Life and Ideas
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191 pages

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With the timely reprinting of this selection of Malatesta’s writings, first published in 1965 by Freedom Press, the full range of this great anarchist activist’s ideas are once again in circulation. Life and Ideas gathers excerpts from Malatesta’s writings over a lifetime of revolutionary activity.

The editor, Vernon Richards, has translated hundreds of articles by Malatesta, taken from the journals Malatesta either edited himself or contributed to, from the earliest, L’En Dehors of 1892, through to Pensiero e Volontà, which was forced to close by Mussolini’s fascists in 1926, and the bilingual Il Risveglio/Le Réveil, which published most of his writings after that date. These articles have been pruned down to their essentials and collected under subheadings ranging from “Ends and Means” to “Anarchist Propaganda.” Through the selections Malatesta’s classical anarchism emerges: a revolutionary, nonpacifist, nonreformist vision informed by decades of engagement in struggle and study. In addition there is a short biographical piece and an essay by the editor.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 mars 2015
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781629630564
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Life and Ideas: The Anarchist Writings of Errico Malatesta
Edited and translated by Vernon Richards
ISBN: 978-1-62963-032-8
LCCN: 2014908067
© Vernon Richards
Foreword © Carl Levy
This edition copyright ©2015 PM Press
All Rights Reserved
PM Press
PO Box 23912
Oakland, CA 94623
Originally published by
Freedom Press
Angel Alley
84b Whitechapel High Street
London E1 7QX
Cover by John Yates/
Layout by Jonathan Rowland
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Printed by the Employee Owners of Thomson-Shore in Dexter, Michigan.
Foreword by Carl Levy
Editor’s Introduction to the First Edition
Editor’s Introduction to the Third Edition (1984)
Introduction: Anarchy and Anarchism
1. Anarchist Schools of Thought
2. Anarchist Communism
3. Anarchism and Science
4. Anarchism and Freedom
5. Anarchism and Violence
6. Attentats
7. Ends and Means
8. Majorities and Minorities
9. Mutual Aid
10. Reformism
11. Organisation
12. Production and Distribution
13. The Land
14. Money and Banks
15. Property
16. Crime and Punishment
17. Anarchists and the Working Class Movements
18. The Occupation of the Factories
19. Workers and Intellectuals
20. Anarchism, Socialism, and Communism
21. Anarchists and the Limits of Political Co-Existence
22. The Anarchist Revolution
23. The Insurrection
24. Expropriation
25. Defence of the Revolution
26. Anarchist Propaganda
27. An Anarchist Programme
Notes for a Biography
Appendix I
Appendix II
Appendix III
Appendix IV
Malatesta’s Relevance for Anarchists Today
E RRICO M ALATESTA ( 1853–1932 ) WAS BORN IN S ANTA M ARIA C APUA Vetere near to Naples. His family were middle-class tannery owners, and he was not, as the press would have it, a count who conspired with other aristocrats such as Peter Kropotkin and Mikhail Bakunin. Malatesta lived between the era of the Paris Commune and Russian Revolution and the establishment of the Fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini. He knew Bakunin and Mussolini and was known and appreciated as a revolutionary (at least initially) by Vladimir Lenin. Although the young Malatesta was a key figure in the First International in Italy and elsewhere, his presence in Italy was mainly between 1885 and 1919, when his reappearances occurred during periods of popular unrest: the 1893–94 Fasci Siciliani, the risings of 1897–98, La Settimana Rossa (The Red Week) of 1914, and finally the Biennio Rosso (Red Biennium) of 1919–20. 1
For a large part of his adult life, Malatesta was an exile and spent nearly thirty years in London, then the "capital" of the capitalist world. 2 He is an exemplar of the cosmopolitan nomadic radical who circulated through the circuits of world imperialism, transporting an alternative modernity to that of the Gatling gun, the Holy Bible, and the imperialist iron regime of the mine, the plantation and the factory. Malatesta lived, organized, and fought in Egypt, the Levant, the Balkans, Spain, Argentina, the United States, Cuba, Switzerland, and France. The most exciting recent work on anarchism and syndicalism before 1914 is now focused on the dissemination and reception of anarchist and syndicalist repertoires of action, thought, and culture in the Global South as well as the tracing of transnational networks of libertarian diasporas in port cities and elsewhere. 3 Malatesta’s life is emblematic of this process that allowed anarchists and syndicalist currents to have far greater influence on the global Left than mere numbers would suggest. A sociology of these networks reveals several generations of intellectuals like Carlo Cafiero, 4 Francesco Saverio Merlino, 5 and Luigi Fabbri, 6 who were ideological comrades and sounding boards for his ideas, and several generations of self-taught workers and artisans from the anarchist seedbeds of Liguria, Tuscany, Umbria, the Marches, and Rome who kept his presence alive in Italy even if he rarely set foot in his native land. 7 And one of these self-taught anarchists was Emidio Recchioni, the father of Vernon Richards, the author and editor of this very book. 8 Malatesta never finished his medical degree at the University of Naples and became an artisan: he trained as a gas-fitter and electrician, and between his stints as an organizer and radical newspaper editor he always returned to his trades, even in old age in Rome during the 1920s. Like the Russian populists he sought to declass himself and go to the people, and he feared and detested the development of a class of left-wing professional journalists, orators, and politicians who fed off the social movements and betrayed their principles.
