Alexander Berkman (Author) This is the unabridged republication of Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism, originally published by the Vanguard. Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism is an introduction to the principles of anarchism and anarchist communism written by Alexander Berkman . Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism () by Alexander Berkman Chapter Will Communist Anarchism Work? Chapter
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How the System Works. Can The Church Help You?
Whose Is The Power? Between February and October. The Dictatorship at Work. Will Communist Anarchism Work? The Idea is the Thing. Organization of Labor for the Social Revolution. Defense of the Revolution. I consider anarchism the most rational and practical conception of a social life in freedom and harmony.
I am convinced that alfxander realization is a certainty in the course of human development. The time of that realization will depend on two factors: Our social institutions are founded on certain ideas; as long as the latter are generally believed, the institutions built on them are safe.
Government remains strong because people think political authority and legal compulsion necessary. Capitalism will continue as long as such an economic system is considered adequate and just.
The weakening of the ideas which support the evil and oppressive present-day conditions means the ultimate breakdown of government and capitalism. Progress consists in abolishing what man has outlived and substituting in its place a more suitable environment.
It must be evident even to the casual observer that society is undergoing a radical change in its fundamental conceptions. The World War and the Russian Revolution are the main causes of it. The war has unmasked the vicious character of capitalist competition and the murderous incompetency of governments to settle quarrels among radons, or rather among the ruling financial cliques.
It is because the people are losing faith in the old methods that the Great Powers are now compelled to discuss limitation of armaments and even the outlawing of war. It is not so long ago that the very suggestion of such a possibility met with utmost scorn and ridicule.
Similarly is breaking down the belief in other established institutions. The Russian Revolution has broadcasted ideas and feelings that are undermining capitalist society, particularly its economic bases and the sanctity of private ownership of the means of social existence.
For not only in Russia did the October change take place: The cherished superstition that what exists is permanent has been shaken beyond recovery.
The war, the Russian Revolution, and the post-war developments have combined also to disillusion vast numbers about Socialism. It is literally true that, like Christianity, Socialism has conquered the world by defeating itself. The Socialist parties now run or help to run most of the European governments, but the people do not believe any more that they are different from other bourgeois regimes. They feel that Socialism has failed and is bankrupt. In like manner have the Bolsheviks proven that Marxian dogma and Leninist principles can lead only to dictatorship and reaction.
To the Anarchists there is nothing surprising in all this. They have always claimed that the State is destructive to individual liberty and social harmony, and that only the abolition of coercive authority and material inequality can solve our political, economic and national problems. But their arguments, though based on the age-long experience of man, seemed mere theory to the present generation, until the events of the last two decades have demonstrated in actual life the truth of the Anarchist position.
There is considerable literature on Anarchism, but most of its larger works were written before the World War. The experience of the recent past has been vital and has made certain revisions necessary in the Anarchist attitude and argumentation.
Though the basic propositions remain the same, some modifications of practical application are dictated by the facts of current history.
The lessons of the Russian Revolution in particular call for a new approach to various important problems, chief among them the character and activities of the social revolution. Furthermore, Anarchist books, with few exceptions, are not accessible to the understanding of the average reader. It is the common failing of most works dealing with social questions that they are written on the assumption that the reader is already familiar to a considerable extent with the subject, which is generally not the case at all.
As a result there are very few books treating of social problems in a sufficiently simple and intelligible manner. For the above reason I consider a restatement of the Anarchist position very much needed at this time — a restatement in the plainest and clearest terms which can be understood by every one.
That is, an ABC of Anarchism. I want to tell you what Anarchism is, because I think it is well you should know it.
Also because so little is known about it, and what is known is generally hearsay and mostly false. I want to tell you about it, because I believe that Anarchism is the finest and biggest thing man has ever thought of; the only thing that can give you liberty and well-being, and bring peace and joy to the world.
I want to tell you about it in such plain and simple language that there will be no misunderstanding it. Big words and high sounding phrases serve only to confuse. Straight thinking means plain speaking. That is necessary because so much falsehood has been spread about Anarchism. Even intelligent persons often have entirely wrong notions about it. Some people talk about Anarchism without knowing a thing about it. Why Anarchism has enemies and who they are, you will see later, in the course of this story.
Just now I can tell you that neither your political boss nor your employer, neither the capitalist nor the policeman will speak to you honestly about Anarchism.
Most of them know nothing about it, and all of them hate it. Their newspapers and publications — the capitalistic press — are also against it. Even most Socialists and Bolsheviks misrepresent Anarchism. You can see for yourself how dishonest they are in this: They said that we must first have Socialism, but that after Socialism there will be Anarchism, and that it would be a freer and more beautiful condition of society to live in than Socialism. The Bolsheviks do the same, although their greatest teacher, Lenin, had said that Anarchism would follow Bolshevism, and that then it will be better and freer to live.
Anarchism means that you should be free; that no one should enslave you, boss you, rob you, or impose upon you. It means that you should have a chance to choose the kind of a life you want to live, and live it without anybody interfering. It means that the next fellow should have the same freedom as you, that every one should have the same rights and liberties. It means that all men are brothers, and that they should live like brothers, in peace and harmony.
That is to say, that there should be no war, no violence used by one set of men against another, no monopoly and no poverty, no oppression, no taking advantage of your fellow-man. In short, Anarchism means a condition or society where all men and women are free, and where all enjoy equally the benefits of an ordered and sensible life. Well, let us talk it over. Maybe I can show you that we can be decent and live as decent folks even without growing wings.
After all, we are all the same under our skins. Whoever you be — man or woman, rich or poor, aristocrat or tramp, white, yellow, red or black, of whatever land, nationality, or religion — we are all alike in feeling cold and hunger, love and hate; we all fear disaster and disease, and try to keep away from harm and death. What you most want out of life, what you fear most, that also is true, in the main, of your neighbor.
And yet I think that you know very well without them what you want. They have studied and written and speculated so much about this, for them so difficult a question, that you, the individual, have become entirely lost in their philosophies. So they go on spinning their philosophic webs and producing thick volumes to find out where you really enter in the scheme of things called life, and what you really want.
You want to be well and healthy; you want to be free, to serve no master, to crawl and humiliate yourself before no man; you want to have well-being for yourself, your family, and those near and dear to you. And not to be harassed and worried by the fear of to-morrow.
You may feel sure that every one else wants the same. So the whole matter seems to stand this way:.
Why should we cheat and rob, kill and murder each other, if we all seek the same thing? Or is it that we can secure our health, liberty, and well-being better by fighting and slaughtering each other?
Does it not stand to reason that if we all want the same thing in life, if we have the same aim, then our interests must also be the same? In that case we should live like brothers, in peace and friendship; we should be good to each other, and help each other all we can. But you know that it is not at all that way in life. You know that we do not live like brothers.
You know that the world is full of strife and war, of misery, injustice, and wrong, of crime, poverty, and oppression. It is because, though we all have the same aim in life, our interests are different. It is this that makes all the trouble in the world. Suppose you want to get a pair of shoes or a hat. You go into the store and you try to buy what you need as reasonably and cheaply as you can. That is your interest.
That is because everything in the life we live is built on making a profit, one way or another. We live in a system of profit-making. Now, it is plain that if we have to make profits out of each other, then our interests cannot be the same.
They must be different and often even opposed to each other. In every country you will find people who live by making a profit out of others. Those who make the biggest profits are rich. Those who cannot make profits are poor. The only people who cannot make any profits are the workers. You can therefore understand that the interests of the workers cannot be the same as the interests of the other people.