Category Archives: Ricardo Mella

Ricardo Mella, “The Bankruptcy of Beliefs” and “The Rising Anarchism” (1902-03)

[It’s been quiet here for quite a while, while I have been concentrating on writing and research in some new areas. A lot of my attention has been focused on the question of “anarchist synthesis” and my exploration of the debate surrounding it has finally forced me to dive deep into the Spanish-language anarchist periodicals of the early 20th century. Sources like La Revista Blanca and the “Suplementos” of the Argentinian paper La Protesta are remarkably rich in material from a variety of tendencies and nations, and the research has uncovered a number of very interesting discussion on the question of synthesis, including some commentaries from a much earlier period than I expected. These articles by Ricardo Mella are a fine example of the sort of material that has emerged.

The two articles below present a very challenging vision of the development of a revolutionary anarchism. They continue Mella’s arguments for an anarchism “without adjectives,” picking up elements already present in his work in the 1880s, but also connect that notion to the idea of an “anarchist synthesis,” long before Voline presented his account of anarchist development and the need for synthesis that emerges from the very nature of anarchism itself. The translation, from Spanish, is perhaps a little rough around the edges, but I think the ideas are clear enough.]


To my brother J. Prat:

Faith has had its moment; it has also had its noisy bankruptcy. There is nothing left standing at this hour but the lonely ruins of its altars.

Ask the learned people—or those who still wear the intellectual loincloth—and if they wish to answer you conscientiously, they will tell you that faith has died forever: political faith and religious faith, and the scientific faith that has defrauded so many hopes.

When all the past was dead, gazes turned longingly toward the rising sun. Then the sciences had their triumphal hymns. And it came to pass that the multitude was given new idols, and now the eminent representatives of the new beliefs preach right and left the sublime virtues of the dogmatic scientist. The dangerous logorrhea of flattering adjectives, and the never-ending chatter of the sham sages put us on the path to what is rightly proclaimed the bankruptcy of science.

Actually, it is not science that is bankrupt in our day. There is no science; there are sciences. There are no finished things; there are things in perpetual formation. And what does not exist cannot break. If it were still claimed that that which is in constant elaboration, that which constitutes or will constitute the flow of knowledge goes bankrupt in our time, it would only demonstrate that those who said it sought something in the sciences what they cannot give us. It is not the human task of investigating and knowing that fails; what fails, as faith failed in the past, is the sciences.

The ease of creating without examination or mature deliberation, coupled with the general poverty of culture, has resulted in theological faith being succeeded by philosophical faith and later scientific faith. Thus, religious and political fanatics are followed by the believers in a multitude of “isms,” which, if fertilized by the greatest wealth of our understanding, only confirm the atavistic tendencies of the human spirit.

But what is the meaning of the clamoring that arises at every step in the bosom of parties, schools and doctrines? What is this unceasing battle between the catechumens of the same church? It means, simply, that beliefs fail.

The enthusiasm of the neophyte, the healthy and crazy enthusiasm, forges new doctrines and the doctrines forge new beliefs. It desires something better, pursues the ideal, seeks noble and lofty employment of its activities, and barely makes a slight examination, if it finds the note that resonates harmoniously in our understanding and in our heart. It believes. Belief then pulls us along completely, directs and governs our entire existence, and absorbs all our faculties. In no other way could chapels, like churches, small or large, rise powerfully everywhere. Belief has its altars, its worship and its faithful, as faith had.

But there is a fateful, inevitable, hour of dreadful questioning. And this luminous hour is one in which mature reflection asks itself the reason for its beliefs and its ideological loves.

Then the ideal word, which was something like the nebula of a God on whose altar we burned the incense of our enthusiasm, totters. Many things crumble within us. We vacillate as a building whose foundations are weakening. We are upset about party and opinion commitments, just as if our own beliefs were to become unbearable. We believed in man, and we no longer believe. We roundly affirmed the magical virtue of certain ideas, and we do not dare to affirm it. We enjoyed the ardor of an immediate positive regeneration, and we no longer enjoy it. We are afraid of ourselves. What prodigious effort of will is required not to fall into the most appalling emptiness of ideas and feelings!

