Herman J. Schuurman,
Els van Daele,
Work Is a Crime/ “De Moker” Group: the rebellious youth in the Dutch liberation movement in the roaring twenties,
Roofdruk Edities, March 2013
This book starts with the manifesto “Work Is a Crime.” Herman J. Schuurman, a young anarchist who took part in the “De Moker” Group in 1924, wrote this fiery piece that reminded me of “Conflict,” a piece Ret Marut wrote a few years earlier. But there is one significant difference: though Marut addressed his piece to workers, he made his arguments for a revolutionary practice of refusing to work from an individualist and egoist perspective. Els van Daele’s history shows that the “De Moker” Group had a class emphasis, understood their anarchism as a form of socialism, and so had a more collectivist perspective. But unlike most present-day collectivists, they were unstinting in their rejection of work, parties and unions. Several of those in the group simply stopped working and took up lives as tramps and thieves. From those for whom that wasn’t feasible, those who couldn’t escape they world of work, they called for “disobedient laziness and sabotage.” Their ultimate vision was collectivist, anarcho-socialist and mass-oriented, but they practiced and encouraged immediate, individual acts of sabotage, disobedience, destruction of the work machine and expropriation. In this, they broke from the usual theory and practice of the left, approaching an individualist rebellion against work in practice, if not in theory. Van Daele’s account of the group is well worth reading, showing that anarchist critiques of work go back much further than many anarchists realize.