Letter to an Anarchist Congress

Les Temps Nouveaux, 23 August 1913

Dear Comrades and Friends,

I so regret not being able to be with you and associate myself with your work. So here I am forced to join you in thought and to send you my best wishes for success in your work.

Everywhere, parliamentary socialism has demonstrated its inability to help free the workers from the double yoke of capital and the State.

Even as palliative measures to improve the conditions of the workers ever so slightly, parliamentary socialism has been unable to do anything which could not have been done better by the pressure of the trade unions on bourgeois legislators.

As for accomplishing the educational mission attributed to parliamentary socialism, it has only shown how to develop in the working class the statist prejudice and the hunt for governmental positions, which already threatens to corrupt even the trade unions.

In terms of education, it gave only one: that of proving how harmful was the parliamentary road which the proletariat has followed during the last thirty or forty years.

But as parliamentary socialism is discredited, it is toward anarchy that the eyes of the exploited of all nations turn with hope.

And this new orientation of the workers’ thought imposes new duties upon us.

The critique of the State is needed more than ever. But it needs to be deepened. And it alone is no longer enough. “The State is an obstacle to the liberation of labour: that is understood! But, what will we put in its place?” For a social animal, individualism is not a principle of organisation. Demolition alone would not be enough. Besides, it would be too superficial if it were not inspired by new principles of societal organisation. You only demolish thoroughly when you see something better taking shape in front of you that will replace the old hovels. Without that, you do not know how to demolish enough: you stop halfway.

What then will be these new principles which are recommended in our idea for a new society?

What new forms of grouping are we going to recommend to those who ask for our option?

Individual revolt, collective revolt, the union to make this revolt wider and deeper – very good, we will be told. It is the organisation of the battle that will have to be fought one day.

And after? What form of society is taking shape before our eyes, what ideal disappears, for which we going to fight our struggles? Because these struggles will not end in a single day. They will last for years. Without doubt, it is during these struggles that the forms of the new society will take shape. But still, its broad outlines must be drawn for us today. For the liberating struggles have already begun.

Well, it is to discuss and establish these broad outlines that we are meeting today; in action, or in thought, we are all here, all imbued with the same liberating idea, and seeking the same solutions.

With all my heart, dear comrades and friends, I am with you.

Peter Kropotkin