky upper class Café Terminus with another attentat, he was guillotined at the age of 22 in 1894.

At his trial he was unrepentant for the deaths he had caused, comparing them with the countless lives taken and destroyed by the callous state-capitalist system (which at the time had been brutally targeting anarchists) and was defiantly confident that the cause for which he was to die would one day triumph over its powerful foes.

Henry told his prosecutors: “You have hanged in Chicago, decapitated in Germany, garotted in Jerez, shot in Barcelona, guillotined in Montbrison and Paris, but what you will never destroy is anarchy. Its roots are too deep. It is born in the heart of a society that is rotting and falling apart… It is everywhere, which makes it impossible to contain. It will end by killing you”.

This text has been adapted and abbreviated from Chapter V of The Anarchist Revelation by Paul Cudenec, published by Winter Oak. See book for full references.

L’anarchie, c’est la vie!

Nous vivons aujourd’hui au sein d’une civilisation corrompue et avilie. Superficielle et amorale, sa vision est construite non sur quelque sens des valeurs mais seulement sur un amour avide de l’argent et du pouvoir. Pire que cela, cette civilisation ne cesse de nous répéter qu’il n’y a aucune manière de vivre que la sienne, qu’il nous est à jamais impossible de rêver d’une alternative, sans même parler d’en créer une.

Face à tout cela, quelque chose d’absolument extraordinaire est nécessaire. Ce dont nous avons besoin, c’est d’un cri collectif de refus courageux; d’une réfutation impitoyable et implacable qui tranche à travers les couches de mensonges accumulées au fil des siècles; d’une éthique bouillonnante et explosive qui fasse sauter l’illusion mal fondée de la démocratie et du consensus; d’un déferlement audacieux et flamboyant d’authenticité qui ose mettre au jour les pitoyables restes d’une humanité réduite à un état presque fatal de désespoir et de mal-être par les forces de la tyrannie, de la violence, de l’exploitation et de la cupidité.

Heureusement, nous possédons déjà un tel arsenal d’idées, un tel mouvement sous la forme de l’anarchisme. Dans le sang de chaque et tout anarchiste coule la nécessité d’interroger toute chose, de n’accepter aucune limite à la liberté de l’individu et donc, comme une conséquence logique, de la communauté. L’anarchiste ne s’échappe pas seulement du cadre de la pensée acceptable prudemment construite par le système actuel, elle/il le réduit en pièces et danse sur les débris. Aucun postulat qui ne soit mis en question, aucun état des choses qui soit regardé comme inévitable, aucun juste combat qui ne soit considéré comme valant la peine d’être mené, aucun futur qui soit perçu comme hors d’atteinte. Ce n’est pas pour rien que les affiches dans les rues de Paris lors des soulèvements de 1968 déclaraient: « Soyez réalistes – demandez l’impossible! ». C’est toute l’énergie lâchée par l’appel aux armes de l’anarchie: le pouvoir perpétuel des possibilités refusées mais jamais mortes.

Les piliers philo-sophiques de notre société-prison ont été ébranlés de multiples fois par l’éloquence de ces critiques. Léon Tolstoï nous a avertis que nous sommes dirigés « au moyen de la violence organisée » et Alexandre Berkman nous a dit que quel que soit le genre d’autorité auquel nous ayons affaire « c’est toujours le même bourreau qui exerce le pouvoir sur vous par l’intermédiaire de votre peur de la punition d’une façon ou d’une autre ».

