Sébastien Faure, “Anarchy” (1934) (excerpt)

From the Anarchist Encyclopedia, Vol. I

ANARCHY n. (from the Greek: a privative and archè, command, power, authority)

Preliminary observation. The object of this Anarchist Encyclopedia being to make known the full range of conceptions—political, economic, philosophical, moral, etc.—that arise from the anarchist idea or lead there, it is in the course of this work and in the very place that each of them must occupy within it, that the multiples theses contained in the exact and complete study of this subject will be explained. So it is only by drawing and joining together, methodically and with continuity, the various parts of this Encyclopedia that it will be possible for the reader to achieve the complete understanding of Anarchy, Anarchism and the Anarchists.

Consequently, I will show here only in its outlines, in a narrow and synthetic fashion, what constitutes the very essence of Anarchy and Anarchism. For the details—and it is appropriate to note that none have a great importance—the reader should consult the various words to which this text will ask them to refer.

Etymologically, the word “Anarchy” (which should be spelled An-Archy) signifies: the state of a people and, more precisely still, of a social milieu without government.

As a social ideal and in its actual fulfillment, Anarchy answers to a modus vivendi in which, stripped of all legal and collective restraint having the public force at its service, the individual would have no obligations but those imposed on them by their own conscience. They would possess the ability to give themselves up to rational inspirations of their individual initiative; they would enjoy the right to attempt all the experiments that appear desirable or fruitful to them; they would freely commit themselves to contracts of all sorts—always temporary, and revocable or revisable—that would link them to their fellows and, not wishing to subject anyone to their authority, they would refuse to submit to the authority of anyone. Thus, sovereign master of themselves, of the direction that it pleases them to give their life, of the use that they will make of their faculties, of their knowledge, of their productive activity, of their relations of sympathy, friendship and love, the individual will organize their existence as it seems good to them: radiating in every sense, blossoming as they please, enjoying, in all things, a full and complete liberty, without any limits but those that would be allocated to them by the liberty—also full and complete—of other individuals.

This modus vivendi implies a social regime from which would be banished, in right and in fact, any idea of employer and employed, of capitalist and proletarian, of master and servant, of governor and governed.

You will see that, thus defined, the world “Anarchy” has been insidiously and over time distorted from its precise meaning, that it has been taken, little by little, in the sense of “disorder” and that, in the majority of dictionaries and encyclopedias, it is only mentioned in that sense: chaos, upheaval, confusion, waste, disarray, disorder.

Apart from the Anarchists, all the philosophers, all the moralists, all the sociologists—including the democratic theorists and the doctrinaire socialists—maintain that, in the absence of a Government, of a legislation and a repression that assures respect for the law and cracks down on every infraction of it, there is and can only be disorder and criminality.

And yet!… Don’t the moralists and philosophers, men of State and sociologists perceive the frightful disorder that reigns, despite the Authority that governs and the Law that represses, in all domains? Are they so deprived of critical sense and the spirit of observation, that they are unaware that the more regulation increases, the more the more the web of legislation tightens, the more the field of repression extends, and the more immorality, disgrace, offenses and crimes increase?

It is impossible that these theorists of “Order” and these professors of “Morals” think, seriously and honestly, of confounding with what they call “Order” the atrocities, horrors, and monstrosities, the revolting spectacle of which observation places before our eyes.

And—if there are degrees of impossibility—it is still more impossible that, in order to diminish and a fortiori to make these infamies disappear, these learned doctors count on the virtue of Authority and the force of Law.

That pretention would be pure insanity.

The law has only a single aim: to first justify and then sanction all the usurpations and iniquities on which rest what the profiteers of these iniquities and usurpations call “the Social Order.” The holders of wealth have crystallized in the Law the original legitimacy of their fortune; the holders of Power have raised to the level of an immutable and sacred principle the respect owed by the crowds to the privileged, the to power and majesty with which they are invested. We can search, to the bottom or even deeper, all of the monuments to hypocrisy and violence that are the Codes, all the Codes, but we will never find a disposition that is not in favor of these two facts—facts of a historical and circumstantial order, which we tend to convert into facts of a natural and inevitable order—Property and Authority. I abandon to the official tartuffes and to the professionals of bourgeois charlatanism all that which, in the Legislation, deals with “Morals,” as that is, and can only be, in a social state based on Authority and Property, only the humble servant and brazen accomplice of those things.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Comments Off on Sébastien Faure, “Anarchy” (1934) (excerpt)

Filed under 1934, Sébastien Faure, The Era of Anarchism

Pardon our dust

The Libertarian Labyrinth archive is undergoing some improvements, including the implementation of secure browsing. That necessitates a bit of reorganization, including a new and improved hub for the archive. Soon, that new hub will be here, but, for the moment, you can enter the labyrinth through the old hub at blog.libertarian-labyrinth.org.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Fernand Planche, “To Be Anarchist” (1934)

planche_f[This piece was published in the anarchist journal La Conquête du Pain, published by Fernand Planche, but is translated from a manuscript copy available online. Because the manuscript was badly copied, there are some gaps in the text, but I think its sense and character are quite clear. Planche was a partisan of the “anarchist synthesis” and was instrumental in the publication of Voline’s The Unknown Revolution. He wrote biographies of Louise Michel and Kropotkin, and contributed a Preface to Lasvignes’ French translation of Stirner’s Unique.]


“To Be Anarchist”

To be anarchist is above all to be good; it is to think, to dream, to discuss without sectarianism.

It is to hate everything that causes suffering, tears, death.

It is to understand and explain things clearly, simply, without fear of the consequences, and also without hope of a profit.

It is to reject everything that is ugly, petty, inhuman, servile […]

It is to draw near to everything that is beautiful, good, proud, just, friendly to liberty and truth.

It is to follow a straight path, without letting ourselves be distracted by the threats, nor the insults, nor the calls to treason.

It is to be a helper, to address the woes of our fellows; a struggler, to march at the head of the rebels; a thinker, to glimpse the dawn of a better day.

It is to cherish the lover, to guide the tottering steps of the child, to respect the aged, to engage in mutual aid all around us.

It is, without pity, to strike the tyrant, the swindler, the profiteer, […] and it is to be moved by a musical scale, to marvel at an insect, to cry before a flower.

It is to be limited by no horizon, no border; to wish to be the brother of all humans, with concerning ourselves with races, languages or colors.

It is to keep our word when it has been given freely.

It is to climb the mountains, to race across the plains, to deliver our bodies to the waters of the stream, to the regenerating rays of the sun.

It is to savor the fine, ripe fruits, to bite into the one more […] of love; to make of the animals a second family, faithful, loving, tender.

It is to live intensely without prejudices, without respect for outdated customs, envies, resentments, hatreds; to live two lives, is to live two times.

How many have believed they were anarchists, but were blinded by the dazzling vision. To those, banal egoism regaining the ascendancy, an alimentary and […] sinecure ended the beautiful dream glimpsed, they were not made for that fantastic dream, to bear that vocation.

But, also, how many were anarchists without knowing it, all the names that, following a life of courage, of […] rebellion, of generosity, have left a memory in history were worthy of our name, and also the unknowns who struggle, suffer and die, in order that humanity advances.

Go, friend, you who read me may perhaps be hesitating, but hesitate no longer, the most beautiful of causes is offered to you.

Read, reflect, observe, discuss, analyze, understand, and launch yourself into the fray, the satisfactions will fully compensate the pains and in the evening of your life, before your eyes close forever, when in an instant the film of your existence will unfold in a very brief retrospective, no worry will come to darken your brow, no regret will blanch your lips, if it is not the regret of the dream interrupted and terminated by you.

From La Conquête du Pain (1934)

 

Comments Off on Fernand Planche, “To Be Anarchist” (1934)

Filed under 1934, Fernand Planche, interwar era

H. W., “Anarchism” (1904)

Anarchism aims to establish an ideal state of society based on the “golden rule,” in which all distinctions of castes and privileges are abolished, and in which each individual is expected to labor spontaneously for the welfare of himself and the community. Mutual interests and due respect for each other are the only forces deemed necessary in their social relationship, i. e., each will be a law unto himself.

Admitting that such a society could not be inaugurated under the present state of affairs, its advocates are endeavoring to awaken the people to the fact that government creates disorder, and that freedom is the remedy, in which humanitarian work they are greatly handicapped by the misrepresentations of a mercenary press.

Yet, despite its defamations, the scales are gradually falling off the eyes of the intelligent people, who are beginning to recognize the merits of a society which has only the welfare of mankind at heart; and it is only a question of time when the multitude will “evolute” into the full light of reason and justice.

In property as such, Anarchism sees the greatest source of evil, strife and corruption. All governments protect individuals and corporations in the unlimited accumulation of property at the expense of the mass of the toilers, thus fostering greed and avarice and arousing ambitions which lead to wars for personal and national aggrandizement, regardless of the misery it entails upon the people. Recognizing the evil of unrestrained accumulation and monopolization of wealth, as exemplified in the constantly increasing demoralization of society as at present instituted, Anarchism repudiates property in land and natural resources, as well as ownership of the means of production, i. e., such as are not required for the needs and comforts of the individual. In this sense, Proudhon, the founder of Anarchism, declared that “property is robbery.”

A person can occupy only one house, can sleep only in one bed, etc., etc., hence in a free society there is no incentive to accumulate things and withhold them from others. And with the incentive gone, temptation disappears, and with it nine-tenths of all the crimes now perpetrated in civilized countries.

By holding more than any one requires for his own necessities, he robs others of what they may be in need of.

The most essential transformation, then, which society will have to undergo before the ideal state is attained, is the abolishment of all legalized property, society recognizing the right of such property as one requires for his own use. In short, monopoly must cease, and the individual be free to produce and consume as he sees fit, each performing such labor as he or she is best adapted for.

Education is the means thru which this ideal state is to be attained. Once property and its prop—government— are abolished, the temptation for wrongdoing, such as stealing, exploiting each other, etc., etc., will cease and the necessity for government terminates.

There is nothing visionary or Utopian in such an ideal state of society. It is due to the fatal mistake of our forefathers, who sanctioned the unlimited accumulation of lands and chattels, and protected the holders in their possession, that strife and warfare has been the lot of man. But for this almost irretrievable

error, the very aims and objects sought for by Anarchism would have been established long ere this and be in vogue now.

There will always be different factions in the fields of science and philosophy unless some ground is discovered “upon which all branches may converge as from their common root,” to paraphrase one of Herbert Spencer’s ban mots. Yet a failure to discover such converging point would by no means be an obstacle to an ideal state of society. Science and philosophy have never alienated brothers; have never shed a drop of blood, and will give zest to life when man is free to act as he was by nature designed to do.

Philosophy, however, should not be confounded with religion, its ally in some respects. While religion in itself is generally a harmless self-deception, it has become in the hands of ambitious and unprincipled men a mighty engine of persecution and oppression. “Dressed in the livery of Heaven” it has vied with the State in drenching the earth with human gore. With sanctimonious mien it has perverted true morality until every walk of life is reeking with corruption. A comparison with heathen countries will bear me out in this. Worshipping Mammon more than God or man. religion wears its priestly robe “to serve the devil in.”

A compatible alliance with the different socialistic factions would be difficult to conceive; for so long as the incentive to strife and corruption remains in the form of money and property, so long will brother be pitted against brother and faction against faction. Self-seeking will ever be the order of the day under a so-called co-operative socialistic system. Nothing but the total abolishment of governmental systems and the substitution of principles based on the precept “each for all and all for each” will establish an equilibrium of social forces that will forever insure “peace and good will to man on earth.”

Socialism and Communism are regarded by some as the “stepping stones” to an ideal state, as a “half way station” between despotic and self-government. But how could Socialism, as understood now, which asks for more government, and imposes greater restrictions upon the individual in some respects, be a “half way station?” Even if it were, why stop there, seeing that it is full of snares and pitfalls of all kinds? Why not “make” for the final haven of mankind at once, not tarry on the way?

While Anarchists consider themselves subject to existing laws and customs, they would, nevertheless, consider themselves false to their principles and derelict to their duties if they relaxed their efforts to bring about the changes needed to insure a state of society based on right and justice to all, and thus terminate the carnival of crime now rampant everywhere.

Slowly but surely has been the progress of Anarchism. Its true aims and objects are beginning to illumine the mind of man. Its advance may be likened to the early dawn before the break of day. Ere long the sun of righteousness will arise in all its glory and shed its lustrous rays over the face of “mother earth,” dispelling the mists of ignorance and superstition, and the noxious vapors of avarice and oppression under which humanity is suffering. Man’s innate love of freedom will assert itself; the goddess of liberty will break the chain the Church and State have forged around him, and he will walk forth a free man. The comprehension by the masses of the principles of Anarchism would be synchronous with its recognition as the real savior of mankind.

H. W.

Free Society 10b no. 18 (May 10, 1904): 2.

Comments Off on H. W., “Anarchism” (1904)

Filed under 1904, pseudonymous author, The Era of Anarchism, unlinked

C. L. James, “Anarchism Defined by an Anarchist” (1886)

ANARCHISM DEFINED BY AN ANARCHIST.

The very impartial article by Professor Ely on “Socialism in America,” which appeared in your June issue, suggests to me that a somewhat less external view of that movement known as anarchism might possibly be interesting.

Anarchism, like Protestantism, has no particular author, but the founder of the I. W. P. A. is Karl Marx, and Marx’s work, “Capital,” is fairly entitled to be considered the great text-book of anarchistic socialism. According to anarchists, possession must be carefully distinguished from property. Possession is the power, right, or privilege of using anything which is inseparable from man’s life on earth. Property is the right to use or withhold from use—jus utere vel abutere, Cicero says—and this right evidently is not natural, but is derived from government, which, moreover, itself sprang from war, and, under all its forms, is designed primarily to maintain by the military power the claim of property owners to withhold from use in order to exact a tribute. Hence Proudhon’s apothegm, “Property is robbery.” Mr. Ely, therefore, is hardly correct in saying that anarchists quarrel only with existing forms of government. They care little or nothing for the difference between democracy, republicanism, aristocracy, or monarchy. The essential thing is, they say, that under all these systems the rich employ the brave to maintain by force their method of “robbing” the poor and timid. And the important distinction between different phases of this “robbery” is not political, but economic. The simplest phase is chattel slavery, where the rich, with the aid of their mercenary defenders, own land, tools, and men. This system went down in Europe, and, but for the rebellion, would have gone down in America, by a natural law of decay. It cannot flourish after its extension has been checked, for the reason that, while shivery rapidly develops a new country, it beggars and exhausts an old one. It killed the Roman Empire, and, with the empire, may be said (in Europe) to have killed itself. The system of landlordism and serfdom is better adapted to a rude state of society, with a weak general government. Therefore, it flourished in the Middle Ages as at no other time. It disappeared about the end of the fifteenth century, for various reasons, the chief of which is that the growth of commerce and manufactures rendered other investments more profitable than land, and made it easier and cheaper to hire men as wage workers than to rule over them as over serfs.

Thus came in the modern system of capitalism and wage labor, which, however, according to Marx, is as certainly transitory as its predecessors. Capitalism means partial freedom of contract, wages rising (absolutely) with profits, a high general standard of comfort, diffused education, democracy. But it is also true, of course, that relatively to the profits of capital, wages fall when profits rise. Thus there is opened an increasing gulf between the capitalist and the wage worker. Again, competition among capitalists, continually reducing the price of commodities to the cost of production, necessitates increasingly minute subdivision of labor, destroying that technical skill which made the old-fashioned shoemaker or blacksmith independent; degrading the laborers into portions of the machine they operate; stimulating the competition for employment which prevails among them; increasing the frequency of those periods when they are thrown out of work and reduced from comfort to beggary, and, of course, contributing to increase the revolutionary discontent of educated men, nurtured in hope and enjoyment, who see themselves hopelessly distanced by those whom they can in no way regard as their superiors.

The chasm which threatens to engulf our social system is still further widened by the destruction of small capitalists in the battle of competition, and the growth of great monopolies, advancing pari passu with the pauperization of the laboring class. The miseries and dangers thus engendered by the very nature of modern trade and industry, are greatly aggravated by the periodical gorging of the market with goods produced in excess of the demand during seasons of speculation, and the consequent forced migration of capital to other branches by the dreary road along which lie bankruptcy, stagnation, reduced consumption, reduced production, slow liquidation, and that gradual revival of business which closes a financial crisis.

The critical character of these periodical revulsions is greatly aggravated by the fluctuations of that uncertain currency which speculative business has everywhere introduced. It has so for been palliated by the extension of the market into new countries—America, India, Egypt, China, etc. But when this process reaches an end, and one commercial system extends over the world, then, if not sooner, prices will actually foil to the cost of production, and the catastrophe of production for profit will be reached. Anarchy, therefore, according to anarchists, is the inevitable end of the present drift and tendency of things. Trimmers may devise means to put it off; Napoleons and Bismarcks may, for a time, stifle it in blood, but the longer it is deferred, the more violent will be the reaction which brings it in at last. That only is wise statesmanship which gives up moribund institutions to die. That only is reform which anticipates in a less painful manner the work of revolution.

C. L. James

North American Review, 143 (July, 1886): 101-102.

Comments Off on C. L. James, “Anarchism Defined by an Anarchist” (1886)

Filed under 1886, C. L. James, The Era of Anarchism

George Barrett, “The Anarchist Revolution” (1915)

Introduction

An Anarchist is a man who does not believe that government is a good thing for the people. He is, in fact, a man who believes in and strives for liberty. Liberty is to him not a superstition, or a god of which to make images, but a practical theory or plan of action. The first step necessary in establishing liberty will be, clearly, the abolition of government, and this will mean the organisation of industry by the workers themselves, not by any outside power — in other words, the Anarchist Revolution. For the moment this may seem wildly impossible; but if we give it a little consideration, a new side to the question comes into view.

In the first place, is there not something quite wrong and mixed up in your ideas, for I assume you are not an Anarchist? You believe in Government as a necessary part of our social life, and yet you will not like to say that you deny and reject Liberty. This is so with almost all people who are not Anarchists — they spend one half of their intellect apologising for their belief in government, and the other half in excusing themselves for their love of liberty. They are in just the same position in regard to their political beliefs as the Christians are in regard to their religious ideal. The Christians build churches to the glory of Christ and worship him; should any man speak against him, they are horrified; but when it comes to practical life, they do not in the least apply their religion. “Take no thought for to-morrow” they translate “Keep a good balance at the bank.” “Thou shalt not kill” becomes “£60,000,000 annually for the Army and Navy.” “Judge not” and “Swear not” is written in the book by which they swear in the courts of judgment. “Call no man your master, for ye are all brothers,” is interpreted to mean that the soldiers must protect their masters by shooting their brothers during a strike.

