The International Anarchist Congress
held at the Plancius Hall in Amsterdam, 26-31August 1907
Seventh session – Wednesday 28 August – Morning session
The session opens shortly after nine o'clock. First comrade R. Lange is confirmed in his role as chairman. The, following the Dutch and German translations of Malatesta's speech, the correspondence is read, above all a letter from comrade Tsumin who writes from Paris to excuse himself for not taking part in the Congress for health reasons. The discussion on organization begun the previous day is once more taken up.
MAX BAGINSKY: An error that is too often made is believing that individualism rejects organization. The two terms are, on the contrary, inseparable. Individualism more specifically means working for inner mental liberation of the individual, while organization means association between conscious individuals with a goal to reach or an economic need to satisfy. We must not however forget that a revolutionary organization requires particularly energetic and conscious individuals.
The accusation that anarchy is destructive rather than constructive and that accordingly anarchy is opposed to organization is one of the many falsehoods spread by our adversaries. They confuse today's institutions with organization and thus cannot understand how one can fight the former and favour the latter. The truth is, though, that the two are not identical.
The State is generally considered to be the highest form of organization. But is it really a true organization? Is it not rather an arbitrary institution cunningly imposed on the masses?
Industry, too, is considered an organization; yet nothing is further from the truth. Industry is piracy of the poor at the hands of the rich.
We are asked to believe that the army is an organization, but careful analysis will show that it is nothing less than a cruel instrument of blind force.
Public education! Are not the universities and other scholastic institutions perhaps models of organization, which offer people fine opportunities to educate themselves? Far from it; school, more than any other institution, are nothing more than barracks, where the human mind is trained and manipulated in order to be subjected to the various social and mental phantoms, and thus rendered capable of continuing this system of exploitation and oppression of ours.
Instead, organization as we understand it is something different. It is based on freedom. It is a natural, spontaneous grouping of energies to guarantee beneficial results to humanity.
It is the harmony of organic development that produces the variety of colours and forms, the combination that we so admire in a flower. In the same way, the organized activity of free human beings imbued with the spirit of solidarity will result in the perfection of social harmony, which we call anarchy. Indeed, only anarchy makes the non-authoritarian organization of common interests possible, since it abolishes the antagonism that exists between individuals and classes.
In the current situation, the antagonism of economic and social interests produces an unceasing war between social units and represents an insurmountable obstacle on the road to collective well-being.
There exists an erroneous conviction that organization does not encourage individual freedom and that, on the contrary, it causes a decay of individual personality. The reality is, however, that the true function of organization lies in personal development and growth.
Just as the cells of an animal, through reciprocal cooperation, express latent powers in the formation of the complete organism, so the individual reaches the highest level of his development through cooperation with other individuals.
An organization, in the true sense of the word, cannot be the product of a union of pure nothingness. It must be made up of self-conscious and intelligent persons. In fact, the sum of the possibilities and activities of an organization is represented by the expression of the single energies.
It follows logically that the greater the number of strong, self-conscious individuals in an organization, the lesser the danger of stagnation and the more intense its vital element.
Anarchism supports the possibility of organization without discipline, fear or punishment, without the pressure of poverty: a new social organism that will end the terrible struggle for the means of subsistence, the vicious struggle that damages man's best qualities and continually widens the social abyss. In short, anarchism struggles for a form of social organization that will ensure well-being for all.
The embryo of the this organization can be found in the type of syndicalism that has freed itself from centralization, bureaucracy and discipline, that encourages autonomous, direct action by its members.
DUNOIS: I must point out that while I tried to bring the discussion from the lofty heights of vague, abstract ideas down to the concrete, precise and humbly relative ideas of the earth, Croiset has, on the contrary, sent it back up to the heavens, back to metaphysical heights where I refuse to follow.
The motion I propose for adoption by Congress is not inspired by speculative ideas on the right of the individual to full development. It is based on completely practical considerations regarding the need to organize, to bring greater solidarity to our propaganda and struggle.
At this point, Dunois reads the motion, whose slightly modified text can be found below.
CORNELISSEN: Nothing is more relative than the concept of the individual. Individuality in itself does not exist in reality, where it is always limited by other individualities. The individualists too often forget these real limits and in fact the great benefit of organization will be to make the individual aware of those limits by allowing him to get used to conciliating his right to personal development with the rights of others.
