Anselme Bellegarrigue, “Anarchy is Order” (from Liberty)

Anarchy, a Journal of Order
Issue One
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.
II.—That the traditional collective reason is a fiction.
Thus stated, the question gains over Socialism and the hopeless chaos into which the leaders of schools have plunged it the advantage of clearness and precision. I am an Anarchist,—that is, a man free to examine, a political and social Huguenot; I deny everything, I affirm only myself. For the only truth demonstrated to me materially and morally, by sensible, apprehensible, and intelligible proofs, the only real and striking truth, not arbitrary and not subject to interpretation, is myself. I am; that is a positive fact; all else is abstract, and falls within the mathematical X, the unknown; I have not to consider its claims.
The entire raison d’être of society is found in a vast combination of material and private interests; the collective interest, or interest of the State, in behalf of which dogma, philosophy, and politics combined have always claimed integral or partial abnegation of individuals and their property, is a pure fiction, whose theocratic invention has served as a basis for the fortune of all the clergies, from Aaron to Bonaparte. This interest does not exist in any legislatively apprehensible sense.
It has never been true, it will never be true. it cannot be true, that there is on earth an interest to which I owe the sacrifice, or even a partial sacrifice, of my interest. On earth there are only men; I am a man; my interest is equal to that of any one whomsoever; I can owe only as much as is owed to me; none need return more than I give, but I owe nothing to him who gives nothing; then I owe nothing to the collective reason, or the government, for the government gives me nothing,—in fact, has nothing to give me except that which it takes from me. In any case, the best judge that I know of the advances that I should make and of the probability of their return is myself; as to this I have no advice, no lesson, above all no order, to take from anybody.
This reasoning it is not only the right, but also the duty, of each to bold and apply. It is the real, intuitive, indisputable, and indestructible foundation of the only human interest which it is necessary to take into account,—private interest, individual prerogative.
Do I, then, mean absolutely to deny collective interest? Certainly not. Only, disliking to talk to no purpose, I do not talk about it. After laying the foundations of private interest, I act in regard to the collective interest as I must act toward society when I have introduced the individual into it. Society is the inevitable consequence of the aggregation of individuals; by the same title collective interest is a providential and unavoidable deduction from the aggregation of private interests. Collective interests can be complete only so far as private interest remains intact; for, as we can understand by collective interest only the interest of all, the moment the interest of a single individual in society is injured, collective interest is no longer the interest of all, and consequently has ceased to exist.
So true is it that collective interest is a natural deduction from private interest in the inevitable order of things that, if the community takes my field in order to run a road through it, or requires me to preserve my forest in order to purify the air, it insists on indemnifying me in the largest fashion. Here it is my interest that governs; individual right weighs over collective right. I have the same interest that the community has in having a road and in breathing pure air; nevertheless, I would out down my forest and keep my field, if the community did not indemnify me; but, as it is its interest to indemnify me, so it is mine to yield. Such is the collective interest that springs from the nature of things. There is another’ but it is accidental and abnormal,—namely, war; the former comes not under the law, it makes the law, and always makes it well; we have to concern ourselves only with that which is permanent.
But when you call collective interest that in the name of which you close my establishment, forbid me to work at such or such an industry, confiscate my newspaper or my book, violate my liberty, prohibit me from being a lawyer or a doctor by virtue of my private studies and my clientèle, order me not to sell this and not to buy that,—when, in short, you call collective interest that which you invoke in order to prevent me from earning my living in the open day, in such way as best pleases me and without concealment from any, I declare that I do not understand you, or, rather, that I understand you too well.
To protect collective interest they punish a man who has cured his fellow illegally,—it being an evil to do good illegally; under pretext that he has not taken his degrees, they prevent a man from defending the cause of a (sovereign) citizen who has invested him with his confidence; they arrest a writer; they ruin a printer; they incarcerate a peddler; they arraign in court a man who has uttered a cry, or who wears his hair in a certain fashion. What do I gain by all these misfortunes? What do you gain by them? I run from the Pyrenees to the Channel and from the Ocean to the Alps, and I ask each of the thirty-six millions of Frenchmen what profit he has derived from these stupid cruelties practised in their name upon unfortunates whose families are groaning, whose creditors are uneasy, whose affairs are going to ruin, and who perhaps will kill themselves in despair or become criminals in revenge when they shall have escaped from the hardships which they are now forced to undergo. . And, when I ask this question, nobody knows what I am talking about; each declines any responsibility for what is being done; the suffering of the victims has done no good to anybody; tears have been shed and interests have been injured in pure waste. Well, it is this savage monstrosity that you call collective interest? I declare, for my part, that, if this collective interest were not a disgraceful error, I would pronounce it the basest of plundering.