So one could go on till it is proved that every point taught by Christ has been rejected by those who worship him. Exactly the same thing has happened in regard to Liberty. As a people, we worship it. Our boast is that “where the Union Jack floats Liberty is supreme.” We erect statues to it, our poets sing in honour of it, our politicians stir our blood with rhetoric in praise of it; but when it comes to practical life, none of these in the least applies his ideal. “We must have a Government, we must have some one in control,” they say; and behind these words are hidden the policeman’s bludgeon, the wretched prison system, and the Army ready to shoot down those rebels who dare to attempt to overthrow the politician’s ideal of society. Liberty is a fine thing to make speeches about, and to which to erect statues; but for practical politics they demand government.

We begin to see now where the Anarchist comes in. He really believes in Liberty, and, as I have said before, he sees that this means the abolition of government.

Those who believe in government, then, are a trifle muddled in their philosophy; but the reader may yet be of the opinion that it would be entirely impossible to overthrow it. The fact is, anything else is impossible.

Does not all history show us a conflict between the dominant or governing class and the people to whom it tries to dictate the conditions of life? Does it not also show that the march of progress is away from government towards liberty?

But what more damning proof of the impossibility of government can we wish for than that which is furnished by the age in which we live? The possibilities of life have become so great, so complete has been our conquest of Nature’s wealth, that it seems we have but to ask and we shall receive the full enjoyment of life. The most extravagant fairy story of our childhood is surpassed by the reality of to-day. Our imagination has materialised, our greatest thoughts have been translated into action. Such are the individual and social achievements of man.

In the midst and at the head of the social structure, which comes into existence because our activities are carried on by groups and not by single individuals, is an association of men calling themselves the Government. These men are for the most part cultured, and have enjoyed the greatest advantages of education that the system is able to offer them.

Yet what is the result, the gain to humanity, of this wonderfully regulated society which has been built solely to make life richer? Millions are on the verge of starvation, hundreds of thousands are spending their lives in producing instruments for the destruction of human life, and millions again are wasting their existence in a dull tragedy of monotony. In every great industrial centre where wealth is most plentifully produced, there is poverty and want. In the rich town where no production is carried on, there is plenty and enjoyment. He who labours hard or produces wealth is in poverty, he who lives in idleness is rich. When the warehouses are full, there is want and hunger. Those without food are forbidden to produce because the demand is already supplied.

In all this, what part does the Government play? It controls and regulates — as if forsooth, invention and production were not in themselves orderly processes. It protects the property necessary for all this production, but, with tragic imbecility, it protects it for the non-producer against the producer. It protects the wealth created; but it does not preserve it for those who need it, but for those who are already wealthy — and thus arises the problem of poverty.

What can the politicians say to these appalling facts? From Socialists to Conservatives, they can only raise the pitifully weak appeal: Put us in power and we will do better.

Thus, to detect the Government helping to upset the social equilibrium may not be proof that it is necessarily and innately an unsocial factor in our civilisation, but it should at least stake our faith and throw it open to criticism — a criticism not aimed at the particular party in power, but directed to the institution itself.

Custom, in truth, has a marvellous power to paralyse our mind; but if we rid our thoughts of the folly of believing that what is is necessarily right, and if we contrast with it the free society that might be, it surely becomes difficult to conceive the audacity of the man who could seriously prefer the Government system.

If these arguments are not sufficiently convincing, if it is not enough to remember that the Government is represented by a gang of men armed with bludgeons, who hang about our streets and country roads both day and night, it must at least appear possible that this attempt to keep the dispossessed from the food of the country and the means of production may be a relic of the darkest ages in history.

I. The Labour Movement

It is quite true that we Anarchists are extremists; we want to bring about a complete and far-reaching change in the order of things, and we believe that this change can only be accomplished by rudely disturbing, upsetting, and overthrowing the institutions which belong to to-day, and establishing in their place those of a free society. We believe, in fact, in a revolution, not merely political or constitutional, but a social revolution — a complete change in our relationships one to another.

Thus, for example, in the future society there will be no rich keeping the poor in poverty, since the authority and law by which the one forces the other to give up the wealth it produces will be swept away.

“The result will be chaos,” says he who refuses to think; whereas if he would but open his eyes and look round, instead of bending over his employer’s desk or bench all the days of his only life, he would see that to-day we were in such a chaos that it would seem the Devil himself had been tempted out of hell to come and live in a climate more congenial to him.

But we will try to get at the whole thing from the simplest point. Let us first of all consider the Labour movement, and try to understand what all the noise and confusion and strife between Labour and Capital is about. Roughly stated, this is what is going on in every great industrial centre. The majority of people spend day after day in huge factories, producing wealth. These factories are not their own, but belong — the law says — to a party of men called shareholders or capitalists. Most of these buildings have high walls round them, so that the workers may not come in and go out when they like, but rather when the owners like. The point about which there has been so much trouble is this. When the workers have produced wealth in these factories for a week, they are given a set of round tokens, called “money,” which they can exchange for wealth, food, clothing, etc. The trouble is, however, that they are never given enough money to buy back the wealth they have produced; it is enough only to buy part of it. The remainder is kept by the capitalists and called profit. Profit, therefore, is that part of the wealth produced by the workers for which they are not paid.

In recent years there has been no end of a row kicked up about this. Some of the workers call it robbery. “We have produced all the wealth,” they cry, “and from each one of us you have stolen part of what he produced, so that you comparatively few capitalists are immensely rich, enjoying what we have created; while millions of us are struggling with poverty, and all our lives are wasted.”

At this the ruling classes and all respectable members of society look most mighty superior and pained. They start professorships of political economy to teach the workers how they have been misled by extremists, Socialists, and Anarchists. “You forget,”; they explain, “that although you supplied the labour in our factories, we supplied the capital. How could you have produced without using our machines, in our buildings? You must be moderate.”

“But,” exclaim the workers — or those of them who think — “did not our labour produce these machines, and the machines, again, which made these, right back to the first machine ever produced? All of it was made by us, and you, as owners, did absolutely nothing. Even your useless money, with which you juggle us out of our own, we have dug out of the earth and moulded into shape for you. To all the wealth of the world we the workers lay claim, for we have created it.”

In answer to this, the capitalist does two things. He approaches the workers with a show of friendship. He says: “Shall we share profits?” (knowing that so long as he controls the scheme he can get the same, or even more, for himself.) “Above all things, let us be more moderate. You will only win by moderation. Let us try to establish Conciliation Boards to make Capital and Labour more friendly. Let us remember we are all brothers, and most of all, let us avoid bloodshed — and, we may add,” say the capitalists, “that we have decided to give £400 yearly to any of you who will sit in our Parliament.

The other side of their programme is to strengthen the police force throughout the country, and train soldiers to go on strike duty.

That is the position to-day. The wealth which the capitalist has obtained by paying the worker for only a portion of what he produces, is held by brute force — the policeman’s bludgeon and the soldier’s rifle — while, according to our last Prime Minister, 13,000,000 live on the verge of starvation; and thousands of unemployed are entirely cut off from the means of production while they starve.

This state of affairs is called peace by the respectable members of society, politicians, churchgoers, and business men; while any attempt to break it down and recapture the wealth that is needed for the people is considered a breach of the peace, and the rebels are shot down by the soldiers or bludgeoned by the polite.

Now let us see where the Socialist and the Anarchist come in.

The modern Parliamentary Socialist understands this matter; he sees that what is wrong is this power of the capitalist to dictate the conditions upon which he will allow the workers to work, and he logically argues from this that the capitalist class must be abolished. As to how this will be done, there seems some doubt. However, when it has been accomplished, the State, which until now has favoured the capitalists, will take over the industries, and everything will be controlled by the politicians. It is, of course, hoped by the Socialists that when this universal nationalisation takes place their own party will be in power; and of course they promise, as all other politicians have promised, that they will act in the interest of the people. Several different electoral systems have been suggested to take the place of the present limited suffrage, most Socialists wishing that every adult should have a vote, and many thinking that the constituencies should be divided according to industries rather than merely geographically as at present.

With this system of State or Government control we Anarchists entirely disagree.

The capitalist is wrong because he is a capitalist, and has the power to dictate the conditions of life. If he was one of ourselves or our own brother, it would make no difference; his power as a capitalist must be put an end to. So far we agree, you will see, with the ordinary Parliamentary Socialist; but now we come to consider the men in authority, the Government, and we apply to it the same reasoning, and come to the conclusion that just as the capitalist is wrong because he is a capitalist, so the Government is wrong because it is a Government. If members of our class, or even our brothers, composed it, still it would make no difference; its power to dictate the conditions of life, which would be complete in a Socialist State, would give it all the evils of Capitalism. The institution of Capitalism is wrong, and the institution of Government, which is a part of the capitalist system, must also be abolished, to give place to the free organisations of the future society.

But, it may be asked why we come so easily to the conclusion that the Government must be abolished; and this question is, of course, equivalent to asking why we are Anarchists, and must be answered in the next chapter.

II. Why We Are Anarchists

It is surprising with what difficult political problems people will concern themselves, although they have not even thought out the most simple questions upon which these are based. For example, we constantly hear groups of people discussing with the utmost enthusiasm the question of taxation. One says we must tax the foreigner, while another declares that in doing so we shall merely increase the price of our own food. Interminable facts and figures are heaped up on both sides, and the question becomes one of national importance.

Now, the Anarchist starts to think at the beginning of things, and he suggests that before we quarrel as to who ought to be taxed we had better discuss what taxation is and who has any right or reason in taxing any one.

In the same way we find arguments of the most elaborate kind are going on about the vote. It is considered a matter of serious national importance whether a man with a latchkey shall be allowed to vote or not, while a strenuous war is waged by women, who declare that, since they have to obey the law, they have the right to make it. These people also have begun to think in the middle of their problem, instead of at the beginning. How many who have the most decided opinion as to who should have the vote have first of all really inquired, what is the vote?

In all the great political questions we find this is so. When it is discussed who has the right to rule the Irish, we begin by questioning why any one should have such a power. When they talk of taxing the landlords, we ask, why have landlords? Thus, while the politicians muddle their heads with the most complex theories of reform, the revolutionist may keep his mind perfectly clear if he will but confine himself to what is really essential, and always start to consider social matters from the simplest point.

The fact is, the Government is simply the executive committee of the ruling class. Taxation is its principle source of finance. The landlords and capitalists are those for whom it keeps the land and means of production, and prevents the producers from taking possession. If instead of the present capitalist class there were a set of officials appointed by the Government and set in a position to control our factories, it would bring about no revolutionary change. The officials would have to be paid, and we may depend that, in their privileged positions, they would expect good remuneration. The politicians would have to be paid, and we already know their tastes. You would, in fact, have a nonproductive class dictating to the producers the conditions upon which they were allowed to make use of the means of production. As this is exactly what is wrong with the present system of society, we can see that State control would be no remedy, while it would bring with it a host of new troubles.

It cannot be too clearly understood that any system of Government control — that is, any system except Anarchism — can at the best do nothing better than enforce the politician’s ideal of society upon the people. For example, let us suppose an absolutely ideal Socialist State, where all the Members of Parliament are in agreement, and where their only object is the welfare of society. As a Government, or an executive committee, or an administrative body, or whatever they called themselves, it will be agreed, I think, that they undertake two chief duties. The one is to see that the necessities of life are supplied, and the other is to ensure that the workers shall have proper conditions under which to produce. Now let us suppose that a section of the workers disagree with the Government as to what are proper conditions (for the worker sees the factory from a slightly different point of view from the politician). What takes place? The politicians, we will say, refuse to grant these conditions, which seem to them unfair. This section of the workers consequently come out on strike. They are successful up to the point of causing a serious shortage of the commodity which they produce. The politicians are responsible for the supply of this commodity, and they cannot allow the whole community to suffer because of the (to them) unreasonable action of an extremist minority. The inevitable conclusion is that the strikers must be forced back into their factories.

Surely from this it is evident that under a governmental system of society, whether it is the capitalism of to-day or a more perfected Government control of the Socialist State, the essential relationship between the governed and the governing, the worker and the controller, will be the same; and this relationship so long as it lasts can be maintained only by the bloody brutality of the policeman’s bludgeon and the soldier’s rifle.

You cannot put new wine into old bottles. The institutions of the present society, based upon the subjection of the workers, must be thrown aside, for they will not hold the spirit of liberty which will compose the new society.

If we wanted further proof than that furnished by the logic of the position, it would be found in that question so often levelled at the Anarchist: What would you do with the man who would not work? The implication is, of course, that the questioner, a Governmentalist, and generally a Socialist, has a method of dealing with him. What can such a method be, which the Anarchist has not also, except force? Is not the striker one of the most important of the men who will not work? And is not the question, therefore, an admission that force will be brought to bear on the discontented, to compel them to occupy their proper position in society?

Certain it is that to-day the capitalist is compelled to bring out the soldiers and force his slaves back to work; but it is no more certain than the fact that in all societies where there is a central controlling force the same means must be used to crush the rebellious.

That is why we are Anarchists.

We have seen already how inevitably we come to this conclusion, and one labour dispute after another in recent years has shown us the theory in practice; and all this logic and fact brings us to one great truth, the truth upon which is based all the hopes of revolutionary activity. It is obvious to us every day, and yet it is recognised by a comparative few. Many there are who believe that the worker is dependent on the rich capitalist — the governing class; but a few — they are revolutionists — realise that the governing class is entirely impotent itself, and depends most abjectly and helplessly upon the worker. If the workers refuse to work, it can do nothing unless it can induce some of them to leave their jobs and come and shoot down their rebellious mates.

The workers are the only creative, live power in society, and it is for this reason that it must be they who will regenerate society and bring about the revolution. Their task is on, of construction and re-creation, while the utmost that the helpless Governmentalist can do is to stay the onward progress by persuading some of them to forsake their legitimate task and take part in destruction, in which cause to-day they have vast numbers of workers employed.

This truth of the utter dependence of the capitalist and governing class is really the starting-point of the revolution.

III. Direct Action

To make it quite clear what is meant by the expression Direct Action, let us take an illustration. Not very many years ago, if there was a great national calamity, such as an outbreak of plague, the religious people used to declare that the only remedy was for us as a nation to pray that God might remove his curse. These good people were very much shocked when scientists came along and began taking merely sanitary precautions to stamp out the disease. The first was the indirect method: prayers were sent up to heaven so that God might send down his good influence on the plague. This was a very indirect route to reach a disease which was, so to speak, next door. The scientist attended to the disease itself, studied its nature, and tried to find a means of stamping it out. This was direct action.

To-day in very much the same way the people are divided with two methods. In their factories and homes they find themselves discontented, and some of them propose to influence the chief of society — the Parliament — so that it will exercise its power to put things right. These in their turn are shocked when advanced thinkers come along and declare that the way to get a remedy is to study the nature of the trouble and apply the cure directly to it. The former believe in the indirect or legislative method, for it is a long way from home to Westminster and back home again. The latter are the direct actionists, and they recognise that if anyone is going to put the factories in order, it will be the workers who spend their lives in them, and not the politicians.

Imagine the utter absurdity of a group of politicians sitting in the House of Commons earnestly discussing the welfare of the people. While they are doing so, are there not countless bakers, builders, and tailors walking about the streets, unemployed, and cut off, by the laws which these same politicians have passed, from the means of production, machinery, and tools with which they might produce what they need. To break down the laws and allow these people to produce what is necessary for their welfare, on equal terms with the other workers, is the way to abolish poverty.

It is clear that, if we are to rid ourselves of the troubles that best us at present, we must organise an entirely new system of wealth distribution. I do not mean by this that we must divide up, but I mean that the wealth which is produced must be stopped from flowing to the rich man who produces nothing; the stream must be diverted so that it will come to the producer.

But who is it that distributes the wealth? Is it the politician? Certainly not; as a matter of fact, it is the transport workers. If, then, the workers who produce want an alteration in the present distribution, to whom must they apply? To their comrades, the transport workers, and not to the politicians, who have nothing to do with the matter. Similarly when better conditions are needed in the factories — larger sheds, better floors, and more efficient lighting and ventilation — who are the only people capable of doing this? It is the workers who need these reforms, and the workers who can carry them out. The task before the worker to-day is as it has been in the past: the slave class must rid itself of the dictating class — i.e., of those in authority.

Such is the simple logic of the Direct Actionist, and it is already clear how it necessarily leads to the Anarchist Revolution. We must, however, be careful how we follow this principle — not that we fear being taken too far, but lest it does not take us far enough. The expression has been used so much in contradistinction to legislation, that any one who throws a brick through a window is generally supposed to be a Direct Actionist. He may be and he may not.

To be logical and true to the real meaning of the term, every act should, of course, be on the direct road towards the desired end — in our case, the Social Revolution. Sometimes it is difficult to be entirely consistent, but it is nevertheless of the utmost importance that there should be at least a minority of the workers who understand what is the direct road, so that every skirmish may be made by them a step towards the final overthrow of Capitalism.

At the risk of repeating myself, then, let me try to state the position very clearly. We have two classes — the governing, ruling, and possessing people on the one hand, and those governed and without property on the other; in a word, a master class and a slave class.

When this slave class becomes discontented and restive, it has several courses to consider before deciding which will give better conditions. It may be argued:

That since the present masters do not give enough of the good things of life, these must be turned out and a new set selected from among the slave class; or

That since the slave class is composed of the producers, and the master class is, therefore, dependent on it, the former is clearly in a position to force the masters to give them more food and everything that may be desired; or

That since the slave class is the producer of all that is necessary for life, there is no need to either ask or demand anything from the master class. The slave class need simply to cut off supplies to the masters and start feeding themselves.

The first of these arguments, it will be seen, is that of the politicians; and it may be dismissed without further comment, since, as will be understood after what has been already said, it obviously misses the point. It is not a question of who shall be master, but it is a matter of the essential relationship between master and slave, quite irrespective of who either of them may be.

The second argument is that of the non-Parliamentary but non-Revolutionary Trade Unionist. It is right in that it recognises where lies the true power of the workers in their fight against the capitalists, but it is wrong in that it proposes no change in the relationship between these two.

If the slave class is to be better housed, fed, and clothed from the masters’ store, it means that the slaves will become more and more completely owned by the masters. It is not revolutionary, because it proposes to retain master and slave, and merely attempts to better the conditions of the latter.

The third argument is, of course, that of the revolutionist. It agrees with the second as to the weapon to be used, but it says that the task before the workers is to feed, house, clothe, and educate themselves, and not to spend their energies in making better masters of the capitalists.

To cut off supplies to the capitalist and to retain what is produced for the workers are the main points of the revolutionary fight.

In every industrial dispute there are really two, and only two, essentials. On the one hand are the factories, warehouses, railways, mines, etc., which may be termed industrial property; on the other, the workers. To unite these two is to accomplish the revolution; for with them will be built the new society.

The capitalist and master class in general can hold their position only so long as they can keep the workers outside the warehouses and factories, for within are the means of life, and the common people must be allowed to use these only on the strict understanding that they make profit and submit to the conditions dictated. To come out on strike, then, is merely rebellion, and is essentially not the revolution, however thoroughly it is done; to stay in and work in the condition of equality, free from the dictates of a useless master class, is the real object of the revolutionist.