There goes the crowd, drawn by the verbosity of those who carry nothing inside and by the blindness of those who are full of great and incontestable truths. There goes the multitude, lending with its unconscious action, the appearance life to a corpse whose burial only awaits the strong will of a genius intelligence, who will strip off the blindfold of the new faith.

But the man who thinks, the man who meditates on his opinions and actions in the silent solitude that leads him to the insufficiency of beliefs, sketches the beginning of the great catastrophe, feels the bankruptcy of everything that keeps humanity on a war footing and is aware of the rebuilding of his spirit.

The noisy polemic of parties, the daily battles of selfishness, bitterness, hatred and envy, of vanity and ambition, of the small and great miseries that grip the social body from top to bottom, mean nothing but that beliefs go bankrupt everywhere.

Soon, and perhaps even now, if we delved into the consciences of believers, of all believers, we would find nothing but doubts and questions. All men of good will soon confess their uncertainties. Only the closed-minded belief will be affirmed by those who hope to gain some profit, just as the priests of religions and the augurs of politics continue to sing the praises of the faith that feeds them even after its death.

So, then, is humanity is going to rush into the abyss of ultimate negation, the negation of itself?

Let us not think like the old believers, who cry before the idol that collapses. Humanity will do nothing but break one more link of the chain that imprisons it. The noise matters little. Anyone who does not feel the courage to calmly witness the collapse, will do well to retire. There is always charity for the invalids.

We believed that ideas had the sovereign virtue of regenerating us, and now we find ourselves with ideas that do not carry within themselves elements of purity, justification and truthfulness, and cannot borrow them from any ideal. Under the passing influence of a virgin enthusiasm, we seem renewed, but at last the environment regains its empire. Humanity is not made up of heroes and geniuses, and so even the purest sink, at last, into the filth of all the petty passions. The time when beliefs are broken is also the time when all the fraudsters are known.

Are we in an iron ring? Beyond all the hecatombs life springs anew. If things do not change according to our particular theses, if they do not occur as we expect them to occur, this does not give in to the negation of the reality of realities. Outside of our pretensions as believers, the modification persists, the continuous change is accomplished and everything evolves: means, men and things. How? In what direction? Ah! That is precisely what is left at the mercy of the unconsciousness of the multitudes; that is what, in the end, is decided by an element alien to the work of the understanding and the sciences: force.

After all the propaganda, all the lessons, all the progress, humanity does not have, it does not wish to have any creed but violence. Right? Is this wrong?

And it is force that we accept the things as they are and that, accepting them, our spirit does not weaken. At a critical moment, when everything collapses in us and around us; when we grasp that we are neither better nor worse than others; when we are convinced that the future is not contained in any formulas that are still dear to us, that the species will never conform to the mold of a given form of association, whether it may be called; when we finally assure ourselves that we have done nothing more than forge new chains, gilded with beloved names,—in that decisive moment we must break up all the rubbish of belief, that we cut all the fastenings and we revive personal independence more confidently than ever.

If a vigorous individuality is stirred within us, we will not morally die at the hands of the intellectual vacuum. For man, there is always a categorical affirmation, the “becoming,” the beyond that is constantly reflected and after which it is, however, necessary to run. Let’s run faster when the bankruptcy of beliefs is done.

What does it matter that the goal will eternally move away from us? Men who fight, even in this belief, are those who are needed; not those who find elements of personal enrichment in everything; not those who make of the interests of the party pennant connections for the satisfaction of their ambitions; not those who, positioned to monopolize for their own advantage, monopolize even feelings and ideas.

Even among men of healthier aspirations, selfishness, vanity, foolish petulance, and low ambition take center stage. Even in the parties of more generous ideas there is the leaven of slavery and exploitation. Even in the circle of the noblest ideals, charlatanism and vanity teem; fanaticism, soon intransigence toward the friend, sooner cowardice toward the enemy; fatuity that that rises up swaggering, shielded by the general ignorance. Everywhere, weeds sprout and grow. Let’s not live delusions.

