Call to Socialism : Foreword to the Second Edition

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(1870 - 1919) ~ German Social Anarchist, Pacifist, and Leader of the Bavarian Soviet Republic : He dies "In a prison courtyard an officer stepped up and struck him across the face, the signal for a savage massacre. Set upon by the troops, Landauer was beaten with trutcheons and rifle butts, kicked, stomped and trampled upon. 'Kill me, then!' he exclaimed, 'to think that you are human beings!" At that he was shot to death. (From : Anarchist Portraits, Arvich.)
• "Anarchism is the goal that we pursue: the absence of domination and of the state; the freedom of the individual. Socialism is the means by which we want to reach and secure this freedom: solidarity, sharing, and cooperative labor." (From : "Anarchism -- Socialism," by Gustav Landauer.)
• "True cooperative labor and true community can only exist where individuals are free, and free individuals can only exist where our needs are met by brotherly solidarity." (From : "Anarchism -- Socialism," by Gustav Landauer.)
• "Leaving allegories aside, what we need is the following: associations of humankind in affairs that concern the interests of humankind; associations of a particular people in affairs that concern the interests of a particular people; associations of particular social groups in affairs that concern particular social groups; associations of two people in affairs that concern the interests of two people; individualization in affairs that concern the interests of the individual." (From : "Anarchism -- Socialism," by Gustav Landauer.)


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Foreword to the Second Edition

Foreword to the Second Edition

The revolution has come, though I did not expect it this way. War has come, just as I expected; and in that war I soon saw defeat and revolution relentlessly approaching.

With a truly profound bitterness I state: it is now clear that I was essentially correct in this Call for Socialism and in articles in my journal The Socialist. A political revolution in Germany had not yet occurred; now it has been completed, and only the revolutionaries’ inability to construct the new economy, in particular, as well as the new freedom and self-determination, could be held responsible if a reaction should bring about the reestablishment of new privileged powers. All shades of Marxist Social Democratic parties, in all their varieties, are incapable of political practice, of the constitution of humanity and its popular institutions and of establishing a government representing labor and peace, just as they cannot attain a theoretical comprehension of the social facts, as they most horribly demonstrated before, during and after the war, from Germany to Russia, from their militaristic enthusiasm to their unspiritual and uncreative reign of terror, which are essentially related and were very curiously allied. However, if it is true, as suggested both by some news reports and our hope’s trembling desire for grace and a miracle, that Russian Bolsheviks, by a similarly beautiful and even more transforming growth than was displayed by Friedrich Adler in Austria and Kurt Eisner in Germany, have risen above themselves, their theoretical dogmatism and barren practice, and given federation and freedom priority over centralism and military-proletarian authoritarian organization, that they have become creative and have overcome the industrial proletarian and the professor of death in them by the spirit of the Russian peasant, the spirit of Tolstoy, by the one eternal spirit, then that truly is not due to Marxism but rather to the heavenly spirit of the revolution, which under the firm grip and rapid catapult of necessity, reveals buried strata in man’s psyche, [especially that of the Russian man’s], and opens up secret wellsprings of subconscious strength.

Capitalism, furthermore, has not displayed the anticipated progressiveness of slowly and peacefully transforming itself into socialism; nor has it produced socialism by a miraculous sudden collapse. And how could the principle of evil, oppression, robbery, and philistine routine be expected to perform miracles? In these times when routine has become a malignant scourge, it is spirit that must lead to revolution, spirit that performs miracles; thus overnight it changed the constitution of the German Reich, reducing a governmental structure, which German professors had considered inviolably sacred, into a past episode of the German landed and industrial Junkers. The government has collapsed; socialism is the only salvation. It certainly did not result as a blossom of capitalism; it is the heir and repudiated son waiting at the door behind which the corpse of his unnatural father rots. Nor can socialism be added to the beautiful body of society as an apex of national wealth and a sumptuous economy; it must be created almost out of nothing amid chaos. In despair I called for socialism; but out of that despair I drew great hope and joyous resolution, and the despair which I and the likes of me bore in our hearts has not become a permanent condition. May those who must now begin the work of construction not lack hope, a desire to work, knowledge, and an enduring creativity.

Everything said here about the collapse applied fully only to Germany at present and to the nations which, voluntarily or not, have shared its fate. As was said, not capitalism as such has collapsed by virtue of its immanent impossibility, but the capitalism of one group of nations, acting in conjunction with autocracy and militarism, has been ruined by the liberally administered capitalism of another, militarily weaker, capitalistically stronger area, in final conjunction with the volcanic eruption of popular rage of its own people. I will not predict when and in what form the collapse of the other, more clever representative of capitalism and imperialism will occur. The social causes necessary for any revolution to take place are present everywhere. However, the need for political liberation, the only reason for a revolution to move toward a goal and become more than a revolt, is of varying strength in those countries which have experienced democratic political revolutions. The following seems to be evident: the more free political mobility exists in a country, and the greater the adaptability of government institutions to democracy, the more terrible and unproductive, however, the struggle will be when social hardship, injustice and degradation finally generate the phantom of a revolution and, consequently an all-too-real civilwar, if steps are not taken to establish socialism immediately. The symptoms, which first appeared in Switzerland — in ugly combination with war, war-profiteering, Swiss war-ersatz and non-Swiss war-corruption — are clear enough to anyone who can distinguish creative work from haplessly cruel excesses and spasmodic savagery.

