Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bakunin, “Mémoire justificatif” (1874)

“Mémoire justificatif”

(July 28-29, 1874, Splügen, Switzerland)

Supporting documents that I write principally for my poor Antonia. I beg Emilio to read it first, then to give it to Cafiero to read, who could give it to his wife to read, if he thinks it is a good idea, and only after he has read it and added his observations it he finds it necessary, to give it to Antonia, but to destroy it by common agreement, since it contains political facts that should never leave the circle of our most intimate friends.
Emilio knows the beginning of the Baronata. It was long ago, in the autumn of 1872, or the winter of 1873, that Cafiero spontaneously conceived the idea of buying a house at Locarno with some land, of which I would be the nominal, proprietor where I would reside with my whole family endlessly and that would serve at the same time as a way station, refuge or temporary habitation for all our close friends. During the whole winter of 1873 it was only that, as much in our private conversations as in our correspondence with Cafiero.
In the summer of 1873 the Spanish revolution seemed to have taken a completely victorious development. We first thought to send a friend there, then at the entreaties of our Spanish friends, I decided to go myself. But to make that journey, we would need money and our only source of finances was Cafiero, and Cafiero was prevented from giving anything to us because he had still not finished his business with his brothers. We decided on a young friend and myself to press him and as it was useless and nearly impossible to do it by letter, the young friend went to his how. He was arrested there. So I was forced to communicate with Cafiero by correspondence, using a symbolic language that had been established between us. In one of my letters, responding to one of his, in which he energetically protested against my departure, I showed him the urgency of it and at the same time announced my resolution to leave as soon as he had sent me the necessary sum. I added an entreaty, that of becoming the protector of my wife and children in the case that I died in Spain. I had the friendship of Cafiero, whom I loved myself from the bottom of my heart. I had in him then an unlimited faith. Since our first encounter in the spring of 1872 he had shown towards me a boundless, almost filial tenderness. I thought therefore speak to him safely in this supreme circumstance. So my expectation was not mistaken, for he replied to me with a letter all full of fraternal affection, in which he promised me to become the vigilant providence of my family. But at the same time, he still protested against my departure, and he did not send me the money necessary to it, whether from real lack of money or a resolution on his part not to give it to me for this trip. He saw me as an invaluable being, absolutely necessary to our circle of friends, who should consequently be preserved at all costs, even against his will. Today, he has come, it seems, to think of me like an old rag, absolutely useless and good to throw to the four winds.—I think he was mistaken then as he is mistaken today.—I have never been as valuable as he liked to think a year ago, nor as useless as he thinks today. But let us move on.
In the month of August 1873, Cafiero finally came to Locarno, freed from his brothers and he brought with him the first of the money. I do not recall the amount, but he will find it recorded in the great ledger that I gave him on the eve of my departure. What I know, and what he will doubtless not be deny, is that the use of this sum was settled between us, down to the smallest details. Among other things, there were a few thousand francs (see again the ledger) assigned to the first payment on the Baronata, which had bought, not only with his consent, but as a result of its most urgent solicitations. At first that appeared only an expense of 14,000 francs., which then increased 4000 francs due to the blunder committed by Chiesa, who had left out the two fields that were part of the property, without which, according to Gavirati, in agreement with everyone, that property had no value.
It is at that moment that the story of our fantastic imaginations and enterprises begins. The Baronata, now our property, consisted then of the old house that you know, a fairly large, but quite dilapidated vinyard, a very small garden, and the stables, minus the new addition of the shed and the room above.—It was obvious that the old house had too few rooms to house my whole family and also all the friends who would temporarily live with us. To compensate, there were only two means: either by enlarging the old house, by adding two very big rooms behind the gallery and above Papa’s bedroom and the dining room, or building a new house.—I nodded resolutely to the first plea. I had something like a presentiment about the construction of a new home, and it seemed to me that the addition of two bedrooms was absolutely sufficient for our needs. But someone objected to me first that the house was damp, and humidity, said Dr. Jacoby, who had accompanied us on this investigative visit with his wife and the Zayzews, becomes deadly for a precious health and that dear health was then, as I have said, the principal presumption of Cafiero, at least judging by what he said. I no longer know if he said what he thought, as I had been convinced then, for it is only in very recently that I began to perceive that with regard to me, as with everyone, there is often a great difference between his word and his intimate thoughts.—Besides one added, and this observation came precisely from Cafiero, the addition of two rooms would not be sufficient for the object proposed, and finally that the two new rooms, completely deprived of sun, would just be unhealthy.
It was decided against my recommendation to build a new house. They went on an expedition on the mountain, by a path so hard to climb that I did not accompany them, and two months later I still did not know the location chosen for the new house. Ostroga was in the party and he was invited by Cafiero to draw up the plan for the new building. Ostroga made two. One was larger, in conformity with Cafiero’s instructions, the other smaller, that of the present home, with some modifications and embellishments proposed by the engineer Galli. Cafiero long recommended, with the obstinacy that he is his sometimes, for big the house. It was always a question for him above all of the conservation of my dear health, and he had asked Dr. Jacoby to indicate the main hygienic conditions. It was a consequence this then dominant tendency that assigned to me not one, but two large and beautiful rooms on the ground floor between the corridor and living room, when they finally resigned themselves to settling for a relatively small house. It was something quite different in the big house—Cafiero had recommended to Ostroga to establish, beside even the two most beautiful rooms that were assigned to me, on one side a large greenhouse where I could come to breathe the scented atmosphere of the flowers, and on the other a bathroom etc. etc.
Cafiero recalls that Dr. Jacoby, always faithful to the fantastic sophistical habits of his mind, had claimed then that medical science had some very certain means to prolong if not endlessly at least indefinitely the life of a man, even a sick old man like me. I can not say that the Cafiero had taken him completely seriously, but he listened to Jacoby with great attention, and he begged Jacoby to prescribe the desired regime and begged me to submit to it. If Cafiero does not remember, let him appeal to the excellent memory of Zaysev in front of whom this question was raised and discussed repeatedly, in the most serious manner in the world. Now that I have learned the profound cunning of his character, of which I could not then have had the slightest suspicion, I can accept that it/he was mocked inside by all of us. But there was, to my knowledge at least, no fact which gave him the right or could have suggested the desire to do so. Everything he said and did oozed the most absolute confidence and inspired in me an unlimited faith in his friendship.
It was then that he uttered for the first time with a great deal of heat a thought to which he remained stubbornly faithful until his return from Russia. He said that I should now refrain from any revolutionary expedition, that I should leave that to the young people, as the always active and always secret, well hidden center of a permanent international conspiracy. I constantly combated this idea, not in some of its details, in which I agreed with him, but in its very principle—this principle, if I were to accept it, would necessarily condemn me to the unenviable and mostly useless role of a Dalai Lama who would get fat at great expense for the salvation of everyone. I agreed with Cafiero that the state of my health, my weight, my heart disease and stiffness in my limbs and movements would necessarily now make me ill-suited to adventurous expeditions that required above all physical strength, elasticity and rapid movements at every trial. But I always maintained my duty and right to throw myself into any revolutionary movement that assumes a more or less general character. Consistent and serious, and I have always felt and thought that the most desirable end for me would be to fall in the middle of a great revolutionary upheaval.