BENOÎT BROUTCHOUX: My experience as a revolutionary militant has definitely taught me that organization is still the most effective means to prevent that fetishism which is too often applied with regard to the person by certain agitators, which confers on them an authority that is actually extremely dangerous. You may know that in Pas-de-Calais we have a powerful miners' organization. Well, no-one would find amongst us even the slightest trace of authority or authoritarianism. Only our enemies can claim otherwise and denounce, for example, something resembling a constituted authority in the form of the secretaries of our union branches.
GERHART RIJNDERS: Neither am I hostile to organization. In fact, there is not one anarchist who is against it, underneath it all. Everything depends on the way in which the organization is conceived and set up. What we must avoid above all are personalities. In Holland, for example, the existing Federation far from satisfies everyone; but it is also true that those who do not approve can simply choose not to join.
ÉMILE CHAPELIER: I would ask that speeches be a little shorter and to the point. Since Malatesta's speech yesterday evening, which dealt thoroughly with the matter, not one new argument for or against organization has been produced. Before talking about authority and liberty, we should agree on the meaning of these words. For example, what is authority? If it is the influence that men of real ability exercise in a group, then I have nothing to say against it. But the authority that we must avoid at all costs is the authority which arises from the fact that some comrades blindly follow one man or another. This is a danger and in order to avoid it I would ask that the organization to be created be without leaders and general committees.
GOLDMAN: As I have already said, I am in favour of organization. I would just like Dunois' motion to affirm the legitimacy of individual action explicitly, alongside that of collective action (60). I am therefore presenting an amendment to the Dunois motion.
Goldman reads her amendment which, after being accepted by Dunois, is later added to the latter's motion in an abbreviated form.
ISAK SAMSON: Here in Holland there is a Federation of Libertarian Communists to which I belong. Undoubtedly, as comrade Rijnders was saying a short while ago, many comrades have refused to join. For reasons of principle? No, for reasons that are exclusively personal. We do not exclude, nor have ever excluded, anyone. Let them come to us, then, if they want to. In fact, I do not hide from the view that, whatever the form of organization, they will always be malcontent. They are so by nature and we should not worry too much about their criticism.
VOHRYZEK: The Dunois motion says nothing about what the nature of the anarchist organization should be; I therefore ask that it be completed by means of an addition specifying this, an addition that Malatesta has agreed to sign with me.
Vohryzek reads the addition, which can be found below. The discussion ends. The motions presented are now voted on. There are two: firstly, the Dunois motion, slightly amended by Goldman and completed by Vohryzek and Malatesta; the second is the motion presented by comrade Pierre Ramus.
"The anarchists meeting in Amsterdam, 27 August 1907,
considering that the ideas of anarchy and organization, far from being incompatible as is often stated, complement and clarify each other, as the very principle of anarchy lies in the free organization or producers;
considering that individual action, important as it may be, cannot make up for the lack of collective action of a combined movement, to the same degree that collective action cannot make up for the lack of individual action;
considering that the organization of militant forces would ensure new development of propaganda and could only accelerate the penetration of the ideas of federalism and revolution into the working class;
considering that workers' organization, based on common interests, does not exclude an organization based on shared aspirations and ideas;
are of the opinion that comrades from every country should proceed to form anarchist groups and federate the groups once they have been formed."
"The Anarchist Federation is an association of groups and individuals in which no-one can impose his will nor belittle the initiative of others. Its goal with regard to the present society is to change all the moral and economic conditions and accordingly it supports the struggle with all appropriate means."
"The Anarchist Congress at Amsterdam proposes that the groups from all countries unite in local and regional federations, according to the various geographical divisions.
We declare that our proposal is inspired by the very principles of anarchism, as we cannot see the possibility of initiative and individual action outside the group, which, founded according to our wishes, only provides a practical terrain for the free expansion of all individuality.
The federative organization is the most suitable form for the anarchist proletariat. It unites existing groups into an organic whole that grows through the addition of new groups. It is anti-authoritarian. It does not allow for any central legislative power which can make obligatory decisions for the groups and individuals, who have the right to develop freely within our common movement and to act in an anarchist and economic sense without any orders or obstacles. The federation does not exclude any group and every group is free to leave with any funds it has paid over or to join again, whenever it considers it necessary.
