Max Nomad, Political Heretics: From Plato to Mao Tse-tung, 1963.

Chapter V


Long before international Leninist "communism" declared war on the democratic socialists, the theory and practice of Marx's followers had been under attack by radicals of other schools. Foremost among such critics were the followers of Proudhon and of Bakunin, who, at a whimsical suggestion of the former, called themselves anarchists.

During the 1860's and 1870's, the anarchists, whether Proudhonists or Bakuninists, were members of the International Workingmens' Association (the First International). After their expulsion from that body in 1872, those branches of the I.W.A. which professed the ideas of Bakunin continued to consider themselves as constituting the original International, and for several years the revolutionary movements of the Latin countries were completely under their sway. However, most of these sections, with the exception of the Spanish organizations, disappeared by the end of the seventies. Their militants, having lost their faith in the possibility of an immediate social revolution, accepted the "revolutionary" gradualism of the Marxists. There remained, however, a hard core of dreamers and irreconcilables who would not give up. They made a fetish of the term "anarchy" as the incarnation of the ideal of a stateless and classless society; and they continued the veneration of Bakunin as the great prophet of their Allah -- anarchy -- even though the initiated few now realized that, despite his superhuman heroism, Bakunin was a false prophet, for he too actually strove for power. Such power was to be only a "transition," to be sure, but it was not designed to produce the immediate abolition of all government as he claimed in his public pronouncements. Aside from his scandalous "invisible dictatorship" idea, ignored by most rank and file anarchists, they found some nonanarchistic flaws in his ideal of a "collectivist anarchism." In Proudhon's and Bakunin's time the term "communism" usually denoted the Marxist and pre-Marxist concept of government ownership. Bakunin, therefore, chose the term "collectivism," which meant that the land and the means of production were to become the collective property of voluntary producers' and consumers' associations and not of the state.


Bakunin's admirers, particularly Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921), realized that if their hero's principle of reward according to accomplishment was to be applied, then statistical or similar controlling or computing commissions or committees would have to be established -- bodies which smelled of state authority. They thereupon substituted "to everybody according to his needs" for the principle of "according to his works." This improvement of Bakunin's "collectivism" they called "communist anarchism" or "anarchist communism." The possibility of such an ideal sort of ideal under which there would be no obligation to work if one wants to consume, they based upon two very optimistic assumptions: That man was essentially good and honest by nature and that all, or at least an enormous majority, would voluntarily contribute to society their share of work; that capitalist society has accumulated such enormous surpluses of goods that it would not matter if during the first turbulent years after the victorious social revolution there was a great deal of loafing. In time the loafing consumers would come to their senses and do their share of work voluntarily.

This idea was completely in keeping with the noble character of Peter Kropotkin, an authentic Russian prince, descendant in direct line from Russia's first ruling dynasty established by the Scandinavian conqueror Rurik a thousand years ago. Kropotkin had never met Bakunin, for he was in prison during the last years of his great predecessor's life. A former army officer, like Bakunin, he was by temperament a dreamer and a scholar -- he was a geographer and a naturalist -- rather than a man of action, such as Bakunin. But, once converted to the cause of the Revolution, he acted courageously, spending six years in Russian and French prisons for his beliefs.

After his flight from a Russian prison, where he was confined (1873-76) because of his participation in the Populist "going into the people" movement, he spent the rest of his life in Switzerland, France, and England, where he became the author of many books which became the bible of post-Bakunin anarchism, notably his Words of a Rebel (Paroles d'un revolte) and Conquest of Bread. His Memoirs of a Revolutionist was translated into many languages and so was also his Mutual Aid, a Factor of Evolution, a work in which, apparently with an eye to supporting his thesis of altruistic anarchism, he tried to prove that the principle of mutual aid was just as dominating in animal and primitive human life as that of the struggle for existence. His history of the French Revolution (La Grande Revolution 1789-1793) was generally acclaimed as a serious historical contribution.

For all his extreme "communist anarchism" Kropotkin was what one might call -- paradoxical as it may sound -- a "gradualist" like most Western Marxists. Kropotkin's anarchism was not aimed at overthrowing the existing system immediately, for he apparently realized that this would result not in the abolition of the state but in the rise to power of the socialist politicians whom he despised, and also because he personally was not (in contradistinction to Bakunin) hungry for power. After purifying Bakunin's anarchism of its remnants of "statism," Kropokin and his friends conceived of anarchist revolutionary activity not as a conspiracy for immediate revolutions, but as a permanent protest against capital and the state. But it was not to be a mere theoretical protest in behalf of a better blueprint for the future society. It was to take a form that was to put fear into the hearts of the beneficiaries of the status quo and thus give hope and courage to the masses in their struggle for a better world.


In 1881 an attempt was made by the anarchists to revive the old International -- without the Marxists and the other "parliamentary" socialists, of course. A convention held that year in London showed that the conceptions of the anarchists had changed since the death of Bakunin. The idea of immediate revolution resulting from mass movements, which was one of the main strategic tenets of Bakuninism, went into discard under the impact of the failure of the inherent revolutionary readiness of the masses to reveal itself. Many anarchists became convinced that it was necessary to revolutionize the masses by acts of individual terrorism, a tactic to which they gave the name of "propaganda by the deed." That tactic consisted in individual acts of violence directed against representatives of the existing system. The anarchists attributed to these acts a propagandistic value in arousing the masses against capitalism and the authority of the state. These acts are not to be confused with the terrorism of the so-called "Nihilists" of the "People's Will" party of Russia, of the later 1870's and early 1880's, and of their successors, the Social-Revolutionaries, of the early 1900's, whose terrorism was directed exclusively against tsarist absolutism, and who rejected acts of violence under a system of political democracy. In contradistinction to these Russian "Liberals with a bomb," as they were sometimes called, the anarchist terrorists nearly always worked without any prearranged plan. Their activities -- whether it was the killing of the head of a government, a government official, an employer of labor, or the throwing of a bomb into a theater or a restaurant patronized by the rich -- were either individual acts of protest, or indirect suicides prompted by misery, personal disappointment, or thirst for glory.

The socialists, while sympathetic toward acts of terrorism directed against despotic regimes -- witness Karl Marx's approval of attempts upon the lives of Napoleon III and Tsar Alexander II -- always opposed anarchist "propaganda by the deed" which, in their opinion, very often became grist to the mill of the reactionaries. The only socialist of note who ever glorified such acts -- for instance, the throwing of a bomb into a theater in Buenos Aires -- was Benito Mussolini about ten years before he entered upon his career as the founder of Fascism.

The original champion of this method of "propaganda" was Paul Brousee (1844-1912), a French follower of Michael Bakunin, who, with Kropotkin, was among the first champions of this new religion of violent protest. His enthusiam did not last long; in the early 1880's he joined the French Marxists ("Guesdists") and after a short stay with them became the leader of the "Possibilists," the most moderate group of French socialists. The leap from extreme impossibilism to its very opposite is not very difficult.

