And the bourgeoisie– there are many kinds of bourgeois individuals and they are in many places– wove ceaselessly with the threads of calumny the evil slanders with which we have been regaled, because they, and they alone, have been injured and are capable of being injured by our activities, by our rebelliousness, and by the wildly irrepressible desires we carry in our hearts to be free like the eagles on the highest mountain peaks, like the lions in the jungle.
–from A Day Mournful and Overcast, by an “Uncontrollable” from the Iron Column.
The Iron Column was an autonomous, decentralized and volunteer militia in the Spanish Revolution of 1936, which was composed almost entirely of ex-prisoners rather than members of revolutionary trade unions or radical political groups. Under their banner, 6,000 men and women fought most tenaciously for generalized social liberation. But early in the Civil War, what had been a struggle for a free society was limited solely to the fight against fascism. The treachery of Stalinists, Republicans and other leftists, was to impose rank, hierarchy, and strict martial culture on all the militias, stabbing them in the back and reducing them, in the words of this same writer, to the status of “domestic animals.” In 1939, the Civil War was lost to the fascists, but long before that the Uncontrollables lost to the Stalinists. The Iron Column disbanded in 1937.
This episode, buried in the most lauded saga of classical anarchist history, serves to illuminate the divorce between revolutionary ideology and our wildly irrepressible desires, the innate longings for freedom we indeed share with the eagles and lions. Those desires and those longings have become something of a fashionable sentiment in contemporary anarchism. It remains unfashionable to acknowledge the simple, undeniable reason for them: that our ecology as human animals has indelibly and essentially shaped us. Our bodies are woven as a metaphrase of our niche, our minds a hologram of the cosmos. This is why the desires we share with the beasts of the jungle are not conjectural, and not merely metaphorical, but in a sense are as tangible as sinew and bone. This is why every attempt to hedge them in, in the name of liberation, is doomed at the outset to a tragedy that we learn to misconstrue: what could not possibly have succeeded is represented as some kind of collective, personal failing, as if the anarchists should only have tried harder. But here we say truly, that the revolutions of modernity, conceived as they were in a trajectory away from that niche, that cosmos, could only ever have achieved a deeper and more unassailable slavery, as the pageant of humanity’s history, with all its bloody wandering, increasingly lays bare.