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CAFE

ERR
CONVERSATIONS ON
l
AT THE CAFE:
CONVERSATIONS
ON ANARCHISM
BY ERRICO MALAT ESTA
FREEDOM PRESS
AT THE CAFE:
CONVERSATIONS
ON ANARCHISM
BY ERRICO MALATESTA
Edited with an introduction
by Paul Nursey-Bray
Translated by Paul Nursey-Bray
with the assistance of Piero Ammiralo
CONTE T
Introduction 6 Dialogue Nine 80
Dialogue One 12 Dialogue Ten 88
Dialogue Two 18 Dialogue Eleven 98
Dialoue Three 26 Dialogue Twelve 104
Dialogue Four 34 Dialogue Thirteen 110
Dialogue Five
44 Dialogue Fourteen 118
Grophic Design ond Photographs by Nillo Westin
Published 2005 by Freedom Press
84B Whitechopel High Street, London El 7QX
Dialogue Six
52 Dialogue Fifeen 126
ISBN 1 904491 0 5
Dialogue Seven
60 Dialogue Sixteen 136
Printed in Greot Britoin by Aldgote Press
Dialogue Eight
Units 5/6 Gunthorpe Workshops, Gunthorpe Street, London E1 7RQ 72 Dialogue Seventeen 146
Malatesta began writing the series of dialogues that make up At
the Caf: Conversations on Anarchism in March 1897, while he
was in hiding in Ancona and busy with the production of the peri
odical L'Agitozione. Luigi Fabbri, in his account of this period,
written to introduce the 1922 edition of the full set of dialogues
(Bologna, Edizioni di Vo/onta), edited by Malatesta (Reprint,
Torino,Sorgrof, 1961), gives us a beguiling picture of Malatesta,
clean-shaven as a disguise, coming and going about the city, pipe
in mouth, smiling impudently at his friends, who, for the sake of his
safety, wished him elsewhere.
The idea of the dialogues was suggested to him by the fct that he
often frequented a cafe that was not usually the haunt of subver
sives such as himself. Indeed, one of the regulars, who was a
member of the police, used to engage Malatesta in conversation
without, of course, as Fabbri notes, any idea that a real prize lay
within his grasp. Anarchism would almost certainly been one of
the topics of conversation since the anarchists of the city constant
ly bombarded teir fellow townspeople with a barrage of propa
ganda that occasioned frequent trials.
The form that the dialogues were to take was drawn then from an
actual venue and from Malatesta's own experience. It resulted in
a literary device excellently well suited to his particular genius,
which is his ability to render complex ideas into straightforward
language and to make them directly accessible. The dialogue form
also allowed Malatesta to debate the ideas of his opponents,
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while subjecting his own anarchist views to a critical scrutiny
aimed at communicating to his readers their political import and
their practical applicability. Indeed one of the strengths of the dia
logues is the absence of straw men. The inquisition of anarchism
is searching and genuine, often highlighting what its opponents
would regard as points of weakness and vulnerability. It makes
Malatesta's spirited defence all the more impressive.
Towards the end of 1897 Malatesta was identified and discovered
by the Ancona police. He was arrested and then released.
Immediately he began a round of lectures, abandoning both his
journal and the unfinished dialogues. In 1898 he was placed
under house arrest and in March 1899 he fled abroad, once more
becoming a refugee. The dialogues remained interrupted at num
ber ten, and in this form they were published, both in journals and
as a pamphlet.
The chief propagandists of the first ten dialogues are Malatesta's
alter ego, Giorgio, an anarchist, Prospero, a wealthy member of
the bourgeoiSie, Cesare, a shopkeeper and Ambrogio, a magis
trate. Malatesta is thus able to reflect a range of political positions
and views drawn from a wide spectrum of society. If Prospero
speaks for wealth and privilege, Cesare speaks for the smaller
property owners and the middle classes. He shows an awareness
of social problems and appears amenable to persuasion by
Giorgio, but he also exhibits a concern that any solution must not
be allowed to disrupt the existing social order. Ambrogio is the
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voice of the law and the liberal state and of accepted ideas on
rights and justice. He is also, as Giorgio's chief opponent, the one
who expresses common sense views about human nature and
human behaviour. His views contain a liberal expression of rights
theory, tempered by what he would claim as recognition of the lim
its imposed on liberty by the inescapable dictates of reality. The
result is a broad canvas on which Malatesta is able, in respond
ing to the various viewpoints and in answering the numerous crit
icisms that Giorgio's views elicit, to paint a skilfully drawn and
detailed picture of an anarchist view of the world.
In a relatively short space Malatesta introduces us to all of the
basic doctrines of communist anarchism and considers one by one
many of the major objections to his position. After setting the
scene, it is private property and property rights that become the
focus of attention. In Dialogues Two, Three and Four it is argued
that the causes of poverty are located in the nature of the proper
ty system and its associated class structure and a forceful attack is
mounted on the right to private property and the capitalist system,
with incidental discussions of Malthus and free trade. At the same
time the notions of a complete change in the property regime and
the creation of a society without government are introduced. The
origin of property and property rights are considered in Dialogue
Five, and Giorgio maintains that property rights must be abolished
if exploitation is to be avoided. In Dialogue Six the case for com
mon ownership is made and the idea of communism introduced.
This discussion of communism continues in Dialogue Seven with
opposition to it as a tyrannical and oppressive system being
strongly maintained by Ambrogio in the name of abstract liberty.
Giorgio counters with a depiction of anarchist society as a volun
tary, complex federation of associations, and in the process con
trasts the anarchist form of free communism with that of the author
itarian school. Dialogue Eight moves the focus to the question of
government and the state and how a society can function in their
absence. In the process there is an extended critique of parliamen
tarianism and representation, and a defence of anarchism as a

social order maintained by free agreement and voluntary delega


tion. The argument continues into the next Dialogue (Dialogue
Nine] where the objections to a society without government are
again rehearsed and Giorgio further develops a form of
Kropotkin's argument about the universality of mutual aid, an idea
first introduced in Dialogue Six. Discourse Ten strikes out in a new
direction, foussing on sex, love and the family. In covering many
issues related to feminism any inherent basis for gender inequali
ty is persuasively dismissed.
It was 15 years later, in 191 3, that Malatesta returned to the dia
logues. At this time he had once more establishe himself in
Ancona and had begun the publication of his new journal
Vo/ont. In this new publication he republished the original ten
dialogues, in an edited and corrected form, and added four more.
Initially, in Dialogues Eleven and Twelve, it is once again Cesare,
Prospero and Ambrogio who are Giorgio's interlocutors, The issue
of criminality is raised in Dialogue Eleven. How do we deal with
criminals in the absence of government, law, courts or prisons?
Giorgio answers that the issue must be dealt with communally.
From here the discussion moves on to a contrast between mental
and manual labour and the old chestnut of who is to do the jobs
that nobody wants to do. Won't everyone want to be a poet? The
usual answer is provided, that is a voluntary rotation of tasks and
the development of multiple skills by community members.
Dialogue Twelve investigates the need for revolution, and a case
is made for the sad necessity of a violent revolution, since the exist
ing order is maintained by violence and the privileged classes will
not surrender their hold on power unless it is shaken loose,
In Dialogue Thirteen we meet a new character, Vincenzo, a young
Republican, and a discussion ensues regarding the merits and lim
itations of a republican approach to change. Its chief defect is
identified as a reliance on government and on systems of demo
cratic representation. Republicanism is not, it is argued, as radical
as its supporters believe since it remains prey to the evils of the
V
existing political system. The last dialogue of this new series
(Dialogue Fourteen) returns to the theme of revolution. What
Giorgio emphasises is that anarchism in its desire to remove the
state and government is a new factor in history and proposes
changes quite different and more profound than previous revolu
tions which aimed simply at changing the political regime.
Once more the dialogues were to be interrupted by political
events. In June 1914, as the storm clouds of World War I gath
ered, serious popular risings broke out in the Marches and
Romagna, in what became known as Red Week. Malatesta was
involved in these popular struggles and, as a result, was forced to
take refuge in london. Six years passed and Malatesta returned
to Italy, establishing himself in Milan, where he edited the
Newspoper Umanild Novo. He was too busy, Fabbri notes, to
give his attention to the old dialogues, and he did not intend to
add to them. However, Fabbri informs us that someone or other
who spent a fortnight with him as a guest persuaded him to con
tinue with the project. The mysterious guest must, one would think,
have been Fabbri himself. The result was 0 further three dialogues,
a continuation rather than a conclusion, since there is no obvious
point of closure.
In these last three essays some old topics are revisited and some
new themes, of contemporary significance, receive attention.
Dialogue Fifteen introduces Gino, a worker, and canvasses the
fears of ordinary people about a lack of civil order in the pro
posed stateless society and the perceived need for police. Police,
Malatesta argues through Giorgio, breed criminals, just as he had
argued earlier in Anarchy that the louvrelerie (wolf catchers) breed
wolves, since without wolves or criminals the survival of the respec
tive bodies of officials would be in jeopardy (london, 1974: 33-
34). Social defence, he asserts, is a community responsibility. The
foct that this issue was olready discussed in Dialogue Eleven is an
indication of its importance to Malatesta. In Dialogue Sixteen we
meet Pippo, a crippled war veteran, who opens up the questions
10
of nationalism and patriotism. The points Malatesta mokes here
echo lenin's call for class solidarit in the foce of the divisive and
destructive nationalism of the First World War. Giorgio makes it
clear that in his view patriotism is simply a device by which the
bourgeoisie recruits working class support for the existing proper
ty regime, and the territorial ambitions of those who benefit from
it. Finally, in Dialogue Seventeen, luigi, a socialist, enters and a
discussion ensues that aims at distinguishing anarchism from both
parliamentary and authoritarian socialism, but with the key focus
on the inevitable failure of the parliamentary path and of any form
of what Eduard Bernstein had called evolutionary socialism. The
need for a revolutionary change is underlined.
Work on the dialogues in their present form was completed by
October 1920. On 16 October Malatesta was arrested and
ploced in the prison of San Vittore. There was an extensive police
search of his apartments for arms and explosives, but the manu
script of the dialogues remained undiscovered or ignored. They
were published as a set, with Fabbri's introduction, in 1922.
These dialogues of Malatesta represent not just a major contribu
tion to anarchist political theory, but a significant historical docu
ment. Writen over a period of 23 years they are a commentary
on turbulent times and vital historical events, covering as they do
an epoch distinguished in particular by left-Wing agitation and
organisation across Europe. During the time spanned by these
ruminations on anarchism the world witnessed the Second
International, the rise of Bolshevism, the First World War, the birth
of Fascism and the Russian Revolutions, bath of 1904 and 1917.
Without any direct allusion to ony of these events the dialogues
engage in a lively debate with many of the issues that they raise.
In a real sense Malotesta has crafted anarchist theory into a run
ning
commentary on his times. It is a work of intelligence, style
and rool artistry.
Paul Nursey-Bray
11
ONE
P R OS P E Ra [A plump member of the bourgeoisie, full of
political economy and other sciences]: But of course . . . of
course . . . we know al l about it. There are people suffering
from hunger, women prostituting themselves, chi ldren dying
from a lack of core. You always say the same thing . . . i n the
end you become boring. Allow me to savour my gelati in
peace . . . Certai nly, there are a thousand evi l s i n our society,
hunger, ignorance, war, cri me, plague, terrible mi shaps . . .
so what? Why i s i t your concern?
MICHELE fA student who keeps company with soci alists
and anarchists]: I beg your pardon? Why is i t my concern?
You have a comfortable home, a well-provi si oned table, ser
vants at your command; for you everything is fine. And as
long as you and yours are al l right, even i f the world around
you collapses, nothing matters. Real ly, if you only had a l i t
tle heart . . .
P R OS P E Ra: Enough, enough . . . don't sermonise . .. Stop
raging, young man. You thi nk I am insensible, i ndifferent to
the mi sfortunes of others. On the contrary, my heart bleeds,
(waiter, bring me a cognac and a cigar), my heart bleeds;
but the great soci al problems are not resolved by sentiment.
12
T he laws of nature are i mmutable and neither great speech
es, nor mawkish sentimental ity can do anything about it. The
wise person accepts fate, and gets the best out of l i fe that he
can, without running after pointless dreams.
MICHE L E: Ah? So we are deal i ng with natural laws? . .
And what i f the poor got i t i nto their heads to correct these .. .
laws of nature. I have heard speeches hardl y supportive of
these superior laws.
P ROS P E Ra: Of course, of course. We well know the peo
ple with whom you associate. On my behalf, tell those
scoundrel soci al i sts and anarchi sts, who you have chosen to
be your preferred company, that for them, and for those who
would try to put in practice thei r wicked theories, we have
good soldiers and excellent carabinieri.
MICH EL E: Oh! I f you are going to bring in the soldiers and
the carabinieri, I won't tal k anymore. It i s l i ke proposing a
fist fight to demonstrate my opinions are i n error. However,
don't rely on brute force if you have no other arguments.
Tomorrow you may find yourself i n the weakest position;
what then?
13
PROSPERa. What then? Wel l , if that mi sfortune should
come about, there would be great di sorder, an explosion of
evil passions, massacres, looting . . . and then i t would all
return to how it was before. Maybe a few poor people
would have become enriched, some rich people would have
fallen i nto poverty, but overall nothi ng woul d have changed,
because the world cannot change. Bring me, j ust bring me
one of these anarchist agitators of yours and you will see
how I will tan his hi de. They are good at fi l l i ng the heads of
people l i ke you wi th tall stories because your heads are
empty; but you'll see whether they wil l be abl e to mai ntai n
thei r absurdities with me.
M I C H E L E: Al l ri ght. I wi l l bri ng a fri end of mi ne who hol ds
social ist and anarchist princi pl es and I wi l l promote your di s
cussi on with hi m with pleasure. In the meanti me di scuss mat
ters with me, for whil e I sti l l don't have well developed opin
i ons, I clearly see that society as i t i s organized today, is a
thi ng contrary to good sense and decency. Come now, you
are so fat and Flourishing that a bi t of excitement wi l l not do
you any harm. I t will help your digestion.
PROSPERa: Come on, then; l et's have a di scussi on. But,
you ought to know that i t would be better i f you studied
i nstead of spitting out opinions about matters that are the
province of others more learned and wiser. I believe I can
give you 20 years?
MI CH HE: This does not prove that you have studied more,
and i f I have to judge you from what you have been saying,
I doubt that, even if you have studied a l ot, you have gai ned
much from i t .
14
PROSPERa: Young man, young man, really! Let's have
sme respect.
MICHELE: All right, I respect you. But don't throw my age
in my face, as i f i n fact you were raising an objection to me
with the police. Arguments are not old or young, they are
goad or bad; that's aiL
PROSPERa: Wel l , well, let's get on with what you have to
say?
MICHelE: I must say that I cannot understand why the
peasants that hoe, sow and harvest have nei ther suffi ci ent
bread, nor wi ne or meat; why bricklayers that bui l d houses
don't have a roof for shelter, why shoemakers have worn
shoes. I n other words, why is i t that those who work, that
produce everythi ng, lack basic necessities; while those who
don't do anyhing revel in abundance. I cannot understand
why there are people that l ack bread, when there i s much
uncultivated l and and a lot of people who would be extreme
ly hqppy to be able to cultivate it; why are there so many
bric
k
layers out of work whil e there are lots of peopl e who
need houses; why many shoemakers, dressmakers etc . . . are
without work, while the majority of the population lacks
shoes, clothes and all the necessities of civil l ife. Coul d you
please tell me which i s the natural law that explains and j us
tifies these absurdities?
PROSPERa: Nothi ng could be more clear and simpl e.
To produce, human l abour is not enough, you need l and,
materi al s, tool s, premises, machinery and you al so need the
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means to survive whi l e waiting for the product to be made'
and del ivered to the market: i n a word, you need capital.
Your peasants, your workers, have only their physi cal
labour; as a consequence they cannot work if such i s not the
wi sh of those who own land and capital . And si nce we are
few in number and have enough even if, for a whi le, we
leave our l and uncultivated and our capital inoperative,
whi l e the workers are many and are always constrai ned by
i mmedi ate needs, it follows that they must work whenever
and however we wi sh and on whatever terms that sui t us.
And when we no longer need thei r l abour and cal cul ate that
there is no gai n from making them work, they are forced to
remain idl e even when they have the greatest need for the
very thi ngs they could produce.
Are you content now? Could I expl ai n it more clearly that
this?
MI CHEL E : Certai nly, thi s i s what one calls speaki ng
frankly, there is no question about that.
But, by what ri ght does l and belong only t a few? How i s
it that capital i s found i n a few h ands, specifically i n the
hands of those who do not work?
PROSPE Ra: Yes, yes, I know what you are saying to me,
and I even know the more or less lame arguments with whi ch
others would oppose you; the ri ght of the owners derives
from the i mprovement they bri ng to the land, from savings by
means of whi ch labour is transformed i nto capital, etc. But
l et me be even more frank. Thi ngs are as they ore as the
result of hi storical facts, the product of hundreds of years of
human hi story.
The whole of human exi stence has been, i s,
16
and will always be, a continuous struggl e. There are those
wo have fared well and those who h ave fared badly. What
can I do about it? So much the worse for some, so much the
btr for others. Woe to the conquered! Thi s i s the grand
law of nature against whi ch no revolt is possible.
Wat would you l i ke? Should I deprive myself of all I have
$ I can rot i n poverty, whi l e someone else stuffs themselves
on my money?
MI CHELE: I do not exactly want that. But I ' m thi nking: what
if te workers profiting from thei r numbers and basi ng them
slves on your theory that l i fe i s a struggl e and that ri ghts
derive from facts, get the idea into their heads of creati ng a
new "hi storic fact", by taking away your land and capital
and i naugurating new rights?
PROSPERa: Ah! Certainly, that woul d compl i cate molers.
But ... we s hal l continue on another occasion. Now I h ave to
go to the theatre.
Good evening to you al l .
17
TWO
AMBR OGI O [Magistrate] : listen, Si gnor Prospero, now
that i t i s j ust between ourselves, all good conservatives. The
other eveni ng when you were tal ki ng to that empty head,
Michel e, I did not want to i ntervene; but, do you thi nk that
was the way to defend our institutions?
It very nearly seemed that you were the anarchi st!
P R OS P E R O: Wel l , I never! Why i s that?
AMBR OGI O. Because, what you were saying in essence
is that all of the present soci al organisation is founded on
force, thereby provi di ng arguments for those who would l i ke
to destroy it wi th force. But what about the supreme pri nci
ples which govern ci vi l societies, rights, morality, rel i gion,
don't they count for anythi ng?
P R OS P E R O: Of course, you always h ave a mouth ful l of
ri ghts. It i s a bad habi t that comes from your profession.
I f tomorrow the governments shoul d decree, let's suppose,
collectivism, you would condemn the supporters of private
propert with the same i mpassiveness with whi ch today you
condemn the anarchi sts . . . and always in the name of the
supreme principles of eternal and i mmutable ri ghts!
18
You see, it is only a question of names. You say ri ghts, I s ay
frce; but, then, what really counts are the blessed cara
binieri, and whoever h as them on thei r si de i s ri ght.
AMBROGI O: Come, now, Si gnor Prospera! It seems
impossibl e that your love of sophi sm must always stifle your
conservative i nsti ncts.
You don't understand how many bod effects follow from the
sight of a person such as yourself, one of the elders of the
town, prOVidi ng arguments for the worst enemies of order.
Believe me we shoul d stop thi s bod habit of squabbl i ng
among ourselves, at least in publ i c; let's all uni te to defend
our i nstitutions whi ch because of the wickedness of the times
are receivi ng some brutal blows . . . and to look after our
endangered interests.
P R OS P E R O: let's unite, by all means; but if some strong
measures are not token, if you don't stop usi ng l i beral doc
trines we wi l l not resolve anythi ng.
AMBR OGI O: Oh[ Yes, certai nly. We need severe l aws to
b strictly applied.
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But it is not enough. Force alone cannot keep a people sub
jected for long, parti cul arl y i n thi s day and age. I t i s neces
sary to oppose propaganda with propaganda, there is a
need to persu ade people that we are right.
P R OS P E R O: You really are ki ddi ng yoursel f! My poor
friend, in our common i nterest, I beg you, be careful of prop
aganda. It i s subversive stuff even i f it is carried out by con
servatives; and your propaganda would always turn to the'
advantage of soci al i sts, anarch i sts or whatever else they call
themselves.
Go and persuade someone that is hungry that it is j ust that
they don't eat, the more so when it is they who produce the
food! So long as they don't thi nk about it and continue to
bless God and the boss for what I i Hl e they receive, it's all
ri ght. But, from the moment they start to reflect on thei r posi
tion it's over: they wi l l become an enemy with whom you will
never be reconci l ed. Not on your l i fe! We must avoi d prop
aganda at all cost, stifle the printing press, with or without
or perhaps, even against the l aw.