Besides, it was then between us nothing but an academic discussion, the circumstances were such that he could not think of a revolutionary expedition. The Spanish revolution had just failed miserably due to lack of energy and revolutionary passion in the leaders as well as the masses, and all the rest of the world was plunged into the most dismal reaction. Only Italy presented some symptoms of a revolutionary awakening, but there was still much work to do to draw a popular power from it. I therefore agreed with Cafiero not only I, but all of us should […] for the moment as much as possible, in order to be able to work even better in secret, and that therefore there was no better way than to assume across the board the mask of the peaceful and very material bourgeois.
Under this new system it was accepted that I, as the permanent center of the association, would take more than ever the role of a tired and disgusted revolutionary, because of that disgust, having lost all illusions, threw himself with passion into the material interests of property and family. This had become all the more necessary as our circle had become not only the object of persecution and espionage by all the governments, but also that of furious attacks from the more or less socialist revolutionaries of other parties. I had especially become the object of denunciations and infamous calumnies on the part of the Germans and Jews of the school of Marx and Co.
So I had to pose as a bourgeois very easily absorbed by the interests of my family. There was a pretty serious disadvantage to that, which had not escaped our attention. Everyone knew that until now I had been very poor, living in a state close to poverty. How were we to explain to the world the sudden, wonderful transformation of my fortune. Cafiero and I discussed this issue often, and we decided that first we did not have an account to render to the bourgeois world for which we had only hatred and contempt; that I could have inherited or received from Russia a part of my property, by means that in order to escape persecution and the confiscations of the Russian government must necessarily remain secret; and that then the same poor pretext to slander us, far from concerning us, should delight us, since that would still serve us better hide our game.
As a result of this resolution, one fine day I became a bourgeois if not rich, at least at ease, without being accountable to anyone outside of our closest friends for the way I had become such. Three men were an exception to the rule here in Locarno: Emilio Bellerio, Zaycev and Remigio Chiesa, Zaysev as an individual friend very devoted and very discreet, and Chiesa because we needed him in many regards and because he had actually rendered great services to us, without us ever having to repent of our trust so far. Additionally, I also knew Dr. Jacoby and his wife as friends and the Ostrogas as old allies and friends. But even the venerable Paolo Gavirati, for whom I have such a deep respect and who has so many times proven to me his unalterable friendship, even he was not taken into our secret confidence, and this for the following reason: it been decided that I would make every possible effort to obtain the rights to a Swiss citizen in the canton of Ticino, and Gavirati should be precisely the one who more than others could and would help me to obtain it, which he certainly would not have done if he even suspected that I continued to concern myself with militant politics for fear of jeopardizing his beloved Switzerland in general and the canton Ticino in particular. I would add that Gavirati never asked me any discreet questions, and that despite the rumors of all sorts that continued to circulate on my account, he never showed me any mistrust, and in the end he helped me always and everywhere anyway.
It was a result of all these resolutions in common that I published a month later two letters by which I declared, due to illness and old age, my retirement from all political action into private life.
So then I established myself a bourgeois propertarian. To give me more of the appearance, Cafiero insisted that I have at least one horse and carriage and it is himself who made the purchase of old Pina and a very old and extremely dilapidated carriage, in the place of which he himself bought the new carriage. It was also he who absolutely decided that I should buy the second horse, a wagon and a boat. He even wanted to go himself either to Milan or Varese to buy the carriage and wagon until he found both in Bellinzona. Cafiero is asked to remember that I constantly protested against all these acquisitions, and that I always ended up giving in. Moreover, he and Emilio know that I personally had very little use for the carriage and even less for the boat in which I did not even go out once. As for the carriage, as necessary as it was given the remoteness of the Baronata from Locarno, I always felt a painful sense of shame in entering it. It always seemed to me that I resembled the raven walking around in peacock feathers, and for a long time I maintained the absolute ban on harnessing the carriage with two horses; but I was compelled to give myself the new horse not wanting to work Pina alone. I insist on all these little details first because they were quite expensive by themselves, and they indicate at the same time the tender concern of Cafiero for my physical well-being. Most often this solicitude was imposed on me with a gentle violence. It was something else when he tried to impose the Banting System on me. He not only wanted me to dine apart, but there was a separate table service, cooking and provisions for me. Jacoby having said that Bordeaux wine was excellent for me, he insisted on putting in a stock and I had great difficulty in dissuading him. He also recalled how one day returning from Milan, with an old friend who was once maître d'hôtel in the big house of some Marquis, he brought exclusively for me a quantity of excellent things.—But I would never finish if I continued to talk about everything. To finish, I would add only this: I personally made very little use of the material well-being he insisted on surrounding me with. I neither ate nor drank more or better than with Giacomo, and those who know me know very well that I am not very demanding and refined in my food and that provided I have tobacco and tea, I am satisfied. That is my only luxury.
The only personal expense I made myself was made in Berne, in September 1873. I bought brand new clothes. Cafiero will find in the ledger our expenses from Berne, sizeable. I will add however that I did not dress myself alone, but with my three friends, that if I made myself a full provision of linen and clothes, it was again on the very pressing and indeed completely consistent recommendation of Cafiero, who told me that since we had decided that I appear as a bourgeois, it was absolutely necessary that I keep up all appearances. Finally he and all my friends know very well that I made very little use of all these new clothes, that I have worn them only on the very rare occasions when I went to Locarno, and at home I’ve always preferred my favorite old clothes, more or less torn, soiled and worn.
When, last October I returned from Berne to the Baronata, I found it in full debauch. I found the Holy Family Nabruzzi installed—him, his mother and a very difficult lady to classify, besides two Spaniards, one of my dearest Italian friends and Fanelli. The basic and directed expenses caused by the holy family were enormous. It was a cause for trembling.
The invitation of Nabruzzi with his mother as steward and housekeeper of the Baronata, motivated by many reasons unrelated to the latter and well known to Cafiero was decided between us two. It was a most unfortunate choice, not that Nabruzzi was a bad man. On the contrary, he is a great boy and a very loyal friend, but at the same time completely incapable of directing and administering the slightest thing. His government and that of his mother cost us much too much money. Cafiero knows all my efforts, all the storms I made to decrease the spending. Nothing made Nabruzzi merely balance the accounts in his best writing, but uncritically and without any control. Finally sent Madame Nabruzzi and Miss H. away. We replaced the service of the house. The old maître d'hôtel of the Marquis, our friend, took over the management. It was another system, but not a difference in the economy. Cafiero knows this, and he knows the despair that I felt as a result, and it was only after the departure of old Pezza that I managed to establish, with the help of a Madme Zaysev, a bit o economy. In the end, during that winter we spent just for the maintenance of the house more than Antonia would have required for a year or perhaps a year and a half. Was that my fault? Certainly not. I did not let one day pass without protest, often without shouting. Cafiero knows it well, but it was useless, because myself, I heard nothing of it. Besides, the house fed and lodged a mass of people, there was no order there, and a general waste of everything. The superior order that Antonia found was all that could be done.
Cafiero should ask Nabruzzi for all the old accounts that are at his home, but only in order not to seem unfair to Nabruzzi because it must be noted that among these accounts, [...] not those of the internal administration of the house, there many that concerned the exterior work. But these works were as disordered as the administration of the house.