But let us leave this frightful and outrageous fiction, and let us say that, since the only way to protect the collective interest is to protect private interests, it is overwhelmingly proven that the most important thin to do, from a social and economic standpoint, is, first of all, to free private interest.
I am justified, then, in saying that the only social truth is the natural truth. is the individual, is I.
III.—That the individualist dogma is the only fraternal dogma.
Let no one talk to me of revelation, of tradition, of Chinese, Phenician, Egyptian, Hebraic, Greek, Roman, Teutonic, or French philosophies; outside of my faith or my religion, for which I am accountable to nobody, I have nothing to do with the vagaries of my ancestors; I have no ancestors! For me the creation of the world dates from the day of my birth; for me the end of the world will be accomplished on the day when I shall restore to the elementary mass the apparatus and the afflatus which constitute my individuality. I am the first man, I shall be the last. My history is the complete result of humanity; I know no other, I care to know no other. When I suffer, what good do I get from another’s enjoyment? When I enjoy, in what do those who suffer detract from my pleasures? Of what consequence to me is that which happened before me? How am I concerned in what will happen after me? It is not for me to serve as a sacrifice to respect for extinct generations, or as an example to posterity. I confine myself within the circle of my existence, and the only problem that I have to solve is that of my welfare. I have but one doctrine, that doctrine has but one formula, that formula has but one word: Enjoy! Sincere is he who confesses [3] t; an impostor is he who denies it
This is bare individualism, native egoism; I do not deny it, I confess it, I verify it, I boast of it. Show me, that I may question him, the man who would reproach and blame me. Does my egoism do you any harm? If you say no, you have no reason to object to it, for I am free in all that does not injure you. If you say yes, you are a thief, for, my egoism being only the simple appropriation of myself by myself, an appeal to my identity, an affirmation of my individuality, a protest against all supremacy, if you admit that you are damaged by my act in taking possession of myself, by my retention of my own person,—that is, the least disputable of my properties,—you will declare thereby that I belong to you, or, at least, that you have designs on me; you are an owner of men, either established as such or intending to be, a monopolist, a coveter of another’s goods, a thief.
There is no middle ground; either right lies with egoism, or it lies with theft; either I belong to myself, or I become the possession of some one else. It cannot be said that I should sacrifice myself for the good of all, since, all having to similarly sacrifice themselves, no one would gain more by this stupid game than he had lost, and consequently each would remain quits,—that is, without profit, which clearly would make such sacrifice absurd. If, then, the abnegation of all cannot be profitable to all, it must of necessity be profitable to a few;[3] these few, then, are the possessors of all, and are probably the very ones who will complain of my egoism.
Every man is an egoist; whoever ceases to be one becomes a thing. He who pretends that it is not necessary to be one is a thief.
Oh, yes, I know, the word has an ugly sound; so far you have applied it to those who are not satisfied with what belongs to them, to those who take to themselves what belongs to others; but such people are in the human order; you are not. In complaining of their rapacity, do you know what you do? You establish your own imbecility. Hitherto you have believed that there were tyrants. Well, you are mistaken; there are only slaves. Where nobody obeys nobody commands.
Mark this well; the dogma of resignation abnegation, self-sacrifice, has been preached to the people. What has been the consequence? Papacy and royalty, by the grace of God, resulting in castes of bishops and monks and princes and nobles. Oh! the people long ago resigned themselves, renounced themselves, annihilated themselves. Did they do well? What do you think about it?