Direct action, therefore, in this strictly revolutionary sense would mean the taking possession of the means of production and the necessities of life by the workers who have produced them, and the reorganisation of industry according to the principles of freedom.

The doctrine of Direct Action does not boast of bringing the workers easy salvation. It is, indeed, a recognition of the terribly simple fact that nothing can save us except our own intelligence and power. We, the workers, are the creative force, for is it not we who have produced all the food, clothing, and houses? Assuredly it is we who need them. What, then, has the politician to do with this? Nothing, absolutely nothing! What use is it to hand over to the master class all that we produce, and then keep up a continuous quarrel as to how much we shall be allowed back? Instead of this we have to stop supplies, reorganise our industries, not from above but from their source below, and see that in future all that is produced goes to the producer and not to the dominant class. This is the meaning of direct action, and it is Anarchism.

But, alas! it is easier to accomplish a revolution on paper with cold logic than it is to bring it about in industrial life. We have to fight the lack of understanding on the part of the worker and the craft of the politician ever at work to increase this; and in addition we have the certainty that the class in power will attempt to resist the change, with the only argument that remains on their side — brute force. While, therefore, it is important to understand that direct action properly applied means the actual “conquest of bread” and the taking possession of the factories, we must be content probably for some little while longer to use our weapon of direct action simply according to the second of the three arguments given above — that is, to demand better conditions from the capitalist class. It is not, however, too much to hope that in the very near future the Anarchists will form a militant section of the workers, which will give to every great industrial rebellion the revolutionary character which is its true meaning. Worker as well as capitalist is beginning to recognise that a well-planned scheme for feeding the strikers is more than possible. Such a scheme would entail the capturing of the bakeries, and this is surely the first step of the revolution.

Beside this real problem, simple but great, how hollow and grotesque are the promises of the politicians. How absurd the idea of gaining liberty through the ballot-box. These hopeless government men, who talk with such sublime imbecility of feeding, housing, and clothing, only add insult to injury. The House they stand in to make their senseless speeches was built and furnished by the workers, and it is the workers who house and feed them.

And beyond our own doubt and hesitation, what, after all, stands in our way? Let us gain inspiration from the hopeless position of our foes. How helpless they are! Is not the policeman’s baton shaped by the worker, and his absurd uniform stitched by underpaid women? The soldier’s rifle is certainly not made by the master class — in every particular they are hopelessly our dependents. Every instrument of oppression is supplied to them by us, and we keep them alive by feeding them day by day. Surely, then, it is apparent that this change must come. Those above are powerless for good, or for evil; the revolution can be brought only by an upheaval from below — from the one vital section of society, the workers.

IV. The New Society

“Master and man! Some up and some down! It always has been so and it always will be. You cannot alter human nature.”

It is so easy to talk like that, and, if you are of a contented disposition, it is so comforting; but, of course, it is absolute nonsense. Man himself has developed from the lower animals, and surely there are few who would care to boast of any particular resemblance to the cave-dwellers of prehistoric days even. The fact is, human nature is never alike in two parts of the world or in two different ages. As to the master-and-man relationship, it has been so pulled about and buffetted in a comparatively short period of history that to-day many people seem to have a difficulty in recognising it to be the same thing as the more crude slavery of the past. Soon Time will so beat it out of shape that it will become the relationship of man-to-man. The last blow that will reforge it into this form will be the Anarchist Revolution.

What is this Anarchist Revolution?

So that this question may be answered fully, let us suppose that we are agreed on all that has been said in the previous chapters. Let it be granted that we are robbed by the capitalists and the ruling class; that there is no hope of reform from the Government, which is inherently a reactionary force; and that this capitalist and governing class is entirely dependent on us, and hopelessly in our power.

Even so it may be questioned: “What can we do? Smash up the institutions of to day, and what have we? Simply chaos until something similar is put in their place.”

This is true in one sense, but it is an argument that cannot be used against us. It is true that the various institutions of slavery which exist to-day are there because people upon whom they depend are slavish in their thoughts. If, therefore, some great hurricane swept through the country, destroying all such institutions and their leaders, it is quite certain that the people who still believed in such things would set to work to rebuild them. On the contrary, if this “hurricane” took the form of a movement of the people themselves, who had outgrown their slavish attitude of mind, then there would be no restoration of the old, but a reconstruction on new and revolutionary lines.

“But what would those lines be” is the natural question. It is no use knowing our power to overthrow and to build unless we have some idea of the structural outline of the new society.

The material out of which we must build the new society is that of the old. The institutions of to-day — our parliaments, town councils, factories, etc. — are all run on governmnent principles. That element of government — a relic of the past which enters into the composition of the whole thing, must be cut out. So far our mission is destructive, but we shall see that it is the necessary step to be taken for the construction of a truly social life.

Since, then, the new is to be but a development of the old, the easiest way to understand it will be to start, where the revolution will start, with existing institutions, and see what we intend doing with them. For example, we will take such an important matter as bread making and supplying. Let us examine this institution as it is to-day and as it will be after the revolution.

The baker who goes to his nightly task is probably making bread according to the recipe of another man. He may know such stuff is almost poison; but it is no business of his, he must do as he is told, and the responsibility rests elsewhere. Perhaps the conditions under which he works are ruining his health and are equally bad for the purity of the bread. It does not matter; the means of life belong to another, and if he would make use of them he must do as he is told. In addition to this, he is robbed of a portion of the fruits of his labour, which we have already agreed disappears as profits. The most striking fact of all, however, about this matter of the bread supply is that it is not suited to the needs of the people. There are many who actually lack this common necessity of life. Should they remedy this by taking a loaf, the present society can do nothing better or more relevant to their case than locking them up in prison.

Here, then, in one of the essential institutions of society we have traced some of the evils due to the authoritarian form of its organisation.

What is the remedy? “Municipalisation, and put our men on the Council,” say most of the Socialists and their friends. This, however, obviously does not fill the bill. At the best it would mean that the conditions of labour and the class and quantity of bread produced should be settled by the majority, while there seems no reason to believe that the Council would give up their profit any more willingly than the capitalist or any other dominating class has ever done. No; the revolutionary change must be brought about by an overthrow of the controlling power, not by changing its personnel. The future bread supply will spring up from below in direct response to the need for it. It will not be bossed from above.

What, then, will be the change which the Anarchist Revolution will bring into being? In a free society the baker must be allowed to bake what he believes to be good bread; he must be granted conditions that he judges to be fit for his work. Instead of being robbed of a portion of the fruits of his labour, he will enjoy the full benefits of social life. Finally, the bread supply must be of such a nature that the needs and the tastes of all will be satisfied.

Let us imagine now that the great revolt of the workers has taken place, that their direct action has made them masters of the situation. Is it not easy to see that some man in a street that grew hungry would soon draw up a list of the loaves that were needed, and take it to the bakery where the strikers were in possession? Is there any difficulty in supposing that the necessary amount would then be baked according to this list? By this time the bakers would know what carts and delivery vans were needed to send the bread out to the people, and if they let the carters and vanmen know of this, would these not do their utmost to supply the vehicles, just as the bakers set to work to make the bread? If, as things settled down, more benches were needed on which to knead the bread, in just the same way is it not easy to see that the carpenters would supply them? If an intimation were given to the engineers that machinery were wanted, would they not see that this received their immediate attention? The engineers in their turn would apply to the draughtsmen for designs, and to the foundrymen for castings. In turn, again, the draughtsmen apply to the papermakers for paper, and to the workers in the pencil factories for pencils. The foundrymen, in the meantime, apply to the furnacemen, and these in their turn to the miners for more iron ore and coal. So the endless continuity goes on — a well-balanced interdependence of parts is guaranteed, because need is the motive force behind it all.

Who bosses, who regulates all this? No one! It starts from below, not from above. Like an organism, this free society grows into being, from the simple unit up to the complex structure. The need for bread, hunger — or, in other words, the individual struggle to live, in its most simple and elementary form — is, as we have seen, sufficient to set the whole complex social machinery in motion. Society is the result of the individual struggle for existence; it is not, as many suppose, opposed to it.

In the same way that each free individual has associated with his brothers to produce bread, machinery, and all that was necessary for life, driven by no other force than his desire for the full enjoyment of life, so each institution is free and self-contained, and co-operates and enters into agreements with others because by so doing it extends its own possibilities. There is no centralised State exploiting or dictating, but the complete structure is supported because each part is dependent on the whole. The bakers, as we have seen, need the carpenters and engineers, and these would be no use if they were not supplied by other workers, who in their turn are just as dependent on yet another branch. What folly if the engineers should presume to dictate to the bakers the conditions of their labour, and it would be equally without reason if a committee, styling itself the Government, should become boss of all these industries and begin to control their production and interchange, which must in the nature of things already be well adjusted and orderly. Those who control production in this manner are invariably those who enjoy the larger part of that which is produced; that is why the politicians try to insist upon the necessity of such control. Alas! that they should be so tamely followed by so many workers who have not yet cleared their minds of the old slavish instincts.

The structure of this future society, then, must not be centralised; but, growing ever more closely bound together and interwoven by free and mutual agreements, it will be for the first time in human history a society of representative institutions, each of which is brought into being and grows or dies out as a direct result of the need for it. It will be a society responsive to the wants of the people; it will supply their everyday needs as quickly as it will respond to their highest aspirations. Its changing forms will be the passing expressions of humanity.

* * *

Anarchism is often brushed aside by the politicians with the remark that it is a beautiful dream, but quite impossible. It is for this reason that I have taken here a purely practical view of it; and now, in order that we may be quite sure of meeting no insurmountable difficulties in running our new society, we must first examine it a little more in detail.

It may be said that, in taking bread-making as an example, I have chosen a subject about which there is little room for a difference of opinion. Every one agrees on the necessity for bread, and practically every one as to its method of manufacture. When you get to complex things about which people differ widely, how will you do without law or some form of control from above?

It may well be argued that man cannot live by bread alone, and unless our new form of society has room within it for the highest culture as well as the barest necessities, it is condemned. For these reasons I must be forgiven if the details given in the example here taken are followed far enough to be a little tedious.

It is doubly worth while to answer this difficulty, because, if the explanation is followed, the reader will see that it explains also how he can begin to apply his Anarchist principles — for I am sure by this time he is an Anarchist — to the workers’ organisations.

Most of these, alas! while they claim to exist for the purpose of fighting Capitalism and authority, are themselves bossed and controlled exactly as a capitalist institution is. It is clear that the next step towards the revolution will be the reconstruction of these organisations, so that they will be as free from the control of “leaders” and executives as will be the free society they are out to build. This step is already being taken.

To return to my argument: as a contrast to bread-making, we will take art. About this subject few people think alike, and most people don’t think at all. If, then, our principles of free agreement are capable of supplying some art institute that will satisfy every one, we need not fear but that it will hold out all right in simpler cases.

Let us take the thing as it exists to-day, and root out from it the influence of government. Art galleries are now generally run by the corporations of large cities. The money is raised by rates; that is to say, every one is compelled to pay to buy and house pictures. While a great number absolutely care nothing for them, some may even object to them as being immoral. At the very outside, then, the institution is unrepresentative, and in its small way absolutely tyrannical.

In a free society the art institution, just as the bakeries, would grow into being in direct response to the desire for it. Those in a community who were interested in art would naturally meet together and discuss their plans. It would be their pleasure, and they would not compel any one to help them who was not in sympathy with their ideas. In this way the size of the institution would exactly represent the amount of interest taken in it. It would represent the artistic element of the community. Among artists, however, there are many different opinions as to what really is art. If our institution is to be one great affair, with majority rule inside, it is clear that there will be only one class of pictures on the walls, probably painted by popular Academicians, while the progressive section will not be represented in any way. If, on the other hand, we cut out altogether this idea of government, and allow liberty to obtain inside, just as it was liberty which brought our institution into being, we find that it will become representative in detail just as it was in bulk. When these artists meet together, those who are in the majority will not wish to dictate to the minority, but they will simply see that in the design of the building their needs are catered for. The minority, before it agrees to co-operate, will also see that room is made for its ideas.

If these two parties cannot agree to differ in this way, they would split apart entirely and have two separate buildings; but as this would pay neither of them, it is not likely to happen. It is clear also that with such a free method of organisation, not merely two opinions would be represented, but there would be as many different sorts of pictures as there were different ideas in art, except in those cases where two or more sections united in a compromise because they were not strong enough or sufficiently different from their neighbours to stand alone.

Here then, again, we have a truly representative institution. Just as we have seen above society growing into existence as the result of the individual need for bread, and just as we have found it impossible to suppose that starvation could exist when this need was used as the direct and only driving power behind the bakers and the bakery, so now, when we come to deal with man’s higher needs, we find that these can be supplied simply and perfectly by rooting out the last relic of the old-fashioned ideas of authority, and substituting for master and man the equal liberty of all.

* * *

Is it not now evident that this Anarchist Revolution is the revolution towards which the Labour movement has been working so long? It was in spite of the most savage laws that the workers first formed their protective Unions against the brutal exploitation of the capitalists. To-day it is the same struggle, for it is still the representatives of the Government who are bludgeoning the workers down into the mines and back to their factories, to work on the terms that the masters dictate.

On the one side are the disciplined, uniformed ranks of the Government obeying the word of command — they create nothing, their highest virtue is obedience, which means the sacrifice of judgment, the one quality that would make them higher than the beasts. On the other side are the irregular, motley ranks of the workers. In their hearts is rebellion, and their minds are filled with great ideals — ill-formed and imperfect, a dim consciousness of a mighty power to create something infinitely great and beautiful, for it is they who have moulded the wealth of the world into shape.

Who can doubt what is the meaning of this great struggle? Is it to end in a few extra crusts of bread for the workers’ army? Is it merely to ensure that they shall be allowed to work rather than starve? Will peace be declared when a new party of politicians sit in Parliament?

It is far greater than all of these; it is the age-long struggle between the past and the future; it is the great war between liberty and slavery. On the one side are the decaying relics of the dead past, and on the other is the ever-growing strength of young ideals. Ignorance and submission against understanding and self-reliance.

There is but one way to understand this great rising of the common people. It is but a feeble mind that sees it merely as an attempt to reform the controlling power. The struggle will continue until each side, by the logic of their actual position in it, will be forced to realise its full significance; and then nothing can stop the final battle, the overthrow of government and the establishment of liberty.

This is the task of the revolution. It means the destruction of the governing class, which holds the keys of the world’s wealth; and it will throw open the treasure-houses of the world to those who have built them and stored them with riches. The policeman’s bludgeon, by which authority supersedes justice; the fantastic uniforms of our kings and soldiers, hopeless substitute for manhood and courage; the wigs of our learned judges and men of the law, vain semblance of wisdom — all these and much more shall be pitched into huge bonfires that will glow as the rising sun through the streets of our cities, and at which the poor shall warm their half-starved bodies and hungry souls. The masquerade will have a sudden end, and the whole paraphernalia of destruction, which to-day keeps the world in check, will itself be destroyed by the rising forces of construction — the revolt of the workers. The social system dominated by brute force will give place to the new free society, born of and kept in existence by the free co-operation of those who form it.

And is that the end of all things?

No, that is the foundation of our future greatness, for Anarchy is the necessary condition for human progress.

Comments Off on George Barrett, “The Anarchist Revolution” (1915)

Filed under 1915, George Barrett, The Era of Anarchism, unlinked

Peter Kropotkin, “Anarchy: Its Philosophy and Ideal” (1896)

ANARCHY.

______

(Translated from the German by Harry Lyman Koopman.)

______

Ever reviled, accursed,-n’er understood,
Thou art the grisly terror of our age.
“Wreck of all order,” cry the multitude,
“Art thou, and war and murder’s endless rage.”
O, let them cry. To them that ne’er have striven,
The truth that lies behind a word to find,
To them the word’s right meaning was not given.
They shall continue blind among the blind.
But thou, O word, so clear, so strong, so pure,
That sayest all which I for goal have taken.
I give thee to the future! -Thine secure
When each at last unto himself shall waken.
Comes it in sunshine? In the tempest’s thrill?
I cannot tell……but it the earth shall see!
I am an Anarchist! Wherefore I will
Not rule, and also ruled I will not be!

-John Henry Mackay.

barwithdot

IT is not without a certain hesitation that I have decided to take the philosophy and ideal of Anarchy as the subject of this lecture.

     Those who are persuaded that Anarchy is a collection of visions relating to the future, and an unconscious striving toward the destruction of all present civilization, are still very numerous; and to clear the ground of such prejudices of our education as maintain this view we should have, perhaps, to enter into many details which it would be difficult to embody in a single lecture. Did not the Parisian press, only two or three years ago, maintain that the whole philosophy of Anarchy consisted in destruction, and that its only argument was violence?

     Nevertheless Anarchists have been spoken of so much lately, that part of the public has at last taken to reading and discussing our doctrines. Sometimes men have even given themselves trouble to reflect, and at the present moment we have at least gained a point: it is willingly admitted that Anarchists have an ideal. Their ideal is even found too beautiful, too lofty for a society not composed of superior beings.

     But is it not pretentious on my part to speak of a philosophy, when, according to our critics, our ideas are but dim visions of a distant future? Can Anarchy pretend to possess a philosophy, when it is denied that Socialism has one?

     This is what I am about to answer with all possible precision and clearness, only asking you to excuse me beforehand if I repeat an example or two which I have already given at a London lecture, and which seem to be best fitted to explain what is meant by the philosophy of Anarchism.


     You will not bear me any ill-will if I begin by taking a few elementary illustrations borrowed from natural sciences. Not for the purpose of deducing our social ideas from them-far from it; but simply the better to set off certain relations, which are easier grasped in phenomena verified by the exact sciences than in examples only taken from the complex facts of human societies.

     Well, then, what especially strikes us at present in exact sciences, is the profound modification which they are undergoing now, in the whole of their conceptions and interpretations of the facts of the universe.

     There was a time, you know, when man imagined the earth placed in the center of the universe. Sun, moon, planets and stars seemed to roll round our globe; and this globe, inhabited by man, represented for him the center of creation. He himself-the superior being on his planet-was the elected of his Creator. The sun, the moon, the stars were but made for him; toward him was directed all the attention of a God, who watched the least of his actions, arrested the sun’s course for him, wafted in the clouds, launching his showers or his thunder-bolts on fields and cities, to recompense the virtue or punish the crimes of mankind. For thousands of years man thus conceived the universe.

     You know also what an immense change was produced in the sixteenth century in all conceptions of the civilized part of mankind, when it was demonstrated that, far from being the centre of the universe, the earth was only a grain of sand in the solar system-a ball, much smaller even than the other planets; that the sun itself-though immense in comparison to our little earth, was but a star among many other countless stars which we see shining in the skies and swarming in the milky-way. How small man appeared in comparison to this immensity without limits, how ridiculous his pretensions! All the philosophy of that epoch, all social and religious conceptions, felt the effects of this transformation in cosmogony. Natural science, whose present development we are so proud of, only dates from that time.

