The International Anarchist Congress
held at the Plancius Hall in Amsterdam, 26-31August 1907
Thirteenth session – Friday 30 August – Morning session
It is nine o'clock when Lange, who has remained as chairman, declares the session open. The debate on syndicalism and the general strike is finished and there remains only to vote on the various motions that have been presented, before moving on to the subject of anti-militarism. Comrade Aristide Ceccarelli, though, asks to say a few words on the Argentinean workers' and anarchist movement. He takes the floor.
ARISTIDE CECCARELLI: For some years now in Argentina a strong workers' movement has been developing. There exists a group of militants who describe themselves as syndicalist. But, like the Italian syndicalists whom they greatly resemble, they have not renounced the methods of parliamentarianism; the only ones to carry out any serious work within the working class along revolutionary lines are the anarchists. It can be said that almost all the organization in the Federación Obrera Regional Argentina (82) show libertarian tendencies; and many of these carry out anarchist propaganda directly. The recent Argentinean workers' congress, described as a unification congress (83), approved with a large majority the proposal made to the unions to contribute to the propaganda of anarchist communism.
Ceccarelli goes on to outline the miserable state of the Argentinean workers and ends by declaring that he is authorized to propose the anarchist congress vote on a resolution aimed at impeding as much as possible European emigration to a country where, as much if not more than any other, there is neither bread nor freedom.
Errico Malatesta and several other delegates then observe that the resolution proposed by Aristide Ceccarelli merits special discussion, which congress cannot engage in at the moment as it must first finish dealing with the matter of syndicalism.
Without deliberating on the problem raised by Ceccarelli, it is decided to move on to the vote on the motions relating to syndicalism and the general strike, of which there are four.
FIRST MOTION: CORNELISSEN – VOHRYZEK – MALATESTA
"The International Anarchist Congress considers the Syndicates as both fighting organizations in the class struggle for the betterment of working conditions and as unions of producers that can serve in the transformation of capitalist society into an Anarchist Communist society.
Thus Congress, while recognizing that it may be necessary to create special revolutionary Syndicalist groups, recommends that comrades support the general Syndicalist organizations which are open to all the workers of the same category.
But Congress considers that it is the function of Anarchists to constitute the revolutionary element in these organizations and to propagate only those forms and manifestations of direct action (strikes, boycotts, sabotage, etc.) that are inherently revolutionary and aimed at transforming society.
Anarchists consider the Syndicalist movement and the general strike as powerful revolutionary means, but not as substitutes for revolution.
They also recommend that in the event of the proclamation of a General Strike for the conquest of political power, comrades participate in the strike but at the same time seek to use their influence to encourage the Syndicates to push their economic demands.
Anarchists think that the destruction of capitalist, authoritarian society can only come about through armed insurrection and violent expropriation, and that use of the strike, more or less general, and the Syndicalist movement must not allow us to forget more direct means of struggle against the military might of governments."
This motion is signed not only by its authors, but also by comrades Wilquet, Goldman, de Marmande, Rogdaev and Knotek, and is passed with 33 votes for and 10 against.
SECOND MOTION: FRIEDEBERG
"The class struggle and the economic emancipation of the proletariat are not identical to the ideas and aspirations of Anarchism, which go beyond the immediate aspirations of classes and are aimed at the economic and moral liberation of all humans, at an environment free from authority and not at a new power, that of the majority over the minority.
Anarchism, however, sees in the elimination of class oppression, in the disappearance of economic inequalities, an absolutely necessary and essential stage towards the achievement of its final goal. Anarchism must oppose the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat being waged with means that contradict anarchist ideas and impede the true goal of Anarchism. Anarchists therefore refuse to wage the struggle according to the methods of Marxist socialism, that is to say parliamentarianism and a corporative union movement whose only goal is the betterment of the proletariat's conditions, means that imply the consequential development of a new bureaucracy, of an approved or unapproved intellectual authority, and the oppression of the minority by the majority. Anarchist means for the abolition of class oppression can only be those that arise directly from the affirmation of the individual person: "direct action" and "individual disobedience" – that is to say active and passive individualism, both by one person and by a mass, moving with a collective will.