Certainly, the greatest pleasure that you can give to the somewhat discountenanced bishops, to the assemblies that have replaced the king, to the cabinet ministers who have replaced the princes, to the prefects who have replaced those grand vassals, the dukes, to the sub-prefects who have replaced those petty vassals, the barons, and to the whole series of subordinate functionaries who stand to us in the stead of the knights, vidames, and lordlings of feudalism,—the greatest pleasure, I say, that you can give to all this nobility fattening on the public revenues is to reenter as speedily as possible into the traditional dogma of resignation, abnegation, and self-sacrifice. There you will still find not a few protectors who will tell you to despise riches at the risk of ridding you of them; there you will find not a few devotees who, to save your soul, will tell you to be continent, in everything except the protection of your wives, daughters, and sisters from annoyance at their hands. Thanks to God, we are not lacking in devoted friends who would accept damnation for our sake, if we would decide to gain the heavens by the old path of the beatitude, from which they politely step aside, in order doubtless not to bar our passage.
Why do all the perpetuators of the old-time hypocrisy no longer feel at ease on the scaffoldings erected by their predecessors? Why? Because abnegation is declining and individualism is growing; because man is acquiring sufficient confidence in his own good looks to be willing to throw off his mask and show himself at last as he is.
Abnegation is slavery, degradation, abjection; it is the king, it is the government, it is tyranny, it is struggle, it is civil war.
Individualism, on the contrary, is enfranchisement, grandeur, nobility; it is the man, it is the people, it is liberty, it is fraternity, it is order.
IV.—That the social contract is a monstrosity.
Let each individual in society affirm himself personally, and only himself, and individual sovereignty is founded, there is no more room for government, all supremacy is destroyed, man is the equal of man.
Meanwhile our social life is mortgaged to all by contract.
Rousseau invented the thing, and for sixty years the genius of Rousseau, has been dragging in our legislation. It is by virtue of a contract, drawn by our fathers and renewed later by the great citizens of the Constituent, that the government enjoins us to see, bear, speak, write, and do only what it may permit.
Such are the popular prerogatives the alienation of which constitutes the government of men; this government I call in question so far as it concerns me, at the same time leaving to others, if they desire it, the privilege of serving it, of paying it, of loving it, and, finally, of dying for it.
But even though all other Frenchmen should consent to he governed in their education, in their worship, in their credit, in their manufactures, in their art, in their labor, in their affections, in their tastes, in their habits, in their movements, and even in their eating, I declare that in right their voluntary slavery no more involves my responsibility than their stupidity compromises my intelligence; and, if in fact their servitude takes me in, so that I cannot get away from it; if it is notorious, as I cannot doubt, that the submission of six, seven, or eight millions of individuals to one man or to several men involves my own submission to this same man or to these same men,—I defy any one whomsoever to find in this act anything but a trap, and I declare that at no time has the barbarism of any people practised upon earth a more unmistakable brigandage.
To see, in fact, a moral coalition of eight millions of valets against one free man is to witness a spectacle of cowardice against the savagery of which one cannot invoke civilization without making it either ridiculous or odious in the eyes of cultivated people.
But I cannot believe that all my fellow-citizens deliberately feel the need of serving. What I feel, everybody must feel; what I think, everybody must think; for I am neither more or less than a man; I am under the same simple and laborious conditions to which the first worker that comes is subject. It astonishes me, it frightens me, to meet with every step that I take in life, with every thought that my brain welcomes, with every enterprise that I begin, with every coin that I need to earn, a law or a regulation that says to me: no passage this way; no thought that way; no enterprise in this direction; half of that coin must be left at this gate. Confronted with these manifold obstacles that appear on every band, my intimidated mind sinks into brutishness; I know not which way to turn; I know not what to do or what to become.
Who, then, has added to the atmospheric scourges, to the decompositions of the air, to the insalubrities of climate, to the lightning, which science has learned bow to control, this occult and savage power, this maleficent genius, which awaits humanity at the cradle to cause it to be devoured by humanity? Who? Why, men themselves, who, not satisfied with the hostility of the elements, have also made men their enemies.
The masses, still too docile, are innocent of all the brutalities committed in their name and to their detriment; they are innocent of them, but they are not ignorant of them; I believe that, like myself, they feel them and are indignant at them; I believe that, like myself, they are in a hurry to have done with them; only, not clearly distinguishing causes, they know not how to act. It w ill be my endeavor to teach them something in this direction.
Let us begin by pointing out the guilty.