     But a change, much more profound, and with far wider reaching results, is being effected at the present time in the whole of the sciences, and Anarchy, you will see, is but one of the many manifestations of this evolution.

     Take any work on astronomy of the last century, or the beginning of ours. You will no longer find in it, it goes without saying, our tiny planet placed in the center of the universe. But you will meet at every step the idea of a central luminary-the sun-which by its powerful attraction governs our planetary world. From this central body radiates a force guiding the course of the planets, and maintaining the harmony of the system. Issued from a central agglomeration, planets have, so to say, budded from it; they owe their birth to this agglomeration; they owe everything to the radiant star that represents it still: the rhythm of their movements, their orbits set at wisely regulated distances, the life that animates them and adorns their surfaces. And when any perturbation disturbs their course and makes them deviate from their orbits, the central body re-establishes order in the system; it assures and perpetuates its existence.

     This conception, however, is also disappearing as the other one did. After having fixed all their attention on the sun and the large planets, astronomers are beginning to study now the infinitely small ones that people the universe. And they discover that the interplanetary and interstellar spaces are peopled and crossed in all imaginable directions by little swarms of matter, invisible, infinitely small when taken separately, but all-powerful in their numbers. Among those masses, some, like the bolide that fell in Spain some time ago, are still rather big; others weigh but a few ounces or grains, while around them is wafted dust, almost microscopic, filling up the spaces.

     It is to this dust, to these infinitely tiny bodies that dash through space in all directions with giddy swiftness, that clash with one another, agglomerate, disintegrate, everywhere and always, it is to them that today astronomers look for an explanation of the origin of our solar system, the movements that animate its parts, and the harmony of their whole. Yet another step, and soon universal gravitation itself will be but the result of all the disordered and incoherent movements of these infinitely small bodies-of oscillations of atoms that manifest themselves in all possible directions. Thus the center, the origin of force, formerly transfered from the earth to the sun, now turns out to be scattered and disseminated: it is everywhere and nowhere. With the astronomer, we perceive that solar systems are the work of infinitely small bodies; that the power which was supposed to govern the system is itself but the result of the collisions among those infinitely tiny clusters of matter, that the harmony of stellar systems is harmony only because it is an adaptation, a resultant of all these numberless movements uniting, completing, equilibrating one another.

     The whole aspect of the universe changes with this new conception. The idea of force governing the world, of pre- established law, preconceived harmony, disappears to make room for the harmony that Fourier had caught a glimpse of: the one which results from the disorderly and incoherent movements of numberless hosts of matter, each of which goes its own way and all of which hold each other in equilibrium.


     If it were only astronomy that were undergoing this change! But no; the same modification takes place in the philosophy of all sciences without exception; those which study nature as well as those which study human relations.

     In physical sciences, the entities of heat, magnetism, and electricity disappear. When a physicist speaks today of a heated or electrified body, he no longer sees an inanimate mass, to which an unknown force should be added. He strives to recognize in this body and in the surrounding space, the course, the vibrations of infinitely small atoms which dash in all directions, vibrate, move, live, and by their vibrations, their shocks, their life, produce the phenomena of heat, light, magnetism or electricity.

     In sciences that treat of organic life, the notion of species and its variations is being substituted by a notion of the variations of the individual. The botanist and zoologist study the individual-his life, his adaptations to his surroundings. Changes produced in him by the action of drought or damp, heat or cold, abundance or poverty of nourishment, of his more or less sensitiveness to the action of exterior surroundings will originate species; and the variations of species are now for the biologist but resultants-a given sum of variations that have been produced in each individual separately. A species will be what the individuals are, each undergoing numberless influences from the surroundings in which they live, and to which they correspond each in his own way.

     And when a physiologist speaks now of the life of a plant or of an animal, he sees rather an agglomeration, a colony of millions of separate individuals than a personality one and indivisible. He speaks of a federation of digestive, sensual, nervous organs, all very intimately connected with one another, each feeling the consequence of the well-being or indisposition of each, but each living its own life. Each organ, each part of an organ in its turn is composed of independent cellules which associate to struggle against conditions unfavorable to their existence. The individual is quite a world of federations, a whole universe in himself.

     And in this world of aggregated beings the physiologist sees the autonomous cells of blood, of the tissues, of the nerve-centers; he recognizes the millions of white corpuscles-the phagocytes-who wend their way to the parts of the body infected by microbes in order to give battle to the invaders. More than that: in each microscopic cell he discovers today a world of autonomous organisms, each of which lives its own life, looks for well-being for itself and attains it by grouping and associating itself with others. In short, each individual is a cosmos of organs, each organ is a cosmos of cells, each cell is a cosmos of infinitely small ones; and in this complex world, the well-being of the whole depends entirely on the sum of well-being enjoyed by each of the least microscopic particles of organized matter. A whole revolution is thus produced in the philosophy of life.


     But it is especially in psychology that this revolution leads to consequences of great importance.

     Quite recently the psychologist spoke of man as an entire being, one and indivisible. Remaining faithful to religious tradition, he used to class men as good and bad, intelligent and stupid, egotists and altruists. Even with materialists of the eighteenth century, the idea of a soul, of an indivisible entity, was still upheld.

     But what would we think today of a psychologist who would still speak like this! The modern psychologist sees in man a multitude of separate faculties, autonomous tendencies, equal among themselves, performing their functions independently, balancing, opposing one another continually. Taken as a whole, man is nothing but a resultant, always changeable, of all his divers faculties, of all his autonomous tendencies, of brain cells and nerve centers. All are related so closely to one another that they each react on all the others, but they lead their own life without being subordinated to a central organ–the soul.


     Without entering into further details you thus see that a profound modification is being produced at this moment in the whole of natural sciences. Not that this analysis is extended to details formerly neglected. No! the facts are not new, but the way of looking at them is in course of evolution; and if we had to characterize this tendency in a few words, we might say that if formerly science strove to study the results and the great sums (integrals, as mathematicians say), today it strives to study the infinitely small ones–the individuals of which those sums are composed and in which it now recognizes independence and individuality at the same time as this intimate aggregation.

     As to the harmony that the human mind discovers in Nature, and which harmony is, on the whole, but the verification of a certain stability of phenomena, the modern man of science no doubt recognizes it more than ever. But he no longer tries to explain it by the action of laws conceived according to a certain plan preestablished by an intelligent will.

     What used to be called “natural law” is nothing but a certain relation among phenomena which we dimly see, and each “law” takes a temporary character of causality; that is to say: If such a phenomenon is produced under such conditions, such another phenomenon will follow. No law placed outside the phenomena: each phenomenon governs that which follows it-not law.

     Nothing preconceived in what we call harmony in Nature. The chance of collisions and encounters has sufficed to establish it. Such a phenomenon will last for centuries because the adaption, the equilibrium it represents has taken centuries to be established; while such another will last but an instant if that form of momentary equilibrium was born in an instant. If the planets of our solar system do not collide with one another and do not destroy one another every day, if they last millions of years, it is because they represent an equilibrium that has taken millions of centuries to establish as a resultant of millions of blind forces. If continents are not continually destroyed by volcanic shocks, it is because they have taken thousands and thousands of centuries to build up, molecule by molecule, and to take their present shape. But lightning will only last an instant; because it represents a momentary rupture of the equilibrium, a sudden redistribution of force.

     Harmony thus appears as a temporary adjustment, established among all forces acting upon a given spot-a provisory adaptation; and that adjustment will only last under one condition: that of being continually modified; of representing every moment the resultant of all conflicting actions. Let but one of those forces be hampered in its action for some time and harmony disappears. Force will accumulate its effect; it must come to light, it must exercise its action, and if other forces hinder its manifestation it will not be annihilated by that, but will end by upsetting the present adjustment, by destroying harmony, in order to find a new form of equilibrium and to work to form a new adaptation. Such is the eruption of a volcano, whose imprisoned force ends by breaking the petrified lavas which hindered them to pour forth the gases, the molten lavas, and the incandescent ashes. Such, also, are the revolutions of mankind.


     An analogous transformation is being produced at the same time in the sciences that treat of man. Thus we see that history, after having been the history of kingdoms, tends to become the history of nations and then the study of individuals. The historian wants to know how the members, of which such a nation was composed, lived at such a time, what their beliefs were, their means of existence, what ideal of society was visible to them, and what means they possessed to march toward this ideal. And by the action of all those forces, formerly neglected, he interprets the great historical phenomena.

     So the man of science who studies jurisprudence is no longer content with such or such a code. Like the ethnologist he wants to know the genesis of the institution that succeed one another; he follows their evolution through ages, and in this study he applies himself far less to written law than to local customs-to the “customary law” in which the constructive genius of the unknown masses has found expression in all times. A wholly new science is being elaborated in this direction and promises to upset established conceptions we learned at school, succeeding in interpreting history in the same manner as natural sciences interpret the phenomena of Nature.

     And, finally, political economy, which was at the beginning a study of the wealth of nations, becomes today a study of the wealth of individuals. It cares less to know if such a nation has or has not a large foreign trade; it wants to be assured that bread is not wanting in the peasant’s or worker’s cottage. It knocks at all doors-at that of the palace as well as that of the hovel-and asks the rich as well as the poor: Up to what point are your needs satisfied both for necessaries and luxuries?

     And as it discovers that the most pressing needs of nine-tenths of each nation are not satisfied, it asks itself the question that a physiologist would ask himself about a plant or an animal:-” Which are the means to satisfy the needs of all with the least lose of power? How can a society guarantee to each, and consequently to all, the greatest sum of satisfaction?” It is in this direction that economic science is being transformed; and after having been so long a simple statement of phenomena interpreted in the interest of a rich minority, it tends to become (or rather it elaborates the elements to become) a science in the true sense of the word–a physiology of human societies.


     While a new philosophy–a new view of knowledge taken as a whole–is thus being worked out, we may observe that a different conception of society, very different from that which now prevails, is in process of formation. Under the name of Anarchy, a new interpretation of the past and present life of society arises, giving at the same time a forecast as regards its future, both conceived in the same spirit as the above-mentioned interpretation in natural sciences. Anarchy, therefore, appears as a constituent part of the new philosophy, and that is why Anarchists come in contact, on so many points, with the greatest thinkers and poets of the present day.

     In fact, it is certain that in proportion as the human mind frees itself from ideas inculcated by minorities of priests, military chiefs and judges, all striving to establish their domination, and of scientists paid to perpetuate it, a conception of society arises, in which conception there is no longer room for those dominating minorities. A society entering into possession of the social capital accumulated by the labor of preceding generations, organizing itself so as to make use of this capital in the interests of all, and constituting itself without reconstituting the power of the ruling minorities. It comprises in its midst an infinite variety of capacities, temperaments and individual energies: it excludes none. It even calls for struggles and contentions; because we know that periods of contests, so long as they were freely fought out, without the weight of constituted authority being thrown on the one side of the balance, were periods when human genius took its mightiest flight and achieved the greatest aims. Acknowledging, as a fact, the equal rights of all its members to the treasures accumulated in the past, it no longer recognizes a division between exploited and exploiters, governed and governors, dominated and dominators, and it seeks to establish a certain harmonious compatibility in its midst-not by subjecting all its members to an -authority that is fictitiously supposed to represent society, not by trying to establish uniformity, but by urging all men to develop free initiative, free action, free association.

     It seeks the most complete development of individuality combined with the highest development of voluntary association in all its aspects, in all possible degrees, for all imaginable aims; ever changing, ever modified associations which carry in themselves the elements of their durability and constantly assume new forms, which answer best to the multiple aspirations of all.

     A society to which preestablished forms, crytalized by law, are repugnant; which looks for harmony in an ever-changing and fugitive equilibrium between a multitude of varied forces and influences of every kind, following their own course,-these forces promoting themselves the energies which are favorable to their march toward progress, toward the liberty of developing in broad daylight and counter-balancing one another.

     This conception and ideal of society is certainly not new. On the contrary, when we analyze the history of popular institutions-the clan, the village community, the guild and even the urban commune of the Middle Ages in their first stages,-we find the same popular tendency to constitute a society according to this idea; a tendency, however, always trammelled by domineering minorities. All popular movements bore this stamp more or less, and with the Anabaptists and their forerunners in the ninth century we already find the same ideas clearly expressed in the religious language which was in use at that time. Unfortunately, till the end of the last century, this ideal was always tainted by a theocratic spirit; and it is only nowadays that the conception of society deduced from the observation of social phenomena is rid of its swaddling-clothes.

     It is only today that the ideal of a society where each governs himself according to his own will (which is evidently a result of the social influences borne by each) is affirmed in its economic, political and moral aspects at one and the same time, and that this ideal presents itself based on the necessity of Communism, imposed on our modern societies by the eminently social character of our present production.

     In fact, we know full well today that it is futile to speak of liberty as long as economic slavery exists.

     “Speak not of liberty-poverty is slavery!” is not a vain formula; it has penetrated into the ideas of the great working-class masses; it filters through all the present literature; it even carries those along who live on the poverty of others, and takes from them the arrogance with which they formerly asserted their rights to exploitation.

     Millions of Socialists of both hemispheres already agree that the present form of capitalistic appropriation cannot last much longer. Capitalists themselves feel that it must go and dare not defend it with their former assurance. Their only argument is reduced to saying to us: “You have invented nothing better!” But as to denying the fatal consequences of the present forms of property, as to justifying their right to property, they cannot do it. They will practice this right as long as freedom of action is left to them, but without trying to base it on an idea. This is easily understood.

     For instance, take the town of Paris-a creation of so many centuries, a product of the genius of a whole nation, a result of the labor of twenty or thirty generations. How could one maintain to an inhabitant of that town who works every day to embellish it, to purify it, to nourish it, to make it a centre of thought and art-how could one assert before one who produces this wealth that the palaces adorning the streets of Paris belong in all justice to those who are the legal proprietors today, when we are all creating their value, which would be nil without us?

     Such a fiction can be kept up for some time by the skill of the people’s educators. The great battalions Of workers may not even reflect about it; but from the moment a minority of thinking men agitate the question and submit it to all, there can be no doubt of the result. Popular opinion answers: “It is by spoliation that they hold these riches!”

     Likewise, how can the peasant be made to believe that the bourgeois or manorial land belongs to the proprietor who has a legal claim, when a peasant can tell us the history of each bit of land for ten leagues around? Above all, how make him believe that it is useful for the nation that Mr. So-and-So keeps a piece of land for his park when so many neighboring peasants would be only too glad to cultivate it ?

     And, lastly, how make the worker in a factory, or the miner in a mine, believe that factory and mine equitably belong to their present masters, when worker and even miner are beginning to see clearly through Panama scandals, bribery, French, Turkish or other railways, pillage of the State and legal theft, from which great commercial and industrial property are derived ?

     In fact the masses have never believed in sophisms taught by economists, uttered more to confirm exploiters in their rights than to convert exploited! Peasants and workers, crushed by misery and finding no support in the well-to-do classes, have let things go, save from time to time when they have affirmed their rights by insurrection. And if workers ever thought that the day would come when personal appropriation of capital would profit all by turning it into a stock of wealth to be shared by all, this illusion is vanishing like so many others. The worker perceives that he has been disinherited, and that disinherited he will remain, unless he has recourse to strikes or revolts to tear from his masters the smallest part of riches built up by his own efforts; that is to say, in order to get that little, he already must impose on himself the pangs of hunger and face imprisonment, if not exposure to Imperial, Royal, or Republican fusillades.


     But a greater evil of the present system becomes more and more marked; namely, that in a system based on private appropriation, all that is necessary to life and to production-land, housing, food and tools-having once passed into the hands of a few, the production of necessities that would give well-being to all is continually hampered. The worker feels vaguely that our present technical power could give abundance to all, but he also perceives how the capitalistic system and the State hinder the conquest of this well-being in every way.

     Far from producing more than is needed to assure material riches, we do not produce enough. When a peasant covets the parks and gardens of industrial filibusters and Panamists, round which judges and police mount guard-when he dreams of covering them with crops which, he knows, would carry abundance to the villages whose inhabitants feed on bread hardly washed down with sloe wine-he understands this.

     The miner, forced to be idle three days a week, thinks of the tons of coal he might extract, and which are sorely Deeded in poor households.

     The worker whose factory is closed, and who tramps the streets in search of work, sees bricklayers out of work like himself, while one-fifth of the population of Paris live in insanitary hovels; he hears shoe-makers complain of want of work, while so many people need shoes-and so on.


     In short, if certain economists delight in writing treatises on over-production, and in explaining each industrial crisis by this cause, they would be much at a loss if called upon to name a single article produced by France in greater quantities than are necessary to satisfy the needs of the whole population. It is certainly not corn: the country is obliged to import it. It is not wine either: peasants drink but little wine, and substitute sloe wine in its stead, and the inhabitants of towns have to be content with adulterated stuff. It is evidently not houses: millions still live in cottages of the most wretched description, with one or two apertures. It is not even good or bad books, for they are still objects of luxury in the villages. Only one thing is produced in quantities greater than needed,-it is the budget-devouring individual; but such merchandise is not mentioned in lectures by political economists, although those individuals possess all the attributes of merchandise, being ever ready to sell themselves to the highest bidder.

     What economists call over-production is but a production that is above the purchasing power of the worker, who is reduced to poverty by Capital and State. Now, this sort of over-production remains fatally characteristic of the present capitalist production, because-Proudhon has already shown it-workers cannot buy with their salaries what they have produced and at the same time copiously nourish the swarm of idlers who live upon their work.

     The very essence of the present economic system is, that the worker can never enjoy the well-being he has produced, and that the number of those who live at his expense will always augment. The more a country is advanced in industry, the more this number grows. Inevitably, industry is directed, and will have to be directed, not towards what is needed to satisfy the needs of all, but towards that which, at a given moment, brings in the greatest temporary profit to a few. Of necessity, the abundance of some will be based on the poverty of others, and the straitened circumstances of the greater number will have to be maintained at all costs, that there may be hands to sell themselves for a part only of that which they are capable of producing; without which, private accumulation of capital is impossible!

     These characteristics of our economical system are its very essence. Without them, it cannot exist; for, who would sell his labor power for less than it is capable of bringing in, if he were not forced thereto by the threat of hunger?

     And those essential traits of the system are also its most crushing condemnation.


     As long as England and France were pioneers of industry, in the midst of nations backward in their technical development, and as long as neighbors purchased their wools, their cotton goods, their silks, their iron and machines, as well as a whole range of articles of luxury, at a price that allowed them to enrich themselves at the expense of their clients,- the worker could be buoyed up by hope that he, too, would be called upon to appropriate an ever and ever larger share of the booty to himself. But these conditions are disappearing. In their turn, the backward nations of thirty years ago have become great producers of cotton goods, wools, silks, machines and articles of luxury. In certain branches of industry they have even taken the lead, and not only do they struggle with the pioneers of industry and commerce in distant lands, but they even compete with those pioneers in their own countries. In a few years Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the United States, Russia and Japan have become great industrial countries. Mexico, the Indies, even Servia, are on the march–and what will it be when China begins to imitate Japan in manufacturing for the world’s market?

