The question of the reconstruction of life by the social revolution has been set forth only in general terms. . . . Unfortunately it is necessary to say that socialists and workingmen in general, having lost hope in the possibility of revolution in the near future, were not interested in the question: What character would it be advisable for the revolution to take? Our comrade Pouget has told us, in How we will make the Revolution, how a social revolution could be accomplished in France under the direction of the trade unions; how these unions and the congresses would be able to expropriate the capitalists and organize production on a new basis without the least stoppage of production. It is clear that only the workers through their own organizations would ever be able to achieve this, and though I differ from Pouget in certain details, I recommend this book to all those who understand the inevitability of the social reconstruction which humanity will have to provide for.
In my own studies in England and Scotland I always tried to find out what was the real life of the workers, keeping always in view the following question: What form would the social revolution be able to take to pass without too great a shock from private production to a system of production and exchange organized by the producers and consumers themselves?
My examination of this question brought me to two conclusions. The first is that production and exchange represented an undertaking so complicated that the plans of the state socialists, which lead inevitably to a party directorship, would prove to be absolutely ineffective as soon as they were applied to life. No government would be able to organize production if the workers themselves through their unions did not do it in each branch of industry; for in all production there arise daily thousands of difficulties which no government can solve or foresee. It is certainly impossible to foresee everything. Only the efforts of thousands of intelligences working on the problems can cooperate in the development of a new social system and find the best solutions for the thousands of local needs. . . .
The second conclusion to which I came was that the present economic life in civilized countries is constructed on an erroneous basis. The theory is that the peoples of the world are divided into two categories: those who thanks to their superior education are qualified to direct production, and the others who, because of their limited capacity, are condenmed to labor for their employers. The whole course of political economy declares this theory. It is thus that the English employing class has enriched itself. It is thus that other countries, in developing their, industry, are enriching themselves at the expense of the backward peoples. But a more profound study of economic life in England and other European countries leads us to another conclusion. It is no longer possible to become enriched in the same way as England has up to now. Not one civilized country wants to remain in the position of furnishing raw materials. All countries aspire to develop manufacturing industry and they are all gradually doing so. . . . The road to the development of the welfare of all peoples lies only in the union of agriculture and industry and not in the sub-division of peoples into industrial and agrarian civilizations. Such sub-division will lead inevitably to incessant wars for the capture of markets and cheap labor for industry. . . .
It follows then that the social revolution, wherever it breaks out, must consider as its first duty the increase of production.The first months of emancipation will inevitably increase consumption of goods and production will diminish. And, furthermore, any country achieving a social revolution will be surrounded by a ring of neighbors either unfriendly or actually enemies. . . . In a word, a revolution will lead inevitably to increased consumption, for a third of the population of all Europe lives in misery and suffers from a lack of clothes and other goods. The demands upon products will increase while production decreases, and finally famine will come. There is only one way of avoiding it. We should understand that as soon as a revolutionary movement begins in any country the only possible way out will consist in the workingmen and peasants from the beginning taking the whole national economy into their hands and organizing it themselves with a view to a rapid increase in production. But they will not be convinced of this necessity except when all responsibility for national economy, today in the hands of a multitude of ministers and committees, is presented in a simple form to each village and city, in every factory and shop, as their own affair, and when they understand that they must direct it themselves.