“Le Lendemain de la Révolution”, La Révolte, 31 March 1888
One of the main objections to anarchist ideas is this: it would not be possible for a nation to live in anarchy, as it would first have to defend itself against other powers united against it and also to fight the bourgeois who would surely try to regain authority in order to restore anew their domination. That to counter this situation it would be absolutely necessary to preserve the army and a centralising power which alone could carry out this task. A transition period, they say, must be definitely gone through because it alone can bring the possibility of anarchist ideas taking root.
If those who make these objections were willing to recognise what a social revolution could be, what it must be, they would see that their objection is groundless and that the transitional methods they preach would have the effect of halting this revolution which they have the responsibility of making a success.
Given all the institutions, all the prejudices that the social revolution will have to demolish, it is quite obvious that it cannot be the work of two or three days of fighting followed by a simple transfer of power, as have been previous political revolutions. For us, the social revolution to be achieved takes the form of a long series of struggles, of continuous transformations that will last for a shorter or longer period of years, where the workers, defeated at times, victorious at others, will gradually succeed in overcoming all the prejudices, all the institutions that crush them and where the struggle, once begun, cannot end until, after having finally felled all obstacles, humanity will be able to evolve freely.
For us, this transitional period that those thirsty for governmentalism want at all costs to go through to justify the authority they claim to need to ensure the success of the revolution will be precisely this period of struggle that will have to be sustained from the day when ideas that have acquired enough strength will attempt to pass into the realm of facts. All the other transitional methods that are recommended to us are only a disguised way of clinging to this past that they pretend to fight, but that shows that they are fleeing with difficulty before the ideas of justice and freedom.
Indeed, it is quite obvious that if the revolution broke out in France, for example – we take France since we are there, but the revolution can just as easily breakout elsewhere – and it succeeded, the bourgeois of other countries would not delay in forcing their government to declare war, a war a hundred times more terrible than that declared by monarchist Europe against Republican France in 1789, and whatever energy and resources the revolutionaries might have at their disposal, they would soon succumb under the number of their adversaries whom fear would arouse on all sides.
You must be truly visionary to suppose that it would be enough to give ourselves a government to prevent the Holy Alliance of the bourgeois threatened with losing their privileges. This government could only be accepted if it renounced its revolutionary origin and used the forces it possessed to subdue those who brought it to power. This would inevitably happen, since every government is inevitably retrograde by the fact that it is the barrier that those of the present oppose to those of the future.
So, it is to draw a false conception of the social revolution to believe that it can prevail all at once; it is to draw a far greater one than to believe that it can be localised and above all – if this happened – to believe that it could triumph.
The social revolution can triumph only if its spreads throughout Europe. It will be able to prevent the alliance of the bourgeoisie only on the condition of giving them each enough work at home to remove their desire of addressing what is going on with their neighbours. The workers of a nationality can triumph and emancipate themselves at home only if neighbouring workers emancipate themselves too. They will be able to rid themselves of their masters only if the masters of their neighbours cannot come and assist theirs. The international solidarity of all workers is one of the prerequisites for the triumph of the revolution. Such is the rigorous logic of anarchist ideas that this ideal union of the workers of all countries, that they pose in principle, that they recognise as truth, arises from the outset as a means of struggle as well as an ideal.
Therefore, the first work of anarchists, when a revolutionary movement breaks out somewhere, will have to be to seek to make others erupt further afield. Not by decrees that will subjugate those to whom they are addressed, but by preaching by example, by seeking to interest them from the beginning in the new state of affairs that will occur.
So, for example, if an attempt at realising anarchist-communism were tried in any great centre, from the beginning it would be necessary to seek to attract the workers of the surrounding countryside, by immediately sending them all the objects necessary for existence: furniture, clothing, agricultural implements, luxury goods as required and which exist in superfluous numbers in the stores of the big cities; you will not bring them to the revolution by contenting yourself with sending them proclamations which would not be followed by any action. But if, as well as telling them to revolt, the objects of which they lacked were sent to them, there would be no doubt that we would interest them in the revolution and that we might bring them to take part, because they would immediately find an improvement in their lot and it is then possible to make them understand that their emancipation is possible only with that of the workers of the cities.
It is obvious that, considered from this point of view, the social revolution we are faced with is a long series of movements one following the other, with no other link between them than the goal to be attained. It may happen that this movement is suppressed in the city before the countryside has responded to the advances of the instigators of the movement and has risen to support them, but it could do so when the reactionaries try to take back from it what the revolutionaries have given it. Then, the example is contagious. These acts, moreover, are accomplished only when the ideas are in the air and disseminated everywhere. With one movement strangled in one locality, ten others will respond the following day. Some will be completely defeated, others will obtain concessions, still others will arise which prevail and, from defeats to victories, the idea will continue its path until it will be established permanently. There cannot be a transitional period. The Social Revolution is a road to be travelled, to stop on the way would be the same as turning back. It can only halt when it has accomplished its journey and has reached the goal to be conquered: the free individual in a free humanity.