Shall we allow ourselves to be crushed by the grief of all the atavisms that revive, with sonorous names, in us and around us?

Standing firm, firmer than ever, looking beyond any formula whatsoever, will reveal the true fighter, the revolutionary yesterday, today and tomorrow. Without a hero’s daring, it is necessary to pass undaunted through the flames that consume the bulk of time, to take a risk among the creaking timbers, the roofs that sink, the walls that collapse. And when there is nothing left but ashes, rubble, shapeless debris that will have crushed the weeds, nothing will not be left for those who come after but one simple work: to sweep the floor of the lifeless obstacles.

If the collapse of faith has allowed the growth of belief in the fertile field of the human being, and if belief, in turn, falters and bows withered to the earth, we sing the bankruptcy of belief, because it is a new step on the path of individual freedom.

If there are ideas, however advanced, that have bound us in the stocks of doctrinarism, let us smash them. A supreme ideality for the mind, a welcome satisfaction for the spirit disdainful of human pettiness, a powerful force for creative activity, putting thought into the future and the heart into the common welfare, will always remain standing, even after the bankruptcy of all beliefs.

At the moment, even if the mind is frightened, even if all the pigeonholes rebel, in many minds something stirs that is incomprehensible to the dying world: beyond ANARCHY there is also a sun that is born, as in the succession of time there is no sunset without sunrise.


Sequels are never good. But dear friends who, judging the first installment good, decided to publish it as a pamphlet, ask me to expand the material a few more pages, and I cannot and do not wish to refuse.

I wrote “The Bankruptcy of Beliefs” in a painful moment, impressed by the collapse of something that lives in illusion, but not in reality, which sometimes plays with ideas and with affections, to torment us with our own impotence and our avowed errors.

The truth does not give way before ideological conventions, and those of us who profess to worship it, must not, even through feelings of solidarity, much less through party spirit, sacrifice even the smallest portion of what we understand to be above all doctrines.

Whoever has followed the gradual development of revolutionary ideas, and of anarchism above all, will have seen that in the course of time certain principles began to crystallize in minds as infallible conditions of absolute truth. They will have seen how small dogmas have been elaborated and how, through the influence of a strange mysticism, narrow creeds were finally asserted, claiming nothing less than the possession of the whole truth, truth for today and tomorrow, truth for always. And they will have seen how, after our metaphysical drifts, we have been left with words and names, but completely bereft of ideas. To the worship of truth was succeeded by the idolization of sonorous nomenclature, the magic of sensationalism, almost a faith in the fortuitous combination of letters.

It is the evolutionary process of all beliefs. Anarchism, which was born as a critique, is transformed into an affirmation that borders on dogma and sect. Believers, fanatics and followers of men arise. And there are also the theorists who make of ANARCHY an individualistic or socialist, collectivist or communist, atheistic or materialistic creed, of this or that philosophical school. Finally, in the heart of Anarchism, particularisms are born regarding life, art, beauty, the superman or irreducible egoistic personal independence. The ideal synthesis is thus parceled out, and little by little there are as many chapels as propagandists, as many doctrines as writers. The result is inevitable: we fall into all the vulgarities of party spirit, into all the passions of personalism, into all the baseness of ambition and vanity.

How do we uncover the sore without touching the people, without turning the subject into a source of scandal, into the material of new accusations and insults?

For many, Anarchism has become a belief or a faith. Who would deny it? Because this has become so, passionate quarrels, unjustified divisions and dogmatic exclusivisms have been provoked. That is why, when the evolution has been completed, the bankruptcy of beliefs, a reality in fact, must be proclaimed frankly by all who love the truth.

When Anarchism has gained more ground, the crisis must necessarily arise. Iniquity manifests itself everywhere. Books, magazines, newspapers, meetings reflect the effects of the rare contrast produced by the clash of so many opinions that have sneaked into the anarchist camp. In open competition, doctrinal particularisms fall one by one in the battle of beliefs. None are firm, and they cannot be, without denying themselves.

