Anarchist Propaganda

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(1853 - 1932) ~ Italian, Anarchist Intellectual, Anti-Capitalist, and Anti-Fascist : There have almost certainly been better anarchist writers, more skilled anarchist organizers, anarchists who have sacrificed more for their beliefs. Perhaps though, Malatesta is celebrated because he combined all of these so well, exemplifying thought expressed in deed... (From : Cunningham Bio.)
• "We want to make the revolution as soon as possible, taking advantage of all the opportunities that may arise." (From : "Revolution in Practice," by Errico Malatesta, fro....)
• "Our task then is to make, and to help others make, the revolution by taking advantage of every opportunity and all available forces: advancing the revolution as much as possible in its constructive as well as destructive role, and always remaining opposed to the formation of any government, either ignoring it or combating it to the limits of our capacities." (From : "The Anarchist Revolution," by Errico Malatesta.)
• "...all history shows that the law's only use is to defend, strengthen and perpetuate the interests and prejudices prevailing at the time the law is made, thus forcing mankind to move from revolution to revolution, from violence to violence." (From : "Further Thoughts on the Question of Crime," by Er....)


"...we have more reason on our side than have the parties because of the nobility of our ideal of freedom, but also that our ideas and methods are the most practical for the achievement of the greatest measure of freedom and well-being that is possible in the present state of our civilization."

"It is in fact a question of education for freedom, of making people who are accustomed to obedience and passivity consciously aware of their real power and capabilities. One must encourage people to do things for themselves..."

"...some have inherited the land and all social wealth, while the mass of the people, disinherited in all respects, is exploited and oppressed by a small possessing class."

"...a special class (government) which, provided with the necessary means of repression, exists to legalize and protect the owning class from the demands of the workers..."

"We want to change radically such a state of affairs. And since all these ills have their origin in the struggle between men, in the seeking after well-being through one's own efforts and for oneself and against everybody, we want to make amends, replacing hatred by love, competition by solidarity, the individual search for personal well-being by the fraternal co-operation for the well-being of all, oppression and imposition by liberty, the religious and pseudo-scientific lie by truth."

"[We demand...] Abolition of private property in land, in raw materials and the instruments of labor, so that no one shall have the means of living by the exploitation of the labor of others, and that everybody, being assured of the means to produce and to live, shall be truly independent and in a position to unite freely among themselves for a common objective and according to their personal sympathies."

"[Our ideal is...] War on religions and all lies, even if they shelter under the cloak of science."

"Freedom for all, therefore, to propagate and to experiment with their ideas, with no other limitation than that which arises naturally from the equal liberty of everybody."

"In their [Capitalist] hands they have all the means of production; and thus they suppress not only the possibility of free experimentation in new ways of communal living, and the right of workers to live freely by their own efforts, but also the right to life itself; and they oblige whoever is not a boss to have to allow himself to be exploited and oppressed if he does not wish to die of hunger. They have police forces, a judiciary, and armies created for the express purpose of defending their privileges; and they persecute, imprison and massacre those who would want to abolish those privileges and who claim the means of life and liberty for everyone."

"Slavery teaches men to be slaves, and to free oneself from slavery there is a need for men who aspire to liberty. Ignorance has the effect of making men unaware of the causes of their misfortunes as well as the means of overcoming them, and to do away with ignorance people must have the time and the means to educate themselves."


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Anarchist Propaganda

 Photo by Marcus, CC BY-NC License

Photo by Marcus,
CC BY-NC License

It must be admitted that we anarchists, in outlining what we would like the future society to be a society without bosses and without gendarmes have, in general, made everything look a bit too easy.

While on the one hand we reproach our adversaries for being unable to think beyond present conditions and of finding communism and anarchy unattainable, because they imagine that man must remain as he is today, with all his meanness, his vises and his fears, even when their causes have been eliminated, on the other hand we skate over the difficulties and the doubts, assuming that the morally positive effects which will result from the abolition of economic privilege and the triumph of liberty have already been achieved.

So, when we are told that some people won’t want to work, we immediately have a string of excellent reasons to show that work, that is the exercise of our faculties and the pleasure to produce, is at the root of man’s well-being, and that it is therefore ridiculous to think that healthy people would wish to withdraw from the need to produce for the community when work would not be oppressive, exploited and despised, as it is today.

And if they bring up the inclinations to, or the anti-social, criminal ways of, a section, however small, of the population, we reply that, except in rare and questionable cases of congenital sickness which it is the task of alienists to deal with, crimes are of social origin and would change with a change of institutions.

Perhaps this exaggerated optimism, this simplification of the problems had its raison d’etre when anarchism was a beautiful dream, a hurried anticipation, and what was needed was to push forward to the highest ideal and inspire enthusiasm by stressing the contrast between the present hell and the desired paradise of tomorrow.

But times have changed. Statal and capitalist society is in a state of crisis, of dissolution or reconstruction depending on whether revolutionaries are able, and know how, to influence with their concepts and their strength, and perhaps we are on the eve of the first attempts at realization.

