Anselme Bellegarrigue, “The Electoral Law”


Along with the essay “The Revolution,” the second issue of Bellegarrigue’s Anarchy: A Journal of Order also contained this essay:


In the first issue of this journal, we have clearly, even audaciously expressed our opinion regarding the present character of electoral rights. The attitude of the people in the face of the partial suppression of this right proposed by Parliament has proven to us that our doctrine was in conformity with the general sentiment. The electorate is not a principle.

The popular instinct is more sure than the reasoning of the sophists, for that instinct bears on the facts. The so-called democratic parties have cried loudly that universal suffrage is the sole guarantee of progress, the sole principle from which well-being should result. The facts respond that universal suffrage, the exercise of which has up to this day softened the position of a few elected officials, has considerably compromised the individual interests and, as a consequence, public prosperity.

Does that mean that suffrage, as it has pleased the majority to formulate it, would resolve the question? It would be foolish to suppose it. The truth is not in the election; nothing can come from the election, the election is the guarantee of the government and the government is the cause of the unrest, it is thus in abstention and not in the election we will find the solution of the difficulty.

The people will come to abstention, as they will come to the refusal of taxation; it is necessary and inevitable. They have started down the road which must lead then there by falling into political skepticism, into doctrinal indifference. It is when the people no longer believe in anything that they will believe in themselves. That last belief determines the estimation of the act, and, positivism come to this point, the people leave the domain of interpretations to take fixed quantities; they no longer let themselves be led, they speculate; they no longer agitate, they amass; they no longer shout, they seek to enjoy.

Do you know, from the popular point of view, what is signified by the debates which have taken place in the Assembly between the majority and minority on the subject of the electoral law? They debates signify that the members of the majority believe that they can only be reelected by neutering universal suffrage, and that the members of the minority are convinced that universal suffrage is essential to them to remain where they are. That is the true sense of the discussion; but, in fact, what can the people expect from the majority or from the minority? Nothing. Both have well proven it, and, even when they have not proven it in practice, we believe we have, in this publication, furnished some very clear arguments on this point.

Have we so much to gladden us from the electoral regime that there would be cause for us to act to defend it? What has it produced? Some volumes of laws that, for my part, I would gladly pass on,—and you?

Certainly, it is universal suffrage which has produced the assemblies to which we owe all the prohibitions which crush us; would limited suffrage have produced worse results? We do not assume so. From now on what is the meaning of that enthusiasm that one wants to give us for universal suffrage, when it is proven that the assemblies have only led to disturbing and ruining us?

The right is wary of one part of the population.

The left mistrusts the other part.

What do you take us for? Whose creatures are we? We mistrust the right ad the left, and we reserve our votes; that is what it is best for us to do to put in agreement the whites and reds who only want our money.

That is the reason for the calm that has greeted the electoral law. The most naïve of the journals of Paris, as well as the most smug, L’Evénement and la Presse, have recommended calm to the population, and, the calm having taken place, they are pleased at having been obeyed. To hear them tell it, the wisdom of the people is their work; without them, the agitation would have torn up the paving stones and disturbed the city, which is pitiful.

The calm is in the force of things. The people have become deeply skeptical. They do not believe the troubadours or sellers of specifics. However much one professes a deep and tender love for them, however much one wants to assure them, they do not get more tenderness, nor more assurance, and they ask who are these bold or crazy sorts who dare put themselves high enough to love them, and who is the sovereign or schemer who has separated from them enough to promise them security.

The times of exploitation by big words have already passed. The labels no longer fool anyone. The devotion has delivered its bill. It is too costly. We no longer believe in chivalrous selflessness, so that from the very moment when a man separates himself from others in order to command them, some legitimate suspicions arise about him. In that state, the people no longer have leaders, and equality begins. When the people no longer have leaders, no movement is possible any more, and calm inevitably descends. Now, that calm is the Revolution, no longer the Revolution of the schemers, everyone’s Revolution, that of the interest and wealth.

The politicians do not want to abandon questions of form, but it is the question of content which is debated in the heart of society. The government, the men of the government, the manner of constituting the government, the antecedents and doctrines of various individuals, the preeminence this system or that one: all that is of little importance to the people. What matters to them is well-being, and it is clear that no one can realize well-being except for themselves; it is proven that it cannot be obtained by delegation, and it is established in fact that it is independent of the form. It is thus with full and complete reason that people become indifferent with regard to the form, with the government, and they pay attention to the content, which is nothing but the people themselves, and their own business.

So let come, after the electoral law, the decennial presidency, the presidency for life, the empire—the devil come, provided that the good-for-nothings are condemned to silence by the prudence of the workers. The governmental form, however lofty it may be, will be overcome by the content; the people will devour the government.

The government is not a fact; it is only a fiction. The immutable and eternal fact is the people. We are, for our part, with the fact, and a time is coming which seems bad for those who do not want to separate from the fiction.


[The back page of the journal contained the following advertisement: ]

ANARCHY will appear regularly on the first of each month. In the next issue (June 1) we will apply ourselves to the presentation of the picture of liberty in its industrial and economic exercise. Returning to February 24, 1848, epoch when the parties and governments had disappeared, to make place for fraternity and universal security, we will explain what would have been done materially, industrially, and financially by Liberty, if the speech-makers had not revived that school for theft and murder that we call Politics. These explanations, we are confident, will do more for the revolution and for the public peace than all that has been said and done in the last sixty years.

In the later numbers, the editor of Anarchy will examine the origin of wealth and credit, and will prove that the antagonism which exists between capital and labor is purely governmental fact which would not exist in an anarchic state. He will begin from this principle to demonstrate the supreme absurdity of the right to work, of free credit, of the tax on capital and other errors sustained in recent times by socialist childishness.

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