AMB R OGI O That's right, that's ri ght.
P R O S P E R 0: Prevent all meetings, di smantle all associ a
tions, send to j ai l all those who th i nk. ..
C E SAR E [shopkeeper] : Easy, easy, don't let passion
sweep you away. Remember that other governments, in
more favourable ti mes, adopted the measures that you are
suggesting . . . and it preci pi tated thei r own downfall.
20
AMB R OGI O: Hush, hush! Here comes Mi chele with an
anarchi st whom I sentenced last year to six manths j ai l for a
subversive manifesto. Actual ly, between ourselves, the mani
festo was done in such a way that the law couldn't touch it,
but, what can you do? The cri mi nal i ntention was there . . .
.
and, after all, society must be defended!
MI C H E L E : Good evening, Gentlemen. May I i ntroduce to
you an anarchi st friend of mi ne who has accepted the cha
lenge thrown down the other evening by Si gnor. Prospera.
P R O S P E R 0: But, what challenge, what challenge?! We
were only havi ng a di scussi on among friends to pass the
time.
However, you were explaining to us what anarchi sm i s,
whi ch i s somethi ng we have never been able to understand.
GI OR GI O [Anarchist]: I am not a teacher of anarchi sm
and I have not come to give a course on the subject; but I
can, when needed, defend my ideas. Besides, there is a
gentleman here (referring to the magi strate, Ambrogio, in an
ironic tone) who ought to know more about it than I . He has
condemned many people for anarchi sm; and si nce he i s for
a certainty a man of conscience, he woul d not have done so
without first of all maki ng a profound study of the arguments
i nvolved.
CE SARE: Come, come, let's not get personal .. . and si nce
we must speak of anarchi sm, let's start on the subject i mme
di ately.
22
Yo see, I also recognise that thi ngs are going badly and
tt remedies need to be found. But we don't need to
bome utopian, and above all we must avoid violence.
Ceni nly, the government should take the workers' cause
more to heart: i t should provide work for the unemployed;
protet the national i ndustries, encourage commerce. But. ..
GI ORGI O: How many things you would l i ke thi s poor gov
ernment to do! But the government does not want to become
concerned for the i nterests of the workers, and it's under
standable.
CESAR E: How can i t be understandable? Up to now, real
ly, the government has shown a lack of capacity and per
haps little desi re to remedy the ills of the country; but, tomor
row, enli ghtened and conscientious mi nisters mi ght do what
hasn't been done up to now.
GI OR GI O: No, my dear si r, it is not a question of one mi n
isty or another. It i s a question of government i n general; of
all governments, those of today, like those of yesterday, and
those of tomorrow. The government emanates from propri
etors, it needs the support of proprietors to sustain itself, its
members are themselves proprietors; how can i t therefore
serve the i nterest of workers?
On the other h and the government, even if it wanted to,
could not resolve the social question because thi s i s the prod
uct of general factors, that cannot be removed by a govern
ment and whi ch in fact themselves determi ne the nature and
the di recti on of government. I n order to resolve the social
23
question we must radically change the whole system
the government h as the appointed mi ssi on of defendi ng.
You talk about gi vi ng work to the unempl oyed. But, what can
the government do if there is no work? Must i t make people
do u seless work, and then who would pay them? Should
gear production to provide for the unsatisfied needs of the
people? But, then, the propri etors would fi nd themselves
unable to sell the products whi ch they expropri ate from
workers, as a matter of fact they would h ave to cease to be
proprietors, si nce, the government i n order to provide work
for the people would take away from them the l and and the
capital whi ch they have monopol i sed.
Thi s woul d be social revolution, the l i qui dation of al l of the
past, and you well know that i f thi s i s not carried out by the
workers, peasants and the underprivileged, the government
wi l l certainly never do it.
Protect i ndustry and commerce you say: but the government
is able, at the most, to favour one i ndustri al cl ass to the detri
ment of another, to favour the traders of one regi on at the
expense of those of another, and so, in total, nothi ng would
be gai ned, only a bi t of favou ri ti sm, a bi t of i nj ustice and
more unproductive expendi ture. As far as a government
whi ch protects all, it is an absurd i dea because governments
do not produce anythi ng and therefore can only transfer the
wealth produced by others.
CE S AR E : But what then? I f the government does not want,
and i s not able, to do anythi ng, what remedy is there? Even
if you make the revolution you will need to create another
24
nment; and si nce you say that all governments are the
:: afer the revolution everythi ng wi l l be the same as
bfre.
GIORGI O: You would be right i f our revolution produced
simply a change of government. But we want the complete
tansfrmation of the property regi me, of the system of pro
duction and exchange; and as far as the government is con
cerned, a useless, harmful and parasi tic organ, we don't
want one at all. We believe that whi le there is a government,
in other words a body superi mposed on soci ety, and provid
e with the means to i mpose forci bly its own wi l l , there wi ll
not be real emanci pation, there wi l l be no peace among
peple.
You know that I am an anarchi st and anarchy means socie
ty without government
.
CESARE: But what do you mean? A society without govern
ment! How would you be able to l i ve? Who would make the
law? Who would execute it?
GI OR GI O: I see that you don't h ave any idea of what we
want. In order to avoid ti me wasti ng di gressions you must
allow me to explain, bri efly, but methodically, our pro
gramme; and then we can di scuss matters to our mutual ben
efit.
But now it i s late; we wi l l conti nue next ti me.
25
THREE
C E S AR E: So tonight you will explain how we can l ive
out government?
GI OR GI O: I will do my best.
some consideration to how things are in society as it is
whether it is really necessary to change its composition.
Looking at the societ in which we l ive, the first phenomena
that strike us are the poverty that afflicts the masses, the
uncertainty of tomorrow which, more or less, weighs on

everybody, the relentless struggle of everybody fighting
everybody in order to conquer hunger . . .
AM B R 0 G 10: But, my dear sir, you could go on talking for
some time about these social evils; u nfortunately, there are
plenty of examples avail able. But, this does not serve any
purpose, and it doesn't demonstrate that we would be better
off by making everything topsy-turvy. I t's not only poverty
that aflicts humanity; there are also pl agues, cholera, earth
quakes .. . and it would be odd if you wished to direct the rev
ol ution against these courges.
Evil is in the nature of things . . .
26
GIOR GI O: But in fact I want to demonstrate t you that
pvert depends on the present mode of social organisation,
and that in a more egal itarian and rationally organised soci
ety if must disappear.
When we do not know the causes of an evil and we don't
have solutions, well, there is not much we can do about it;
but as soon as the solution is found, it becomes everybody's
concern and duty to put it into practice.
AMBROGI O: Here is your mistake: poverty resul ts from
causes superior to human will and hu man l aw
. Poverty
results from the meanness of nature which does not suppl y
suficient products to meet human desires.
Have a look at animals, where you cannot blame capitalist
infamy nor tyrannical government; they must fight for food
and often die of hunger.
When the cupboard's bare, the cupboard's bare. The truth
is that there are too many people in the worl d. I f people
were able to control themselves and did not have children
unless they coul d maintain them . . . Have you read Malthus?
27
GI OR GI O: Yes, a l i ttl e; but it's al l the same if I hadn't
his work. What I know, without needi ng to read any part
i t, i s that you must have some nerve, I must say to m
such thi ngs!
Poverty resul ts from meanness of nature, you say,
though you are aware that there is uncul ti vated land . . .
AMB R OGI O: I f there i s uncultivated land i t means that
cannot be cultivated, that it cannot produce enough to
for the costs i nvolved.
G l OR G I 0: You beli eve that?
Try on experiment and gi ve i t to the peasants and you
see what gardens they'l l create. But, you are not
Why, much of thi s l and was cultivated in ti mes when the
of agri cul ture was i n its infancy and chemi stry and agricu
tural technology hardly existed! Don't you know that !oday
even stones can be transformed into fertile l and? Don't you
know that agronomists, even the l ess visionary ones, have
calculated that a territory l i ke Italy, if rationally cultivated
coul d easil y mai ntai n in plenty a population of one hundred
mi l l ion?
The real reason why land i s left uncultivated, and why culti
vated land produces onl y a small proportion of its full poten
ti al , gi ven the adoption of less pri mi tive methods of cultiva
tion, is because the proprietors do not have any interest in
increasing its production.
They are not bothered about the welfare of the people; they
produce i n order to sel l , and they know that when there is a
28
I o gos the prices are reduced and profit decreases and
r end up being, i n total, l ess than when goods are scarce
a can be sold at prices which suit them.
N tat thi s onl y happens i n relation to agricultural prod
u. In every branch of human activity it is the same. For
illnce: in every ci ty the poor are forced to l i ve i n i nfected
hels, crowded together without any regard for hygiene or
mrals, i n conditions i n whi ch i t i s i mpossi bl e to keep cl ean
and achieve a human existence. Why does thi s happen?
Perhaps because there are no houses? But why aren't sound,
comfortable and beautiful houses bui lt for everybody?
Te stones, bricks, l i me, steel, ti mber, al l the materials need
e for construction exist i n abundance; as do the unem
ployed bricklayers, carpenters, and archi tects who ask for
noting more than to work; why, then, i s there so much i dl e
capcity when i t coul d be uti l i sed to everybody's advan
tage.
Te reason is si mple, and it is that, if there were a lot of
houses, the rents would go down. The proprietors of the
houses already bui l t, who are the same people who have the
means to bui ld others, don't really have any desire to see
teir rents decrease j ust to wi n the approval of the poor.
CESARE: There is some truth in what you are saying; but
you are deceiving yourself about the explanation fr the
painful things that are affl i cti ng our country.
The cause of the land being badly cul ti vated or left idle, of
business running aground, and of poverty i n general is the
lack of elan i n the bourgeoisie. Capital ists are either fearful
29
or ignorant, and don't want or don't know how to develop
industries; the landowners don't know how to break with
their grandfathers' methods and don't want to be bothered;
traders don't know how to find new outlets and the govern
ment with its fiscal policy and its stupid customs policy
instead of encouraging private initiatives, obstructs and suf
focates them in their infancy. Have a look at France,
England and Germany.
GIO RGIO: That our bourgeoisie is indolent and ignorant I
don't doubt, but its inferiority only supplies the explanation
for why it is beaten by the bourgeoisie of other countries in
the struggle to conquer the world market: it does not in any
way supply the reason for people's poverty. And the clear
evidence is that poverty, the lack of work and all the rest of
the social evils exist in countries where the bourgeoisie is
more active and more intelligent, as much as they do in Italy;
actually, those evils are generally more intense in countries
where industry is more developed, unless the workers have
been able, through organisation, resistance or rebellion, to
acquire better living conditions.
Capitalism is the same everywhere. In order to survive and
prosper it needs a permanent situation of partial scarcity: it
needs it to maintain its prices and to create hungry masses
to work under any conditions.
You see, in fact, when production is in full swing in a coun
try it is never to give producers the means to increase con
sumption, but always for sales to an external market. I f the
domestic consumption increases it occurs only when the
workers have been able to profit from these circumstances to
demand an increase in their wages and as a consequence
30
have been enabled to buy more goods. But then, when
one reason or another the external market for which
produce does not buy anymore, crisis comes, work
wages decline and dire poverty begins to cause
again. And yet, in this same country where the great
ity lacks everything, it would be so much more rp"",nn,, .
to work for their own consumption! But, then, what would
capitalists gain out of that!
AMBR OG I 0: So, you think it is all te fault of calITllsn9
GIORGIO: Yes of course; or more generally it's due to
fact that a few individuals have hoarded the land and all
instruments of production and can impose their will on
workers, in such a fashion that instead of producing to satis
fy people's needs and with these needs in view, production
is geared towards making a profit for the employers.
All the justifications you think up to preserve bourgeois priv .
ileges are completely erroneous, or so many lies. A litle
while ago you were saying that the cause of poverty is the
scarcit of products. On another occasion, confronting the
problems of the unemployed, you would have said that the
warehouses are full, that the goods cannot be sold, and that
the proprietors cannot create employment in order to throw
goods away.
In fact this typifies the absurdity of the system: we die of
hunger because the warehouses are full and there is no need
to cultivate land, or rather, the landowners don't need their
land cultivated; shoemakers don't work and thus walk about
in worn out shoes because there are too many shoes .. and
so it goes ...
32
So it is the capitalists who should die of
AMBR
OGIO
:
hunger
?
GIOR
GIO: Oh! Certainly not. They should simply work
k
body else It might seem harsh to you, but you
Ii e every
.
don't understand: when one eats well work is no longer
. t
' I can show you in fact you that it is a need and
mrea emng.
a flfilment of human nature. But be fair, tomorrow I have to
go t work and it is already very late.
Until next time.
33
FOUR
C ES AR E: I l i ke arguing with you. You have a certain
of putting thi ngs that makes you appear correct . . . and,
indeed, I am not saying that you are completely in the
wrong.
There are certai nl y some absurdities, real or apparent, i n the
present social order. For example, I fi nd it di fi cul t to under
stand the customs pol i cy. Whil e here people are dyi ng of
hunger or associated di seases because they lack sufficient
bread of good qual i ty, the government makes it difficult t
i mport grai n from America, where they have more than the
need and woul d l i ke nothing better than to sel l it to us. It's
l i ke bei ng hungry but not Wi shi ng to eat!
However. . .
GI OR GI O: Yes i ndeed, but the government i s not hungry;
and neither are the l arge wheat growers of Italy, in whose
i nterests the government places the duty on wheat. If those
who are hungry were free to act, you would see that they
woul d not reiect the wheatl
C E SARE : I know that and I understand that with these sorts
of arguments you make the common people, who only see
34
tings in broad terms and from one poi nt of vi ew, disaect
e. But in order to avoid mi stakes we must look at al l Sides
of the question, as I was on the point of doing when you
interrupted me.
It is true that the proprietors' i nterests greatly i nAuence the
imposition of an imprt tax. But on the other hand, if there
was open entry, the Americans, who can produce wheat
and meat in more favourable conditions than ours, would
end up supplyi ng the whole of our market: and what would
our frmers do then? The proprietors woul d be ruined, but
te workers would fare even worse. Bread woul d sell for
small amounts of money. But if there was no way of earni ng
tat money you woul d sti l l di e of hunger. And, then the
Americans, whether the goods are dear or cheap, want to
get pid, and if in Italy we don't produce, with what are we
going to pay?
You could say to me that in Italy we could cul tivate those
products sui ted to our soi l and cl i mate and then exchange
tem abroad: wi ne for i nstance, oranges, flowers and the
l i ke. But what i f the things that we are capable of produci ng
on favourabl e terms are not wanted by others, either
because they have no use for them or because they produce
them themselves? Not to mention that to change the produc-
35
tion regime you need capital, knowl edge and above
ti me: what would we eat i n the meantime?
GI OR GI O: PerFect! You h ave put your Finger on it.
trade cannot solve the question of poverty any more th an
protectionism. Free trade is good For consumers and h arms
the producers, and vice versa, protectionism i s good For the
protected producers but does harm to consumers; and si nce
workers are at the same time both consumers and produc
ers, i n the end i t is always the same thing.
And i t will always be the same until the capital i st system i s
abol i shed.
I f workers worked For themselves, and not for the owner's
profits, then each country woul d be able to produce suffi
ci ent For its own needs, and they would only have to come
to an agreement with other countries to di stri bute prouctive
work accordi ng to the soi l quali ty, cl i mate, the avai l abi l it of
resources, the i ncl i nations of the i nh abitants etc. i n order that
all men shoul d enjoy the best of everything with the mi ni mum
possible efort.
C E S AR E : Yes, but these are on Iy pi pe dreams.
GI OR GI O: They may be dreams today; but when the peo
ple have understood how they coul d i mprove l i fe, the dream
would soon be transformed i nto real ity. The only stumbl i ng
blocks are the egoism of some and the i gnorance of others.
CE S AR E : There are other obstacles, my friend. You thi nk
that once the proprietors are th rown out you woul d wallow
in gold . . .
36
GI O Th t is not what I ' m sayi ng. On the contrary, I
GIOR
: a
. .
h' h
th
rcome thi s condi ti on of scarcit In w IC cap-
tink
at t
ove
.
I I
.
t 'ns uS and t organise produclion arge y to
ieli sm
main 01
,
k b
.
f
h
d of all you need to do a lot of wor ; ut It
srs t e nee s
,
h
h
'l I i ngness to work that people l ack, it i s t e
is not even t e WI
p
ssibility. We are compl ai ni ng about the presen
.
t system not
h b cause we have to mai ntain some Idlers: even
so
muc
e
. ,
th
h this certainly does not please uS - but, because It IS
oug
f
k'
tese idlers that regul ate work and prevent us rom wor Ing
in good condi tions and produci ng an abundance for all .
C E SA R E : You exaggerate. It is true t hat often proprietors
don't employ people i n order to specul ate on the scarcity of
products, but more often i t is because they themselves l ack
capital.
land and raw materials are not enough for production. You
need, as you know, tools, machi nery, premi ses, the means
t pay the workers whi l e they work, in a word, capital; and
this only accumul ates slowly. How many ventures fail to get
off the ground, or, having got off the ground, fail due t a
shortage of capital! Can you i magi ne the effect then if, as
you desi re, a soci al revolution came about? Wi th the
destruction of capital, and the great di sorder that would fol
low it, a general i mpoveri shment would result.
GI ORGIO: Thi s is another error, or another lie from the
defenders of the present order: the shortage of capital.
Capital may be lacki ng in thi s or t hat undertaking because
it
has been cornered by others; but i f we take society as a
whole, you' l l find that there i s a great quantity of i nactive
cap
ital, j ust as there i s a great quantity of uncultivated l and .
37
Don't you see how many machi nes are rusting, how
factories remain closed, how many houses there are
tenants.
There is a need for food to nourish workers whi le they
but real ly workers must eat even if they are unem
They eat l ittle and badly, but they remai n al ive and
ready to work as soon as an employer has need of them. So,
it i s not because there is a l ack of the means of subsi stence
that workers don't work; and if they coul d work on thei r own
account, they would adapt themselves, where i t was really
necessary, to work whi l e l ivi ng j ust as they do when they are
unemployed, because they would know that with thi s tempo
rary sacrifice they coul d then fi nal l y escape from the soci al '
condition of poverty and subj ection.
I magi ne, and thi s i s somethi ng that has been witnessed
many times, that an earthquake destroys a ci ty rui ni ng an
entire di strict. I n a l ittle ti me the city i s reconstructed i n a form
.
more beautiful than before and not a trace of the di saster
remai ns. Because i n such a case it is in the i nterests of pro
prietors and capi tal i sts to employ people, the means are
quickl y found, and in the bl i nk of an eye an entire city i s
reconstructed, where before they had conti nual ly asserted
that they l acked the means to bui ld a few "workers' houses".
As far as the destruction of capital that would take place at
the time of the revolution, it is to be hoped that as part of a
conscious movement that has as its ai m the common owner
shi p of soci al wealth, the people would not want to destroy
what is to become their own. tn any case it would not be as
bad as an earthquakel
38
N _ tere wi l l certai nly be di fficulties before thi ngs work out
fr the best; but, I can only see two serious obstacles, whi ch
must be overcome before we can begi n: people's l ack of
cnsciousness and . . . the carabinieri.
AMBROGI O: But, tell me a litle more; you tal k of capital,
work, production, consumption etc. ; but you never tal k of
rights, justice, morals and rel i gi on?
The i ssues of how to best uti l i se l and and capi tal are very
i mportant; but more i mportant sti l l are the moral questions. I
also would l ike everybody to l i ve wel l , but if in order to
rech thi s utopia we have to violate moral laws, if we have
1 repudiate the eternal pri nci pl es of right, upon whi ch every
civil society shoul d be founded, then I woul d i nfi nitely prefer
that the sufferi ngs of today went on forever!
And then, j ust thi nk that there must al so be a supreme
will that regul ates the world. The world did not come i nto
bei ng on its own and there must be something beyond it -
I am not saying God, Paradise, Hel l , because you would be
quite capable of not bel i evi ng in them - there must be some
thing beyond thi s world that explai ns everythi ng and where
one finds compensation for the apparent i nj ustices down
here.
Do you thi nk you can vi ol ate thi s pre-stabl i shed harmony of
the universe? You are not abl e to do so. We cannot do other
than yield to it.
For once stop i nci ti ng the mosses, stop gi vi ng r i se to fanci ful
hopes i n the soul s of the least fortunate, stop blowi ng on the
fire that i s unfortunately smoul dering beneath the ashes.
39
Wld you, or other modern barbarians, wish to destroy in
a trrible social cataclysm the civilization that is the glory of
or ancestors and ourselves? If you want to do something
worthwhile, if you want to relieve as much as possible the
sufering of the poor, tell them to resign themselves to their
ft, because true happiness lies in being contented. After
all, everyone carries their own cross; every class has its own
tibulations and duties, and it is not always those who live
among riches that are the most happy.