The illusion of a closed, compact, uniform, pure and fixed Anarchism, like the immaculate faith in the absolute, could live within the enthusiasms of the moment, in febrile imaginations, anxious for goodness and justice, but it is exhausted by truth and reason. It dies fatally when the understanding is clarified and analysis breaks down the heart of the ideality. And the supreme moment comes to shatter our beliefs, to break up the ideological clutter acquired from this or that author, in love with one or another social or philosophical thesis. Why hide it? Why continue to fight in the name of pseudo-scientific and semiological puerilities? Truth is not enclosed in an exclusive point of view. It is not guarded in an ark of fragile planks. It is not there at hand or at the reach of the first daring soul who decides to discover it. As the sciences, as everything human is in formation, it will be perpetually in formation. We are and will always be forced to follow after it through successive trials; in that no other way is the flow of knowledge formed and certainty established.

This is how Anarchism will be surpassed. And when I speak of Anarchism and I say that in minds something stirs that is incomprehensible to the dying world, and that we sense beyond the ANARCHY a sun, which is born because in the succession of time there is no sunset without orthography, I speak of Doctrinal Anarchism, which forms schools, raises chapels and builds altars. Yes; beyond this necessary moment of the bankruptcy of beliefs, is the broad anarchist synthesis that gathers from all the particularisms that are maintained, from all philosophical theses, and from all the formidable advances of the common intellectual work, the established and well-checked truths, whose demonstration every struggle is already impossible. This vast synthesis, a complete expression of Anarchism that opens its doors to everything that comes from tomorrow and everything that remains firm and strong from yesterday and is reaffirmed in today’s clash that scrutinizes the unknown,—this synthesis is the complete denial of all belief.

There is no need to shout: Down with the beliefs! They perish by their own hands. Belief, like faith, is an obstacle to knowledge. And in the restless stirring of so many anarchists speaking, beliefs fail. We will not hide it. Let every one of us throw away the old dogmatism of their opinions, the loves of their philosophical predilections, and launching the mind on the broad paths of unrestricted inquiry, reach as far as the conception of a conscious, virile, generous Anarchism, that has no quarrel except with conventionalism and error, and has tolerance for all ideas, but does not accept, even on a provisional basis, anything except what is well proven.

This Anarchism is the one that is quietly forming. It is the one that is elaborated slowly in the beliefs able to feel the pressure of the atavisms that appear everywhere. It is the one that made me write “The Bankruptcy of Beliefs:” a cry of protest against the reality of the anarchist herd; a cry of encouragement for personal independence; a call for the expansion of the ideal that every day lives stronger in me and encourages me to fight for a future that I will not enjoy, but which will be an era of justice, well-being and love for the men of tomorrow. This Anarchism is the rising Anarchism, capable of collecting within its breast all libertarian tendencies, capable of encouraging all noble rebellions and of impressing on generous spirits the impulse of freedom in all directions, without hindrance and without prejudice, with the sole condition that exclusivism does not raise Chinese walls and that the understanding is delivered entirely and unreservedly to the truth that beats vigorously in the most diverse modalities of the new ideal.

It will no longer be said in the name of Anarchism: No further! Absolute justice, revived in the dogma that now dies, will be but the indeterminate goal that changes as human mentality unfolds. And we will not fall into the strange and singular error of setting a limit, however distant, to the progress of ideas and forms of social benefit.

The rising Anarchism proclaims the beyond endless, after having knocked down all the barriers raised by the age-old intellectual absolutism of men.

Don’t you believe that all the particularisms, all the theories, are now failing, that all the factories of rubble, awkwardly raised for the glory of new dogmas, are collapsing? Don’t you believe that the bankruptcy of beliefs is the last link in the human chain that breaks down and offers us the full breadth the anarchist ideal, pure and without blemish?

Faith will have blinded you. And you wound do well to renounce the word freedom; that can be a herd even in the midst of the most radical ideas.

