Call to Socialism : Part 1: For Socialism - Chapter 2

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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.)
• "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.)
• "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.)
• "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.)


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Part 1: For Socialism - Chapter 2


Socialism is the tendency of will of united persons to create something new for the sake of an ideal.

So let us see what the old system is, and what previous reality was like, in our era. Not our time in the limited sense of now, a few years or a few decades; rather our own time as at the very least the past four hundred years.

For let us impress it on our minds and let us state it here at the beginning: socialism is a great cause with far-reaching consequences. It wishes to help lead declining families of men back to the height of a blossoming culture, to spirit and thus to unity and freedom.

Such words grate on the ears of professors and pamphleteers and they also displease those whose thinking is impregnated by these corrupters, who promulgate the doctrine that men, and also animals, plants and the whole world, are undergoing constant progress, in an upward movement from the very lowest level to the very highest; on and on, from the deepest filth of hell to the highest heavens. And so absolutism, serfdom, mercenariness, capitalism, hardship and degeneracy, all these things are supposed to be only progressive steps and stages on the road to socialism. We adhere to no such so-called scientific illusions. We see the world and human history completely differently. We say it differently.

We say that nations have their golden ages, the high points of their culture, and that they descend again from these pinnacles. We say that our people of Europe and America have been such declining nations for a long time — approximately since the discovery of America.

Nations reach their periods of greatness and maintain them when they are dominated by one spirit. That too sounds bad to the ears of those who call themselves socialists nowadays although they are not; we have just caught a glimpse of them in their Darwinistic garb, these adherents of the so-called materialistic conception of history. This will be treated below, and for the moment we must go on. We will meet Marxism again on our way and we will stop it and say to its face what it is: the plague of our times and the curse of the socialist movement!

It is the spirit — the spirit of thinkers, the spirit of men overpowered by emotion, of great sufferers, the spirit of those whose self-awareness and love coalesce in a great knowledge of the world — it is spirit which has led the nations to greatness, unity and freedom. Out of the individuals erupted a compelling matter-of-fact necessity to unite in common endeavor with their human brothers. Then the society of societies was there, communality based on voluntary association.

How did man, someone will probably ask, attain this intelligence and insight to abandon his isolation and to join with his compatriots first in smaller, then in larger groups?

The question is stupid and can only be asked by professors of declining times. For society is as old as man; it is the first, given fact. Wherever men have been, they were joined in hordes, clans, tribes and guilds. They migrated, lived and worked together. They were individual men held together by a common spirit, which is a natural and not extrinsically imposed compulsion (even what is called instinct in the animals is a common spirit).

But this natural compulsion of the unifying quality and common spirit, until now in known human history, has always needed external forms: religious symbols and cults, ideas of faith, prayer rituals or things of this sort.

Therefore spirit is in the nations always connected with unspirit, and deep symbolic thinking with superstitious opinion. The warmth and love of the unifying spirit is overshadowed by the stiff coldness of dogma. Truth, arising from such depths that it can be expressed only in imagery, is replaced by the nonsense of literalness.

This is followed by external organization. The church and the secular organizations of external coercion gain strength and grow continually worse: serfdom, feudalism, the various departments and authorities, the state.

This leads to an eventual decline of spirit among and over the people, and of the immediacy that flows from the individuals and leads them to unity. The spirit withdraws into individuals. It was inwardly strong individuals, representatives of the people, who had carried the spirit to the people; now it lives within the individuals, ingenious men who are consumed in all their might, but are without a people: isolated thinkers, poets, and artists without a social contest, without eternal roots, almost as if hovering in the air. Sometimes the spirit seizes them as if out of a dream of ancient, forgotten times. Then, with a royal gesture of disdain, they cast aside the lyre and reach for the trumpet, they speak in the spirit to the people and to coming nations. All their concentration, all their form, which is alive in them with mighty painfulness and often is much stronger and vaster than body and soul can bear, the innumerable, colorful figures, the activity and urgency of rhythm and harmony: all that — hear it, you artists! — is smothered people, is living people that have collected in them, that are buried in them and will be resurrected out of them.

