From: George Plechanoff (1909). Anarchism and Socialism. Translated by Eleanor Marx Aveling. Introduction by Robert Rives LaMonte. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company. 1909.
INTRODUCTION TO THE AMERICAN
We American Socialists have been so busy with the work of Socialist propaganda that it is but natural we should have somewhat neglected the work of education of professed Socialists. We have no apology to make for this; the foundation must be laid before the superstructure can be reared. But our task is now changing- industrial evolution is more and more doing our propaganda work for us; recruits are joining our camp in ever growing numbers- and our chief task now is the education and drilling of these recruits.
In this work which is daily becoming more urgent our chief reliance must be upon the books which we owe to the enterprise of the Co-operative Socialist publishing house of Charles H. Kerr & Co.
I was over-joyed when Comrade Kerr recently wrote me he was going to provide the American Movement with an edition of Plechanoff's "Anarchism and Socialism," but my joy was tempered with misgivings when I read his request that I write an introduction; for, while I am absolutely convinced there is no book the movement in America needs so imperatively, I have my doubts whether it is wise or tactful for a preacher to tell his congregation for which of them his sermon is intended. But I greatly misjudge the progress (intellectual) the Movement has made in the past three years, if it is not perfectly safe and discreet to-day to say that if Engels' "Anti-Duehring" and Plechanoff's "Anarchism and Socialism " had been as well known in the American Movement in 1904 as they will be by 1909, the Socialist Party platform of 1904 could never have been seriously offered for consideration to any representative body of American Socialists.
Personally I owe so much to this book of Plechanoff's that I cannot rid myself of the feeling that in writing an introduction to it I am profaning the sanctuary, and the only excuse I can offer the comrades for my presumption is that I have permitted myself to be beguiled by the flattering terms in which Comrade Kerr has couched his request for this introduction, so, gentle reader, I pray you, blame Comrade Kerr and not me for the fact that you have to wade through a few pages of LaMonte before reaching the solid instruction and enjoyment Plechanoff has to offer you.
It is now twelve years since Marx's daughter, Eleanor, translated this little book into English, but up to the present we have been dependent upon importations of the English edition. It is partly owing to this fact, and partly to the fact that the title has given the impression that the book was merely a polemic against a moribund movement, Anarchism, that the book is little known in America.
While the abyss separating Anarchism from Socialism has never been more clearly revealed than in this book, the essential value of the book is its brilliant delineation of the utter difference in view-point and methods of the Utopian Socialists of the early part of the Nineteenth Century and the Marxian Socialists of to-day. From this point of view it is a classic deserving to rank with Engels' "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific." To Plechanoff Anarchism is only one form of Utopianism, and a decadent form at that. Anarchism proper is dying out so rapidly that it would not be worth while to re-print this book, were it merely a polemic against Anarchism; but it is far more- it is a relentless exposure of utopianism in all its forms, and utopianism in one form or another is always with us, so that we may be quite sure Plechanoff's brilliant little brochure will never be out of date till the dawn of the Day of Proletarian Triumph.
This reprint is particularly timely just now as there has recently appeared in this country an English translation of Max Stirner's "The Ego and His Own," a bubble which was pricked once for all by Plechanoff in this book. Plechanoff's book is an equally deadly weapon against the insane individualism of Friedrich Nietzsche, but I do not care to take space enlarging upon its timeliness as a polemic against Stirner and his spiritual son Nietzsche, because I do not believe that either Stirner or Nietzsche will to-day gain any following from the ranks of the proletariat. Their appeal to-day is to the decadent bourgeoisie, and we have troubles enough of our own without attempting to rescue the soul-sick bourgeoisie from every slough into which they stumble in their pursuit of new sensations.
I hope that every reader of this book will weigh carefully every word of the preface of the translator, Eleanor Marx. I have requested Comrade Kerr to let it precede my introduction. It is interesting to see why Eleanor Marx thought it was needed in England in 1895. She deliberately points to the history of the Socialist League as demonstrating the need of an English edition of Plechanoff. It is well to remember that the Socialist League was founded by William Morris, Eleanor Marx, and others who had become disgusted with what they deemed the excessive parliamentarism of the Social Democratic Federation. She points out that those of the League who did not return with her and Morris to the fold of the Social Democratic Federation, landed in the quagmire of Anarchism. Every revolt from the Socialist Party in America, which is based on disgust with the fact that it is a " pure and simple " political party of " ballot-worshippers " is destined to repeat the history of the Socialist League. At the risk of offending some of my Red Revolutionist comrades I will venture to ask them if they do not feel as though they were looking in a mirror when they read these words of Eleanor Marx? "But, unfortunately, there are many of the younger, or of the more ignorant sort, who are inclined to take words for deeds. high-sounding phrases for acts, mere sound and fury for revolutionary activity, and who are too young or too ignorant to know that such sound and fury signify nothing."