     The result is, that industrial crises, the frequency and duration of which are always augmenting, have passed into a chronic state in many industries. Likewise, wars for Oriental and African markets have become the order of the day since several years; it is now twenty-five years that the sword of war has been suspended over European states. And if war has not burst forth, it is especially due to influential financiers who find it advantageous that States should become more and more indebted. But the day on which Money will find its interest in fomenting war, human flocks will be driven against other human flocks, and will butcher one another to settle the affairs of the world’s master-financiers.

     All is linked, all holds together under the present economic system, and all tends to make the fall of the industrial and mercantile system under which we live inevitable. Its duration is but a question of time that may already be counted by years and no longer by centuries. A question of time–and energetic attack on our part! Idlers do not make history: they suffer it!


     That is why such powerful minorities constitute themselves in the midst of civilized nations, and loudly ask for the return to the community of all riches accumulated by the work of preceding generations. The holding in common of land, mines, factories, inhabited houses, and means of transport is already the watch-word of these imposing fractions, and repression-the favorite weapon of the rich and powerful-can no longer do anything to arrest the triumphal march of the spirit of revolt. And if millions of workers do not rise to seize the land and factories from the monopolists by force, be sure it is not for want of desire. They but wait for a favorable opportunity-a chance, such as presented itself in 1848, when they will be able to start the destruction of the present economic system, with the hope of being supported by an International movement.

     That time cannot be long in coming; for since the International was crushed by governments in 1872-especially since then-it has made immense progress of which its most ardent partisans are hardly aware. It is, in fact, constituted-in ideas, in sentiments, in the establishment of constant intercommunication. It is true the French, English, Italian and German plutocrats are so many rivals, and at any moment can even cause nations to war with one another. Nevertheless, be sure when the Communist and Social Revolution does take place in France, France will find the same sympathies as formerly among the nations of the world, including Germans, Italians and English. And when Germany, which, by the way, is nearer a revolution than is thought, will plant the flag-unfortunately a Jacobin one-of this revolution, when it will throw itself into the revolution with all the ardor of youth in an ascendant period, such as it is traversing today, it will find on this side of the Rhine all the sympathies and all the support of a nation that loves the audacity of revolutionists and hates the arrogance of plutocracy.


     Divers causes have up till now delayed the bursting forth of this inevitable revolution. The possibility of a great European war is no doubt partly answerable for it. But there is, it seems to me, another cause, a deeper-rooted one, to which I would call your attention. There is going on just now among the Socialists-many tokens lead us to believe it-a great transformation in ideas, like the one I sketched at the beginning of this lecture in speaking of general sciences. And the uncertainty of Socialists themselves concerning the organization of the society they are wishing for, paralyses their energy up to a certain point.

     At the beginning, in the forties, Socialism presented itself as Communism, as a republic one and indivisible, as a governmental and Jacobin dictatorship, in its application to economics. Such was the ideal of that time. Religious and freethinking Socialists were equally ready to submit to any strong government, even an imperial one, if that government would only remodel economic relations to the worker’s advantage.

     A profound revolution has since been accomplished, especially among Latin and English peoples. Governmental Communism, like theocratic Communism, is repugnant to the worker. And this repugnance gave rise to a new conception or doctrine-that of Collectivism-in the International. This doctrine at first signified the collective possession of the instruments of production (not including what is necessary to live), and the right of each group to accept such method of remuneration, whether communistic or individualistic, as pleased its members. Little by little, however, this system was transformed into a sort of compromise between communistic and individualistic wage remuneration. Today the Collectivist wants all that belongs to production to become common property, but that each should be individually remunerated by labor checks, according to the number of hours he has spent in production. These checks would serve to buy all merchandise in the Socialist stores at cost price, which price would also be estimated in hours of labor.

     But if you analyze this idea you will own that its essence, as summed up by one of our friends, is reduced to this:

     Partial Communism in the possession of instruments of production and education. Competition among individuals and groups for bread, housing and clothing. Individualism for works of art and thought. The Socialistic State’s aid for children, invalids and old people.

     In a word-a struggle for the means of existence mitigated by charity. Always the Christian maxim: “Wound to heal afterwards!” And always the door open to inquisition, in order to know if you are a man who must be left to struggle, or a man the State must succor.

     The idea of labor checks, you know, is old. It dates from Robert Owen; Proudhon commended it in 1848; Marxists have made “Scientific Socialism” of it today.

     We must say, however, that this system seems to have little hold on the minds of the masses; it would seem they foresaw its drawbacks, not to say its impossibility. Firstly, the duration of time given to any work does not give the measure of social utility of the work accomplished, and the theories of value that economists have endeavored to base, from Adam Smith to Marx, only on the cost of production, valued in labor time, have not solved the question of value. As soon as there is exchange, the value of an article becomes a complex quantity, and depends also on the degree of satisfaction which it brings to the needs-not of the individual, as certain economists stated formerly, but of the whole of society, taken in its entirety. Value is a social fact. Being the result of an exchange, it has a double aspect: that of labor, and that of satisfaction of needs, both evidently conceived in their social and not individual aspect.

     On the other hand, when we analyze the evils of the present economic system, we see-and the worker knows it full well-that their essence lies in the forced necessity of the worker to sell his labor power. Not having the wherewithal to live for the next fortnight, and being prevented by the State from using his labor power without selling it to someone, the worker sells himself to the one who undertakes to give him work; he renounces the benefits his labor might bring him in; he abandons the lion’s share of what he produces to his employer; he even abdicates his liberty; he renounces his right to make his opinion heard on the utility of what he is about to produce and on the way of producing it.

     Thus results the accumulation of capital, not in its faculty of absorbing surplus-value but in the forced position the worker is placed to sell his labor power: -the seller being sure in advance that he will not receive all that his strength can produce, of being wounded in his interests, and of becoming the inferior of the buyer. Without this the capitalist would never have tried to buy him; which proves that to change the system it must be attacked in its essence: in its cause-sale and purchase,-not in its effect-Capitalism.

     Workers themselves have a vague intuition of this, and we hear them say oftener and oftener that nothing will be done if the Social Revolution does not begin with the distribution of products, if it does not guarantee the necessities of life to all-that is to say, housing, food and clothing. And we know that to do this is quite impossible, with the powerful means of production at our disposal.

     If the worker continues to be paid in wages, lie necessarily will remain the slave or the subordinate of the one to whom he is forced to sell his labor force-be the buyer a private individual or the State. In the popular mind-in that sum total of thousands of opinions crossing the human brain-it is felt that if the State were to be substituted for the employer, in his role of buyer and overseer of labor, it would still be an odious tyranny. A man of the people does not reason about abstractions, he thinks in concrete terms, and that is why he feels that the abstraction, the State, would for him assume the form of numberless functionaries, taken from among his factory and workshop comrades, and he knows what importance he can attach to their virtues: excellent comrades today, they become unbearable foremen tomorrow. And he looks for a social constitution that will eliminate the present evils without creating new ones.

     That is why Collectivism has never taken hold of the masses, who always come back to Communism-but a Communism more and more stripped of the Jacobin theocracy and authoritarianism of the forties – to Free Communism – Anarchy.

     Nay more: in calling to mind all we have seen during this quarter of a century in the European Socialist movement, I cannot help believing that modern Socialism is forced to make a step towards Free Communism; and that so long as that step is not taken, the incertitude in the popular mind that I have just pointed out will paralyze the efforts of Socialist propaganda.

     Socialists seem to me to be brought, by force of circumstances, to recognize that the material guarantee of existence of all the members of the community shall be the first act of the Social Revolution.

     But they are also driven to take another step. They are obliged to recognize that this guarantee must come, not from the State, but independently of the State, and without its intervention.

     We have already obtained the unanimous assent of those who have studied the subject, that a society, having recovered the possession of all riches accumulated in its midst, can liberally assure abundance to all in return for four or five hours effective and manual work a day, as far as regards production. If everybody, from childhood, learned whence came the bread he eats, the house he dwells in, the book he studies, and so on; and if each one accustomed himself to complete mental work by manual labor in some branch of manufacture,-society could easily perform this task, to say nothing of the further simplification of production which a more or less near future has in store for us.

     In fact, it suffices to recall for a moment the present terrible waste, to conceive what a civilized society can produce with but a small quantity of labor if all share in it, and what grand works might be undertaken that are out of the question today. Unfortunately, the metaphysics called political economy has never troubled about that which should have been its essence-economy of labor.

     There is no longer any doubt as regards the possibility of wealth in a Communist society, armed with our present machinery and tools. Doubts only arise when the question at issue is, whether a society can exist in which man’s actions are not subject to State control; whether, to reach well-being, it is not necessary for European communities to sacrifice the little personal liberty they have reconquered at the cost of so many sacrifices during this century? A section of Socialists believe that it is impossible to attain such a result without sacrificing personal liberty on the altar of the State. Another section, to which we belong, believes, on the contrary, that it is only by the abolition of the State, by the conquest of perfect liberty by the individual, by free agreement, association, and absolute free federation that we can reach Communism-the possession in common of our social inheritance, and the production in common of all riches.

     That is the question outweighing all others at present, and Socialism must solve it, on pain of seeing all its efforts endangered and all its ulterior development paralysed.

     Let us, therefore, analyse it with all the attention it deserves.


     If every Socialist will carry his thoughts back to an earlier date, he will no doubt remember the host of prejudices aroused in him when, for the first time, he came to the idea that abolishing the capitalist system and private appropriation of land and capital had become an historical necessity.

     The same feelings are today produced in the man who for the first time hears that the abolition of the State, its laws, its entire system of management, governmentalism and centralization, also becomes an historical necessity: that the abolition of the one without the abolition of the other is materially impossible. Our whole education-made, be it noted, by Church and State, in the interests of both-revolts at this conception.

     Is it lass true for that? And shall we allow our belief in the State to survive the host of prejudices we have already sacrificed for our emancipation?

     It is not my intention to criticise tonight the State. That has been done and redone so often, and I am obliged to put off to another lecture the analysis of the historical part played by the State. A few general remarks will suffice.

     To begin with, if man, since his origin, has always lived in societies, the State is but one of the forms of social life, quite recent as far as regards European societies. Men lived thousands of years before the first States were constituted; Greece and Rome existed for centuries before the Macedonian and Roman Empires were built up, and for us modern Europeans the centralized States date but from the sixteenth century. It was only then, after the defeat of the free mediæval Communes had been completed that the mutual insurance company between military, judicial, landlord, and capitalist authority which we call “State,” could be fully established.

     It was only in the sixteenth century that a mortal blow was dealt to ideas of local independence, to free union and organization, to federation of all degrees among sovereign groups, possessing all functions now seized upon by the State. It was only then that the alliance between Church and the nascent power of Royalty put an end to an organization, based on the principle of federation, which had existed from the ninth to the fifteenth century, and which had produced in Europe the great period of free cities of the middle ages, whose character has been so well understood in France by Sismondi and Augustin Thierry–two historians unfortunately too little read now-a-days.

     We know well the means by which this association of the lord, priest, merchant, judge, soldier, and king founded its domination. It was by the annihilation of all free unions: of village communities, guilds, trades unions, fraternities, and mediæval cities. It was by confiscating the land of the communes and the riches of the guilds; it was by the absolute and ferocious prohibition of all kinds of free agreement between men; it was by massacre, the wheel, the gibbet, the sword, and the fire that Church and State established their domination, and that they succeeded henceforth to reign over an incoherent agglomeration of subjects, who had no direct union more among themselves.


     It is now hardly thirty or forty years ago that we began to reconquer, by struggle, by revolt, the first steps of the right of association, that was freely practised by the artisans and the tillers of the soil through the whole of the middle ages.

     And, already now, Europe is covered by thousands of voluntary associations for study and teaching, for industry, commerce, science, art, literature, exploitation, resistance to exploitation, amusement, serious work, gratification and self-denial, for all that makes up the life of an active and thinking being. We see

     these societies rising in all nooks and corners of all domains: political, economic, artistic, intellectual. Some are as shortlived as roses, some hold their own since several decades, and all strive-while maintaining the independence of each group, circle, branch, or section-to federate, to unite, across frontiers as well as among each nation; to cover all the life of civilized men with a net, meshes of which are intersected and interwoven. Their numbers can already be reckoned by tens of thousands, they comprise millions of adherents-although less than fifty years have elapsed since Church and State began to tolerate a few of them-very few, indeed.

     These societies already begin to encroach everywhere on the functions of the State, and strive to substitute free action of volunteers for that of a centralized State. In England we see arise insurance companies against theft; societies for coast defense, volunteer societies for land defense, which the State endeavors to got under its thumb, thereby making them instruments of domination, although their original aim was to do without the State. Were it not for Church and State, free societies would have already conquered the whole of the immense domain of education. And, in spite of all difficulties, they begin to invade this domain as well, and make their influence already felt.

     And when we mark the progress already accomplished in that direction, in spite of and against the State, which tries by all means to maintain its supremacy of recent origin; when we see how voluntary societies invade everything and are only impeded in their development by the State, we are forced to recognize a powerful tendency, a latent force in modern society. And we ask ourselves this question: If, five, ten, or twenty years hence-it matters little-the workers succeed by revolt in destroying the said mutual insurance society of landlords, bankers, priests, judges, and soldiers; if the people become masters of their destiny for a few months, and lay hands on the riches they have created, and which belong to them by right-will they really begin to reconstitute that blood-sucker, the State? Or will they not rather try to organize from the simple to the complex, according to mutual agreement and to the infinitely varied, ever-changing needs of each locality, in order to secure the possession of those riches for themselves, to mutually guarantee one another’s life, and to produce what will be found necessary for life?

     Will they follow the dominant tendency of the century, towards decentralization, home rule and free agreement; or will they march contrary to this tendency and strive to reconstitute demolished authority?


     Educated men-“civilized,” as Fourier used to say with disdain–tremble at the idea that society might some day be without judges, police, or gaolers.

     But, frankly, do you need them as much as you have been told in musty books ? Books written, be it noted, by scientists who generally know well what has been written before them, but, for the most part, absolutely ignore the people and their every-day life.

     If we can wander, without fear, not only in the streets of Paris, which bristle with police, but especially in rustic walks where you rarely meet passers by, is it to the police that we owe this security? or rather to the absence of people who care to rob or murder us? I am evidently not speaking of the one who carries millions about him. That one-a recent trial tells us-is soon robbed, by preference in places where there are as many policemen as lamp posts. No, I speak of the man who fears for his life and not for his purse filled with ill-gotten sovereigns. Are his fears real?

     Besides, has not experience demonstrated quite recently that Jack the Ripper performed hie exploits under the eye of the London police-a most active force-and that he only left off killing when the population of Whitechapel itself began to give chase to him?

     And in our every-day relations with our fellow-citizens, do you think that it is really judges, gaolers, and police that hinder anti-social acts from multiplying? The judge, ever ferocious, because he is a maniac of law, the accuser, the informer, the police spy, all those interlopers that live from hand to mouth around the Law Courts, do they not scatter demoralization far and wide into society? Read the trials, glance behind the scenes, push your analysis further than the exterior facade of law courts, and you will come out sickened.

     Have not prisons-which kill all will and force of character in man, which enclose within their walls more vices than are met with on any other spot of the globe-always been universities of crime? Is not the court of a tribunal a school of ferocity? And so on.

     When we ask for the abolition of the State and its organs we are always told that we dream of a society composed of men better than they are in reality. But no; a thousand times, no. All we ask is that men should not be made worse than they are, by such institutions!

     Once a German jurist of great renown, Ihering, wanted to sum up the scientific work of his life and write a treatise, in which he proposed to analyze the factors that preserve social life in society. “Purpose in Law” (Der Zweck im Rechte), such is the title of that book, which enjoys a well-deserved reputation.

     He made an elaborate plan of his treatise, and, with much erudition, discussed both coercive factors which are used to maintain society: wagedom and the different forms of coercion which are sanctioned by law. At the end of his work he reserved two paragraphs only to mention the two non-coercive factors-the feeling of duty and the feeling of mutual sympathy-to which lie attached little importance, as might be expected from a writer in law.

     But what happened? As he went on analyzing the coercive factors he realized their insufficiency. He consecrated a whole volume to their analysis, and the result was to lessen their importance! When he began the last two paragraphs, when he began to reflect upon the non-coercive factors of society, he perceived, on the contrary, their immense, outweighing importance; and instead of two paragraphs, he found himself obliged to write a second volume, twice as large as the first, on these two factors: voluntary restraint and mutual help; and yet, he analyzed but an infinitesimal part of these latter-those which result from personal sympathy-and hardly touched free agreement, which results from social institutions.

     Well, then, leave off repeating the formulæ which you have learned at school; meditate on this subject; and the same thing that happened to Ihering will happen to you: you will recognize the infinitesimal importance of coersion, as compared to the voluntary assent, in society.

     On the other hand, if by following the very old advice given by Bentham yon begin to think of the fatal consequences-direct, and especially indirect-of legal coersion, like Tolstoy, like us, you will begin to hate use of coersion, and you will begin to say that society possesses a thousand other means for preventing antisocial acts. If it neglects those means today, it is because, being educated by Church and State, our cowardice and apathy of spirit hinder us seeing clearly on this point. When a child has committed a fault, it is so easy to hang a man-especially when there is an executioner who is paid so much for each execution-and it dispenses us from thinking of the cause of crimes.


     It is often said that Anarchists live in a world of dreams to come, and do not see the things which happen today. We do see them only too well, and in their true colors, and that is what makes us carry the hatchet into the forest of prejudice that besets us.

     Far from living in a world of visions and imagining men better than they are, we see them as they are; and that is why we affirm that the best of men is made essentially bad by the exercise of authority, and that the theory of the “balancing of powers” and “control of authorities” is a hypocritical formula, invented by those who have seized power, to make the “sovereign people,” whom they despise, believe that the people themselves are governing. It is because we know men that we say to those who imagine that men would devour one another without those governors: “You reason like the king, who, being sent across the frontier, called out, ‘What will become of my poor subjects without me?’”

     Ah, if men were those superior beings that the utopians of authority like to speak to us of, if we could close our eyes to reality, and live, like them, in a world of dreams and illusions as to the superiority of those who think themselves called to power, perhaps we also should do like them; perhaps we also should believe in the virtues of those who govern.

     With virtuous masters, what dangers could slavery offer? Do you remember the Slave-owner of whom we heard so often, hardly thirty years ago? Was he not supposed to take paternal care of his slaves? “He alone,” we were told, “could hinder these lazy, indolent, improvident children dying of hunger. How could he crush his slaves through hard labor, or mutilate them by blows, when his own interest lay in feeding them well, in taking care of them as much as of his own children! And then, did not ‘the law’ see to it that the least swerving of a slave-owner from the path of duty was punished?” How many times have we not been told so! But the reality was such that, having returned from a voyage to Brazil, Darwin was haunted all his life by the cries of agony of mutilated slaves, by the sobs of moaning women whose fingers were crushed in thumbserews!