Kropotkin's revolutionary "gradualism" showed in his attitude toward the problems confronting his followers -- there were not very many -- in Russia. He did not believe that tsarist Russia was ripe for a social revolution, and, around the turn of the century, assigned to the coming upheaval in his country the role of the great French Revolution of 1789. This earned him the accusation, on the part of some ultraradicals, of being at bottom a liberal. So did his attitude during World War I, when he declared that the democratic countries of the West, such as France, would have to be defended against the semiabsolutism of Germany.

Upon his return to Russia, after the downfall of tsarism in 1917, Kropotkin was anything but elated about the activities of Lenin and rejected the latter's offer -- after the Bolshevik seizure of power -- to have all his works published by the government. He would have no dealings with any government. He was not molested, and after his death in 1921 the house in which he was born was officially converted into the Kropotkin Museum. Such was the respect his great idealism inspired even in his worst enemies.


A close friend and comrade of Kropotkin's for many years was the Italian anarchist Enrico Malatesta (1853-1932), a romantic rebel of the classical mold, who took part in revolutionary activities in all the countries speaking the Romance languages. The author of many pamphlets and a man of action at the same time, Malatesta gradually moved away from many of Kropotkin's ultranaive and ultramoderate concepts. His own view and that of some of his friends was to the effect that the anarchists should help the revolutionary socialists in overthrowing the capitalist system, whereupon, once a democratic socialist system was established, the anarchists would endeavor, through their example and experimentation, to convince the majority of the superiority of voluntary associations to government-controlled economy. Nothing came of this plan, of course. For the democratic socialists, for all their Marxist verbiage, had no intention of engaging in any really revolutionary activities in the more or less democratic West; while the Leninists had no intention of granting any rights of social experimentation. When, during the Italian near-revolution of 1920, Malatesta was urged by his still numerous followers to become the leader of the uprising, he refused, for he realized that a victorious revolution led by anarchists who, after all, were a small minority, would result in a Bolshevik-like dictatorship by anarchists using a different vocabulary. It would have been a too ridiculous conclusion of his life-long apostolate of "no-government." Like Kropotkin, he preferred democratic liberty to a dictatorial revolution.

Such was the prestige he enjoyed that during the last ten years of his long life, from 1922 to 1932, he was not molested by Mussolini, who possibly was grateful to him for refusing to become an anarchist dictator in 1920, and thus unwittingly opening the way for Mussolini's dictatorship two years later.

(Less philosophical or consistent than Malatesta were the Spanish anarchists who in 1933, one year after his death, made a vain attempt at the seizure of power by their own group, and who three years later, during the Spanish civil war, participated in the loyalist governments established in the various provinces.)


At the time (1920) when Malatesta deliberately "missed the bus" that might have bestowed upon him the glory of being the Italian Lenin, anarchism was no longer what it had been two or three decades earlier. Twenty-six years after the London convention of 1881, another attempt was made to form an international organization. An international convention was held in Amsterdam in 1907, at which the ticklish subject of individual acts of revolt was practically ignored. In a declaration adopted on that subject it is said (on p. 7 of Resolutions approuvees par le Congres Anarchiste tenu a Amsterdam 1907) that "such acts, with their causes and motives, should be understood rather than praised or condemned." This was to be a sop for those few still extant anarchists whom one of their critics once called "les maniaques de la dynamite." The majority of the delegates had in the meantime realized, without admitting it openly, that the alleged "propaganda" value of terrorist acts of protest was more than offset by the persecutions following in their wake.

What really interested the majority of the delegates was the attitude they would have to take with regard to a new revolutionary phenomenon that in the meantime had made its appearance. That new phenomenon was called "revolutionary syndicalism." It had its inception as far back as 1895. Its origin is to be ascribed to Fernand Pelloutier (1867-1901), a former Marxist turned anarchist. Discouraged by the bad aftereffects of the terrorist phase of French anarchism (1892-94), he was groping for an efficient method of establishing contact between the revolutionists and the masses. The formula he found and which was henceforth called "revolutionary syndicalism" consisted of two ideas: The labor union (syndicat in French) was to be the instrument of the workers' class struggle for better living conditions, and the weapons of that struggle were to be sabotage, direct action (i.e., violence), and the general strike. The latter was to be both a weapon of protest within the capitalist system and, at a propitious moment, the final blow resulting in the expropriation of the capitalists. That final general strike was called "the expropriatory general strike." Pelloutier was not very explicit about the actual turn such a strike would take. Some of his naive followers imagined that capitalism would just collapse after a few days or weeks of a peaceful "folded arms" (mains croisees) strike. Those who were not so naive realized that it was the "folded arms" strike that was bound to collapse if the peaceful workers were out to starve out the capitalists. So they explained -- not in print, of course -- that, after a short peaceful prelude, the hungry workers would resort to requisitioning foodstuffs, in short, to a violent attack upon capitalist private property. And that would be the beginning of the social revolution.

The second basic tenet of the theory dealt with reconstruction after the victorious general strike. The solution of that question was easy: the general federation of the labor unions became the owner of all means of production and took care of building up a co-operative, nonexploitative, stateless commonwealth.

The idea of the general strike was not invented by Pelloutier. It had been advocated in England during the 1830's by early precursors of syndicalism (see p. 156); it had been known during the early 1870's to the anarchists of Bakunin's school and had been preached in the United States during the eight-hour day movement of the middle 1880's. But Pelloutier made that idea the central point of a fundamental revision of all the previous conceptions held by the various socialist and anarchist schools.

Pelloutier and his closest collaborators in the task of launching the syndicalist movement did not attach the anarchist label to the new theory. That label, in their opinion, was anything but an asset in view of the many crackpots and unsavory characters which the "broadness" of the anarchist philosophy had attracted.

An organizer and not only a theorist, Pelloutier successfully undertook the task of unifying in one single national body all the French labor unions which hitherto had been just vote-getting appendages to the various mutually competing socialist parties. In this task he was supported not only by a number of anarchists who were tired of the "propaganda by the deed," but by some socialists whose ideas were not unsimilar to his. These were the so-called "Allemanists," named after their leader Jean Allemane, a printer who had participated in the uprising of the Paris Commune of 1871. He had a socialist party of his own called Parti Ouvrier Socialiste Revolutionnaire ("Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party"). What distinguished the Allemanists from the other socialist parties in France was its advocacy of the general strike as a method of overthrowing the capitalist system. However, their acceptance of this revolutionary method did not imply their repudiation of parliamentarism; they had their representatives in the Chamber of Deputies. Another distinctive feature of their organization was hostility to intellectuals and professionals: only persons engaged in manual labor (workers or small independent artisans) were admitted to membership. With their general strike plank and their hostility to intellectuals and professional men, the Allemanists contributed an important share to the formation of the theory and practice of syndicalism, some of whose first militants came from their ranks.


