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The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
  William Godwin
  Emma Goldman
  Peter Kropotkin
  Errico Malatesta
  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
  Elisée Reclus
  Max Stirner
  Murray Bookchin
  Noam Chomsky
  Bright but Lesser Lights
  Cold Off The Presses
  Anarchist History
  Worldwide Movements
  First International
  Paris Commune
  Haymarket Massacre
  Spanish Civil War
  Art and Anarchy
  Education and Anarchy
  Anarchist Poets


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the medium of the utterly bankrupt Stalinist International. True in its wonderful analysis of history, Marxism has floundered terribly in its political play-acting. Its words are the words of the working-class struggle but its political practice belongs to the bureaucracy of the middle-class. Out of this chaos, the workers are turning to the policy outlined by Proudhon. We are returning to the Russian Socialism of 1848.

The Paris upheaval of 1848 was the last attempt of the French workers to entrust completely their cause to the care of middle-class politicians. Since then the workers of the world have been deceived completely and repeatedly by politicians. These worthies have usually lived and died in comfort. Their origins were plebeian enough and they entered politics as proletarian champions. The function of their career has been to repeat the lesson of 1848; the workers have nothing in common with politicians. In a word, political radicalism cannot be trusted by the masses. Is not that the lesson of MaxDonalds career? Of Snowden's? Of Ebert's? Of Millerand's? And Briand's? It was the starting point of Russian Socialism. The diplomatic record of the present Soviet bureaucracy will establish its truth. Proudhon's anarchy was a consistent influence from his excellent object lesson.

He argued that the 1848 movement failed because it was a political revolution and not a social one. He did not blame the middle class politicians. He explained them and satirised them. He asserted that every political revolution must end in debacle because it changes nothing except the holder of power; and power, whether exorcised by a democrat or a republican, must be conservative and oppressive. Power cannot challenge but must accept the prevailing economic order. Power is not a radical but a panderer. It lacks initiative, the essential feature of social change. The economic order could be abolished only when power was destroyed and the adjustments of economic interests relegated to the direct mutual consent of the producers themselves individually assembled in their various Communes. Revolution would abolish the existing economic order naturally and spontaneously. Such revolution did not need violence for its achievement; for it would be brought about first in human minds. Said Proudhon: "The means that were taken from society by an economic arrangement will be given back to society by dint of another economic arrangement."

There is a Utopian flavour about this statement yet it helped to differentiate the economic interests of the working class from the political interests of the middle class. It did draw a definite line of demarcation between the political struggle for power and the social overthrow of usury. Herzen and Bakunin embraced this distinction with enthusiasm. In close touch with Proudhon they applauded his conclusions and enlarged its application. For a time after his association with Bakunin, Herzen returned to the service of the Russian State. His work was purely technical


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