For the outdoor work [...] the garden as well as the new drive, we unfortunately came across two scoundrels: the gardener Molinari and Nicora, the shirker, the one the only gardener of Locarno, recommended as such by Giacomo Fanciola, the other recommended by Chiesa. Cafiero knows all the tribulations we experienced with them, so it is enough for me to say that all the work that they did until January, was not only immensely expensive, not only of no use, but was often even harmful and as such had to be completely redone. That was an education that cost me dearly. Cafiero knows what difficulties I had to conquer in order to rid myself of these two scamps. He knows that the true work only began on January 18. Everything that has been made and remade, undertaken and changed as much in the internal administration of the house as in that of the external labors has not only been carried out with the full knowledge of Cafiero but has been discussed in all the details and decided in common with him, for I have never ceased to consider and treat him as the true proprietor of the Baronata, and he has often reproached me for doing it too much and appearing as such, saying that he on the contrary believed he should step aside in order to better accomplish the aim that we had proposed.
He also took a very active part in the negotiations that we have in half of January with Paolo Gavirati, the engineer Galli, Ruggiero, Luigi Rusca and Giacomo Fanciola in relation to the radical changes that it was necessary to introduce in the labors of the Baronata, and he aided me very energetically in the affair of the expulsion of Moliari become absolutely necessary. It was thus that were concluded in his presence and with his full assent the contracts with Torri for the Ronco and the lake, with Rossi for the new house and finally with Cerutti for the arrangement and planting of the kitchen garden as well as the garden. All these labors and all these expenses encroached upon and necessarily led to one another. So having two cows and two horses we first had to seek a woman to milk and care for the cows and a coachman for the horses. It was Cafiero himself who went to seek and who brought us the coachman, the old Beppe, but coachmen are expensive, and the upkeep of the cows and horses, which we have never been able to organize economically, has cost us a lot of money. Then it was necessary to construct a large manure pit in order to supply the plantings on land that had remained without fertilizer for some year. We had to reconstruct the stable (la scuderia), which fell into ruin and threatened to crush the men and horses and necessarily to add there a shed for the carriage. In order to be able to plant, it was necessary to undertake a great movement of earth and the construction of may walls, in order to farm the Baronata we had to plant many fruit trees. I had decided with Cerrutti that the costs of the plantings should not exceed 3000 francs, but it surpassed that figure by more than 2000 francs, with all the expenses included. As the Baronata above all lacked water, it was absolutely necessary to construct the cistern that was proposed by Roggero and accepted by Cafiero as well as by me. Then once decided that the new great house on the mountain would be constructed, it was necessary to make the lake, for otherwise we could not have stone for the construction, it was equally necessary to construct the new carriage road, for without it the construction of the new house would cost double. All of that was discussed, proven, and adopted by common accord. And Carlo had taken an active part in all these discussions and resolutions.
I confess that from that moment and even before, I began to become very anxious at seeing us more and more dragged into expenses of which it was difficult to foresee the end. We talked about it then with Cafiero, and it was decided among us that I would ask the engineer Galli to give me the approximate count of the expenses that I would have to make for all the constructions that had begun. He gave me one, about a month later, in the month of February, if I am not mistaken, but very incomplete, an account in which he had forgotten to place many important expenses, such as his own, for example. However, we took this account for a basis and agreed with Carlo that to finish everything, we would need at least 50000 francs more, not Italian but Swiss. Cafiero enlisted me to slow down the labors for a month in order to give me the time to produce that sum, after which, he both told me and wrote me, I could give a large development to the work. And in fact, that is what I did, as much as was possible. But the calculations of the engineer were far surpassed by reality, that is by the labors ordered by himself. We made the contract with Martinelli for the road for 3000 francs and thanks to the dishonesty of that gentleman the road cost us clear to 6000 francs.—I have already said how Cerutti had surpassed without my knowledge the sum assigned for the planting. For the house the engineer had calculated 500 cubic meters of stone to extract from the lake, each of these meters should cost 7 francs, which would amount to 3500 francs for the stone alone. Instead of that the house consumed more than a thousand meters of it, just double, 7000 francs for the stone by itself. Add the cost of transporting the sand, and even the water, and you will understand how the construction soon surpassed the calculations of the engineer. I saw all that and I could not prevent it and passed many nights without sleep. We spoke this spring with Charles and we admitted to each other, that ignorant of both those things, we had let ourselves be dragged into undertakings of which we had not been able to calculate the scope, and if we had it to do over again we would not have undertaken it and in its place we would have worked out something else, but now, he added, it is impossible to stop; we must finish things. When Cafiero brought me the 50000 francs he asked me if that would suffice until June, and I responded that it would be enough until after July.
Here I want to confess and clarify my fault. I only made one, which is to have accepted from the first the fraternal proposal of Cafiero. By rejecting it I would have maintained the integrity of my life until the end, and I would have now been free to dispose of it according to my own beliefs and inclinations. In the end I must admit that by accepting it, I committed treason against myself, against my past. To give it its true name, it was cowardice that I atone for today. Now I will tell the reasons why I accepted it, which can serve to some degree as my excuse.
First, I was really tired and disillusioned. The events of France and Spain  had given all my hopes and expectations a terrible blow. We had calculated without the masses who did not want to become passionate about their own emancipation and without that popular passion, we had reasoned in vain and our theories were powerless.
The second reason was this: the only work that remained possible for us was concealed work, well masked. It was absolutely necessary for us to assume a peaceful, bourgeois appearance. Furthermore, the Swiss federal government, pressed by the Italian government, and consequently the cantonal government of Ticino absolutely wanted to confine me to the interior of Switzerland. I had all the trouble in the work remaining in Locarno. Cafiero’s proposition gave me the means.
Finally, the third and most powerful reason was my concern for the future of my family, and my very great desire to give them a refuge and to insure, at least up to a certain point, their future.
I will say what, in relation to my family, passed between Cafiero and me, in order never to return to it.—He urged me to bring them back as soon as possible, by providing me all the money needed for their trip. He invited me at the same time to write to Antonia that she should from now on have no concern for the future of her children, that future being completely assured. It was in October that I sent to Antonia first 2000 francs, promising her 2000 francs more two or three months later. But these 2,000 francs, sent via Ostroga, seemed lost; several months passed without her having received them. Antonia, and especially her father, wrote me desperate letters. I broke the news to Cafiero, who told me to immediately send her another 4000 francs, which I also did at the end of March, in the meantime she had received the first 2000 francs. Then Carlo having asked me several times if I had written to Antonia that the children's future was assured, I responded to him that I had not done it yet, and that I waited to write to her again because I did not want to entertain her with illusory hopes. Carlo reproached me for not having done so far and asked me to do so without further delay. So I wrote in this sense to Antonia.
I need to say that in all these affairs, enterprises and promises Carlo was inspired by the purest brotherly devotion and that it was precisely that grandeur of fraternal soul that made me blindly accept everything he proposed to me. There was also another reason for this acceptance. Cafiero thought himself much richer than he in fact was. He estimated his entire fortune to 400 or even 450,000 francs. Perhap he might have realized that sum if he had not believed he should hurry the liquidation of his assets.
The second fault committed by me, and in part by Cafiero as well, was that I was put in charge of the direction of all these enterprises. All my friends know that I am a very bad saver and that especially in the beginning I didn’t understand the business one bit. It is certain that if an experienced and practical man had been in my place, he might have done all that we did with half the amount that we have spent. But where to find that man? We sought him with Cafiero but we did not find him.