It is customary to speak of Georges Sorel (1846-1922) as the father of syndicalism. He never claimed to be the originator of that revolutionary philosophy and frankly gave credit for it to Fernand Pelloutier. Also, his Reflections on Violence (1907) and his other volumes were never accepted by the syndicalist militants as their credo, and practically all of them insisted that they never read him. He also discredited himself by his inconsistencies, such as his flirtation with the reactionaries and later by his glorification of Lenin.1 The "violence" which he glorified -- it was to this glorification that his book owed its phenomenal success among the intelligentsia -- was at bottom only a sensational synonym for the "direct action" advocated and practiced during a certain period by the French syndicalist militants who ignored Sorel and his writings. And as for the general strike to which Sorel devoted so many pages, that idea had been in vogue in the French labor movement since the early nineties of the last century. His only "original" contribution -- that the general strike was merely a courage-inspiring myth, but not something that was actually to be expected to occur -- was rejected by the syndicalists.


One of the outstanding militants of French syndicalism, whose long life epitomizes the history of that movement, was Pierre Monatte (1881-1960). A graduate of a lycee (combination of high school and junior college) and thus an intellectual rather than a manual worker, he was, in his capacity as proofreader since 1902, a member of the union embracing all employees of the printing trades. At first a prosyndicalist anarchist, he eventually became the most articulate exponent of revolutionary syndicalism, pure and simple. For "syndicalism" -- he and his friends in the General Confederation of Labor argued -- was "sufficient unto itself" without either an anarchist or socialist qualification.

A member of the ruling body (Comite Confederal) of the General Confederation of Labor, but a theorist rather than a leader, he never held an executive position comparable to that of either Samuel Gompers or Walter Reuther. Yet his counsel was always highly valued during the heyday of that movement. The semi-monthly La Vie ouvriere, founded by him in 1909, became the theoretical mouthpiece of the movement and was read by all syndicalist militants the world over. One of its eager students was William Z. Foster, who got from it his inspiration for his "single-union" French-style syndicalism, as against the dual unionism of the American I.W.W. (That was before he joined the communists.)

World War I interrupted its publication for the four years which the editor spent in the trenches. Monatte survived the war, but syndicalism, as originally conceived, did not. As the syndicalist-inspired and led labor unions grew, both their members and leaders gradually swung away from the illegal tactics of sabotage and violent direct action and from the early Marxist "the-workers-have-no-country" ideology. For these were the methods and concepts adopted at a time when, the unions being mere skeletons, workers and leaders had literally "nothing to lose but their chains," as Marx's Communist Manifesto had it in 1848. By moving away from their ultraradical past, the French syndicalists adopted the ways of all European labor unions with their close affinity to the socialist parties, an attitude which during the war resulted in the adoption of the union sacree of all classes bent upon the defense of the fatherland.

Out of the trenches in 1918, Monatte, who had resigned from the Comite Confederal when the Confederation of Labor abandoned its hitherto "anti-patriotic" attitude, saw the French labor union leadership divided into two camps: the moderates of the better-paid trades were in close contact with the right-wing socialists, while the more radical elements sympathized with the Bolsheviks (the future French communists were in the Socialist party until 1920). That was one of the consequences of the impact of the November Revolution of 1917. The other consequence was that even the consistent syndicalists who, like Monatte, had remained true to their old philosophy, threw overboard their rejection of all "political action" and joined the Communist party.

However, they were not to stay there more than a couple of years. Soon enough the masters of the Kremlin began to suspect, not without reason, that Monatte and his friends were not of the same stripe as the other leaders of the French Communist party. They did not intend to be mere flunkeys taking orders from Moscow, but instead, they wanted to use the prestige of the Russian Revolution for the purpose of furthering their own cause: that of a social revolution carried out by the labor unions officered by syndicalists posing as communists. Monatte and his friends were expelled from the Communist party in 1924. Since Monatte's revived La Vie ouvriere had been taken over by the Communist party, he founded (in 1925) Le Revolution proletarienne, a theoretical organ which continued under the sponsorship and later editorship of Robert Louzon, a wealthy idealist who had come to syndicalism from the Marxist camp.

Once more on his own, Monatte did not revert to the original quasi-anarchist syndicalism that ignored the question of power. A new slogan was added to the vocabulary of syndicalism, one modeled on the Bolshevik "all power to the Soviets." It read "all power to the labor unions" (au syndicat le pouvoir).

Neither Monatte nor his friends liked to be told that in case of a victorious social revolution to which they aspired "all power to the unions" would actually come to mean "all power to the syndicalist union leaders" whose rule would differ only in its slogans and its personnel, but not in its essence, from that of socialist or communist officeholders.

The adoption of the new slogan did not help Monatte and his friends regain the popularity which their gospel had achieved at the turn of the century. Monatte died a disappointed man, a forgotten prophet in a land where the sons and grandsons of his former followers would lynch his few surviving friends should the "revolution proletarienne" convert France into a satellite of the Kremlin.

Altogether different from the labor-union career of the obscure Monatte was that of the Nobel peace prize winner Leon Jouhaux (1879-1954). A worker in a government match factory, he joined the Confederation Generate du Travail at the turn of the century to become its general secretary in 1908. Originally an anarchist and later a revolutionary syndicalist, he gradually moved toward the moderate wing of French labor unionism and toward collaboration with the Socialist party. During World War I he headed those former syndicalists who became advocates of national defense as against those old-time syndicalists who stuck to their "anti-patriotic" guns. He maintained his position as head of the C.G.T. throughout the two world wars and the period between them. When after World War II communists captured the C.G.T. he remained one of the general secretaries of the organization -- a concession which the communists made to the noncommunist minority. In 1947 the minority, consisting largely of socialists and syndicalists, left the C.G.T. to form an organization called Force Ouvriere ("Labor Force") with Jouhaux as president.


During the first years after their appearance the basic concepts of revolutionary syndicalism infused fresh blood in the anarchist movement which, outside Spain, seemed to be doomed to the stagnation of a sterile sect. For all the admiration the anarchists felt for Kropotkin, to most of them his "anarchist-communist" idea of "free groups" undertaking the reconstruction of society after the faraway social revolution seemed somewhat nebulous, if not altogether unrealistic. Pelloutier's concept of the labor unions slated to become the basis of a "stateless" ideal society gave them pause. To be sure -- prompted either by word-fetishism or bravado -- they were unwilling to drop the word "anarchism" from the vocabulary of their credo. But more and more of them began to substitute "syndicalism" for "communism" and to call themselves "anarchist-(or anarcho-) syndicalists" -- with the understanding that syndicalist methods were to serve as an instrument for attaining their anarchist ideal.

Malatesta, who approved of participation by the anarchists in the labor movement, was not enthusiastic about those of his comrades who were ready to swallow syndicalism hook, line, and sinker. He did not believe in the anarchists merging themselves completely with the labor movement. He saw in the labor movement a propitious arena for the propaganda of the anarchist ideal and was afraid that, left to itself, the syndicalist movement (which, as its theorists claimed, "sufficed unto itself") would eventually bog down in the morass of trade unionism, pure and simple. He foresaw that the very growth of the French syndicalist labor unions would spell the eventual decline of the revolutionary spirit animating its leaders. In short, that they would become "respectable." For growth was bound to bring in its wake the formation of a self-satisfied trade-union bureaucracy which eventually went the way of all trade unionist flesh. As a result, Malatesta declared at the Amsterdam Anarchist Conference (1907) that an anarchist who became a functionary in a labor union was lost to anarchism, for if he wanted to keep his job, he would have to bow to the mentality of the non-anarchist majority. Needless to add, the old romantic's analysis turned out to be prophetic.