We likewise recommend that our comrades form groups according to the needs of their respective movements and not forget that the strength of the national or international movement depends on its constitution on an international level, as the means of emancipation can only derive from combined international action."
Comrades of all countries, organize yourselves in autonomous groups and unite in an International Federation: the Anarchist International.
Following the reading of the French, Dutch and German motions, a vote is taken. The Dunois motion obtains 46 votes, the Vohryzek addendum, 48. Against, only one hand is raised against the motion, none against the addendum which thus obtains the unanimity of votes.
The Ramus motion is then put to the vote immediately, obtaining 13 for and 17 against. Many of those in attendance declare that they are abstaining as the Ramus motion adds nothing to the one already voted on.
The report published in "Pages Libres" underlined the importance of the voting at the Congress:
"The Amsterdam resolution is not without importance: now it will no longer be possible for our social-democratic enemies to invoke our old hatred of any sort of organization in order to banish us from socialism without any further trial. The legendary individualism of anarchists has been publicly put to death in Amsterdam by the anarchists themselves, and all our enemies' bad faith will not be able to resuscitate it" (61).
It will be seen nonetheless that both in the preceding discussions and in the motions presented thus far, organization was dealt with only from a theoretical point of view. There still remained to make decisions of a practical nature, to create the Anarchist International. That was the task of the next session.
Eighth session – Wednesday 28 August – Afternoon session
This was a private session. The press was forewarned that it would not be admitted and did not turn up. Apart from those attending the congress – and a roll was called by nationality in order to avoid gate-crashers – only a small number of observers was present in the hall, amongst whom Fritz Kater, president of the Freie Vereinigung deutscher Gewerkschaften who had been following the Congress proceedings for two days from the ranks of the German delegates, and several comrades from Amsterdam known to the organizers.
At the start of the session the organizing committee of the Congress presented its financial report, from which it could be seen that expenses had exceeded the funds in hand and a deficit of around 250 francs was foreseen. After a short exchange of views, it was decided to have a collection among those in attendance at the end of the session and that an appeal for solidarity to comrades from every country would be made as soon as possible by the Congress' treasurer (J. De Bruijn) to all anarchist newspapers.
As Congress decided that the report of this session could not be published in detail, we must limit ourselves to a brief glance. All were in agreement regarding the usefulness of establishing international relations among anarchists but opinion was somewhat divided on the best ways to establish those relations. Many delegates spoke during the discussion: Georges Thonar, Henri Fuss, Chapelier, Malatesta, Fabbri, Ceccarelli, Monatte, Zielinska, de Marmande, Broutchoux, Walter, Wilquet, Nacht, Samson, Cornelissen, Rogdaev, Vohryzek, Lange and Friedeberg.
Thonar requested that the International be made up of national and regional federations each gathering a certain number of local sections; the federation would correspond directly with each other through trusted persons. Fuss replied to this, saying that rather than go into such detail, Congress should limit itself to creating a correspondence bureau with the task of linking the various national movement. Vohryzek raised the problem whether or not to accept isolated individuals as members and asked that they be accepted only upon presentation. Nacht supported the idea that the delegates of existing organizations should begin by making arrangements amongst themselves and later presenting Congress with a definite plan for the International.
Lange proposed the creation of an International Bureau of Correspondence of five members, based in London with the task of acting as intermediary between the groups and this proposal, as will be seen, was accepted by Congress. Then Friedeberg asked that the Bureau remain in permanent contact with the groups and set up the archives of international anarchism with the newspapers and written reports that it would receive. Emma Goldman opposed the idea of a Bureau of Correspondence. She thought that the expenses that a Bureau would incur would be better spent on the publication of an international Bulletin, the costs of which the American comrades agreed to bear. At this point Cornelissen replied that in effect the Bulletin seemed most useful but that it would best be published by the International Bureau.
At a certain point the chairman, Lange, announced that several concrete proposals had been deposited on his desk during the course of the discussions. The proposals came from comrades Vohryzek, de Marmande, Friedeberg, Lange, Nacht, Fabbri, Fuss, Broutchoux and Samson and, far from being incompatible, complemented each other. It was then proposed to fuse all the proposals into one and the session was suspended in order to do this.
