Anarchist propaganda

It goes without saying that the conception of the anarchist ideal lends itself to serious, probing philosophical examination, in which only those possessed of a high level of culture can commit themselves, but uneducated and illiterate anarchists need only aspire to liberation of the self, because, in addition to this being an undeniable right, it brings to light within them an aspiration to rebel against authority in all its forms, which proves that they have a lofty appreciation of the notion of personal sovereignty.

Which is why we do not believe that a cultivated individual is more of an anarchist than one who can just about decipher a book. They both start from the principle of complete autonomy of the individual and, once this has been attained every individual will avail of it as his intellectual faculties and temperament commend, which puts paid to the belief, held by many who argue that it would take individuals of lesser intellectual stature than their own in order to reach a condition of Anarchy.

Undoubtedly, if every individual were to enjoy complete freedom, it will be all the easier for him to develop his mentality and achieve a much better grasp of current knowledge, which just goes to show that, just as an individual may be disposed to acquire the most minute details of some manual trade, such as, say, working the land, garment-making or machine-construction, so there are others who would prefer to familiarise themselves with the most intricate principles of science, or the most profound philosophical knowledge, or the most complicated manufacturing processes, or the most beautiful strains of poetry. And each and every one of them, with broad freedom and scope for experimentation, study and practice, will have the opportunity to develop his personal faculties, utilising all his intellect, energy and sensibilities. The fact is that we neither oppose nor resist anyone’s using all his time to write good, profound books that can be used to develop and hone ideas as philosophically as possible, but strikes us that there is also a need for this to be tackled by somebody capable of setting out the anarchist ideal as plainly and basically as possible, avoiding the use of countless scientific and philosophical terms that are not accessible to many uneducated proletarian minds who do not have the means to get hold of good dictionaries, the upshot being a waste of time and a waste of propaganda.

There are also anarchist enthusiasts who may lack culture but have a great determination to spell out their ideas to the public or in private, most often do not come off too well in their discussions, especially, when faced with educated adversaries who exploit anarchists’ technical ignorance to swamp him with jesuitical, ill-intentioned jargon.

Imagine that an illiterate anarchist end up facing a reactionary academic: the fact is that the anarchist will not be equipped to debate the laws of evolution, the mechanics of the universe, the historical record, etc. with the reactionary. But this is not to say that the anarchist will be bested, as long as he has the wit to state that the individual is entitled to unfettered enjoyment of life and that the land, the sea, the sun and all the elements needed to nourish, strengthen and enhance man, that nobody has any right to deny him free access to these, nor should anyone curtail the actions of any individual, because freedom of the person is worth more than all religious, political and moral laws, since his happiness and independence depend on that freedom which is therefore a rejection of authority under any form, no matter its origin nor the grounds cited for turning a man into a slave.

Thus by being frank but showing all of the conviction and enthusiasm of which the anarchist is capable in the exposition of his ideas, he will make headway towards his emancipation, committing all of his determination, all his energy, his whole being to the defence of his individual freedom which is his guarantee of a life filled with great, beautiful sensations, thrown up by the satisfaction of living for oneself rather than for other ambitious, authoritarian individuals who cover up their tyranny and exploitation by invoking society, invoking laws and invoking a morality that smothers the sensibilities and spontaneous action of the individual.

Suffice to know that anarchist freedom means the absence of all authority from every act by the individual when the latter is disconnected from any form of society, with the resultant disappearance of all abstract freedom that turns the individual into an automaton by divesting him of his personality.

As we see things, this is the sort of propaganda that can be most productive in pushing individuals in the direction of the ideals of liberation, regardless of whether our enemies are better educated or more gifted in discussion of profound issues that are beyond the grasp of countless anarchists, due to their lack of wherewithal and a climate inimical to free cultivation of the individual, without this presenting an obstacle to all of us dedicating ourselves, insofar as can, to acquiring further expertise for the reinforcement and development of our ideals.

Let us not forget that everyone gives of what he has, without any obligation to give anything more, without this being any impediment to proclaiming the rights of the individual to freedom and to the unfettered development of his personality.

From: Germinal (Tampico), 28 July 1917 . Translated by: Paul Sharkey.