That is, in its general feature and in its most scrupulous truth, the history of my relations and transactions avec Cafiero until his return to Russia.
During his stay in his country, I made a purchase, the only one I would have done without having first assured myself of Cafiero’s consent: It was the purchase of the Romerio property. It was highly recommended to me by Gavirati and engineer Galli. I heard since that Mr. Romerio charged me far too much. This was not the opinion of the Engineer Galli and our friend Gavirati. What tempted me most was the unquestionable value that this new acquisition, especially that of the woods, added to the house and therefore the Baronata. In deciding myself I was sure of the consent of Cafiero. If I was mistaken, too bad for me, I do not exonerate myself.
I have already said that I always considered Cafiero as the principal, if ot the sole proprietor of the Baronata. According to justice it belonged entirely to him, according to fraternity it is at least, if he should possess it in halves or in common with me. On his return from Russia, in the presence of our friend Ross, I proposed to him to legalize that association or common property by a public deed. He responded that if I thought it was useful he would not oppose it, and invited me to consider for the few days that he spent at Barletta, the best means of accomplishing that project. I also informed him of the purchase that I had completed during his absence, he found, or at least he told me in front of Ross, that it seemed to him that I had made a good deal. I told him that in the end in order to finish all the work and to assure the internal administration of the Baronata and the existence of the family during the two years that it produced little or nothing, it would take at least 50000 francs more. He told me that he was just going to Barletta in order to finally settle his business. He returned the same night for the arrival of Antonia with the whole family. The next day Antonia informed me of the rumors that certain individuals, whom I believe it is useless to name, were spreading about Carlo Cafiero and especially about me. They said that I exploited the trust and inexperience of Cafiero, that I abused his generous friendship, that I would bankrupt him, etc. etc.—I told Cafiero about it right away, again in the presence of Ross; he appeared very moved and promised to talk with the slanderers about it. He returned the next day, but much changed. He told me that there had been no explanation to demand, because, at bottom, it was all true.—So it was true that I had maliciously exploited Cafiero’s friendship.—That was not very flattering for me, but I confess that I did not at first that conclusion, so impossible did it appear to me that Cafiero could have settled on that idea for a single moment.—He said to me with a warmth full of bitterness that we had committed a great, unpardonable folly, of which he recognized himself incidentally as guilty as me. That he demanded nothing of what he had spent on the Baronata, but that he was firmly resolved from now on not to spend a cent, a thought, or an ounce of energy, all that having to belong to the revolution.
I admit that this speech distressed me and struck me in the face like a hammer blow. First the bitter, wounding, suspicious tone, with which all that was said hurt me deeply. Cafiero had obviously become deeply unjust towards me, and I felt from the first blow that his good and brotherly friendship had been suddenly transformed into a profound, poorly masked hostility, full of insulting suspicions. If he had said that we had both committed a great fault and that we should both employ all our energy in order to sort it out, I would have understood and I would have frankly accepted it. But not cutting himself off from me, and that in a manner completely insulting to me.
On the other hand, I admit that I was quite dismayed with the new situation that this conversation made for all of us and especially in relation to my poor family. On the strength of my letters, Antonia had arrived, entirely calm and joyful, not only with the children, but with her excellent father, a good, entirely innocent old man, living only through his family, cruelly tried by the loss of his two sons, excessively sensitive to the point of becoming ill, perhaps to die at the least new misfortune that might come to strike him and his. I saw them all quiet, all happy, calling here the sister, the mother, and I thought with consternation of the despair that would take possession of Antonia and her father at the first new of the catastrophe that awaited them. I was bitterly appalled by it. The revolutionary abstraction of Cafiero would not understand it, but you, Emilio, and you, Antonia, you understand it. This was at the point that, dominated by that fixed idea so terrible for me, I disregarded, or felt much less strongly, the direct insult that was contained in the of de Cafiero. If I had been alone, at the first word I would have left to him that accursed Baronata with all that it contained and I would not have lowered myself to address a single word to him. Well, the idea of the despair and of the abyss into which I would plunge Antonia and her father made me weak. Instead of thinking of my honor, unjustly insulted by the one from whom I least awaited that insult, I thought at least to save, doubtless not myself, but my own. As for me, my resolution was made; I had decided to die. But before dying I believed I should insure the fate of my own. All those days after the 15th were a real hell for me.
I thought day and night for means of salvation for mine and by dint of thinking I found these means that would have demanded almost no new sacrifice or some very small sacrifices without any detriment for the revolution on behalf of Cafiero. But in order to realize those means, it would be necessary to be able to come to an understanding with him. But that had become impossible, because apart from the difficulty that he always experience at grasping an idea at first, and the banal obstinacy of the idea that dominated himself at the moment, there was that insulting mistrust that gushed from each of his words, gestures and looks, and paralyzed me completely. After many vain efforts, I finally took the supreme resolution that I should have taken from the first moment. I made the act by which I abandoned the Baronata to him, with all that it contained, including the cows and sick horses. But I still had the weakness to accept from him the promise of insuring in one manner or another the fate of my family after my death, which I hope will not be too far off. More than that, the day of my departure, in the morning I wrote him a letter by which I reminded him of his solemn engagements commitments that he had made with me with regard to my family, and I even suggested the means of saving the Baronata, begging him to do it if it was possible. I wanted to give him the letter myself embracing him when I left. No sooner had I done it than he arrived. And then I had a conversation with him in the midst of which he said some words to me, he wounded me mortally, but soon after, in the presence of Emilio and Ross, we had another conversation that completed the deal. Cafiero had broken violently all the links that attached me to him.—Well, despite that I gave the letter to Emilio so that immediately after my departure, he gave it to Cafiero. Let the friends that remain to me judge if in doing so I made a great act of self-sacrifice and love, or of cowardice.
During the whole night from Locarno to Bellinzona and from Bellinzona I naturally did not even close my eyes and I thought of Cafiero. The result of all those thoughts is this: I must no longer accept anything from Cafiero, not even his care for my family after my death. I must not, and do not wish to mislead Antonia any longer, and her dignity, her pride will tell her what she must do. The blow that she receives will be terrible, but I count on the energy and the heroic strength of her character, which will sustain her, I hope. Incidentally, I have done all that I could in order to assure at least in part the fate of her family. I have written a letter, a final farewell to my brothers, who have never denied my rights to a portion of the property that we have in common and who have always asked me, in order to produce that part, to send a man invested with my full confidence and with all the full powers necessary to receive it. Thus far, I have not find that man. Now, by the attached letters, I give these full powers to Sophie Lossowska, Antonia’s sister. I could never place them in better hands. She is as resolute as she is habile and her devotion to Antonia is boundless.
And now, my friends, there remains nothing for me but to die well. Farewell.
Emilio, my old and faithful friend, thank you for all your friendship toward me and for all that you will do for my family after my death. I beg you to aid with the transport of Antonia who will be persistent, I think, unless she believes she should remain a few more days to spare too great a crisis to her father. Lend her 500, 1000 francs if necessary, one will give them to you and immediately, I assure you.
As for the 2100 francs from Mr. Félix Rusca, give them to Cafiero as soon as they have been returned to you.
Antonia, do not curse me, forgive me. I shall die blessing you and our dear children.
Your devoted
M. B.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Policy of the International (III & IV) (1869)

