Call to Socialism : Part 2: Marxism - Chapter 6

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1911

People

(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 2: Marxism - Chapter 6

6

It was a memorable moment in the history of our era, when Pierre Joseph Proudhon, after the French February revolution of the year 1848, told his people what it had to do to establish a society of justice and freedom. He was still living, like all his revolutionary compatroits of the time, completely in the tradition of the revolution which had erupted externally in 1789 and had, as was then felt, been nipped in the bud by the counterrevolution and subsequent governments. He said: The revolution put an end to feudalism. Something new must replace it. Feudalism was an order in the area of the economy of the State, it was an articulated, military system of dependencies. For centuries it had been undermined by freedoms; civil liberties had gained more and more ground. However, they also destroyed the old order and security, the old associations and leagues. A few men became rich under the new freedom and mobility, while the masses were exposed to hardship and insecurity. How can we both preserve, extend and create freedom for all, as well as bring about security, the great equalization of property and conditions of life, the new order?

The revolutionaries, he says, do not yet know that the revolution will put an end to militarism, i.e., to the government; that its task is to replace politics by social life, political centralism by a direct unity of economic interests, an economic center which does not rule over persons, but takes care of business.

You Frenchmen, he says, are small and medium-sized farmers, small and medium-sized craftsmen; you are active in agriculture, industry, transportation and communications. Until now you needed kings and their officials in order to come together and protect yourselves one from the other. In 1793 you abolished the king of the state, but you retained the king of the economy, gold. Because you thus left misfortune, disorder and insecurity in the country, you had to let the kings and officials and armies return. Do away with the authoritarian intermediaries. Abolish the parasites. See to the direct unity of your interests. Then you will have society as the heir to feudalism and the state.

What is gold? What is capital? It is not a thing like a shoe or a table or a house. It is not a thing, it is nothing real. Gold is the sign for a relationship. Capital is something that goes back and forth as a relationship between men. It is something between men. Capital is credit, credit is mutuality of interests. You are now in the revolution. The revolution — enthusiasm, a spirit of trust, the exuberance of equalization, the desire to go for the whole — has come over you, has arisen among you: create for yourselves direct mutuality. Set up an institution whereby you come to one another with the production of your work without any parasitic, vampire-like intermediaries. Then you will need no tutelary authority, nor the transfer of the absolute power of the political government to economic life, of which the newest bunglers, the Communists, speak. The task is: to assert and create freedom in the economy and public life and to see to an equalization to abolish hardship, insecurity, and property, which is not the ownership of things but the domination of men and slave-ownership, and interest, which is usury. Create an exchange bank!

What is an exchange bank? Nothing but the external form, the objective institution for freedom and equality. Whoever is engaged in useful work — the farmer, the craftsman, the workers association- should all simply continue to work. Work need not be organized, i.e., commanded by the authorities, or nationalized. Cabinetmaker, make furniture; shoemaker, make boots; baker, bake bread; and so on, in the production of everything the people needs. Cabinetmaker, you have no bread? Of course you cannot go to the baker and offer him chairs and cabinets he does not need. Go to the exchange bank and have your orders and your products be changed into universally valid checks. Proletarians, you want no longer to go to the entrepreneur in order to work for wages? You want to be independent? But you have no workshop, no tools, no food? You cannot wait and you must hire yourself out right away? But don’t you have customers? Don’t the other proletarians, don’t you proletarians, one and all, prefer to purchase your products from one another, without intermediary of the exploitatory middle-men? Then see to your own purchases and sales, you dolts! The clientele is valid. The clientele is money, as that is called today. Must the sequence always be: poverty — slavery — work — product? Mutuality changes the course of things. Mutuality restores the order of nature. Mutuality abolishes the rule of money. Mutuality is primary: the spirit between men that allows all men who want to work to do so and to satisfy their needs.

Seek no guilty ones, he says, all are guilty. Some enthralled, and others take away the most basic necessities or leave only the barest necessity, or serve the enslaving lords as agents and supervisers. Not from the spirit of revenge, anger or destructiveness will the new be created. Destruction must be done out of a constructive spirit. Revolution and conservation are not mutually exclusive.

Stop copying the ancient Romans. The Jacobite dictatorship played its role in the past, but the great theater of the tribunes and the beautiful gesture does not create your society. It must be carried out in reality. You make useful objects in sufficient quantity; you would like to consume useful things in just distribution; so you must exchange correctly.