The session recommenced after half an hour. Vohryzek, de Marmande, Friedeberg and the others had come to agreement on the following text which obtained 43 votes against 6 when submitted for approval to Congress:
"The anarchists (federations, represented groups and individuals) gathered at the Congress of Amsterdam declare the "Anarchist International" hereby founded.
It is made up of the existing organizations and the groups and single comrades that may join successively. The individuals, groups and federations shall remain autonomous.
An international bureau to be composed of 5 members is hereby established. This bureau shall have the task of creating an international anarchist archive, accessible to comrades.
It shall establish relations with anarchists from the various countries, both directly and through the mediation of three comrades chosen by the federations and groups from the countries involved.
In order to join the International on an individual basis, comrades must first be vouched for by an organization, by the bureau and by other comrades known to him.
The expenses incurred by the bureau, archive, etc., shall be covered by the federations, groups and individual members."
For their part, Baginsky, Goldman and Ramus presented the following motion, which obtained only 4 votes:
"The Anarchist International Congress declares the International to be founded. This International will not have a central bureau. Its functions will be ensured in the following way: the federations, groups and movements of an anarchist tendency in every country shall individually or collectively elect two correspondents whose names and addresses shall be published in every issue of international anarchist periodicals. These correspondents, according to the instructions received from their groups and federations, shall remain in constant contact with the correspondents from other countries. The publication of an International Bulletin is hereby established."
And thus came about the founding of the Anarchist International that so many comrades in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Bohemia had been looking forward to for so long. On the announcement of the result of the vote, unanimous applause broke out. It was seven o'clock and the session drew to a close with the singing of "The Internationale".
Ninth session – Wednesday 28 August – Evening session
At 9 o'clock the large Plancius Hall is literally packed. Lange declares the session open. On the agenda is the discussion of the following point: "Syndicalism and Anarchism". Comrade Pierre Monatte from Paris, a committee member of the Confédération Générale du Travail, takes the floor as the first speaker.
MONATTE: My aim is not to offer a theoretical exposition of revolutionary syndicalism but to demonstrate it to you at work and thus to let the facts speak for themselves. Revolutionary syndicalism, unlike socialism and anarchism which came before it, has found a place for itself more through action than through theory and it must be sought in action rather than in books.
One would need to be blind not to see all that anarchism and syndicalism have in common. Both have the aim of the complete destruction of capitalism and the wage system by means of a social revolution. Syndicalism, which is the proof of a reawakening in the workers' movement, has reminded anarchism of its worker origins; and indeed anarchists have contributed in no small way to dragging the workers' movement along the revolutionary path and popularizing the idea of direct action. So, syndicalism and anarchism have reacted to each other, to the greater benefit of each.
It is among the ranks of the Confédération Générale du Travail in France that revolutionary syndicalist ideas have taken form and developed. The Confederation occupies a place all of its own within the international workers' movement. It is the only organization that, while declaring itself openly revolutionary has no links with political parties, even the more advanced ones. In most other countries, social democracy plays the leading role. In France, the CGT leaves the socialist party in its wake, thanks to its sheer numbers and the influence it exerts: it expects to represent alone the working class and has openly rejected all the advances made to it over recent years. Its autonomy is its strength and it intends to remain autonomous.
This attitude of the CGT of refusing to deal with parties has led its exasperated enemies to label it anarchist. But nothing is further from the truth. The CGT is a wide grouping of syndicates and workers' unions and has no official doctrine. All doctrines are represented within it and are equally tolerated. The confederal committee does contain a number of anarchists, who meet and cooperate with socialists, the majority of whom – it is worth emphasizing – are no less hostile than the anarchists to the idea of agreements between the unions and the socialist party.
The structure of the CGT is worth describing. Unlike so many other workers' organizations it neither tends to centralize nor is it authoritarian. The confederal committee is not, as our rulers or reporters from the bourgeois press imagine, a managing committee uniting legislative and executive powers: it is free of all authority. The CGT is governed from below upwards; the union has no master other than itself; it is free to act or not to act; no external will interferes or influences its activity.
The basis of the Confederation is the syndicate. But the syndicate itself does not join the Confederation directly; it does so only through its corporative (trade) federation on the one hand, and its Bourse du Travail on the other. The Confederation consists of the union of federations and bourses.