GIORGIO: Come, my dear magistrate, leave aside the
declarations about "grand principles" and the conventional
indignation; we are not in court here, and, for the moment,
you do not have to pronounce any sentence on me.
How would one guess, from hearing you talk, that you are
not one of the underprivileged! And how useful is the resig
nation of the poor. .. for those who live off them.
First of all, I beg you, leave aside the transcendental and reli
gious arguments, in which even you don't believe. Of mys
teries of the Universe I know nothing, and you know no
more; so it is pointless to bring them into the discussion. For
the rest, be aware that the belief in a supreme maker, in God
the creator and father of humanity would not be a secure
weapon for you. If the priests, who have always been and
re
main in the service of the wealthy, deduce from it that it is
the duty of the poor to resign themselves to their fate, others
can deduce (and in the course of history have so deduced)
the right to justice and equality. If God is our common father
then we are all related. God cannot want some of his chil-
41
dren to exploit and martr the others; and the rich, the
would be s many Cains cursed by the Father.
But, let's drop it.
AMBROGIO: Well then, let's forget about religion if
wish since so much of iI would b pointless to you. But
would acknowledge righls, morals, a superior justicel
GIORGIO: Usten: if it is true that rights, justice and
may require and sanclion oppression and unhappi
even of only one human being, I would immediately say
you, that rights, iustice and morals are only lies, i
weapons forged to defend the privileged; and such they
when they mean what you mean by them.
Rights, justice, morals should aim at the maximum possible
good for ali, or else they are synonyms for arrogant behav
iour and injustice. And, it is certainly true that this concep
tion of them answers 10 the necessities of existence and te
development of human social cooperation, that has formed
and persisted in the human conscience and continually gains
in strength, in spite of all the opposition from those who up
to now have dominated the world. You yourself could not
defend, other than with pitiful sophism, the present social
institutions with your interpretation of abstract principles of
morality and justice
.
AMBROGIO: You really are very presumptuous. It is not
enough to deny, as it seems to me you do, the right to prop
erty, but you maintain that we are incapable of defending it
with our own principles .
.
.
42
.
l
'!f ou wish I will dem
onstrate it to
Gio
rgio: Yes, preclse y
. Y
y next time
.
43
FIV
E
GIORGIO: WelJ then, my dear magistrate, if I am not
taken, we were talking about the right to propert.
AMBROGIO: Indeed. I am really curious to hear how you
would defend, in the name of iustice and morals, your pro
posals for despoliation and robbery.
A society in which no-one is secure in their possessions
would no longer be a society, but a horde of wild beasts .
ready to devour each other.
GIORGIO: Doesn't it seem to you rhat this is precisely the
case with today's society?
You are accusing us of despoliation and robbery; but on Ihe
contrary, isn't it the proprietors who continually despoil the
workers and rob them of the fruits of their labour?
AMBROGIO: Proprietors use their goods in ways they
believe for the best, and they have the right ta do so, in the
same way the workers freely dispose of their labour. Owners
and workers contract freely for the price of work, and when
the contract is respected no one can complain.
Charity can relieve acute troubles, unmerited troubles, but
rights must remain untouchable,
44
k g of a free contract! The
B t ou are spec In
GIO
RGIO: u Y
t t and his liberty re5em
h d s not work canno eo ,
wrker w 0 oe
l ed b thieves, who gives up
bles rhal of a traveller, asso I . Y
.
f fear of losing hiS "Fe,
hIS purse r
nnot use this to negate
AMBROGIO: All right; but you co
,
ty as they
d' e of their proper
te right of each person to ISpOS
see fil.
,
r rty! But doesn'l this
GIORGIO: Their propert, their p ope
ble 10 claim Ihol
h I ndowners are a
come about because I e o
.
d Ih capitalists are able
d ' d s theirs on e
te land on Its pro uce a
fib and other capitol
h
'
nls 0 a our
t claim as Ihe'lrs t e IOstrume
creoted by human activit?
,
their right to it.
AMB
ROGIO: The low recognizes
h} then even a street
GI
ORGIO: Ah! If it is only t e ow,
d rob, he
" h 'hi to assassinate on to .
assassin could claim t e fig
, I f low that
f rmulate a few artlc es 0
would only have to 0
h h d this is precisely
d h 'his On the ot er on ,
recognise t ese rig ,
I" hed
.
"t has created
what Ihe dominant doss has accomp s
h
,II
ody perpe-
h
fons that It as a re
lows to legitimize t e usurpa I
f
proprialions
.
trated, and has mode them a means 0 new ap
45
If al l you " r supreme pri nci l "
law, it will be enou h
'
f
p es are based on the
h
9 I tomorrow Ih
'
I e abolilion of '
ere IS a law
prlvale property d th
call robbery and d l `
, an at which today
"
espo lotion would ' l
supreme principle",
lOstant y
AMBR OGI O: Oh! But the law m
'
to the principles of ' h
usl be lustl It must
fig ts and moral i ty d
result of unbridled h'
, an should not be
w I ms, or else,
GI ORGI O' S " , 0, It S not the law th t
whi ch justify law !h b
a creates rights, but
wealth, both natual ::alt
what ri ght does al l the
humani t bel ong to f
'
,
and that created by the work
a ew IOd' 'd l
right of l i fe and death L
IYI ua s and gi ves them
leged?
ver the masses of the OOr=r--~
AMBR OGI O' I ' , t IS the right that
must have, to dispose h | f
every person has,
,
ee y o the p d f
IS natural to human'ty , h
ro uel 0 thei r activity
b
I , Wit out it l ` `
'
een possible,
CIVI Isahon would not
GI ORGI O
. '^
ll . , I never! Here
of the rights of labour B
we now have a defender
Ihose who work are Ih
ravo
h
, reallyl But tell me, how come
ty II
ose w 0 have nothi h'
actua y belongs 10 Ih h
ng, w lIe proper-
ose w 0 don'l work?
Doesn't it occur to you that the | `
ory is that the present p
.
oglcal outcome of your the-
,
ropnetors a th'
tlce, we need to expropr' I h '
re leves and that, in jus-
h' h
lL e t em lH L d
.
W I C they have usu d '
r er to give the wealth
rpe to Its l 'I'
ers?
egl Imale owners the k
4
, Wor -
AM
bk
CL
| C. If there are some proprietors who do not
wok
i t is b
ecause
they
were the first to work, they or thei r
ance
stors, and had the
merit to save and the genius to make
m|r sa
vi ngs bear frui t,
L|CkL| C. Indeed, can you i magi ne a worker, who as a
rule, earns
scarcely enough to keep
hi mself alive,
saving
and
putting together some wealthl
You know very wen that the origin of property i s violence,
robery and theft, legal or i l l egal . But, let's assume if you
like that someone has made some economies of production
in hi s work, his own personal work: i f he wonts to enioy
lem later on, when and how he wishes, that is fi ne. But thi s
view of things changes completely however when the
process begi ns of maki ng hi s savi ngs, what you cal i, bear
fuit. This means making others work and steal i ng from them
a port of what they produce; i t means hoardi ng some goods
and sell ing ,hem at a price hi gher than their cost; i t means
the artificial creation of scarcity in order to speculate upon
it; it means taking away from others their livelihood derived
from worki ng freely in order to force them to work for poor
wages; and many other si mi l ar thi ngs whi ch do not corre
spond to a sense of justice and demonstrate that propert,
when it does not derive from strai ghtforward and open rob
bery, derives from the work of others, whi ch proprietors
have, in one way or another, turned to their own advantage.
Does it seem just to you thaI a person who has, (let us con
cede). by their work and their geni US put together a little
ca
pital,
can because of this rob others of Ihe products of
their
work, and furthermore bequeath to all the generations
A/
J
of his descendants the right to l ive in idleness on the
of workers?
Does it seem j ust to you that, because there have been a
laborious and thri ft men - I say this to bri ng out your
- that hove accumulated some capital, the great mass
humani ty must be condemned to perpetual poverty and
telisation?
And, on the other hand, even if someone had worked
themselves, with their muscl es and thei r brai ns
exploiting anybody; even if, agai nst all the odds, such a
had been able to produce much more than they
wi thout the di rect or i ndi rect cooperation of the society as
whole, it does not mean because of thi s that they should
authorised to do harm to others, to take away from
the means of existence. I f someone bui l t a road al ong
shore they coul d not, because of this, argue for a right
deny the access of others to the sea
.
I f someone coul d
and cul tivate on their own al l the soil of a province,
could not presume because of this to starve all the
tants of that province. If someone had created some new
and powerful means of production, they would not have the
right to use their invention i n such a way as to subject pee
pie to their rul e and even less of bequeathi ng to the count
l ess successions of their descendants the right to domi nate
and exploit future generations.
But I am losing my way to suppose for a moment that propri
etors are workers or the descendants of workers! Woul d you
l i ke me to tell you the origi n of the wealth of all the gentle
men in our communi ty, both of noblemen of ancient stock as
well as the nouveou riches`
48
.
harity
let's l eave aside
person-
AMbkl
L|
C.
No,
no, !1
c
'
o
moners.
. d b
doublul means this
riches acq
ui re
Y
Th
I
"
ere
are
some
d
y the ri ght to p
rop
ert.
e
.
d
reason to
en
bl
&
not
proVI
e a
f i t di g
up
old
pro
ems
` m
past and it's not use u
0
pst IS
e
'
again
.
,
them
buried
if that
'
s what yOU
GIORGI O: We I\
leave
d ' t i s not i m
portant.
I ndi vi dual
f
l am
concerne
I
, h
wont. A
or as
ch because I t
as
I d b
boli sh
ed,
not so mu
h
ntoperty
shou
e a
.
ble
means,
as muc
.
d b
or less q
ueshOna
be
n acq
uire
Y more
. d the me
ans to exp
loit the
t
ants
the
right an
k
as because I gr
t
` l l always end up
ma -
rk of others, and i ts developmen Vl
f
f
Ie
dep
endent on a
ew.
ing the
great mass 0
peop
.
!ify
i ndividu
al landed prop-
But, by the way, how can
yo
\US"
't tell me that thi s
h
f savl ngs I OU can
erty with
your t
eery a
f

th
detors or of th
ei r
d f
th
work a
e prop
was produce rom
e
ancestors?
l `
t d
sterile
l and has no
ANbRCCl C. You see.
Unc
,
u ha e
K
.
t yield
and natu-
.
clai m It
ma e I
,
value. People occupy It, re
. h
'
Id 't have been
pre
h
s whlc
wou n
rally have a rig t to Its crop ,
duced without their work on the
l and.
. ht of t he
worker t o the
| CRCl C All right: t hi s i s t he fig
h n he ceas-
b t thi s
right ceases w e
fruils of hIS own labour ; u
d D
't au think so?
es to cultivate the lan , on y
t ro detors p
ossess terr iter
Now, how i s it that the presen p
P
k
have
never
h
they
do
not
war ,
ries, often i mmense,
t at
ll
thers t work?
f
tl
do
not a ow 0
worked and most requen Y
49
How is it that lands that have never been
cultivated are
vately owned?
Whot is Ihe
work,
what is the which
may
have
gi ven a
dale
of origi n, i n this
case, to
erty
rights ?
gi n of
priv
ate property, is violence. And you
cannot fully
ius/ify it, i f you don't accept the pri nc
iple
that
e
quals force, and in thaI case . . . heaven help you i f one
you become the
most enfe
ebled.
AMB ROGI O: But in short, you l ose Sight of social uti/'
the
i nh
erent necessity
of ci vi l sOciety.
Without Ihe
righl
property there Would be no se
curity, no
more orderly
and society would
dissolve in
chaos.
G
l OR G I 0; What! Now you talk of soci al
utility?
But
i n
our eodier conversations I only co
ncerned myself
with
damage produced by
private
prOp
erty, you
called
me
to argumenls about abstract rightsl
Enough
for this eveni ng. EXc
use me but I have to go. We'll
go
i nto it another time.
50
S I X
GI OR GI O: Wel l , have you heard what has tllpeme
Someone told a newspaper about the conversation that
had last time, and for havi ng publ i shed it, the neSDaCl
has been gagged.
AMB R OGI O: Ah !
GI OR GI O: Of course, it goes wi thout saying you
know anyth i ng . . . ! I don't understand how you can cl ai m
be so confident of your i deas when you are so afrai d of
publi c heari ng some di scussi on of them. The paper fal
reported both your arguments and mi ne. You ought t
happy that the publ i c is able to appreci ate the rational
upon whi ch the present social constitution rests, and
j ustice to t he futile cri ti cisms of i t s adversari es. 'nstead
shut people up, you si lence them.
AMB R OGI O: I am not involved at al l; I bel ong to the judi
ci al magistracy and not to the publ ic mi ni stry.
GI OR GI O: Yes, , know! But, you are colleagues al l the
same and the same spi ri t ani mates you a ll .
I f my chatter annoys yu, tell me . . . and I wil l go and chatter
somewhere else.
52
AMBROGI O: No, no, on the contrary - I confess that I am
intrested. Let's conti nue; as regards the restrai ni ng order I
will, if you l i ke, put in a good word wi th the Publ i c
Prosecutor. After al l , with the law as i t i s, no one i s deni ed
te ri ght to di scussi on.
GI ORGI O: let's conti nue, then . tast ti me, i f I remember
rightly, in defendi ng the ri ght to property you took as the
present basi s positive law, in other words the ci vi l code, then
a sense of justice, then social util i t. Permi t me to sum up, in
a fw words, my i deas wi th respect to al l thi s.
From my poi nt of vi ew i ndivi dual property i s uniust and
immoral because i t i s founded ei ther on open violence, on
fud, or on the legal expl oi tati on of the labour of others;
and i t is harmful because it hi nders production and prevents
the needs of al l bei ng satisfied by what can be obtai ned
from l and and labour, because i t creates poverty for the
masses and generates hatred, crimes and most of the evils
that affl i ct modern society.
For these reasons I would l i ke to abol i sh i t and substitute a
property regi me based on common ownershi p, in whi ch al l
people, contri buti ng their just amount of l abour, wi l l receive
te maxi mum possi ble level of wellbei ng.
53
AMBROGI O: Really, 1 can't see with what logic you
arrived at common property. You hove fought agai nst
erty because, according to you, it derives from violence
from the exploitation of the labour of others; you have
that capital ists regulate production with on eye to thei r
i ts and not the belter t sati sfy to Ihe publ ic need with
least possible effort of the workers; you have denied the
to obtoi n revenue from land which one has not
onesel f, to derive a profit from one's own money or to
i nterest by i nvesting in the construction of houses and
other i ndustries; but you have, however, recogni sed the
of workers to the products of thei r own labour, actually
have championed it. As L consequence, according to
logiC, on these criteria you can challenge the verification
the titles to property, and demand the abolition of i nterest
money and private i ncome; you may even ask for the
dation of the present society and the division of l and and
i nstruments of labour among those who wish to use them . . .
but you cannot talk of communi sm. Individual ownership
the products of one's labour must olways exist; and, | you
want your emanci pated worker to have that security i n the
future without whi ch no work wi l l be done whi ch does not
produce an immediate profit, you must recognise i ndividual
ownershi p of the land and the i nstruments of produdion t
the extent they are used.
GI OR GI O: Excellent, please conti nue; we could say that
even you are tarred with the pi tch of soci al i sm. You are of a
socialist school di fferent from mi ne, but it is still social i sm. A
soci al i st magi strate is on i nteresting phenomenon.
3
AMBR OGI O: No, no, I 'm no socialist. l was onl y
strating your contradictions and showi ng you that
you shoul d be a mutuo/isl and not a communist a
of the division of property.
'
And then I would have to say to you that the di vi si on of
erty i nto smal l portions woul d render any l arge AnlrArr\ri .
impossible and result in general poverty.
GI OR GI O: But I am not a mutual i st, a partisan of the
sion of property, nor is, as for as | know, any other
socialist.
I don't thi nk that di vi di ng property would be worse than
i ng i t whole i n the hands of the capitalists; bul I know
thi s di vi si on, where possible, would cause grave damage
production
.
Above al l i t could not survive and would lead,
agai n to the formation of great fortunes, and to the
OIf: POf~
ionisation of the masses and, in the biler end, to ``
and exploitation.
I say that the worker hos lhe r|qht to lhe enlire produLl of hs
work. but l recogni se that thi s ri ght is onl y a formula of
abstract j ustice; and means, in practice, that there shoul d be
no exploitation, that everyone must work and enjoy the fruits
of thei r labour, accordi ng to the custom agreed among them.
Workers are not isolated beings that l i ve by themselves and
for themselves, but social beings that live i n a continuous
exchange of services with other workers, and they must
coordi nale thei r rights with those of the others. Moreover i t
is i mpossible, the more so wi th modern production methods,
to determi ne the exact l abour that each worker contri buted,
D
. .
.
p
Ossible to
determi ne the
di fferences i n produc
t
as ,t ,s ,m

of each
worker or each
group of orkers, hw much i s
g t the fertility of the soil, t he quality
.
of t he
I mpl ements
u, the
advantages or difficul ties flOWi ng from the
geo
graphical situation or the social environmnt .
.
Hence, the
slution cannot be found in respect to Ihe
stnct fi ghts of each
prson,
but must be sought in fraternal agree
ment, i n solidar-

AMBRO
GI O: But, then, there i s no more l i berty.
GI
ORGI O: On the contrary, i t i s only then that there will
b liberty. You , so called liberals, call li berty the theoreti cal,
abstract right to do somethi ng; and you would be capable
of saying without smi l i ng, or bl ushi ng, that a person who
died of hunger because they were not able to procure food
fo themselves, was free to eat. We, on the contrary, ca\l l i b
em the possibility of doi ng somethi ng - and this l i berty, the
only true one, becomes greater as the agreement among
men and the support they give each other grows.
AMBROGI O: You said that i f property were to be di vi ded,
te great fortunes would soon be restored and there would
b a return to the ori gi nal situation. Why is this?
GI ORGI O: Because, at the beginning i t would be an
impossi bl e goal to make everyone perfectly equa\. There are
different sorts of land, some produce a lot with l ittle work
ond others a l i ltle with a lot of work; there are al l sorts of
advantages and di sadvantages offered by di fferent locali
ties; there are also great differences in physical and i ntellec-
D/
tva I strength between one person and another. Now,
these divi si ons rivalry ond struggl e would naturally arise:
besl l and, the best implements and the best sites would
the strongest, the most i nteHigent or the most
Hence, the best materi al means being i n the hands of
most gifed people, they would quickly find themselves in
position superior to others, and starting from these
advantages, would easily grow in strength, thus COlmer
i ng a new process of exploitation and expropriation of
weak, which would lead to the re-constitution of a
society.
AMBROGI O: So, reoUy seriously, you are a
You wont laws that would declare the share of each i n
ual t o be non-transferable and would surround the weak
serious legal guarantees.
G! OR GI O: Oh! You always thi nk that one can re
anythi ng with laws
_
You ore not a magistrate for nothing
laws are made and unmade to please the strongest.
Those who are a lille stronger ' than the average violate '
them; those who are very much stronger repeal them, and
moke others to suit their i nterests
.
AMBROGI O: And, so?
Gl ORGI O: Wel l then, I've al ready told you, it is necessary
to s ubstitute agreement and solidarity for str uggl e among
people, and to achi eve this it i s necessary first of all to abol
i sh individuol property.
58
Id be no problems with aB the
OGI O- But tnere wou
h
_\ bl
E
verythi ng belongs to
everybody, w oev-
oval a
e
_
k
d LO
doesn' t can make love; eat,
on wor
an
Wll
d
w
aots t C
h
a land of Plenty!
What
a goo
c I be merry!
On, w at
.
What a beautiful ma
dhouse! Hal Hal Hal
(- re cuting by want-
ORGI O- Conside
ri ng the IIgure you a
_ _
Gl
-
_
I d
f
of a society that mOl Otoms
_
ake a rahona e enee
h I"g
t m
f
I don't real l y thi nk that you
have muC
itlf with
brute orce,
1 laugh
about!
. B
seem to hove
d
.
I om a communist. ul you
Yes my
goo Si r,
.
f
.
m Next time I will try ond
$0strange nohons a communi s .
.
make you understand. for noW, good evenmg.
S E VE N
AMB ROGIO: Well, then, would you like to explain
what this communism of yours is all about.
GIORGIO: With pleasure.
Communism is a method of social organisation in
people, instead of fighting among themselves to mrnnn
natural advantages and alternatively exploiting and
ing each other, as happens in today's society, would
ate and agree to cooperate in the best interest of all.
from the principle that the land, the mines and all
forces belong to everybody, and that all the nrlIm,,1
wealth and acquisitions of previous generations also
to everybody, people, in communism, would wont t
cooperatively, to produce all that is necessary.
AMB ROGI O: J understand. You wont, as was stat
news-sheet that came to hand during an anarchist
trial,
each person fo produce according t their abili
t
and
sume according to their needs; or, for each to give
can and fake what they need. Isn't that so?
