Anselme Bellegarrigue, “The Revolution” (2 of 4)
Anarchy: A Journal of Order
[continued from Part 1]
February 24, at two o’clock in the afternoon, the Tuileries, the legislative palace, the ministerial hotels, the Hôtel de Ville, and the Prefecture of police were all deserted; the official hierarchy was eclipsed. Authority had physically disappeared, and the people were free.
And understand well what that word people means, coming from my pen: when I make use of that word, I mean to designate everyone, smocks and coats, patent leather shoes and hobnailed boots.
On February 24, I say, the people were free, that is to say, that no one having more or less authority than others, each had the same authority. Now, it is when the authority of each is equal to that of all that the social balance is inevitably achieved.
This is of a mathematical exactitude and a native simplicity: everyone understands the neutralization of forces by their parity; everyone understands, consequently, how, in a group of men equally vested with the power to enslave, liberty is constituted. If I can counter you and you can counter me, our mutual respect is assured: peace is with us.
Such was the state of Paris and France on February 24, 1848.
The Revolution was accomplished. And yet the revolutionary movement had been an error; an error that the people would have paid for very dearly if that movement had not succeeded; an error that the people have paid very dearly for, since that movement, which only succeeded in a false manner, was found to have consolidated the very thing the interests wanted to destroy: the tutelage
The movement of February 1848 has been an error because, on the one hand, the public needs to pursue the repeal of the tutelage, and because, on the other hand, any movement in the street, being a mutiny, demands and, as a consequence, confirms the tutelage. I challenge anyone to accomplish a feat of arms without discipline. Now, there is no discipline without a leader, and no leader without subordinates. The movement of February, like that of 1830, was a feat of arms, so it had its leaders, its guardians, its necessary and inevitable government. Bit it is precisely against government, not the government of Charles X, not that of Louis-Philippe, but the government of anyone, whoever it might be, it is against the government as a principle that the interests militate and the Revolution struggles. The movement of February, which carried government in its womb, came to no agreement with the interests, nor with the Revolution, from which it follows that it was an error.
How has it happened, however, that this movement has satisfied the Revolution for a moment? It is because before that manifestation, the government, which is not at the Tuileries, nor at the Hôtel de Ville, nor the Elysée, but which is found in the interests from which public opinion takes advice, was already condemned by public opinion: because before having been accomplished by the movement, the Revolution had been made by the interests, that the doctrinaires call the faith.
But, but between the genius of the interests or of the faith, and that of the movement, there is an essential difference which should soon translate into disappointment: the industrial force aimed at institutions, and the faith separated itself from authority; the movement aimed only at men. We know in what striking manner the interests have protested against the movement and its results. Let us say what would be necessary to assimilate the movement into the Revolution.
The revolutionary act was accomplished.
Antagonisms, the misshapen children of governments, were wiped from the heart of the Republic, which was truly the Republic as long as it had no sponsors.
Equity, that supreme justice of the people, hung alone over the City, replacing the law that it had just repealed.
The bank and the Palais des Finances had the rare good fortune to see Liberty stand sentry at their door and they did not complain about it.
Theft, forewarned by some improvised inscriptions of the hasty fate that was reserved for it, was punished immediately with death. Theft, moreover, exists only in the state of privilege; free competition blots it out completely.
The parties, vermin born in the rottenness of the high and low courts, faded with the cause that produced them.
Complete forgetfulness of the past brought all the citizens together.
Fraternity was universal.
The greatest courtesy was exchanged in the streets, and all the public places.
Joy and hope illuminated every face.
Each, no longer being forbidden anything except by themselves, sought a support in everyone and found without difficulty, in the feeling of his isolation, the reason for the respect that he owed to the others.
The most perfect order reigned everywhere, at the same times as the rabble.
No one was afraid, for everyone was king.
No one being afraid, confidence was general.
I hold as perfectly exact this picture of the public situation on February 24, 1848. I suppose that the people of Paris would have placed in the foreground of this picture a simple urban or municipal commission and a magistrate who, face turned towards the border, would have been particularly occupied with notifying foreigners of both the new state of France and its peaceful attitude. In this case, I maintain, and I will show very soon, that the result of the movement would have remained in conformity with the demands of the Revolution, sovereignty would have remained in its place, with liberty gained and domestic peace assured.
Indeed, what more would be needed? A minister of the interior? But that would be to call individual and municipal liberty back into question and recreate a tyranny and budget which the interests have sought to abolish.
A minister of instruction? But that would be to call the liberty of education back into question and recreate a tyranny and budget which the interests have sought to abolish.