That Amsterdam Conference (1907) failed to instill new life into a dying movement. Capitalism was still on the upgrade; the bulk of the workers were not interested in ultrarevolutionary protestations, and ultra-radical "protesters" of the anarchist brand would sooner or later either give up their apostolate or turn into gradualist Sancho Panzas. As a result, the International Anarchist Bureau, which constituted itself with headquarters in London, soon closed.

The last attempt to found an international anarchist organization was made in 1922. In that year anarcho-syndicalists and syndicalists of various countries held a convention in Berlin (Dec. 25, 1922, to Jan. 2, 1923) whose outcome was the formation of an organization which reacquired the name of the First International, International Workingmens' Association. During the 1920's the organization held a number of conventions; however, like its predecessors, it soon disappeared from public view. The potential followers the new International might have attracted were all swallowed by the growing communist movement, the realism of whose revolutionary mystique was more than a match for anarchist utopianism.


Shortly after its appearance as a new revolutionary current, French syndicalism began to spread to those countries in which, up to the turn of the century, extreme radicalism in the form of anarchism had never gone beyond the stage of a noisy sect. The way the converts began to apply the new gospel was not at all to the liking of its French originators. At the outset of their activities, the French syndicalists had the good luck to get control of the General Confederation of Labor that was of their own creation. The would-be emulators of French syndicalism in other countries were confronted by existing central trade-union bodies, whether controlled by the socialists as in Germany, Austria, and Italy, or leading an altogether independent existence as in England and in the United States. To permeate those unions with the revolutionary spirit of syndicalism was a difficult task. Those attempting to make propaganda for such views faced ostracism and expulsion. They thereupon formed their own syndicalist unions. This was entirely against the basic principle of syndicalism, which was dead set against the creation of competing or "dual" unions, particularly as these dual unions were bound to become sectarian propaganda societies stewing in their own juice, rather than mass organizations influenced by the new ideas.


A case in point was the now defunct American variant of syndicalism once known as the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), which flourished between 1905 and 1920 and whose members were usually referred to as "Wobblies." The basic purpose of the I.W.W. was to organize the American workers along industrial lines, as distinguished from the system of craft unionism represented by the American Federation of Labor. Thus, to a certain extent, the I.W.W. anticipated by exactly three decades the basic idea of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (C.I.O.), which was founded in 1935. It appealed largely to the migratory, unskilled, and semiskilled workers ineligible to join the American Federation of Labor (A.F. of L.).

The I.W.W. owed its origin to a multiplicity of factors. At the turn of the century, many American radicals were dissatisfied with what they called the stagnation of the socialist and labor movement. Many socialists, both of the Socialist Labor party and of the Socialist party, were impatient with the American Federation of Labor because, under Gompers' leadership, it refused to commit itself to the cause of socialism, either ideologically, by accepting its aims, or practically, by enjoining its members to vote for the socialists. At the same time, many workers in the West, particularly in the ore-mining districts, became receptive to the idea of revolutionary trade unionism. Strikes developed into bloody fights between the troops and armed workers. And it was not the workers who provoked these violent clashes. This was grist to the mill of the anarchists, who believed neither in the ballot nor in peaceful trade-union methods and who began to accept the idea of French revolutionary syndicalism.

It was the syndicalist idea of emphasis upon the economic struggle for bread-and-butter, or wage-and-hours, objectives rather than upon the political struggle for votes, which eventually prevailed within the I.W.W., even though some of its leaders who believed in both methods, such as William ("Big Bill") D. Haywood were also members of the Socialist party. The open espousal of revolutionary slogans and methods by the I.W.W. brought it under constant attack. Refused permission to hold meetings in the West, the "Wobblies" staged "free speech" fights in many cities. Their spectacular methods and the persecution to which they were exposed attracted the adventurous and the more daring elements among the unskilled and semiskilled -- the I.W.W. was often called the organization of the "wife-less, the homeless and the jobless" -- but the masses stayed away, for the masses are not heroic. It is believed that the membership never exceeded 100,000. During World War I the organization's opposition to American participation in the conflict caused its leaders to be prosecuted for violation of the "Espionage Act." The sentences were heavy and sent the indicted men to the penitentiary for many years. Such prosecution, added to many personal frictions among the leaders, greatly contributed to the decline of the I.W.W. The main reason of its eventual eclipse, however, was the emergence of the communist movement as a result of the Bolshevik Revolution. Radical elements, hitherto "eligible" to the I.W.W., were attracted to communism. As time went by, many of the militant "Wobblies" such as Earl Browder, James P. Cannon, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn joined the Communist party.2 The I.W.W. gradually shrank to an insignificant sect, whose existence was indicated by the fact that it continued publishing its weekly Industrial Worker in Chicago.


The outstanding and most glamorous personality among the "Wobblies" was William D. Haywood (1869-1928), the founder and leader of their organization. For many years a worker in the mines of Nevada, Utah and Idaho, he became secretary-treasurer of the Western Federation of Miners in 1901. In 1905 he took part in the founding of the I.W.W. Arrested in the same year on a trumped-up charge of having caused the murder of Governor Steunenberg, he was acquitted after fifteen months of imprisonment. A member of the Executive Committee of the Socialist party, he antagonized the official leadership of the party both by his hostility towards the American Federation of Labor and by his advocacy of sabotage. An amendment to the Socialist party's constitution, known as Article 2, Section 6, which condemned sabotage and violence, caused his expulsion in 1913 from the Executive Committee of the party. He was repeatedly arrested and convicted for his participation and leadership in various strikes throughout the United States. Because of his antiwar attitude during World War I, he was indicted under the Espionage Act. Released on bail in 1920, he escaped to Russia because, as he explained, a conviction which was a foregone conclusion at that time would have meant spending the rest of his life in prison. For a time he was in charge of the Kuzbas coal development in Siberia, supervising American workers. He died in Moscow, a broken and disappointed man, for he apparently never felt at home in the Russian Communist party, which he had joined -- or had been forced to join.

Next to Haywood, one of the most colorful personalities of the I.W.W. movement was Arturo Giovannitti (1884-1960), a native of Italy. Born into a middle-class family, he came to the United States at the age of sixteen and was at first slated for the ministry. Having become interested in socialist ideas, he took an active part -- as a fluent orator in both Italian and English -- in the strikes conducted by the I.W.W., particularly where Italian workers were involved. In 1912, during the strike of the textile workers of Lawrence, Massachusetts, he was arrested and indicted as an accessory to murder, because a woman striker had been killed during a clash with the police. His case aroused protests and demonstrations on the part of radicals and trade unionists the world over. Acquitted and his ultra-radicalism somewhat cooled, he later became general secretary of the Italian Chamber of Labor of New York and an organizer for the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union. The poetry he wrote, both in English and Italian, reflected the social struggles of the period between 1910 and 1920. His volume of English verse Arrows in the Gale was in its time hailed as an outstanding poetical achievement.