For the revolution can only be a political one. It would not gain the support of the enslaved masses, if they did not also desire to break free of social oppression and economic hardship. However, the transformation of social institutions, of property relations, of the type of economy cannot come by way of revolution. In these matters, action from below can only shake off, destroy and abandon something; action from above, even by a revolutionary government, can only abolish and command, whereas socialism must be built, erected, organized out of a new spirit. This new spirit prevails mightily and ardently in the revolution. Robots become men. Cold, unimaginative men are fired with enthusiasm. The entire status quo, including opinions, positive and negative, is cast into doubt. Reason, which formerly focused only on selfish interest, becomes rational thinking and thousands of men sit or pace restlessly in their rooms, for the first time in their lives forging plans for the common welfare. Everything becomes accessible to the good. The incredible miracle is brought into the realm of possibility. The reality which is otherwise hidden in our souls, in the structures and rhythms of art, in the faith-structures of religion, in dream and love, in dancing limbs and gleaming glances, now presses for fulfillment. However, the tremendous danger remains that the old humdrum way and empty imitation will take hold of the revolutionaries and make them shallow, uncultured radicals, with the ringing rhetoric and violent gestures, who neither know, nor want to know, that the transformation of society can come only in love, work, and silence.

They also ignore another point, despite the experiences of past revolutions. All these revolutions were a great renewal, a bubbling refreshment, a high point of nations; but their permanent results were slight. Ultimately they brought a change only in the forms of political disenfranchisement. Political freedom, maturity, honest pride, self- determination and an organic, corporative coherence of the masses out of one unifying spirit, voluntary associations in public life — this can only be achieved by a great adjustment, by economic and social justice, by socialism. How could there be a commonwealth of true communities in our era, in which Christianity affirms the equality of all the children of men, in origin, rights and destiny; how could there be a free public life, pervaded by the all-fulfilling, dynamic spirit of enthusiastically progressive men and deep, strong women, if slavery, disinheritance and ostracism persist in any form and guise?

The political revolution which brings the spirit to power and makes it the strong imperative and decisive implementation, can clear the way for socialism, for a change of conditions by a renewed spirit. But decrees can, at most, incorporate men as government slaves into a new military-like economy; the new spirit of justice must create its own forms of economy. The idea must embrace the needs of the moment within its long-range view and shape them energetically. What was previously only an ideal, is realized by the work of renewal born out of the revolution.

The need for socialism is there. Capitalism is collapsing. It no longer works. The fiction that capital works has burst like a bubble; the only thing that attracted the capitalist to his sort of work, to the risk of his fortune and the leadership and administration of enterprise, namely profit, no longer attracts him. The age of the profitability of capital, of interest and usury, is over; the mad war-profits were a dance of death. If we are not to perish in our Germany, to perish really and literally, the only salvation is work, real work done, performed and organized by an unselfish, fraternal spirit. New forms of work must be developed, freed from a tribute payable to capital, ceaselessly creating new values and new realities, harvesting and transforming the products of nature for human needs. The age of the productivity of labor is beginning; otherwise we have reached the end of the line.

Technology has placed both long known and newly discovered natural forces at man’s service. The more people cultivate the earth and transform its products, the richer the harvest. Mankind can live in dignity and without care. No one need be another’s slave, no one need be excluded and disinherited. Work, the means of life, need not become an arduous torment. All can live in openness to spirit, soul, play, and God. Revolutions and their painfully long, oppressive pre-history teach us that only the most extreme distress, only the feeling of sheer desperation brings the masses of men to reason, to the reason which, for wise men and children, always comes naturally; what horrors, ruins, hardships, scourges, plagues, conflagrations and wild cruelties are we to expect, if even at this fateful hour, reason, socialism, spiritual leadership and conformity to the spirit do not enter into men’s minds?

Capital, which has been the parasitic master, must become the servant — but a form of capital that represents community, reciprocity, equality of exchange. O suffering men, are you still standing helplessly before the obvious and childishly easy solution? Even in this hour of need, that also was your hour of political action? Do you still remain animals that have lost their instincts and are stupified by reason, since you wait so long? Do you not yet see the error that lies in your boastful arrogance and indolence of heart? What has to be done is so clear and simple that every child understands it. The means are there; whoever looks around, sees it. The imperative of the spirit which leads the revolution can help us through great measures and undertakings. Submit to this spirit; petty interests must not hamper it. But its full implementation is impeded by heaps of rubble that have been piled upon the conditions and even the souls of the masses. One road is open, more open than ever, to help bring about revolution and the collapse of the present system: to begin on a small scale, and voluntarily, immediately, on all sides, you are called, you and your friends!

