BAKUNIN’S LEGACY eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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What are these ideas that have proved so relevant in the twentieth century—more so, perhaps, than in Bakunin’s own time? Above all, Bakunin foresaw the true nature of modern revolution more clearly than any of his contemporaries, Marx not excepted. For Marx the socialist revolution required the emergence of a well-organized and class-conscious proletariat, something to be expected in highly industrialized countries like Germany or England. Marx regarded the peasantry as the social class least capable of constructive revolutionary action: together with Lumpenproletariat of the urban slums, the peasants were benighted and primitive barbarians, the bulwark of counterrevolution. For Bakunin, by contrast, the peasantry and Lumpenproletariat, having been least exposed to the corrupting influences of bourgeois civilization, retained their primitive vigor and turbulent instinct for revolt. The real proletariat, he said, did not consist in the skilled artisans and organized factory workers, who were tainted by the pretensions and aspirations of the middle classes, but in the great mass of “uncivilized, disinherited, and illiterate” millions who truly had nothing to lose but their chains. Thus, while Marx believed in an organized revolution led by a trained and disciplined working class, Bakunin set his hopes on a peasant jacquerie combined with a spontaneous rising of the infuriated urban mobs, a revolt of the uncivilized masses driven by an instinctive passion for justice and by an unquenchable thirst for revenge. Bakunin’s model had been set by the great rebellions of Razin and Pugachev in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His vision was of an all-embracing upheaval, a true revolt of the masses, including, besides the working class, the darkest elements of society—the Lumpenproletariat, the primitive peasantry, the unemployed, the outlaws—all pitted against those who throve on their misery and enslavement.

Subsequent events have, to a remarkable extent, confirmed the accuracy of Bakunin’s vision. It is small wonder, then, that contemporary historians have shown a new appreciation of the role of spontaneous and primitive movements in shaping history. From the work of Barrington Moore, who has recently investigated the relationship between modernization and agrarian revolt, as well as of Eric Hobsbawm, George Rude, E. P. Thompson, and others, we are coming to understand that most modern revolutions, like those of the past, have been largely unplanned and spontaneous, driven by mass movements of urban and rural laborers, and in spirit predominantly anarchistic. No longer can these naive, primitive, and irrational groups be written off as fringe elements to be ignored by the historian. They lie, rather, at the very basis of social change.

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MALATESTA — A Life by Luigi Fabbri. eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

A biographical hommage to Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta (1853-1932) by his lifelong friend and fellow anarchist Luigi Fabbri (1877-1935). Errico Malatesta is, undoubtedly, one of the ” giants ” of the 19th century revolutionary movement— an agitator, man of action and a thought-provoking writer. Malatesta was active in the international anarchist movement both as activist and propagandist for nearly sixty years. As a glance through the archives of the anarchist press of the time will show, he was one of the movement’s most respected members, as well as one of its most controversial. He was active in many parts of the world, as well as the editor of a number of Italian anarchist journals, including the daily Umanità Nova. Half his life was spent in exile and the respect he was accorded by governments is insanely evidenced by the fact that he spent more than ten years in prison, mainly awaiting trial. Juries, by contrast, showed a different respect by almost always acquitting him, recognising that the only galantuomo, that the only honest man, was the one facing them in the prisoners’ cage!

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LA REVOLUCIÓN DE OCTOBRE 1934: Asturias, October 1934 José Muñoz Congost eBook £1.00/€1.50 (see eBookshelf)

October34LA REVOLUCIÓN DE OCTOBRE 1934: Asturias, October 1934 (Spanish) 

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Ochenta años de la fecha cuando estalló el movimiento de Octubre 1934, y es preciso asegurarnos que momentos históricos como éste no permanezcan olvidados ni escondidos.

“La revolución Asturiana se inició en la madrugada del 5 de Octubre de 1934, hasta su rendición el día 18 del mismo mes. Sin la menor duda, fue el hecho más cohesionado y eficaz realizado por el proletariado frente a las derechas que se habían apoderado del gobierno de la República, siendo lamentable que quedara limitado a dicha región, ya que de generalizarse, hubiera podido lograr dar una tónica más radical al régimen, inyectándole un sentido social, determinado por la acción revolucionarias triunfante. De parte de la CNT, todas las referencias señalaron a José María Martínez (muerto en misión del Comité Revolucionario en Sotiello el día 12) como el forjador de la unidad combativa, ya que tuvo que vencer seria oposición de sus propios compañeros para formular un pacto de alianza con los socialistas, debido a la obra desarrollada por éstos, desde el gobierno, de franca y agresiva hostilidad contra el anarcosindicalismo. Pero Martínez, con su tenacidad y argumentos, hizo triunfar sus ideas, lo que vino a impulsar y fortalecer el hecho insurreccional.
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TheCommuneChurch&StateTHE COMMUNE, THE CHURCH AND THE STATE by Michael Bakunin — 

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Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin on the Paris Commune, government and the state: “This work, like all my published work, of which there has not been a great deal, is an outgrowth of events. It is the natural continuation of my Letters to a Frenchman (September 1870), wherein I had the easy but painful distinction of foreseeing and foretelling the dire calamities which now beset France and the whole civilized world, the only cure for which is the Social Revolution.

“My purpose now is to prove the need for such a revolution. I shall review the historical development of society and what is now taking place in Europe, right before our eyes. Thus all those who sincerely thirst for truth can accept it and proclaim openly and unequivocally the philosophical principles and practical aims which are at the very core of what we call the Social Revolution.

“I know my self-imposed task is not a simple one. I might be called presumptuous had I any personal motives in undertaking it. Let me assure my reader, I have none. I am not a scholar or a philosopher, not even a professional writer. I have not done much writing in my life and have never written except, so to speak, in self-defense, and only when a passionate conviction forced me to overcome my instinctive dislike for any public exhibition of myself…”


THE POLITICS OF OBEDIENCE. The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude by Étienne de la Boétie. Translated by Harry Kurz. eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

BoetiecoverTHE POLITICS OF OBEDIENCE. The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude by Étienne de la Boétie

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Étienne de la Boétie (1530-1563) wrote the following essay on the ultimate source and nature of political power in the early 1550s, while still a law student at the University of Orleans. In it he considers the origins of dictatorship and the means by which people can prevent political enslavement and liberate themselves. The Discourse deserves a prominent place in the literature of political theory.

The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude is lucidly and coherently structured around a single axiom. a single insight into the nature not only of tyranny but, implicitly, of the State itself. Many medieval writers had attacked tyranny, but La Boétie delved deeply into its nature, and that of State rule itself. His fundamental insight was that every tyranny must necessarily be grounded upon general acceptance. In short, the bulk of the people themselves acquiesce in their own subjection. If this were not the case, no tyranny, indeed no government, could long endure. Hence, a government does not have to be popularly elected to enjoy general public support; for general public support is in the very nature of all governments that endure — including the most oppressive of tyrannies. The tyrant is but one person, and could scarcely command the obedience of another person, much less of an entire country, if most of the subjects did not grant their obedience by their own consent.

For La Boétie the central question of political theory is why people consent to their own enslavement? He cuts to the heart of what is, or rather should be, the central problem of political philosophy — the mystery of civil obedience. Why do people, in all time and places, obey the commands of government, which always constitutes a small minority of the society? To La Boétie the spectacle of general consent to despotism is both puzzling and appalling.