Among the intellectuals who sympathized with the movement were Frank Bohn and William English Walling, both of whom could be called its unofficial philosophers. During World War I both were carried away by the wave of pro-Allied partisanship and turned their backs on all aspects of radicalism.


Ironically, the most rabid adversary of both Haywood and Giovannitti was, at the outset of his career, himself a radical. Samuel Gompers (1850-1924), the founder of the American Federation of Labor, was born in London of Jewish parents and immigrated to the United States in 1863. A cigarmaker by trade, he came early under the influence of the First International and admired Karl Marx for his championship of the trade unions as a means of improving the workers' situation. He devoted his energy to building the cigarmakers union of which he became the president. During the 1880's he contributed more than anyone else to the formation of the American Federation of Labor, of which he was to hold the presidency with one interruption (1895) until his death. His early enthusiasm for socialist ideas was gradually replaced by hostility to all attempts made by radicals of all schools -- socialists, anarchists, syndicalists, communists -- to capture the trade unions. He believed that "the trade unions, pure and simple, are the natural organizations of the wage workers to secure their present material and practical improvement and to achieve their final emancipation." This, to a certain extent, was an idea closely akin to syndicalism. He was, however, officially opposed to the revolutionary tactics advocated by the syndicalists, though he often looked the other way when some of his own unions resorted to illegal methods. His hostility to socialist and communist attempts to win control over the trade union movement did not imply complete syndicalist-like aversion to all politics. He believed in what he called "rewarding friends and punishing enemies" -- in giving the labor vote to those candidates whether Republicans or Democrats -- who were more friendly or less hostile to the cause of labor.

In his later years Gompers epitomized his philosophy in the slogan of "more and always more." This apparently expressed his skepticism as to the possibility of achieving an ideal social system, or his renunciation of what in an earlier phase he called the "final emancipation." It also expressed his conviction that workers, regardless of changes in the social structure, would always have to wage an organized struggle for a better share in the good things of life. Gompers' activities were devoted largely to the cause of the skilled workers. Only shortly before his death did he become interested in the unskilled who in his time were considered as unorganizable.


Gompers' most rabid opponents in the labor movement were the anarchists, even though they agreed with his bitter denunciation of the socialists.

In speaking about American anarchism, one has to keep in mind that the designation covers two separate categories: The followers of native American brands of anarchism representing extreme aspects of individualism and liberalism and having practically no point of contact with socialism, communism, or any other radical mass movements; and disciples of various European schools of anarchism, such as Bakuninism, Kropotkinism, anarcho-syndicalism, or their combinations or variants. The views of the former group are embodied in the writings of Josiah Warren, Stephen Pearl Andrews, and Benjamin Tucker. That group, now extinct, consisted exclusively of native American middle-class intellectuals of a philosophical rather than of a revolutionary bent. The other group, now likewise practically extinct, but very active during the 1880's and 1890's, consisted largely of German, Jewish, Russian, Italian, and Czech immigrants, with the German element predominating.

An ultraradical mood prevailed among the immigrant workers at the end of the 1870's due to the depression which held the United States in its grip for several years. The very moderate Socialist Labor party, whose composition was largely German, was gradually deserted by its more energetic members. These were absorbed by the Revolutionary Socialist party which was founded in 1881 and which was in favor of "armed workers organizations ready to repel, rifle in hand, any encroachments upon the rights of the workers." Albert Parsons and August Spies, the outstanding figures in the Chicago Haymarket tragedy of 1886-87, were among the first militants of the new organization.


The propaganda of that group was stimulated by the arrival in 1882 of Johann Most (1846-1906), once an outstanding leader of the German socialists. He was born in Bavaria, where he learned the trade of bookbinder. At the age of seventeen he started out on the traditional Wanderschaft of the old-time German skilled workers, which brought him into most cities of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and northern Italy. In Switzerland he came in contact with a branch of the First International. Converted to socialism -- and a diligent reader -- he soon became an effective public speaker. In 1870 he incurred a five-year sentence in Vienna because of "high treason" committed in one of his speeches. Released after one year, he rose quickly in the hierarchy of the socialist movement and in 1874, at the age of twenty-eight, he was elected to the German parliament. A speech delivered during the recess earned him a two-year sentence -- in all, he was to spend ten years of his life in prison (counting his sentences in Austria, Germany, England, and the United States).

The antisocialist laws adopted in Germany in 1878 forced Most to emigrate to England, where he founded a revolutionary socialist weekly Freiheit. Expelled from the Social-Democratic party because of his violent criticism of the moderate tactics of its leaders, he gradually moved toward a position of ultraradicalism which was a hodgepodge of Marxism, Blanquism, Bakuninism, and Russian terrorism. In 1881 he was sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment because of an article in which he glorified the assassination of Tsar Alexander II by the Russian terrorists. Unable to find a printer for his paper in England, he went to the United States, where he continued to publish Freiheit.

In the United States his own brand of anarchism found many followers among the numerous German workers who were swayed by his oratory. (It was an unorthodox, rather obsolete, brand of anarchism, harking back to Bakunin and not in conformity with the ideas of Kropotkin, then receiving general acceptance by the international anarchist movement.)

The main feature of his propaganda was the glorification of terrorist acts, or as it was called at the time, of "propaganda by the deed." The terrorism he preached was not meant for the United States; it was directed chiefly against the semiabsolutist regimes of Germany and Austria. As for America, he limited himself to a purely theoretical propaganda for the overthrow of the capitalist system. A believer in the "iron law of wages" -- the inability of the workers to rise above the subsistence level within the capitalist system -- he was not interested in strikes for higher wages. On this point his views differed from those of the Chicago anarchists who exerted a certain influence upon the labor movement and who were among the most active champions of the strike movement for the eight-hour day.

When by the middle of the 1890's French syndicalism made its appearance, Most showed great interest in the new movement and began to fill the columns of his paper with translations of pamphlets and articles published by the new school. Early in the 1890's, Most had anticipated one of the basic tenets of syndicalism by declaring that after the victory of the revolution, the trade unions would have the mission of reorganizing society. Ten years later he hailed the appearance of the I.W.W. But he showed no interest in the other basic idea of syndicalism -- the immediate struggle for material improvement. Such indifference was largely the result of his desperate "all or nothing" outlook which he adopted after his break with the Social Democratic party.