The Policy of the International


L’Égalité, August 21, 1869;

If the International at first showed itself indulgent toward the subversive and reactionary ideas, whether in politics and religion, that the workers might have when joining it, it was not through indifference toward these ideas. We cannot tax it with indifference since it detests them and rejects them with all the strength of its being, every reactionary idea being the overturning of the very principle of the Revolution, as we have already demonstrated in our preceding articles.
That indulgence, we repeat again, is inspired by a high wisdom. Knowing perfectly that every serious worker is a socialist by all the necessities inherent in their miserable positions, and that some reactionary ideas, it they have them, may only be the effect of their ignorance, it counts on the collective experience that they cannot fail to acquire in the heart of the International and especially on the development of the collective struggle of the workers against the bosses to deliver them from those ideas.
And indeed, from the moment that a worker takes faith in the possibility of an imminent radical transformation of the economic situation, associated with his comrades, begins to struggle seriously for the reduction of his hours of labor and the increase of his wages from the moment that he begins to interest himself seriously in that entirely material struggle, we can be certain that he will soon abandon all his heavenly preoccupations, and that becoming accustomed to count always more on the collective force of the workers, he will willingly renounce aid from heaven. Socialism takes the place of religion in his mind.
It will not be the same with his reactionary politics. It will lose its principal support to the extent that the conscience of the worker sees itself delivered from religious oppression. On another side the economic struggle, by developing and always extending to a greater extent, will make itself known more and more in a practical manner and by a collective experience that is necessarily always more instructive and broader than isolated experience, its true enemies, which are the privileged classes, including the clergy, the bourgeoisie, the nobility and the State; this last only being there to safeguard all the privileges of these classes and inevitably always taking their side against the proletariat.
The worker thus involved in the struggle will inevitably end by understanding the irreconcilable antagonism that exists between these accomplices of the reaction and its most cherished human interests, and having arrived at this point he will no fail to recognize himself and frankly declare himself a revolutionary socialist.
This is not the case with the bourgeoisie. All their interests are contrary to the economic transformation of society. And if their ideas are also contrary to it as well, if these ideas are reactionaries, or as we say more politely today, moderates; if their heart and mind reject this great act of justice and emancipation that we call the social revolution, if they enjoy real, social equality, that is political, social and economic equality at once; if in the bottom of their hearts they want to keep for themselves, for their class or for their children a single privilege, even just that of intelligence, as today so many bourgeois socialists do; if they do not detest, not just with all the logic in their minds but also all the power of their passion, the present order of things, then we can be certain that they will remain reactionaries, enemies of the cause of the workers, all their life.
We must keep them far from the International.
We must keep them very far away, for they could only enter to demoralize it and turn it from its path. It is, moreover, an infallible sign by which the workers can recognize if a bourgeois, who asks to be received in their ranks, comes to them frankly, without the shadow of hypocrisy and without the least subversive ulterior motive. That sign is the relations that they preserve with the bourgeois world.
The antagonism that exists between the world of the worker and the bourgeois world takes on a more and more pronounced character. Every man who thinks seriously and whose feelings and imagination are not altered by the often unconscious influence of self-interested sophisms, must understand today that no reconciliation is possible between them. The workers want equality, and the bourgeois want to maintain inequality. Obviously one destroys the other. And the great majority of the bourgeois capitalists and proprietors, those who have the courage to frankly admit what they want, also have the courage to display with the same frankness the horror that the present movement of the working class inspires in them. They are enemies as resolute as sincere. We know them, and that is good.
But there is another category of bourgeois who do not have the same frankness or courage. Enemies of the social liquidation—which we call for with all the power of our souls as a great act of justice, as the necessary point of departure and indispensible basis of an egalitarian and rational organization of society—they, like all the other bourgeois, preserve economic inequality, that eternal source of all the other inequalities; an at the same time they pretend to want, like us, the complete emancipation of the worker and of work. They maintain against us, with a passion worthy of the most reactionary bourgeois, the very cause of the slavery of the proletariat, the separation of labor and immobile or capitalized property, represented today by two different classes; and they pose nonetheless as the apostles of the emancipation of the working class from the yoke of property and capital!
Do they mislead or are they misled? Some are mistaken in good faith, badly mistaken; the majority are misleading and misled at the same time. They all belong to that category of bourgeois radicals and bourgeois socialists who founded the League of Peace and Freedom.
Is this League socialist? In the beginning, and for the first year of its existence, as we have already had occasion to tell, it rejected socialism with horror.
Last year, in its Congress at Berne it rejected the principle of economic equality. Today, feeling itself dying and wishing to live a little longer, and finally understanding that no political existence is possible from now on without the social question, it calls itself socialist; it has become bourgeois-socialist, which means that it wants to resolve all social questions on the basis of economic inequality. It desires, it must preserve the interest of capital and the rent of the earth, and it claims to emancipate the workers with that. It strives to give a body to nonsense.
Why do that do it? What is it that makes it attempt a work as incongruous as sterile? It is not difficult to understand.
A great portion of the bourgeoisie is tired of the reign of Caesarism and militarism that it itself established in 1848, from fear of the proletariat. Just recall the June days, precursors of the days of December; recall that National Assembly that curse and insulted, unanimously but for one voice, the illustrious and we could well say heroic socialist Proudhon, who alone had the courage to hurl the challenge of socialism at this and expose this rabid herd of bourgeois conservatives, liberals, and radicals. And we must not forget that among these traducers of Proudhon, there are a number of citizens still living, and today more militant than ever, who, baptized by the persecutions of December, have since become martyrs to liberty.
So there is no doubt that the entire bourgeoisie, including the radical bourgeoisie, has been the creator of the césarien and military despotism whose effects it deplores today. After having used them against the proletariat, they now want to be free of them. Nothing is more natural; this regime humiliates and ruins them.
But how can they free themselves? Formerly, they were brave and powerful, they had the power for conquests. Today they are cowardly and senile, and afflicted with the impotence of the old. They recognize only too well their weakness, and sense that they alone can do nothing. So they must have an aid. That aid can only be the proletariat; so they must win over the proletariat.
But how can they win them over? By promises of liberty and political equality? These are words that no longer move the workers. They have learned at their own cost, they have learned by hard experience, that these words mean nothing for them but the maintenance of their economic slavery, often more harsh than before. So if you want to touch the heart of these miserable millions of slaves to labor, speak to them about their economic emancipation. There is no a worker who does not know now that it is for him the only serious and real basis of all the other emancipations. So it would be necessary to speak to them about the economic reform of society.
Well, the members of the League for Peace and Freedom say to themselves, let us speak of it, let us could ourselves socialists as well. Let us promise them some economic and social reforms, always on the condition that they wish to respect the basis of civilization and bourgeois omnipotence: individual and hereditary property, interest on capital and land-rent. Let us persuade them that on these conditions alone, which assure us domination and the workers slavery, can the workers be emancipated.
Let us persuade them that in order to realize all these social reforms, we must first make a good political revolution, exclusively political, as red as they please from the political point of view, with a great chopping of heads, if that becomes necessary, but with the greatest respect for holy property; an entirely Jacobin revolution, in a word, that would make us the masters of the situation; and once masters, we could give to the workers… what we can and what we want.
There is an infallible sign by which the workers can recognize a false socialist, a bourgeois socialist; if in speaking to them of revolution or, if you want, of social transformation, he tells them that the political transformation must make both at once or even that the political revolution should be nothing but the immediate and direct putting into action of the full, complete social liquidation; let them turn their back, for either he is only a fool, or else a hypocritical exploiter.

