A defence of Malatesta's record on the unions and his attitude towards workers' organisations
“Let there be as much class struggle as one wishes, if by class struggle one means the struggle of the exploited against the exploiters for the abolition of exploitation. That struggle is a way of moral and material elevation, and it is the main revolutionary force that can be relied on.” Malatesta
Italian anarchist-communist, militant, and critic of syndicalism, Errico Malatesta is one of the most influential figures in the history of anarchism. Now available online, Errico Malatesta: His Life & Ideas includes both a collection of his writings taken from various Italian periodicals, and a biographical sketch from the editor, Vernon Richards.
This piece looks at Malatesta's anti-syndicalist arguments, and critiques them for not having a perspective that looks at workers struggle across time. Looking at the role of struggle in cognition, it argues for seeing workplace struggle as a shifting plane of social action and the construction of proletarian subjectivities.
There is an old argument amongst anarchists. The argument starts with the nature of unions, and ends with the conclusion that revolutionaries shouldn't attempt to build libertarian alternatives outside the unions, and instead should enter into the established unions and agitate for anarchism there.
In one of Malatesta's most important articles he lays out the debate on the forms of the 'post-revolutionary property system', discussing the various anarchist approaches to the questions of ownership, use of the means of production, exchange, and distribution.
Our opponents, the beneficiaries and defenders of the current social system, are in the habit of justifying the right to private property by stating that property is the condition and guarantee of liberty.
And we agree with them. Do we not say repeatedly that poverty is slavery?
But then, why do we oppose them?
William. Ah Jack, is that you? I’m glad to meet you. I’ve been wanting a talk with you for a long time. Oh, Jack! Jack! What have I heard about you! When you lived in the country you were a good lad, quite an example to the young fellows of your age—If your poor father were alive—
I have listened attentively to everything that has been said before me on the problem of organization and I have the distinct impression that what separates us is the different meaning we give words. Let us not squabble over words. But as far as the basic problem is concerned, I am convinced that we are in total agreement.
A debate at the 1907 international Anarchist Congress between Amédée Dunois, ErrIco Malatesta, Emma Goldman, and Max Baginski on organization.