Money and Banks

By Errico Malatesta (1922)

Revolt Library Anarchism Money and Banks

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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.)
• "...the State is incapable of good. In the field of international as well as of individual relations it can only combat aggression by making itself the aggressor; it can only hinder crime by organizing and committing still greater crime." (From : "Pro-Government Anarchists," by Errico Malatesta, ....)
• "Government is the consequence of the spirit of domination and violence with which some men have imposed themselves on other, and is at the same time the creature as well as the creator of privilege and its natural defender." (From : "Anarchist Propaganda," by Errico Malatesta.)
• "Let there be as much class struggle as one wishes, if by class struggle one means the struggle of the exploited against the exploiters for the abolition of exploitation. That struggle is a way of moral and material elevation, and it is the main revolutionary force that can be relied on." (From : "About My Trial: Class Struggle or Class Hatred?,"....)


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Money and Banks

It is a mistake to believe as some do that the banks are, or are in the main, a means to facilitate exchange; they are a means to speculate on exchange and currencies, to invest capital and make it produce interest, and to fulfill other typically capitalist operations, which will disappear as soon as the principle that no one has the right or the possibility of exploiting the labor of others, triumphs.

That in the post-revolutionary period, in the period of reorganization and transition, there might be “offices for the concentration and distribution of the capital of collective enterprises,” that there might or not be titles recording the work done and the quantity of goods to which one is entitled, is something we shall have to wait and see about, or rather, it is a problem which will have many and varied solutions according to the system of production and distribution which will prevail in the different localities and among the many natural and artificial groupings that will exist. What seems essential to me is that all money actually in circulation, industrial shares, title deeds, government securities, and all other securities which represent the right and the means for living on the labor of others should immediately be considered valueless and also, in so far as it is possible to do so, destroyed.[132]

It is customary in [anarchist] circles to offer a simplicist solution to the problem [of money] by saying that it must be abolished. And this would be the solution if it were a question of an anarchist society, or of a hypothetical revolution to take place in the next hundred years, always assuming that the masses could become anarchist and communist before the conditions under which we live had been radically changed by a revolution.

But today the problem is complicated in quite a different way. Money is a powerful means of exploitation and oppression; but it is also the only means (apart from the most tyrannical dictatorship or the most idyllic accord) so far devised by human intelligence to regulate production and distribution automatically.

For the moment, rather than concerning oneself with the abolition of money one should seek a way to ensure that money truly represents the useful work performed by its possessors….

Let us assume that a successful insurrection takes place tomorrow. Anarchy or no anarchy, the people must go on eating and providing for all their basic needs. The large cities must be supplied with necessities more or less as usual.

If the peasants and carriers, etc. refuse to supply goods and services for nothing, and demand payment in money which they are accustomed to considering as real wealth, what does one do? Oblige them by force? In which case we might as well wave goodbye to anarchism and to any possible change for the better. Let the Russian experience serve as a lesson.

And so?

The comrades generally reply: But the peasants will understand the advantages of communism or at least of the direct exchange of goods for goods.

This is all very well; but certainly not in a day, and the people cannot stay without eating for even a day. I did not mean to propose solutions [at the Bienne meeting]. What I do want to do is to draw the comrades’ attention to the most important questions which we shall be faced with in the reality of a revolutionary morrow.[133]

[132] Umanità Nova, April 18, 1922

[133] Umanità Nova, October 7, 1922

(Source: Text from Life and Ideas: The Anarchist Writings of Errico Malatesta, 2015 Edition, edited and translated by Vernon Richards, published by PM Press -- please support the publisher!)

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March 27, 2021; 5:26:25 PM (America/Los_Angeles)
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