The life of the Confederation is coordinated by the confederal committee which is made up of delegates from both the bourses and the federations. Some of its members go on to form commissions which function in parallel – the newspaper commission ("La Voix du Peuple"), the control commission dealing with financial matters, and the strikes and general strike commission.
Only congress has the power to deliberate collective matters. Every syndicate, no matter how weak, has the right to be represented by a delegate of its own choosing.
The Confederation's accounts are rather modest. Less than 30,000 francs a year. The continuous agitation that arose from the great movement of May 1906 (62) for the 8-hour day did not cost more than 60,000 francs. Such a small figure provoked great surprise amongst journalists when it was announced. What? The Confederation was able to support months and months of intense workers' agitation with just a few thousand francs? The fact is that French syndicalism, while poor on a financial level, is rich in energy, dedication and enthusiasm, and these are riches that are hard to become slaves to.
But the French workers' movement has not become what it is today without effort and time. Over the last thirty-five years – since the Paris Commune – it has gone through various phases. The idea of the proletariat, organized into "resistance societies", being the agent of the social revolution was the idea that lay at the heart of the great International Working Men's Association founded in London in 1864. The International's motto was, you will recall, "the emancipation of the workers will be the task of the workers themselves", and it is still our motto, all of us, the promoters of direct action and enemies of parliamentarianism. The ideas of autonomy and federation, so popular amongst us, once inspired all those in the International who rose up against the abuse of power by the general council and who took sides with Bakunin after the Hague congress. Furthermore, even the idea of the general strike, so popular today, is an idea from the International, where its innate power was first understood.
The defeat of the Commune sparked off a terrible reaction in France. The workers' movement suffered a brusque decline once its militants were killed or forced into exile. The workers' movement, however, found its feet again after a few years, at first slowly and timidly, later to grow more and more courageous. A first congress was held in Paris in 1876 (63) and was entirely dominated by the peaceful spirit of the cooperativists and the mutualists. At the following congress (64), some socialists spoke up regarding the abolition of the wage system. Finally, in Marseilles in 1879 (65) the new arrivals triumphed and gave the congress a markedly socialist and revolutionary character. However, there quickly arose differences between the socialists of different schools and tendencies. In Le Havre (66), the anarchists withdrew, unfortunately leaving the field open to the supporters of minimum programmes and the conquest of power. Left alone, the collectivists also ended up in disagreement. The struggle between Guesde and Brousse destroyed the nascent workers' party, leading to a full-scale split (67).
But neither the Guesdists nor the Broussists (who were to be split again some time later by Allemande)(68) were able to speak for the proletariat any more. The proletariat, quite rightly indifferent to the polemics raging between the various schools of thought, had transformed its unions into what it now called syndicates. Left to their own devices, in safety – thanks to their weakness and the jealousies of the various cliques – the syndicalist movement gradually acquired strength and confidence. It grew. In 1892, the Fédération des Bourses was formed (69). Since its inception in 1895 (70), the Confédération Générale du Travail has placed much emphasis on maintaining its political neutrality. In the meantime, a workers' congress in 1894 (in Nantes) had voted for the principle of the revolutionary general strike (71).
This is the age when many anarchists, having finally realized that philosophy alone is not enough to make a revolution, entered the workers' movement, which the more perspicacious saw offered the best hopes. Fernand Pelloutier was the man who, more than anyone else, embodied this evolution of the anarchists (72).
All the later congresses tended to sharpen the division between the organized working class and politics. In Toulouse in 1897 (73), our comrades Delesalle and Pouget had what are known as the tactics of boycott and sabotage adopted. In 1900, the newspaper "La Voix du Peuple" was founded with Pouget as its chief editor (74). The CGT overcame its initial difficulties and demonstrated its growing strength more and more every day. It was becoming a force which both the governments and socialist parties had to deal with.
The new movement was then subjected to a ferocious assault by the government, supported by all the reformist socialists. Millerand, who was now a government minister (75), tried to regiment the syndicates and turn every Bourse into a branch of his ministry. He had hired agents working for him within the organizations and trusted militants were the object of attempts to corrupt them. It was a dangerous time. The danger, however, was averted thanks to the agreement between all the revolutionary factions – anarchists, Guesdists and Blanquists. And once the danger was over the agreement remained. Strengthened after 1902 with the influx of the Fédération des Bourses (76), an event which created workers' unity, the Confederation today draws its strength from itself; and it is from this pact that revolutionary syndicalism was born, a doctrine which makes the syndicate the organ and the general strike the instrument of social transformation.