There is no value, he says, that is not created by work; the workers have created the superiority of the capitalists, and you have not been able to keep and use the values you create because you are isolated and propertyless men who increase the wealth of the owners and thereby provide them with power over slaves and property. But how childish it is, he could say, therefore only to stare at the present stockpile of accumulated property in the hands of the privileged and to think only of taking it away from them by political or violent methods. It is always in flux, always in circulation. Today it flows from the capitalist via the workers as consumers back to the capitalist; set up new institutions by transforming your mutual behavior so that it will go from the capitalist to the consuming workers, but from them not back to the capitalists, but into the hands of the same workers, the producing workers.

With incomparable power, with a great combination of sobriety and warmth, of passion and objectivity, Proudhon said this to his people. In the moment of revolution, dissolution, transition and the possibility of comprehensive and fundamental measures, he proposed the individual steps and decrees that would have created the new society and would have been the last act of the government, and made that government really what it was called: a provisional government.

The voice was there, but the listeners were missing. The right time was there but it passed, and now it is gone forever.

Proudhon the man knew what we socialists have re-discovered: socialism is possible at all times and impossible at all times. It is possible when the right men are there who want it, i.e., who carry it into action, and it is impossible when men do not want it or only supposedly want it but cannot act accordingly. So this man was not heard. Men heard instead another voice which presented the false science we have examined and rejected, which taught that socialism is the crowning of the capitalist big industry; that it comes only when very few capitalists have private ownership of institutions that have already almost become socialist so that it would be easy for the united proletarian masses to transfer it from private ownership to social ownership.

Instead of Pierre Joseph Proudhon, the man of synthesis, Karl Marx, the man of analysis, was heard and so the dissolution, decay and decline was allowed to continue.

Marx, the man of analysis, worked with fixed, rigid concepts imprisoned in their word-casings. With these concepts he wanted to express and almost dictate the laws of development.

Proudhon, the man of synthesis, taught us that the closed conceptual words are only symbols for incessant movement. He dissolved concepts in streaming continuity.

Marx, the man of apparently strict science, was the legislator and dictator of development. He made pronouncements on it; and as he determined it, so it should be once and for all. Events were to behave like a finished, closed, dead reality. Therefore Marxism exists as a doctrine and almost a dogma.

Proudhon, who sought to solve no problem with the thing-words, who instead of closed things posited movements, and relations, instead of apparent being, becoming, instead of crude visibility, an invisible fluctuation, who finally — in his most mature writings — transformed the social economy into psychology, while transforming psychology from rigid individual psychology, which makes an isolated thing out of individual man, into social psychology, which conceives of man as a member of an infinite, inseparable and inexpressible stream of becoming. So there is no Proudhonism, but only a Proudhon. So what Proudhon said of truth for a certain moment can no longer apply today, when things have been allowed to continue for decades. Valid is only what is eternal in Proudhon’s ideas; no attempt should be made to return slavishly to him, or to any past historical moment.

What the Marxists have said of Proudhon, that his socialism is a socialism of the petit-bourgeois and small farmers, is, let us repeat it, completely true and is his highest title to fame. His socialism, in other words, of the years 1848 to 1851 was the socialism of the French people in the years 1848 to 1851. It was the socialism that was possible and necessary at that moment. Proudhon was not a Utopian and a prophet; not a Fourier and not a Marx. He was a man of action and realization.

We are speaking here expressly of Proudhon, the man of 1848 to 1851. This man said, and the age was constituted for him to say: “You revolutionaries, if you do that, you will achieve the great transformation.”

The man of later years, from whom we have as much to learn as from the one of 1848, did not like to repeat the revolutionary words he had spoken after the revolution, in a vain melodramatic or pornographic self-imitation. Everything has its time, and every time after the revolution is a time before the revolution for all whose life did not stop at the great moment of the past. Proudhon lived on, though he bled from many wounds. He now asked himself: “I said, if you do it; but why didn’t they do it?” He found the answer and he wrote it down in his later works, the answer that in our language is: because the spirit was missing.

It was missing then and it has been missing for sixty years and has been lost and sunken ever deeper. Everything we have shown till now can be summed up in one sentence: waiting for the supposed right moment foreseen in history has postponed this goal further and further and pushed it into blurred darkness; trust in progress and development was the name of regression and this “development” adapted the external and internal conditions more and more to degradation and made the great change ever more remote. The Marxists will be right with their “It is not yet time!” as long as men believe them, and they will never be less, but always more right. Is it not the most frightful madness that ever lived and happened, that a saying is true, because it was spoken and heard credulously? And must not everyone notice that the attempt to express becoming as if it were final, completed being, if it wins power over the minds of men, must ultimately cripple the powers of form and creativity?