The Libertarian Communist Congress therefore rejects the strike for political rights (politischer Massenstreik), whose goal is unacceptable to Anarchism, but recognizes the economic and revolutionary General Strike, that is to say the refusal of the whole proletariat as a class to work, as a fitting means for the disorganization of the economic structure of today's society and for the emancipation of the proletariat from the slavery of the wage system. In order to achieve this general strike it is essential that the anarchist ideal penetrate the Syndicates. A Syndicalist movement that is animated by an Anarchist spirit can, through the revolutionary General Strike, destroy class domination and open the path to Anarchism's final goal: the realization of a society without authority."
This motion is passed with 36 votes for and 6 against.
THIRD MOTION: DUNOIS
Countersigned by Monatte, Fuss, Nacht, Zielinska, Fabbri, Walter.
"The Anarchists gathered in Amsterdam from 26 to 31 August 1907, considering
That the current economic and juridical regime is characterized by the exploitation and enslavement of the mass of producers, and establishes absolutely irreconcilable opposing interests that make up the class struggle;
That by solidarizing the resistance and rebellions on the economic terrain without doctrinaire worries, the Syndicalist organization is the fundamental specific organ of this struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie and all the bourgeois institutions;
That it is necessary for an increasingly audacious revolutionary spirit to guide the efforts of the Syndicalist organization towards the expropriation of the capitalists and the suppression of all authority;
That as expropriation and the taking of collective possession of the instruments and produce of labour can only be the task of the workers themselves, the Syndicate is destined to transform itself into an association of producers and is therefore the living bud in today's society of the future society;
Invite comrades of all countries, without forgetting that Anarchist action is not limited only to the sphere of the Syndicate, to participate actively in the autonomous movement of the working class and to develop within the Syndicalist organizations the ideas of revolt, individual initiative and solidarity, which are the very essence of Anarchism."
This motion is passed with 28 votes for and 7 against. As it contained nothing regarding the general strike, it was completed by the following motion:
FOURTH MOTION: NACHT – MONATTE
Countersigned by Fuss, Dunois, Fabbri, Zielinska and Walter.
"The Anarchists gathered in Amsterdam from 26 to 31 August 1907, declare that they consider the expropriating General Strike as a remarkable stimulus to organization and the spirit of rebellion in today's society and as the form with which the complete emancipation of the proletariat can be accomplished.
The General Strike cannot be confused with the Political General Strike (politischer Massenstreik), which is nothing more than an attempt by politicking elements to deviate the General Strike from its economic and revolutionary ends.
With the spread of strikes to whole localities, regions or trades, the working class will progressively rise up and drag itself towards the Expropriating General Strike, that will include the destruction of today's society and the expropriation both of the means of production and of the produce itself".
This last motion obtains 25 votes and is consequently passed.
The reader may be rather surprised that these four motions could have all been passed, given the evident contradictions between them. It defies the parliamentary norm, but it is a conscious transgression. In order that the opinion of the majority not suffocate, or seem to suffocate, that of the minority, the majority presented the single motions one by one for vote. All four had a majority of votes for. In consequence, all four were approved.
At this stage it appears that the subject of syndicalism and the general strike are finally exhausted. But Emma Goldman stands up and announces that it would be strange for an anarchist congress not to pronounce itself in favour of the right to revolt, in its widest sense, and reads the following declaration, countersigned by comrade Baginsky:
"The International Anarchist Congress declares its recognition of the right of both the individual and the whole mass to revolt.
Congress holds that acts of revolt, above all when they are directed against representatives of the State and the plutocracy, must be considered under a psychological profile, being the results of the deep impression made on the psychology of the individual by the terrible weight of social injustice.