Il n’y a pas d’épreuve plus saisissante pour un anarchiste que la prise de conscience que tout ce qu’ils ont été dressés à croire est faux, et Emile Henry – un jeune étudiant brillant à Paris dans la dernière décennie du XIXe siècle – ne fait pas exception. Il rappelait: « On m’avait dit que les institutions sociales étaient basées sur la justice et l’égalité, et je ne constatai autour de moi que mensonges et fourberies… J’ai apporté dans la lutte une haine profonde, chaque jour avivée par le spectacle révoltant de cette société, où tout est bas, tout est louche, tout est laid, où tout est une entrave à l’épanchement des passions humaines, aux tendances généreuses du cœur, au libre essor de la pensée. »

Depuis ses tout débuts, l’anarchisme a rejeté l’idée que certaines personnes privilégiées pouvaient « posséder » des parties de la surface de la planète au détriment d’autres personnes, et a envisagé un lendemain où la propriété et les maux qui lui sont associés seraient abolis. Suivant les pas de Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, qui a défini de façon fameuse la propriété comme un vol, Gustav Landauer a écrit au début du XXe siècle: « Tout propriétaire de biens, tout propriétaire de terres est en réalité propriétaire d’êtres humains. Quiconque détient la terre au détriment des autres, au détriment des masses, contraint ces autres à travailler pour lui. La propriété privée est du vol et de l’esclavagisme. »

La place manque ici pour détailler tous les domaines de la vie contemporaine dans lesquels l’anarchie conteste le consensus capitaliste. Il rejette l’idée que, dans le but d’être capables de survivre sur cette planète, nous devions accepter de « travailler » pour le profit de quelqu’un d’autre. Il s’oppose résolument à la conversion cynique de la solidarité naturelle en un sentiment falsifié d’identité collective nommé « patriotisme » et la propagande guerrière qu’il sert à justifier. Se glorifiant de la variété des manifestations humaines, il refuse avec acharnement de laisser les gens être mis dans des cases, classés, condamnés, assignés à une place ou stigmatisés en raison de leur genre, de leur origine, de leur orientation sexuelle, de leurs capacités physiques ou d’une autre différence individuelle, qu’elle soit naturelle ou choisie.

Plus fondamentalement, bien sûr, l’anarchisme s’oppose à l’existence d’un Etat – l’hérésie fondamentale pour laquelle il est attaqué par l’Establishment. Une fois que sera dissipée l’illusion que les gens ont besoin de l’Etat, plutôt que le contraire, le château de cartes de l’autorité et de l’obéissance s’effondrera rapidement. Cependant, il ne sera pas facile de débarrasser les gens de cette idée, comme l’a expliqué Errico Malatesta en imaginant un homme dont les jambes avaient été liées dès l’enfance, mais qui essayait par tous les moyens d’avancer en boitillant. Il pourrait croire, comme le citoyen par rapport à l’Etat, qu’il est nécessaire qu’il soit attaché: « Imaginez qu’un médecin construise une théorie complète, avec un millier d’illustrations habilement inventées, pour persuader l’homme aux membres liés que, si ses membres étaient libérés, il ne pourrait pas marcher, ou même vivre. L’homme défendrait ses liens avec fureur et considérerait comme son ennemi quiconque essaierait de les arracher. »

Constamment nous voyons l’esprit anarchiste sauter par-dessus les murs dans lesquels la société veut l’emprisonner, portant un nouveau regard sur ce que d’autres ont toujours considéré comme acquis, observant autour de lui avec perplexité les trous que l’humanité a creusés pour elle-même et confectionnant, à l’aide de sa réflexion, des échelles de corde de la pensée avec lesquelles nous puissions nous sauver. Prenez par exemple un article de George Woodcock sur la façon dont la vie de l’homme occidental moderne se déroule suivant les symboles mécaniques et mathématiques du temps de l’horloge. Il écrit: « Dans une société saine et libre une domination aussi arbitraire de l’homme par des machines faites par l’homme est encore plus ridicule que la domination de l’homme par l’homme. Être totalement libre implique d’être affranchi de la tyrannie des abstractions aussi bien que de l’autorité de l’homme. »

Être affranchi de la tyrannie des abstractions – nulle part l’ambition sans limites de la pensée anarchiste n’est exprimée plus clairement qu’ici ! Voilà une idéologie politique qui est prête à s’élever jusqu’au royaume de la philosophie sans s’arrêter pour reprendre son souffle, appelant l’humanité à s’échapper de l’étroitesse d’esprit capitaliste, dépourvue d’imagination et purement fonctionnelle.