GIORGI O: In fact these are principles that we
repeat; but for them to represent correctly our concEmtiO
what a communist society would be like it is
nA,A!Sl
60
uderstand what is meant. It is not, obviously, about on
abslute right to satisfy all of one's needs, because needs
infinite, growing more rapidly than the means to satisfy
and so their satisfaction is always limited by produc-
capacity; nor would it be useful or just that the commu
in order to satisfy excessive needs, otherwise called
of a few individuals, should undertake work, out of
1,rti,.n to the utility being produced. Nor are we talking
employing all of one's strength in producing things,
token literally, this would mean working until one is
Iusted, which would mean that by maximising the satis
of human needs we destroy humanity.
we would like is for everybody t live in the best pos
way: so that everybody with a minimum amount of
will obtain maximum satisfaction. I don't know how to
you a theoretical formula which correctly depicts such
slte of affairs; but when we get rid of the social environ
of the
boss and the police, and people consider each
as family, and think of helping instead of exploiting
another, the practical formula for social life will soon be
In
any
case, we will make the most of what we know
what we can do, providing for piece-by-piece modifica
as
we learn to do things better.
61
AMB R OGI O: I understand: you are a partisan of the
au tas, as your comrades from France would say, that i s
say each person produces what he l i kes and throws in
heap, or, i f you prefer, brings to the communal wa
what he has produced; and each takes from the heap
ever he l i kes and whatever he needs. I sn't that so?
GI OR GI O: I notice that you decided to i nform yourself
l i ttle about th i s i ssue, and I guess that you have read the
documents more carefully than you normal ly do ,when you ,
send us to j ai l . If al l magistrates and pol i cemen di d this, the
thi ngs that they steal from us duri ng the searches would at
least be useful for somethi ng!
But, let's return to our discuss i on. Even thi s formul a of take
from the heap i s onl y a form of words, that expresses an '
i ncl i nati on to substi tute for the market spi ri t of today the
'
it of fraternity and sol i darity, but it doesn't i ndicate wi th
certai nty a definite method of social organ isation.
you coul d fi nd among us some who take that formula
Iy, because they suppose that work undertaken </ntn,<, IS'
Iy would always be abundant and that products would accu
mul ate in such quantity and variety that rules about work or
consumpti on would be poi ntl ess. But I don't thi nk l i ke that: I
beli eve, as I've told you, that humans al ways have more
needs than the means to satisfy them and I am gl ad of it .
because th i s is a spur to progress; and I thi nk that, even if
we coul d, i t would be an absurd waste of energy to produce .
bl i ndl y to provide for al l possible needs, rather than calcu .
l ati ng the actual needs and organ i si ng to sati sfy them
wit .
as little effort as possible. So, once agai n, the solution l i es in
accord between people and i n the agreements, expressed
62
or silent, that wi l l come about when they have achi eved
equal ity of condi ti ons and are i nspired by a feel i ng of soli-
darity.
Try to enter i nto the spi ri t of our programme, and don't
worry overmuch about for mulas that, in our party just l i ke
any other, are not pithy and stri ki ng but are al ways a vague
and inexact way of expressi ng a broad di rection.
AMBROGI O: But don't you real i se that communi sm i s the
negation of l i berty, and of human personal ity? Perhaps, i t
may have existed i n the begi nni ng of humanity, when human
beings, scarcely developed i ntellectually and moral ly, were
happy when they coul d sati sfy their materi al appetites as
members of the horde. Perhaps i t is possible in a rel i gi ous
sciety, or a monastic order, that seeks the suppressi on of
human passi on, and pri des i tsel f on the i ncorporation of the
individual into the rel i gi OUS community and clai ms obedi
enCe to be a prime duty. But in a modern soci ety, in whi ch
tere i s a great floweri ng of ci vi l i zati on produced by the free
activity of i ndivi dual s, with the need for i ndependence and
libery that torments and ennobles modern man, communi sm
i s not an i mpossi bl e dream, i t i s a return t o barbari sm. Every
activity would be paralysed; every promi si ng contest where
one could di sti ngui sh oneself, assert one's own i ndivi dual it,
e
xting
ui shed . . .
GI ORGI O: And so on, and s o on.
Come on. Don't waste your el oquence. These ar e well
known stock phrases . . . and are no more than a lot of brazen
and i rresponsi bl e l i es. Uberty, i ndi vi dual ity of those who di e
of hunger! What crude i rony! What profound hypocrisy!
63
You defend a society in which the great maj ority l ives i n
ti al conditions, a society i n whi ch workers di e of
and of hunger, i n which chi ldren di e by the thousands
mi l l i ons for l ack of care, i n which women prosti tute
selves because of hunger, in which ignorance clouds
mi nd, in which even those who are educated must sell
talent and l i e in order to eat, in which nobody i s sure
tomorrow - and you dare talk of l i berty and i ndividual it?
Perhaps, l i berty and the possi bi lity of devel opi ng one's
i ndiVidual i ty exist for you, for a smal l coste of privi leged
pie .. and perhaps not even for them. These some nn''iI"
persons are vi cti ms of the struggl e between one
being and another that pol l utes al l social life, and
would gain substantially if they were able to live in a
ty of mutual trust, free among the free, equal among
However can you mai ntai n the vi ew that sol i darity rnmtl ll
li berty and the development of the i ndivi dual ? If we were
cussi ng the fami ly - and we wi l l di scuss it whenever
want - you could not fai l to l et loose one of the usual
ventional hymns to that holy i nstitution, that foundation
etc. etc. Wel l , in the family what i s it we extol, if not
which generally exi sts - the l ove and sol idarity nrvnlllnl
among its members. Would you mai ntai n that the
fami l y members would be freer and their i ndividual ity
developed if i nstead of loving each other and
together for the common good, they were to steal, hate
hi t one another?
AMB R OGI O: But to regulate society l i ke a family,
organi se and to make a communi st societ function,
64
nee an i mmense centralisation, an iron despotism, and on
omnipresent state. I magi ne what oppressive power a gov
ernment would have that could di spose of al l social wealth
and assign to everyone the work they must do and the goods
they could consume!
GI ORGI O: Certai nly i f communi sm was to be what you
imagine it to b and how it i s conceived by a few authori
tarian schools then i t would be an i mpossible thi ng to
achieve, or, if possible, would end up as a colossal and very
complex tyranny, that would then i nevitably provoke a great
reoction.
But there i s none of thi s i n the communi sm that we want. We
want free communi sm, anarchism, if the word doesn't oHend
you. I n other words, we wont a communi sm whi ch is freely
organi sed, from bottom to top, starti ng from i ndivi dual s that
unite i n associations which slowly grow bit by bit i nto ever
more complex federations of associations, fi nal l y embraci ng
the whole of humanity i n a general agreement of coopera
tion and sol i dari ty. And j ust as thi s communi sm wi l l be freely,
constituted, it must freely mai ntai n itself through the wi l l of
those involved.
AMB ROGI O: But for thi s to become possible you would
need human beings to be angel s, for everyone to be al tru
ists!
I nstead people are by nature egoistical , wicked, hypo
critical and lazy.
GI O
R GI O: Certai nl y, because for communi sm to become
P
ossi bl e there i s a need that human bei ngs, portly because
of an i mpul se toward soci abi l i ty and portly from a clear
65
understandi ng of their i nterests, don't bear each other
but want to get on and to practice mutual ai d. But this
far from seemi ng an i mpossibil ity, is even now normal
common. The present social organi sation is a
cause of antagoni sm and conflict between cl asses and
viduals: and i f despite thi s society i s sti l l able to
itself and doesn't l i terally degenerate i nto a pack of
devouri ng each other, it is precisely because of the
human instinct for society that produces the thousand act
solidarity, of sympathy, of devoti on, of sacrifice that are
ried out every moment, without them even being
about, that makes possible the continuance of
notwithstandi ng the causes of di si ntegration that it
wi thi n itself.
Human bei ngs are, by nature, both egoistic and alrullhC
biologically pre-determi ned I would say prior to societ.
humans had not been egoistic, if, that i s to soy, they had
had the i nstinct of self-preservation, they coul d not
existed as i ndi vi dual s; and i f they hadn't been altruistc,
other words if they hadn't had the instinct of sacri Fi ci ng
selves for others, the first mani festation of whi ch one fi nds
the love of one's chi l dren, they coul d not have exi sted o
species, nor, most probably, have developed a social lif.
The coexistence of the egoistic and the altruistic
and the i mpossi bi l ity i n existing society of satisfying
ensures that today no one i s satisfied, not even those
are i n privileged positions. On the other hand communism
the social form i n whi ch egoism and al trui sm mi ngle -
every person wi l l accept i t because i t benefits everybod.
66
AMB R OGI O: It may be as you say: but do you thi nk
everybody would want and would know how t o adapt
selves to the duties that a communist society i mposes, if,
i nstance, people do not want to work? Of course, you
an answer for everything i n theory, as best suits your
ment, and you will tell me that work is an organic need,
pleasure, and that everybody wi l l compete to have as
as possible of such a pleasure!
G l OR G 1 0: I am not saying that, although I know that
would fi nd that many of my friends who would say so.
Accordi ng to me what is an organic need and a pleasure
movement, nervous and muscul ar activity; but work is a
ci pl i ned activity ai med at an obj ective goal, external to
organism. And I well understand how i t is that one may
fer horse-riding when, i nstead it is necessary to plant
bages. But, I beli eve that human beings, when they have
end in view, can adapt and do adapt to the conditions ne
essary to achieve it.
Si nce the products that one obtai ns through work are
sary for survival, and since nobody will have the means
force others to work for them, everyone will recognise
necessity of working and will favour that structure in wh
work wi l l be less ti ri ng and more productive, and that is,
my view, a communi st organi sati on.
Consider al so that in communi sm these same workers
ise and di rect work, and therefore have every i nterest in
making i t l i ght and enjoyable; consi der that in communism
there wi l l naturally develop a publ i c view that wi l l rOlmIJI'
idl eness as damaging to all, and i f there wi l l be
68
loafers, they wi l l only be an i nsi gnificant minority, whi ch
could be tolerated without any percepti ble harm.
AMB ROGI O: But suppose that in spite of your opti
mistic
forecasts there should be a great number of loafers,
what would you do? Woul d you support them? I f so, then
you mi ght as well support those whom you call the bour
geoi si e!
GI ORGI O: Trul y there i s a great difference; because the
bourgeoi s not only take part of what we produce, but they
prevent us from producing what we want and how we want
to produce it. Nonetheless I am by no means saying that we
should maintai n idlers, when they are in such numbers as to
cause damage: I am very afraid that i dleness and the habi t
of living off others may l ead to a desi re to command.
Communi sm i s a free agreement: who doesn't accept i t or
maintain it, remai ns outside of i t.
AMB ROG 1 0: But then there wi l l be a new underprivileged
class?
G l OR G 1 0: Not at al l . Everyone has the ri ght to land, to
the instruments of production and all the advantages that
human bei ngs can enj oy in the state of ci vi l i zation that
humani ty has reached. I f someone does not want to accept
a communist l i fe and the obl i gation that it supposes, i t is thei r
bUsiness. They and those of a l i ke mi nd wi l l come to an
agreement, and i f they fi nd themsel ves i n a worse state than
te others this will prove to them the superiority of commu
nism and wi l l impel them to unite with the communists.
69
AMB R OGI O: So therefore one will be free not t
communism?
GI OR GI O: Certai nly: and whoever it is, will have
same rights as the communi sts over the natural wealth
accumulated products of previous generations. For
sake! ! I have always spoken of free agreement, of free
muni sm. How could there be l i berty without a possible
native?
AMB R OGI O: So, you don't want to impose your
with force?
GI OR GI O: Oh! Are you crazy? Do you take u s for
men or magi strates?
AMB R OGI O: Well, there is nothing wrong then .
is free to pursue their dream!
G l OR G I 0: Be careful not to make a bl under: to
ideas i s one thi ng, to defend onesel f from thieves and
l ence, and regain one' s rights i s something el se.
AMBR OGI O: Ah! Ah! So to regain your rights you
u se force, is that right?
GI OR GI O: To thi s I won't give you an answer: it ma
useful to you in putti ng together a bi l l of i ndi ctment i n
trial. What I will tel l you i s that certai nly, when the
have become conscious of their rights and want t put
end to . . . you wil l run the ri sk of bei ng treated rather
70
But thi s will depend on the resi stance that you offer. If yo
/.
'th good will everything will be peaceful and aml-
gie
up Wi '
,
b. 'f on the contrary you are pig-headed, and I m sure
a
, I
o
.
' 1 1 be sO much Ihe worse for you. Go eveni ng.
tat you
WI
,
71
E I GHT
AMBROGI O: You know! The more I think about your
communism the more I am persuaded that you are . . . 0
original.
GIORGIO: And why is that?
AMBROGIO: Because you always talk about work,
ment, accords, agreements, but you never talk of
authority, of government. Who will regulate social life?
will be the government? How will it be constituted? Who
elect it? By what means will it ensure that laws are
ed and offenders punished? How will the various powers
constituted, legislative, executive or judicial?
G lOR G 1 0: We don't know what to do with all these
ers of yours. We don't want a government. Are you still
aware that I am an anarchist?
AMBROGIO: Well, I've told you that you are an
I could still understand communism and admit that it
be able to offer great advantages, if everything were t
still regulated by an enlightened government, which had
strength to make everybody have a respect for the law.
like this, without government, without law! What kind
muddle would there be?
72
GI ORGIO: I had foreseen this: first you were against com
munism because you said that it needed a strong and cen
tlise government; now that you have heard talk of a soci
e without government, you would even accept communism,
$ long as there was a government with an iron fist. In short,
it is liberty which scares you most of all!
ROG I 0: But this i s t jump out of the frying pan into
fire! What is certain is that a society without a govern
cannot exist. How would you expect things to work,
rules, without regulations of any kind? What will
is that someone will steer to the right, somebody else
te left and the ship will remain stationary, or more likely,
t the bottom.
R G I 0: I did not say that I do not want rules and reg
. Ilations. I said to you that I don't want a Government, and
b goernment I mean a power that makes laws and impos
them on everybody.
BROGIO: But if this government is elected by the peo
pe doesn't it represent the will of those same people? What
Culd you complain about?
73
GI OR GI O: T hi s is s i mpl y a l i e. A general, abstract, popu
l ar will i s no more than a metaphysical fancy. The publ i c i s
comprised of people, and people have a thousand di fferent
and varying wi l l s according to variations in temperament
and in ci rcumstances, and expecting to extract from them,
through the magi c operation of the ballot box, a general wi l l
common to al l i s s i mpl y an absurdi ty. I t woul d be i mpossi bl e
even for a singl e i ndividual to entrust to somebody el se the
execution of thei r wi l l on al l the questions that coul d ari se
during a gi ven peri od of ti me; because they themselves
could not say in advance what would be their will on these
various occasions. How coul d one speak for a collectivity,
people, whose members at the very ti me of produci ng a
mandate were al ready in disagreement among themselves?
Just thi nk for a moment at the way el ections are hel d - and
note that, I i ntend speaking about the way they would work
i f all the people were educated and independent and thus
the vote perfectly consci ous and free. You, for instance,
would vote for whoever you regard as best sui ted to serve
your interests and to apply your ideas. T hi s is al ready con
ceding a lot, because you have so many ideas and so many
different i nterests that you would not know how to find a per
son that thinks always l ike you on all i ssues: but wi l l i t be
then to such a person that you wi l l give your vote and who
wi l l govern you? By no means. Your candidate mi ght not be
successful and so your wil l forms no part of the so cal l ed
popul ar wi l l : but let's suppose that they do succeed.
On thi s basi s woul d thi s person be your ruler? Not even i n
your dreams. T hey would only be one among many (in the
Italian parl iament for i nstance one among 535) and you in
74
reality wi l l be rul ed by a maj ority of people to whom you
have never g i ven your mandate. And thi s maj ority (whose
members have received many different or contradictory
mandates, or better still have received only a general del e
gation of power, without any specific mandate) unable, even
if i t wanted to, to ascertain a non-existent general will, and
to make everybody happy, wi l l do as it wishes, or wi ll follow
the wishes of those who domi nate i t at a parti cul ar moment.
Come on, it's better to leave asi de thi s ol d-fashioned pre
tence of a government that represents the popul ar wi l l .
T here are certainly some questions of general order, about
which at a gi ven moment, all the people wi l l agree. But,
then, what i s the poi nt of government? When everybody
wants something, they wi l l only need to enact i t.
AMB R OGI O: Wel l i n short, you have admitted that there
i s a need for rul es, some norms for l i vi ng. Who shoul d estab
l i sh them?
G l OR G I 0: T he interested parties themselves, those who
must follow these regulations.
AMB R OGI O: Who would i mpose observance?
GI OR GI O: No-one, because we are talking about norms
whi ch are freely accepted and freely followed. Don't con
fuse the norms of whi ch I speak, that are practical conven
tions based on a feeling of sol i darity and on the care that
everyone must have for the collective interest, with the law
whi ch i s a rule written by a few and i mposed with force on
everybody. We don't want laws, but free agreements.
75
AM B R OG I 0: And if someone violates the agreement?
GI ORGIO: And why should someone violate an agree
ment with which they have has concurred? On the other
hand, if some violations were to take place, they would
serve as a notification that the agreement does not satisf
everybody and will have to be modified. And everybody
will search for a better arrangement, because it is in every
body's interest that nobody is unhappy.
AMBROGIO: But it seems that you long for a primitive
society in which everyone is self-sufficient and the relations
between people are few, basic and restricted.
GI ORGIO: Not at all. Since from the moment that social
relations multiply and become more complex, humanity
experiences greater moral and material sati sfaction, we will
seek relationships as numerous and complex as possible.
AMBROGIO: But then you will need to delegate functions,
to give out tasks, to nominate representatives in order to
establish agreements.
GIORGIO: Certainly. But don't think that this i s equivalent
to nominating a government. The government makes laws
and enforces them, while in a free SOCiety delegation of
power is only for particular, temporary tasks, for certain
jobs, and does not give rights to any authority nor any spe
cial reward. And the resolutions of the delegates are always
subject to the approval of those they represent.
76
AMBROGI O: But you don't i magi ne that everyone wi l l
always agree. If there are some people that your soci al
order does not sui t, what wi l l you do?
GI OR GI O: Those people wi l l make whatever arrange
ments best suit them, and we and they will reach an agree
ment to avoid botheri ng each other.
AMBR OGI O: And if the others want to make trouble?
GI OR GI O: Then . . . we will defend ourselves.
AMBROGI O: Ah! But don't you see that from this need for
defence a new government mi ght ari se?
GI OR GI O: Certai nl y I see it: and i t is precisely because of
Ihi s that I've always sai d that anarchi sm is not possible unti l
the most seri ous causes of conflict are el i mi nated, a soci al
accord serves the i nterests of al l , and t he spi rit of sol i darity
is well developed among humani ty.
If you want to create anarchi sm today, l eavi ng i ntact i ndi vi d
ual property and the other soci al i nstitutions that deri ve from
it, such a ci vi l war woul d i mmediately break out that a gov
ernment, even a tyranny, would be welcomed as a blessi ng.
But i f at t he same ti me that you establ i sh anarchi sm you abol
ish i ndi vi dual property, the causes of conflict that will s urvive
wi l l not be i nsurmountabl e and we wi l l reach an agreement,
because with agreement everyone will be advantaged.
78
f
After al l , it is understood that i nstitutions are only worth as
much as the people that make them function - and anar
chi sm in parti cul ar, that is the rei gn of free agreement, can
nol exist i f people do not understand the benefits of solidar
ity and don't want to agree.
That is why we engage in spreadi ng propaganda.
79
N I N E
AMB R OGI O: Allow me to return to your anarchi st com
muni sm. Frankl y I cannot put up with it . . .
GI OR GI O: Ah! I bel ieve you. After havi ng l i ved your l i fe
between codices and books of law i n order to defend the
rights of te State and those of the proprietors, a society
without State and proprietors, in whi ch there wi l l no l onger
be any rebel s and starving peopl e to send to the gal leys,
must seem to you l i ke somethi ng from another worl d.
But i f you wi sh t o set asi de t hi s attitude, i f you have the
strength to overcome your habits of mind and wi sh t reflect
on t hi s matter without bios, you would easi l y u nderstand,
that, al lowing that the ai m of society has to be the greatest
well being for al l , one necessarily arrives at anarchist com
muni sm as the sol uti on. If you thi nk on the contrary that soci
ety i s mode to engross a few pl easure loving i ndivi dual s at
the expense of the rest, wel L . . .
AMBR OGI O: No, no, I admi t that society must have a s a
goal the wel l-bei ng of al l , but I cannot because of thi s accept
your system. I am trying hard to get i nsi de your point of
vi ew, and si nce I have token on i nterest i n the di scussion I
wou l d l i ke, at least fr myself, to have a cl ear ideo of what
you wont: but your concl usions seem to be so utopi an, so . . . .