V.—Of the attitude of the parties and of the press.
The majesty of the people has no organ in be French press. Newspapers for the bourgeois, newspapers for the nobility, newspapers or the priests, republican newspapers, socialist newspapers’—only so many liveries! pure menialism! All these sheets clean, polish, and dust the trappings of some political knight in anticipation of a tournament in which the prize to be contested for is power,—that is, my servitude. the servitude of the people.
Except the “Presse,”[4] which sometimes, when its editor forgets to be proud that he may remain high-minded, succeeds in attaining some elevation of sentiment; except the “Voix du Peuple,”[5] which, from time to time, departs from the old routine to elucidate general interests,—I cannot read a French newspaper without feeling for its editor great pity or profound contempt.
On the other hand, I see governmental journalism, the journalism backed by the gold of the treasury and the sword of the army, the journalism whose head is encircled with the investiture of supreme authority, and which holds in its hand the thunderbolts that this investiture consecrates. I see it coming, I say, with fire in its eye, foam on its lips, and clenched fists, like a king of the market-place, like a hero of the prize-ring; freely, and with brutal cowardice, heaping reproaches upon a disarmed adversary, over whom its power is unlimited, and from whom it has nothing, absolutely nothing, to fear; styling him thief, assassin, incendiary; penning him up like a wild beast, denying him the smallest pittance, throwing him into prison without knowing why, without telling him wherefore, and applauding its own conduct, boasting of the glory which it derives therefrom, as if, in fighting disarmed people, it risked something and confronted danger.
Such cowardice revolts me.
On the other hand appears the journalism of the opposition, a grotesque and ill-bred slave; passing its time in whining, sniveling, and asking pardon; saying, every time that they spit in its face and with every blow that it receives: “You are not treating me well; you are not just. I have done nothing to offend you;” and stupidly discussing, as if to give them legitimacy, the invectives hurled at it: “I am not a robber; I am not an assassin; I am not an incendiary; I revere religion; I love the family; I respect property; it is you, rather, who despise these things; I am better than you, and you oppress me; you are not generous.”
Such crawling exasperates me.
I understand the brutality of power when it is directed against such disputants as those that I find in the opposition; I understand it, for, after all, when the weak are abject, it is possible to forget their weakness and remember only their abjection; now, abjection is an irritating thing, a crawling thing to be crushed under foot, as one crushes a worm. In a group of men calling themselves democrats and speaking in the name of the people, principle of all grandeur and dignity, abjection is a thing that I do not understand.
He who speaks in the name of the people speaks in the name of right; now it is incomprehensible to me that right should become irritated, that it should condescend to discuss with error, least of all that it should descend to complaint and supplication.
We undergo oppression, but we do not discuss with it when we wish it to die; for to discuss is to compromise.
Power is established; you have given yourselves a master; you have put yourselves (the whole country, by your adorable counsel and by your initiative, has put itself) at the disposition of a few men; these men use the power that you have given them; they use it against you, and you complain. Why? Did you think that they were going to use it against themselves? You could not have thought that; for what, then, do you blame them? Power must of necessity be exercised for the benefit of those who have it and to the injury of those who have it not; it is not possible to set it in motion without harming on the one hand and injuring on the other.
What would you do, if you were invested with it? Either you would not use it at all, which would be pure and simple renunciation of the investiture, or you would use it for your benefit and to the detriment of those who now have it, but who then would have it no longer. In the latter case you would cease to whine, whimper, and ask pardon, simply exchanging rôles with those who now insult you. But what care I, the people, who never have power and yet make it; who pay blood and money to the oppressor, no matter who be may be or whence he may come; who am always the oppressed, whatever turn things take,—what care I for this see-saw which, by turns, lowers and exalts cowardice and abjection? What have I to say touching the government and the opposition, save that one is a tyranny in suspension and the other a tyranny in exercise? And how does it become me to despise less this champion than that, when both busy themselves only in building their pleasures and their fortunes On my sufferings and my ruin?
VI.—Power is the enemy.
There is not a journal in France which is not hatching out a party; there is not a party which does not aspire to power; there is no power which is not an enemy of the people.
