For a non-authoritarian future
Presented as material for discussion in occasion of the 2023 Saint-Imier gathering (19-23 July) to celebrate the 150 years from the Congress of the Anti-authoritarian International (Saint-Imier, 15-16 September 1872)
The aim of this document
Authoritarianism is on the rise, even though most individuals dispose now of means of communication and action that would make everybody an autonomous human being, promoting and setting up voluntary communities.
If this is not happening, it is because we are living in a present that is still servant of the past, unable to build a future made of non-authoritarian relationships.
We need then to examine our past deficiencies, to be aware of our present shortcomings, and, on the basis of all that, construct a future of our choice.
The worker movement that emerged in the 19th century, fighting against privileges and exploitation, became affected by three despicable features that still survive in too many individuals who proclaim to be fighting for the freedom and emancipation of all human beings. They were:
- Centralism. The International Workingmen’s Association, set up in London in September 1864 by French and English workers delegates, quite soon fell under the spell and rule of Karl Marx who wanted it to become an organism for centrally directing the political and economic struggles of the world proletariat. The anarchists, who joined shortly the Association (1868) were not in favour of this centralistic strategy, stressing the “emancipation of the workers by the workers themselves, free of all directing authority, even should that authority be elected and endorsed by the workers.” (The Sonvilier Circular, 1871). The same exigency of variety and autonomy was re-affirmed at the Congress of the Anti-authoritarian International (Saint-Imier, 1872) after the expulsion, orchestrated by Marx, of the anarchist component.
- Sectarianism. This variety and autonomy of the different anarchist federations did not last for very long, once some people within the anarchist movement started giving pre-eminence to their own different ideologies (communism, collectivism, individualism, etc.) instead of accepting all of them, according to individual choices, and operating for the promotion of universal freedom and emancipation. In fact, the most vociferous of them started trying to impose their ideology as the best and the only one to be endorsed by all. The position of an “anarchy without adjectives” put forward, amongst other, by Tarrida del Marmól, was practically ignored and obliterated.
- Authoritarianism. Sectarianism was then the direct source for the authoritarianism that, incredible but true, took roots also in an anti-authoritarian movement. Moreover, the so-called communist revolution in Russia attracted and fascinated many anarchists that wanted to transfer that strategy to other parts of the world. Some saw the humbug, but many preferred to keep to their illusions. For instance, in the Spanish revolution, presented as an anarchist one, the anarchist leadership decided to take part in a government led by Largo Caballero, the so-called Spanish Lenin. As remarked by a sincere anarchist, that decision represented “the liquidation of anarchism and the C.N.T.” (the anarcho-syndicalist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo)
The current situation of the non-authoritarian movement is still affected by many of those wrong turns taken in the past. Moreover, some aspects abhorred by the anarchists, (nationalism, corruptive state paternalism and welfarism, political struggles, ideological squabbles) have taken central stage everywhere, without anyone, not even the anarchists, being capable to relegate them in the dustbin of history. And this because present reality, as far as the libertarian conception and practice are concerned, is characterized by a:
- Lack of communication (data, ideas)
- Lack of coordination (activities, events)
- Lack of implementation (projects, plans)
To remedy those shortcomings would be in total syntony with what advocated during the Saint-Imier Congress (“all those who would like to become members of this alliance, will have amongst them regular and direct communication and correspondence “). Moreover, people have now at their disposal instruments for communication, coordination and implementation of common projects that the participants in that Congress would only have dreamt of.
A preliminary step for relaunching the non-authoritarian movement should be that of re-affirming, in the most clear, open, synthetic way, the basic principles and methods of the movement.
- Liberty (autonomy)
- Equity (end of privileges and exploitative practices)
- Solidarity (mutual aid)
- Non-centralistic (acceptance of plurality)
- Non-sectarian (acceptance of variety)
- Non-authoritarian (acceptance of singularity)
Once this preliminary but indispensable step is accomplished, we can start presenting, discussing, selecting forms and ways of action. Following the still relevant proposals of the Saint-Imier Congress we could set up one or various federated platforms-tools for:
and promote ideas-activities-projects on relevant themes like:
- Alternative processes of education
- Alternative forms of production
- Alternative means of exchange
It is time to renew on more solid and practical foundations the pact of friendship, solidarity and mutual defence amongst the free Federations suggested by the participants of the Saint-Imier Congress as the way forward to a non-authoritarian future based on free human beings and autonomous voluntary communities.