     If the gentlemen in power were really so intelligent and so devoted to the public cause, as panegyrists of authority love to represent, what a pretty government and paternal utopia we should be able to construct! The employer would never be the tyrant of the worker; he would be the father! The factory would be a palace of delight, and never would masses of workers be doomed to physical deterioration. The State would not poison its workers by making matches with white phosphorus, for which it is so easy to substitute red phosphorus.* A judge would not have the ferocity to condemn the wife and children of the one whom he sends to prison to suffer years of hunger and misery and to die some day of anemia; never would a public prosecutor ask for the head of the accused for the unique pleasure of showing off his oratorical talent; and nowhere would we find a gaoler or an executioner to do the bidding of judges, who have not the courage to carry out their sentences themselves. What do I say! We should never have enough Plutarchs to praise the virtues of Members of Parliament who would all hold Panama checks in horror! Biribi** would become an austere nursery of virtue, and permanent armies would be the joy of citizens, as soldiers would only take up arms to parade before nursemaids, and to carry nosegays on the point of their bayonets!

     Oh, the beautiful utopia, the lovely Christmas dream we can make as soon as we admit that those who govern represent a superior caste, and have hardly any or no knowledge of simple mortals’ weaknesses! It would then suffice to make them control one another in hierarchical fashion, to let them exchange fifty papers, at most, among different administrators, when the wind blows down a tree on the national road. Or, if need be, they would have only to be valued at their proper worth, during elections, by those same masses of mortals which are supposed to be endowed with all stupidity in their mutual relations but become wisdom itself when they have to elect their masters.

     All the science of government, imagined by those who govern, is imbibed with these utopias. But we know men too well to dream such dreams. We have not two measures for the virtues of the governed and those of the governors; we know that we ourselves are not without faults and that the best of us would soon be corrupted by the exercise of power. We take men for what they are worth-and that is why we hate the government of man by man, and that we work with all our might-perhaps not strong enough-to put an end to it.


     But it is not enough to destroy. We must also know how to build, and it is owing to not having thought about it that the masses have always been led astray in all their revolutions. After having demolished they abandoned the care of reconstruction to the middle class people, who possessed a more or less precise conception of what they wished to realize, and who consequently reconstituted authority to their own advantage.

     That is why Anarchy, when it works to destroy authority in all its aspects, when it demands the abrogation of laws and the abolition of the mechanism that serves to impose them, when it refuses all hierarchical organization and preaches free agreement-at the same time strives to maintain and enlarge the precious kernel of social customs without which no human or animal society can exist. Only, instead of demanding that those social customs should be maintained through the authority of a few, it demands it from the continued action of all.

     Communist customs and institutions are of absolute necessity for society, not only to solve economic difficulties, but also to maintain and develop social customs that bring men in contact with one another; they must be looked to for establishing such relations between men that the interest of each should be the interest of all; and this alone can unite men instead of dividing them.

     In fact, when we ask ourselves by what means a certain moral level can be maintained in a human or animal society, we find only three such means: the repression of anti-social acts; moral teaching; and the practice of mutual help itself. And as all three have already been put to the test of practice, we can judge them by their effects.

     As to the impotence of repression-it is sufficiently demonstrated by the disorder of present society and by the necessity of a revolution that we all desire or feel inevitable. In the domain of economy, coercion has led us to industrial servitude; in the domain of politics-to the State, that is to say, to the destruction of all ties that formerly existed among citizens, and to the nation becoming nothing but an incoherent mass of obedient subjects of a central authority.

     Not only has a coercive system contributed and powerfully aided to create all the present economical, political and social evils, but it has given proof of its absolute impotence to raise the moral level of societies; it has not been even able to maintain it at the level it had already reached. If a benevolent fairy could only reveal to our eyes all the crimes that are committed every day, every minute, in a civilized society under cover of the unknown, or the protection of law itself,-society would shudder at that terrible state of affairs. The authors of the greatest political crimes, like those of Napoleon III. coup d’etat, or the bloody week in May after the fall of the Commune of 1871, never are arraigned ; and as a poet said; “the small miscreants are punished for the satisfaction of the great ones.” More than that, when authority takes the moralization of society in hand, by “punishing criminals” it only heaps up now crimes!

     Practised for centuries, repression has so badly succeeded that it has but led us into a blind alley from which we can only issue by carrying torch and hatchet into the institutions of our authoritarian past.


     Far be it from us not to recognize the importance of the second factor, moral teaching-especially that which is unconsciously transmitted in society and results from the whole of the ideas and comments emitted by each of us on facts and events of every-day life. But this force can only act on society under one condition, that of not being crossed by a mass of contradictory immoral teachings resulting from the practice of insitutions.

     In that case its influence is nil or baneful. Take Christian morality: what other teaching could have had more hold on minds than that spoken in the name of a crucified God, and could have acted with all its mystical force, all its poetry of martyrdom, its grandeur in forgiving executioners? And yet the institution was more powerful than the religion: soon Christianity-a revolt against imperial Rome-was conquered by that same Rome; it accepted its maxims, customs, and language. The Chriatian church accepted the Roman law as its own, and as such-allied to the State-it became in history the most furious enemy of all semi-communist institutions, to which Christianity appealed at Its origin.

     Can we for a moment believe that moral teaching, patronized by circulars from ministers of public instruction, would have the creative force that Christianity has not had? And what could the verbal teaching of truly social men do, if it were counteracted by the whole teaching derived from institutions based, as our present institutions of property and State are, upon unsocial principles?

     The third element alone remains-the institution itself, acting in such a way as to make social acts a state of habit and instinct. This element-history proves it-has never missed its aim, never has it acted as a double-bladed sword; and its influence has only been weakened when custom strove to become immovable, crystallized, to become in its turn a religion not to be questioned when it endeavored to absorb the individual, taking all freedom of action from him and compelling him to revolt against that which had become, through its crystallization, an enemy to progress.

     In fact, all that was an element of progress in the past or an instrument of moral and intellectual improvement of the human race is due to the practice of mutual aid, to the customs that recognized the equality of men and brought them to ally, to unite, to associate for the purpose of producing and consuming, to unite for purpose of defence to federate and to recognize no other judges in fighting out their differences than the arbitrators they took from their own midst.

     Each time these institutions, issued from popular genius, when it had reconquered its liberty for a moment,-each time these institutions developed in a new direction, the moral level of society, its material well-being, its liberty, its intellectual progress, and the affirmation of individual originality made a step in advance. And, on the contrary, each time that in the course of history, whether following upon a foreign conquest, or whether by developing authoritarian prejudices men become more and more divided into governors and governed, exploiters and exploited, the moral level fell, the well-being of the masses decreased in order to insure riches to a few, and the spirit of the age declined.

     History teaches us this, and from this lesson we have learned to have confidence in free Communist institutions to raise the moral level of societies, debased by the practice of authority.


     Today we live side by side without knowing one another. We come together at meetings on an election day: we listen to the lying or fanciful professions of faith of a candidate, and we return home. The State has the care of all questions of public interest; the State alone has the function of seeing that we do not harm the interests of our neighbor, and, if it fails in this, of punishing us in order to repair the evil.

     Our neighbor may die of bringer or murder his children,-it is no business of ours; it is the business of the policeman. You hardly know one another, nothing unites you, everything tends to alienate you from one another, and finding no better way, you ask the Almighty (formerly it was a God, now it is the State) to do all that lies within his power to stop anti-social passions from reaching their highest climax.

     In a Communist society such estrangement, such confidence in an outside force could not exist. Communist organization cannot be left to be constructed by legislative bodies called parliaments, municipal or communal council. It must be the work of all, a natural growth, a product of the constructive genius of the great mass. Communism cannot be imposed from above; it could not live even for a few months if the constant and daily co-operation of all did not uphold it. It must be free.

     It cannot exist without creating a continual contact between all for the thousands and thousands of common transactions; it cannot exist without creating local life, independent in the smallest unities-the block of houses, the street, the district, the commune. It would not answer its purpose if it did not cover society with a network of thousands of associations to satisfy its thousand needs: the necessaries of life, articles of luxury, of study, enjoyment, amusements. And such associations cannot remain narrow and local; they must necessarily tend (as is already the case with learned societies, cyclist clubs, humanitarian societies and the like) to become international.

     And the sociable customs that Communism-were it only partial at its origin-must inevitably engender in life, would already be a force incomparably more powerful to maintain and develop the kernel of sociable customs than all repressive machinery.

     This, then, is the form-sociable institution-of which we ask the development of the spirit of harmony that Church and State had undertaken to impose on us-with the sad result we know only too well. And these remarks contain our answer to those who affirm that Communism and Anarchy cannot go together. They are, you see, a necessary complement to one another. The most powerful development of individuality, or individual originality-as one of our comrades has so well said,- can only be produced when the first needs of food and shelter are satisfied; when the struggle for existence against the forces of nature has been simplified; when man’s time is no longer taken up entirely by the meaner side of daily subsistence,-then only, his intelligence, his artistic taste, his inventive spirit, his genius, can develop freely and ever strive to greater achievements.

     Communism is the best basis for individual development and freedom; not that individualism which drives man to the war of each against all-this is the only one known up till now,-but that which represents the full expansion of man’s faculties, the superior development of what is original in him, the greatest fruitfulness of intelligence, feeling and will.


     Such being our ideal, what does it matter to us that it cannot be realized at once!

     Our first duty is to find out, by an analysis of society, its characteristic tendencies at a given moment of evolution and to state them clearly. Then, to act according to those tendencies in our relations with all those who think as we do. And, finally, from to-day and especially daring a revolutionary period, work for the destruction of the institutions, as, weII as the prejudices, that impede the development of such tendencies.

     That is all we can do by peaceable or revolutionary methods, and we know that by favoring those tendencies we contribute to progress, while who resist them impede the march of progress.

     Nevertheless, men often speak of stages to be travelled through, and they propose to work to reach what they consider to be the nearest station and only then to take the high road leading to what they recognize to be a still higher ideal.

     But reasoning like this seems to me to misunderstand the true character of human progress and to make use of a badly chosen military comparison. Humanity is not a rolling ball, nor even a marching column. It is a whole that evolves simultaneously in the mulitude of millions of which it Is composed; and if you wish for a comparison, you must rather take it in the laws of organic evolution than In those of an inorganic moving body.

     The fact is that each phase of development of a society is a resultant of all the activities of the Intellects which compose that society; it bears the imprint of all those millions of wills. Consequently, whatever may be the stage of development that the twentieth century is preparing for us, this future state of society will show the effects of the awakening of libertarian ideas which is now taking place. And the depth with which this movement will be impressed upon the coming twentieth century institutions will depend upon the number of men who will have broken to-day with authoritarian prejudices, on the energy they will have used in attacking old institutions, on the impression they will make on the masses, on the clearness with which the ideal of a free society will have been impressed on the minds of the masses. But, to-day, we can say in full confidence, that in France the awakening of libertarian ideas had already put its stamp on society; and that the next revolution will not be the Jacobin revolution which it would have been had it buret out twenty years ago.

     And as these ideas are neither the invention of a man nor a group, but result from the whole of the movement of ideas of the time, we can be sure that, whatever comes out of the next revolution, it will not be the dictatorial and centralized Communism which was so much in vogue forty years ago, nor the authoritarian Collectivism to which we were quite recently invited to ally ourselves, and which its advocates dare only defend very feebly at present.

     The “first stage,” it is certain, will then be quite different from what was described under that name hardly twenty years ago. The latest developments of the libertarian ideas have already modified it beforehand in an Anarchist sense.

     I have already mentioned that the great all-dominating question now is for the Socialist party, taken as a whole, to harmonize its ideal of society with the libertarian movement that germinates, in the spirit of the masses, in literature, in science, in philosophy. It is also, it is especially so, to rouse the spirit of popular initiative.

     Now, it is precisely the workers’ and peasants’ initiative that all parties-the Socialist authoritarian party included-have always stifled, wittingly or not, by party discipline. Committees, centers, ordering everything; local organs having but to obey, “so as not to put the unity of the organization in danger.” A whole teaching, in a word; a whole false history, written to serve that purpose, a whole incomprehensible pseudo-science of economics, elaborated to this end.

     Well, then, those who will work to break up these superannuated tactics, those who will know how to rouse the spirit of initiative in individuals and in groups, those who will be able to create in their mutual relations a movement and a life based on the principles of free understanding-those that will understand that variety, conflict even, is life, and that uniformity is death,-they will work, not for future centuries, but in good earnest for the next revolution, for our own times.


     We need not fear the dangers and “abuses” of liberty. It is only those who do nothing who make no mistakes. As to those who only know how to obey, they make just as many, and more, mistakes than those who strike out their own path in trying to act in the direction their intelligence and their social education suggest to them. The ideal of liberty of the individual-if it is incorrectly understood owing to surroundings where the notion of solidarity is insufficiently accentuated by institutions-can certainly lead isolated men to acts that are repugnant to the social sentiments of humanity. Let us admit that it does happen: is it, however, a reason for throwing the principle of liberty overboard? Is it a reason for accepting the teaching of those masters who, in order to prevent “digressions,” reestablish the censure of an enfranchised press and guillotine advanced parties to maintain uniformity and discipline-that which, when all is said, was in 1793 the best means of insuring the triumph of reaction?

     The only thing to be done when we see anti-social acts committed in the name of liberty of the individual, is to repudiate the principle of “each for himself and God for all,” and to have the courage to say aloud in any one’s presence what we think of such acts. This can perhaps bring about a conflict; but conflict is life itself. And from the conflict will arise an appreciation of those acts far more just than all those appreciations which could have been produced under the influence of old-established ideas.

     When the moral level of a society descends to the point it has reached today we must expect beforehand that a revolt against such a society will sometimes assume forms that will make us shudder. No doubt, heads paraded on pikes disgust us; but the high and low gibbets of the old regime in France, and the iron cages Victor Hugo has told us of, were they not the origin of this bloody exhibition? Let us hope that the coldblooded massacre of thirty-five thousand Parisians in May, 1871, after the fall of the Commune, and the bombardment of, Paris by Thiers will have passed over the French nation without leaving too great a fund of ferocity. Let us hope that. Let us also hope that the corruption of the swell mob, which is continually brought to light in recent trials, will not yet have ruined the heart of the nation. Lot us hope it! Let us help that it be so! But if our hopes are not fulfilled-you, young Socialists, will you then turn your backs on the people in revolt, because the ferocity of the rulers of today will have left its furrow in the people’s minds; because the mud from above has splashed far and wide?


     It is evident that so profound a revolution producing itself in people’s minds cannot be confined to the domain of ideas without expanding to the sphere of action. As was so well expressed by the sympathetic young philosopher, too early snatched by death from our midst, Mark Guyau, [3] in one of the most beautiful books published for thirty years, there is no abyss between thought and action, at least for those who are not used to modern sophistry. Conception is already a beginning of action.

     Consequently, the new ideas have provoked a multitude of acts of revolt in all countries, under all possible conditions: first, individual revolt against Capital and State; then collective revolt-strikes and working class insurrections-both preparing, in men’s minds as in actions, a revolt of the masses, a revolution. In this, Socialism and Anarchism have only followed the course of evolution, which is always accomplished by force-ideas at the approach of great popular risings.

     That is why it would be wrong to attribute the monopoly of acts of revolt to Anarchism. And, in fact, when we pass in review the acts of revolt of the last quarter of a century, we see them proceeding from all parties.

     In all Europe we see a multitude of risings of working masses and peasants. Strikes, which were once “a war of folded arms,” today easily turning to revolt, and sometimes taking-in the United States, in Belgium, in Andalusia-the proportions of vast insurrections. In the new and old worlds it is by the dozen that we count the risings of strikers having turned to revolts.

     On the other hand, the individual act of revolt takes all possible characters, and all advanced parties contribute to it. We pass before us the rebel young woman Vera Zassulitch shooting a satrap of Alexander II.; the Social Democrat Hœdel and the Republican Nobiling shooting at the Emperor of Germany; the cooper Otero shooting at the King of Spain, and the religious Mazzmian, Passanante, striking at the King of Italy. We see agrarian murders in Ireland and explosions in London, organized by Irish Nationalists who have a horror of Socialism and Anarchism. We see a whole generation of young Russians-Socialists, Constitutionalists and Jacobins- declare war to the knife against Alexander II., and pay for that revolt against autocracy by thirty-five executions and swarms of exiles. Numerous acts of personal revenge take place among Belgian, English and American miners; and it is only at the end of this long series that we see the Anarchists appear with their acts of revolt in Spain and France.

     And, during this same period, massacres, wholesale and retail, organized by governments, follow their regular course. To the applause of the European bourgeoisie, the Versailles Assembly causes thirty-five thousand Parisian workmen to be butchered-for the most part prisoners of the vanquished Commune. “Pinkerton thugs”-that private army of the rich American capitalists-massacre strikers according to the rules of that art. Priests incite an idiot to shoot at Louise Michel, who-as a true Anarchist-snatches her would-be murderer from his judges by pleading for him. Outside Europe the Indians of Canada are massacred and Riel is strangled, the Matabele are exterminated, Alexandria is bombarded, without saying more of the butcheries in Madagascar, in Tonkin , in Turkoman’s land everywhere, to which is given the name of war. And, finally, each year hundreds and even thousands of years of imprisonment are distributed among the rebellious workers of the two continents, and the wives and children, who are thus condemned to expiate the so-called crimes of their fathers, are doomed to the darkest misery.-The rebels are transported to Siberia, to Biribi, to Noumea and to Guiana; and in those places of exile the convicts are shot down like dogs for the least act of insubordination. What a terrible indictment the balance sheet of the sufferings endured by workers and their friends, during this last quarter of a century, would be! What a multitude of horrible details that are unknown to the public at large and that would haunt you like a nightmare if I ventured to tell you them tonight! What a fit of passion each page would provoke if the martyrology of the modern forerunners of the great Social Revolution were written!-Well, then, we have lived through such a history, and each one of us has read whole pages from that book of blood and misery.

     And, in the face of those sufferings, those executions, those Guianas, Siberias, Noumeas and Biribis, they have the insolence to reproach the rebel worker with want of respect for human life!!!

     But the whole of our present life extinguishes the respect for human life! The judge who sentences to death, and his lieutenant, the executioner, who garrots in broad daylight in Madrid, or guillotines in the mists of Paris amid the jeers of the degraded members of high and low society; the general who massacres at Bac-leh, and the newspaper correspondent who strives to cover the assassins with glory; the employer who poisons his workmen with white lead, because-he answers-“it would cost so much more to substitute oxide of zinc for it;” the so-called English geographer who kills an old women lest she should awake a hostile village by her sobs, and the German geographer who causes the girl he had taken as a mistress to be hanged with her lover, the court-martial that is content with fifteen days arrest for the Biribi gaoler convicted of murder….all, all, all in the present society teaches absolute contempt for human life-for that flesh that costs so little in the market! And those who garrot, assassinate, who kill depreciated human merchandise, they who have made a religion of the maxim that for the safety of the public you must garrot, shoot and kill, they complain that human life is not sufficiently respected!!!