There is no journal which is not hatching out a party, for there is no journal which rises to that degree of popular dignity where the calm and supreme disdain of sovereignty sits as on a throne; the people is as impassible as right, as proud as force, as noble as liberty; parties are as turbulent as error, as snarling as impotence, as base as servility.
There is no party which does not aspire to power, for a party is essentially political and is formed consequently of the very essence of power, source of all politics. If a party ceased to be political, it would cease to be a party and would go back into the people,—that is, into the sphere of interests, production, industry, and business. There is no power which is not inimical to the people, for, whatever the conditions in which it finds itself, whatever the men invested with it, by whatever name it may be called, power is always power,—that is, the indisputable sign of the people’s abdication of sovereignty, the consecration of a supreme mastership. Now, the master is the enemy; Lafontaine is before me in saying so.
Power is the enemy in the social sphere and in the political sphere.
In the social sphere:
Because agricultural industry, the foster-mother of all national industries, is crushed by the tax levied upon it by power and devoured by the usury which inevitably results from the financial monopoly, the exercise of which is guaranteed by power to its disciples or agents.
Because labor—that is, intelligence—is confiscated by power with the aid of its bayonets, for the benefit of capital, in itself a raw and stupid element, which logically would be the lever of industry, were not power an obstacle in the way of their mutual association; which is only its extinguisher, thanks to power which separates them; which pays but half; and which, if it does not pay at all, has at its back laws and courts of governmental establishment disposed to postpone for several years the satisfaction of the injured laborer’s appetite.
Because commerce, muzzled by the banking monopoly, of which power holds the key, and garroted by the slip-noose of a base system of regulation, of which power holds the end, can, by virtue of a contradiction which would be a certificate of idiocy if it existed elsewhere than among the keenest of all peoples, fraudulently enrich itself out of the indirect head of women and children, while prohibiting him, under penalty of infamy, from ruining himself.[6]
Because education is curtailed, chiseled, clipped, and reduced to the narrow dimensions of the mould made for the purpose by power, so that every mind which has not been pointed by power is absolutely as if it did not exist.
Because he who, in the name of power, pays the temple, the church, and the synagogue is precisely he who goes to neither the temple or the church or the synagogue.
Because, to put the whole thing in a nutshell, he is criminal who hears, sees, speaks, writes, feels, thinks, acts, otherwise than as he is bidden by power to hear, see, speak, write, feel, think, act.
In the political sphere:
Because parties exist and stain the country with blood only by and for power.
It is not Jacobinism that is feared by the Legitimists, the Orleanists, the Bonapartists, the Moderates; it is the power of the Jacobins.
It is not upon Legitimism that the Jacobins, the Orleanists, the Bonapartists, the Moderates, make war; it is upon the Legitimists.
And reciprocally.
All these parties which you see moving on the surface of the country, like floating froth j on a boiling liquid, have declared war upon each other, not because of differences in doctrine or sentiment, but because of their common aspirations to power; if each of those parties could say to itself with certainty that the power of none of these antagonists could any longer weigh upon it, the antagonism would cease instantly, as it ceased on February 24, 1848, when the people, having devoured power, assimilated the parties.
It is, therefore, true that a party, whatever it may be, exists and is feared only because it aspires to power; it is true that no party is dangerous which has not power; it is true, consequently, that whoever has power is quite as dangerous; per contra, it is superabundantly proven that there can exist no other public enemy than power.
Therefore, socially and politically speaking, power is the enemy.
And, as I have proven above that there is no party which does not aspire to power, it follows that every party is premeditately an enemy of the people.
VII.—That the people only wastes its time and prolongs its sufferings in espousing the quarrels of governments and parties.
Thus is explained the absence of all the popular virtues from the breasts of governments and parties; thus it is that, in these groups which feed on petty hatreds, miserable revenges, and paltry ambitions, attack has fallen into cowardice, and defence into abjection.
The old journalism must be destroyed; those masters without nobility who tremble lest they may become valets must be stripped; those valets without pride who watch for the moment when they may make themselves masters must be discharged.
To understand how urgent it is to kill the old journalism, the people must see clearly two things.
First, that it only neglects its own affairs and prolongs its sufferings in espousing the quarrels of governments and parties and giving its activity a political direction instead of applying it to its material interests.