American anarchism suffered a fatal blow as a result of the Haymarket bomb affair of Chicago (1886-87), which led to the conviction and the execution of the outstanding leaders of the Chicago anarchists. New York, the other center of American anarchism, which was the headquarters of Johann Most's propaganda, was at the same time the focal point of internecine quarrels within the movement. These greatly contributed to repel many followers and to weaken the movement. There was also the additional circumstance that the abrogation of the antisocialist laws in Germany (1890) and the general economic upswing in that country greatly reduced the flow of German immigrants to America. The new immigrants were not primarily interested in revolutionary ideas.

Next to Johann Most, the best known figure among the American anarchists was Emma Goldman (1869-1940). Born in Russia, she immigrated to the United States while in her teens. A factory girl, she came under the influence of anarchist propagandists who at that time were influential among immigrant workers. Johann Most discovered her budding oratorical talent and coached her for her future career as lecturer in the English language. The brand of anarchism she began to preach was contemptuous of the workers' struggles for immediate demands. In Living My Life, she records that she considered the struggles for an eight-hour day as a waste of energy and that she "scoffed at the stupidity of the workers who fought for such trifles" and were ready "to give up a great future for some small temporary gains." The only aim worth fighting for, in her opinion, was the abolition of the capitalist system. Her fiery eloquence, coupled with her close association with the terrorist Alexander Berkman, who in 1891, during a strike, made an attempt to kill the manager of the Homestead, Pennsylvania, steelworks, gave her name a renown that spread over both hemispheres. On the strength of her reputation she was often arrested and sentenced to prison terms. In 1901 her name was mentioned in connection with the assassination of President McKinley, although she had no connection whatsoever with the act of a halfwit who called himself an anarchist. Arrested and convicted for opposing America's participation in World War I, she was deported to Russia in 1920. Her initial enthusiasm for the Bolshevik Revolution evaporated upon close contact with the realities of the situation, particularly in view of the persecution of the anarchists by the Soviet regime. She contributed her share to dispelling procommunist illusions of many French and German syndicalists and some American "Wobblies," and left Russia in 1922, living in England, France, and Canada. During the 1930's she was permitted to visit the United States, where she delivered a number of lectures about anarcho-syndicalism to which she had become converted. Her most important works are Anarchism and Other Essays (1910) and Living My Life (1931).


Never strong among the American native workers, proanarchist sentiment among the foreign-born gradually disappeared for a variety of reasons -- aside from the internecine struggles among the leaders and would-be leaders of various sects and subsects. The influx of immigrants whose initial struggles made them susceptible to ultraradical slogans and labels ended, and there was the growing prosperity of those becoming more or less "Americanized." The new, no less radical but less visionary, gospels of I.W.W.'ism and later Soviet communism supplied the desired psychological tonic to those in need of a violent gospel of salvation.

A few remnants of anarchist indoctrination still survive among some old-time Italian- and Yiddish-speaking immigrants. An Italian-language weekly, Adunata dei Refrattari, is published in New Jersey and a Yiddish biweekly, Freie Arbeiter-Stimme, in New York. The Italian periodical is devoted to the ideas of a minor anarchist prophet by the name of Luigi Galleani, who, around the turn of the century, preached hostility to all forms of organization, seasoned with the gospel of "individual action." It looks down with contempt upon the everyday struggles for bread-and-butter demands and extolls the beauties of the anarchist ideal and of rebellious deeds against the status quo. The Yiddish periodical, which is closer to a very mild form of anarcho-syndicalism, has been largely devoted to the cult of the personality of another minor anarchist prophet by the name of Rudolf Rocker, a German "Aryan" who, having learned Yiddish, by his educational activities in the London ghetto raised an entire generation of well-indoctrinated Russian-Jewish workers. These, in turn, having migrated to the United States, as time went by, sufficiently watered down their erstwhile fiery philosophy of protest to qualify as leaders or functionaries of the needle-workers' unions.


While anarchism and syndicalism are dead in practically all countries, except for a few insignificant groups, a movement professing a combination of both philosophies is still very much alive in the Spanish-speaking countries. This is largely due to the fact that the first labor struggles in Spain were initiated and supported by Bakunin's followers, thus endowing anarchism with a prolabor tradition which even the fiercest attacks of the socialists and later of the communists were unable to destroy.

The history of Spanish anarchism is a long succession of savage persecution by the police, terrorist acts of retaliation, uprisings, and general strikes. Ideologically, the movement was at first under the sway of Bakuninism with its "collectivist anarchism" (reward according to works) and a partly open, partly veiled striving for power on the crest of the hoped-for revolution. When that hope ended, the Spanish anarchists accepted the ideas of Kropotkin, which postponed the social revolution to the Greek calends, the loss of that hope to be compensated for by terrorist acts of revenge or protest. After that came the phase of anarcho-syndicalism, marked in 1911 by the organization of the C.N.T. (National Confederation of Labor). During World War I and shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution, the strike activities of the C.N.T. were partly supplemented and partly replaced by terrorist "groups of action," which engaged in killing employers or managers who refused to accede to the workers' demands. The employers retaliated with mass terror against union leaders and militants in the course of which hired gangsters succeeded in killing some of the outstanding leaders among Barcelona's anarcho-syndicalists. This period was concluded by the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (1923-30) in the course of which all radical activities were suppressed.

The Spanish revolution and civil war of 1931-39 had a marked effect on the anarchist movement. The bloodless revolution of 1931, which ushered in an era of political democracy, resulted in the breaking away of a powerful wing of anarcho-syndicalist trade unionists, who decided to abandon the old revolutionary tradition and to pursue the gradualist tactics of typical trade unionism while retaining the old slogans of syndicalism, very much as the gradualist socialists retained the old slogans of revolutionary Marxism. On the other hand, the same event and the example of the Bolsheviks of 1917 led to the formation of a strong organization of insurrectionist anarchists called FAI (Federation Anarquista Iberica) which was frankly out for an immediate anticapitalist revolution with a thinly veiled program of anarchist dictatorship, Bakunin style. These were the younger, more impulsive elements among the self-educated manual and white-collar workers who were just as hungry for power as were the corresponding elements which in other countries embraced the communist "line." The subsequent events in Spain (1936-39) led to the further abandonment by the Spanish anarchists of some of the traditional concepts of anarchist tactics; they voted for the democratic parties during the elections of 1936 (hitherto voting had been taboo among all anarchists); and after the Falangist military uprising they actively participated as cabinet members in the Loyalist government.

The victory of Generalissimo Franco drove the active anarchists either into exile or into the underground. In 1962, twenty-three years after the collapse of the democratic Republic, the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists gave up their intransigent organizational isolation when the National Confederation of Labor (CNT) controlled by them, concluded an alliance (Alianza Sindical) with the labor unions controlled by socialists and other groups for a joint struggle against Franco's dictatorship.

