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(en) Hungary, The anarchist Barricade Collective presents Ervin Batthyany - Socialism and Anarchism -

Date Thu, 25 Aug 2005 13:50:29 +0300

The life of this "anarchist count" was more interesting than his
writings. It can be said that the writings of a lot of comrades who
were active at the beginning of the last century, have been lost their
significance until now, their fresh innovations and statements for
now have been assimilated by the big stream of the working-class
movement. Our hero was early influenced by William Morris,
Edward Carpentier, Piotr Kropotkin (whom he met in London in
1910) and Ervin Szabó, who was a close friend of him. His "devout"
aristocratic family wanted to put the young count into a mental
hospital because of his revolutionary views. This performance
repeated several times during his life - although he was healthy,
there were attempts to end his political activity this way.
Already in this period, social democracy reigned on the terrain of the
working-class movement in Hungary. Comparing to it, the anarchist
movement was rather small, but it was active and enthusiastic!
During the whole of his life, Batthyány had always a lot of plans, and
sometimes he managed to realize some of his ideas. He delivered
lectures, dreamed about the establishment of a publishing house,
translated, publicated, created a school and several journals. In 1905,
he founded the "popular school" in Bögöte (this place belonged to
his lordship). Embedded into his own naivity, he wanted to maintain
this school within the semi-feudalistic and semi-capitalistic relations
of Hungary. He intended to run a clear popular school, in which the
children of the working class would have been taught in the
progressive class-conscious spirit and moral of the working-class
movement. The authorities worked according to their social tasks,
and made the functioning of the school impossible. In 1906,
Batthyány contributed to the foundation of the socialist journal
"Jöv"(Future), and with his financial help the journal
"Testvériség" (Fraternity) was also established this year. The latter
was published as a newspaper of social democracy, but the editors
had been anarchists until the intervention of the Social Democratic
Ervin Batthyány (maybe because of the influence of his comrade
Ervin Szabó) didn't accept the seeming contradictions between
anarchism and communism, this can be seen in his activity even if
his plan of the reform school, his close relations to Kropotkin (which
was clearly indicated by the fact that he forced the publication of
Kropotkin's "Mutual Help" which was finally published)
foreshadow a typical libertarian militant. Undoubtedly, there were
also idealist and individualist elements in his movement activity, as
we can see from the text published below. But despite of its
problematic and bad views (making distinction between "political"
and "economic" struggle and then uniting them, ultra-determinism,
extension of the role of individuals, emphasizing the importance of
education - shortly, the propagation of enlightenment with its
idealism etc. etc.), this text remains a document of the always
developing revolutionary movement.
About 1906, began comrade Batthyány's anarcho-syndicalist epoch.
A new journal, "Társadalmi Forradalom" (Social Revolution) was
published from February 1907, which was started by him and several
of his comrades. Their slogan was the call for general strike, their
flag was the propagation of anti-militarism. He travelled to London
quite often until the early 1910's when he remained there till the end
of his life. The edition of "Társadalmi Forradalom" was continued by
the "Budapest Group of Revolutionary Socialists", and the journal
ceased to exist only when the Soviet Republic of Hungary was
defeated. Batthyány wanted Ervin Szabó for editor, but he didn't
accept this because at this time he hadn?t broken his contradictory
links to social democracy yet. The activity of Ervin Batthyány was
touched by syndicalism basically in the period when he actively
co-operated with his comrades, mainly when they edited
?Társadalmi Forradalom? (together with the group of Károly Krausz)
and when he was influenced by the French syndicalists (Grave and
the CGT). He usually lived the life of a ?queer revolutionary?,
isolated by the walls of social-democratic counter-revolution, against
which he fought actively during his whole life. We know little about
his years in London.
In general, it can be said that his activity infiltrated firmly into the
struggles of next proletarian generations, and mentioning his name,
we didn?t remember an ?animal species died out in the glacial
epoch?, but a committed anarcho-communist comrade, who fought
for the communist society during the active period of his life.