80
.. 1
G l OR G 1 0: But i n short, what is it that you find obscure or
unacceptable in the explanation that I have given you.
AMBR OGI O: There i s . . . I don't know . . . the whole system.
Let's leave asi de the question of ri ght, on whi ch we wi l l not
agree; but let us suppose that, as you mai ntai n, we al l have
on equal ri ght t enjoy the existing wealth, I admi t that com
muni sm would seem to be the most expeditious arrangement
and perhaps the best. But, what seems to me absolutely
i mpossible, i s a societ without government.
You bui ld the whole of your edifice on the free wi l l of the
members of the association . . .
GI OR GI O: Precisely.
AM B R OG 10: And thi s is your error. Society means h ierar
chy, disci pl i ne, the submission of the i ndi vi dual to the collec
tive. Without authority no societ is possi bl e.
GI OR GI O. Exactly the reverse. A society i n the strict sense
of the word can only exist among equals; and these equal s
make agreements among themselves if i n them they fi nd
pleasure and convenience, but they wi l l not submit to each
other.
81
Those relations of hierarchy and submi ssi on, that to you
seem the essence of society, are relations between slaves
and masters: and you woul d admit, I hope, that the slave is
not really the partner of the master, just as a domestic ani
mal is not the partner of the prson who possesses i t.
AM B R 0 G I 0: But do you trul y bel ieve i n a society i n whi ch
each person does what they want!
GI OR GI O: On condition i t' s understood that people want
to l ive i n a society and therefore will adapt themselves ta the
necessities of soci al l ife.
AMB R OGI O: And i f they don't wish to?
GI OR GI O: Then society would not be possibl e. But si nce
i t i s only wi thi n society that humanity, at least i n its modern
form, can satiSfy its material and moral needs, i t is a strange
supposition that we would wi sh to renounce what is the pre
condition of life and well bei ng.
People have di fficulty i n coming to agreement when they dis
cuss matters in abstract terms; but as soon as there is some
thi ng to do, that must be done and whi ch is of i nterest to
everybody, as long as no one has the means to i mpose their
wi ll on others and to force them to do things their way, obsti
nacy and stubbornness soon cease, they become conci l i ato
ry, and the thing i s done with the maxi mum possibl e satisfac
tion to everyone.
You must understand: nothi ng human i s possible without the
wi l l of humanity. The whole problem for us l i es in changi ng
thi s wi l l , that i s to say it means maki ng people understand
82
that to war agai nst each other, to hate each other, to exploit
each other, i s to lose everythi ng, and persuadi ng them to
wish for a soci al order founded on mutual support and on
solidarity.
AMBR OGI O: $0 to bring about your anarchi st commu
nism you must wait until everybody is so persuaded, and has
the wi l l to make it work.
GI OR GI O: Oh, no! We'd be ki ddi ng ourselves! Will i s
mostly determined by t he soci al environment, and i t i s prob
able that whi l e the present conditions last, the great majori
ty wi l l continue to bel ieve that soci ety cannot be organized
in other ways from what now exists.
AMBROGI O: Wel l then?!
GI OR GI O' $0, we wi l l create communi sm and anarchi sm
among ourselves . . . when we are i n sufficient numbers to do
it convinced that if others see that we are doi ng wel l for
ourselves, they wi l l soon follow suit Or, at least, if we can
not achieve communism and anorch i sm, we wi l l work to
change social conditions i n such a way as to produce a
change of wi l l i n the desi red di rection.
You must understand; thi s i s about a reciprocal i nteraction
between the wi l l and the surroundi ng social conditions, . . We
are doi ng and wi l l do whatever we can do so that we move
towards our ideal .
What you must clearly understand i s t hi s. We do not want to
coerce the wi l l of anyone; but we do not want others to
83
coerce our wi l l nor that of the publ i c. We rebel agai nst that
mi nority which through violence exploits and oppresses the
people. Once l i berty i s won for ourselves and for al l , and, it
goes without sayi ng, the means to be free, i n other words
the ri ght to the use of land and of the i nstruments of produc
tion, we wi l l rely solely on the force of words and examples
to make our ideas tri umph.
AMB R OGI O: Al l right; and you thi nk that i n thi s way we
wi l l arrive at a society that governs itself si mpl y through the
voluntary agreement of its members? If that i s the case it
would be a thing without precedent!
G l OR G I 0: Not as much as you mi ght thi nk. As a matter of
fad, in essence it has always been l i ke that . . . that is i f one
considers the defeated, the domi nated, the oppressed
drawn from the lower levels of humani ty, as not really parI
of society.
Afer al l , even today the essential part of social l ife, i n the
domi nant class as in the domi nated cl ass, i s accompl ished
through spontaneous agreements, often unconsci ous,
between i ndi vi dual s: by virtue of custom, points of honour,
resped for promises, fear of publ ic opi ni on, a sense of hon
esty, love, sympathy, rules of good manners without any
i ntervention by the law and the government. Law and gov
ernments become necessary onl y when we deal with rela
tions between the domi nators and the domi nated. Among
equal s everyone feel s ashamed to cal l a pol iceman, or have
recourse to a judge!
I n despotic States, where al l the i nhabitants are treated l i ke
a herd in the service of the sole ruler, no one has a wi l l but
84
the sovereign . . . and those whom the soverei gn needs to
keep the masses submi ssive. But, little by l ittle as others
arrive and achi eve emanci pation and enter the domi nant
class, that i s society i n the strict sense of the word, either
through di rect participation i n government or by means of
possessi ng wealth, SOCiety moul ds itself i n ways whi ch satis
fy the wi l l of all the domi nators. The whole legi slative and
executive apparatus, the whol e government wi th i ts laws,
soldiers, policemen, j udges etc. serve only to regul ate and
ensure the exploitation of the people. Otherwise, the owners
would find it si mpler and more economical to agree among
themselves and do away with the state. The bourgeois them
selves have voiced the same opinion . . . when for a moment
they forget that without sol diers and policemen the people
would spoil the party.
Destroy cl ass divisions, make sure that there are no more
slaves to keep in check, and i mmediately the state wi l l have
no more reason to exist.
AMB R OGI O: But don't exaggerate. The State also does
thi ngs of benefit to al l . I t educates, watches over public
heal th, defends the lives of citizens, organi ses publ ic servic
es . . . don't tell me that these are worthl ess or damagi ng
thi ngs!
GI OR GI O: Ugh! - Done the way the State usual l y does it,
that i s hardly at all. The truth i s that it is always the workers
who really do those thi ngs, and the State, setti ng itself up as
their regul ator, transforms such services i nto i nstruments of
domi nation, turni ng them to the special advantage of the
rul ers and owners.
85
Education spreads, i f there is in the publ ic the desire for
i nstruction and i f there are teachers capabl e of educati ng;
publ i c health thrives, when the publ i c knows, appreciates
and can put into practice publ ic health rules, and when there
are doctors capable of giving people advice; the l ives of cit
izens are safe when the people are accustomed to consider
l i fe and human l i berties sacred and when . . . there are no
j udges and no police force to provide examples of brutality;
publ ic services wi l l be organised when the public feel s the
need for them.
The State does not create anythi ng: at best it is only other a
superfl uity, a worthless waste of energy. But if onl y it was j ust
usel ess!
AMB R OGI O: Leave it there. I n any case I thi nk you have
said enough. I want to reflect upon it.
Until we meet agai n . .
87
T E N
AM B R 0 G I O. I have reflected on what you have been
tell i ng me duri ng these conversations of ours . . . And I give up
the debate. Not because I admi t defeat; but. . . i n a word,
you have your arguments and the future may well be with
you.
I am, in the meanti me, a magistrate and as long as there is
l aw, I must respect i t and ensure that i t i s respected. You
understand . . .
GI OR GI O: Oh, I understand very wel l . Go, go i f you l i ke.
I t wi l l be up to us to abolish the law, and so free you from
the obligation to act agai nst your conscience.
AMB R OGI O: Easy, easy, I didn't say that . . . but, never
mi nd.
I woul d l i ke a few other explanations from you.
We could perhaps come to an understandi ng on the ques
tions regardi ng the property regi me and the politicol organ
isation of soci ety; after al l they are hi storic formations that
have changed many times and possi bly will change agai n.
But there ore some sacred i nstitutions, some profound emo
tions of the human heart that you continually ofend: the fam
ily, the fatherland!
88
For i nstance, you want t o put everythi ng i n common.
Naturally you wi l l put even women i n common, and thus
make a great seraglio; i sn't thi s so?
G l OR G I 0: Listen; i f you want to have a di scussi on with
me, please don't say fool i sh thi ngs and make jokes in bad
taste. The question we are deal i ng with i s too serious to i nter
pose vul gar j okes!
AMB R OGI O: But . . . I was serious. What would you do
with the women?
G l OR G I 0: Then, so much the worse for you, because i t i s
really strange that you don't understand the absurdity of
what you have j ust sai d.
Put women i n common ! Why don't you say that we want to
put men in common? The onl y explanation for thi s idea of
yours is that you, through i ngrai ned habit, consider woman
as an inferior being made and placed on this world to serve
as a domestic ani mal and as an i nstrument of pleasure for
the male sex, and so you speak of her as i f she were a thi ng,
and i magi ne that we must assi gn her t he same destiny as we
assi gn to thi ngs.
89
But, we who consi der woman as a human bei ng equal to
ourselves, who shoul d enjoy al l the ri ghts and al l the
resources enjoyed by, or that ought to be en joyed, by the
male sex, find the question, "What wi l l you do with the
women?" empty of meani ng. Ask i nstead: "What will the
women do?" and I wi l l answer that they wil do what they
want to do, and si nce they have the same need as men to
l i ve i n a soci ety, i t i s certai n that they wil want to come to
agreements wi th thei r fellow creatures, men and women, i n
order to sati sfy their needs to the best advantoge for them
selves and everybody else
AMB R OGI O: I see; you consi der women as equal to men.
Yet many scientists, exami ni ng the anatomi cal structure and
the physiologi cal functions of the female body, mai ntain that
woman i s naturally i nferior to man.
GI OR GI O: Yes, of course. Whatever needs to be mai n
tai ned, there is al ways a sci enti st wi l l i ng to mai ntai n it. There
are some sci enti sts that mai ntai n the i nferiori ty of women as
there are others that, on the contrary, mai ntai n that the
understandi ng of women and their capaci ty for development
are equal to that of men, and i F today women generally
appear to have less capacity than men thi s i s due to the edu
cation they have received and the envi ronment in whi ch they
l i ve. I F you search carefully you wi l l even Fi nd some scientists,
or at least women scientists, that assert that man i s an i nFeri
or bei ng, destined to l i berate women From materi al toil and
leave them free to develop thei r tal ents in an unl i mited way.
I bel i eve that thi s view has been asserted i n America.
But who cares. Thi s i s not about resol Vi ng a sci entiFic prob
l em, but about real iSi ng a vow, a human i deal .
90
Give to women al l the means and the l i berty to develop and
what wi l l come wi l l come. If women are equal to men, or i f
they are more or l ess intel l i gent, i t wil l show i n practice
and even science will be advantaged, as it wi l l have some
positive data upon whi ch to base its i nductions.
AMB R OGI O: So you don't take i nto consideration the fac
ulties with whi ch i ndivi dual s are endowed?
G l OR G I 0: Not in the sense that these shoul d create spe
ci al rights. I n nature you will not fi nd two equal i ndivi dual s;
but we cl ai m soci al equality for al l , i n other words the same
resources, the same opportunities - and we thi nk that this
equal ity not onl y corresponds to the feel i ngs of iustice and
fraterni ty that have developed i n humanity, but works t the
benefit of all, whether they are strong or weak.
Even among men, among males, there are some who are
more and others who are less intelligent, but this does not
mean that the one shoul d have more rights than the other.
There are some who hold that bl ondes are more gi fted than
brunettes or vice versa, t hat races with oblong skul l s are
superior to those with broad skul l s or vice versa; and the
issue, i f i t is based on real facts, i s certai nly i nteresti ng for
science. But, given the current state of feel i ngs and human
ideal s, i t would be absurd t o pretend t hat bl ondes and the
dol i chocephal i c should command the browns and the
branchycephal ic or the other way round.
Don't you thi nk so?
AMB R OGI O: Al l right; but let's look at the question of the
92
fami ly. Do you want to abol i sh it or organise it on another
basi s?
GI OR GI O: Look. As far as the famil y i s concerned we
need to consider the economic relations, the sexual rela
tions, and the relations between parents and chi l dren.
I nsofar as the fami ly i s an economic i nstitution i t i s cl ear that
once i ndi vi dual property is abol i shed and as a consequence
i nheritance, i t has no more reason to exist and will de fcto
di sappear. In thi s sense, however, the famil y i s al ready abol
ished for the great majority of the population, which i s com
posed of proletari ans.
AMB R OGI O: And as far as sexual relations? Do you want
free love, do . . .
GI OR GI O: Oh, come on l Do you thi nk that enslaved love
coul d real l y exist? Forced cohabitation exists, as does
feigned and forced love, for reasons of i nterest or of soci al
convenience; probably there wi l l be men and women who
wi l l respect the bond of matrimony because of rel igious or
moral convictions; but true love cannot exist, cannot be con
cei ved, i f it i s not perfectly free.
AMB R OGI O: This i s true, but if everyone follows the fan
ci es i nspi red by the god of love, there will be no more
moral s and the world wi l l become a brothel.
GI OR GI O: As far as morals are concerned, you can real
Iy brag about the resul ts of your i nstituti ons! Adul tery, lies of
93
every sort, long cherished hatreds, husbands that ki l l wives,
wives that poison husbands, i nfanticide, chi l dren growing
up amidst scandal s and fami ly brawls . . . . And this i s the
moral i ty that you fear i s being threatened by free love?
Today the world is a brothel , because women are often
forced to prostitute themselves through hunger; and because
matrimony, frequently contracted through a pure cal culation
of i nterest, i s throughout the whole of its duration a uni on
i nto whi ch love either does not enter at al l , or enters only as
an accessory.
Assure everyone of the means to live properly and i ndepend
ently, give women the complete l i berty to di spose of thei r
own bodi es, destroy the prejudi ces, rel i gi ous and otherwise,
that bind men and women to a mass of conventions that
derive from slavery and which perpetuate it and sexual
unions will be made of love, and will give ri se to the happi
ness of individual s and the good of the species.
AMBR OGI O: But i n short, are you in favour of l asting or
temporary uni ons? Do you want separate coupl es, or a mul
ti pl i city and variety of sexual relations, or even promiscuity?
GI OR GI O: We want l i berty.
Up to now sexual relations have suffered enormously from
the pressure of brutal violence, of economic necessity, of reli
gious prej udi ces and l egal regu lati ons, that it has not been
possibl e to work out what is the form of sexual relations
which best corresponds to the phYSical and moral well being
of i ndivi dual s and the species.
94
Certai nly, once we el i mi nate the conditions that today ren
der the relations between men and women artificial and
forced, a sexual hygiene and a sexual morality wi l l be estab
l i shed that wi l l be respected, not because of the law, but
through the conviction, based on experience, that they satis
f our well being and that of the species. Thi s can only come
about as the effect of l iberty.
AMBR OGI O: And the chi l dren?
GI OR GI O: You must understand that once we have prop
erty i n common, and establ i sh on a sol i d moral and materi
al base the pri nci ple of social sol i darity, the mai ntenance of
the ch ildren wi l l be the concern of the communi ty, and thei r
education wi l l be the care and responsi bi l i ty of everyone.
Probably al l men and al l women wil l love al l the chi ldren;
and if, as I believe is certai n, parents have a special affec
tion for their own chi ldren, they can onl y be del i ghted to
know that the future of their chi ldren is secure, having for
their mai ntenance and thei r education the cooperation of the
whol e society.
AMBR OGI O: But, you do, at least, respect parents' rights
over their chi l dren?
GI OR GI O: Ri ghts over chi ldren are composed of duti es.
One has many ri ghts over them, that i s to say many ri ghts to
guide them and to care for them, to love them and to worry
about them: and si nce parents general l y love their chi ldren
more than anyone else, it i s usual l y their dut and their ri ght
95
to provi de for their needs. It i sn't necessary to fear any chal
lenges to this, because if a few unnatural parents give thei r
chi ldren scant love and do not look afer them they wi l l be
content that others wi l l take care of the chi ldren and free
them of the tasK.
I f by a parent's ri ghts over their children you mean the right
to maltreat, corrupt and exploit them, then I absolutely reject
those ri ghts, and ' thi nk that no society worthy of the name
woul d recognize and put up wi th them
AMBR OGI O: But don't you thi nk that by entrusting the
responsi bi l ity for the mai ntenance of chi ldren to the commu
nity you wi l l provoke such an increase i n population that
there will no l onger be enough for everyone to l i ve on. But
of course, you won't want to hear any talk of Malthusi ani sm
and wi l l say that i t i s an absurdi ty.
GI OR GI O: I told you on another occasion that i t is absurd
to pretend that the present poverty depends on overpopul a
tion and absurd to wish to propose remedi es based on
Malthusi an practices. But I am very wi l l i ng to recogni se the
seriousness of the population question, and I admit that in
the future, when every new born chi ld is assured of support,
poverty could be reborn due to a real excess of population.
Emanci pated and educated men , when they think it neces
sary, will consider placi ng a l i mi t to the overly rapid multipli
cation of the species; but I would add that they will think seri
ousl y about it only when hoarding and privileges, obstacles
placed upon production by the greedi ness of the proprietors
and all the social causes of poverty are el i mi nated, only then
wi l l the necessity of achieving a bal ance between the num-
96
ber of l i vi ng bei ngs, producflon capacities, and available
space, appear to everyone dear and si mpl e
AMIR OGI O: And i f people don't want to think about it?
GI OR GI O: Well then, all the worse for them!
You don't want to u nderstand: there is no providence,
whether divine or natural, that looks after the well-bei ng of
h umanity. People have to procure thei r own well bei ng,
doi ng what they thi nk i s useful and necessary to reach thi s
goal .
You always say: but what i f they don't want to? I n thi s case
they will achi eve nothi ng and will always remai n at the
mercy of the bl i nd forces that surround them.
So i t i s today: people don't know what to do to become free,
or i f they Know, don't want to do what needs to be done to
l iberate themselves. And thus, they remai n slaves.
Bul we hope thaI sooner than you mig ht think they wilt know
what to do and b capable of doi ng i t.
Then they wi l l be free.
97
E L E VE N
AMB ROGIO. The other day you concluded that every
thing depends on the will. You were saying that if people
want to be free, if they want to do what needs to be done to
live in a society of equals, everything will be fine: or if not
so much the worse for them. This would be all right if they
all want the same thing; but if some want to live in anarchy
and others prefer the guardianship of a government, if some
are prepared to take into consideration the needs of the
community and others want to enjoy the benefits derived
from social life, but do not want to adapt themselves to the
necessities involved, and want to do what they like without
taking into account the damage it could do to others, what
happens if there is no government that determines and
imposes social duties?
GI ORGIO: If there is a government, the will of the rulers
and of their party and associated interests will triumph - and
the problem, which is how to satisf the will of all, is not
resolved. On the contrary, the difficulty is aggravated. The
governing fraction can not only use its own resources to
ignore or violate the will of others, but has at its disposal the
strength of the whole society to impose its will. This is the
case in our present society where the working class provides
98
the government with the soldiers and the wealth to keep the
workers slaves.
I think I have already told you: we wont a society in which
everyone has the means to live as they like, where no ane
can force others to work for them, where no one can com
pel another to submit to their will. Once two principles are
put into practice, liberty for all and the instruments of produc
tion for all, everything else will follow naturally, through
force of circumstances, and the new society will organise
itself in the way that agrees best with the interests of all.
AMBROGIO: And if some wont to impose themselves by
crude force?
GIORGIO: Then they will be the government; or the can
didates for government, and we will oppose them with force.
You must understand that if today we wont to make a revo
lution against the government, it is not in order to submit aur
selves supinely t new oppressors. If such as these win, the
revolution would be defeated, and it would have to be re
made.
99
AMB R OGI O: But, you would surely al low some ethical
principl es, superior to the wills and caprices of humanity,
and to whi ch everyone is obliged to conform . . . at least
morally?
G l OR G I 0: What i s thi s moral ity that i s superior to the wi l l
of men? Who prescribed i t? From whence does it derive?
Morals change according to the times, the countries, the
classes, the ci rcumstances. They express what people at
given moments and in given circumstances, regard as the
best conduct. I n short, for each person good morals accord
wi th what they l i ke or what pleases them, for material or for
emotional reasons.
For you moral ity enj oi ns respect for the law, that is, submis
sion to the privileges enj oyed by your cl ass; for us it
demands a revolt agai nst oppression and the search for the
well being of everyone. For us all moral prescriptions are
comprehended by love between people.