For our part we limit ourselves to record a fact: anarchists of all tendencies resolutely walk towards the affirmation of a great social synthesis that encompasses all the various manifestations of the ideal. The walking is silent; soon will come the noisy break, if there is anyone who insists on remaining bound to the spirit of clique and sect.

Whoever has not emancipated himself will be left behind with the current movement and will seek redemption in vain. He will die a slave.

Ricardo Mella


La bancarrota de las creencias, by Ricardo Mella, «La Revista Blanca», 107, Madrid, December 1, 1902.

El Anarquismo naciente was published as a continuation of La bancarrota de las creencias, in a pamphlet published in Valencia, in 1903, by Ediciones El Corsario.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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Ricardo Mella, “Collectivism” (1891)


Gone are the days when socialist sentimentality expected everything from the mother country and demanded everything of her. Gone are the days when the revolution was just a feeling, and declaimed comically against individualism face to face with the supreme power of the state or of society, its client. Gone are the days when socialism and revolution had no philosophy but that of the heart, no principle of right and justice but that of universal love.

All these concepts, all these ideas are only among us as a remnant of what was never to be, as a residue pointing to our remote origin.

Today, the Revolution has its rational philosophy, its principle of right and its justice. It has fully entered the period of maturity and it is useless to look back. Man no longer expects from society what he should not and cannot expect. Society is not for him a loving mother bound by duty to meet all your needs. He knows that all that depends on his own activity and the activity of those who wish to associate with him. Freedom is enough under conditions of equality, in order to be able to dispense with a being that determines his will alone, society. This is its work and its work is necessary to meet individual deficiencies. There is no mother of the man who comes: this concept died with the idea of the state, and instead there remains only the free individual to make free societies as well.

Man has the right to satisfy all his needs, but to satisfy them for himself, through the judicious use of all his strength and attitudes, through his work. From himself, then, he awaits this satisfaction, not from society or the state. If he is not self-sufficient, he can associate, seeking to supplement his insufficiencies within free associations for cooperation, credit, currency, and security. That is all. Freedom, freedom forever!

If individualism has thrown man into violence and lack of solidarity, communism pushes him to guardianship, self-denial and makes him a mere instrument of society or the state, two identical things with different names.

In the name of freedom we reject communism! In the name of solidarity we reject individualism! Such is our view.

Freedom and solidarity are sufficient to solve the problem. Hence the collectivist school.

We know that collectivism is not identical in every part. We are aware that there are authoritarian schools that support an economic idea similar to ours and are even baptized with the same name. But this matters little. Ideas and more ideas are needed, and the names are simply a matter of convention. Let us agree to call our solution to the problem of property collectivism because it is neither communist nor individualistic. That is all.

Let us explain our ideas and move on.

No doubt there are in the background of individualism and communism two irrefutable principles. The man is absolute master of his work. Humanity is the sovereign of all the means of production that nature contains. Give humanity and man what is their due and you have collectivism.

Man is born with the power to produce and nature is expected to provide the means to carry on business. Leave man free to apply his powers and, in fairness, you have no more to do. Whatever the world holds the man can use for the job. The right is universal, and belongs to all. Nobody can therefore seize the smallest part of that common fund, which costs nothing and no one creates. By virtue of what right or what law shall man be bound to do more? How will he be forced to make his individual work also become part of the common fund? Leave him free. He owns his work, has the property in the product and only by his free will can he donate or not donate to the society. If the former, it will be a very free and spontaneous act of his being. If the latter, it will be by an unquestionable right and unlimited sovereignty. Overstep these limits and freedom will be destroyed.

This is why we affirm the community of all the means of production and doubly affirm the right of ownership and possession of individual and collective product for the individual and the community, the full, absolute right to the product of labor.

Place all men in equal economic conditions, by providing all with the means of production, and you have the principle of justice. Render to all men the freedom to dispose, as best fits them, their feelings, their thoughts and their works and you will have justice in all its magnificent fullness. So says collectivism; so says anarchy.

