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Report on presentation of Daniel Guérin book

category italy / switzerland | anarchist movement | news report author Monday September 28, 2009 23:16author by FdCA "Luigi Fabbri" Branch - Rome - Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchiciauthor email fdcaroma at fdca dot it Report this post to the editors

Rome, Italy - 25 Sept. 2009

A presentation of the first Italian edition of Daniel Guérin's "Pour un marxisme libertaire" took place yesterday, Friday 25 September, at the Laboratorio Sociale "La Talpa" in Rome. As the publisher reminded the audience, many of Guérin's books are known to Italian readers, except for what are possibly two of his most "uncomfortable" works - this one (first published in 1969) and a later book "Towards a libertarian communism". [Italiano]

Dadà, Cremaschi, Massari
Dadà, Cremaschi, Massari

Report on presentation of Daniel Guérin book

Per un marxismo libertario

A presentation of the first Italian edition of Daniel Guérin's "Pour un marxisme libertaire" took place yesterday, Friday 25 September, at the Laboratorio Sociale "La Talpa" in Rome. As the publisher reminded the audience, many of Guérin's books are known to Italian readers, except for what are possibly two of his most "uncomfortable" works - this one (first published in 1969) and a later book "Towards a libertarian communism".

After a brief statement in memory of the journalist Mauro Rostagno who was killed by the mafia in Sicily 21 years ago, the presentation began. First to speak was historian Adriana Dadà, a member of the Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici. Dadà briefly traced Guérin's political career. From his Marxist origins, Guérin gradually drew closer to anarchism, which he converted to completely in the late 1960's when he joined the editorial team of "Guerre de classe". In 1971, he joined the Organisation Révolutionnaire Anarchiste (ORA) and later the Union des Travailleurs Communistes Libertaires (which later became Alternative Libertaire), of which he remained a member until his death in 1988.

Throughout his political career, Guérin was a very inquisitive, curious type, a great observer, open-minded, with a well-developed critical eye, ready to question everything. Thanks to this he gradually became convinced of the need for freedom and this, coupled with his materialist analysis, was to lead him into the libertarian/anarchist communist movement. Dadà also reminded the audience of the enormous impact that Guérin had, not only on French and indeed international anarchism, but also in many other areas such as anti-fascism (with in 1930's study on the links between capitalism and nazism), the anti-colonialist movement (from the 1920's on) and the struggle of homosexuals for the free expression of their identity.

The period of the late '60s was one in which class-struggle anarchism was being rediscovered. The works of Bakunin were finally made available thanks to the efforts of Arthur Lehning, and even Guérin played an important role with his excellent 1965 study "L'Anarchisme" (published in Italy in 1969). This book was followed by the anthology "Ni Dieu, ni Maître" (No Gods, No Masters), which presented a series of very important texts that were witness to the depth of anarchist thought since its earliest days. Guérin's influence reached Italy not only through books like "L'anarchisme", but also as a result of the close links that developed between French and Italian anarchist communists in the early '70s.

The floor was then taken by Giorgio Cremaschi, national secretary of the FIOM trade union and a member of the 28 April Network, an opposition grouping within the CGIL union federation which promotes trade union democracy. Cremaschi admitted that he had never heard of or read Guérin before coming across this book, and indeed was the only one of the three speakers who had not personally met Guérin. However, thanks to his roots in the ideas of Rosa Luxenburg, he stated that he agreed with much of Guérin's analysis, that Marxism was not be self-sufficient and that something more profound was required if the left were ever to provide a firm, successful response to capitalism.

Cremaschi's speech centred on the idea that authoritarianism was inherent in Marx' ideas, since the days of the First International, and that it represented the greatest problem for the entire revolutionary socialist movement. Guérin's book was not the usual overly-optimistic work one so often sees, but saw perfectly clearly the "dust under the carpet", the contradictions that have always characterised the Marxist movement, even in those periods when it seemed to enjoy huge success and influence, such as the 1960's, when there was the USSR, China, Cuba and imposing anti-colonialist movements throughout the world. It was not that capitalism had won, it was that "Communism" had lost. And its mistake was not the deformations of Stalin, not the events of the Bolshevik Revolution and the ensuing civil war. The mistake lay in Lenin's political ideas, heir as he was to the authoritarianism present in marx' thought. And this was something that Guérin shows he understood perfectly. Cremaschi also noted that the anti-authoritarianism of libertarian communism was the key to be able to rebuild a revolutionary movement which would be able to defeat capitalism. Jacobinism was a method of the bourgeois revolution and socialist revolutinoaries could no longer use means which have time and again been proven to be destined to failure.

Anti-authoritarianism was fundamental also in the trade union movement: the road forward comes from below. Once it was thought that the party, or councils or soviets, were enough. But it is clear today that we need to build a new project, think again about where we are going and how we need to get there, and Guérin's book can provide much food for thought for anyone interested in pushing forward the social revolution.

Last but not least came the turn of the publisher Roberto Massari, representing his Utopia Rossa political association, who defined himself as a libertarian Marxist. Originally a Trotskyist, Massari met Guérin in Paris, where they worked together on the editorial committee of the magazine "L'autogestion".

Massari stated that two things were essential: having a dream of a better future, but abopve all having a definitive plan for achieving that dream. And in this his vision coincided with that of Guérin, which emerges clearly from the pages of the book. Marxism (or communism, or socialism) can and must be libertarian. He announced that he would be publishing "Towards a libertarian communism" shortly, and indeed translation work had already begun on it. He concluded by thanking the organisers of the presentation, the comrades of the "La Talpa" social laboratory in the Quarticciolo neighbourhood of Rome, and also the speakers, Dadà who had come from Florence for the event, and Cremaschi, who had volunteered to present the book.


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