And along with them there arise other individuals, whom a mixture of spirit and unspirit has isolated: tyrants, accumulators of wealth, leasers of men, robbers of land. In such beginnings of the time of decline and transition, as represented most pompously and magnificently in the Renaissance, or early Baroque period, these men still have many features of spirit, centrifugally dispersed but also partly concentrated in them. In all their mighty power they still have a trace of melancholy, rigidity, strangeness, and unearthy visionariness. In many of these phenomena one would almost say that something spiritlike, or rather, specterlike, lives on, mightier than they, a content for which the container of isolated personality is too narrow. And very, very rarely one of them awakens as if out of a bad dream, flings away his crown and climbs on the top of Mount Horeb, to hold vigil for this people.

And sometimes mixed natures come, at whose cradle a fairy long hovered; it may make of them a great conqueror or a great freedom fighter, a genius of thought and of free fantasy or a great merchant: men like Napoleon and Ferdinand Lassalle.

And these isolated few, into whom richness of spirit and power has fled, face the many isolated, atomized people who are left only with unspirit, desolation and misery: the masses, who are called the people, but who are only a heap of uprooted, betrayed men. Uprooted, in melancholy strangeness, are the individuals, the few in whom the folk-spirit is buried, even if they know nothing of it. Uprooted, divided in hardship and destitution, are the masses into whom the spirit must again flow, if spirit and the people are to be reunited and revitalized.

Death is the atmosphere between us, for where there is no spirit, there is death. Death has crawled over our skin and penetrated into our flesh. But in us, in our hidden self, in our most secret and deepest dream and desire, in the figures of art, our strongest will, deep contemplative insight, purposeful action, love, despair and courage, psychic distress and joy, in revolution and unity, there life, power and glory dwell; spirit is hidden and generated and wishes to erupt and create a people with beauty and communality.

The times of the human race that shine most splendidly in subsequent history are those where this tendency of the seepage of the spirit out of the people into the ravines and hollows of solitary individuals has just begun and not yet progressed very far: where the common spirit, the society of societies, the interlinkage of the many associations springing from the spirit stand in full bloom, but where the persons of genius have already arisen, although still naturally controlled by the great spirit of the people, which therefore is not banally awed by their great works but rather accepts them as a natural fruit of communal life and rejoices in them with holy feelings. Thus it often hardly hands down the names of their originators to posterity.

The Golden Age of the Greek people was such a time; the Christian Middle Ages were such a time.

It was not an ideal; it was reality. And so we see along with the lofty, spontaneous spirituality, relics of former coercion and already the beginings of future coercion by external brutality, imposed force, the state. But the spirit was stronger; indeed often it permeated and embellished even such institutions of power and dependence, which become detestable instruments of cruelty in times of decay. Not everything historians call “slavery” was always completely such.

It was not an ideal, because spirit was there. Spirit gives meaning and sacredness to life; spirit makes, creates and permeates the present with joy, strength and delight. The ideal turns away from the present toward something new. It is a longing for the future, for something better and unknown. It is the road out of times of decline to a new culture.

Here one more point must be made. These times of glorious height which have reached their turning point were preceded by other periods, not only one single time in so-called development, but again and again in the rise and fall of successive and intermingling peoples. Binding spirit was there too, and a common life on a voluntary basis, by the natural compulsion of belonging together. But no cathedral spires, glittering with beauty in all details and coherent in specific harmony, towered heavenward, and no colonnaded halls stood in calm serenity against the transparent blueness of the sky. Those were simpler groups; no personalities of individual genius and subjectivity yet existed as the representatives of the people; it was a primitive, a communist life. There were — and there are — long centuries and often millennia of relative stagnation. Stagnation, hear it, you scholarly and liberal contemporaries, is for those times, for those peoples, which existed almost yesterday, a sign of their culture. Progress, what you call progress, this incessant hustle-bustle, this rapid tiring and neurasthenic, short-breathed chase after novelty, after anything new as long as it is new, this progress and the crazy ideas of the practitioners of development associated with it and the maniacal habit of saying good-bye immediately on arrival, this progress, this unsteady, restless haste, this inability to remain still and this perpetual desire to be on the move, this so-called progress is a symptom of our abnormal conditions, our unculture. We need something quite different from the symptoms of our depravity, in order to escape from it — there were and are, I say, times and peoples of prosperous life, times of tradition, epic times, of agriculture and rural craftsmanship, without much outstanding art, without much written science. Times that are less splendid and raise fewer monuments and gravestones to themselves than those great periods that are so glorious because their heirs are already with them and spend their still wonderful youth with them: a time rather of long and broad life, that almost could be called comfortable. The self-conscious spirit with its magic, coercive power did not yet exist. It was not yet in process of separating and spreading like a gospel throughout the world, subjecting the souls of men to its spell. There were such times too; and there are such peoples; and such times will return.