     No, citizens, as long as society accepts the law of retaliation, as long as religion and law, the barrack and the law-courts, the prison and industrial penal servitude, the press and the school continue to teach supreme contempt for the life of the individual,-do not ask the rebels against that society to respect it. It would be exacting a degree of gentleness and magnanimity from them, infinitely superior to that of the whole society.

     If you wish, like us, that the entire liberty of the individual and, consequently, his life be respected, you are necessarily brought to repudiate the government of man by man, whatever shape it assumes; you are forced to accept the principles of Anarchy that you have spurned so long. You must then search with us the forms of society that can best realize that ideal and put an end to all the violence that rouses your indignation.


[1] The making of matches is a State’s monopoly in France.

[2] Biribi is the name given in France to the punishment battalions in Algeria. Every young man who has been in prison before he begins his military service, is sent to such a battalion. Many soldiers, for want of discipline, undergo the same punishment. The treatment in these places is so horrid that no Englishman would believe it possible. A very few years ago, the pear shaped hole in the ground, where men were left for weeks, and some were actually devoured by vermin, was an habitual punishment. At the present time, it is quite habitual to let a man, handcuffed and chained, lay for a fortnight on the ground, covered by a bit of cloth, under the scorching sun of Algeria and through the bitterly cold nights, compelled to eat his food and to lap his water like a dog. Scores of the most terrible facts became known lately, since Georges Darien published his book “Biribi” (Paris, 1890, Savine publisher) based on actual experience, and full of the most horrible revelations. One of my Clairvaux companions had to spend two years of military service in such a battalion-his condemnation at Lyons, as the editor of an Anarchist paper, being already a reason to be transported to Algeria. He fully confirmed, on his release. all that was written by Darien.

[3] La morale sans obligation ni sanction, par M. Guyau.

Comments Off on Peter Kropotkin, “Anarchy: Its Philosophy and Ideal” (1896)

Filed under 1896, Peter Kropotkin, The Era of Anarchism

Nestor Makhno, “The Anarchist Revolution”

1.

ANARCHISM – a life of freedom and creative independence for humanity.

Anarchism does not depend on theory or programs, which try to grasp man’s life in its entirety. It is a teaching, which is based on real life, which outgrows all artificial limitations, which cannot be constricted by any system.

Anarchism’s outward form is a free, non-governed society, which offers freedom, equality and solidarity for its members. Its foundations are to be found in man’s sense of mutual responsibility, which has remained unchanged in all places and times. This sense of responsibility is capable of securing freedom and social justice for all men by its own unaided efforts. It is also the foundation of true communism.

Anarchism therefore is a part of human nature, communism its logical extension.

This led to the necessity of formulating anarchism’s basic theories by the use of factual material and by systematized analysis. Some people (enemies of freedom, enemies of solidarity) were to try and conceal anarchism’s truths or to slander its ideals; others (fighters for man’s right to lead a proper life) were to develop and clarify this ideal. I think that Godwin, Proudhon, Bakunin, Most, Kropotkin, Malatesta, S. Faure, and others never believed, that they could harness anarchism, a framework of immutable scientific dogma, by their theories. Instead, the teachings of anarchism represent a concerted effort to show its roots in human nature, and to prove that man’s creative achievements never deviate from it; anarchism’s fundamental trait, the negation of all bondage and servitude, is likewise to be found in human nature.

Anarchism means freedom; socialism cannot destroy chains or bondage.

I am an anarchist and a revolutionary myself, and I took part in the activities of the revolutionary peoples of the Ukraine. The Ukrainians are a people who grasp instinctively the meaning of the anarchist ideas and who act them out. They suffered incredible hardship, but have never ceased to talk of their freedom and freedom in their form of life. I often made tactical errors on this difficult path, as I was often weak and unable to make judgements. But because I correctly understood the goal towards which I and my brothers were working and I was able to observe the effect of living anarchism during the struggle for freedom and independence. I remain convinced on the grounds of my practical fighting experience that anarchism is as revolutionary, as diverse, and as sublime in every facet as is human life itself. Even if I only felt the remotest glimmer of sympathy for anarcho-revolutionary activity I would still call on you, reader and brother, to take up the struggle for the ideal anarchism, for only if you fight for this ideal and uphold it will you understand it properly. Anarchism is revolutionary in this and many other aspects. The more awake a man is, the deeper his thoughts about his situation are. He will recognize his state of slavery and the anarchistic and revolutionary spirit within him will wake and show itself in his thoughts and actions. It is the same for every man and woman, even if they could never have heard of it.

Anarchism plays a considerable role in the enrichment of human life, a fact recognized by the oppressors as well as by the oppressed. The oppressors do their best to distort the ideal of anarchism; the others do their best to carry it further. Modern civilization has succeeded in making anarchism ever more prominent for both masters and slaves, but has never been able to lull or extinguish this fundamental protest of human nature, for it has been unable to stamp out the independent intellects who have proven that God does not exist. Once this has been proven it was easy to draw back the veil which hides the artificiality of the priesthood and the hierarchies which it supports.

But various other ideas have been propounded alongside anarchism: “liberalism”, socialism and bolshevik communism. These doctrines, despite their large influence on modern society, despite their triumph over both reaction and freedom, are on shaky ground because of their artificiality, their disavowal of organic development and their tendency towards paralysis.

The free man, on the other hand, has thrown away the trammels of the past together with its lies and brutality. He has buried the rotten corpse of slavery and the notion that the past is better. Man has already partially liberated himself from the fog of lies and brutality, which enslaved him from the day of his birth, from the worship of the bayonet, money, legality, and hypocritical science.

While man frees himself from this insult he understands himself better, and once he has understood himself, the book of his life is opened to him. In it he immediately sees that his former life was nothing but loathsome slavery and that this framework of slavery has conspired to stifle all his innate good qualities. He sees that this life has turned him into a beast of burden, a slave for some or a master over others, or into a fool who tears down and tramples on all that is noble in man when ordered to do so. But when freedom awakes in man, it treads all artificialities into the dust and all that stands in the way of independent creativity. This is how man moves in his process of development. In former times he moved in spans of a generation or so, but now the process is moving year by year; man does not wish to be an academic mouthpiece of the rule over others or to tolerate the rule of others over himself. Once man is free from earthly and “heavenly” gods, free from “good manners” and from his morality, which depends on these Gods, he lifts up his voice and struggles against the enslavement of mankind and the distortion of his nature.

The man of protest, who has fully grasped his identity and who now sees with his eyes fully open, who now thirsts for freedom and totality, now creates groups of free men welded together by the ideal and by the action. Whoever comes into contact with these groups will cast off his status of lackey and will free himself from the idiot domination of others over him. Any ordinary man who comes from the plough, the factory, the bench of the university or from the bench of the academic will recognize the degradation of slavery. As man uncovers his true personality, he will throw away all artificial ideas, which go against the rights of his personality, the Master/Slave relationship of modern society. As soon as man brings to the fore the pure elements in his personality through which a new, free human community is born, he will become an anarchist and revolutionary. This is how the ideal of anarchism is assimilated and disseminated by men; the free man recognizes its deep truth, its clarity, and its purity, its message of freedom and creativity.

The idea of anarchism, the teaching of a renewed life for man as an individual and as a social being, is therefore bound up with man’s self-awareness and his awareness of the suppurating sore of injustice in modern society. Anarchism exists therefore only illegally or semi-legally, never in total legality.

In the modern world, society does not live for itself but for the preservation of the Master/Slave relationship, the State. One could go further and say that society has completely de-personalized itself. In human terms, it does not exist at all. It is widely believed however that the State is Society. But is “Society” a group of men who live it up while sitting on the shoulders of all humanity? Why is man as an individual or as a mass numbering hundreds of millions nothing in comparison with this slothful group of “political leaders”? These hyenas, rulers both of right and left wing, are rightly upset with the idea of anarchism. The bourgeois at least are frank about this. But state-socialists of all denominations, including Bolsheviks, are busy swapping the names of bourgeois rule with those of their own invention, while leaving its structure essentially unchanged. They are therefore trying to salvage the Master/Slave relationship with all its contradictions. And although they are aware that these contradictions are totally irreconcilable with their professional ideas, they nevertheless uphold them in order to forestall the putting into practice of Anarchist Communism. In their programs, the state-socialists said that man must be allowed to free himself “socially”. But of man’s spiritual freedom, of his human freedom, no word was spoken. Instead, they are now making sure that such a liberation of man outside their tutelage cannot be carried through. “Liberation” under the management of any government or political set-up – what’s that got to do with freedom? The bourgeois, who never applies himself to the task of making anything beautiful or useful, says to the worker: “Once a slave, always a slave. We cannot reform social life because we have got too much capital in industry and in agriculture. Besides, modern life is pleasant for us; all the kings, presidents, and their governments cater for our wishes and bow before us. The slaves are their responsibility.” Or he says: “The life of our modern society is full of great promises!”

“No, no!” screams the bourgeois socialists and communists. “We disagree!!” Then they rush to the workers, marshal them into parties, and call on them to rebel as follows: “Drive out the bourgeois from their positions and hand their power over to us. We will work for you. We will liberate you.”

So the workers, whose hatred of government is even greater than their hatred of parasites, rise up in revolution to destroy the machinery of power and its representatives. But either because of clumsiness or naivete, they allow socialism to come to power. This is how the communists got into power in Russia. These communists are real dregs of mankind. They tear down and shoot innocent people and hang liberty; they shoot men exactly as the bourgeois did. They shoot men who think differently to them in order to subjugate all to their power, in order to enslave him to the throne of government they have just taken over. They hire guards for themselves and killers for dealing with free men. Under the weight of the chains made by the new “Workers’ Republic” in Russia, man groans and sighs as he did under bourgeois rule. Elsewhere, man is groaning under the yoke of the bourgeoisie or under that of the bourgeois socialist. The hangmen, both old and new, are strong. They have mastered the art of tactical suppression of opposition, and man only flares up briefly to contest his rights before sinking down again under the burden of authority and despair. He drops hi hands as the noose is thrown around his neck again, shutting his eyes like a slave before the gleeful hangman.

From these unfolding vistas of human misery and from personal misery, man must forge convictions, call other men his brothers, and fight for freedom. Man is only free if he is prepared to kill every hangman and every power magnate if they do not wish to stop their shameful tasks. He is only free if he does not put a prime on changing his government and is not led astray by the “Workers’ Republic” of the Bolsheviks. He must vouch for the establishment of a truly free society based on personal responsibility, the only really free society. His pronouncement on the State must be one of total destruction: “No. This must not be. To rebellion! Rise up, brothers, against all government, destroy the power of the bourgeoisie and do not allow the socialists and bolshevik government to come to life! Destroy all authority and drive out its representatives!”

There are even moments when the authority of the socialists and communists is worse than the bourgeois, for they tear down their own ideas and trample on them. After fumbling about in secret for the keys to bourgeois government, the communists became guilty and furtive; they do not want the masses to see what they are doing, so they lie and cheat and deceive. If the masses notice this, they seethe with indignation. So the government falls upon them in an orgy of irresponsibility and butchers them in the name of “socialism” and “communism”. The government has of course long since thrown these ideas into the dustbin. At such moments the rule of the socialists and Bolsheviks is more degraded than that of the bourgeoisie for it is even unoriginal in its recourse to the mechanics of bourgeois oppression. While a bourgeois government strings a revolutionary up on the gallows, socialist or bolshevik-communist governments will creep up and strangle him in his sleep or kill him by trickery. Both acts are depraved. But the socialists are more depraved because of their methods.

Any political revolution in which the bourgeoisie, the socialists and state-communists struggle with each other over political ascendancy while dragging in the masses will show the traits outlined above, the most obvious example being the Russian Revolutions of February and October 1917. When the working masses that made up Tsarist Russia felt themselves partially freed from reaction, they began to work towards total freedom. They expressed this wish by expropriating landlords and monasteries and by handing over their lands to the people who wished to cultivate it with hired labor. Sometimes factories, works, presses, and other businesses were taken over by those who worked in them. Attempts were made to create liaisons between towns and villages. And while they were engaged in this activity the people were of course unaware that there were governments sitting about in Kiev, Kharkov, St. Petersburg, and elsewhere. The people were in fact laying the foundations for a new, free society that would throw out all parasites and governments and the idiocy of power. This healthy activity was especially noticeable in the Ural, in Siberia, and in the Ukraine. It was remarked upon by the old as well as the new regimes in Petrograd, Moscow, Kiev, and Tiflis. But the socialists as well as the Bolsheviks had (and still have) a widely dispersed party membership and a well-distributed network of professional killers. It must be added that, besides these professional killers, they also hired people from our own ranks. With the help of these people they managed to nip the people’s freedom in the bud. And they did a good job. The Spanish Inquisition would have been green with envy.

We now know the real truths behind government. To the Bolsheviks and socialists we say: “Shame! Dishonor! You talked such a lot about the terror of the bourgeoisie and you took the side of revolution with great zeal. But now that you are in power you show yourself the same old fools, the same lackeys of the bourgeoisie, and slaves of their methods. You have turned yourselves into bourgeois.” Looking at the experiences of bolshevik communism during recent years, the bourgeois know perfectly well that this particular brand of socialism can never manage without using their methods or without hiring them in person. It knows that the exploitation and suppression of the working majority is inherent in this system, that the vicious life of sloth is not cast aside in socialism, but that it merely masquerades under another name before spreading and taking root again.

This is the Truth! You’ve only got to look at the bolshevik vandals and their monopoly over the people’s revolutionary conquests! Look at their spies, their police, their laws, prisons, jailers, and their armies of bailiffs. The “Red” Army is only the old army under a new name.

Liberalism, socialism, Bolshevism; they are three brothers who go their different ways to grab power over man. This power is used to block man’s advance towards self-realization and independence.

To Rebellion!

This is the cry of the anarchist revolutionary to the exploited. Rebel, destroy all government and see that it never takes root again. Power is used by those who have never really lived by the work of their hands. Government power will never let workers tread the road to freedom; it is the instrument of the lazy who want to dominate others, and it does not matter if the power is in the hand of the bourgeois, the socialists or the Bolsheviks, it is degrading. There is no government without teeth, teeth to tear any man who longs for a free and just life.

Brother; drive out power in yourself. Never let it fascinate you or your brothers. A true collective life is not built with programs or with governments but with the freedom of mankind, with its creativity and its independence.

The freedom of any individual carries within it the seed of a free and complete community without government, a free society that lives in organic and decentralized totality, united in its pursuit of the great human goal: Anarchist Communism!

2.

Anarchistic Communism is a great community in total harmony. It is formed voluntarily by free individuals who form associations and federations according to their needs. Anarchist Communism fights to secure man’s freedom and his right to boundless development; it fights against all the evils and injustices that are inherent in governments.

The free, non-governed society aims to embellish life with its intellectual and manual work. It will have as its resources all that nature gave man as well as nature’s own inexhaustible riches; it makes man drunk with the beauty of the earth and exhilarated by his own, self-made freedom. Anarchist Communism will let man develop his creative independence in all directions; its adherents will be free and happy with life, guided by brotherly work and reciprocity. They will need no prisons, hangmen, spies, or agents, which are products of the bourgeoisie and socialists, for they will have no need ofthe idiot robber and murderer that is the State. Prepare yourselves, brother, to create this society! Prepare organizations and ideas! Remember that your organizations must be safe from attack. The enemy of your freedom is the state personified in five figures:

  • The property owner
  • The lover of war
  • The judge
  • The priest
  • Academics who distort the truth about man

These last make up “historical laws” and “judiciary norms”, and scribble slickly in order to get money; they are busy all the time trying to prove the rightfulness of the first four’s claims to power that degrades human life.

The enemy is strong. For millennia he has spent his time accumulating experience in robbery, violence, expropriation, and murder. He underwent an inner crisis and is now busy changing his outward aspect, but he is only doing this because his life has been threatened with the new, emerging knowledge. This new knowledge is waking man from his long sleep, freeing him from prejudices implanted by the five, giving him a weapon to fight for his true society. This change in the outer appearance of our enemy can be seen in reformism. It was evolved to combat the revolution in which he took part. In the Russian Revolution, the five seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth. .. but this was only appearance. In reality our enemy changed his features momentarily and is now calling up new recruits to fight against us. Bolshevik communism is especially revealing in this matter; but it will be a long time before this doctrine will forget man’s struggle for true freedom.

The only reliable method for waging a successful struggle against enslavement is social revolution that engages the masses in a continual struggle (evolution). When it first erupts, social revolution is elemental. It flattens the path for its own organizations while smashing any dam that is artificially set against it. These dams in fact only increase its power. Anarchist revolutionaries are already working for this, and any man who is aware of the burden of slavery on himself has a duty to aid the anarchist; at the same time every man should feel responsible to the whole of mankind when he struggles against the five of the State. Every man should also remember that the social revolution will require appropriate methods of realization; that is especially true of the anarchist who is scouting ahead along the road of freedom. During the destructive phase of the revolution, while slavery is being abolished and freedom beginning to spread in an elemental outburst, organization and steadfast methods are essential to secure the gains. In this phase the revolution needs you most urgently. The Russian Revolution, in which anarchists played a considerable role (which they could not carry through because action was denied them), brought home to us the truth that the masses who have torn themselves loose from their chains had no desire to put on others of a different make. In their revolutionary momentum, they sought immediately for free associations that would only aid their efforts to build up a new community but which would defend them against the enemy. If we look at this process closely, we come to the conclusion that the best method to create new collective freedom is the “Free Soviet”. Proceeding from this conviction, the anarchist revolutionary will call the enslaved to struggle for these free associations. He will believe that social revolution will thus create freedom while smashing slavery altogether. This belief must be cherished and defended. The only people who can possibly provide the defense for this belief are the masses themselves who have made the revolution and who equate their lives with their principles. While the human masses create the revolution they instinctively cast about for free associations and rely on their inherent anarchism; they will uphold above all the Free Soviet. As the masses make a revolution they are bound to come upon this themselves and the anarchist must help them formulate this principle.

Economic problems in the free society will be resolved by the producer-consumer co-operatives in which the Free Soviets will act as co-ordinators and clarifiers. The nature of the Free Soviet during the social revolution must be to consolidate the masses’ position by urging them to take their rightful inheritance (land, factories, works, mineral and coal mines, shipping, forestry, etc.) into their own hands. While groups according to interest or inclination are formed, the masses will build up an entire social fabric, freely and independently.

The struggle along this road will demand great sacrifice, for it will be the final effort of nearly free man. In this struggle there will be no hesitation, no sentimentality. Life or Death!? – This question will stand before every man who considers his rights and those of humanity to be a better life. As the healthy instincts of man will have preponderance, he will embark upon this road to life as victor and creator.

