By George Woodcock
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Finally, after many variations on this theme, he sketches out his vision of the free society, based on the teachings of Christ whom he gives the name of Universal Liberty. The passage in which he does so is worth quoting, since it does get surprisingly near - considering the gap of two centuries - to the kind of social arrangement nineteenth-century anarchists projected in their imaginations. When this universal equity rises up in every man and woman, then none shall lay claim to any creature and say, This is mine and that is yours.
In Spain the anarchists showed that in local and spontaneous efforts their methods were effective; where they failed was in co-ordination on a larger scale. For example, in Barcelona it was the anarchist grasp of street fighting tactics that defeated the attempt by Franco's generals to seize power. Similarly, in the rural areas the villagers established free communes, and even critical commentators were impressed by the natural efficiency and Spartan fortitude with which the people set about rearranging their lives on the lines indicated by the nineteenth-century anarchist prophets.
Painters like Pissaro and Signac and Vlaminck and the young Picasso called themselves anarchists; so did poets like Mallarme and men of letters like Oscar Wilde. All anarchists saw themselves as propagandists for freedom but while some confined their propaganda to writing and speaking, others elaborated the theory and practice of propaganda by deed. This was an early form of an idea favoured in our own day, that a political theory becomes valid only when it is activated. It originated, not among the anarchists, Anarchism: A Historical Introduction 43 but with an extreme Italian republican, Carlo Pisacane (who had discarded his title of Duke of San Giovanni), and who probably expressed the idea more succinctly than anyone has since done: 'The propaganda of the idea is a chimera.