Second, that it has nothing to expect from any government or from any party.
Reserving a more precise demonstration until later, I lay it down as a fact that a party, stripped of that patriotic éclat and prestige with which it surrounds itself in order to entrap fools, is simply an assemblage of vulgarly ambitious persons in search of office. So true is this that the republic seemed endurable to the royalists only from the moment when the public offices were filled by the royalists, who, I make oath, will never demand the re-establishment of royalty as long as they are allowed to occupy in peace all the offices in the republic. So true is this that the republicans found royalty endurable only from the moment when, under the name of the republic, they began to manage and administer it. So true is this, in fact, that from 1815 to 1830 the bourgeois party made war upon the nobles, because the bourgeois were excluded from the offices; that from 1830 to 1818 the nobles and the republicans made war upon the bourgeois, because both were excluded from the offices; and that, since the advent of the royalists to power, the great grievance of the republicans against them is that they have ousted officials of so-called republican creation, thus confessing, with touching naïveté, that for them the republic is a question of salary-drawing.
For the same reason that a party is moved to appropriate offices or power, the government in possession of power strives to keep it. But, as a government finds itself, wrongly or rightly, in control of a combination of forces which enables it to hunt down, persecute, and oppress those who wish to strip it, the people, which, by a counter-stroke, suffers under the oppressive measures provoked by the agitation of the ambitious, and whose great soul, moreover, opens to the tribulations of the oppresses, suspends its business, calls a halt in the path of progress which it is pursuing, informs itself concerning what is being said and done, becomes irritated and inflamed, and finally lends a hard to aid in the overthrow of the oppressor.
But, the people not having fought in its own behalf,—since right, as I will explain later, has no need to fight in order to triumph, —it has won a profitless victory; placed at the service of the ambitious, its arm has lifted into power a new coterie in place of the old one; and soon, the oppressors of the day before becoming the oppressed, the people, which, as before, again receives the counter-stroke of the oppressive measures provoked by the agitation of the vanquished party, and whose great soul, as usual, opens to the tribulations of the victims, again suspends its business, and finally lends a hand once more to the ambitious.
The upshot is that the people, in this brutal and cruel game, only wastes its time and aggravates its situation; it impoverishes itself and suffers. It does not advance a step.
It is difficult—I confess it without repugnance—for the populace, moved wholly by sentiment and passion, to contain itself when the goad of tyranny pricks too deep; but, if it is demonstrated that party fury ends only in making things worse, and if it is proven further that the evil of which the people has to complain comes to it from groups which, by the very fact that they do not act with it, act against it, it remains only for parties to come to a halt, in the name of the people which they oppress, which they impoverish, which they debase, and which they accustom to quarreling. But parties cannot be relied on. The people must rely only on itself.
Without going too far back in our history; taking only the pages of the two years just past,—it is easy to see that the oppressive laws which have been passed originated primarily in party turbulence. It would be a long and irksome task to enumerate them, but I must say, in order to conform to the exactness of historical facts, that, if since 1848 a tyrannical measure can be cited which does not rest on party provocations and is due to the sweet will of those in power, it is that the execution of which M. Ledru-Rollin enjoined in his circulars to his prefects.
Since that time the popular prerogatives have vanished one by one, as a result of having been discovered and betrayed by the impatience and agitation of the ambitious. Power being unable to discriminate, the law inflicts on all the blows which ought to fall on parties only; the people is oppressed, the fault is exclusively the fault of parties.
If parties did not feel the people at their backs; if, at least, the people, exclusively occupied with its material interests, its industries, its commerce, its business, covered with its indifference or its contempt that low strategy called politics; if it took, in regard to moral agitation, the attitude which it took on June in regard to material agitation,—the parties, suddenly isolated, would cease to agitate; the sense of their impotence would freeze their audacity; they would wither where they stand, their individual members would fall away one by one into the great body of the people, and finally they would fade away; and government, which exists only by opposition, which feeds only on the quarrels that parties excite, which has its raison d’être in parties only, which for fifty years has done nothing but defend itself, and which, if it would stop defending itself, would cease to exist,—government, I say, would rot like a corpse; it would dissolve of itself, and the foundation of liberty would be laid.
VIII.—That the people has nothing to expect from any party.