Do not ask us how it is to determine the product of the work of each, because it would be a foolish question. A state of freedom not fit formulas determined a priori. The diversity of work produces diverse solutions. Liberty guarantees them. In one work [the solution] will be determined by the individual himself. In another, it will be exchange and contract that determine it. In yet another, it will be association, freely governed and freely agreed upon.


[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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Ricardo Mella, Free Cooperation and Communities (1900)



(Temps Nouveaux, Literary Supplement, October, 1900)

I mean by “free cooperation” the voluntary contribution of an indeterminate number of individuals to a common end, through a system of community, every social arrangement resting on common property in things. Each time that I use the expression “systems of community,” it will be to designate some or all of the plans for community that are preconceived or, what amount to the same thing, determined a priori.

Among us anarchists, there are communists, collectivists and anarchists without any qualifying term. Under the name of “anarchist socialism,” there exists an equally important group that rejects all doctrinal exclusivity and accepts a program of dismissing in principle all divergences. The name socialist, by its generic character, is more acceptable than any other.

However, in fact, doctrinal differences persist, so it is useful to subject the idea to an impartial analysis and to seek to establish agreement by eliminating the causes of the divergences.

Apart from the individualist faction, we are all socialist anarchists and all in favor of community. I say all, because collectivism, as the Spanish anarchists understand it, is only a degree of the community of which, in their turn, those who call themselves communists do not reject a single word. So there is a common principle. The different names that we give ourselves indicate nothing other than different interpretations, since for all, the primordial principle is the possession in common of the earth, the instruments of labor, etc., …

The differences loom up as soon as it is a question of the mode of production and the division of wealth.

The disparity of opinions appears noticeable, because, through education, we tend to become dogmatic and because each, today, attempts to systematize their future society, neglecting the anarchist idea itself to some degree.

In my opinion, such a disparity, born of preferences for determined systems, is not reasonable. I mean that the act of advocating these systems is contradictory to the radical principle of liberty and that it is not essential to the propagation of our ideas.

It is very simple to make the least cultivated people understand that things will be done in a particular manner in the future, but that only serves to reaffirm their authoritarian education and make them believe that we will act in a certain manner and not in another.

We say to them so casually that each will enjoy the full product of their labor, or that each will take what is necessary for them, wherever they find it; but what is harder to explain is the manner by which we will proceed without causing harm to anyone and especially how all men will come to agreement in order to act according to one method or another.

We must, on the contrary, penetrate skulls with the idea that everything should happen, everywhere and always, in conformity to the will of the associates, and we strive to make well understood the absolute necessity that exists of leaving individuals a complete independence of action. It is certainly not by stuffing brains with preconceived plans that we will prepare them for anarchist education.

That last task is more complicated than the preceding one. It makes less easy the comprehension of anarchist ideas, but it is that idea that corresponds to the affirmation of a better world, where authority will be reduced to nothing.

That manner of understanding propaganda being certainly common to all of us, I believe that we do useful work by all contributing to orienting it more each day in an anti-dogmatic and antiauthoritarian direction.

If we affirm that liberty must consist, for each group and each individual, in being able to act autonomously in every moment, and if we all affirm it, it is clear that we desire the means with the aid of which such an autonomy will be practicable. And, because we desire these means, we are obviously socialist and affirm that the common possession of wealth is just and necessary, for without the community that signifies the equality of means, the autonomy would be impracticable.

We mean, we believe, without contest, by the community of wealth, the possession in common of all the things put thus at the free disposal of groups and individuals. That supposes that it would be necessary to establish the agreement necessary for the methodical use of that ability to freely dispose of things.

The search for the possible forms of that accord give rise to the different schools of which it has been a question.

Will it be necessary, despite our purely socialist affirmations, to systematize life in full anarchy? Will it be necessary to decide today on a special system of communist practice? Must we work at the establishment of an exclusive method? If that was [the case], it would be to justify the existence of as many anarchist fractions as there are economic ideas dividing our opinions.