AM B R 0 G 1 0: And the criminal s? Wi l l you respect their l i b
erty?
GI OR GI O: We bel i eve that to act cri mi nal ly means to vio
late the l i berty of others. When the cri mi nal s are many and
powerful and have organised their dominance on a stabl e
basis, as is the case, today, wi th the owners and rul ers, there
needs to be a revolution to l i berate oneself.
When, on the contrary, cri mi nal i ty is reduced to individual
100
cases of unsuitable behaviour or of i l l ness, we will atempt to
find the causes and to introduce them to appropriate reme
dies.
AMBR OGI O: I n the meantime? You wi l l need a police
force, a magistrature, a penal code, some gaolers, etc . . .
G l OR G I 0: And therefore, you would say, the reconstitu
tion of a government, the return to the state of oppression
under which we live today.
In fact, the major damage caused by crime is not so much
the single and transitory i nstance of the violation of the rights
of a few individual s, but the danger that it wi l l serve as an
opportunity and pretext for the constitution of an authority
that, with the outward appearance of defendi ng soci ety wi l l
subdue and oppress it.
We al ready know the purpose of the police and the magi s
trature, and how they are the cause rather than the remedy
of i nnumerable crimes.
We need therefore to try to destroy cri me by el i mi nating the
causes; and when there remains a residue of criminal s, the
collective di rectly concerned shoul d thi nk of plaCing them i n
a position where they can do no harm, without delegating
to anyone the specific function of persecuting cri mi nal s.
You do know the story of the horse whi ch asked protection
from a man, and al lowed hi m to mount on its back?
AMBR OGI O: All right. At this point I am only seeking
some information and not a di scussi on.
1 01
Another thi ng. Seei ng that in your soci ety al l are soci al l y
equal , al l have a ri ght to the same access to educati on and
development, all have ful l l i bert to choose thei r own l i fe,
how are you goi ng to provide for the necessary tasks. There
are pleasant and l abori ous jobs, healthy and unhealthy
j obs. Naturally each person wi l l choose the better jobs -
who would do the others, that are often the most necessary?
And then there i s the great di vi si on between i ntel l ectual and
manual l abour. Don't you thi nk that everyone would l i ke to
be doctors, Imerati, poets, and that no one would wish to
cul ti vate the land, make shoes etc. etc. Wel l ?
G l OR G I 0: You want t o look forward t o a future society, a
soci ety of equal i ty, l i berty and above al l sol i dari ty and free
agreement, presumi ng the conti nuati on of the moral and
material condi ti ons of today. Naturally the thi ng appears
and is i mpossi bl e.
When everybody has the means, everyone wi l l reach the
maxi mum materi al and intellectual devel opment that thei r
natural facul ti es wi l l permit: everybody wi l l be i ni ti ated i nto
intellectual joys and i nto productive labour; the body and
brai n wi l l develop harmoni ously; at different levels, accord
ing to capacity and i ncl i nation, everybody wi l l be sci entists
and lilterafi versed in l i terature and everybody wi l l be work
ers.
What woul d happen then?
I magi ne that a few thousand doctors, engi neers, lilterati,
and artists, were to be transported to a vast and ferti l e
i sl and, provided wi th the i nstruments of work and l eft to
themselves.
1 02
Do you thi nk that they wi l l let themselves di e of hunger rather
than worki ng with thei r own hands, or that they would ki l l
themselves rather than comi ng to an agreement and di vi di ng
work accordi ng to thei r i ncl i nati ons and thei r capacities? If
there were j obs that no one wanted to do, they would al l do
them i n turn, and everyone woul d search for the means to
make unhealthy and unpleasant jobs safe and enjoyable.
AM B R OG 1 0: Enough, enough, I must have another thou
sand questions to put to you, but you wander in a total
utopia and find i magi nary ways to resolve al l the problems.
I would prefer that you tal k to me about the ways and means
by whi ch you propose to real i se your dreams.
GI ORGI O: Wi th pleasure, so much so si nce as for as I am
concerned, even though the i deal i s useful and necessary as
a way of i ndi cati ng the fi nal goal , the most urgent question
i s what must be done today and in the i mmedi ate future.
We wi l l talk about i t next ti me.
1 03
TWE LVE
AMB R OGI O: So toni ght you wi l l talk to us about the
means by which you propose to attai n your ideals . . . to
create anarchi sm.
I can al ready i magi ne. There wi l l be bombs, massacres,
summary executions; and then pl under, arson and si mi l ar
ni ceti es.
GI ORGI O: You, my dear, si r, have si mpl y come to the
wrong person you must have thought you were tal ki ng to
some offi ci al or other who commands European soldiers,
when they go to civilise Africa or Asia, or when they civilise
each other back home.
That's not my style, please bel i eve me.
CE S AR E : I thi nk, my dear si r, that our fri end, who has at
l ast shown that he i s a reasonable young man al though too
much of a dreamer, awaits the tri umph of ideas through the
natural evol uti on of societ, the spread of education, the
progress of sci ence, the development of producti on .
And after al l there is nothi ng wrong with that. I f anarchi sm
has to come, it wi l l come, and it is useless to rack our brai ns
to avoi d t he i nevi tabl e.
But then . . . i t i s so far away! Let's live i n peace.
104
GI OR GI O: I ndeed, woul d that not be a good reason for
you to i ndul ge yoursel f!
But no, Si gnor Cesare, I don't rely on evolution, on sci ence
and the rest. One would have to wait too long! And, what
i s worse, one woul d wai t i n vai n!
Human evolution moves i n the di rection i n whi ch i t i s driven
by the will of humanity, and there is no natural law that says
evolution must i nevitably gi ve priority to l i berty rather than
the permanent di vi si on of society int two castes, I coul d
al most say i nto two races, that of the domi nators and that of
the domi nated.
Every state of society, because i t has found suffi ci ent reasons
to exist, can al so persist i ndefi ni tely, so long as the domi na
tors don't meet a conscious, acti ve, aggressive opposition
from the domi nated. The factors of di Si ntegration and spon
taneous death whi ch exist i n every regime, even when there
are compensatory factors of reconstruction and vi tal i ty to act
as antidotes, can always be neutralized by the ski l l of who
ever di sposes of the force of soci ety and di rects it as they
wi sh.
I coul d demonstrate to you, i f I wasn't afrai d of taki ng too
much time, how the bourgeoi si e are protecti ng themselves
1 05
from those natural tendencies, from whi ch certai n soci al ists
were expecting thei r i mmi nent death.
Science i s a potent weapon that can be used equal l y for
good or for evi l . And si nce in the current condi ti ons of
i nequal i ty, i t is more accessi bl e to the privileged than the
oppressed, i t i s more useful to the former than the latter.
Educati on, at least that whi ch goes beyond a superfi ci al
smateri ng, i s al most usel ess, and i s i naccessi bl e to the
underprivi leged masses - and even then it can be di rected
in a way chosen by the educators, or rather by those who
pay and choose the educators.
AMBROGI O: But, then all that is left is viol ence!
GI ORGI O: Namely, the revol uti on.
AMB R OGI O: Vi ol ent revol uti on? Armed revol uti on?
GI OR GI O: Precisely.
AMBR OGI O: Therefore, bombs . . .
GI OR GI O: Never mi nd al l that, Si gnor Ambrogio. You are
a magistrate, but I don't l i ke haVing to repeat that thi s i s not
a tri bunal , and, for the moment at least, I am not a defen
dant, from whose mouth i t would be in your i nterest to draw
some i mprudent remark.
The revol ution wi l l be violent because you, the domi nant
Ias, ai ntai n yourselves with violence and don't show any
I ncl mallon to give up peacefully. So there wi l l be gunfi re,
1 06
'1
bombs, radio waves that wi l l explode your deposits of explo
sives and the cartridges in the cartridge-boxes of your sol
diers from a distance . . . al l thi s may happen. These are tech
n ical questions that, if you l i ke, we'll leave to the techni ci ans.
What ' can assure you of i s that, as far os i t depends on us,
the violence, whi ch has been i mposed on us by your vio
lence, wi l l not go beyond the narrow l i mits i ndi cated by the
necessity of the struggle, that i s to say that i t wi l l above al l
be determi ned by t he resistance you offer. If t he worst shoul d
happen, i t wi l l be due to your obstinacy and the bloodthi rsty
education that, by your example, you are prOVi di ng to the
publ i c.
C E SA R E : But how wi l l you make thi s revol uti on, i f there are
so few of you?
G l OR G 10: It i s possi bl e that there is onl y a I i mi ted number
of us. I t suits you to hope so, and I don't want to toke thi s
sweet i l l usi on from you. I t means that we wi l l be forced to
double and then redoubl e our numbers . . .
Certai nly our task, when there are no opportuni ti es to do
more, i s to use propaganda t o gather a mi nority of con
sci ous i ndi vi dual s who wi l l know what they have to do and
are commited to doi ng i t. Our task i s that of prepari ng the
masses, or as much of the masses as possi bl e, to act in the
right di rection when the occasion arises. And by the right
di rection we mean: expropriate the current hol ders of social
wealth, throw down the authorities, prevent the formation of
new privileges and new forms of government and reorgan
ise di rectly, through the activity of the workers, production,
di stri buti on and the whole of soci al l i fe.
1 07
C E S AR E : And i f the occasion doesn't arise?
GI OR GI O: Wel l , we' l l look for ways to make i t happen.
P R OS P E R O: How many i l lusi ons you have, my boy! ! !
You t hi nk that we are still i n the time of stone-age weapons.
With modern arms and tactics you woul d be massacred
before you could move.
GI OR GI O: Not necessari l y. To new arms and tactics i t is
possible to oppose appropriate responses .
And then agai n, these arms are actually in the hands of the
sons of the peopl e, and you, by forCing everyone to under
take mi litary service, are teachi ng everybody how to handl e
them.
Oh! You cannot imagine how really hel pl ess you' l l be on the
day a sufficient number rebel.
It i s we, the proletariat, the oppressed class, who are the
el ectricians and gas-fitters, we who drive the locomotives, i t
i s we who make the explosives and s hape the mi nes, i t i s we
who drive automobil es and aeroplanes, it is we who are the
soldiers . . . i t i s we, unfortunately, that defend you agai nst our
selves. You onl y survive because of the unwitting agreement
of your victi ms. Be careful of awakening thei r conscious
ness . . .
And then you know, among anarchi sts everybody governs
their own actions, and your police force i s used to looking
everywhere, except where the real danger i s.
1 08
,. I
But I do not intend to give you a course in i nsurrectional tech
n ique. This is a matter that. . .does not concern you.
Good eveni ng.
1 09
T H I RT E E N
VI NCE NZO [Young Republican]: Permi t me to enter into
your conversation so that I can ask a few questions and
make a few observati ons?" , Our friend Gi orgi o tal ks of anar
chi sm, but says that anarchi sm must come freely, without
imposition, through the will of the people. And he al so says
that to give a free outlet to the people's wi l l there is a need
to demol ish by i nsurrection the monarchic and mi l itarist
rei me which today suffocates and falsifies thi s wi l l . This is
what the republ icans want, at least the revolutionary repub
l i cans, in other words those who truly want to make the
republic. Why then don't you declare yourself a republican?
In a republic the people are sovereign, and i f one does what
the people want, and they want anarchism there will be
anarchi sm,
GI OR GI O: Truly I believe I have always spoken of the wil
of humanit and not the wil of the people, and if I said the
lalter it was a Form of words, an i nexact use of l anguage,
that the whole of my conversation serves, after al l , t correct.
V I NC E NZ O: But, what is all thi s concern with words?! !
I sn't the public made u p of human bei ngs?
1 1 0
I
!
G l OR G I 0: It i s not a question of words. I t is a question of
substance: it is al l the difference between democracy, whi ch
means the government of the people, and anarchism, whi ch
does not mean government, but l iberty For each and every
one,
The people are certai nly made up of humanity, that is of a
conscious uni t, i nterdependent as Far as they choose, but
each person has thei r own sensitivities and their own inter
ests, passions, particular wi l l s, that, according t the situa
tion, augment or annul each other, reinForce or neutralise
each other i n tur n. The strongest, the best-armed will, of an
i ndiVidual, of a party, of a class abl e to domi nate, i mposes
itselF and succeeds i n passing itselF of as the wi l l of all; i n
reality that whi ch calls itself the will of the people i s the wi l l
of those who domi nate - or i t's a hybri d product of numeri
cal calculations which don't exactly correspond to the will of
anyone and which satisfies none,
Already by their own statements the democrats, that i s the
republ icans !because they are the only true democrats)
admi t that the scalled government of the people is only the
government of the majorit, which expresses and carries out
its will by means of it representatives. ThereFore the "sover-
1 1 1
ei gnty" of the mi nority is si mpl y a nomi nal ri ght that does not
translate i nto action; and note that thi s "mi nority" i n addition
to being often the most advanced and progressive port of
the population, may al so be the numeri cal maj ority when a
mi nority united by a community of i nterests or ideas, or by
thei r submi ssi on to a leader, find themselves facing many
di scordant factions.
But the party whose candi dates succeed and whi ch therefore
governs in the name of the majority, is i t really a government
that expresses the wi l l of the majority? The functioning of a
parl iamentary system ( necessary in every republic that is not
a smal l and isolated i ndependent commune) ensures that
each representative is a si ngl e unit of the electoral body, one
among many, and only counts for a hundredth or a thou
sandth i n the maki ng of l aws, whi ch ought i n the fi nal analy
si s be the expression of the wi l l of the maj ority of electors.
And now, let's leave asi de the question of whether the repub
l i can regi me can carry out the wi l l of al l and tell me at least
what you want, what would you wish thi s republic to do,
what social i nstitutions ought i t to bri ng i nto bei ng.
V I NC E NZ O: But it's obvious.
What I want, what all true republicans want is soci al j ustice,
the emanci pation of the workers, equal i ty, l i berty and frater
nity.
A VOI CE : like they al ready have in France, in Switzerland
and i n America.
1 1 3
V I NCE NZO: Those are not true republ i cs. You shoul d
di rect your cri ti ci sm at the true republ i c that we seek, and not
at the various governments, bourgeoi s, mi l itary and cl eri cal
that i n d ifferent parts of the world cl ai m the name of repub
l i c. Otherwise in opposing soci al i sm and anarch i sm I could
c ite soalled anarchi sts that are something else al together.
GI OR GI O: Wel l sai d. But why on earth haven't the exi st
ing republ i cs turned out to be true republi cs? Why, as a mat
ter of fact, is i t that al l, or al most al l , having started with the
i deal s of equal i ty, l i berty and fraterni ty whi ch are your
ideals and I would say ours also, have been systems of pri v
ilege that are becoming entrenched, in which workers are
exploited i n the extreme, the capi tal i sts are very powerful ,
the people greatly oppressed and the government as wholly
dis honest as in any monarchi c regi me?
The political institutions, the regul ating organs of soci ety, the
i ndi vi dual and col lective rights recogni sed by the constitution
are the same as they will be in your republ i c.
Why have the consequences been so bad or at l east so neg
ative, and why shoul d they be di fferent when it is your
republ ic.
VI NCE NZO: Because . . . because . . .
G l OR G I 0: I ' l l tell you why, and i t i s that i n those republ i cs
the economi c condi ti ons of the people remai ned substantial
ly the same; the di vision of society int a propertied cl ass
and a proletari an class remained unal tered, and so true
domi nion remai ned in the hands of those who, possessi ng
1 1 4
the monopoly of the means of production, hel d in thei r
power the great mass of the under-privi leged. Naturally the
privil eged class did its utmost to consolidate its position,
which would have been shaken by the revol utionary fervour
out of whi ch the republ i c was born, and soon thi ngs returned
to what they were before . . . except, possibly, wi th respect to
those di fferences, those advances whi ch do not depend on
the form of government, but on the growth in the conscious
ness of the workers, on the growth in confidence in its own
strength, that the masses acquire every time they succeed i n
bri ngi ng down a government.
VI NCE NZO: But we completely recogni se the i mportance
of the economi c question. We wi l l establ i sh a progressive
tax that wi l l make the ri ch shoul der the major share of pub
l i c expenses, we wi l l abol i sh protective duti es, we wi l l place
a tax on uncultivated l ands, we wil l establ i sh a mi ni mum
sal ary, a cei l i ng on prices, we wi l l make laws t hat wi l l pro
tect the workers . . .
GI OR GI O: Even i f you succeed i n doi ng al l thi s capi tal i sts
wi l l once agai n find a way t render it useless or turn i t to
their advantage.
VI NCE N ZO: In that case we will of course expropri ate
them perhaps without compensation and create communi sm.
Are you content?
GI OR GI O: No, no . . . communi sm made through the wi l l of
a government i nstead of through the di rect and vol untary
1 1 5
work of g roups of workers does not really appeal to me. If il
was possible, it would be the most suffocati ng tyranny 10
whi ch human soci ety has ever been subjected.
But you say: we wi l l do thi s or that as i f because of the fact
that you are republ i cans on the eve of the republ i c, when the
republ i c is procl ai med you will be the government.
Si nce the republ i c is a system of what you cal l popul ar sov
ereignty, and th i s soverei gnty expresses itself by means of
universal suffrage, the republ i can government wi l l be com
posed of men desi gnated by the popul ar vote.
And si nce you have not i n the act of republ i can revolution
broken the power of the capi tal i sts by expropri ati ng them i n
a revol utionary manner, t he first republ i can parl i ament wi l l
be one s uited to the capi tal i sts . . . and i f not the first, whi ch
may sti l l feel the effects to an extent of the revolutionary
storm, certai nl y successive parl i aments wi l l be what the cap
i tal i sts desi re and wi l l be obl i ged to destroy whatever good
the revol ution had by chance been abl e to do.
V I NC E N Z 0: But in that case, si nce anarchi sm i s not pos
si ble today, must we cal mly support the monarchy for who
knows how l ong?
GI OR GI O: By no means. You can count on our coopera
tion, j ust as we wi l l be aski ng for yours, provided that the cir
cumstances become favourabl e to an i nsurrecti onary move
ment. Naturally the range of contri buti ons that we wi l l strive
to give to that movement wi l l be much broader than yours,
but thi s does not i nval i date the common i nterest we have i n
1 1 6
the shaki ng off the yoke that today oppresses both of us.
Afterwards we wi l l see.
I n the meanti me let uS spread propaganda together and try
to prepare the masses so that the next revol uti onary move
ment sets i n trai n the most profound soci al transformation
possi bl e, and leaves open, broadly and easi ly, the road
toward further progress.
1 1 7
F OU RT E E N
CE SAR E : let's resume our usual conversation.
Apparently, the thing that most i mmedi ately i nterests you i s
the i nsurrection; and l admit that, however difficult i t seems,
it could be staged and won, sooner or later. In essence gov
ernments rely on soldiers; and the conscri pted soldiers, who
are forced reluctantly i nto the army barracks, are an unrel i
abl e weapon
.
Faced with a general upri si ng of the people,
the soldiers who are themselves of the people, won't hold on
for l ong; and as soon as the charm and the fear of di sci pl i ne
i s broken, they wi l l ei ther di sband or j oi n the people.
I admit therefore that by spreadi ng a lot of propaganda
among the workers and the soldiers, or among the youth
who tomorrow wi l l be soldiers, you put yourselves i n a posi
tion to take advantage of a fvourable situation - economic
crises, unsuccessful war, general strike, fami ne etc. etc. - to
bring down the government.
But then?
You wil l tell me: the people themselves wi l l decide, organise,
etc. But these are words. What wil l probably take place i s
that after a shorter or longer period of di sorder, of di ssi pa
tion and probably of massacres, a new government wil l take
1 !
,
I I
-;
I
:
the place of the other, wi l l re-establ ish order
.
. . and everythi ng
wi l l conti nue as before.
To what purpose then was such a waste of energy?
G l OR G l . I f i t should occur as you suggest, it does not
mean that the i nsurrection would have been useless. After a
revolution things do not return to as they were before
because the people have enioyed a period of l i berty and
have tested thei r own strength, and i t i s not easy to make
them accept once agai n the previous conditions. The new
government, i f government there has to be, wil l feel that i t
cannot remai n safely i n power unless i t gi ves some satisfac
tion, and normal l y i t tries to i ustify its rise to power by giv
ing itself the title of i nterpreter and successor of the revolu-
tion.
Natural l y the real task the government wi l l set itsel f wi l l be
to prevent the revolution goi ng any further and to restrict and
to al ter, with the ai m of domination, the gains of the revolu
tion; but i t could not return thi ngs to how they were before.
Thi s is what has happened in all past revol utions.
\ !
However we have reason t hope that in the next revolution
we wi l l do a lot better.
CE S AR E : Why?
