Propaganda by Deed
One fact, — or more precisely one series of facts — dominates all the histories of the peoples. It is the incessant war of the oppressed against the oppressors, of the slaves against the masters; it is the eternal struggle of humanity to win its emancipation, to make itself free.
In the name of liberty the ancient slaves rose up; it was in the name of liberty that the serfs of the middle ages revolted and the bourgeoisie emancipated itself in 1789: “liberty,” such is also the rallying cry of the modern proletariat.
Whether economic, political, familial or vested in bosses, authority, on any basis, in all its manifestations, in all its forms, must be, by all those who call themselves revolutionaries, undermined, broken, destroyed.
The material force that sustains it will give way under the formidable pressure of the rebels rising en masse, but in order to reach that point, in order for that collective effort to be produced, there must be acts of individual revolt to destroy the moral force, to overwhelm the prejudices.
“Economic authority” — which is to say capital — would soon be destroyed if the bias for individual property did not prevent the proletariat from making the effort that would inevitably ensure it the victory.
It is the same with “political authority,” which rests much less on armed force than on the errors carefully maintained among the masses, such as Parliamentarianism and Patriotism.
“Familial authority”! Who would still respect it, if bourgeois morality were not there to distort hearts and minds?
And to make the laborers understand their true interests, is that not to attack the “authority” of the bosses at its base? To destroy prejudices, to accomplish the revolutionary education of the people, the anarchists do not limit themselves to theoretical propaganda, which would be insufficient and ineffective if some individual acts were not committed, demonstrating the necessity and legitimacy of revolt.
These acts constitute the propaganda by deed.
Applied to the destruction of property, that propaganda flows from partial repetitions, necessary in order to oppose anarchist logic to false bourgeois economy.
In the political domain, they are—from disobedience to a sergeant to the burning of a Winter Palace—all actions resulting in the destruction of respect for the masters.
The Family could never be destroyed if free love was not already practiced.
To never consent, however strong the passion that tempts you, to “unite” or rather to bind yourselves; to refuse completely this bourgeois, which is to say dishonest and hypocritical, sentiment, by virtue of which a women is declared honest if she has slept a thousand consecutive nights with a man who cannot love her, and scorned, doomed to the anathema, if in complete liberty she has given herself to twenty lovers in twenty days; to not let domestic interests intervene in any fashion in your coming together; to not make commitments of duration or fidelity; to listen only to the senses and to the revolutionary spirit, without being stopped by the inconveniences that are produced always and in all circumstances by acts of rebellion: that is the practice of free love.
If material force is common to all the forms of authority, it is not the same with moral force; the prejudices are multiple, and all must be combated simultaneously.
Would that general strike, so necessary to victory, ever be possible, if partial strikes, although without immediate results, did not prepare minds?
Just as worker abandoning a workshop, sometimes causes a collective departure, just so a limited strike first at one factory extends to an association, to similar association, to a region, to several countries.
The revolution the day when the authority of the bosses will be overthrown everywhere at once, because as soon as the discontent is extensive, the spirit of revolt will develop and grow. The masses, rebelling for a moment against revolutionary ideas, will little by little recognize them as conforming to their own interests. From acts of individual revolt at first, collective actions will then be produced and authority, already being subject to attacks of all sorts, no longer being respected in any of its manifestations, will be brought to heel.
No more capitalists, no more bosses, no more government, and no more family.
That will be liberty. That will be anarchy.
Translation of “La Propagande par le fait” (L’Attaque, 3 no. 56, January 25, 1890)
[Working Translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]