On the other hand, we will demonstrate that with such intentions we want a bit more than the equality of means as guarantee of liberty. We will demonstrate that we try to give a rule to liberty itself, or rather to its exercise.

To systematize the exercise of autonomy is a contradiction. Free is the individual, free is the group; nothing can oblige them to adopter such and such a system of social life. Besides, nothing would be powerful enough to impress a uniform direction on the production and distribution of wealth.

Because we affirm the total individual and collective autonomy, we must admit as a consequence the ability to proceed as we intend it, the possibility that some act in one manner and other in another. It is the evidence of multiple practices, the diversity of which will not be an obstacle to the result of social peace and harmony to which we aspire. So we should admit in summary the principle of free cooperation, based on the equality of means, without it being necessary to go farther into the practical consequences of the idea.

Why must anarchism be communist or collectivist?

Just the enunciation of these words produces in our mind the image of a preconceived plan, of a closed system, and who, anarchists, are not dogmatic; we do not advocate infallible panaceas; we do not construct on the shifting sands these fragile castle that the slightest wind of the near future will suffice to demolish. We spread liberty in fact, the possibility of working in all times and all places. That possibility will be effective for the people as soon as it is found in possession of the wealth and it can dispose of it without anyone, nor anything being able to oppose it. It will be that much more effective as the people can better and more freely consult one another concerning the means of organizing the production and distribution of wealth put at its disposition.

We could then say to the people: Do what seems good to you; group yourself as you please; regulate your relations for the use of wealth as you think best; organize the free life as you know it and as you are able… Then, under the influence of diverse opinions, under the influence of climate and race, under that of the physical environment and the social milieu, produce activity in multiple directions. Various methods will be applied and thus, in the long run, experience and the necessities will determine the harmonic and universal solutions of social life. We will obtain, by experiment, at least a part of what we would certainly not obtain with all the discussions and intellectual efforts possible.

The affirmation that everything is for all in no way implies that each can dispose of everything arbitrarily or in conformity to a given rule. That only means that wealth being at the free disposition of individuals, the organization of the enjoyment of things is left to the initiation of these latter.

The search for the forms of such an organization is certainly useful and necessary, but especially by way of study and not by means of an imposed doctrine; the same search would not and should not result in a unanimity of opinions. It is not necessary that it determines a social credo. In matters of opinion it is necessary to know how to respect all, and the freedom to put them into practice is the best guarantee of that respect.

In a society like the one that we recommend, the diverse nature of the labors will oblige the members in every case to charge themselves in turn with the sole of the execution of certain tasks. In other cases, the voluntariat will be necessary. So it is necessary that a group concerns itself permanently with the those labors; others will be accomplished in turn by various groups. Here, the distribution could follow the communist process that abandons it to the necessities or, to put it better, to the will of individuals; there, it will be necessary to resolve voluntarily to some one rule, like rationing or something approaching it. Who could claim to be capable of embracing the whole of the future life?

One could tell me that all of this account is simply communism; in this case, collectivism is also communism and vice versa. There is no more than a difference of degrees, and what I seek to prove is the contradiction into which we fall when, to the term anarchy, we associate a closed, invariable, uniform system, subject to some predetermined rules.

Even though there will exist in the brain of each among us that spirit of broad liberty, that general criterion that I designate under the name of free cooperation, the practical result will demonstrate that to the terms collectivism, communism, etc., are more or less associated the idea of a complete plan of social life, apart from which everything is only an error.

Our struggles come precisely from having associated certain ideas with certain terms where exclusivism is affirmed, and when propaganda lets itself be invaded by the particularities of school, the result is fatal, for instead of making conscious anarchists, we make fanatics for communism A, or fanatics for communism B, fanatics, in a word, of a dogma, whatever it may be.

To the reasons that we could call [matters] of internal order, already put forward, I should add others, of the general order, which will corroborate my deductions.

Present experience and the historical experience of which that of the future will only be the corollary, will be drawn in.