But the disappearance of the government, the annihilation of the governmental institution, the triumph of liberty of which all parties talk, would really suit no party, for I have superabundantly proved that a party, from the very fact that it is a party, is essentially governmental. Consequently the parties take good care not to let the people think that it can do without government. The upshot of their continual controversy is that the government behaves badly and pursues an evil policy, but that it might behave better and that its policy might be better. After all in said, beneath each journalist’s article lies this thought: if I were there, you should see how I would govern.
Well, let us see if there really is au equitable way of governing; let us see if it is possible to establish a directing government, a government of initiative, a power, an authority, on the democratic basis of respect for the individual.
It is important that I should examine this question searchingly, for I have said that the people has nothing to expect from any government or from any party, and I must hasten to give my proofs.
Let us suppose that 1862 has arrived, and that you—you of the Mountain, you Socialists, or even you Moderates—have the power which you hope to have. The Left has an imposing majority; I applaud; give them welcome. Compliments passed, what is your conception of your task?
I overlook your internal divisions; I shut my eyes to the fact that you have among you Girardin, Proudhon, Louis Blanc, Pierre Leroux, Considerant, Cabet, Raspail, and their disciples; I grant that perfect union prevails among you; to serve you, I suppose the impossible, for my main desire is to facilitate the argument.
You are in accord then; what are you going to do?
Set free all political prisoners,—a general amnesty? Good. Of course you will not except the princes, for thereby you would seem to fear them, and this fear would betray distrust of yourselves; it would be a confession that they might be preferred to you, and would imply that you were not certain to produce general happiness and prosperity
Injustices repaired in the political sphere, let us come to economy and social problems.
It is needless to say that you who have denounced Fould will not declare the nation bankrupt; national honor will lay upon you the duty of respecting the Bourse to the detriment of thirty-five millions of taxpayers; the debt created by the monarchies is of so noble a character that the French people must not think of refusing to bleed themselves annually of four hundred and fifty millions for the benefit of a handful of stockjobbers. You will begin, then, by saving the debt; we shall be ruined, but still honorable. These two terms scarcely harmonize in these days, but, after all, it is the old time that you continue, and the debt-involved people will think, as before, what it pleases.
But you intend, first of all, I imagine, to lift the burden from the poor, the laborers, the proletaires; you will come with a law taxing the rich. Well and good! I am a capitalist, and you ask me for one per cent. The devil! how am I going to get out of that? On reflection, I do not use my capital, I lend it to industry; the manufacturer, having great need of it, will not forego its use for an extra one per cent; upon him, then, I will unload the tax. The tax on capital falls squarely on the nose of labor.
I am a bondholder, and you tax the coupon; this is disturbing, indeed. Still there is a way out. Who is it that owes? The State. Since it is the State, the misfortune is not great; the tax on the coupon immediately depreciates by so much the value of this coupon; the coupon being depreciated to the prejudice of the debtor, who is the State, and to the profit of the treasury, which is the State, the State takes from its pocket to deposit in its vault; thus it is quits, and so am I. The trick is a very pretty one, and I confess that you are extremely clever.
I am an owner of apartment-houses, and you tax my flats; to that I have nothing, absolutely nothing, to say. You will settle the matter with my tenants; for certainly you do not think me so stupid as not to cover myself in the rent.
The most senseless phrase uttered since the revolution of February is this: Tax the rich! a phrase, if not perverse, at least utterly thoughtless. I know not whom they call rich in a country like this, where everybody is in debt, and where fashion and custom impel most proprietors, bondholders, and capitalists to spend annually more than their income. But, admitting the rich man, I defy you to reach him; your attempts to do so show nothing gross ignorance of the elementary laws of social economy and solidarity of interests. The blow that you would strike the rich will fall straight upon the manufacturer, the proletaire, the poor man. Would you relieve the poor of burden? Then tax nobody. Administer France with two hundred million francs; two hundred millions, in a country like France, to be found almost without looking for them; do we not give a hundred simply to smoke bad cigars?
But then you could only administer, and want to govern,—a very different thing. Suppose, then, that you strike the rich, and will settle your accounts with the poor later.
Already, through the formation of your budget, you have a considerable number of malcontents on your hands; these questions of money, you see, are very delicate. But let us pass on.
