Errico Malatesta

Editorial Mail

(May 1924)

From Pensiero e Volontà , No.9, 10 May 1924.
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Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

MEDICINE ... AND ANARCHISM. – Under this title, in the editorial mail of our issue No.5, we published a note by which we refused the invitation of some comrades to make propaganda in favour of certain methods of treatment conflicting with science and the commonly accepted medical practice.

This fact upset comrade N. Cuneo from New York. Though acknowledging that Pensiero e Volontà is not the right place for medical discussions (in fact, he is not among those who urged us to that propaganda), in the April 15 issue of Libero Accordo he stands up for the “natural treatment”, i.e. a treatment without drugs, which is said to be making great progress, and to have been acknowledged and legalized in many states of the american Union.

Evidently we could not make ourselves understood.

We did not mean to ban any method; we only wanted to declare our incompetence, our ignorance ... and also, to some extent, to remind some comrades of their own ignorance.

There is among us a tendency to consider true, good and fine everything that appears under the agreeable cloak of revolt against the accepted “truths”, especially if supported by people who are, or call themselves, anarchists. This shows a deficiency of that spirit of investigation and criticism that should be maximally developed in anarchists.

It is alright to regard none of the achievements of human intelligence as definitive, and to aspire always to new discoveries, new advances; however, one has to mind that the new is not always better than the old, and that being anarchist does not involve being gifted with infallibility.

Medicine is an eminently experimental science, and a young science still at its beginning, so to speak. Therefore it is good to look with sympathy upon any honest and enlightened attempt to open new avenues. However, it does not seem exaggerated to require that those who want to criticize and oppose the old methods know what such methods are and what facts are known in their favour or against them. In other words, we simply require that those who want to talk about a subject take first the trouble of studying it. Therefore, if there are comrades who feel they have enough competence to discuss medical subjects, let them do so, but do not let them ask us to talk about what we ignore.

After all, we know good doctors who profess anarchist ideas; however, they do not talk about anarchy when they do science, or they only talk about it when a scientific issue becomes a social issue, i.e. when they note that the present social organization hinders the advances of medicine, and prevents them from being applied for the benefit of all mankind.


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