Gustav Landauer

 « L’anarchie, c’est la vie; la vie qui nous attend une fois que nous nous serons débarrassés du joug.  Le seul objectif de l’anarchisme est de mettre fin à la lutte des hommes contre les hommes et d’unir l’humanité afin que chaque individu puisse déployer son potentiel naturel sans obstruction »

 

Bakounine condamnait ceux qui se cachent derrière le masque de la science pour laminer nos vies et nos rêves, appelant à une « révolte de la vie » contre cette tyrannie dogmatique. Landauer faisait écho à son appel en déclarant que « l’anarchie, c’est la vie; la vie qui nous attend une fois que nous nous serons débarrassés du joug », et nous voyons là la motivation et la signification qui sont derrière tout le rejet de la société contemporaine et de ses normes étouffantes. Pour un anarchiste, ce n’est pas ainsi que les choses sont censées être; ce n’est pas ainsi que nous sommes tous censés vivre. Comme l’homme lié de Malatesta, nous boitillons vers notre mort en croyant que c’est la vie comme elle doit être, acceptant les propos rassurants des maîtres d’esclaves selon lesquels il n’y a pas d’alternative; que nous devrions leur être reconnaissants de nous garder en vie; que les fouets, chaînes et caméras de surveillance sont tous fournis pour notre propre sécurité; qu’il n’y a pas d’autre route que celle-là, pas de plus belle tâche que de casser des cailloux, aucun lieu éventuel vers lequel nous pourrions nous échapper – qu’une telle chose, la liberté, n’existe tout simplement pas.

Pour les anarchistes, la tendre pousse verte de chaque nouveau-né, le précieux potentiel de chaque être humain merveilleusement unique et beau, est entravé, écrasé, détruit par les bottes au bout ferré du capitalisme. Emma Goldman a dit que la santé d’une société pouvait être mesurée par « la personnalité individuelle et le point jusqu’où elle est libre d’exister, de se développer et de s’épanouir sans être arrêtée par une autorité envahissante et coercitive », et Landauer a écrit que « le seul objectif de l’anarchisme est de mettre fin à la lutte des hommes contre les hommes et d’unir l’humanité afin que chaque individu puisse déployer son potentiel naturel sans obstruction ».

Voilà, au bout du compte, ce que les anarchistes entendent par liberté. La liberté d’être ce que nous sommes censés être, de devenir ce pour quoi nous sommes nés et ce que nous étions destinés par nature à devenir, si nous n’avions pas été contrecarrés et déformés par cette civilisation capitaliste. Livrés à nos propres moyens, libérés du contrôle des dirigeants et des exploiteurs, nous pourrions en tant qu’individus coopérer et nous unir comme nous y étions destinés, de la même manière que nos semblables, les plantes, les insectes, les champignons et les microbes. Voilà la base de l’argumentation classique des anarchistes en faveur d’une société sans Etat fondée sur l’aide mutuelle et la solidarité. Comme l’a dit Bakounine: « La nature, en dépit de l’inépuisable richesse et variété des êtres dont elle est constituée, ne fait voir en aucune manière le chaos mais au contraire un monde magnifiquement organisé dans lequel chaque partie est logiquement reliée à toutes les autres parties. »

Les lois naturelles – voilà la base de la vision anarchiste d’une société valable et la raison pour laquelle nous rejetons les lois fabriquées comme des impostures destructrices de tout ce qui est bon, vrai et réel. Ce sont les branches mêlées et infiniment complexes d’une communauté vivante, une entité vitale qui est l’unique forme d’ « autorité » que les anarchistes peuvent respecter, la différence entre une société avec un gouvernement et une société anarchiste étant, comme l’a dit Woodcock, « la différence entre une structure et un organisme ».

