Errico Malatesta: Reformists or insurrectionaries?

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Translated from Finimondo
By Act for freedom now!
Evidently, the Hon. Zirardini and his cronies believe that the soul of a people can be moved back and forth as one does with a switch on an electrical gadget: stop, forward, back, etc.
One day it suits them for the workers to keep quiet and think only of voting them into parliament and local councils and they preach against violence, against the insurrectionist illusion in favour of slow, gradual, safe, evolution, for the legal conquest of public authorities.
Then come the beatings, the arsons, the fascist murders to show even the blind that you get nowhere with legality, because even if it has been beneficial to the oppressed in some cases, the oppressors have no qualms about violating it and substituting it with the most atrocious violence. But our good socialists are rushing to prevent workers from responding to provocation, extolling ” heroic patience.”
Finally the blows get too harsh and even strike the leaders’ backs, all the special cooperative organization of the socialists is about to be destroyed, the situation becomes unbearable even for them, and so they call for insurrection!
Do they not see, these gentlemen, does Zirardini not see that it is ridiculous to hope that those they have spent fifty years turning into sheep will become lions all of a sudden? And can’t they imagine with what sneers and suspicion the workers they have failed to emasculate would welcome a call for insurrection coming from them?
Besides, who could take them seriously when the same Zirardini who is threatening a possible insurrection, is proposing a collaboration of socialists with the anti-fascist bourgeois parties, i.e. is putting forward another illusion, another deception intended to keep the workers down, hoping that salvation will come from the government without any need for their own efforts?
We do not question anyone’s good faith; but it seems a singular aberration, an incredible misunderstanding of individual and mass psychology to think that we can believe in and put our hopes in legal means, and at the same time be ready to resort to illegal ones; get excited about elections and prepare for insurrection. This might seem possible in Mr. Enrico Ferri’s speeches on the “two legs” with which socialism walks, but is refuted by historical experience, just as it is belied by the conscience of anyone who stops to look at himself a little.
Let’s recall, for example, a lecture by the ineffable Misiano, in which the then honourable deputy, after speaking of the imminence of the revolution and insisting on the need for technical preparation, went on to talk about the municipal elections which were due to take place within about six months, and recommended starting to prepare the lists right away and beginning activities in preparation for the election campaign.
Can you imagine anyone who is expecting the revolution at any moment and is preparing for it, working at the same time for the municipal elections that are due to take place in six months? Or vice versa, one who hopes, without risk and with little effort, to contribute effectively to social transformation with a simple vote, being prepared to risk bread, freedom, life in insurrectionary action?
You have to choose; and of course the majority choose the path that seems easier and which in any case is not dangerous; but then they find that they have built on sand, and when the reaction does not have the moral and material capacity to resist … they let themselves be beaten and starve.
And, in fact, we saw what happened. The revolution did not come about, because they didn’t want it; but the elections did […]
The insurrection will come, it must come; but it will certainly not be through the work of parliamentarians … indeed it will be against them.
The workers must prepare themselves, and to do so they must give up illusory faith in governments of today or tomorrow, in deputies and all those aspiring to become them.
[Humanita Nova, n. 140, June 18, 1922]

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