That is the reason for our untiring attack on Marxism. That is why we almost cannot let it go and must hate it with all our heart. It is not a description and a science, which it pretends to be, but a negating, destructive and crippling appeal to impotence, lack of will, surrender and indifference. Social Democracy’s bee-like work on details — incidentally Social Democracy is not Marxism — is only the other side of this impotence and only expresses that socialism is not there: for socialism in small and great matters aims for the whole. Not detailed work as such is to be rejected, but only how it is practiced, driven about in the circle of existing nonsense like a dry leaf in a tornado.

The so-called revisionists, who are especially zealous about details and whose critique of Marxism often coincides with ours — no wonder, they have taken it in great part from anarchists, from Eugen Dühring and other independent socialists — have gradually fallen in love with something that could be called tactics of principle, so that together with Marxism they have also rejected socialism almost down to the last trace. They are in the process of founding a party to promote the working class in capitalist society by parliamentary and economic means. The Marxists believe in progress à la Hegel, while the revisionists are adherents of evolution à la Darwin. They no longer believe in catastrophe and suddenness; capitalism will not become socialism by a sudden revolution, they believe, but it will gradually assume a more tolerable form.

A few of them would prefer to admit that they are not socialists, and go surprisingly far in their adaptation to parliamentarism and party politics, vote-getting and monarchism. Others still consider themselves completely to be socialists. They believe they see a constant, slow, but unhalting improvement of the private situation of the workers, of the workers’ share in production by so-called industrial constitutionalism, and of public and legal conditions through the expansion of democratic institutions in all countries. From the failure of Marxist doctrine, which they both recognize and partially cause, they draw the conclusion that capitalism is already well on the way to socialism and that the energetic promotion of this development is the mission of socialists. With this view they are not so very far from what Marxism said from the first, and the so-called radicals were always on the same path and have only the wish that this view not be told to the masses of voters who have been whipped up to and held together by revolutionarism.

The true relation of the Marxists to the revisionists is as follows: Marx and the best of his disciples had in mind the whole of our conditions in their historical context and tried to arrange the details of our social life under general concepts. The revisionists are epigonal skeptics who see clearly that the established generalities do not coincide with the newly arisen realities, but who still have the need for a new and essentially different total understanding of our time.

Marxism had for a time led great numbers of the disinherited to awareness of their poverty, dissatisfaction and an idealistic mood favorable to an overall change. That could not last, because under the influence of this scientific folly the masses shifted to waiting and became incapable of any socialist activity. So gradually dullness and calm would have long since returned to the masses, if they had not been constantly spurred on by political and demagogical methods. The revisionists now see that the very worst barbarities of early capitalism have been removed, that the workers have grown more accustomed to proletarian conditions and that capitalism by no means is nearing its fall. In all this, of course, we see the tremendous danger of the continuation of capitalism. In truth the situation of the working class — as seen as a whole — has not improved. On the contrary, life has become more difficult and unpleasant. It has become so unpleasant that the workers have become joyless, hopeless and impoverished in spirit and character. Above all, however, the struggle for socialism, the right struggle, does not hinge exclusively on feelings of pity or primarily on the fate of a certain class of men. It has to do with a complete transformation of the foundations of society. Its goal is a new creation.

Our workers have lost this mood (for it was never more than a mood) more and more, because in Marxism the elements of dissolution and impotence were from the first stronger than the forces of indignation, and lacked every positive content. The phenomenon of revisionism and its indulgent skepticism is only the “ideological superstructure” over the inaction, indecision, and complacency of the masses and shows, to all who already knew it, that the working force is not the chosen people of God, of development by historical necessity, but rather the part of the people suffering most severely, and because of psychic changes that accompany misery it will find it hardest to acquire knowledge. It is best to avoid all generalizations in this area. The working class is highly disparate, and suffering has always had very different effects on very different men. But a major part of suffering is the realization of one’s bad situation; and how many proletarians to this extent undergo not the least suffering!

We know how the relations have changed in these times after the revolution failed, in these sixty years before the revolution. These were the decades of adaptation of capitalism, of adaptation to proletarization, and it is truly an adaptation that in many ways has already become hereditary. There is a deterioration of the relations between men, which has already noticeably become a decay of very many bodies of individual men.