L’Égalité, August 28, 1869;

The International Workingmen’s Association, in order to remain faithful to its principle and in order not to deviate from the only road that can lead it to its destination, must above all protect itself against the influence of two kinds of bourgeois socialists: the partisans of bourgeois politics, including even the revolutionary bourgeois, and the so-called “practical men,” partisans of bourgeois cooperation.
Let us first consider the first group.
Economic emancipation, we said in our preceding number, is the basis of all the other emancipations. We have summarized by those words the whole policy of the International.
In fact we read, in the of our general statutes the following declaration:
“That the subjection of labor to capital is the source of all political moral and material servitude, and that for this reason the emancipation of the workers is the great aim to which every political movement must be subordinated.”
It is well understood that every political movement whose immediate, direct objective is not the definitive and complete economic emancipation of the workers, and which has not inscribed on its flag, in a very clear and decided manner, the principle of economic equality, which means the complete restitution of capital to labor, or else the social liquidation – that every such political movement is a bourgeois, and, as such, must be excluded from the International.
Must consequently be pitilessly excluded the politics of the bourgeois democrats or bourgeois socialists, who, in declaring “that political liberty is the preliminary condition for economic emancipation,” cannot intend by this words anything but this: political reforms or revolution must precede economic reforms of revolution; the workers must consequently ally with the more or less radical bourgeois in order to faire d'abord avec eux les premières, sauf à faire ensuite contre eux les dernières.
We frankly protest against this disastrous theory that could only lead, for the workers, to make them serve once again as an instrument against themselves and deliver them up anew to the exploitation of the bourgeoisie.
To conquer political liberty first can mean nothing except winning it first all alone, leaving, at least for the first days, the economic and social relations in their present state, leaving the proprietors and capitalists with their insolent wealth, and the workers with their poverty.
But, some will say, once that liberty is won, it will serve the workers as an instrument to later gain equality or economic justice.
Liberty is indeed a magnificent and powerful instrument. But everything depends on whether the workers can really make use of it, if it is really in their possession, or if, as has always been the case before, their political liberty is only a misleading appearance, a fiction.
Couldn’t a worker, in his present economic situation, respond with the refrain of a well-known song, to those who came to him to speak of political liberty:

“Do not speak of liberty.
“Poverty is slavery!”

And, in fact, he would have to be in love with illusions to imagine that a worker, in the economic and social conditions in which he finds himself at present, could profit fully, and make a real, serious use of his political liberty. For that, he lacks two things: the leisure and the material means.
Incidentally, haven’t we seen it in France, the day after the revolution of 1848, the most radical revolution we could desire from a political point of view?
The French workers were certainly not indifferent or unintelligent, yet despite the broadest universal suffrage, they had to let the bourgeois have their way [laisser faire]. Why? Because they lacked the material means that were necessary to make political liberty become a reality, because they remained the slaves of a labor forced by hunger, while the bourgeois radicals, liberals, and even conservatives, some republicans the day before, others converted the day after, came and went, acted and spoke, worked and schemed freely – some thanks to their rents or their lucrative bourgeois positions, the others thanks to the State budget that they have naturally preserved and even made greater than ever.
We know what the result has been: first the days of June, then later, as a necessary consequence, the days of December.
But, it will be said, the workers, made wiser by the very experience that have had, will no longer send the bourgeois to the constituent or legislative assemblies; they will send simple workers. Poor as they are, they could provide for their deputies. Do you know what would happen? The worker deputies, transplanted into bourgeois conditions of existence and an atmosphere of entirely bourgeois political ideas, ceasing to be workers by he act of becoming men of State, would become bourgeois and perhaps even more bourgeois than the bourgeois themselves. For the men do not make the positions; it is, on the contrary, the positions that make the men. And we know by experience that the bourgeois workers are seldom less selfish than the bourgeois exploiters, nor less deadly to the Association than the bourgeois socialists, nor less vain and ridiculous than the ennobled bourgeois.
Whatever is said and done, as long as the workers remain plunged in their present state, no liberty possible will be possible, and those who agree to win political liberty for them without first addressing the burning questions of socialism, without pronouncing that phrase that makes the bourgeois pale—social liquidation—simply say to them: First win that liberty for us, so that later we can use it against you.
But they are well intentioned and sincere, these bourgeois, it will be said. There are no good intentions and sincerity that hold out against the influences of the position, and since we have said that even the workers who put themselves in that position would inevitably become bourgeois, there is all the more reason that the bourgeois who remain in that position will remain bourgeois.
If a bourgeois, inspired by a great passion de justice, equality and humanity, wants to work seriously for the emancipation of the proletariat, let him first begin by breaking all the political and social ties, all the relations of interest as well as spirit, vanity and heart, with the bourgeoisie. Let him first understand that no reconciliation is possible between the proletariat and that class, which, living only for the exploitation of the other, is the natural enemy of the proletariat.
After having turned his back once and for all on the bourgeois world, let him then come to fall in beneath the flag of the workers, on which are inscribed these words: “Justice, Equality and Liberty for all. Abolition of the classes by the economic equalization of all. Social liquidation.” He will be welcome. 
As for the bourgeois socialists and bourgeois workers who come to speak to us of conciliation between bourgeois politics and the socialism of the laborers, we have only one bit of advice to give to the laborers: they must turn their backs on them.
Since the bourgeois socialists strive to organize today, with socialism as bait, a formidable agitation among the workers in order to win political liberty, a liberty that, as we have just seen will only profit the bourgeoisie; since the working masses, arriving at a knowledge of their position, enlightened and guided by the principle of the International, are in fact organizing and begin to constitute a true power, not national, but international; not to do the business of the bourgeois, but their own business; and since, even to realize that ideal of the bourgeois, of a complete political liberty with republication institutions, would require, and since no revolution can except through the power of the people; that power must, ceasing to pull chestnuts from the fire for the gentlemen of the bourgeoisie, only serve from now on to bring triumph to the cause of the people, the cause of all those who labor against all those who exploit labor.
The International Workingmen’s Association, faithful to its principle, will never extend its had to a political agitation whose immediate and direct aim is not the complete economic emancipation of the worker, the abolition of the bourgeoisie as a class economically separate from the mass of the population, nor to any revolution that does not, from the first day, from the first hour inscribe the social liquidation on its banner.
But revolutions are not improvised. They are not made arbitrarily, either by individuals or by the most powerful associations. Independent of all will and of all conspiracy, they are always brought about by the force of events. They can be foreseen, their approach can sometimes be sensed, but their explosion can never be accelerated.
Convinced of this truth, we pose this question: What is the policy that the International should pursue during this more or less extended period of time that separates us from that terrible social revolution which everyone senses today?
Setting aside, as its statutes command, all local and national politics, it will give to the agitation of the workers in all countries an essentially economic character, by establishing the reduction of the hours of labor and the increase of wages as its aim, the association of the working masses and the establishment of strike funds as its means.
It will propagandize its principles, for these principles, being the purest expression of the collective interests of the workers of the whole world, are the soul and constitute all the vital force of the Association. It will spread that propaganda broadly, without regard for bourgeois sensibilities, so that every worker, emerging from the intellectual and moral torpor in which he has been they have tried to keep him, will understand his situation and know what he must do, and under what conditions he can gain his rights as a man.
It will make an every more energetic and sincere propaganda, as within the International itself we will often encounter influences, which, affecting disdain for these principles, would like to portray them as a useless theory and strive to bring the workers back to the to the political, economic and religious catechism of the bourgeoisie.
It will extend and organize itself strongly across the borders of all the nations, so that when the Revolution, brought about by the force of events, breaks out, it will be a real force ready, knowing what it must do and therefore capable of grasping and giving it a direction that it truly salutary for the people; a serious international organization of the workers’ associations of all countries, capable of replacing that political world of States and of the bourgeoisie, which is on the way out.
We conclude this faithful exposition of the policy of the International, by reproducing the final paragraph of the preamble to our general statutes:
“The movement that comes about among the workers of the most industrious countries of Europe, by giving rise to new hopes, gives a solemn warning not to fall again into old errors.”

