Saturday, 2 August 2014

Errico Malatesta on violence.

"But if a man of honour declares that he believes it stupid and barbarous to argue with a stick in his hand; that it is unjust and evil to oblige a person to obey the will of another at pistol point, is it, perhaps, reasonable to deduce that that gentleman intends to allow himself to be beaten up and be made to submit to the will of another without having recourse to more extreme means for his defence?
Violence is justifiable only when it is necessary to defend oneself and others from violence. It is where necessity ceases that crime begins"

"The slave is always in a state of legitimate defence and consequently, his violence against the boss, against the oppressor, is always morally justifiable, and must be controlled only by such considerations as that the best and most economical use is being made of human effort and human sufferings."
" The question may seem embarrassing, but it can be answered in a few words. For two people to live in peace they must both want peace; if one insists on using force to oblige the other to work for him and serve him, then the other, if he wishes to retain his dignity as a man and not be reduced to abject slavery, will be obliged in spite of his love of peace, to resist force with adequate means."
"The struggle against government is, in the last analysis, physical, material. Governments make the law. They must therefore dispose of the material forces (police and army) to impose the law, for otherwise only those who wanted to would obey it, and it would no longer be the law, but a simple series of suggestions which all would be free to accept or reject. Governments have this power, however, and use it through the law, to strengthen their power, however, as well as to serve the interests of the ruling classes, by oppressing and exploiting the workers. The only limit to the oppression of government is the power with which the people show themselves capable of opposing it.
Conflict may be open or latent; but it always exists since the government does not pay attention to discontent and popular resistance except when it is faced with the danger of insurrection. When the people meekly submit to the law, or their protests are feeble and confined to words, the government studies its own interests and ignores the needs of the people; when the protests are lively, insistent, threatening, the government, depending on whether it is more or less understanding, gives way or resorts to repression. But one always comes back to insurrection, for if the government does not give way, the people will end by rebelling; and if the government does give way, then the people gain confidence in themselves and make ever increasing demands, until such time as the incompatibility between freedom and authority becomes clear and the violent struggle is engaged. It is therefore necessary to be prepared, morally and materially, so that when this does happen the people will emerge victorious."
"This revolution must of necessity be violent, even though violence is in itself an evil. It must be violent because a transitional, revolutionary, violence, is the only wayto put and end to the far greater, and permanent, violence which keeps the majority of mankind in servitude.
The Bourgeoisie [the Upper Middle Class - the capitalist class] will never allow itself to be expropriated without a struggle, and one will always have to resort to the coup de force, to the violation of legal order by illegal means."
"We too are deeply unhappy at this need for violent struggle. We who preach love, and who struggle to achieve a state of society in which agreement and love are possible among men, suffer more than anybody by the necessity with which we are confronted of having to defend ourselves with violence against the violence of the ruling classes. However, to renounce a liberating violence, when it is the only way to end the daily sufferings and the savage carnage which afflict mankind, would be to connive at the class antagonisms we deplore and at the evils which arise from them."
"We intend to use force against government, because it is by force that we are kept in subjugation by government. We intend to expropriate the owners of property because it is by force that they withhold the raw materials and wealth, which is the fruit of human labour, and use it to oblige others to work in their interest.
We shall resist with force whoever would wish by force, to retain or regain the means to impose his will and exploit the labour of others. We would resist any force any ‘dictatorship’ or ‘constituent’ [Communist or Fascist] that attempted to impose itself on the masses in revolt. And we will fight the republic as we fight the monarchy, if by republic is meant government, however it may come to power, which makes laws and disposes of military and penal powers to oblige the people to obey."
"I have repeated a thousand times that I believe that not to ‘actively’ resist evil, adequately and by every possible way is, in theory absurd, because it is in contradiction with the aim of avoiding and destroying evil, and in practice immoral because it is a denial of human solidarity and the duty that stems from it to defend the weak and the oppressed. I think that a regime which is born of violence and which continues to exist by violence cannot be overthrown except by a corresponding and proportionate violence, and that one is therefore either stupid or deceived in relying on legality where the oppressors can change the law to suit their own ends. But I believe that violence is, for us who aim at peace among men, and justice and freedom for all, an unpleasant necessity, which must cease the moment liberation is achieved – that is, at the point where defence and security are no longer threatened – or become a crime against humanity, and the harbinger of new oppression and injustice.
We are on principle opposed to violence and for this reason wish that the social struggle should be conducted as humanely as possible. But this does not mean that we would wish it to be less determined, less thoroughgoing; indeed we are of the opinion that in the long run half measures only indefinitely prolong the struggle, neutralizing it as well as encouraging more of the kind of violence which one wishes to avoid. Neither does it mean that we limit the right of self-defence to resistance against actual or imminent attack. For us the oppressed are always in a state of legitimate defence and are fully justified in rising without waiting to be actually fired on; and we are fully aware of the fact that attack is often the best means of defence…"
"Revenge, persistent hatred, cruelty to the vanquished when they have been overcome, are understandable reactions and can even be forgiven, in the heat of the struggle, in those whose dignity has been cruelly offended, and whose most intimate feelings have been outraged. But to condone ferocious anti-human feelings and raise them to the level of a principle, advocating them as a tactic for a movement [as the Fascists do], is both evil and counter-revolutionary."
"For us revolution must not mean the substitution of one oppressor for another, of our domination for that of others. We want the material and spiritual elevation of man; the disappearance of every distinction between vanquished and conquerors; sincere brotherhood among all mankind – without which history would continue, as in the past, to be an alternation between oppression and rebellion, at the expense of real progress, and in the long term to the disadvantage of everybody, the conqueror no less than the vanquished.
It is abundantly clear that violence is needed to resist the violence of the adversary, and we must advocate and prepare it, if we do not wish the present situation of slavery in disguise, in which most humanity finds itself, to continue and worsen. But violence contains within itself the danger of transforming the revolution into a brutal struggle without the light of an ideal and without possibilities of a beneficial outcome; and for this reason one must stress the moral aims of the movement, and the need, and the duty, to contain violence within the limits of strict necessity.
We do not say that violence is good when we use it and harmful when others use it against us. We say that violence is justifiable, good and ‘moral’ as well as a duty when it is used in one’s own defence and that of others, against the demands of those who believe in violence; it is an evil and ‘immoral’ if it serves to violate the freedoms of others…
We are not ‘pacifists’ because peace is not possible unless it is desired by both sides.
We consider violence a necessity and a duty for defence, but only for defence. And we mean not only for defence against direct, sudden, physical attack, but against all those institutions that use force to keep people in a state of servitude. We are against Fascism and we would wish that it were weakened by opposing to its violence a greater violence. And we are, above all, against government, which is permanent violence."

No comments:

Post a Comment