Rejetant la pitoyable idée selon laquelle nous venons au monde dépourvus de but et de principe, feuilles blanches irrémédiablement amorales de papier vivant sur lesquelles l’Etat, dans sa sagesse, doit consigner les règles d’après lesquelles il exige que nous vivions, les anarchistes savent que des lois internes ont déjà déposé un sentiment de justice dans nos âmes.

C’est précisément parce que nous connaissons déjà la vraie justice – dans notre sang, dans nos os, dans nos entrailles, dans nos rêves – que les anarchistes sont si révoltés par la parodie écœurante qui nous est servie par l’Etat. Notre sens inné du bien et du mal est mortellement blessé et la pression que créent une vraie justice réprimée, une autorité naturelle intérieure niée, des lois internes étouffées s’amplifie dans nos esprits – individuellement et en masse, consciemment et inconsciemment – et devient la force qui sous-tend le besoin de révolution.

Cette force devient elle-même une entité vivante – non l’entité passive, patiente qui animait les sociétés humaines aux temps où tout allait comme il fallait, mais une entité active, dynamique qui s’est formée dans le seul but de faire une brèche dans l’obstruction à la vie qu’elle trouve barrant le chemin de la nature. Pour Landauer, cette entité révolutionnaire devient une source de cohésion, de résolution et d’amour – « un foyer spirituel » – pour une humanité échouée dans un âge désolé et despotique: « C’est dans le feu de la révolution, dans son enthousiasme, sa fraternité, son agressivité que l’image et le sentiment d’une unification positive s’éveille; une unification qui passe par une puissance de liaison: l’amour comme force. »

Ce pouvoir brut, spirituel, d’enthousiasme révolutionnaire peut permettre à l’anarchie de transformer son rejet théorique des chaînes de notre société truquée en un rejet réel. Cet enthousiasme, ce feu, cette agressivité, peuvent être partagés par de vraies personnes, habitant dans de vraies villes et agglomérations, qui descendent dans de vraies rues avec un vrai dessein. Quel autre espoir de changement y a-t-il que cette joyeuse libération de la puissance des eaux de la justice, de la nature, de la vie, si longtemps contenue ?

Emile Henry, le jeune étudiant parisien consterné par la société malade qu’il voyait autour de lui, fut poussé par la même force de révolution à s’élancer contre la société corrompue et essayer de mettre le feu aux poudres à travers la propagande par l’action. Après avoir tué plusieurs policiers en plaçant une bombe dans les bureaux d’une compagnie minière connue pour briser les grèves et ensuite s’en être pris au huppé Café Terminus, réservé aux classes supérieures, avec un autre attentat, il fut guillotiné à l’âge de 22 ans en 1894.

A son procès, il ne se repentit pas des morts qu’il avait causées, les comparant avec les innombrables vies prises et détruites par l’impitoyable système d’Etat capitaliste (qui à l’époque s’en était pris brutalement aux anarchistes) et affirmait avec défi sa conviction que la cause pour laquelle il allait mourir triompherait un jour de ses puissants adversaires. Henry déclara à ses accusateurs: « Vous avez pendu à Chicago, décapité en Allemagne, garrotté à Jerez, fusillé à Barcelone, guillotiné à Montbrison et à Paris, mais ce que vous ne pourrez jamais détruire, c’est l’anarchie. Ses racines sont trop profondes; elle est née au sein d’une société porrie qui se disloque… Elle est partout, ce qui la rend insaisissable. Elle finira par vous tuer. »

Texte tiré de mon livre The Anarchist Revelation

The natural laws of freedom

Below is an excerpt from The Anarchist Revelation. It’s taken from the chapter called Anarchy is Life. Pictured here, from left, are anarchist thinkers Peter Kropotkin, Michael Bakunin, Emma Goldman, Gustav Landauer and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

For an anarchist, the tender green shoot of each new-born child, the precious potential of each wonderfully unique and beautiful human being, is blocked, crushed, destroyed by the steel toe-capped boots of capitalism.