It could be established, as a general rule, that only the most noble, most sensitive and most delicate characters are subject to such deep impressions as to manifest themselves in inward or outward acts of revolt. From this point of view, acts of revolt are the socio-psychological consequences of an unacceptable system; and as such, they must, with their causes and motives, be understood rather than exalted or condemned.
During revolutionary periods such as in Russia, the act of revolt – even without considering its psychological nature – has a double goal: it undermines the very basis of tyranny and excites the enthusiasm of those who dare not rebel. This is above all the case with terrorist attacks directed against the most brutal and hateful representatives of despotism."
In accepting this resolution, Congress expresses its support for the individual act of revolt and its solidarity with collective insurrection.
MALATESTA: As far as I am concerned, I accept the Goldman-Baginsky declaration. But as it cannot be linked either to the discussion on syndicalism, which is closed, or to that on anti-militarism, which is shortly to begin, I propose that it be considered as a simple declaration of principles and not as an ordinary motion, and that Congress vote on it as such.
GOLDMAN: Irrespective of how you want to call it, Max Baginsky and I would above all like Congress to vote on it.
Put to the vote, the Goldman-Baginsky declaration is unanimously approved.
The discussion on anti-militarism is then opened, but owing to the lack of time and the fact that the Anti-Militarist Congress has just opened, it is decided that the anarchists should join the latter congress, presenting a motion passed by the Anarchist Congress. The motion is signed by Malatesta, de Marmande, Thonar, Cornelissen, Ramus and Domela Nieuwenhuis.
"The Anarchists, desiring the integral emancipation of humanity and the absolute liberty of the individual, are naturally the declared enemies of all armed forces in the hands of the State – army, navy or police.
They urge all comrades, according to circumstances and individual temperament, to revolt and refuse to serve (either individually or collectively), to passively and actively disobey, and to join in a military strike for the destruction of all the instruments of domination.
They express the hope that the people of all countries affected will reply to a declaration of war by insurrection.
They declare it to be their opinion that the Anarchists will set the example."
The motion is approved without discussion and the session comes to a close at midday.
Fourteenth session – Friday 30 August – Afternoon session
This session is held as part of the Anti-Militarist Congress with the delegate of the Bohemian Anarchist Federation, Vohryzek, being elected as chairman. De Marmande, who is delegated to speak in the name of the Anarchist Congress, makes his report on the history and development of the anti-militarist movement, emphasizing the leading role played by anarchists. He concludes by putting to the vote the motion approved by the morning session of the Anarchist Congress and it is passed unanimously. There follow a series of speakers including Friedeberg, Rogdaev, Domela Nieuwenhuis, Croiset, Ramus, Goldman and Fabbri.
Fifteenth session – Friday 30 August – Evening session
The session opens towards nine o'clock and is poorly attended, many of the delegates having remained at the Anti-Militarist Congress. Others are in a nearby room, at a meeting of revolutionary syndicalists.
The agenda foresees discussion of Alcoholism and Anarchism and Professor J. Van Rees presents a short report. Discussion of the topic is postponed until the following day.
82. On 25 May 1901 in Buenos Aires,
the Federación Obrera Argentina [Argentinean Workers Federation] was
founded as a union central that was "autonomous" from the political parties. It
was strongly federalist and influenced by anarchists. For this reason, the
socialist opposition which was contrary to the general strike and to direct
action, set up the Unión General de Trabajadores [General Union of
Workers] in March 1902. The 4th congress of the FOA (held in Buenos Aires from
30 July to 2 August 1904), decided to add the term Regional to the name,
thereby creating the FORA.
83. In March 1907 in Buenos Aires, the FORA and the UGT met in congress in an attempt to merge. The operation failed thanks to the intransigence of the anarchist delegates who announced that they were in favour of an organization oriented towards "libertarian communism", obtaining a majority. This attitude of "non-neutrality" was harshly criticized by Luigi Fabbri (see his article Una spiegazione necessaria) in the 7 May issue of "La Vita Operaia". The article was republished in "La Protesta" on 7 July and in "L'Acción Socialista" on 16 July.
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