However – and I would call the attention of all the non-French comrades to this extremely important point – neither the achievement of workers' unity nor the coalition of revolutionaries could alone have brought the CGT to its present strength and influence if we had not remained true, in our union practice, to the basic principle that in effect excludes syndicates of opinion: one single syndicate in each town for each trade. The consequence of this principle is the political neutrality of the syndicate, which cannot and must not be anarchist, nor Guesdist, nor Allemandist, nor Blanquist, but simply of the workers. Differences of opinion, often subtle and artificial, fall into the background in the syndicate, enabling agreement. In practice, interests prevail over ideas: all the polemics between the various schools and sects cannot eliminate the fact that the workers, who are all equally subject to the laws of the wage system, have identical interests. And this is the secret of the agreement reached between them, which makes syndicalism so strong and which allowed it at the Congress of Amiens last year to state proudly that it was sufficient unto itself (77).
My contribution here would be decidedly incomplete if I did not demonstrate the means that revolutionary syndicalism counts on to achieve the emancipation of the working class.
These means can be summed up in two words: direct action. But what is direct action?
For a long time, under the influence of the socialist schools of thought and in particular the Guesdist school, the workers entrusted the task of satisfying their demands to the State. Remember the workers' marches led by socialist deputies, delivering the fourth estate's petitions to the public powers! Given that such methods of action brought bitter disappointment, it gradually came to be thought that the workers could only obtain those reforms that they were able to impose by themselves; in other words, that the motto of the International that I previously mentioned should be understood and applied as rigorously as possible.
Doing things oneself, depending on oneself alone – that is direct action. But this naturally takes on different forms.
Its main form, or rather its most noticeable form, is the strike. A double-edged sword, it was said recently: a solid and well-tempered sword, we say and one which can strike at the heart of the bosses if ably handled by the worker. It is through the strike that the working masses enter the class struggle and familiarize themselves with the notions that arise therefrom; it is through the strike that they receive their revolutionary education, measure up their strength against the strength of their enemy capitalism, gain trust in their own power and learn to be audacious.
Sabotage is no less valuable either. It works along these lines: bad work for bad pay. Like the strike, it has always existed, but it has only acquired its revolutionary significance in recent years. The results achieved by sabotage are already notable. Where strikes have proved useless, sabotage has managed to break the bosses' resistance. A recent example: the sabotage that followed the strike and defeat of the Parisian building workers in 1906. The building workers went back to their sites determined that their peace with the bosses would be more terrible than their war. And so, tacitly and unanimously in agreement, they began to slow production down; as if by chance, sacks of plaster or cement were found to be ruined, etc., etc. This war is still continuing today and, I repeat, the results have been impressive. Not only have the bosses often had to concede, but the construction workers have come out of this campaign much more conscious, more independent, more rebellious.
But if I dealt only with syndicalism as a whole, forgetting to mention its particular manifestations, what sort of apology would that be! The revolutionary spirit in France was dying, year after year it languished. Guesde's revolutionism, for example, was only in words or, worse still, for the benefit of elections and parliament; the revolutionism of Jaurès, on the other hand, went even further: it was simply, and openly, ministerial and governmental. As for the anarchists, their revolutionism had taken refuge in the lofty heights of the ivory tower of philosophical speculation. But it was amongst all these défaillances, in fact because of them, that syndicalism was born; the revolutionary spirit came alive again, became renewed at contact with it, and the bourgeoisie, for the first time since anarchist dynamite had hushed its grandiose voice, the bourgeoisie trembled!
It is important, then, that the syndicalist experience of the French proletariat be of use to the proletariat of every country. And it is the task of anarchists to ensure that this experience begins again everywhere there is a working class that is struggling for its own emancipation. Instead of opinion-based syndicalism, which gave rise to anarchist trade-unions in, for example, Russia and to Christian and social-democratic trade unions in Belgium and Germany, anarchists must provide the option of French-style syndicalism, a neutral – or more precisely, independent – form of syndicalism. Just as there is only one [working] class, so there should be only one single workers' organization, one single syndicate, for each trade and in each town. Only on this condition can the class struggle – no longer facing the obstacle of arguments between the various schools of thought and rival sects on every point – develop to its fullest extent and have the greatest possible effect.