In such times the spirit seems hidden. Even with careful scrutiny one recognizes it almost only by its expression in the forms of social life and the economic institutions of the community.

Men have always returned to the very first, primitive beginnings, the first stages of these times when they had saved themselves from yet earlier times of decline, spiritlessness, tyranny, exploitation, and governmental power, often with the help of nations that, in this state of fertile stillness, moved slowly across the earth to new places and entered them, youthful and healthy, from out of unknown distance and obscurity. Thus the Romans and the Greeks of the late Imperial period were plunged into this rejuvenating bath and again became primitive children, ripe for the new spirit which came over them simultaneously from the East. There is, for the empathetic observer of mankind, in its eternal decline and eternal re-becoming, hardly anything more touching, more tormenting and at the same time arousing almost childishly pious confidence, as the works of early Byzantine art, which could equally be called late Greek. Through what depravity and through what tremendous reestablishment, through what horrors and what psychic distress generations passed in the transition from the stylish, elegant formalism and deadly coldness of virtuosity to this almost dreadfully sincere feeling, to this childish simplicity and inability to perceive corporeal reality correctly! The virtuosity of eye and hand would have been passed on from generation to generation in art and craft, if the soul had not spat it out as filth and bitter gall. What hopes, what deep consolations lie in so painful, yet refreshing a sight, for us and for all who can learn from it because they know: no progress, no technology, no virtuosity will bring us salvation and blessing. Only out of the spirit, only out of the depth of our inner need and inner richness will the great transformation which we call socialism come about.

But for us there is nothing so remote and unknown, no sudden surprise out of the darkness anywhere in the world. No analogy of the past can apply perfectly to us. The surface of the earth is known to us, we have our hand on it and our gaze sweeps around it. Peoples that were still separated from us by decades or millennia — the Japanese, the Chinese — are eagerly exchanging their static way of life for our progress, and their culture for our civilization. Other, smaller peoples of this state have been exterminated or depraved with our Christianity and alcohol. This time renewal must come from ourselves, although perhaps peoples of a new mixture, like the Americans, peoples of an older stage, like the Russians, the Indians, perhaps also the Chinese will help us most fruitfully in doing so.

The peoples who first climbed out of some state of depravity and escaped to the fabulous, epic times of a renewed intitial culture, of communism, were often for a long time not attracted by a new spirit in visible, tangible, expressive form. They did not have the splendor of an overpowering illusion holding them under its spell. But they had abandoned superstition, the pitiful, unrecognizable relic of former great periods. They sought only earthly happiness, and so their life began anew with the spirit of justice that permeated their institutions, their social life, their works and the distribution of goods. The spirit of justice as an earthly activity and creation of voluntary association, prior to a heavenly illusion that later would transfigure earthly activity into community and makes it, all the more, naturally cogent.

Am I, with these words, speaking of the barbarians of long past millenia? Am I speaking of the ancestors of the Arabs, Iroquois, Greenlanders?

I don’t know. We know so little of the changes and origins of these so-called barbaric peoples of former and present times. We have hardly any traditions and real evidence. We know only that the so-called primitive states of alleged barbarians or savages are not original in the sense of mankind beginning so, as many experts believe, who are educated beyond their mental capacity. We know of no such beginning. Even the cultures of the “barbarians” come from somewhere, have deep roots in humanity. Perhaps they descended from a barbarity like the one we are trying to escape.

For I am speaking of our own peoples; I am speaking of ourselves.

We are the people of the decline, whose pioneers have grown weary in the race for stupid power, for the shameful isolation and surrender of the individual. We are people of the descent where there is no longer a binding spirit but only the distorted relics, the nonsense of superstition, and its crude surrogate, the coercion of external power, the state. We are the people of the downfall and, therefore, of that type of downfall whose vanguard see no meaning that points beyond this earthly life, who can envisage no illusory heaven they could believe in and proclaim as sacred. We are the people that can stride upwards again only through one single spirit: the spirit of justice in the earthly matters of communal life. We are the people that can be saved and brought to culture only through socialism.

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November 30, 1910 :
Part 1: For Socialism - Chapter 2 -- Publication.

July 13, 2019 17:41:33 :
Part 1: For Socialism - Chapter 2 -- Added to


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