Spanish (and Portuguese) anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists were the first apostles of Western radical ideas in Latin America, and particularly in Argentina and Brazil. Hence the labor organizations in these countries were, before the turn of the century, largely under their influence. Internecine struggles within the movement (in Argentina), and the later arrival of German immigrants, enabled the Marxists to organize parties and labor unions professing the views of the European democratic socialists. In turn, the Bolshevik Revolution led to the same splits and divisions as in all other countries. All of these tendencies suffered greatly during Peron's dictatorship, not only because of persecutions, but chiefly because the great concessions, in the matter of wages and other benefits, made to the workers under the dictatorial regime, won over to his cause the bulk of organized workers, regardless of their previous indoctrination. There was practically no trace of anarchist influence in the radical movements of Chile and Mexico, where the democratic socialists had been the first apostles of anticapitalist protest. As time went by, communist propaganda led to permanent dissensions and schisms within the political and trade union movements of the Left, with the communists -- backed by Russia's prestige and financial support -- as a rule getting the upper hand. Such was the pro-Stalinist fanaticism, or worse, of the Mexican communists that they repeatedly organized attempts to assassinate Leon Trotsky, to whom the Cardenas administration had offered a haven.


Unlike the development of anarchism in Spain, its Russian counterpart, in spite of its glorious ancestry -- Bakunin and Kropotkin -- never became a mass movement. Spain, for all the reactionary character of its various nineteenth-century regimes, always had a modicum of political liberty. This enabled many malcontent elements among the intelligentsia to blow off rebellious steam without resorting to underground, illegal activities. It was "only" against striking workers that the regime was merciless and quick on the trigger. This added fuel to the irreconcilability of the self-educated worker-militants who had grown up in the anarchist tradition. It was different in absolutist tsarist Russia, where the entire radical intelligentsia, brought up either in the Marxist or the populist tradition, had to resort to illegal and often terrorist methods to vent its dissatisfaction. Hence, even the most radical elements, which in other countries were attracted by the intransigency of anarchism, could not complain about the lack of revolutionary fervor on the part of the old-established and powerful underground organizations of the democratic socialist parties. Moreover, it stands to reason that what irks an educated declasse most under absolutism is the lack of political liberty rather than the oppressive character of the state qua state.

The few ultras who were attracted to anarchism were divided among various sects. Some fully accepted Kropotkin's view that Russia was ripe only for a democratic revolution; others put their emphasis on the philosophy of French syndicalism; these, in turn, were opposed by a group that insisted upon the propagandistic usefulness of killing members of the privileged classes indiscriminately -- for the mere crime of being bourgeois. Throwing bombs into fashionable cafes and theaters patronized by the rich were to be the manifestations of this kind of social protest, which was called "unmotivated" (bezmotivni) terror because it was not provoked by any special motive, such as excessive brutality, or excessive exploitation. They also recommended the seizure of provincial towns for a few days, accompanied by the expropriation of the bourgeosie and the abolition of all authority -- just for the sake of giving a heroic example. The champion of this school of anarchism, Judah Grossman-Roshchyn, was a brilliant young philosopher who never threw any bombs himself and who, after the Russian Revolution, joined the Bolsheviks. Other groups were even fiercer in their antibourgeois hatred. These were sometimes infested by plain bandits using anarchism as an ideological justification.


After the Bolshevik Revolution two novel forms of anarchism made their appearance. One of them was called "Makhnovism," after Nestor Makhno, a Ukrainian anarchist-terrorist of the pre-1917 period. After his liberation from prison he waged, for nearly two years, a guerrilla war of Ukrainian peasants both against the Whites and against the Reds, playing, for all practical purposes, the role of benevolent anarchist military dictator. There were also, during the early 1920's, pro-Bolshevik anarchists who were either unable or unwilling to throw overboard their anarchist pasts at one stroke. They found a sort of ideological refuge in a theory called "anarcho-bolshevism," which openly advocated a revolutionary dictatorship by anarchists during the transitional period from capitalism to anarchist communism. It was a frank reversion to the dictatorial aspect of Bakuninism which as a rule was ignored or denied by the later anarchists. In most cases, however, "anarcho-bolshevism" proved merely a short "transitional period" between anarchism and complete acceptance of official Russian "communism."


Equally unsuccessful as these Russians were the few English enthusiasts who attempted to start an anarchist movement in Great Britain. To be sure, there had been a pro-anarchist current among the avant-garde intellectuals during the 1880's. At that time they even succeeded in gaining control of the "Socialist League," an organization of radicals who, under the leadership of the poet and artist William Morris, had seceded from the Marxist Social Democratic Federation. By gaining control the anarchists killed the League and its publication The Commonweal, for it could not exist without the financial support of William Morris, who had resigned.

There had been a fresh spurt in the same direction during the subsequent decade when bombs were exploding in Paris, and almost the entire literary boheme of France was in sympathy with the dynamiters. A few anarchist or near-anarchist periodicals sprang up in London; there were highly publicized trials of men dabbling with explosives, as well as a number of frame-ups by the police, so that for a time the public was interested in the new revolutionary phenomenon. But after the echo of the French bombs had died away, nothing remained during the 1900's of the entire movement in England except a four-page periodical, Freedom, published monthly by a group of highly cultured English anarchists devoted to the ideas of Peter Kropotkin.

To be sure, there were many anarchists in London. But they were French, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, and eastern European Jewish immigrants and refugees from the Continent Anarchism, as the most violent expression of anticapitalist protest prior to the appearance of Leninist communism, had its chief appeal to the educated declasses and to the more temperamental underpaid skilled workers in the economically backward countries. But the skilled workers were not underpaid in England, and the educated declasses of that country could find their spiritual and emotional shelter in the Marxist Social Democratic Federation, which, for reasons already explained, never became an influential political party. Due to the liberty of the press existing in England, that party could indulge in verbal violence against the bourgeoisie exceeding even that offered by Continental anarchists. The British Marxists were thus able to attract most potential recruits of anarchism.


A few decades later, the same ultraradical elements were absorbed first by the syndicalists and later by communists, whose radicalism was just as violent, but considerably less chimerical than that of the anarchists. Syndicalism represented only a comparatively short phase in the history of British radicalism. It had, at the turn of the century, found an enthusiastic advocate in Tom Mann, a veteran of the socialist and trade-union movements since the 1880's. However, both Mann and his followers in the labor unions were soon to be swept off their feet by the powerful wave of communism coming from Russia. The intellectuals, in turn, who had become sympathetic to syndicalist ideas, soon evolved a theory of their own, which became known as guild socialism.

This new school of socialism owed its origin to the collective thought of three English political theorists, the medievalist and Christian socialist A. J. Penty, who revived the ancient idea of the guilds, and the Marxists S. G. Hobson and G. D. H. Cole. The theory represented a blend of syndicalism and democratic socialism. Its concept of a socialist system accepted both the syndicalist idea of the trade unions as the managers of the socialized industries, and the democratic-socialist idea of the democratic state which, however, is shorn of its "sovereign power." (In the original concept of syndicalism there is no place for the state.) The syndicalist ingredient of guild socialism is modified in that the trade unions are to evolve into "guilds," bodies which are to embrace "all the hand and brain workers employed in each industry" (G. D. H. Cole), that is, the clerical, technical, and managerial personnel, as well as the manual workers. It is to these "self-governing guilds or corporations" that, according to the guild socialists, "the administration of the socialized industries and services should be entrusted" rather than to the government departments. Guild socialism shared with syndicalism the emphasis upon the "economic" struggle -- strikes for better conditions -- rather than political action in support of socialist candidates. The emphasis on violence, so frequently encountered in syndicalist literature, is absent from the writings of the guild socialists.