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Policy of the International (I & II) (1869)

The Policy of the International


L’Égalité, August 7, 1869;

“We have believed until now, said La Montagne, that political and religious opinions were independent of the profession of member of the International; and, as for us, that is the terrain on which we place ourselves.”
We could believe, at first glance, that Mr. Coullery was right. For, in fact, in accepting a new member the International does not ask him whether he is religious or an atheist, whether or not he belongs to any political party. It simply asks him: Are you a worker, or if you are not, do you want and do you feel you have the need and strength to frankly, fully embrace the cause of the workers, to identify with it to the exclusion of all causes that might oppose it?
Do you feel that the workers, who produce all of the world’s wealth, who are the creatures of civilization and who have won all the bourgeois liberties, are today condemned to poverty, ignorance and slavery? Do you understand that the principal source of all the evils that the workers endure is poverty, and that this poverty, which is the lot of all the workers in the world, is a necessary consequence of the present economic order of society, and particularly of the submission of labor of the proletariat to the yoke of capital, to the bourgeoisie?
Do you understand that there is an irreconcilable antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, which is the necessary consequence of their respective positions? That the prosperity of the bourgeois class is incompatible with the well-being and liberty of the workers, because this exclusive prosperity can be founded only upon the exploitation and subjugation of their labor, and that for this reason, the prosperity and human dignity of the working masses absolutely demands the abolition of the bourgeoisie as a separate class? That, as a consequence, the war between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is inevitable, and can only end with the destruction of the bourgeoisie.
Do you understand that no worker, however intelligent and energetic, can struggle all by himself against the well-organized power of the bourgeoisie, a power principally represented and sustained by the organization of the State, of all the States? That in order to give yourself the strength you must associate, not with the bourgeois, which would be a stupidity or a crime on your part, because all the bourgeois, as bourgeois, are our irreconcilable enemies, nor with some unfaithful workers, who would be so cowardly as to go beg for the smiles and benevolence of the bourgeois, but with honest, energetic workers, who frankly want what you want?
Do you understand that faced with the formidable coalition of all the privileged classes, all the proprietors and capitalists, and all the states in the world, an isolated workers’ association, local or national, even in one of the greatest European nations, could never triumph, and that to stand up to that coalition and obtain that victory, nothing less would be required than a union of all the local and national workers’ associations into a single universal association, that it would require the great International Association of the workers of all countries?
If you feel, understand and truly want all this, then come to us, whatever your political and religious beliefs. But in order to be accepted, you must promise:
1) to subordinate from now on your personal interests, and even those of your family, as well as your political and religious convictions and expressions, to the supreme interest of our association: the struggle of labor against capital, of the workers against the bourgeoisie on the economic terrain;
2) to never compromise with the bourgeoisie for your personal gain;
3) to never seek to raise yourself individually, only for your own gain, above the working mass, which would immediately make you a bourgeois, an enemy and exploiter of the proletariat; for the only difference between the bourgeois and the worker is that the first always seeks his good outside the collectivity, only seeks it and claims to win it in solidarity with all those who labor and are exploited by the capital of the bourgeois;
4) to remain always faithful to the solidarity of the workers, for the least betrayal of that solidarity will be considered by the International as the greatest crime and infamy that any worker could commit. In short, you must frankly, fully accept our general statutes and give your solemn pledge to conform to them from now on in your acts and life.
We think that the founders of the International Association have acted with a very great wisdom by first of all eliminating all political and religious questions from the program of that Association. Doubtless, they did not themselves lack political opinions, nor very marked anti-religious opinions; but they abstained from advancing them in that program, because their principal aim was to unite above all the working masses of the civilized world in a common action. They necessarily had to seek a common basis, a series of simple principles about which all the workers, whatever there political and religious aberrations, if they are serious workers, honest men who are harshly exploited and suffering, are and should be in agreement.
If they displayed the flag of a political or anti-religious system, far from uniting the workers of Europe they would still be more divided; because, with the ignorance of the workers assisting, the self-serving and most utterly corrupting propaganda of the priests, the governments and all the bourgeois political parties, including the very reddest of them, has spread a host of false ideas among the working masses, that these blind masses are unfortunately still too often fascinated by some lies, which have no other aim than to make them willingly and stupidly serve, to the detriment of their own interests, those of the privileges classes.
Besides, there still exists too great a difference in the degrees of industrial, political, intellectual and moral development of the working masses in the different countries for it to be possible for them to unite today by one single political and antireligious program. To pose such a program as that of the International, by making it an absolute condition for entry into that Association, would be to try to establish a sect, not a global association. It could only destroy the International.
There is yet another important reason for eliminating at first, in appearance and only in appearance, all political tendencies.
From the beginnings of history to this day, there has still never been a true politics of the people, and by that word we mean the lower classes, the working rabble who feed the world with their toil. There has only been the politics of the privileged classes, those classes who have used the muscular power of the people to mutually depose one another, and to replace one another. The people, in turn, have only taken the part of some against the others in the vain hope that at least one of these political revolutions, which no one has been able to make without them, would bring some relief to their century-old poverty and slavery. They have always been misled. Even the great French Revolution betrayed them. It killed the aristocratic nobility and put the bourgeoisie in its place. The people are no longer called slaves or serfs, they are proclaimed freeborn by law, but in fact their slavery and poverty remain the same.
And they will always remain the same as long as the popular masses continue to serve as an instrument for bourgeois politics, whether that politics is called conservative, liberal, progressive, or radical, and even when it is given the most revolutionary appearances in the world. For all bourgeois politics, whatever its color and name, can at base only have one aim: the maintenance of bourgeois domination; and bourgeois domination is the slavery of the proletariat.
And they will remain enslaved as long as the working masses continue to serve as tools of bourgeois politics, whether conservative or liberal, even if those politics pretend to he revolutionary. For all bourgeois politics whatever the label or color have only one purpose: to perpetuate domination by the bourgeoisie, and bourgeois domination is the slavery of the proletariat.
What then was the International to do? It first had to loose the working masses from all bourgeois politics, it had to eliminate from its own program all the political programs of the bourgeois. But at the time of its founding, there was no other politics in the world by but those of the Church or the monarchy, or of the aristocracy or bourgeoisie; the last, especially that of the radical bourgeoisie, was indisputably more liberal and more humane than the others, but all equally founded on the exploitation of the working masses and having in reality no other aim than to dispute the monopoly of that exploitation. So the International had to begin by clearing the ground, and like every politics, from the point of view of the emancipation of labor, found itself thus tarnished by reactionary elements, it first had to purge itself of every known political system, in order to be able to build on these ruins of the bourgeois world, the true politics of the workers, the politics of the International Association.