Barricade Collective, 2005 summer
Ervin Batthyany: Socialism and Anarchism

There are so many contradictory, often muddled, opinions about the
relationship between socialism and anarchism that first we should
briefly sketch the character of the two social movements.
Socialism aims at removing the means of production from the
hands of a privileged few into the hands of the community and thus
assure everyone an equal share in the fruits of nature and the work of
the community; it wants to abolish the exploitation of the poor by
the rich and thus achieve a happy life for all. Anarchism demands
that the domination of man over man be abolished, that everyone be
able to live his life according to his own taste, needs, and wishes,
that a harmony and balance emerging from the solidarity and free
contracted union of free individuals should replace the dominion of
law, statute, and violence.

How do these two trends agree and how can their practical
accomplishment be coordinated? Both socialism and anarchism
are the results of the development of mankind. Socialist and
anarchist society appear on the horizon of possibilities only when
this development has reached a certain point; only then can the ideal
of this kind of future and the demand for its achievement enter the
minds of people. This point is reached, first, when the domination
of man over natural forces truly enables society to fulfill all needs of
everyone, when agriculture, industry, and transportation are on a
level that permits? through a rational social order?all to enjoy a
healthy, good and happy life without inordinate efforts. Second, this
moment?not unconnected to the formerly described
conditions?arrives when human minds are cleansed of superstition
and prejudice, understand in the light of reason and observation
the forces of nature and themselves, are freed from fear of the
unknown and the pressure of religious and political authorities, and
recognize the unity of the life of mankind, the equality of all men,
and the solidarity that binds them together.
Thus the point of departure of socialism and anarchism is the
same, and so is their final aim: the happiness of all mankind.
But let us look at the methods of reaching this target. Socialism
wants to abolish property and wishes to put production at the
disposal of the community, by the community. But this cannot be
achieved by laws and ordinances. Obviously, the existing
government and administration are not only useless for this
purpose but indeed hinder it. The entire legal order ? legislation,
system of justice and punishment? of the state is at the service of
private property. If property vanishes, the entire system will
collapse. But it is also certain that socialism will not replace it
with another system of government. The task of future society
is the rational organization of production, the fulfillment of daily
needs? in general, making life happy and comfortable. This task
demands above all the independent action and the full use of
the energies of every single individual. Masses strictly regulated
and moved by commands from above cannot achieve this aim.
Social life has to adapt to ever-changing needs and the
continuously varying conditions which preclude a general,
all-embracing system of regulations; instead, actions conforming
with the actual situation and agreements derived from individual
cases have to take their place.
In socialism, once the workers will have taken over production and
administration, it is highly unlikely that they will replace the old
bosses with new ones, in the form of bureaucrats. People know best
themselves what they need and how to achieve that; but if they
entrust the running of their business to officials, no matter how
democratically elected, those will soon lose all touch with reality and
the people eventually end up on the leash of a new privileged class,
which they themselves have created. In a socialistic order all
members have to think with their own heads and participate,
according to their abilities, in the affairs of all. In order to operate
successfully, each group has to be bound together by common
needs, common ideals, and aims; that is, by free association and not
by some kind of contract, law, or coercion. Hence, for the success of
socialism one thing is necessary: anarchism.
But is socialism needed for the accomplishment of anarchism as
well? Anarchism demands the abolition of all dominion. But
economic dominion, the power of rich over poor, is the most
dangerous of all. It is the origin and mainstay of all other rule and
violence. In order for mankind to live according to its own wishes in
liberty, it needs economic equality, lack of exploitation, and access
for all to general welfare. Hence, whereas socialism is not merely the
prerequisite of anarchism, anarchism expressly implies socialism.
The two social movements, which are often depicted as opposites,
are in fact identical; they are two sides?one the economic, the other
the political?of the same issue: the future liberation of mankind.
Why is it, then, that not only outsiders but often those who
participate in these movements are unable to see this identity and
even fight against each other? Anarchic socialism cannot, of course,
be accomplished in full at once. The rule of capitalism and the state
has made a good part of society simply unable to think and to act
independently. The awakening of the workers and their
revolutionary organization will still leave behind plenty of slag,
which after the collapse of the old order will not know what to do and
will not find its place by itself in the new social order. There will be
the poorest, the ones crippled in soul and body, the depraved wrecks,
and also those from the "upper ten thousand," who grew up without
any life experience, unfamiliar with any useful work. The education,
organization, employment, and care of these people will fall upon
socialist society until they become able to help themselves and do
not hamper healthy society; these measures will possibly be at
variance with the principles of pure anarchism. But this will be
only a transitory stage, compatible with socialism if it serves
the final aim, the eventual accomplishment of anarchic