Malatesta lived in a modern, globalized world of the steamship, the railroad, the telegraph, and dynamite. 9 And although he fought a brave battle against the anarchist terrorism and expropriation inspired by Ravachol and Henry in the 1890s or in the new century of Parisian tragic bandits and Latvian revolutionaries turned robbers consumed in the fires of the Siege of Sidney Street, he never endorsed pacifism, wrote long articles against the followers of Tolstoy, and remained a revolutionary inspired by, though critical of, the followers of Mazzini during the Risorgimento. Like many Italian anarchists of his generation, his political apprenticeship was forged in the disappointing aftermath of the Italian struggle for unification and independence. 10 Although he renounced Mazzini and the Republicans when the old nationalist revolutionary disavowed the Paris Commune for its atheism and promotion of class war, Malatesta always retained deep ethical and voluntarist strains in his thought and political action, maintained a fruitful dialogue with the Italian Republicans, and indeed formed an alliance through a mutual struggle against the Savoy dynasty. Thus in 1914 this alliance of anarchists, anti-militarists, syndicalists, republicans, and maverick socialists nearly brought the regime to a crisis before the First World War rearranged the political field. But even after the war, during the Biennio Rosso and the years leading to the creation of Mussolini’s dictatorship (1922–26), Malatesta sought alliances with the maverick left and the republicans to prevent or overthrow the growing power of the new Fascist movement and its installation in power with the support of the Savoyard king in Rome. 11
Malatesta advocated the establishment of a national federation of anarchist groupings internationalists, anarchist socialists, and then plain anarchists in Italy from the 1870s to the 1920s, and for this he received strong criticism and indeed abuse from the individualists, Stirnerites, and the affinity group anarcho-communist anarchists associated with his old comrade Luigi Galleani. 12 But he was not an advocate of an anarchist revolution as such. The social revolution would be guided by small-‘a’ anarchist methods but an anarchist party would not be the invisible pilot behind its success. That is why he later looked back on the quarrels between Marxists and Bakuninists in the First International and felt them both to be in the wrong. He argued with Mahkno and the Platformists in the 1920s because they seemed to be advocating an anarchist form of Leninism. The denouement of the Bolshevik Revolution did not surprise him. Like Bakunin, he predicted that a Marxist revolution would result in a dictatorship of a New Class of ex-workers, intellectuals, and politicos. All social organisations might be prey to an "iron law of oligarchy," as German sociologist Robert Michels termed it. Albeit, Malatesta took exception to the concept of "iron laws" in political and social life; thus he objected to his fellow London exile Kropotkin’s marriage of biological concepts of mutual aid with the open-ended business of human politics. He fought all determinisms and indeed foreshadowed the critique of many recent post-anarchists who have lambasted "classical anarchism" for its determinism, essentialism, and Whiggish teleology. Nevertheless, Malatesta argued that anarchist or syndicalist trade unions would be prey to the same maladies as the moderate, socialist, or communist ones. The only remedy was for anarchists to work in "ginger groups" in all trade unions and promote libertarian methods: rank and file control, circulation of leadership, and low salaries for these temporary leaders. 13
Trade unions were important for Malatesta. Although he never renounced the role of insurrection in making the revolution, by the 1880s and 1890s, with the massive London Dock Strike of 1889 in mind, he advocated a syndicalist strategy to the first generation syndicalist French anarchist exiles in London during the 1890s. When syndicalism grew worldwide in the early twentieth century he pointed out the theoretical and practical weaknesses of its workerism (the revolution was broader than that) and the fact that a peaceful general strike would merely result in the starvation of the urban working classes and the collapse of the strike if it wasn’t brought to a quicker termination by the State’s armed forces and vigilante groups. When the factories of northern Italy were occupied in September 1920, Malatesta suggested that the workers recommence production and distribution

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