Otherwise the end is here: capital is losing its return due to economic conditions, governmental demands, and international obligations; a nation’s indebtedness to other nations and to itself is expressed in finance policy by ever more debts. France, at the time of the great revolution, made a marvelous recovery from the debts of the ancien regime and its own financial turmoil by the great adjustment that began with the distribution of lands and the joy in work and enterprise unleashed by the liberation from bondage. Our revolution can and should distribute lands on a grand scale. It can and should create a new and revitalized farm population, but it certainly cannot give the capitalist class joy in work and enterprise. For capitalists, the revolution is only the end of the war: collapse and ruin. The capitalists, their industrial managers and their dealers lose not only their income but also will lose their raw materials and world market. Moreover, the negative component of socialism is there and no power can remove it from the earth: the complete, hourly increasing disinclination of the workers, indeed their psychic inability to continue to hire themselves out under capitalist conditions.

Socialism, then, must be built; it must be set into operation amid the collapse, in conditions of distress, crisis, improvizations. I will now shout from the rooftops how out of the greatest need the greatest virtue must be established, and the new labor corporations out of the fall of capitalism and the pressing needs of the living masses. I will not fail to rebuke the proletarians of industry, who consider themselves the only workers, for their narrow-mindedness, the wild obstinacy, intransigence and crudeness of their intellectual and emotional life, their irresponsibility and incapacity for a positive economic organization and leadership of enterprises. By absolving men of guilt and declaring them creatures of social conditions, one does not make these products of society different than they are, while the new world will be built not with men’s causes but with the men themselves. I will delay to call upon government and municipal officials, leaders of cooperatives and large factories, technical and commercial employes and directors, lawyers, and officers whose roles in the present system will become superfluous, to help this movement, modestly, expertly and zealously, in a spirit of community and of personal originality. I will sharply criticize the government’s counterfeiting of paper money that now goes by the name of monetary policy and especially the compensation for unemployment that is made in this so-called money, though every healthy person, no matter what profession he previously practiced, must participate in the construction of the new economy, in saving society from the greatest danger, when as much as possible has to be constructed and planned as possible. I will recommend the use of the presently unproductive military bureaucracy so that capitalism’s unemployed can be led to positions where emergency economics, which must bring salvation, needs them; I will call for the strongest revolutionary energy, which will lead to the salvation and socialization of reality. At this point let me give a brief preliminary summary: what I have repeated again and again in the call which follows and in essays in my Socialist, which complement it, is that socialism is possible and necessary in every form of economy and technology. It has no use for the industrial and mercantile technology of capitalism nor for the mentality that produced this monstrosity. Because socialism must commence and because the realization of spirit and virtue is never mass-like and normal but rather results only from the self-sacrifice of the few and the new venture of pioneers, socialism must free itself from ruin out of poverty and joy in work. For its sake we must return to rural living and to a unification of industry, craftsmanship and agriculture, to save ourselves and learn justice and community. What Peter Kropotkin taught us about the methods of intensive soil cultivation and unification of intellectual and manual labor in his important and now famous book The Field, the Factory, the Workshop as well as the new form of credit and monetary cooperative must all be tested now in our most drastic need and with creative pleasure. Necessity demands, voluntarily but under threat of famine, a new start and construction, without which we are lost.

Let me add one last word, the most serious one. If we convert the greatest hardship into the greatest virtue and transform the emergency labor made necessary by the crisis into the provisional beginning of socialism, our humiliation will be credited to our honor. Let us disregard the question as to how our socialist republic, arising out of defeat and ruin, will stand among the victorious nations and the mighty countries presently devoted to capitalism. Let us not beg, let us fear nothing, let us not flinch. Let us act among the nations, like Job activated by his suffering, abandoned by God and the world in order to serve God and the world. Let us construct our economy and the institutions of our society so that we can rejoice in hard work and a worthy life. One thing is certain: when things go well with us in poverty, when our souls are glad, poor and honorable men in all other nations, in all of them will follow our example. Nothing, nothing in the world has such irresistible power of conquest as goodness does. We were politically retarded, were the most arrogant and provoking lackeys; the harm that resulted for us with the inevitability of destiny has incensed us against our masters, moved us to revolution. So at one stroke, namely the blow that struck us, we assumed leadership. We are to lead the way to socialism; how else could we lead than through our example? Chaos is here. New activities and turmoil are on the horizon. Minds are awakening, souls rising to responsibility, hands taking action. May the revolution bring rebirth. May, since we need nothing so much as new, uncorrupted men rising up out of the unknown darkness and depths, may these renewers, purifiers, saviors not be lacking to our nation. Long live the revolution, and may it grow and rise to new levels in hard, wonderful years. May the nations be imbued with the new, creative spirit out of their task, out of the new conditions, out of the primeval, eternal and unconditional depths, the new spirit that really does create new conditions. May the revolution produce religion, a religion of action, life, love, that makes men happy, redeems them and overcomes impossible situations. What does life matter? We will die soon, we all die, we do not live at all. Nothing lives but what we make of ourselves, what we do with ourselves. Creation lives; not the creature, only the creator. Nothing lives but the action of honest hands and the governance of a pure, genuine spirit.

Munich, January 3, 1919

Gustav Landauer

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November 30, 1910 :
Foreword to the Second Edition -- Publication.

July 13, 2019 17:40:09 :
Foreword to the Second Edition -- Added to


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