Ricardo Flores Magón: October 6th, 1917
The Manifesto of September 23: The remedy is in our hands. Do they not emerge from our ranks, from the great proletarian mass, the cop and the butler, the jailer and the executioner?
Speech delivered in El Monte, California, at the rally held in celebration of the sixth anniversary of the promulgation.
Join us in an examination of Ricardo Flores Magón’s The Manifesto of September 23.
Free and open to all education levels. Part of the “reading inside the ahuehuete’s treehouse” series.
Ricardo Flores Magón
Regeneración, núm. 260 (1917).
«I wish to say a few words to you about a bad habit, quite common among human beings:
I refer to indifference, that bad habit which consists of not paying attention to matters that concern the general interests of humanity.
Each one is interested in her own person and in those closest to her, and nothing more; each one looks after her own welfare and that of her family, and nothing more; without reflecting on the fact that the welfare of the individual depends on the welfare of others. That the welfare of a collectivity, of a populace, of the whole of humanity, is the result of favorable circumstances for all: is the natural, logical consequence of an environment of freedom and justice.
Thus the prosperity of each one depends on the prosperity of others. A prosperity that can only be possible in an environment of freedom and justice. Because if tyranny reigns, if inequality is the norm: only those who oppress, those who are ranked higher than others, those who base the existence of their privileges on inequality, can enjoy prosperity.
Therefore, the duty of all is to concern ourselves with the general interests of humanity in order to achieve the formation of an environment favorable to the welfare of all.
Only in this way will any individual be able to enjoy true fulfillment.
But we see that in everyday life the opposite is true.
Each one struggles and sacrifices oneself for one's personal well-being, and does not succeed, because the struggle is not directed against the conditions that are the obstacle to the well-being of all.
The individual struggles, strives, sacrifices, all to earn her daily bread; however, this struggle, this exertion, this sacrifice does not produce the desired result. That is, they do not produce the well-being of the individual, because the efforts are not directed toward changing the general conditions of coexistence. The creation of circumstances favorable to all individuals does not enter into the calculations of the individual who struggles, exerts, and sacrifices. But instead their petty interest in the satisfaction of individual needs, without appreciating the needs of others, and frequently, even with a prejudice against the interests of others.
No one is interested in the fate of others.
The one who is working thinks only of not having her job taken away from her, and rejoices when a reduction of workers comes and she has not become an unemployment statistic. While the one who has no work longs for the moment when the bourgeois will dismiss some worker, to see if (in this same way) he will be able to fill the vacant position. There are some so vile, so desperate, that they do not hesitate to offer their arms for less pay. Others still, who, in a moment of strike, rush to fill the places momentarily vacated by the strikers.
In short, the workers quarrel for bread, snatch the morsel from each other, are enemies of each other, because each seeks only her own benefit without concern for the welfare of others. And this antagonism between individuals of the same class, this deaf struggle for the hard crust, makes our slavery permanent. Perpetuates misery. Makes us unhappy.
Because we do not understand that the interest of our neighbor is our own interest; because we sacrifice ourselves for misunderstood individual gains; we seek in vain for well-being. A well-being that can only be the result of our pursuit of the interests of the whole of humanity. An pursuit which, if it were intensified and generalized, would result in the transformation of our present conditions in life. Conditions which are inept to provide the well-being of all because they are founded on an antagonism of interests. Transformed into conditions centered on the harmony of interests, on fraternity and justice.
Indifference is our handcuff, and we are our own tyrants because we do nothing on our part to destroy it.
Indifferent and apathetic, we watch events unfold with the same impassivity as if they were affairs of another planet. As each one is interested only in his own person, without concern for the general interests —the interests common to all— no one feels the need to unite, to be strong in the struggles for the general interest.
The result is that, there being no solidarity among the oppressed, the State exceeds its limits to abuse and masters of all kinds make prey of us, enslave us, exploit us, oppress us, and humiliate us.
When we reflect and recognize that all of us who suffer these same evils have the same interest, an interest common to all the oppressed, and we therefore resolve to show solidarity, only then will we be able to transform the circumstances that make us unhappy into others, ones on a path to freedom and dignity.
Let us stop clenching our fists and stop crying in anguish. How good it will be to counteract the onslaught of the tyranny of governments and the exploitation of capitalists!
The remedy is in our hands: let all of us who suffer the same evil unite. Knowing that the abuses of those who base their strength on our disunity and our indifference will be crushed by our solidarity.
Tyrants have no more strength than that which we ourselves give them through our indifference.
It is not the tyrants who are to blame for our misfortunes, but we ourselves.
It is necessary to admit it: if the bourgeoisie ravage us at work and demand from us our last drop of sweat, to whom is this evil due if not to ourselves? We who have not known how to oppose bourgeois exploitation with our resistance and our rebellion?
How can the State not oppress us when it knows that its orders, however unjust they may be and however much they may hurt our dignity as humans, are obeyed by us with lowered eyes. Without even a murmur, without so much as a gesture to show our dissatisfaction and our anger?
And is it not we, the disenfranchised, the oppressed, the poor, we who sell ourselves to receive from the hands of our oppressors the very rifle destined to exterminate our class brothers—in the rare moments when meekness and habitual indifference give way to the explosions of honor and decorum?
Do we not emerge from our ranks, from the great proletarian mass, the cop and the butler, the jailer and the executioner?
It is we, the poor, who are the riveters of our own chains, who are the cause of our own misfortune and that of others.
The old man who stretches out his trembling hand to beg for a crust; the child who cries from cold and hunger; the woman who offers her flesh for a few coins; they are our creation, they owe their misfortune to us. For we do not know how to make our chest a shield; and our hands, so accustomed to beg, are incapable of digging, like claws, into the neck of our executioners.»