That is a tremendous danger we are speaking of here. We have said: socialism does not have to come, as the Marxists think. Now we say: the moment can come, if the various peoples continue to hesitate, the time will come when socialism will no longer be possible for them. Men may yet act so foolishly, so basely toward one another. They may surrender so utterly to enslavement and accept their own brutality: all that is something between men, something functional and can be changed in the next generation or already for men now living, if a decisive, vibrant emotion serves them. As long as it is a question of these social or, as they are usually called, psychological relations, the situation is not yet bad. Mass misery, poverty, hunger, homelessness, psychological demoralization and depravity, as well as pleasure-seeking, stupid luxury, militarism, spiritlessness — all this, bad as it is, can be cured if the right doctor comes: out of the creative spirit, the great revolution and regeneration. However, if all the hardship and pressure and, unspirit ceases to be something between men, a disturbance of their relationships that resides in the soul, if it is no longer a disturbance in the complex of relations between men, which we call soul, if instead chronic undernourishment, alcoholism, long-lasting brutalization, continuous dissatisfaction, acute spiritlessness, with far-reaching effects result in changes of the individual bodies, whose significance to the soul and to the social structure is as the spider to its web, then no remedy can help any more and it may happen that entire sections of the people or entire peoples are damned to destruction. They perish as peoples have always perished: other, healthy peoples become their masters and a mixture of peoples, and sometimes even partial extermination takes place — if, at least, other, healthy peoples still exist. One should not play facile games with analogies from earlier periods of the history of nations. For when the time comes, things need not again proceed as they did in the times of the so-called migration of nations. We are living in times of the beginning of mankind, and it cannot be completely ruled out that this incipient mankind might be the beginning of the end of mankind. Perhaps no age has ever seen the end of the world looming so dangerously before its eyes, as our does.

Mankind, in the sense of a real complex of relations, a world society held together by external bonds and an inner attraction and urge surpassing national bounds, of course does not yet exist. Surrogates for it are, however, there, and they may be more than an ersatz. They could be the beginning: the world market, international treaties or governmental policies, international organizations and congresses of the most manifold types, traffic and communications around the globe, all this creates more and more, if not equality, then at least an assimilation of interests, customs, art or its modish substitute, the spirit of technology, the political forms. Workers are also being lent more and more from some nations to others. Furthermore all spiritual reality — religion, art, language, common spirit in general — is doubly there or seems to us duplicated by a natural compulsion: first, in the individual soul as a quality or faculty, and secondly, outside, as something interwoven between men and creating organizations and associations. All this is expressed imprecisely. What can be corrected in passing will be done immediately, but we cannot at this time descend to the very bottom of these abysses of language criticism and theory of ideas (the two things belong together). All this is merely mentioned in order to say: humanitas, humanité, humanity and mankind — for which we now say, with an expression of false pitying condescension, weakened and deprived of depth, “humaneness” — all these words originally referred only to the mankind living and ruling in the individual. It was once very strongly present, very physically felt, at least in the high times of Christianity. We will arrive at a real humanity in the external sense only when reciprocity as identical community has come for the humanity concentrated in the individual and the humanity growing between the individuals. The plant dwells in the seed, just as the seed is only the quintessence of the infinite chain of ancestral plants. Mankind obtains its genuine existence from the humanness of the individual, just as this humanness of the individual is only the heir of the infinite generations of the past and all their mutual relationships. What has become is the becoming, the microcosm is the macrocosm. The individual is the people, the spirit is the community, the idea is the bond of unity.

But for the first time in the history of the few thousand years that we know, mankind wants to become externally unified in the complete sense and scope. The earth has been almost completely explored, soon it will be almost completely inhabited and owned. What is needed now is renewal such as never existed before in the world of men we know. That is the decisive trait of our time, this new thing that ought to overwhelm us far more. Mankind all around the globe wants to be created, and wants this at a moment when a mighty renewal must come over mankind, if the beginning of a unified mankind is not to be its end. Formerly such renewal was often identical with the new peoples that emerged from rest and cultural mixture, or with new countries into which migrations took place. The more similar the peoples become to one another, the more densely countries are inhabited, the less hope there is for such renewal from the outside or from within. Those who already want to despair of our own peoples or at least believe that the external impulse for the radical renewal of minds and vital energy must come from the outside, from old peoples who have recently awakened from a healing sleep, can still build some hopes on the Chinese, Indian or maybe the Russian peoples. Some can still hope that behind the puerile North American barbarity there still slumbers perhaps a still hidden idealism and surplus energy of ardent spirit that could erupt marvelously. However, it is conceivable that we who are 40 or 50 years old will yet experience the disappointment of these romantic expectations, and that the Chinese will follow the Japanese in imitating the West, that the Indians will arise, only to quickly glide into the channels of decay, etc. Assimilation is proceeding very rapidly. Civilization is spreading, and with it a veritable physical and physiological decadence.