Many present-day socialists, aware of the need of this transitory
stage, concentrate on these first steps and believe that the
success of the entire socialist future depends on them. They act
in good faith, and there is a grain of truth in their thinking. However,
it is also true that the success of these first?and any future?steps
depends on how far they serve the final aim and ideal toward which
they lead. Every step of socialism has to prepare the people for the
complete liberation, for anarchic communism; every step has to
develop their selves, their independence, and their ability to
cooperate freely. Everything that points in a different direction, for
the sake of transitory or temporary purposes, acts against
socialism in the last resort. That is what the social democratic
parties often lose sight of when they accuse the anarchist socialists,
who look neither right nor left but proceed towards their final aim, of
being utopians.
However, there are anarchists who fall into the other extreme. In
their great enthusiasm for freedom and in their boundless trust in the
improvement of mankind they overlook the present realities, do not
see the obstacles which the long epoch of oppression and
stupefaction has built on the road towards a free society. They regard
everybody to be like themselves, free individuals for whom even the
necessary external limitations of socialist society would appear as
fetters. They take it so much for granted that the life of the individual
is one with mankind, and that the unlimited freedom of all would
lead to the perfect harmony of all, that they do not wish to waste
time thinking about all this. They ask instead, why should we ponder
over the system of future society, why do we need any forms of
society, when all this will develop from itself out of the individuals,
once they are left to their own devices and unlimited desires?
Doubtlessly, they, too, are right. The development of mankind is
progressing in this direction and has to reach this stage. But this
perfect anarchism will be possible only after several generations have
passed, whereas socialism, and not only transitory social democracy,
but anarchic communism as well, can be achieved by our own will in
the foreseeable future. The way of anarchism is not to disregard and
reject the latter, but to build a social order that conforms best to the
final aim, which we should never lose sight of. But, as I said, there
are some impatient, overly enthusiastic anarchists who cannot see
this. In their impatience they would rather grab a dagger or a bomb
to eliminate today's tyrants and do not consider that these men are
merely the products of the present social order and will be replaced
by the same kind as long as this order and the people in it do not
change radically. These fanatics tend to regard socialist anarchism as
conservative and treacherous.
Socialism and anarchism can travel only on a common road.
Socialism without anarchism, if at all thinkable, would lead mankind
into a slavery probably worse than the present: into a rule of
bureaucracy by the grace of god. Anarchism without socialism is not
even thinkable, for
that would be equivalent to a struggle of all against all as among wild
animals (a struggle which never existed, even in the wild!) and
which would soon annihilate mankind. There is only one road to the
development of mankind: free communism that unites in itself both
socialism and anarchism.
The task of today's working-class movement is to foster this
development and to establish the better future of mankind, the free
communist society. That can be achieved only if the image of the
future exists clearly in the mind of everyone, if all act out of their
own convictions, striving for the final aim according to their means
and possibilities. The workers have to achieve their future by their
own direct action; their organizations, based on free and independent
compact and common interests, are the germs of future social order.
These will have to blow up capitalism and state power from within
and take over production and administration. All proletarian
movements have to cooperate in order to enable the working class,
its single members as well as its entirety, to perform this gigantic
task. That is the purpose of the workers' economic betterment,
education, and increase of political power, but all these are only
means and preparation toward the social revolution.

(A Jöv? [The Future], February 1906.)
Ervin Batthyány (1877-1945)
Published and edited by Barricade Collective
2005 summer
website: www.anarcom.lapja.hu
e-mail: shmintaka@yahoo.com

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