1.3. Berneri (or, Innovation)

Camillo Berneri (1897-1937) is representative of the latest generation of the theoreticians of militant Anarchism, anarchism at the height of its development. The losses incurred from the Spanish War through the loss of a good many active members of the movement, from the Fascist regimes through the dispersion of a century of accumulated experience and from World War II through the emergence of the bipolar world order and the disappearance of every alternative to Capitalism except Stalinist Communism, have had the effect of not allowing a new Anarchist Communist theory to develop. Few original thinkers have emerged (perhaps the only ones were Daniel Guérin and Murray Bookchin, though the latter starts from positions which have nothing to do with class-struggle Anarchism). The re-elaboration of theory suffered an enormously grave interruption, to the point where even the memory of basic points of that theory which is Anarchist and Communist at the same time was lost and required a long and laborious recovery. The ability to analyse the present situation, too, came to a long halt and only recently have we found Noam Chomsky to be an extremely lucid representative, the likes of which had not been seen for over half a century. It has only been for about the last thirty years that the real lineaments of the various products of the Anarchist movement and its role as an integral part of the proletariat, an idea of class struggle and not just the product of the vague utopian wanderings of a few philosophers lost in their sophistry, has emerged from the mists of disinformation which had shrouded its distinguishing features, disfiguring it.

Camillo Berneri

In his thinking, Berneri demonstrated intolerance for dogmas at an early stage, above all where they came from a collection of assertions which were superficially accepted and were not sufficiently examined for their truth. His was, then, a strongly innovative contribution which was not tied to any preconceived systems which would anyway end up creating barriers for the development of the idea. Unfortunately, his premature death in revolutionary Barcelona at the hands of hired Stalinist thugs put an end to his theoretical development (and, as we have seen, to that of the entire movement). It is therefore easier to understand the potential in his original elaborations (original, though within the definition of class-struggle Anarchism) than to point to a complete corpus of doctrine. The most interesting elements are to be found in his analysis of post-revolutionary society, of its possible methods, of the contradictions which it will encounter and resolve. Berneri's theoretical exploration heralded positive developments which were necessary even at the time in which he lived in order to clear the mists which had already enveloped the presumed orthodoxy of the day, whose sterile ideas were useless for day-to-day action. 

Lastly, he was also the bearer of what could be called possibilism, or a willingness to confront and to consider the conquests of the day, something which distinguishes him from that mass of automatons, his contemporaries (still appreciated today by their many imitators). This even taking into account the total intransigence of his basic principles which frequently led him into conflict with the Stalinists to such extent that they felt forced to eliminate him physically - any adversary who interfered in their matters was dangerous for them.


2. Events