Organize yourselves, brothers, call every man to your ranks. Call him from the factory, from the school; call the students and the learned. It may be that nine out of ten academics will not come to you, or it may happen that they will come in order to deceive you if they are servants of the State’s five. But the tenth man will come. He will be your friend and will help you overcome the deceit of the others. Organize yourselves; call every man to your ranks; call on all the governors to stop their stupidity and the brutalizing of human life. If they do not desist, disarm the police, the army and other organizations of the five’s defense. Burn their laws and destroy their prisons, kill the hangmen, the bane of mankind. Smash authority! Call to your ranks the press-ganged army; there are many killers in the army who are against you and who are bribed to kill you. But there are friends for you even in the army. They will confound the mobs of murderers and will hurry to your side.

After we have collected ourselves into a great, universal family, brothers, we will go further in the fight against darkness. On to the universal human ideal! We will live as brothers, enslaving no one. The brute force of the enemy will be answered with the force by our revolutionary army. If our enemies do not agree with our ideal, we reply by building our new life based on individual responsibility. Only hardened criminals who belong to the five will not wish to tread the road to a new life with fruitful activity. They will try to fight us in order to regain their power. They must die.

Long live the ideal of universal human harmony, and man’s fight towards it!
Long live the ideal of anarchist society!

Comments Off on Nestor Makhno, “The Anarchist Revolution”

Filed under anarchist communism, date unknown, Nestor Makhno, The Era of Anarchism, unlinked

Mikhail Bakunin, “What is Authority” (1870)

NOTE: This passage is generally known as part of “God and the State” (Dieu et l’État, first published in 1882), but it appears in Bakunin’s manuscript as part of “Sophismes historiques de l’école doctrinaire des communistes allemands,” the second section of the unfinished book L’Empire Knouto-Germanique et la Révolution Sociale (The Knouto-Germanic Empire and the Social Revolution.)

This new translation seeks to clarify some passages that may appear contradictory in existing translations. In particularly the verb repousser, which previous translators have tended to simply render as “reject,” has been brought closer to its literal sense of “push back” and some attention has been given to distinguishing where Bakunin uses the word autorité to designate abstract authority and where he refers to particular experts or authority figures.

In the preceding section, Bakunin has been discussing, among other things, the idea of God, and the section ends with his reply to Voltaire’s comment that if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him:

If God really did exist, it would be necessary to get rid of him.


The severe logic that dictates these words is far too obvious to require a further development of this argument. And it seems to me impossible that the illustrious men, whose names (so celebrated and so justly respected) I have cited, should not have been struck by it themselves, and should not have perceived the contradiction into which they fell in speaking of God and human liberty at once. To have disregarded it, they must have considered this inconsistency or logical license practically necessary to humanity’s well-being.

Perhaps, too, while speaking of liberty as something very respectable and very dear, they understood the term quite differently than we do, as materialists and revolutionary socialists. Indeed, they never speak of it without immediately adding another word, authority—a word and a thing which we detest with all our heart.

What is authority? Is it the inevitable power of the natural laws which manifest themselves in the necessary concatenation and succession of phenomena in the physical and social worlds? Indeed, against these laws revolt is not only forbidden, but is even impossible. We may misunderstand them or still not know them at all, but we cannot disobey them, because they constitute the basis and very conditions of our existence; they envelop us, penetrate us, regulate all our movements, thoughts, and acts, so that even when we believe that we disobey them, we do nothing but demonstrate their omnipotence.

Yes, we are absolutely the slaves of these laws. But there is nothing humiliating in that slavery, or, rather, it is not slavery at all. For slavery supposes an external master, a legislator outside of the one whom he commands, while these laws are not outside of us; they are inherent in us; they constitute our being, our whole being,  as much physically as intellectually and morally. We live, we breathe, we act, we think, we wish only through these laws. Without them we are nothing–we are not. From where, then, could we derive the power and the wish to rebel against them?

With regard to natural laws, only one single liberty is possible to man—that of recognizing and applying them more and more all the time, in conformity with the goal of collective and individual emancipation or humanization which he pursues. These laws, once recognized, exercise an authority which is never disputed by the mass of men. One must, for instance, be at base either a fool or a theologian or at least a metaphysician, jurist, or bourgeois economist to rebel against the law by which 2 x 2 makes 4. One must have faith to imagine that fire will not burn nor water drown, unless one has recourse to some subterfuge that is still based on some other natural law. But these rebellions, or, rather, these attempts at or foolish fancies of an impossible revolt, only form a rare exception; for, in general, it may be said that the mass of men, in their daily lives, let themselves be governed by good sense—that is, by the sum of the natural laws generally recognized—in an almost absolute fashion.

The great misfortune is that a large number of natural laws, already established as such by science, remain unknown to the popular masses, thanks to the care of these tutelary governments that exist, as we know, only for the good of the people. There is another difficulty—namely, that the major portion of the natural laws that are inherent in the development of human society and that are every bit as necessary, invariable, and fatal as the laws that govern the physical world, have not been duly established and recognized by science itself.

Once they shall have been recognized by science, and then shall have passed, by means of an extensive system of popular education and instruction, from science into the consciousness of all, the question of liberty will be perfectly resolved. The most stubborn authoritarians must admit that then there will be no more need of political organization, direction or legislation, three things which, whether they emanate from the will of the sovereign or from the vote of a parliament elected by universal suffrage, and even should they conform to the system of natural laws—which has never been the case and could never be the case—are always equally deadly and hostile to the liberty of the masses, because they impose upon them a system of external and therefore despotic laws.

The liberty of man consists solely in this: that he obeys natural laws because he has himself recognized them as such, and not because they have been externally imposed upon him by any foreign will, whether divine or human, collective or individual.

Suppose an academy of learned individuals, composed of the most illustrious representatives of science; suppose that this academy is charged with the legislation and organization of society, and that, inspired only by the purest love of truth, it only dictates to society laws in absolute harmony with the latest discoveries of science. Well, I maintain, for my part, that that legislation and organization would be a monstrosity, and that for two reasons: first, that human science is always necessarily imperfect, and that, comparing what it has discovered with what remains to be discovered, we we might say that it is always in its cradle. So that if we wanted to force the practical life of men, collective as well as individual, into strict and exclusive conformity with the latest data of science, we should condemn society as well as individuals to suffer martyrdom on a bed of Procrustes, which would soon end by dislocating and stifling them, life always remaining infinitely greater than science.

The second reason is this: a society that would obey legislation emanating from a scientific academy, not because it understood itself the rational character of this legislation (in which case the existence of the academy would become useless), but because this legislation, emanating from the academy, was imposed in the name of a science that it venerated without comprehending—such a society would be a society, not of men, but of brutes. It would be a second edition of that poor Republic of Paraguay, which let itself be governed for so long by the Society of Jesus. Such a society could not fail to descend soon to the lowest stage of idiocy.

But there is still a third reason that would render such a government impossible. It is that a scientific academy invested with a sovereignty that is, so to speak, absolute, even if it were composed of the most illustrious men, would infallibly and soon end by corrupting itself morally and intellectually. Already today, with the few privileges allowed them, this is the history of all the academies. The greatest scientific genius, from the moment that he becomes an academician, an officially licensed savant, inevitably declines and lapses into sleep. He loses his spontaneity, his revolutionary hardihood, and that troublesome and savage energy that characterizes the nature of the grandest geniuses, ever called to destroy obsolete worlds and lay the foundations of new ones. He undoubtedly gains in politeness, in utilitarian and practical wisdom, what he loses in power of thought. In a word, he becomes corrupted.

It is the characteristic of privilege and of every privileged position to kill the mind and heart of men. The privileged man, whether politically or economically, is a man depraved intellectually and morally. That is a social law that admits no exception, and is as applicable to entire nations as to classes, companies, and individuals. It is the law of equality, the supreme condition of liberty and humanity. The principal aim of this treatise is precisely to elaborate on it, to demonstrate its truth in all the manifestations of human life.

A scientific body to which had been confided the government of society would soon end by no longer occupying itself with science at all, but with quite another business; and that business, the business of all established powers, would be to perpetuate itself by rendering the society confided to its care ever more stupid and consequently more in need of its government and direction.

But that which is true of scientific academies is also true of all constituent and legislative assemblies, even when they are the result of universal suffrage. Universal suffrage may renew their composition, it is true, but this does not prevent the formation in a few years’ time of a body of politicians, privileged in fact though not by right, who, by devoting themselves exclusively to the direction of the public affairs of a country, finally form a sort of political aristocracy or oligarchy. Witness the United States of America and Switzerland.

Consequently, no external legislation and no authority—one, for that matter, being inseparable from the other, and both tending to the enslavement of society and the degradation of the legislators themselves.


Does it follow that I drive back every authority? The thought would never occur to me. When it is a question of boots, I refer the matter to the authority of the cobbler; when it is a question of houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or engineer. For each special area of knowledge I speak to the appropriate expert. But I allow neither the cobbler nor the architect nor the scientist to impose upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and verification. I do not content myself with consulting a single specific authority, but consult several. I compare their opinions and choose that which seems to me most accurate. But I recognize no infallible authority, even in quite exceptional questions; consequently, whatever respect I may have for the honesty and the sincerity of such or such an individual, I have absolute faith in no one. Such a faith would be fatal to my reason, to my liberty, and even to the success of my undertakings; it would immediately transform me into a stupid slave and an instrument of the will and interests of another.

If I bow before the authority of the specialists and declare myself ready to follow, to a certain extent and as long as may seem to me necessary, their indications and even their directions, it is because that authority is imposed upon me by no one, neither by men nor by God. Otherwise I would drive them back in horror, and let the devil take their counsels, their direction, and their science, certain that they would make me pay, by the loss of my liberty and human dignity, for the scraps of truth, wrapped in a multitude of lies, that they might give me.

I bow before the authority of exceptional men because it is imposed upon me by my own reason. I am conscious of my ability to grasp, in all its details and positive developments, only a very small portion of human science. The greatest intelligence would not be sufficient to grasp the entirety. From this results, for science as well as for industry, the necessity of the division and association of labor. I receive and I give—such is human life. Each is a directing authority and each is directed in his turn. So there is no fixed and constant authority, but a continual exchange of mutual, temporary, and, above all, voluntary authority and subordination.

This same reason prohibits me, then, from recognizing a fixed, constant, and universal authority-figure, because there is no universal man, no man capable of grasping in that wealth of detail, without which the application of science to life is impossible, all the sciences, all the branches of social life. And if such a universality was ever realized in a single man, and if be wished to take advantage of it in order to impose his authority upon us, it would be necessary to drive that man out of society, because his authority would inevitably reduce all the others to slavery and imbecility. I do not think that society ought to maltreat men of genius as it has done hitherto; but neither do I think it should enrich them too much, nor, and this above all, grant them any privileges or exclusive rights; and that for three reasons: first, because it would often mistake a charlatan for a man of genius; then, because, through such a system of privileges, it could transform even a true man of genius into a charlatan, demoralize and stupefy him; and, finally, because it would give itself a despot.

in summary, then, we recognize the absolute authority of science, because science has no other object than the mental reproduction, well thought out and as systematic as possible, of the natural laws inherent in the material, intellectual, and moral life of both the physical and the social worlds, these two worlds constituting, in fact, only one single natural world. apart from this legitimate authority, uniquely legitimate because it is rational and in harmony with human liberty, we declare all other authorities false, arbitrary, despotic and deadly.

We recognize the absolute authority of science, but we reject [repoussons] the infallibility and universality of the representatives of science. In our church—if I may be permitted to use for a moment an expression which I so detest: Church and State are my two bêtes noires—in our church, as in the Protestant church, we have a head, an invisible Christ, science; and, like the Protestants, more consistent even than the Protestants, we do not wish to suffer a pope, nor council, nor conclaves of infallible cardinals, nor bishops, nor even priests. Our Christ is distinguished from the Protestant and Christian Christ in this—that the latter is a personal being, while ours is impersonal; the Christian Christ, already fully realized in an eternal past, presents himself as a perfect being, while the fulfillment and perfection of our Christ, science, are always in the future: which is equivalent to saying that they will never be realized. Therefore, in recognizing no absolute authority but that of absolute science, we in no way compromise our liberty.

I mean by this phrase, “absolute science,” the truly universal science that would reproduce ideally, to its fullest extent and in all its infinite detail, the universe, the system or coordination of all the natural laws manifested in the incessant development of the world. It is obvious that such a science, the sublime object of all the efforts of the human mind, will never be realized in its absolute fullness. Our Christ, then, will remain eternally unfinished, which must considerably moderate the pride of his licensed representatives among us. Against that God the Son, in whose name they claim to impose their insolent and pedantic authority on us, we appeal to God the Father, who is the real world, real life, of which their God is only the too-imperfect expression, and of which we, real beings, living, working, struggling, loving, aspiring, enjoying, and suffering, are the immediate representatives.

But, while rejecting [repoussant] the absolute, universal, and infallible authority of the men of science, we willingly bow before the respectable, but relative, very temporary, and very restricted authority of the representatives of special sciences, asking nothing better than to consult them by turns, and very grateful for the precious information that they should want give to us, on the condition that to receive such information from us on occasions when, and concerning matters about which, we are more learned than they; and, in general, we ask nothing better than to see men endowed with great knowledge, great experience, great minds, and, above all, great hearts, exert over us a natural and legitimate influence, freely accepted and never imposed in the name of any official authority whatsoever, celestial or terrestrial. We accept all natural authorities and all influences of fact, but none of right; for every authority or every influence of right, officially imposed as such, becoming straight away an oppression and a falsehood, would inevitably impose upon us, as I believe I have sufficiently shown, slavery and absurdity.

In short, we reject all legislation, all authority, and every privileged, licensed, official, and legal influence, even that arising from universal suffrage, convinced that it can only ever turn to the advantage of a dominant, exploiting minority and against the interests of the immense, subjugated majority.

It is in this sense that we are really Anarchists.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Comments Off on Mikhail Bakunin, “What is Authority” (1870)

Filed under 1870, anthology texts, Mikhail Bakunin, The Era of Anarchy

Mikhail Bakunin, “I believe neither in constitutions, nor in laws” (1848)

[Max Nettlau has pointed to this letter as the first evidence of anarchist leanings in Bakunin’s writings.]

[Early August, 1848]

To Citizen George Herwegh.

Paris. [Rue St. Augustins] 40

9 [r. sur Cirque]

To George

My dear friend, since the letter that I have written from Cologne, which I do not know if you have received, I have no longer written a single word. Many things have changed since then, but not our friendship, not the confidence that we have in one another. The thoughts that are essential to us, the aspirations that are essential to us non plus. I am convinced that from the first hour of our reunion we will understand each other as well ad as completely as before. My faith, my religion are still more confirmed in the face of all the troubles and all the abjections, in the heart of which I have lived for some months. And far from losing all hope, I see, on the contrary, without the least illusion, how our world, the world approaches destruction.

I could tell you many things about Slavism, which would make you rejoice, but as I am occupied with the writing of a booklet on the subject, I do not wish to weary you or me; you will soon read a printed text that I have written. Germany offers at present a most interesting and singular spectacle; it is not a war of phantoms, but a war of shadows that take themselves for reality, yet experiencing at each moment their immeasurable weakness and showing it involuntarily. The official reaction and the official revolution compete in vanity and stupidity, showing in broad daylight all the empty phrases, debonair and weighty with philosophico-religious, politico-poetic content, that have so long haunted German heads. No, truly, we have often said it and repeated it, you and me, that this was the end for the bourgeoisie and the old civilization. We could believe truly what we said. But never, never would we have thought to be correct in this manner and to such an extent. The reaction, I mean by that the reaction in the broadest sense of the term, is one thought that age has made stupid. But the revolution represents more an instinct than a thought, and it acts, it propagates itself like an instinct and it is as an instinct that it delivers its first fights. That is why the philosophers, the literary men and politicians, all those who have a little system in their pocket all prepared and who want to constrain that bottomless ocean within some limits and in a predetermined show themselves to be so foolish and powerless; they are deprived of that instinct and fear to plunge into the waves of that ocean. But the revolution is there, dear friend, it is everywhere, it acts and ferments, I have felt and found it everywhere and I do not fear the reaction. Well, Georges, grant me now that Proudhon, for whom you’ve always had an aversion, is now the only one in Paris, the only one in the political world of letters, who still understands something of it. He has given proof of his great courage; in this era stamped with evil and hypocrisy his speech was a real act, full of nobility. If he came to power and his negative doctrinarism became positive, we would in all probability be forced to combat him, for he also has, in fact, a little system in the background, but for the time being he is with us and, in any case, you should well admit that he has given proof of a great courage, worthy of admiration. Besides, I concern myself very little with the parliamentary debates, the era of parliamentary life, of constituent and national assemblies, etc. is over, and whoever will pose the question honestly, must admit that they no longer feel any interest or, or at least, only a limited and irrational interest for these outdated forms. I believe neither in constitutions, nor in laws. Even the best of constitutions would not satisfy me. it is something else that we need: effervescence and life, a new world without laws and therefore free. But the negotiations at Vienne interest me, however, for they allow us to understand in what state this empire remains, so long unknown. The shipwreck of Austria is for us, Slavs, but also for all the party of the revolution, an important question. Will France and Italy intervene or not? That does not scare me. The bourgeois clearly foresee that a war in Italy could transform itself into a general war, bringing with it the great revolution. Ruge is here; thus far at Frankfort he is recognized as one of the best, not to say the best. I still have not encountered him.

Farewell, my dear friend. I must go.

M.B.

Madame, I hope that you have not yet completely forgotten and that you will force Georgesto respond to me. What are you doing in Paris? Will you stay this winter? In any cases we will not fail, I hope, to meet againsoon, and then we have much to tell each other.

Your devoted,

M. B.


[In an undated fragment, probably written much later, Bakunin returned to the themes of Slavism and his rejection of governmentalist forms:]

…and which has consequently rendered impossible at present the constitution of a centralist, bureaucratic and military Slavic State… In the end that fine Slavic brotherhood, which could no longer exist from the moment that the Slavs, sacrificing Abel to Cain, received the latter, as their elder brother, into their midst… in a word all the precious elements that the Slavs have guarded, in the midst of the terrible vicissitudes that they have experienced for centuries, which, rendered fertile by a new spirit—that of great justice, great liberty and universal fraternity—could well become one day those of a new and great civilization.
There is one other point that profoundly separates me from our pan-Slavists. They are still partisans of unity, always preferring discipline, the yoke of authority, majestic and monotonous uniformity and public order, to liberty. Me, I am an anarchist; I am a partisan of the life from below against all laws imposed in an authoritarian and doctrinaire manner from on high and I always and everywhere prefer liberty to order…

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Comments Off on Mikhail Bakunin, “I believe neither in constitutions, nor in laws” (1848)

Filed under 1848, anthology texts, Mikhail Bakunin, The Era of Anarchy