Emma Goldman says that the health of society could be measured by a person’s “individuality and the extent to which it is free to have its being, to grow and expand unhindered by invasive and coercive authority”, and Gustav Landauer writes that “anarchism’s lone objective is to end the fight of men against men and to unite humanity so that each individual can unfold his natural potential without obstruction”.

This, ultimately, is what anarchists mean by freedom. The freedom to be what we are meant to be, to become what we were born and destined by nature to become, if our ontogeny had not been thwarted and distorted.

Left to our own devices, freed from the control of the slave-masters, we individuals would co-operate and combine in the way that we were intended to, in the same way as our fellow creatures, plants, insects, fungi and microbes.

This is the basis of Peter Kropotkin’s classic argument for a society free of state, the harmonious natural order of which humans – and their relations with each other – form part: “The mutual-aid tendency in man has so remote an origin, and is so deeply interwoven with all the past evolution of the human race, that it has been maintained by mankind up to the present time, notwithstanding all vicissitudes of history”.

As Michael Bakunin says: “Nature, notwithstanding the inexhaustible wealth and variety of beings of which it is constituted, does not by any means present chaos, but instead a magnificently organized world wherein every part is logically correlated to all the other parts”.

Natural laws – these are the basis of the anarchist vision of a proper society and the reason why we reject the man-made variety as imposters and destroyers of all that is good and true and real.

Bakunin, that fiery messiah of disobedience, explains how these natural laws are of a kind he has no hesitation in bowing to: “Yes, we are unconditionally the slaves of these laws. But in such slavery there is no humiliation, or rather it is not slavery at all. For slavery presupposes the existence of an external master, a legislator standing above those whom he commands, while those laws are not extrinsic in relation to us: they are inherent in us, they constitute our nature, our whole being, physically, intellectually and morally. And it is only through those laws that we live, breathe, act, think and will. Without them we would be nothing, we simply would not exist”.

Natural laws are the interwoven and infinitely complex limbs of a living community, a vital entity that is the only form of “authority” that anarchists can respect, with the difference between a governmental society and an anarchic society being, as George Woodcock says, “the difference between a structure and an organism”.

Rejecting the pitiful idea that we come into this world devoid of purpose and principle, helplessly amoral blank sheets of living paper on which the state, in its wisdom, must write down the rules by which it demands we should live, anarchists know that inherent laws have already laid down a sense of justice in our souls.

“An integral part of the collective existence, man feels his dignity at the same time in himself and in others, and thus carries in his heart the principle of a morality superior to himself,” writes Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

“This principle does not come to him from outside; it is secreted within him, it is immanent. It constitutes his essence, the essence of society itself. It is the true form of the human spirit, a form which takes shape and grows towards perfection only by the relationship that every day gives birth to social life. Justice, in other words, exists in us like love, like notions of beauty, of utility, of truth, like all our powers and faculties”.

It is precisely because we already know true justice – in our blood, in our bones, in our guts, in our dreams – that anarchists are so revolted by the sick parody that is served up to us by the bigwigs of the state. Our innate sense of right and wrong is mortally offended and the pressure of a true justice re-pressed, of a natural authority denied, of inherent laws smothered, builds up in our spirits – individually and en masse, consciously and unconsciously – and becomes the force behind the need for revolution.

This force becomes a living entity itself – not the passive, patient entity that would animate human societies in times when all was going as it should, but an active, dynamic entity that has formed itself with the one purpose of breaking through the obstruction to life that it finds blocking nature’s path.

For Landauer, this revolutionary entity becomes a source of cohesion, purpose and love – “a spiritual pool” – for a humanity stranded in a desolate and despotic age: “It is in revolution’s fire, in its enthusiasm, its brotherhood, its aggressiveness that the image and the feeling of positive unification awakens; a unification that comes through a connecting quality: love as force”.

(References can be found in the book itself and are also available on request)