Anselme Bellegarrigue, “Anarchy is Order” (1850)

[from Anarchy, A Journal of Order, No. 1]

I.—Anarchy is Order.

Were I to pay heed to the meaning generally attached to certain words, a common error having made anarchy a synonym of civil war, I should hold in horror the title that I have placed at the head of this publication, for I have a horror of civil war.

I both honor and flatter myself in never having belonged to a group of conspirators or to a revolutionary battalion, because it shows, on the one hand, that I have been too honest to dupe the people, and, on the other, that I have been too shrewd to be duped by the ambitious.

I have watched—I will not say without emotion, but at least with the greatest calmness— the passing of fanatics and charlatans, pitying the former, and holding the latter in sovereign contempt. And when, having trained my enthusiasm to bound only within the narrow limits of a syllogism, I have tried, after bloody struggles, to calculate the degree in which each corpse has contributed to my welfare, I have found the total to be zero; now, zero is nothingness.

I have a horror of nothingness; therefore I have a horror of civil war.

Consequently, in writing Anarchy over the frontispiece of this journal, it cannot be my intention to leave to this word the meaning that has been given to it—very wrongly, as I shall explain directly—by the governmental sects; on the contrary, my intention must be to restore to it the etymological right which democracies concede to it.

Anarchy is the annihilation of governments. Governments, whose pupils we are, naturally have found nothing better to do than to bring us up in fear and horror of the principle of their destruction.

But, as governments’ in their turn, are the annihilation of individuals or of the people, it is rational that the people, on becoming enlightened respecting essential truths, should regard their own annihilation with the same horror that they at first entertained at the thought of the annihilation of their masters.

Anarchy is an old word, but to use it expresses a modern idea, or, rather, a modern interest, for ideas are the children of interests. History has called anarchical the condition of a people having several governments in competition; but one thing is the condition of a people which, wishing to be governed, is without government for the very reason that it has too much, and quite another is the condition of a people which, wishing to govern itself, is without government for the very reason that it desires none at all.

The anarchy of ancient times was really civil war,—not because it expressed the absence of government, but because it expressed the plurality of governments, the competition, the struggle, of gubernatorial races.

The modern conception of absolute social truth or of pure democracy has opened a whole series of interests which radically invert the terms of the traditional equation.

So that anarchy, which from the relative or monarchical standpoint signifies civil war, is nothing less, as an absolute or democratic thesis, than the true expression of social order.

In fact:

Whoever says Anarchy says denial of government;

Whoever says denial of government says affirmation of the people;

Whoever says affirmation of the people says individual liberty;

Whoever says individual liberty says the sovereignty of each;

Whoever says the sovereignty of each says equality;

Whoever says equality says solidarity or fraternity;

Whoever says fraternity says social order.

Therefore whoever says Anarchy says social order.

On the contrary:

Whoever says government says denial of the people;

Whoever says denial of the people says affirmation of political authority;

Whoever says affirmation of political authority says individual subordination;

Whoever says individual subordination says class supremacy;

Whoever says class supremacy says inequality;

Whoever says inequality says antagonism;

Whoever says antagonism says civil war.

Therefore whoever says government says civil war.

I do not know whether what I have just said is either new or eccentric or terrifying. I do not know, nor do I try to find out.

What I do know is that I can boldly stake my arguments against all the prose of governmentalism white and red, past, present, and future. The truth is that on this ground, which is that of a free man, a stranger to ambition, an ardent worker, scorning to command, declining to obey, I defy all the debaters of the bureaucracy, all the salary-drawing logicians, and all the scribbling pamphleteers who champion monarchical or republican taxation, be it

called the tax graduated, or the tax proportional, or the tax on land, or the tax on capital, or the tax on income, or the tax on consumption.

Yes, Anarchy is order, for government is civil war.

When my intelligence penetrates beyond the miserable details on which every-day polemics rests, I find that the intestine wars which have decimated humanity in all ages proceed from this single cause,—to wit, the overturn or preservation of the government.

As a political thesis, to kill one another has always meant to sacrifice one another to the continuation or the accession of a government Show me a place where they are assassinating openly and by wholesale, and I will show you a government at the bead of the carnage. If yon seek to explain civil war otherwise than by a government which wishes to come and a government which does not wish to go, you will waste your time; you will find nothing

The reason is simple.

A government is founded. At the instant of its foundation it has its creatures, and consequently its partisans; and from the moment that it has partisans, it has also adversaries.

Now the germ of civil war is fecundated by this single fact, for you cannot make a government, invested with unlimited power, treat its adversaries as it treats its partisans. Yon cannot make it distribute the favors at its disposal equally between its friends and its enemies You cannot prevent it from coddling the one class or from persecuting the other. Yon cannot, then, prevent this inequality from generating sooner or later a conflict between the party of the privileged and the party of the oppressed. In other words, given a government, you cannot avoid the ways that establish privilege, provoke division, create antagonism, and determine civil war.

Therefore government is civil war.

Nov., if it suffices, in order to bring about a conflict between citizens, that they be, on the one hand, partisans, and, on the other, adversaries, of the government; if it is demonstrated that, outside the love or hatred which we bear toward the government, civil war has no reason to exist,—that is as much as to say that, in order to establish peace, it suffices for citizens to cease, on the one hand, to be partisans, and, On the other, to be adversaries, of the government.

But to cease attacking or defending the government in order to make civil war impossible is nothing less than to leave it altogether out of the account, to throw it into the scrap-heap, to suppress it in order to found social order.

Now, while the suppression of government is, from one point of view, the establishment of order, it is, from another point of view, the foundation of Anarchy; therefore order and Anarchy are parallel.

Therefore Anarchy is order.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.