There were considerable differences of opinion among the theoretical exponents of guild socialism concerning the role of the state. Some, accepting the orthodox Marxist vocabulary, spoke of the "withering away" of the state. Others gave the state the harmless name of ""commune," which they entrusted with the "spiritual problems" of the nation. In view of the differences of opinion in the guild socialist camp, it is impossible to draw a sharp line between the powers of the guilds and those of the state (or the commune). However, it was generally assumed that while the central congress of the guilds was to represent the producers, Parliament, shorn of its old-time power, would represent the general interests of the nation at large.

The guild socialist movement disappeared in the course of the 1920's. Its protagonists have apparently been attracted either by the growing power of the British Labour party or by the growing revolutionary prestige of Russian "communism."


The emphasis upon the "economic" struggle for higher wages, which was one of the characteristics of syndicalism, was also the chief feature of another school of radical thought which is often designated either as anarchist or as syndicalist, although it rejected these labels, and actually represented a class by itself. That school or group called itself officially the "Workers' Conspiracy," but its followers were called "Makhayevtzy" after the name of its founder, the Polish-Russian revolutionist Waclaw Machajski3 (1866-1926). The basic tenet of his theory was the idea that nineteenth-century socialism was not the expression of the interests of the manual workers but the ideology of the impecunious, malcontent, lower middle-class intellectual workers. These, according to Machajski, were dangling before the workers the socialist ideal of equality with a view to getting their support both in their political campaigns within the capitalist system and in their efforts to establish a new system of exploitation, a system of government ownership under which well-paid officeholders, managers, and technicians would take the place of the private owners. In short, he predicted what is now called the "managerial revolution" more than forty years before the appearance of the book of that title.

Writing in the peaceful days of capitalism's upward trend, Machajski saw this change coming as a result of the gradualist policy of the social-democratic (socialist) parties whose leadership in the Western democratic countries had become quite a respectable group of Leftist politicians averse to any revolutionary adventures. At that time the rebellious, declassed professional (or "intellectual") of the decades preceding and following 1848 was no longer a mass phenomenon outside of such politically and economically backward countries as Russia (including Russian Poland) and Spain. That phenomenon was to recur in the wake of World War I, when the hordes of unemployed or underpaid professional or white-collar workers began to embrace, en masse, the Bolshevist gospel of immediate anticapitalist revolution. Long before Lenin, Machajski, a conspirator by temperament, hoped to initiate an international, anti-capitalist revolution with the help of the then not very numerous declasses who, in Russia, were not satisfied with a mere democratic, bourgeois revolution, and who, in the democratic West, wasted their anticapitalist intransigency in the Utopian protest of various post-Bakuninist anarchist sects. With his criticism of socialist gradualism, whose champions postponed the abolition of capitalism to a distant future, he was trying to attract the radical elements dissatisfied with the slow tempo of the anticapitalist struggle.

Machajski's basic idea to the effect that the reality behind the socialist "ideal" was a new form of exploitation for the benefit of the officeholders and managers of the socialized state may have been inspired by a remark made by Bakunin in his Statism and Anarchy (in Russian) in which he accused the Marxists of aiming at such a new form of exploitation. The similarity of Machajski's views to those of Bakunin shows up in another respect as well. Bakunin operated with two contradictory theories, as it were: one for the general public, which advocated complete destruction of the state immediately after the victorious revolution, and another, expressed in confidential documents, in which he favored a revolutionary dictatorship by his own leading elite.

Machajski, who may or may not have been aware of this dualism of Bakunin's, likewise had two theories: in one, somewhat related to syndicalism, he advocated an exclusively nonpolitical mass struggle for higher wages and for jobs for the unemployed -- a sort of direct action movement against private employers and against the state; in his opinion this struggle, in its further development, would lead to the expropriation of the capitalists and to the complete equalization of incomes of manual and intellectual workers -- thus bringing about the liquidation of the state by the disappearance of economic inequalities. The other theory, postulating the seizure of power in the form of a "revolutionary dictatorship," was hidden in passages of his earlier writings; in the opinion of most of his followers, it was considered abandoned by the teacher himself. But Machajski never explicitly repudiated that allegedly "outdated" view of his. (The idea of seizure of power in the wake of a revolutionary mass struggle for the workers' bread-and-butter demands was a carefully guarded "top secret" -- lest his philosophy lose its appeal as a genuinely working-class tendency with no power strings attached to it. For the pure-in-heart ultra-revolutionary romantics among the anarchists whom he hoped to win over would have been repelled by that aspect of his theory.)

Thus, his nonpolitical, purely "economic," direct action egalitarianism, which had points of contact with both "pure-and-simple" trade unionism and anarcho-syndicalism, was allowed to exist side by side with a pre-Leninist form of neo-Blanquism advocating a "world conspiracy and dictatorship of the proletariat," which meant of course the seizure of power by his own group. In his later writings, he camouflaged this idea behind the cryptic phrase of the "working class dictating the law to the government." This implied that the intellectuals and self-educated former workers constituting Machajski's group of professional conspirators and claiming to speak in behalf of the "working class," would not take advantage of the opportunity of substituting themselves for a government to which they were strong enough to "dictate the law." This was, of course, in contradiction to his basic sociological thesis about the exploitative, unequalitarian tendencies animating the owners of higher education, that is, those able to seize power. It assumed that the educated men who were to constitute the officeholding setup of a Machajski-controlled revolutionary government would be exempt from those exploitative tendencies.

Thus, while giving the world an interesting and prophetic analysis of the cloven-hoof character of the allegedly disinterested proworkingclass idealism of the various anticapitalist tendencies, Machajski "forgot" to apply it to his own revolutionary passion for power.

Machajski's supersubtle plan was a dismal failure. The romantics and idealists who has joined him because they saw in his theory a realistic approach to the abolition of all power and privilege left him and withdrew from all revolutionary activities as soon as the Machiavellian, "two truths" character of their teacher's intentions became apparent to them. Those who had come to him from the various socialist parties and who saw in his purely economic bread-and-butter-struggle masquerade an excellent method of arousing the masses for the purpose of overthrowing capitalism and seizing power were not slow to join the Bolsheviks who were able to accomplish that aim without that masquerade.


1.  For more about Sorel, see Max Nomad's Aspects of Revolt (1961).

2.  Browder, for many years the head of the party, was expelled in 1945; Cannon, expelled as far back as 1927, became the leader of the Trotskyists; Elizabeth Gurley Flynn is at this writing the chairman of the party once headed by the ex-Wobblies Foster and Browder.

3.  Pronounced Vatzlav Makhaysky. For more about Machajski see Max Nomad's Aspects of Revolt (New York, 1961), pp. 96-117.