How can one desire that one system could or can predominate? Facts are far from following invariable rules. The principle is generally one, but the practical experiments vary noticeably and distance themselves from the point of departure. From the communism of some peoples we can only obtain a characteristic ideal. In the facts, there is not one communism like another communism. In all places concessions are made to individualism, but to very differing degrees. The regulation of life oscillates from free agreement to the most repugnant despotism. From the free communities of the Eskimos to the authoritarian communism of the ancient Peruvian empire, the distance is enormous. However, the practices of communism derive from a single principle: the absolute right of the collectivity, which, in the governmental countries, is transformed into the absolute right of the prince assuming the representation and the rights of the aforesaid. That principle cannot, however, persist without essential limits. From all sides the limits on the profit of individuality are numerous. In certain cases, the house and garden are private property. In other cases, the community only extends to a portion of the earth, the other parts being reserved to the State and to the priests and warriors. Finally, the Eskimos, in their free communism, recognize the right of the individual to separate from the community and establish themselves elsewhere, hunting and fishing at their own, sole risk. By continuing this excursion in the domain of sociology and history, we easily understand how difficult it is to explain that such contrary practices proceed from a common principle.

In the same manner, the individualist regime in many cases finds itself in some regions closer to communism than to individualism properly speaking. Property, often, is reduced to possession or to the usufruct that the State, at will, grants or takes away. In other cases, the enjoyment of the earth is allocated by periodic repartitions, because, theoretically, we say that the soil belongs to everyone.

If we analyze the present experience of industrial or agricultural individualism, we see that the principle, or rule, is one: the right to exclusive and absolute property in things, but that the methods of applications vary from country to country and from city to city.

Despite the concern for unification of the legislators, [and] the absorbing and unitarist power of the State, the laws are a veritable “maremagnum” and the habits and customs in industry, commerce and agriculture are so opposite, that what is equitable in one place is taken for unjust in another.

There are countries where association performs miracles and others where individuals prefer to struggle on their own accounts. Some entire regions belong to one single nation or to a dozen individuals, while others are all divided in little parcels. Here large industry prevails, there the ancient artisan persists, laboring in their little workshop.

The transmission of property dons the most varied forms. As for the tithes taken by the lord who enjoys an absolute right, they have disappeared or are transformed in certain places, while in others they persist.

Is it necessary to note that no so-called civilized State is totally individualistic? Despite the right of use and abuse of things, the public power invades the right of the citizens at each step. For cause of general utility, we establish expropriation and we thus fall back onto the communist principle of the right of the collectivity.

On the other hand, a considerable portion of wealth is consumed in common in the civilized countries and a great number of communistic institutions exist, which live in the midst of modern individualism.

I believe it is useless to add proofs that are accessible to everyone; I limit myself to indicating a process and drawing the conclusions.

Some experiments set out, I deduce that the future will develop according to a general principle, that of the common or collective possession (the two terms being, for me, equivalent) of wealth, and that, practically, this principle translates into various methods of production, distribution and consumption, all methods of free cooperation.

That same deduction results immediately from the principle of liberty that is so dear to us. And now, I can add that the diversity of individualist or communist experiments, contained in the past and in the present, is only the necessary consequence of the principle of liberty surviving in the human species, despite all the coactions. The individual, just like the group, always tends to regulate its existence, to rule itself according to is opinions, tastes and necessities. And then even when it is reduced to an imposed system, it sets its existence free, in the very midst of this system, by not conforming itself to it and by arranging it as much as possible according to the tastes, necessities and opinions in question. It was thus in the past, is so today, and will be the same tomorrow, we believe.

In the face of the systematic variability and all the exclusivisms of doctrine, I believe I have established that the corollary of anarchy is the free cooperation in which every practice of community has the space suitable to it.

The struggles of doctrinal exclusivism languish at present. My desire is to have contributed to making them disappear entirely.

The affirmation of the method of free cooperation is purely anarchist, and it will teach to those who come to us that we decree neither dogmas nor systems for the future, and that anarchy is not an appearance of liberty, but liberty itself, liberty in action.

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