We must plunge into this abyss in order to obtain the courage and urgency that we need. This time the renewal must be greater and different than it was in any known times. We are not seeking only the culture and human beauty of life together. We are seeking a remedy; we are seeking salvation. The greatest exterior that ever existed on earth must be created and is already being prepared in privileged strata: global mankind. Yet is cannot come through external bonds, through treaties and a governmental structure or a world state of horrid invention, but only by way of the most individual individualism and the reestablishment of the smallest groups: of the communities, above all. A comprehensive society must be built, and the construction must begin on a small scale; we must extend ourselves into all latitudes and we can do it only if we dig very deep, for no help can come any more from the outside. No more unoccupied land invites the densely crowded peoples to settle; we must establish mankind and can find it only in humanness. We can let it arise only out of the voluntary bond of individuals and out of the community of originally independent men who are naturally drawn to one another.

Only now can we socialists breathe freely and accept the inescapable hardship, our task, as a piece of our existence. Now we feel the living certainty that our idea is not an opinion which we adopt but a mighty compulsion that places us before the choice: either to experience the real destruction of mankind in advance and to watch its beginnings eroding around us, or to make the first beginning of the ascent with our own action.

The end of the world, which we here allow to threaten as a specter of possible reality, of course does not mean sudden extinction. We warn against the analogy and inclination to find an inviolable sort of rule in it, because we know of a few times of decline which were then followed by great periods. When we visualize with what unparalleled speed the nations and their classes are becoming more alike in this capitalist civilization: how the proletarians are becoming dull, submissive, crude, external, and to an increasing extent, alcoholics, how together with their loss of religion they are beginning to lose every sort of internal feeling and responsibility, how all this is beginning to take physical effect; how the upper classes are losing the power for politics, for a comprehensive view and decisive action, how art is being replaced by foppery, modish frippery, and archaeological or historical imitation, how with the old religion and morality every firm standard, every sacred allegiance, every firmness of character is being lost, how women are being drawn into the whirlpool of superficial sensuality, of colorful, decorative lasciviousness; how the natural unreflected population increase is beginning to decline in all strata of the people and being replaced by sex without children under the guidance of science and technology; how irresponsibility is pervading precisely the better elements among the proletarians and citizens, who can no longer bear to do joyless work under the prevailing conditions. If we see how all this is beginning to turn into neurosis and hysteria in all strata of society, then one must ask where the people is that will pull itself together for recovery, for the creation of new institutions? Is it quite certain, are there unmistakable signs that we will rise again, as formerly a new beginning came out of decaying refined civilization and fresh blood? Is it certain that mankind is not a temporary, inaccurate word for what will later be: the end of nations? Already the voices of degenerate, unrestrained and uprooted females and their male consorts are proclaiming promiscuity and seeking to replace the family with the pleasure of variety, free, unrestrained union, fatherhood with state motherhood insurance. The spirit needs freedom and contains it. Where spirit creates such unions as family, cooperative, professional group, community and nation, there is freedom and mankind too can come about. But do we know, can we be sure that we can endure what now is beginning to rage instead of the spirit missing in the coercive institutions of domination that have replaced it: freedom without spirit, sensual freedom, freedom to irresponsible pleasure? or whether the inevitable result of all this will not be the most gruesome torments and desolation, the most decrepit weakness and dull apathy? Whether a moment of ardent emotion, of rebirth, of the great period of the federation of cultural communities will ever come to us? Times when song dwells over the people, when towers bear the unity and enthusiasm to heaven and great works are created to represent the people’s greatness by towering men in whose spirit the people is concentrated?

We do not know, and therefore we know that the attempt is our task. Every alleged science of the future has now been swept away completely. Not only do we know no laws of development. We even know the mighty danger that we may be too late already, that all our attempts and actions may perhaps no longer help. And so we have cast off the last bonds from us, in all our knowledge, we know nothing more. We stand like primitive men before something undescribed and indescribable. We have nothing before us and everything only in us: in us the reality or efficacy not of future mankind, but of past mankind which therefore exists essentially in us. The accomplishment is in us. The undeceivable duty that sends us on our way is in us. The image of what fulfillment should become is in us. The need to leave baseness and misery behind is in us. Justice that is without doubt and relentless is in us. Decency that seeks mutual response is in us, and reason that recognizes the interests of all.

Those who feel as is here written, whose greatest courage grows out of the greatest need, who wish to attempt the renewal despite everything — let them gather around now; they are the ones being called; let them tell the nations what must be done, and show the peoples how to begin.

From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org

Chronology

November 30, 1910 :
Part 2: Marxism - Chapter 6 -- Publication.

July 13, 2019 17:45:33 :
Part 2: Marxism - Chapter 6 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

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