G l OR G I 0: Because in past revolutions al l the revol uti onar
ies, al l the i ni ti ators and pri nci pal actors of the revolution
wanted to transform society by means of laws and wanted a
government that would make and i mpose those laws. I t was
i nevitable therefore that it would produce a new government
- and i t was natural that a new government thought first of
all of govering, that is of consolidating its power and, in
order to do thi s, of formi ng around itself a party and a priv
i l eged cl ass wi th a common i nterest i n it remai ni ng perma
nently in power.
But now a new factor has appeared i n h i story, whi ch i s rep
resented by anarchi sts. Now there are revolutionaries who
want to make a revolution with di sti nctly anti-government
ai ms, therefore the establ ishment of a new government
would face an obstacle that has never been found in the
past.
Furthermore, past revol uti onari es, wanting to make the
social transformation they desi red by means of laws,
addressed the masses solely for the basic cooperation they
coul d provi de, and di d not bother to gi ve them a conscious
ness of what could be wished for and of the way in whi ch
they could fulfil their aspi rati ons. So, natural ly, the people,
l i abl e to self-destruction, themselves asked for a government,
when there was a need to reorgani se everyday soci al l i fe.
1 2 1
On the other hand, with our propaganda and with workers'
organi sati ons we ai m to form a consci ous mi nority that
knows what i t wants to do, and which, intermingl ed with the
masses, could provide for the i mmedi ate necessities and
take thase i nitiatives, whi ch on other occasions were wai led
for from the government.
CE S AR E : Very well; but si nce you wi l l only be a mi nority,
and probably i n many parts of the country you wi l l not have
any i nfl uence, a government wi l l be establ i shed j ust the
same and you wi l l have to endure it.
G l OR G I 0: I t i s more than l i kely that a government will suc
ceed in establ i shi ng itself; but whether we'll have to put up
with i t . . .that we wi l l see.
Note thi s wel l . I n past revolutions there was a pri mary con
cern to create a new government and the orders were awai t
ed from thi s government. And in the meanti me thi ngs
remai ned substantial l y the same, or rather the economi c con
diti ons of the masses deteriorated because of the interruption
of i ndustry and commerce. Therefore people quickl y became
tired of i t al l ; there was a hurry to get it over and done with
and hostil ity from the publ i c towards those who wanted to
pralong the state of i nsurrection for too l ong. And so whoev
er demonstrated a capacity to restore order, whether it be a
sol dier of fortune, or a shrewd and dari ng pol i ti ci an, or pos
si bl y the some soverei gn who had been thrown out, would
be welcomed with popul ar applause as a peacemaker and
a l i berator.
We on the contrary understand revol ution very differently.
We want the social transformation at whi ch the revol ution
1 22
ai ms to begi n to be real i sed from the first i nsurrecti onal act.
We want the people i mmedi ately to take possession of exist
i ng wealth; decl are gentl emen'S mansi ons publ i c domai n,
and provide through voluntary and active i ni tiatives mi ni mal
housi ng for al l t he popul ation, and at once put i n hand
through the work of the constructor's association, the con
struction of as many new houses as is consi dered necessary.
We want to make al l the avai l abl e food products communi
ty property and organi se, always through voluntary opera
tions and under the true control of the publ i c, an equal di s
tribution for al l . We want the agri cultural workers to take
possessi on of uncultivated l and and that of the l andowners
and by so doing convince the latter that now the l and
belongs to the labourers. We want workers to remove them
selves from the di rection of the owners and continue produc
ti on on their own account and for the publ i c. We would l i ke
to establ i sh at once exchange relationships among the
di verse productive associations and the di fferent communes;
- and at the same ti me we want to burn, to destroy, al l the
titles and al l material si gns of i ndivi dual property and state
domi nation . In short, we want from the first moment to make
the masses feel the benefits of the revolution and so disturb
thi ngs that i t wi l l be i mpossi bl e to re-establ i sh the anci ent
order.
C E SA R E : And do you thi nk that all of this is easy to carry
out?
GI OR GI O: No, 1 ' m well aware of al l the di fficulties that we
wi l l be confronti ng; I clearly foresee that our programme
cannot be appl i ed everywhere at once, and that where
1 23
applied it will give rise to a thousand disagreements and a
thousand errors. But the single fact that there are people who
wont to apply it and will try and to apply it wherever possi
ble, is already a guarantee that at this point the revolution
can no longer be a simple political transformation and must
put in train a profound change in the whole of social life.
Moreover, the bourgeoisie did something similar in the great
French Revolution at the end of the J 8th century, although to
a smaller degree, and the ancien regime could not re-estal
lish itself notwithstanding the Empire and the Restoration.
CESARE: But if, despite all your good or bad intentions, a
government establishes itself, all your projects will go up in
the air, and you would have to submit to the low like every
body else.
GI ORGI O: And why is that?
That a government or governments will establish itself is cer
tainly very probable. There are a lot of people that like to
command and a lot more that are disposed to obey!
But it is very difficult to see how this government could
impose itself, make itself accepted and become a regular
government, if there are enough revolutionaries in the coun
try, and they have learned enough to involve the mosses in
preventing a new government finding a way to become
strong and stable.
A government needs soldiers, and we will do everything
possible to deny them soldiers; a government needs money
1 24
and we will do all we can to ensure that no one pays taxes
and no one gives it credit.
There are some municipalities and perhaps some regions in
Italy where revolutionaries are fairly numerous and the work
ers quite prepared to proclaim themselves autonomous and
look after their own affairs, refusing to recognise the govern
ment and to receive its agents or to send representatives to
it.
These regions, these municipalities will be centres of rvolu
tionary influence, against which any government Will be
impotent, if we act quickly and do not give it time to arm and
consol'ldate itself.
CESARE: But this is civil war!
GIORGIO: It may very well be. We are for peace, we
f C but we will not sacrifice the revolution to
yearn or pea e . . .
our desire of peace. We will not sacrifice i t because only by
this route can we reach a true and permanent peace.
1 25
F I F TEEN
GI NO [ WorkerJ : I have heard that you di scuss soci al
questions i n t he eveni ngs and I have come t o ask, with the
permi ssi on of these gentl emen, a question of my fri end
Giorgio.
Tel l me, i s i t true that you anarchi sts want to remove the
police force.
GI OR GI O: Certai nly. What! Don't you agree? Si nce when
have you become a fri end of police and carabinieri?
GI N 0: I am not thei r fri end, and you know it. But I ' m al so
not the fri end of murderers and thi eves and I woul d l i ke my
goods and my l i fe to be guarded and guarded well.
GI ORGI O: And who guards you from the guardi ans? . .
Do you thi nk that men become thieves and murderers with
out a reason?
Do you thi nk that the best way to provide for one's own secu
rity i s by offeri ng up one's neck to a gang of people who,
with the excuse of defendi ng us, oppress us and practice
extortion, and do a thousand times more damage than al l
the thieves and al l the murderers? Woul dn't i t be belter to
destroy the causes of evi l , doi ng it in such a way that every-
1 26
body could l ive well, without taki ng bread from the mouths
of others, and doing it in a way so that everyone coul d edu
cate and develop themselves and ban i sh from thei r hearts
the evil passions of jealousy, hatred and revenge?
GI NO: Come off i t! Human bei ngs are bad by nature, and
i f there weren't laws, j udges, soldiers and carabinieri t hold
us in check, we woul d devour each other l i ke wolves.
G l OR G I 0: I f thi s was the case, i t woul d be one more rea
son for not gi vi ng anybody the power to command and to
dispose of the l i berty of others. Forced to fi ght agai nst every
body, each person wi th average strength, would run the
same ri sk i n the struggle and could alternatively be a wi nner
and a l oser: we would be savages, but at least we could
enj oy the relative l i berty of the j ungle and the fierce emo
ti ons of the beasts of prey. But i f vol untari l y we shoul d give
to a few the ri ght and the power to i mpose thei r wi l l , then
si nce, accordi ng to you, the si mpl e fact of being human pre
di sposes us to devour one another, it will be the same as vot
i ng ourselves i nto slavery and poverty.
You are deceiving yourself however, my dear friend.
Human ity is good or bad accordi ng to ci rcumstances. What
1 27
is common in human bei ngs is the i nsti nct for self-preserva
tion, and an aspi rati on for well-bei ng and for the ful l devel
opment of one's own powers . I f i n order to l ive well you
need to treat others harshly, only a few will have the strength
necessary to resist the temptati on. But put human bei ngs in
a soci ety of their fellow creatures wi th condi ti ons conduci ve
to well-bei ng and development, and i t wi l l need a great
effort to be bad, j ust as today i t needs great effort to be
good.
GI N 0: Al l ri ght, i t may be as you say. But in the meanti me
whi le wai ti ng for soci al transformation the pol i ce prevent
cri mes from bei ng committed.
GI OR GI O: Prevent?!
GI N 0: Wel l then, they prevent a great number of cri mes
and bri ng to j usti ce the perpetrators of those offences which
they were not abl e to prevent.
GI OR GI O: Not even thi s is true. The i nfl uence of the pol i ce
on the number and the si gni fi cance of cri mes i s al most noth
i ng. I n fact, however much the organi sation of the magistra
ture, of the police and the prisons is reformed, or the num
ber of pol i cemen decreased or i ncreased, whi l e the econom
i c and moral condi ti ons of the people remai n unchanged,
del i nquency will remai n more or l ess constant.
On the other hand, it onl y needs the smal lest modification in
the rel ati ons between propri etors and workers, or a change
i n t he price of wheat and other vitally necessary foods, or a
cri si s that leaves workers without work, or the spreadi ng of
1 28
I
I
I
\
our i deas whi ch opens new hori zons for people maki ng
them smi l e with new hope, and i mmedi ately the effect on the
i ncrease or decrease in the number of cri mes wi l l be noted.
The pol i ce, i t i s true, send del inquents to pri son, when they
can catch them; but this, si nce i t does not prevent new
offences, i s an evil added to an evi l, a further unnecessary
sufferi ng i nfl i cted on h uman bei ngs.
And even i f the work of the police force succeeds i n putting
off a few offences, that would not be sufficient, by a l ong
way, to compensate for the offences i t provokes, and the
harassment to whi ch i t subjects the publ i c.
The very functi on they carry out makes the pol i ce suspi ci ous
of, and puts them i n confl i ct wi th, the whol e of the publ i c; i t
makes them hunters of humani ty; it l eads them to become
ambiti ous to di scover some "great" cases of del i nquency,
and i t creates i n them a speci al mental i ty that very often
l eads them to develop some di stinctly anti soci al i nstincts. It i s
not rare to fi nd that a police officer, who shoul d prevent or
discover cri me, i nstead provokes i t or i nvents it, t promote
their career or si mply to make themselves i mportant and nec
essary.
GI N 0: But, then the policemen themselves woul d be the
same as cri mi nal s! Such thi ngs occur occaSional ly, the more
so that police personnel are not al ways recruited from the
best part of the population, but in general . . .
G l OR G I 0: Generally the background envi ronment has an
inexorable effect, and professi onal di stortion strikes even
those who cal l for i mprovement.
1 29
Tel l me: what can be, or what can become of the moral s of
those who are obl igated by their sal aries, to persecute, to
arrest, to torment anyone pointed out to them by their supe
riors, without worrying whether the person i s gui lty or i nno
cent, a cri mi nal or an angel ?
GI NO: Yes . . . buL
G l OR G I 0: Let me say a few words about the most i mpor
tant part of the question; in other words, about the so called
offences that the police undertake to restrai n or prevent.
Certai nly among the acts that the law punishes there are
those that are and always will be bad actions; but there are
excepti ons which result from the state of brutishness and des
peration to whi ch poverty reduces peopl e.
Generally however the acts that are punished are those
which offend against the privileges of the upper-d ass and
those that atack the government i n the exercise of its author
ity. It is in thi s manner that the police, effectively or not, serve
to protect, not soci ety as a whole, but the upper-doss, and
to keep the people submissive.
You were tal ki ng of thieves. Who i s more of a thief than the
owners who get wealthy steal i ng the produce of the workers'
labour?
You were tal king about murderers. Who is more of a mur
derer than capitalists who, by not renouncing the privilege
of being i n command and living without working, are the
cause of dreadful privations and the premature death of mi l
l ions of workers, let al one a conti nui ng sl aughter of chi l dren?
1 30
These thieves and murderers, far more gui lty and far more
dangerous than those poor people who are pushed toward
cri me by the mi serabl e conditions in which they find them
selves, are not a concern of the pol ice: qui te the contrary! . . .
GI N 0: I n short, you thi nk that once having made the revo
l uti on, humani ty wi l l become, out of the bl ue, so many l i ttle
angel s. Everybody wi l l respect the rights o others; every
body wi l l wish the best for one another and hel p each other;
there wi l l be no more hatreds, nor j eal ousies . . . an earthly
paradise, what nonsense?!
G l OR G 1 0: Not at al l . I don't bel i eve that moral transfor
mation wi l l come suddenly, out of the bl ue. Of course, a
large, an i mmense change wi l l take place through the sim
pl e fact that bread i s assured and liberty gained; but al l the
bad passions, which have become embodied i n us through
the age-old influence of slavery and of the struggl e between
people, wi l l not disappear at a stroke. There wi l l still be for
a long time those who wi l l feel tempted to i mpose their wi l l
on others with violence, who wi l l wi sh t o exploit favourabl e
ci rcumstances to create privil eges for themselves, who wi l l
retai n an aversion for work i nspi red by the conditions of
slavery i n which today they are forced to labour, and so on.
GI NO: So even afer the revolution we wi l l have to defend
ourselves against cri mi nal s?
GI OR GI O: Very l i kely. Provided that those who are then
considered cri mi nal s are not those who rebel rather than
dying of hunger, and sti l l less those who atack the exi sti ng
1 3 1
organi sation of society and seek to replace i t with a better
one; but those who would cause harm to everyone, those
who woul d encroach on personal integrit, l i berty and the
well bei ng of others.
GI N 0: All right, so you will always need a police force.
G l OR G I 0: But not at a I I . It would truly be a great piece of
fool i shness to protect oneself from a few violent people, a
few i dl ers and some degenerates, by openi ng a school for
idleness and violence and formi ng a body of cut-throats,
who wi l l get used to consi deri ng ci tizens as j ai l bai t and
who wi l l make hunti ng people thei r pri nci pal and onl y occu
pati on.
GI N 0: What, then]
GI OR GI O: Wel l , we wi l l defend ourselves.
GI N 0: And do you thi nk that i s possible?
GI OR GI O: Not only do I thi nk it i s possible that the peo
ple wi l l defend themselves without del egati ng to anyone the
special function of the defence of soci ety, but I am sure i t i s
the onl y effective method.
Tel l me! I f tomorrow someone who is sought after by the
police comes to you, wi l l you denounce hi m?
GI N 0: What, are you mad? Not even i f they were the
worst of al l murderers. What do you take me for a police
officer?!
1 32
GI OR GI O: Ah! Ahl The police officers' occupation must
be a terrible one, if anyone with self-respect thi nks them
selves di shonoured by taking it on, even when they thi nk it
to be useful and necessary to society.
And now, tell me somethi ng else. If you happened upon a
si ck person wi th an i nfectious di sease or a dangerous mad
man would you take them to hospi tal ?
GI NO: Certai nly.
GI OR GI O: Even by force?
GI NO: But . . . You must understand! leaving them free could
harm a lot of people!
G l OR G I 0: Now expl ai n to me, why do you take great
care not to denounce a murderer, while you would take a
madman or a plague-stricken person to hospi tal , i f neces
sary by force?
GI N 0: Wel l . . . fi rst of al l I fi nd bei ng a policeman repug
nant, whi le I consi der it a honourable and humanitari an
thi ng to care for the si ck.
G l OR G I 0: Wel l you can al ready see that the fi rst effect of
the police i s to make the citizens wash thei r hands of soci al
defence, and actually place them on the si de of those who
rightly or wrongly the police persecute.
GI NO: It is al so that when I take someone to hospital I
know that I am leaving them in the hands of the doctors, who
1 3 3
try to cure them, so that they can be at l i berty as soon as
they no longer are a threat t o other people. I n every case,
even if i ncurabl e, they wi l l try to al l eviate suffering and wi l l
never infl ict a more severe treatment t han i s strictly neces
sary. If doctors did not do their duties, the publ i c would
make them do so, because i t is well understood that people
are kept in hospital to be cured and not to be tormented.
Whi le on the contrary, if one del ivers someone i nto the
hands of the pol ice, they seek From ambition to try to con
demn them, little caring whether they are gui lty or i nnocent;
then they put them in prison, where, i nstead of seeking their
i mprovement through l ovi ng care, they do everythi ng to
make them suffer, make them more embittered, then release
them as an even more dangerous enemy to society than they
were before they went to pri son.
But, thi s could b changed through a radi cal reform.
G l OR G I 0: In order to reform, my dear fellow, or to
destroy an i nstitution, the first thing i s not to establ i sh a cor
poration i nterested in preserving i t.
The police ( and what I say of the police appl i es al so to the
magi strates) i n carrying out thei r profession of sending peo
ple to prison and beating them up when there is an oppor
tunity, wi l l always end u p considering themselves as being
opposed to the publ i c. They furiousl y pursue the true or
assumed del i nquent with the same passion with whi ch a
hunter pursues game, but at the same time it is i n the i nter
ests of the pol ice that there are more del i nquents because
they are the reason for their existence, and the greater the
1 34
number and the harmful ness of del i nquents grow, so does
the power and the social importance of the pol i ce!
I n order for cri me to be treated rational l y, i n order t seek
for i ts causes and really do everyhi ng possible t el i mi nate
it, i t is necessary for thi s task to be entrusted t those who
are exposed to and suffer the consequences of cri me, in
other words the whole publ i c, and not those to whom the
existence of cri me i s a source of power and earni ngs.
GI N 0: Oh! I t coul d be you are ri ght. Unti l next ti me.
1 35
S I XT E E N
P I P PO [War cripple] : I've had enough! Please allow me to
tell you that I am amazed, I would almost soy indignant that,
even though you possess the most diverse opinions, you
seem to agree in ignoring the essential question, that of the
fatherland, that of securing the greatness and the glory of
our Italy.
Prospero, Cesare, Vincenzo, and everyone present, other
than Giorgio and Luigi (a young socialist), uproariously
protest their love for Italy and Ambrogio says on everyone's
behalf I n these discussions we have not talked of Italy, as
we have not talked of our mothers. I t wasn't necessary to talk
about what was already understood, of what is superior to
any opinion, to any discussion. Please Pippo do not doubt
our patriotism, not even that of Giorgio.
GI ORGIO: But, no; my patriotism can certainly be doubt
ed, because I am not a patriot.
P I P PO: I already guessed that: you are one of those that
shouts down with Italy and would like to see our country
humiliated, defeated, dominated by foreigners.
G lOR G I 0: But not at all. These are the usual slanders with
which our opponents try to deceive the people in order to
1 36
prejudice them against us. I don't rule out there being peo
ple who in good faith believe this humbug, but this is the
result of ignorance and a lock of understanding.
We don't want of domination of any kind and therefore we
could not want I taly to be dominated by other countries, just
like we don't want Italy to dominate others.
We consider the whole world as our homeland, all humani
ty as our brothers and sisters; therefore, for us, it would sim
ply be absurd to wish to damage and humiliate the country
in which we live; in which we have our dear ones, whose
language we speak best, the country that gives us the most
and to which we give the most in terms of the exchange of
work, ideas and affection.
AMB ROGIO, But this country is the fatherland, that you
continually curse.
GIORGIO: We don't curse our fatherland, or anybody
else's country. We curse patriotism, that which you call patri
otism, which is national arrogance, that is the preaching of
hatred towards other countries, a pretext for piling people
against people in deadly wars, in order to serve sinister cop-
1 37
i tal i st i nterests and the i mmoderate ambi ti ons of soverei gns
and peHy pol iticians.
VI NCE NZO: Easy, easy.
You are right i f you tal k of the patriotism of a great many
capital i sts and a great many monarchi sts for whom the love
of the country is really a pretext: and, l i ke yourself, I despi se
and l oathe those who don't ri sk anything for the country and
i n the name of the fatherland enri ch themselves on the sweat
and the blood of workers and honest folk from al l cl asses.
But there are peopl e who are really patriots, who have sac
rificed and are ready to sacrifice everythi ng, thei r posses
si ons, l i berty and thei r l i Fe for their country.
You know that republ i cans have always been fired by the
h ighest patriotism, and that have always met their responsi
bi l i ti es squarely.
GI OR GI O: I always admi re those who sacrifice themselves
for their i deas, but thi s does not stop me seeing that the
i deal s of the republ i cans and the sincere patriots, who are
certai nl y found in al l parties, have at this point become out
of -ate and onl y serve to give to governments and capi tal
ists a way of masking thei r real ai ms with i deal s and sway
i ng the u nconscious masses and the enthusi astic youth.
V I NC E N Z 0: What do you mean, out-of-date?! The love of
one's country i s a natural sentiment of the human heart and
will never become out-of-date.