Plechanoff, I am sure, placed more emphasis on political action than he would in writing today. The full potentialities of revolutionary industrial unionism are scarcely realized in the Socialist movement to-day. When Plechanoff wrote this book they were not even dreamt of. But recent events in the labor movement in Belgium, France, Russia, Italy and America have made all thinking Socialists realize that revolutionary organization on the economic field is, to say the least, equally as essential as revolutionary organization upon the political field. But the two methods of combat are not antagonistic, but mutually supplementary. They must be used simultaneously, and it is not necessary to harmonious co-operation that there should be any organic connection between the political and the economic organizations of the proletariat. The idea that we are to concentrate all our energy upon any ONE form of the struggle, and when we meet with defeat (as we inevitably must when we fight with only ONE weapon) discard that weapon and concentrate all our attention upon some other hitherto neglected means of struggle, is unscientific and utopian, and leads its exponents into the mere "sound and fury" which Eleanor Marx so well described. An excellent illustration of this is this sentence from Comrade Ernest Untermann's Appendix to Labriola's "Socialism and Philosophy." "All weapons are good which accomplish our aim, and if the ballot should prove a failure we shall not hesitate to resort to other weapons, even to powder, lead, and dynamite." Doubtless that sentence impressed Comrade Untermann and many of his readers as being very fine and revolutionary. It is not in the least revolutionary, but is on the contrary pure and simple nonsense. The ballot as a weapon cannot conceivably fail us so long as we do not demand from the ballot what the ballot can never give. The ballot can only fail those who trust to the ballot alone. The proletarian revolutionist will not devote his whole energy now to the economic field and now to the political field, but will constantly fight with equal energy upon both fields, and neither his political organization nor his economic organization will ever "prove a failure," so long as each has the loyal support of the other, and so long as the workingman does not demand of the one what it is the province of the other to furnish. Every intelligent observer of the Haywood trial must realize that the Socialist writer or speaker who to-day talks of using "powder, lead and dynamite," is to borrow a felicitous phrase from A. M. Simons- "doing the work if not receiving the pay of a spy." Let me parenthetically express the hope that the day is not far distant when Comrade Simons and other Socialist gladiators will use their undoubted powers of vituperation upon the enemies of the working-class instead of upon each other.
But, though Socialists to-day are able to define more clearly the limitations of pure and simple political action, it remains as true to as when Plechanoff wrote that "every class war is a political war." Those portions of the militant labor movement that discard political action inevitably tend to dissolve into small groups of rioters destined to be led by new Father Gapons to new blood-baths, or into bands of anarchistic braggarts who prate loudly of revolution while doing their utmost to disrupt every revolutionary organization, and who, too often, prove by deeds their complete emancipation from bourgeois respect for the rights of private property. This is no mere empty rhetoric unfortunately. A small band of repudiators of political action recently proclaimed themselves the "nucleus of a revolutionary organization of the working class." One of their number proposed "that anybody who was not an atheist should be debarred from membership in their contemplated organization," and that nobody should be admitted who "has not been a tramp or a thief."
Of course it is unnecessary to say that such a grotesque farce as this has nothing in common with either Industrial Unionism or Socialism, but the very fact that young and ignorant would-be Revolutionists can be misled by such arrant nonsense as this is ample proof of the necessity of drilling all our new members in such fundamental truths as Plechanoff has so well expressed in this book.
Here are two quotations which I wish could be kept standing in bold-faced type and red ink in every Socialist and Labor paper in America:
"Every class-struggle is a political struggle. Whosoever repudiates the political struggle, by this very act gives up all part and lot in the class struggle."
"Error has its logic as well as truth. Once you reject the political action of the working class, you are fatally driven- provided you do not wish to serve the bourgeois politicians- to accept the tactics of the Vaillants and the Henrys."
Plechanoff repeats the story of the Russian writer, Herzen, who was greatly puzzled in an Italian village to discriminate the priests from the bandits, and says that at that time the Anarchists themselves were often unable "to divine where the 'companion' ends and the bandit begins." This difficulty in differentiation has always been insurmountable to the few avowed Anarchists we have had in America, and it bids fair to be equally baffling to the "revolutionary" Socialists who reject the political action of the working-class.
I feel that I must apologize for giving undue prominence to the vagaries of these vaudeville performers on the Labor stage, but they furnish such excellent proof both of the truth of Plechanoff's arguments and of the need of this American re-print at this particular time, that I have felt justified in giving their antics greater publicity than they would ever otherwise have attained.
In closing let me express the hope that here after every active Socialist propagandist will let this little book take its turn with the Communist Manifesto, Engels' "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific," and Liebknecht's "No Compromise" in being his or her pocket-companion.
ROBERT RIVES LA MONTE.
August 12, 1907.
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