The Congress of Amiens proclaimed that syndicalism is sufficient unto itself. Now I know that this word has not always been completely understood, not even by anarchists. But what does it mean, if not that the now mature working class finally intends to be sufficient unto itself and not to entrust its emancipation to anyone other than itself? What anarchist could object to such a clearly-expressed will for action?
Syndicalism does not waste time promising the workers heaven on earth. It asks them to conquer it and assures them that their action will not be entirely in vain. It is a school of will, of energy, of fruitful thought. It opens new hopes and prospects to anarchism, too long closed in on itself. Let anarchists embrace syndicalism, then; their work will be all the more fruitful, their strikes against the social regime all the more decisive.
As with every human endeavour, the syndicalist movement is not without its faults, but far from wishing to hide them, I believe it is useful to remember them constantly so that we can act to overcome them.
The most important is the tendency of individuals to entrust the task of struggle to their syndicates, to the Federation, to the Confederation, to rely on collective strength when their individual energy would be enough. By constantly appealing to the will of the individual, to his initiative and his daring, we anarchists can react vigorously against this negative tendency to resort continuously to the collective strength for small and large matters alike.
Syndicalist fonctionnairisme, furthermore, provokes lively criticism which, it must be said, is often justified. It can and does happen that some militants no longer fulfil their function in order to fight in the name of their comrades, but in order to make a living. But we must not deduce from this that the trade union organizations must do without officials. Many organizations cannot do without them. But they are a necessity whose defects can be corrected by an ever-vigilant spirit of criticism.
60. This proposal by Goldman was
made with Berkman in mind.
61. This is, of course, an entirely biased consideration on the part of the editor.
62. In May 1906, 158,000 people were on strike in France in support of the 8-hour day. See CH. TILLY – EDW. SHORTER, Strikes in France (1890-1968), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1970, pp. 119, 120.
63. 2-10 October 1876.
64. Lyons, 28 January – 8 February 1878.
65. 20-31 October 1879. The congress pronounced itself in favour of the collectivization of the means of production and was oriented towards “la federation générale de toutes les corporations”. In Marseilles, the Fédération du Parti des travailleurs socialistes de France [Federation of the Party of Socialist Workers of France] was founded.
66. In November 1880.
67. There had already been the first signs of dissent between the Broussists and the Guesdists at the Congress of Rheims (30 October – 6 November 1881), where the Fédération transformed itself into the Parti des travailleurs socialistes. At the following congress in Saint-Étienne, which opened on 25 September 1882, the Guesdists walked out and set up the Parti ouvrier [Workers Party], later to become the Parti ouvrier français [French Workers Party]. The followers of Brousse instead founded the Parti ouvrier socialiste révolutionnaire [Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party], which later became the Fédération des travailleurs socialistes de France [Federation of Socialist Workers of France].
68. In 1890 the possibilist left wing led by Jean Allemande formed a party which took the old name Parti ouvrier socialiste révolutionnaire.
69. Saint-Étienne Congress, 7-8 February 1892.
70. Limoges Congress, 23-28 September 1895.
71. 17-22 September 1894.
72. Pelloutier (1867-1901) was secretary of the Fédération des Bourses du Travail from 1894 and a supporter of anarchists joining the syndicates.
73. 20-25 September 1897. The Congress proclaimed the general strike to be “synonymous of revolution”.
74. “La Voix du Peuple” was the mouthpiece of the CGT and began publication on 10 December 1900. The pre-war series ended on 3 August 1914, when hostilities broke out. Émile Pouget (1860-1931), who had been behind the old “Père Peinard” journal, was its chief editor until 1909. His place was taken by Yvetot (1909-1912), who was in turn succeeded until 1914 by Dumoulin.
75. In 1898 Alexandre Millerand, an independent socialist, accepted the post of Minister of Industry and Trade in the Waldeck-Rousseau cabinet.
76. Montpellier Congress, 22-27 September 1902 (13th national corporative congress and 7th CGT congress).
77. 8-16 October 1906.
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