G l OR G 1 0: That whi ch you call love of one's country i s the
attachment to that country to which you have strongest moral
1 38
1
ties and that provides the greatest certai nty of materi al wel l
being; and i t i s certai nl y natural and wi l l always remai n so,
at l east until civi lization has progressed to the poi nt where
every person will de facto find their country i n any part of
the world. But this has nothi ng i n common with the myth of
the "fatherland" which makes you consider other people as
i nferior, whi ch makes you desire the domi nati on of your
country over others, whi ch prevents you from appreciating
and using the work of so-alled forei gners, and which makes
you consider workers as having more in common with their
bosses and the pol ice of their country than wi th workers from
other countries, wi th whom they share the same i nterests and
aspi rations.
Afer al l , our i nternational , cosmopolitan feeli ngs ore still
bei ng developed, as a continuation of the progress al ready
made. You may feel more attached to your native Vi l l age or
to your region for a thousand sentimental and material rea
sons, but it does not mean that you are parochial or tied to
your regi on: you pride yourself on being I tal i an and, if the
necessity arises, you would pl ace the general i nterests of
Italy above regional or local interests. If you bel ieve that
broadeni ng the notion of one's country from commune to
nation has been on advance, why stop there and not
embrace the enti re world i n a general love for the human
ki nd and i n a fraternal co-operation among al l people?
Today the relations between countries, the exchanges of row
materials and of agri cul tural and i ndustri al products are
already such that a country whi ch wished to isolate itself
from others, or worse, place itself in conflict with others,
would condemn itself to on attenuated exi stence and com-
1 39
plete and utter fail ure. Al ready there i s an abundance of
men who because of their relati onships, because of their
kind of studies and work, because of their economic posi
tion, consider themselves and truly are citizens of the world.
Moreover, can't you see that everyt hi ng that i s great and
beautiful in the worl d is of a gl obal and supranational char
acter. Science is i nternational, so too is art, so too is religion
which, i n spite of its l i es, i s a great demonstration of human
ity's spiritual activit. As Signor AmbrogiO would say, rights
and morals are universal, because everyone tries to extend
their own conceptions to every human bei ng. Any new truth
discovered i n whatever part of the world, any new inven
tion, any i ngeni ous product of the human brain is useful, or
ought to be useful to the whole of humani ty.
To return to isolation, to rivalry and hatred between peoples,
to persist in a narrow-mi nded and mi santhropic patrioti sm,
would mean pl aci ng oneself outside the great currents of
progress which press humanity toward a future of peace and
fraternity, i t would be to place oneself outside and against
civil ization.
C E S AR E : You always speak of peace and fraternity; but let
me ask you a practical question. If, for i nstance, the
Germans or the French should come to Mi l an, Rome or
Naples to destroy our artistic monuments, and to ki l l or
oppress our fellow-countrymen, what woul d you do? Would
you be unmoved?
G l OR G I 0: Whatever are you saying? I would certai nly be
extremely di stressed and woul d do whatever I could to pre-
1 41
vent i t. But, note thi s well, I would be equal l y di stressed and,
bei ng abl e, would do everythi ng t o prevent I tal i ans goi ng to
destroy, oppress and ki l l in Pari s, Vi enna, Berl i n . . . or i n
li bya.
CE S AR E : Real l y equally di stressed?
GI OR GI O: Perhaps not i n practice. I would feel worse for
the wrong-oi ngs done i n Italy because it's i n Italy I have
more fri ends, I know Italy better, and so my feel i ngs woul d
be deeper and more i mmediate. But thi s does not mean that
the wrongdoi ngs committed in Berl i n woul d be l ess wrong
than those committed i n Mi lan.
I t i s as i f they were to ki l l a brother, a fri end. I would certai n
ly suffer more than I would had they ki l led someone I did not
know: but thi s does not mean that the ki l l i ng of someone
unknown to me is less cri mi nal than the ki l l i ng of a friend.
P I P P O: Al l ri ght. But what di d you do to stop a possi bl e
i nvasi on of Mi l an by the Germans?
GI OR GI O: I di dn't do anythi ng. Actual l y my fri ends and I
did all we could to keep out of the fray; because we were
not abl e to do what woul d have been useful and necessary.
P I P P O: What do you mean?
GI OR GI O: It's obvious. We found ourselves i n a position
of having to defend the i nterests of our bosses, our oppres
sors, and havi ng to do so by ki l l i ng some of our brothers, the
workers of other countries dri ven to the sl aughterhouse, j ust
1 42
as we were, by thei r bosses and oppressors. And we refused
to be used as an i nstrument of those who are our real enemy,
that i s our bosses.
If, fi rstly, we had been able to free ourselves from our i nter
nal enemi es, then we would have been abl e to defend our
country and not the country of the bosses. We coul d have
offered a fraternal hand to the forei gn workers sent agai nst
us, and if they had not understood and had wi shed to con
ti nue to serve thei r masters by opposi ng us, we woul d have
defended ourselves.
AMBROGI O: You are only concerned with the i nterests of
the workers, with the i nterests of your class, without under
standi ng that the nati on i s above cl ass i nterests. There are
some senti ments, some tradi ti ons, some i nterests that uni te al l
t he people of t he same nati on, despite di fferences i n thei r
condi ti ons and al l the antagoni sms of cl ass.
And then agai n, there i s the pride i n one's roots. Aren't you
proud of bei ng I tal i an, of belongi ng to a country that has
gi ven ci vi l i zation to the worl d and even today, i n spite of
everythi ng, i s at the forefront of progress?
How i s i t you do not feel the need to defend Latin c ivi l i zation
agai nst Teutonic barbarity?
G l OR G I 0: Please, let's not tal k about ci vi l ization and the
barbari sm of thi s or that country.
I could i mmedi ately say to you that if the workers are not
abl e to appreciate your "Latin ci vi l ization" the faul t is yours,
the fault of the bourgeoi si e that took away from the workers
1 43
the means to educate themselves. How can you expect some
one to be passionate about something about which you
have kept them ignorant?
But, stop misleading us. Would you have us believe that the
Germans are more barbaric than anyone else, when for
years you yourself were admiring anything coming from
Germany? If tomorrow political conditions change and cap
italist interests are oriented differently, you would once again
say that Germans are at the forefront of civilization and that
the french or the English are barbarians.
What does this mean? If one 'country finds itself more
advanced than another it has the duty to spread its civiliza
tion, to help its fellows who are backward and not profit
from its superiority to oppress and exploit.. . because any
abuse of power leads to corruption and decadence.
AMBROGIO: But, in any case, you do at least respect
national solidarity which must be superior to any class com
petition.
GI ORGIO: I understand. It is this pretence of national sol
idarity which particularly interests you, and it is this which
what we struggle against in particular. National solidarity
means solidarity between capitalists and workers, between
oppressors and oppressed, in other words acquiescence by
the oppressed to their state of subiection.
The interests of the workers are opposed to those of the
employers, and when in special circumstances they Find
themselves temporarily in agreement, we seek to make them
into antagonists, given that human emancipation and all
144
future progress depend upon the struggle beteen workers
and owners, that must lead t the complete disappearance
of exploitation and oppression of one person by another.
You still try to deceive workers with the lies of nationalism:
but in vain. The workers have already understood that the
workers of all countries are their comrades, and that all cap
italists and all governments, domestic or foreign, are their
enemies.
And with this I will say good evening. I know that I haven't
convinced neither the magistrates nor the proprietors who
have listened to me. But, perhaps I haven't spoken in vain
for Pippo, Vincenzo and Luigi, who are proletarians like
myself.
145
S E VE NT E E N
L UI GI [a socialist] : Since everyone here has stated their
opinion, al low me to state mi ne?
These are j ust some of my own ideas, and I don't want to
expose myself to the combined i ntolerance of the bour
geoisie and the anarchists.
G l OR G I 0: I am amazed that you speak l i ke that.
Since we are both workers we can, and must, consider our
selves friends and comrades, but you seem to believe that
anarchists are the enemies of socialists. On the contrary, we
are their friends, their collaborators .
Even i f many notable soci al i sts have attempted and stil l
attempt to oppose soci al i sm to anarchi sm, the truth i s that, i f
soci al ism means a society or the aspi ration for a soci ety i n
which humans l i ve i n fellowshi p, i n which the wel l bei ng of
al l is a condition for the well bei ng of each, in which no one
i s a sl ave or exploited and each person has the means to
develop t the maximum extent possible and to enjoy i n
peace al l t he benefits of civil ization and of communal work,
not only are we sociali sts, but we have the ri ght to consider
ourselves the most radical and consi stent socialists.
1 46
\
t
After al l , even Signor AmbrogiO, who has sent so many of
us to gaol , knows we were the first to i ntroduce, to expl ai n
and to propagate soci al i sm; and if l ittle by little we ended
up abandoning the name and cal l i ng ourselves si mpl y anar
chists, it was because there arose al ongsi de us another
school, dictatori al and parl iamentary, whi ch managed to
prevai l and to make of soci al i sm such a hybrid and accom
modating thi ng that it was i mpossible to reconci l e with our
ideals and our methods a doctrine that was repugnant to our
nature
L UI G I : In fact, I have understood your arguments and we
certai nl y agree on many thi ngs, especial l y the criticisms of
capital i sm.
But we don't agree on everythi ng, firstly because anarchi sts
only believe in revolution and renounce the more civil ized
means of struggle that have replaced those violent methods
which were perhaps necessary once upon a time - and sec
ondly, because even if we shoul d conclude with a violent
revolution, it would be necessary to put in power a new gov
ernment to do things in an orderly manner and not leave
everythi ng to arbitrary actions and the fury of the masses.
1 47
GI OR GI O: Wel l , let's di scuss thi s Further. Do you seriously
believe that it i s possible radi cal l y to transform soci ety, to
demol i sh privileges, throw out the government, expropri ate
the bourgeoisie without resorti ng to force?
I hope that you don't del ude yourself that owners and rulers
will surrender without resistance, without making use of the
Forces at their disposal, and can somehow b persuaded to
play the part of sacrificial vi cti ms. Otherwise, ask these gen
tlemen here who, iF they could, would get rid of you and me
wi th great pleasure and with great speed.
L UI GI : No, I don't have any of those i l lusi ons.
But s i nce today the workers are the great majority of the
electorate and have the ri ght to vote in admi ni strative and
political elections, it seems to me that, i F they were conscious
and wi l l i ng, they could without too much effort put in power
people whom they could trust, soci al ists and, if you want,
even some anarchi sts, who could make good laws, nation
al ise the land and workshops and introduce soci al i sm.
GI OR GI O: OF course, i F the workers were conscious and
commi tted!
But if they were developed enough to be abl e to understand
the causes of their problems and t he remedies to them, i f
they were truly determi ned to emanci pate themselves, then
the revolution could be made with l i ttle, or no, violence, and
the workers themselves could do whatever they wanted and
there woul dn't be a need to send to parl i ament and i nto gov
ernment people, who, even if they di dn 't al low themselves to
become i ntoxicated and corrupted by the al l urements of
1 48
.
, ..
.. .
!
. .
power, as unfortunately happens, fi nd themselves unabl e to
provide for soci al needs and do what the el ectors expect of
them.
But unfortunately the workers, or the great majority of them,
are not conscious or committed; they live in conditions that
do not admit of the possi bi l i ty of emanCipating themselves
moral l y unless there i s firstly an i mprovement in thei r materi
al condi ti on. So, the transformation of society must come
about through the i nitiative and the work of those mi nority
groups who due to fortunate circumstances have been abl e
to el evate themselves above the common level - numerical
mi norities which end up bei ng the predomi nant force capa
ble of pul l i ng along with them the backward masses.
look at the facts, and soon you will see that, precisely
because of the moral and material conditions in whi ch the
proletari at finds itself, the bourgeoi si e and the government
always succeed in obtai ni ng from the parl i ament what sui ts
them. That's why they concede uni versal suffrage and al low
it to Function. If they should see any danger of being l egal l y
di spossessed they woul d be the fi rst to depart from l egal i ty
and violate what they cal l the popul ar wi l l . Already they do
this on every occasion the laws by mi stake work agai nst
them.
l UI G I : You say thi s, but i n the meanti me we see the number
of soci al i st deputies i s always increasi ng. One day they wi l l
be the majority and .
.
.
GI OR GI O: But, can't you see that when soci al i sts enter
parl i ament, they i mmediately become tamed and, from
149
being a danger, they become collaborators, and supporters
of the prevai l i ng order? After al l , by sendi ng soci al i sts to
parl iament we render a service to the bourgeoi si e because
the most active, abl e and popul ar people are removed from
the heart of the masses and transported into a bourgeoisie
environment.
Furthermore, as I've already told you, when the soci al i st
members of parl i ament really become a danger, the govern
ment wi l l drive them from parl i ament al bayonel poi nl and
suppress uni versal sufrage.
L UI G I ' I I may seem l i ke thi s 10 you, because you always see
thi ngs in terms of a world i n extreme cri si s.
The reverse i s true. The world moves a l i ttle at a ti me by
gradual evol uti on.
It i s necessary for the proletariat to prepare 10 take over from
the bourgeoisie, by educating itself, by organi si ng ilself, by
sendi ng its representatives to the bodi es whi ch decide and
make laws; and when i t becomes mature i t wi l l take every
thi ng into its own hands, and the new soci ety to whi ch we
aspire wil l be establ i shed.
I n al l ci vi l ized countries the number of socialist deputies i s
i ncreasing and naturally so too i s thei r support among the
masses.
Some day they wi l l certai nly be the maj ori ty, and i f then the
bourgeoisie and its government wil l not give i n peacefully
and attempts Violently to suppress the popular wi l l , we wi l l
reply to violence with violence.
1 50
I t i s necessary to take ti me. It i s useless and damagi ng want
i ng to try to force the l aws of nature and of hi story.
GI OR GI O: Dear luigi , the laws of nature do not need
defenders: they produce respect for themselves. People labo
riously di scover them and make use of thei r di scovery either
to do good or evi l ; but beware of accepti ng as natural laws
the soci al facts that i nterested parties (in our case the econ
omi sts and sociol ogists who defend the bourgeoi si e)
descri be as such.
As far as the "lows of hi story", they are formulated after hi s
tory is made. let us first af al l make hi story.
The warld moves slowly, or qui ckly, it goes forward or back
ward, as the result of on indefinite number of natural and
human factors, and it is on error to feel confident of a con
ti nuous evolution whi ch al ways moves i n the some di rection.
At present, it i s certai nly true that soci ety i s in a continuous,
sl ow evol uti on; but evol ution i n essence means change, and
if some changes are those that lead in the ri ght di rection for
us, that favour the elevation of humanity towards a superior
ideal of communi ty and of l i berty, others i nstead rei nforce
the existing i nstitutions or dri ve back and annul the progress
al ready real i sed.
Whi l e people remai n i n opposition to each other, no gai ns
are secure, no progress i n social organi sation can be con
si dered definitely won.
We must uti l i ze and encourage al l the elements of progress
and combat, obstruct and try to neutral i se regressive and
conservative forces.
1 52
Today the fate of humanity depends on t he struggle between
workers and exploiters and whatever conci l i ati on there i s
between the two hosti l e classes, whatever col l aboration
there i s between capi tal i sts and workers, between govern
ment and people, carried out with the intention or on the
pretext of toning down social di sputes, onl y serves to favour
the class of oppressors, to reinforce the tottering i nstitu
tions and, what i s worse sti l l , to separate from the masses
the most developed proletarian elements and turn them i nto
a new privileged class with an i nterest shared with the
barons of i ndustry, finance and politics, in mai ntai ni ng the
great maj ority of the people in a state of i nfriority and
subjection.
You tal k of evol ution, and seem to thi nk that necessarily and
i nevitably, whether people wont it or not, humanity wi l l
arrive at soci al i sm, i n other words a society created for the
equal i nterest of al l , in whi ch the means of production
belong to al l , where everybody wi l l be a worker, where
everybody will enjoy with equal ri ghts al l the benefits of civi l
isati on.
But thi s i s not true. Soci al i sm wi l l come about if the people
wont it and do what is necessary to achi eve it. Because
otherwise i t i s possible that, i nstead of soci al i sm, a social
situation could eventuate in which the differences between
people are greater and more permanent, i n whi ch humanity
becomes divided into two di fferent races, the gentlefolk and
t he servants, wi t h an i ntermediate cl ass whi ch would serve
to i nsure through the combination of i ntel l igence and brute
force, the domi nance of one over the other - or there coul d
si mply be a conti nuation of the present state of conti nuous
153
struggle, an alternation of i mprovements and deteriorations,
of crises and periodic wars.
Actual ly, I would say that i F we were to leave things to their
natural course, evolution would probably move in the oppo
site di rection to the one we desire, i t would move towards
the consolidation of privileges, towards a stable equil i brium
establ i shed in Favour of the present rul ers, because i t is nat
ural that strength belongs to the strong, and who starts the
contest with certai n advantages over thei r opponent wi l l
always gai n more advantages i n the course of the struggle.
L UI G I : Perhaps you are right; this i s precisely why we need
to utilize all the means at our disposal: education, organi sa
tion and political struggle . . .
G l OR G I 0: All means, yes, but al l the means that lead to
our goal.
Education, certai nly. It i s the First thi ng that i s needed,
because i f we don't oct on the mi nds of individuals, if we
don't awaken their consciences, i f we don't stimulate their
senses, i F we don't excite their wi l l , progress will not be pos
si bl e. And by education I don't so much mean book-learn
i ng, although, i t too is necessary, but not very accessible to
proletarians, rather, the education that one acquires through
conscious contact with soci ety, propaganda, discussions,
concern with publ i c issues, the partici pation in the struggles
For one's own and others' i mprovement.
This education of the individual is necessary and would be
suFFicient to transform the world iF it could be extended to al l .
1 54
1
1
1
But, unFortunately, that i s not possible. People are i nFluenced,
domi nated, one could almost soy shaped, by the environ
ment in whi ch they live; and when the environment is not suit
abl e one can progress only by fighting agai nst it. At any
given moment there are only a l i mited number of i ndividual s
who are capable, either because of i nherited capacities or
because of special l y favourabl e ci rcumstances, of elevati ng
themselves above the envi ronment, reacting against it and
contributi ng to its transFormation.
Thi s is why it i s a conscious mi nority that must break the i ce
and violently change the exterior circumstances.
Organisation: A great and neessary thi ng, provided that it
i s used to fight the bosses and not to reach an agreement
with them.
Political struggle: Obviously, prOVided by i t we mean
struggle against the government and not co-operation with
the government.
Pay close altention. If you want to i mprove the capital i st sys
tem and make it tolerable, and hence sanction and perpetu
ate it, then certain accommodations, certain amounts of col
laboration may be acceptable; but iF you truly wont to over
throw the system, then you must clearly place yourself out
si de and agai nst the system itself.
And since the revolution i s necessary and since whi chever
way you look at it the problem wi l l only be solved through
revolution, don't you thi nk we should prepare ourselves from
now on, spiritually and material ly, i nstead of deluding the
masses and giving them the hope of being able to emanci
pate themselves without sacrifices and bloody struggles.
1 55
l U I G I : That's fi ne. let's suppose that you are right and that
revolution is i nevitabl e. There are also a lot of sociali sts who
say the same. But it will al ways be necessary to establ i sh a
new government to di rect and organise the revol ution.
GI ORGI O: Why? If among the masses there isn't a suffi
cient number of revol utionaries, manual and non-manual
workers, capable of provi di ng for the needs of the struggle
and of life, the revolution will not be made, or if made, wi l l
not tri umph. And if a sufficient number exist what is a gov
ernment good for other than to paralyse popular i nitiative
and i n substance to chake the very revolution itself.
I n fact, what can a parl iamentary or a dictatorial govern
ment do?
I t must first of all thi nk of and i nsure its own existence as a
government, in other words establ i sh an armed force to
defend itself agai nst its opponents and to i mpose its own wil l
on recalcitrants; then it woul d have to i nform itself, study, try
to concil iate the wi l l s and the i nterests i n conflict and hence
make laws . . . which most l i kely will not please anybody.
In the meantime it is necessary to go on livi ng. Either prop
erty wi l l have de facto passed into the hands of the workers,
and then, because it i s necessary to provide for everyday
necessities, these same workers would have to solve the
problems of everyday l i fe without awaiting the decisions of
the rulers, the latter thus . . . can now only declare their own
uselessness as rulers and blend i n with the crowd as work
ers.
156
Or property wil l have remained i n the hands of proprietors,
then, they, holding and disposing of wealth as they please,
would remai n the true arbi ters of social l i fe, and would make
sure that the new government composed of soci al i sts (not
anarchists, because anarchists do not want to govern nor be
governed) will either submit to the wishes of the bourgeoisie
or be quickly swept away.
I wi l l not dwell on thi s because I have to go and I don't know
when I will be returni ng. I t will be a whi l e before we see
each other.
Thi nk about what I have said - I hope that when I will return
I will find a new comrade.
Goodbye to you al l
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