It is necessary therefore to leave a little on one side the idyllic descriptions and visions of future and distant perfection and face things as they are today and as they will be in what one can assume to be the foreseeable future. When anarchist ideas were a novelty which amazed and shocked, and it was only possible to make propaganda for a distant future (and even the attempts at insurrection, and the prosecutions we freely invited and accepted, only served the purpose of drawing the public’s attention to our propaganda), it could be enough to criticize existing society and present an exposition of the ideal to which we aspire. Even the questions of tactics were, in fact, simply questions of deciding which were the best ways of propagating one’s ideas and preparing individuals and masses for the desired social transformation.

But today the situation is more mature, circumstances have changed... and we must be able to show not only that we have more reason on our side than have the parties because of the nobility of our ideal of freedom, but also that our ideas and methods are the most practical for the achievement of the greatest measure of freedom and well-being that is possible in the present state of our civilization. Our task is that of “pushing” the people to demand and to seize all the freedom they can and to make themselves responsible for providing their own needs without waiting for orders from any kind of authority. Our task is that of demonstrating the uselessness and harmfulness of government, provoking and encouraging by propaganda and action, all kinds of individual and collective initiatives.

It is in fact a question of education for freedom, of making people who are accustomed to obedience and passivity consciously aware of their real power and capabilities. One must encourage people to do things for themselves, or to think they are doing so by their own initiative and inspiration even when in fact their actions have been suggested by others, just as the good school teacher when he sets a problem his pupil cannot solve immediately, helps him in such a way that the pupil imagines that he has found the solution unaided, thus acquiring courage and confidence in his own abilities.

This is what we should do in our propaganda. If our critic has ever made propaganda among those who we, with too much disdain, call politically “unconscious,” it will have occurred to him to find himself making an effort not to appear to be expounding and forcing on them a well-known and universally accepted truth; he will have tried to stimulate their thought and get them to arrive with their own reason at conclusions which he could have served up ready-made, much more easily so far as he was concerned, but with less profit for the “beginner” in politics. And if he ever found himself in a position of having to act as leader or teacher in some action or in propaganda, when the others were passive he would have tried to avoid making the situation obvious so as to stimulate them to think, to take the initiative and gain confidence in themselves.

The daily paper Umanità Nova is but one of our means of action. If instead of awakening new forces, and encouraging more ambitions and enthusiastic activity, it were to absorb all our forces and stifle all other initiatives, it would be a misfortune rather than an affirmation of vigor, and witness to our strength, vitality and boldness. Furthermore there are activities which cannot by definition, by carried out by the paper or by the press. Since the paper has to address itself to the public it must of necessity speak in the presence of the enemy, and there are situations in which the enemy must not be informed. The comrades must make other arrangements for these situations... elsewhere!

Must organization be secret or public?

In general terms the answer is obviously that one must carry out in public what it is convenient that everybody should know and in secret what it is agreed should be withheld from the public at large.

It is obvious that for us who carry on our propaganda to raise the moral level of the masses and induce them to win their emancipation by their own efforts and who have no personal or sectarian ambitions to dominate, it is an advantage where possible to give our activities a maximum of publicity to thereby reach and influence with our propaganda as many people as we can.

But this does not depend only on our wishes; it is clear that if, for example, a government were to prohibit us from speaking, publishing, or meeting and we had not the strength openly defy the ban, we should seek to do all these things clandestinely.

One must, however, always aim to act in the full light of day, and struggle to win our freedoms, bearing in mind that the best way to obtain a freedom is that of taking it, facing necessary risks; whereas very often a freedom is lost, through one’s own fault, either through not exercising it or using it timidly, giving the impression that one has not the right to be doing what one is doing.

Therefore, as a general rule we prefer always to act publicly... also because the revolutionaries of today have qualities, some good and others bad, which reduce their conspiratorial capacities in which the revolutionaries of fifty or a hundred years ago excelled. But certainly there can be circumstances and actions which demand secrecy, and in which case one must act accordingly.

In any case, let us be wary of those “secret” affairs which everybody knows about, and first among them, the police.

Isolated, sporadic propaganda which is often a way of easing a troubled conscience or is simply an outlet for someone who has a passion for argument, serves little or no purpose. In the conditions of unawareness and misery in which the masses live, and with so many forces against us, such propaganda is forgotten and lost before its effect can grow and bear fruit. The soil is too ungrateful for seeds sown haphazardly to germinate and make roots.

What is needed is continuity of effort, patience, coordination and adaptability to different surroundings and circumstances.

Each one of us must be able to count on the cooperation of everybody else; and that wherever a seed is sown it will not lack the loving care of the cultivator, who tends it and protects it until it has become a plant capable of looking after itself, and in its turn, of sowing new, fruitful, seeds.

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Anarchist Propaganda -- Publication.

January 12, 2017 ; 6:50:22 PM (America/Los_Angeles) :
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January 10, 2020 ; 8:52:51 PM (America/Los_Angeles) :
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