Malatesta: Discipline!

Errico Malatesta
Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review Vol 1 No 5

Discipline: the great word they use to paralyse the will of class conscious workers.

And we too want discipline, for there is no material possibility of victory in the absence of agreement, in the absence of co-ordination of sporadic efforts into common, simultaneous action.

But it should not be woolly discipline, blind devotion to leaders, obedience to whoever gives the order not to move.

Revolutionary discipline is consistency with the ideas accepted, adherence to undertakings entered into, the feeling of duty to share the work and the risks with one’s fellows in the fight.

Let us speak out clearly.

Given the material resources on which the government can rely, what we need today for victory is a general movement or one which, initiated in one place spreads rapidly to encompass Italy as a whole. We need to have weapons. We need the complicity or passive acquiescence of a part of the army, we need agreement on aid from the public services to the government being interrupted and turned instead to the purposes of the revolution. It must be made impossible for the authorities to act, and likewise such persons as may be deemed most likely to organise and oversee the defence of the bourgeois order. The mass has to be involved in the revolution straight away with action to show how it has the mastery, how wealth is the property of all and so all must must look after it and use it in an intelligent way. Many other things are needed that revolutionaries are aware of, or must find out about, and on which they ought to reach agreement.

But how do we go about acting on them?

Those who do, or say they do, want a ”disciplined” revolution think of it in the same terms as would a General on the General Staff, or the old Mazzinian conspirators who – why not say it? – a little like we ourselves used to think of it in the old International when we were organising the Rebellions of 1874 and 1878 and so many others that never even reached the ears of the public, because they never even reached square one in terms of implementation. A central committee, nominating sub-committees and so on, collecting funds, getting hold of and distributing the wherewithal, making plans, setting the date, handing down orders. Generally it comes to nothing.

At the eleventh hour someone informed, many took fright, some were arrested, instructions failed to arrive or were misinterpreted, a thousand unforeseen problems and a whole laboriously elaborated plan ends in fiasco, sometimes a heroic one, but a fiasco nevertheless.

And if the old conspiratorial approach availed nothing in those days, then the problems would be all the greater nowadays. Today the government has greater resources with which to scuttle any plot; it arrests the ringleaders, mobilises the mercenary press, sends out phoney telegrams, and so forth.

Then again, in addition to spies and those gripped by fear, there are the ones who are undisciplined by nature, who are sometimes to be numbered among the most fervid, who throw up the head when given an order, but who later on act on their own energy with real discipline as if one had told them: Do what what you will.

Nowadays folk do not want to take orders any more. That is a good thing for us, but it will bode ill for others; but in any event it is a fact that has to be faced.

This being so, if revolution is to be made today, if one wants to make revolution for real, one must adopt some other approach.

One must agree on what is to be done, and in what circumstances; and whenever those circumstances provided for do crop up, act immediately without waiting for orders from anyone and turning a blind eye to those orders which may be contrary to the action agreed upon.

That is if it is the party that makes the first move. But if, on the other hand, action should begin among the masses, so much the better; we must follow the mass and shove it towards the attainment of our objectives.

Had this approach been taken with regard to the cost of living protests the situation today would be quite other than it is.

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