Why Socialists Oppose Anarchism: Part 2


< Continued From August Issue.

The false conception of social laws leads the Anarchists to the unsound und dangerous methods in which they indulge. The wild denunciations of the “State” and “government” and everybody vested with authority turns the heads of their ignorant followers. These uneducated worshippers of Anarchist fallacies, believing that this and that official is the real enemy, plan to make away with them, and they are inspired by the “propaganda by deed” teaching. Of course, they receive direct incitement to do so from the fountain-heads of Anarchist “philosophy.” Jean Grave, in his “Moribund Society and Anarchy,” teaches individual violence thus : “Let us suppose a struggle between employers and workmen — any sort of strike, In a strike there are surely some employers more cruel than others, who by their exactions have necessitated this strike, or by their intrigues have kept it up longer than was necessary ; without doubt these employers draw upon themselves the hatred of the workers. Let us suppose one of the like executed in some corner with a placard posted explaining that he had been killed as an exploiter, or that his factory had been burned from the same motive. In such a case there is no being mistaken as to the reasons prompting the authors of the deeds, and we may be sure they will by applauded by the whole labour world. Such are intelligent deeds which show that action should always follow guiding principle.”

In the flourishing days of Anarchism in England, when they had captured the “Socialist League,” after William Morris, Eleanor Marx and others had left it in disgust., the Anarchists used its organ, the “Commonweal,” to push its reactionary propaganda. Thus D. J. Nichol, the editor, wrote of a Trafalgar Square meeting : “Some people condemned the throwing of the bomb at Chicago ; for my part I think it would have been well in London if a man had been found courageous enough to hurl death and destruction among the ruffians who attacked a peaceful meeting.” (Nov. 11, 1891)

In the next issue they eulogised the Tennessee escaped prisoners who carried on open pillage in these terms : “You have shown the workers of America—aye, and of the world—how to free themselves, not at the ballot-box but with the rifle, the torch, and the dynamite bomb.” It commended the Anarchist, Ravachol, who murdered and robbed an old man and was guillotined, in the following words : “Thus finished another stage in the career of a man who has shaken capitalism to its foundations and shown the workers an example worthy of emulation. We are anxiously awaiting the advent of some English Ravachols.” (July 2, 1892.)

Many other examples could be quoted but one more must, suffice. “We say that individual acts have always been a success. The man who strangled Watrin [a French mine-owner whose men were on strike], Pini, who robbed the banks, have opened more eyes than all the pamphlet writers in a century. Our aims can only be attained by accumulated individual actions against property and the men who hold it.” (Dec. 19, 1891).

When the Anarchist “movement” was less feeble its votaries carried out its teachings. In 1893 August Vaillant, the French Anarchist, threw a bomb into the French Parliament from the public gallery. Over 60 people were wounded and he was guillotined. In 1894 Martial Bourdin blew himself to atoms while fixing a bomb near the Royal Observatory, in. Greenwich Park. In the same year a Deptford “comrade,” Rolla Richards, got 7 years for blowing up several South London Post offices, Emile Henry, too, threw a bomb from the balcony of the Paris Cafe Terminus, and 2 persons were killed arid 21 injured.

The foregoing demonstrate that Anarchism is hostile to working class organisation. While it advocates individual violence, it paves the way for the armed forces of the State to intervene and crush it.

The need of the age is a virile organisation of the toilers, but the murder, violence, pillage, and riot that the Anarchists teach has led to their ranks being honeycombed with police spies. It reminds one of the story told by Alexander Herzen, who upon reaching a little Italian town, found, he said, only priests and bandits, but he was greatly puzzled to decide which were the priests and which the bandits.

Just so with the members of the Anarchist groups. It is often difficult to find out which are the genuine “comrades” and which the spies.

Its secrecy and underground working make treachery possible : that is why they have never really started to organise the working class.

During the Walsall trial in 1892 it leaked out that the man who informed the police of the proposed bomb outrage was a trusted “comrade” named Coulon, who actually managed Louise Michel’s Anarchist school in Fitzroy Square !

Their clubs all perish owing to the one cause. The “Autotomie,” the “Grafton,” the “Scandinavian,” are cases in point. The “comrades” spend a lot of time accusing each other of being police spies. David Nicoll (of the “Commonweal”) bitterly denounced two of the leading members, “Dr.” Netllau and “Dr.” Macdonald, yet many others testified to the genuineness of these men. A late editor of the “Commonweal” came under suspicion, and is still under a cloud, though he left the “cause” long since.

As the Anarchists’ numbers have declined their methods have been somewhat modified. They do not appeal with the same frequency to individual violence, yet they cannot stop their ignorant supporters from forever harping on its necessity. Indeed, the extent to which the Anarchist followers gloat over deeds of violence, high-sounding threats and the fury they delight in, prove a distinct menace to the true revolutionary movement.

Emma Goldman’s (the American Anarchist) manager, Ben Reitman, visited this country a short while since, and the wild, idiotic advice he gave his audiences — urging them to break policemen’s heads, etc. — could not been have surpassed by an agent-provocateur, for it openly invited the suppression of public meetings, and the condemnation of any anti capitalist movement to lasting persecution.