L’Égalité, August 14, 1869;

The founders of the International Workingmen's Association acted with so much more wisdom by avoiding posing political and philosophical principles as the basis of that association, and giving it at first for sole basis only the purely economic struggle of labor against capital, as they were certain that, from the moment that a worker put his foot on the land, from the moment that, taking confidence both in his right and in numerical strength, he agrees with his companions to work in a united struggle against bourgeois exploitation, he will necessarily be led, by the very force of things and by the development of the struggle, to recognize soon all the political, socialist and philosophical principles of the International, principles that are nothing, in fact, but the just exposition of its starting point, its purpose.
We have set out these principles in previous issues. From the political and social point of view, their necessary consequences are the abolition of the classes, and consequently that of the bourgeoisie, which is the dominant class today; the abolition of all the territorial States, that of all the political homelands, and on their ruin, the establishment of the great international federation of all the productive groups, national and local. From the philosophical point of vie, as they tend to nothing less than the realization of the human ideal, of human happiness, of quality, of justice and liberty on earth, that because they tend to render completely useless all the celestial complements and all the hopes of a better world, they have as an equally necessary consequence the abolition of the cults and all the religious systems.
Announce these two goals first of all to the ignorant workers, crushed by the work of each day and demoralized—poisoned, as it were—knowingly by the perverse doctrines that the governments, in concert with all the privileged castes, priests, nobility, bourgeoisie, distribute to them with both hands, and you will scare them; they will perhaps reject you, without suspecting that all these ideas are nothing but the most faithful expression of their own interests, that these goals bear within them the realization of their dearest wishes; and that, on the contrary, the religious and political prejudices in whose name they reject them may be the direct cause of the prolongation of their slavery and poverty.
It is necessary to clearly distinguish the prejudices of the popular masses and those of the privileged classes. The prejudices of the masses, as we have just said, are only based on their ignorance and are entirely contrary to their interests, while those of the bourgeoisie are based precisely on the interests of that class, and are only maintained, against the dissolving action of bourgeois science itself, that to the collective selfishness of the bourgeois. The people want, but they do not know. The bourgeoisie know, but they do not want. Of the two, which is incurable? The bourgeoisie, of course.
General rule: You can only convert those who feel the need of conversion, only those who already bear in their instincts or in the miseries of their position, whether external or internal, all that you want to give them; never those who do not feel the need of any change, even those who, while desiring to escape from a position where they are dissatisfied, are driven by the nature of their moral, intellectual and social habits, to seek it in a world that is not the one of your ideas.
Convert to socialism, I beg you, a nobleman who covets wealth, a bourgeois who would be a noble, or even a worker who does tend to all the forces of his soul only to become a bourgeois! Then convert a real or imaginary aristocrat of the intellect, a scholar, a half-scholar, a fourth, tenth, or hundredth part of a scholar who, full of scientific ostentation, often only because they only had the good fortune to have understood, after a fashion, a few books, are full of arrogant contempt for the illiterate masses, and imagine that they are called to form between themselves a new ruling, that is to say exploiting, caste.
No reasoning or propaganda will ever be able to convert these wretches. To convince them, there is only one means: it is the deed, the destruction of the very possibility of privileged situations, the destruction of all domination and exploitation; it is the social revolution, which, sweeping away everything that establishes inequality in the world, will moralize them and force them to seek their happiness in equality and in solidarity.
Things are different with serious workers. By serious workers we mean those who are really crushed by the weight of toil; all those whose position is so precarious and so miserable that none, except in extraordinary circumstances, can even think of attain for himself, and only for himself, in the present economic conditions and social environment, a better position; to become in their turn, for example, a boss or a member of the Council of State. We doubtless also place in this category those rare and generous workers who, though they have the opportunity to rise individually above the working class, still prefer nevertheless to suffer for a time, in solidarity with their comrades in poverty, exploitation by the bourgeoisie, than to become exploiters in their turn. Such workers do not have to be converted; they are pure socialists.
We speak of the great mass of workers who, exhausted by their daily labor, are miserable and ignorant. That mass, whatever the political and religious prejudices that have attempted or even partially succeeded in claiming its conscience, is socialistic without knowing it. It is, in the heart of its instinct and by the very force of its position, more seriously and truly socialist than all the scientific and bourgeois socialists combined. It is socialists by virtue of all the conditions of its material existence, by all the needs of its being, while the others are only socialist by virtue of the needs of their thought. In real life, the needs of the being always exert a much greater power than those of thought, thought being here, as it is everywhere and always, the expression of the being, the reflection of the successive developments, but never its principle.
What the workers lack is not the reality, the real necessity of socialist aspirations, but only socialist thought; what each worker demands in the bottom of their heart: a fully human existence as material well-being and intellectual development, based on justice, on equality and liberty for each and all in labor; that instinctive ideal of each who only live by their own labor, can obviously not be realized in the present political and social world, which is based on the cynical exploitation of the labor of the working masses. Thus, each serious worker is necessarily a socialist revolutionary, since their emancipation can only be attained by the overthrow of everything that now exists. Either that organization of injustice, with its whole display of iniquitous laws and privileged institutions must perish, or the working masses will remain condemned to an eternal slavery.
Here is the socialist thought whose seeds are found in the instinct of every serious worker. The aim is thus to make the worker fully conscious of what they want, to give rise in them to a thought that corresponds to their instinct, for from the moment that the thought of the working masses is raised to the height of their instinct, their desire will be determined and their power will become irresistible.
What is it that still prevents the more rapid development of that salutary tough in the heart of the working masses? Their ignorance, doubtless, and in large part the political and religious prejudices by which the interested classes still struggle today to obfuscate their conscience and their natural intelligence. How to dispel that ignorance, how to destroy these harmful prejudices? – By education and propaganda?
These are doubtless excellent means. But in the present state of the working masses they are insufficient. The isolated worker is too crushed by their work and by their daily cares to give much time to their education. And who will make this propaganda? Will it be the few sincere socialists, born of the bourgeoisie who are full of generous impulses, no doubt, but who are far too few in number to give their propaganda all the necessary breadth, and who, on the other hand, belonging by their position to a different world, do not have all the grasp of the workers’ world that is required and who excite in them more or less legitimate distrust.
 “The emancipation of the workers is the task of the workers themselves,” said the preamble of our general statutes. And it is a thousand times right to say it. It is the principal basis of our great Association. But the world of the workers is generally ignorant, it still completely lacks theory. So there remains to it only a single way, and it is that of its emancipation by practice. What can and should that practice be?
There is only one. It is that of the struggle of the workers in solidarity against the bosses. It is the trades unions, organization and the federation of the strike funds.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]