A minister of religion? But that would be to call the liberty of conscience back into question and recreate a tyranny and budget which the interests have sought to abolish.
A minister of commerce? But that would be to call the liberty of transactions back into question and recreate a tyranny and budget which the interests have sought to abolish.
A minister of agriculture? But that would be to call the liberty of land-use back into question and recreate a tyranny and budget which the interests have sought to abolish.
A minister of public works? But that would be to call the liberty of private enterprise back into question and recreate a tyranny and budget which the interests have sought to abolish.
A minister of finances? But that would be to call the liberty of credit back into question and recreate a tyranny and budget which the interests have sought to abolish.
A minister of justice? But that would be to call the justice of the jurors back into question and recreate the political jurisdictions and a budget which the interests have sought to abolish.
A prefecture of police? But that would be to call into question the sovereignty of the communes, to substitute for their own police a State police, and recreate a tyranny and budget which the interests have sought to abolish.
A war minister and a minister of the navy? Very well. These offices are natural annexes of the foreign affairs and the men who exercise them are the subordinates of the head of the chancellery named above; the people shouldn’t have more to worry them than the accounting that would have to be made to record the small receipts and small expenditures necessary for that small administration.
Thus a town council and a chancellery should have been, and would have been, the official face of the government of the people, if so many ambitious sorts, detesting the democratic condition of mere citizens, had not persisted in wanting to be ministers: prefects, sub-prefects, collectors, inspectors, etc., etc. Democracy does not consist of making all the communes subject to the government of one commune, all individuals subject to one or more individuals; it consists of leaving each commune and each individual to govern themselves under their own responsibility. Now, before a mayor and municipal council, individuals govern themselves; for it does not come to the mind of a communal assembly, not supported by a prefect, to regiment the citizens who have elected them in their individual business and industrial interests. Tyranny comes from communist or monarchic centralization, while individual liberty is in the municipality; the municipal council is essentially democratic. Nothing should be put above it, for fear of reestablishing the monarchy.
Just as before the mayor individuals govern themselves, just so, faced with the chancellery or diplomatic administration, the commune, a complex individual, governs itself; for it would not occur to a body which has no mission but to represent the nation to foreigners to interfere in communal affairs.
Tyranny comes from the monopolization of the domestic elements of society by the State; communal liberty is guaranteed when the central authority has only a purely diplomatic character, and a few duties free from any infringement of the prerogative of individuals. All that is done domestically must be done by the people themselves, by the individuals. That which is materially impossible for the people to carry out by themselves, by each of its members individually, is an international act, a treaty of peace or commerce. There are some cases where the need for delegation makes itself felt. That is why the only magistracy which had the Revolutionary right to spring up from the movement of February 24, 1848, was the foreign ministry.
What! A town council and a chancellery, for the whole government, will appear to the great Revolutionaries, friends of the people, as institutions that are insufficiently complicated and especially too peaceful.
How would the citizen Ledru-Rollin bring back the royalists that he wanted to fight, if not by taking the place of Mr. Duchâtel? Ledru-Rollin is the author of Baroche.
How would the citizen Garnier-Pagès have stifled the newborn confidence, if he had not reopened the finance ministry and declared a new tax? Garnier-Pagès is the author of Fould.
Where would the citizen Carnot take a beating from the Jesuits, if he had not rebuilt the university? Carnot is the author of Falloux.
How would the citizen Crémieux preserve the magistracy of the monarchies, if he was not installed as a justice? Crémieux is the author of Rouher.
Would the inquisition of the State not be dead if the citizen Caussidière had not become police prefect? Caussidière is the author of Carlier.
Some much stranger things would have come to pass, if the citizen Louis Blanc, the Ignatius of socialism, had not daily preached the crusade of labor against capital; Louis Blanc is the author of Montalembert.
All these republicans who, as such, should have a blind confidence in the good sense of the public, will begin by mistrusting the good sense of the people, who showed themselves to be republican that the republicans paled beside them.
In the face of universal republicanism, the National did not know what to do, and the Réforme felt itself threatened with asphyxia. Since the disappearance of authority, each citizen having an interest in dealing carefully with everyone, there was no more animosity in the country: politics having fled with the government, the question became completely economic, calculation taking the place of controversy.
But the doctrinaires did not find any profit in this; they sensed clearly that, from the moment that each was occupied with their own business, everyone’s business would go very well. But, in that case, the least would do as well as them, and they would find themselves obliged to labor like everyone else. In that case, there would no longer be parties, and the agitation that gives a living to the vagabonds and the men of state would cease. In that case, there would be no more politics, and those who live without doing anything would no longer have anything to do. From this they deduced the necessity of rebuilding the Government.