Do you proclaim unlimited liberty of the press? That is forbidden you. You will not change the basis of taxation, you will not touch the State treasury, without exposing yourself to a discussion from which you will not easily extricate yourself. I feel person disposed to prove, as clear as daylight, your incapacity in this direction, and your own preservation would make it your imperative duty to silence me, to say nothing of the fact that thereby you would do well.
Because of the budget, then, the press would not be free. No government with a large budget can proclaim liberty of the press; that is expressly forbidden it. Promises will not be wanting, but to promise is not to keep; ask M. Bonaparte.
Evidently you will keep the department of public instruction and the university monopoly; only you will give education an exclusively philosophical tendency, declaring atrocious war upon the clergy and the Jesuits, in consequence of which I shall become a Jesuit against you, as I am now a philosopher against M. de Montalembert, in the name of my liberty, which consists in being what I please, without you or the Jesuits having anything say about it.
And will you abolish the department of public worship? I doubt it. I imagine that, in the interest of the governomaniacs, you will prefer the creation of departments to their suppression. There will be a department of public worship, as there is today, and I shall pay the priest, the minister, and the rabbi because I go to neither mass, meeting-house, or sacrament.
You will preserve the department of commerce, the department of agriculture, the department of public works, and, above all, the department of the interior, for you will have prefects, sub-prefects, State police, etc.; and, while maintaining and directing all these departments, which constitute precisely the tyranny of to-day, you will not thereby be prevented from saying that the press, education, worship, commerce, public works, and agriculture are free. But they say as much now. What would you do that is not done at the present hour? I will tell you what you would do; instead of attacking, you would defend yourselves.
I see nothing left for you but to completely change the personnel of the departments and the courts, and to act toward the reactionaries as the reactionaries act toward you. But that is not called governing; does this system of reprisals constitute government? If I may judge by what has been going on for the last sixty years; if I consider the only thing that you have to do on becoming the government,—I affirm that to govern is simply to beat, to avenge, to punish. How, if you do not perceive that it is over our shoulders that you are beaten and that you beat your adversaries, we, at any rate, cannot pretend to be ignorant of it, and I consider it time for this spectacle to end.
To sum up the powerlessness of any government whatever to achieve the public good, I will say that good can come only from reforms. Now, every reform being inevitably a liberty, and every liberty being a new strength gained by the people and consequently an impairment of the integrity of power, it follows that the path of reform, which for the people is the path of liberty, is for power only the path of decline. If, then, you were to say that you desire power in order to effect reforms, you would thereby confess that you want to attain power with the deliberate purpose of abdication.
Besides the fact that I do not find in myself sufficient stupidity to believe you as intelligent as that, I perceive that it would be contrary to all natural or social laws, and principally to that of self-preservation, which no being can escape, for men invested with public power to strip themselves, of their own free will, both of the investiture and of the princely right which it gives them to live in luxury without the fatigue of producing it. Tell that to the marines!
Your government can have but one object,— to take revenge upon the government now existing,—just as the government that shall follow you will have but one object,—to take revenge upon you.
Industry, production, commerce, the affairs of the people, the interests of the multitude, cannot he harmonized with these pugilistic exercises; I propose that you be left alone to dislocate your jaws, while we go about our business.
If French journalism wishes to be worthy of the people which it addresses, it must cease cavilling about the miserable nothings of politics.
Let the rhetoricians manufacture at their ease laws which interests and customs will leave far in the rear, when it shall please you not to interrupt with your useless bawling the free development of interests and of the manifestation of custom.
Politics has never taught any one a way of honorably earning his dinner; its precepts have served only to reward idleness and encourage vice.
Then talk to us no more of politics. Fill your columns with economic and communal studies; tell us of the useful things that have been invented; tell us of the discoveries, in any country whatsoever, materially or morally, advantageous to increase of production or to promotion of comfort; keep us informed concerning the progress of industry, in order that from this information we may derive the means of earning our living and of living in comfort. All that-is of more importance to us, I declare to you, than your stupid dissertations on the balance of powers and on the violation of a constitution which, had it remained virgin, would not have seemed to me, to speak frankly to you, very worthy of my respect.
About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.