Second all-russian conference of anarcho-syndicalists

Theses on the cultural organization in Russia

Moscow, 1918

Saturday 12 February 2005

Theses on the Cultural Organization of Russia
adopted by the Second All-Russian Conference of Anarcho-Syndicalists
Moscow, November and December 1918 published as Vmesto programmy: rezoliutsii I i II Vserossiiskikh konferentsii anarkho-sindikalistov
(Berlin, 1922), 23-5.

To prepare men [sic] for the libertarian society of the future, the anarchists pinned their greatest hopes on education. Inspired by the teachings of Kropotkin, Tolstoy and Francisco Ferrer, they called for an ’integrated education’ that would cultivate both mental and manual skills in a libertarian atmosphere, free from the domination of church or state. Due emphasis was to be placed on the humanities and on the basic principles of mathematics and science, but instead of being taught from books alone the students were to receive an active outdoor education and learn by doing and observing at first hand, a programme that has been endorsed by many ’progressive’ educational theorists. The following resolution, which embodies some of these principles, was adopted by the Second All-Russian Conference of Anarcho-Syndicalists, which met in Moscow in November and December 1918.

(note by Paul Avrich in "The Anarchists in the Russian Revolution")

Theses on the Cultural Organization of Russia

In the area of culture and education the Second All-Russian Conference of Anarcho-Syndicalists sets as its goals:

A. To awaken interest among the proletarian masses in art, learning and cultural pursuits.

B. To seek ways and means of developing the initiative and creativity of the masses. This will help improve conditions within the framework of the present bourgeois state socialist order. It will also make it possible for the proletariat to create its own socialist — as opposed to bourgeois — culture and its own art, which will reflect the shining beauty and magnificence of stateless socialism and open to the human mind the widest prospects and possibilities.

C. To encourage in every way possible the development of the individual personality, with all its disparate features, eliminating prejudices and preconceived ideas while seeking to present facts which will help the individual formulate his own opinions about things.

D. To impress upon the proletarian masses the idea that they must rely only on their own forces in all their activities, holding fast to the golden words enshrined in the memory of the First International: ’The liberation of the workers is the task of the workers themselves.’

E. To apply every means to inculcate in the proletarian masses the habit of thinking independently, since the strongest convictions are those which we arrive at ourselves.

F. To help the workers teach themselves self-respect and to know how to make others respect them, not only without laws but in spite of them and in spite of ’the world of power’ around us.

G. To nurture within the proletarian army a strong will and a firm mind; to nurture among the workers the spirit of revolt and to make of them conscious, loyal, tireless and fearless fighters in the true spirit of relentless class struggle for a shining future, for anarchism.

H. To unite all proletarian organizations and to stimulate their development in every way.

I. To satisfy all inquiries in the fields of learning and art by organizing truly proletarian institutions - universities, theatres, libraries, reading rooms, schools of different types, proletarian palaces, museums, conservatories, etc.

J. The activities of Anarcho-Syndicalism must therefore aim for the elimination of power, compulsion, and authority.

K. To encourage the development of the above-mentioned institutions, by means of which the proletariat must wrest from the arms of the state and church the entire function of education and learning and take it in its own hands.

As a result, all cultural and educational activities of Anarcho-Syndicalism will rest:

A. On the self-discipline of the proletariat, and not on discipline taught by lies and dissimulation.

B. On the removal of all compulsory programmes which level all individual characteristics and personal traits and kill the spirit of initiative, self-reliance and responsibility.

Education will thus become:

1. Many-sided but integrated, offering the chance to achieve the harmonious development of the whole personality by giving it something whole, complete, and related to every area of art and science,

2. Rational, founded on reason and corresponding to the latest discoveries of science rather than on blind faith; on the development of personal dignity and independence rather than on a feeling of submission or obedience; on the elimination of stories about God, which are false and harmful to the cause of the peasants’ and workers’ liberation.

3. Co-educational, the joint teaching of both sexes so as to remove coarse ideas and to ensure a higher morality that will advance the cause of women far more than all the laws put together, laws which have been directed towards their total enslavement.

4. Libertarian, abandoning the idea of power for the principle of freedom, because the aim of cultural and educational activity is the development of free men who cherish not only their own freedom but also the freedom of others.

For the success of this great task of instruction and education, if it is to be truly revolutionary rather than mere cultural dilettantism, it is necessary to give all cultural and educational organizations of peasants and workers full freedom and autonomy in their own immediate bailiwick. But they must in turn advance towards a free federation of city, township, district and provincial centres concerned with technical, cultural and educational questions which, owing to their importance, reach beyond the narrow circle of local organizations and affect the interests of peasant and worker educational organizations at all levels: city, township, district, province, region, and the whole country.

These organizations and centres must replace the existing state apparatus which monopolizes all cultural and educational work.