But how were they to go about it? Government has no mission but to bring the people to agreement; now, everyone agreed. Thus no government was possible, and yet a government was called for; it needed one itself. The democracy had its administrative staff, just like the royalty; like the royalty, it had some men whose devotion to the homeland could go even so far as occupying the kitchens and the ministerial palaces; like the royalty, it had great citizens all ready to sacrifice their obscurity to attain a prefecture, at the risk of taking home 40 or 80 francs per day; like the royalty, it had some more modest, but no less deserving heroes, capable renouncing common labor to go sit in some sub-prefecture. There was a need, if not for France, which was then very fortunate, at least for those who wanted to do it the honor of living at its expense, of a government. It was necessary, besides, to save the governmental principle. To fail to rebuild the government, that would have been to allow a precedent which compromised all the governments of Europe. That would have been to take from the last descendents of the dynasties all hope of return. Now, to take from the princes any hope of returning, was to take from the republicans the power to fight the princes, and the republicans cannot stop fighting the princes without ceasing to be republicans.
Thus the republicans of February were going to perish, absorbed by universal agreement, when suddenly the National, near the end of it strength, cast this challenge into the arena: To the republicans of tomorrow, from the republicans of the old order.
From that moment, the categories were created, discord sang victory and the government of the friends of the people was able to establish itself. Thus, in order to govern, the republicans, like the kings, set about dividing the population. Mr. Marrast instituted the old order and Mr. de Lamartine that of the moderates. Twenty-four hours before, there had only been brothers; twenty four hours after, there were only enemies.
If the Revolution had been understood, no one would have concerned themselves with government; for the Revolution, stranger to politics, was simply a question of economy. The people would have had to make politics submit to the fate inflicted on criminals; on the walls of Paris along with the inscription, death to robbers, we should have seen: death to politics! Sadly, the people still did not know, as they know today, that politics is the height of knavery.
Each citizen is called to resolve the economic question it as it pertains to them. When politics has disappeared, it is the interests, it is business which triumphs, and no one needs a minister to watch over their own interests and business. Each is their own government.
Suppress the dictatorship of the Hotel de Ville on February 25, and the people would have had nothing to do in the street. It was only politics that kept them there. Their business would have immediately brought them home, for that is where they live
Now, imagine to yourself the immense economic movement which would have resulted from the suppression of politics in the aftermath of the barricades? Labor, that morality par excellence, would have revealed itself in all its forms to capital, and capital, which is frightened by politics, but strongly attracted to labor, would have thrown itself with confidence into industry. Nothing is more reassuring than a population which applies its activity to production, for nothing is more worthy of interest than people occupied with earning their living. The confidence inspired by those people is general. We willingly contract obligations with them, and we even seek to extend credit to them, for those who give credit want some guarantees, and the first guarantee of a transaction is morality. Now, everyone knows that labor and morality are synonyms. The only honest people that there have been, and that there can be in the world, are the laborers.
But, if I set aside the political men and the vagabonds, there are only laborers in society. The capitalist, rid of the political protectorate which deigns to give him 4 percent, is the natural associate of the industry which can give him 10, 15 or 20 percent. When capital and labor join together without the political intermediary which exploits them both, they will get along marvelously, for they cannot live without each other. They complement one another, and if labor cannot move forward without capital, I don’t know what capital means without labor.
At the point liberty had reached on February 24, 1848, there were only, as there could only be, people inclined to help each other. Each willingly made some sacrifices for his neighbor. The creditor extended due dates; the proprietor assisted the tenant; people shared their dinner with others they hardly knew; and if the restoration of the government had not left half of the population begging in the back rooms, if, disillusioned with the space of politics, the citizens had applied themselves to useful industries, in no time at all each, by permanent or provisional title, would have found their place and their bread, and the government of all would long since have been established.
To summarize my thoughts with regard to the movement of February and the democratic outcome that it has achieved, I would say that the movement has lacked a man who, like Washington, understood the justice of public aspirations. The people have no need of people who love them. Thus far, the people have been loved far too much. What they want is for someone to let them love themselves. Philanthropy is a factory whose products have been more profitable to the entrepreneurs than to the shareholders. For proof I would require only Mr. Thiers, whose love of society has brought in fairly handsome dividends, according to those who in former times were acquainted with the sheen of his clothing and the holes in his boots.
When I see a man who is called a friend of the people, I begin by securing what I have in my pockets, and I consider myself very well warned.
That said, I return to my subject.
[Continued in Part 3]
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]