The Anarchists are frequently the best friends the capitalists have. Whenever they consummate one of their melodramatic outrages the police and Press use it to brow beat the Socialists. The working class are shown how the “foes of capitalism” avoid any civilised weapon at their hand, and appeal to the fruitless and insane personal attack, street battle, etc.

How thoroughly dishonest the Anarchists arc when attacking Socialists may be judged from their plea that Parliament has been tried and has failed ! Listen to the voice of ” Freedom” (Aug. 1911):

“The complete failure of the Labour Party to bring to the toilers any relief from the burdens of capitalist exploitation and the barefaced lust of personal aggrandisement shown by the majority of Labour M.P.s have compelled the workers not, only to again resort to the strike to resist the capitalists, but to realise with more or less certainty that other means than Parliamentary action arc needed to help his cause.”

Who expected the labour leeches to advance the cause of the workers? Only those who, like the Anarchists, ignored the facts around them. “Parliament has failed !” the Anarchist bleats. Seeing that it has been filled by supporters of the present system — Liberals and Tories and their allies for centuries, what else but continued working-class enslavement could result ?

“The political machine has been used for the exploitation of the worker,” says the Anarchist, and it is therefore useless to our class.” One might as well say that because a cotton weaving machine has been used for the exploitation of the workers, it cannot be used in their interest when they control it.

As with the loom, so with the political machine. Controlled to-day by the capitalists, it is worked in their interests as far as possible, but upon the working class controlling it, they will use it for their purposes.

The whole of the writings of Anarchists teem with the condemnation of political action. Marx and Engels are denounced by every leading Anarchist, from Kropotkin to Malatesta, for their far-seeing and scientific conception of the value of political action to the proletariat. Malatesta — perhaps the best known Anarchist in Europe speaking at their International Congress in 1907 said (“Freedom” report) : “He often heard Political Action referred to as if it involved Parliament. This was a great mistake. What, for example, was Bresci’s act (killing a king) ? Was it economic? No! it was political. Marx was responsible for this confusion.” In order to see whether it is confusion let us review the facts.

In the “Communist Manifesto” Marx points out that “the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy.” What does “political supremacy ” and “political action” mean? Are they necessary ?

The growth of private property in society led to the parting off of those who possessed it from those who did not. A section of the possessors gradually became installed into offices of State, and their reign lasted until changes in the material conditions favoured the rise of a new class to power. The struggle between those who own and those who do not manifests itself as a class struggle, and its final purpose is the seizure of the political machine by the submerged class. The class struggle is waged also on the field of modern industry, and is typified by the suppression of discontented workers, the attempt to reduce the worker’s share and the workers’ resistance to those attempts.

This action relating to the field of industry is rightly termed Economic Action. Action pursued through the channels of local and national control and government is Political Action. For politics is but the science dealing with the laws of the control of society.

That the workers are scientific in using their political power (i.e. possession of the suffrage —the weapon) to obtain political supremacy is clearly seen by surveying the class struggles of the past and their lessons for us.

Constitutional history — the only appeal —tells us that the bourgeoisie in every land, though holding some economic power (i.e., means of production), were compelled to prosecute a long and often bitter struggle against the feudal nobility and the Church in order to secure political supremacy (executive power) and so rid themselves of the hindrances and embargos put in their path by the nobility.

The Hansa towns, the staple cities, etc., had to petition the King and his feudal co rulers for charters granting them the privilege of trading, in certain merchandise and in certain districts thus showing the value of political control.

The political machine is represented by different institutions according to the state of the country ruled the material condition. As every land advances out of Feudalism into Capitalism, it sooner or later throws off the “absolute,” and finally all, rule of King and Court, and is forced to delegate power to representatives of the now enfranchised ruling class. These latter possess money which makes kings bow — therefore they finally prevail over the effete aristocracy.

Germany, Japan, Persia, Turkey — as each of these countries has emerged from Feudalism proper, it has had to introduce a Constitution with a Parliament as its central feature. The Executive later is chosen from this assembly and becomes a Cabinet.

The powerful nature of political control is shown by the light in England between merchant and noble and the victory of Parliament over the Crown. The Crown was re-introduced later, but shorn of its power, privileges, and noted prerogatives. All specialists in Constitutional history — from Gardner to Professor Dicey and Lord Courtney — are agreed that Parliament is the real arbiter, and that survivals such as the House of Lords are trimmings that matter not.

Political machinery, then, in modern society, includes, as its central feature, Parliament, and the Socialists, in urging the workers to displace their enemies from that citadel, are but pointing the right road. Parliament controls “supplies” — the force against Court and Bureaucracy alike. Through its control over “supplies” it rules the Army, though it employs a War Minister, and he in turn an Army Council, to arrange details. Political control relies eventually upon power over the armed forces, and these are under the control of Parliament.

Therefore Politics DO include Parliament.


[Continued here November 1911]

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