Libertarian Socialism: A Practical Outline : Preface

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(1895 - 1978) ~ CNT Radical, Anarcho-Syndicalist, and Spanish Civil War Historian : He was a French anarchist during the Spanish Civil War and was the son of a French Communard. Leval, himself was a French anarcho-syndicalist militant and a participant in the foundation congress of the Red International of Labor Unions from June-August 1921. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "...the Spanish Libertarian workers co-ordinate and rationalize production in a much more satisfactory way than Capitalism had done. And I lay special stress on the disappearance of small unhealthy and costly workshops and factories, besides the correct use of machinery for the work most suited to it." (From : "Collectives in Spain," by Gaston Leval, 1945.)
• "The methodical police terror, the [Bolshevik] Party's tightening grip upon the whole of social life, the systematic annihilation of all non-Bolshevik currents, the no less systematic extermination of all revolutionaries who thought along lines different from those of the new masters, and indeed the eradication of every hint of dissent within the Party all proved that we were on the road to a new despotism that was not merely political but also intellectual, mental and moral, reminiscent of the darkest days of the Middle Ages." (From : "Anarchists Behind Bars," by Gaston Leval, Summer,....)
• "...the means of production remained unused in the barns of the rich, whilst the poor peasants worked the land with roman plows drawn by worn out donkeys and mules!" (From : "Collectives in Spain," by Gaston Leval, 1945.)


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Our attempt to sketch the outlines of a transformed society, for the purpose of establishing libertarian socialism, runs up against some realities and difficulties that we cannot ignore. The improvement of the military techniques of the states and the new conservative forces, no longer allows us to expect that the people themselves will be capable of victory, by force of arms, against tanks, jet bombers, modern artillery, H-bombs and guided missiles. In other times, despite an almost total parity in armament, no social revolution was ever able to win by force of arms; such an outcome is even less likely now.[1]

Furthermore, the modern economy implies the interdependence of all nations. If a trade embargo were to be enforced against France, depriving that country of petroleum and its derivative products, as well as the fifteen million tons of coal annually purchased by France, and then of its Saharan gas supplies and the numerous raw materials imported from the four corners of the earth, this would lead to an unendurable economic situation, and all the more so as, for many proletarians, the revolution must entail an immediate improvement in their living conditions.

From numerous perspectives the problems we face therefore appear to be insoluble, since they are largely new problems or have acquired such dimensions that they can discourage us from addressing them. However, two historical reference points permit those of us who are trying to adapt to the new circumstances to entertain renewed hopes.

As we shall see, these reference points are only valid within the framework of our time and within that of the social and moral development that has been achieved by human societies.

The first reference point is the liberation of India. This liberation movement proved that it is possible to achieve in our time, and under favorable international political conditions, something that would have seemed absurd to even consider prior to the First World War: a population colonized by a powerful nation disposing of the means to impose its rule for a very long time, defeated the imperialism to which it was subject, without the use of armed force, violent struggle, or traditional combat. Gandhi’s tactics, which were the same as those of Tolstoy, who for his part appears to have been inspired by Proudhon, have demonstrated their practical value. If the moral power of the combatants, their tenacity, their identification with the public will, their civil courage, and even their heroism, are unhesitatingly mobilized, other no less significant victories are possible.

This is a great lesson that we must learn to profit from, by adapting this method to the specific conditions of the time and place in which the social struggles of the future will unfold.

We have therefore arrived at a stage of development of civilized humanity that, in the non-totalitarian countries, allows us to attempt to do things that have long been unthinkable.

One could imagine and elaborate, on the basis of active but nonviolent struggle, an entire battle strategy in which the truly syndicalist trade unions, the truly cooperative cooperatives, and the communities that boldly attempt to carry out integral projects can and must engage in the construction, both in the sphere of public spirit as well as that of the economy, the new world that has to be developed within the society of the present.

The second reference point is the occupation of the factories throughout a large part of France in June 1936. It is a fact of enormous importance that the workers were not evicted from the workplaces, by force, nor was any attempt made to evict them, as was also the case in Italy, during a similar experience that took place in 1920.

In both instances, there could have been many victims. In the most civilized countries the governments thought twice before repeating the massacres of 1848 or 1871, massacres that were publicized all over the world and are still linked with the names of the men and parties that ordered them. We shall not forget, however, that it was a Labor government that proclaimed India’s freedom—Churchill would not have done so—and that it was Blum who, at the request of the pro-capitalist parties, negotiated with the strikers of 1936. This is the essential function of politics.

We must point out that in the two cases of occupations of the factories, the workers did not rise to the occasion of their historical role. They neither knew how to operate the factories nor how to assure production, at least to the extent that the existing stocks of raw materials, energy and available means of transport would have allowed. Unlike the workers of Barcelona, Catalonia and the Levant in Spain, the French and Italian workers were incapable of replacing the boss and management, proof that the general strike is no panacea, and that it leads nowhere if it is not just expropriatory, but also organizational.

In the latter case, of course, it would no longer be a strike and would instead become a revolution transforming the social structures. But in order for it to accomplish this, preparations must be made. The Spanish libertarians did not improvise. Their achievements were the culmination of a long psychological and practical process, one that was always focused on the final goal.

When a favorable opportunity arose, they took advantage of it.

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November 30, 1958 :
Preface -- Publication.

July 13, 2019 17:56:00 :
Preface -- Added to


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