The Red Association (1870)
Political Freedom without economic equality is a pretense,
a fraud, a lie; and the workers want no lying.
The workers necessarily strive after a fundamental transformation
of society, the result of which must be the abolition of classes,
equally in economic as in political respects: after a system of
society in which all men will enter the world under special conditions,
will be able to unfold and develop themselves, work and enjoy
the good things of life. These are the demands of justice.
But how can we from the abyss of ignorance, of misery and slavery,
in which the workers on the land and in the cities are sunk, arrive
at that paradise, the realization of justice and manhood? For
this the workers have one means: the Association of Councils.
Through the Association they brace themselves up, they mutually
improve each other and, through their own efforts, make an end
of that dangerous ignorance which is the main support of their
slavery. By means of the Association, they learn to help, and
mutually support one another. Thereby they will recall, finally,
a power which will prove more powerful than all confederated bourgeois
capital and political powers put together.
The Council must become the Association in the mind
of every worker. It must become the password of every political
and agitation organization of the workers, the password of every
group, in every industry throughout all lands. Undoubtedly the
Council; is the weightiest and most hopeful sign of the proletarian
struggle an infallible omen of the coming complete emancipation
of the workers.
Experience has proved that the isolated associations are not
more powerful than are the isolated workers. Even the Association
of all Workers' Associations of a single country would not be
sufficiently powerful to stand up in conflict with the International
combination of all profit making world capital. Economic science
establishes the fact that the emancipation of the worker is no
national question. No country, no matter how wealthy, mighty,
and well-served it may be, can undertake--without ruining itself
and surrendering its inhabitants to misery--a fundamental alteration
in the relations between capital and labor, if this alteration
is not accomplished, at the same time, at least, in the greatest
part of the industrial countries of the world. Consequently, the
question of the emancipation of the worker from the yoke of capital
and its representatives, the bourgeois capitalists, is, above
all, an International question. Its solution, therefore, is only
possible through an International Movement.
Is this International Movement a secret idea, a conspiracy?
Not in the least. The International Movement, the Council Association,
does not dictate from above or prescribe in secret. It federates
from below and will from a thousand quarters. It speaks in every
group of workers and embraces the combined decision of all factions.
The Council is living democracy: and whenever the Association
formulates plans, it does it openly, and speaks to all who will
listen. Its word is the voice of labor recruiting its energies
for the overthrow of capitalist oppression.
What does the Council say? What is the demand it makes through
every association of these who toil and think, in every factory,
in every country? What does it request? Justice! The strictest
justice and the rights of humanity: the right of manhood, womanhood,
childhood, irrespective of all distinctions of birth, race, or
creed. The right to live and the obligation to work to maintain
that right. Service from each to all and from all to each. If
this idea appears appalling and prodigious to the existent bourgeois
society, so much the worse for this Society. Is the Council of
Action a revolutionary enterprise? Yes and no.
The Council of Action is revolutionary in the sense that it
will replace a society based upon injustice, exploitation, privilege,
laziness, and authority, by one which is founded upon justice
and freedom for all mankind. In a word, it wills an economic,
political, and social organization, in which each person, without
prejudice to his natural and personal idiosyncrasies, will find
it equally possible to develop himself, to learn, to think, to
work, to be active, and to enjoy life honorably. Yes, this it
desires; and we repeat, once more, if this is incompatible with
the existing organization of society, so much the worse for this
Is the Council of Action revolutionary in the sense of barricades
and of violent uprising or demonstration? No; the Council concerns
itself but little with this kind of polities; or, rather, one
should say that the Council takes no part in it whatever. The
bourgeois revolutionaries, anxious for some change of power, and
police agents finding occupation in passing explosions of sound
and fury, are annoyed greatly with the Council of Action on account
of the Council's indifference towards their activities and schemes
The Council of Action, the Red Association of these who want
and toil, comprehended, long since, that each bourgeois politic--no
matter how red and revolutionary it might appear--served not the
emancipation of the workers, but the tightening of their slavery.
Even if the Council had not comprehended this fact, the miserable
game, which, at times, the bourgeois republican and even the bourgeois
Socialist plays, would have opened the workers' eyes.
The Council of Action, ever evolving more completely into the
International Workers' Movement, holds itself severely aloof from
the dismal political intrigues, and knows to-day only one policy:
to each group and to each worker: his propaganda, its extension
and organization into struggle and action. On the day when the
great proportion of the world's workers have associated themselves
through Council of Actions, and so firmly organized through Council
of Actions, and so firmly organized through their divisions into
one common solidarity of movement, no revolution, in the sense
of violent insurrection, will be necessary. From this it will
be seen that anarchists do not stand for abortive violence which
its enemies attribute to it. Without violence, justice will triumph.
Oppression will be liquidated by the direct power of the workers
through association. And if that day, there are impatient pleads,
and some suffering, this will be the guilt of the bourgeoisie
refusing to recognize what has happened, through their machination.
To the triumph of the social revolution itself violence will be
Next: The Class War