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Title: Anarchism and Socialism
Author: George Plechanoff
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ANARCHISM AND SOCIALISM
Translated with the permission of the author by
Eleanor Marx Aveling
Charles H. Kerr & Company
PUBLISHERS' NOTE 7
I. THE POINT OF VIEW OF THE UTOPIAN SOCIALISTS 17
II. THE POINT OF VIEW OF SCIENTIFIC SOCIALISM 30
III. THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE ANARCHIST DOCTRINE 38
IV. PROUDHON 53
V. BAKOUNINE 78
VI. BAKOUNINE--(CONCLUDED) 89
VII. THE SMALLER FRY 103
VIII. THE SO-CALLED ANARCHIST TACTICS. THEIR MORALITY 127
IX. THE BOURGEOISIE, ANARCHISM, AND SOCIALISM 143
In reprinting _Anarchism and Socialism_, by George Plechanoff, we
realize that there is not the same need for assailing and exposing
anarchism at present as there has been at different times in the past.
Yet the book is valuable, not merely because of its historic interest
but also to workers coming into contact with the revolutionary movement
for the first time. The general conception of anarchism that a beginner
often gets is that it is something extremely advanced. It is often
expressed somewhat as follows: "After capitalism comes socialism and
then comes anarchism." Plechanoff very ably explodes such notions.
Within the pages of this work the author shows not only the reactionary
character of anarchism, but he exposes its class bias and its empty
philosophic idealism and utopian program. He shows anarchism to be just
the opposite of scientific socialism or communism. It aims at a society
dominated by individualism, which is simply a capitalist ideal. Such
ideals as "liberty," "equality," "fraternity," first sprang from the
ranks of the petty property owners of early capitalism, as Plechanoff
shows. He also points out that while Proudhon is usually credited with
being "the father of anarchism" that actually Max Stirner comes closer
to being its "father." Stirner's "League of Egoists," he says, "is only
the utopia of a petty bourgeois in revolt. In this sense one may say he
has spoken the last word of bourgeois individualism."
Bakounine and Kropotkine, the famous Russian anarchists, are exposed as
confused idealists, who have not aided but rather hindered the
development of the working-class movement. Lenin speaks highly of the
book in this relation, but takes Plechanoff severely to task for his
failure properly to set forth the Marxian concepts of the State, and for
his total evasion of the form the State must take during the time it is
in the hands of the workers. When writing on the "Vulgarisation of Marx
by the Opportunists," in his _State and Revolution_, Lenin said:
"Plechanoff devoted a special pamphlet to the question of the relation
of socialism to anarchism entitled _Anarchism and Socialism_, published
in German in 1894. He managed somehow to treat the question without
touching on the most vital, controversial point, the essential point
_politically_, in the struggle with the anarchists: the relation of the
revolution to State, and the question of the State in general. His
pamphlet may be divided into two parts: one, historico-literary,
containing valuable material for the history of the ideas of Stirner,
Proudhon, and others; the second, ignorant and narrow-minded, containing
a clumsy disquisition on the theme 'that an anarchist cannot be
distinguished from a bandit,' an amusing combination of subjects and
most characteristic of the entire activity of Plechanoff on the eve of
revolution and during the revolutionary period in Russia. Indeed, in the
years 1908 to 1917 Plechanoff showed himself to be half doctrinaire and
half philistine, walking, politically, in the wake of the bourgeoisie.
"We saw how Marx and Engels, in their polemics against the anarchists,
explained most thoroughly their views on the relation of the revolution
to the State. Engels, when editing in 1891, Marx's _Criticism of the
Gotha Program_, wrote that 'we'--that is, Engels and Marx--'were then in
the fiercest phase of our battle with Bakounine and his anarchists;
hardly two years had then passed since the Hague Congress of the
International' (the First). The anarchists had tried to claim the Paris
Commune as their 'own,' as a confirmation of their teachings, thus
showing that they had not in the least understood the lessons of the
Commune or the analysis of those lessons by Marx. Anarchism has given
nothing approaching a true solution of the concrete political problems:
are we to _break_ up the old State machine, and what shall we put in its
"But to speak of _Anarchism and Socialism_, leaving the whole question
of the State out of account and taking no notice at all of the whole
development of Marxism before and after the Commune--that meant an
inevitable fall into the pit of opportunism. For that is just what
opportunism wants--to keep these two questions in abeyance. To secure
this is, in itself, a victory of opportunism."
The anarchist desire to abolish the State at one blow, and to abolish
money, etc., in much the same way, springs from their inability to
understand the institutions of capitalist society. To many of them the
State is simply the result of people having faith in authority. Give up
this belief and the State will cease to exist. It is a myth like God and
rests entirely on faith. The anarchist's desire for the abolition of the
State arises from entirely different concepts to that of the communists.
To these anarchist anti-authoritarians the State is simply bad. It is
the most authoritarian thing in sight. It interferes with individual
freedom and consequently is the greatest obstruction to "absolute
liberty" and other utopian desires of the champions of individualism.
Communists also want a society without a State but realize that such can
only come about when society is without classes. The aim of the
communist movement is to destroy the capitalist form of the State and
substitute a proletarian form during the time in which society is
undergoing its classless transformation. When all property is
centralized into the hands of this working-class "State" and when the
administration of things has taken the place of political dominance, the
State, in its final form, will have withered away. Therefore, the
communist realizes that the State cannot be abolished in the manner
visualized by anarchists, but that it must be used, that is, the
proletariat must be raised "to the position of ruling class," for the
purpose of expropriating the capitalists and putting an end to the
exploitation of the producing class. The State is not abolished. Only
its capitalist form is abolished. The State dies out in the hands of the
workers when there is no longer an opposing class to coerce.
The work of my friend George Plechanoff, "Anarchism and Socialism," was
written originally in French. It was then translated into German by Mrs.
Bernstein, and issued in pamphlet form by the German Social-Democratic
Publishing Office "Vorwärts." It was next translated by myself into
English, and so much of the translation as exigencies of space would
permit, published in the _Weekly Times and Echo_. The original French
version is now appearing in the _Jeunesse Socialiste_, and will be
issued in book form shortly. The complete English translation is now
given to English readers through the Twentieth Century Press. I have to
thank the Editor of the _Weekly Times and Echo_, Mr. Kibblewhite, for
his kindness in allowing me to use those portions of the work that
appeared in his paper.
As to the book itself. There are those who think that the precious time
of so remarkable a writer, and profound a thinker as George Plechanoff
is simply wasted in pricking Anarchist wind-bags. But, unfortunately,
there are many of the younger, or of the more ignorant sort, who are
inclined to take words for deeds, high-sounding phrases for acts, mere
sound and fury for revolutionary activity, and who are too young or too
ignorant to know that such sound and fury signify nothing. It is for the
sake of these younger, or for the sake of the more ignorant, folk, that
men like Plechanoff deal seriously with this matter of Anarchism, and do
not feel their time lost if they can, as this work must, help readers to
see the true meaning of what is called "Anarchism."
And a work like this one of Plechanoff's is doubly necessary in England,
where the Socialist movement is still largely disorganised, where there
is still such ignorance and confusion on all economic and political
subjects; where, with the exception, among the larger Socialist
organisations, of the Social-Democratic Federation (and even among the
younger S.D.F. members there is a vague sort of idea that Anarchism is
something fine and revolutionary), there has been no little coquetting
with Anarchism under an impression that it was very "advanced," and
where the Old Unionist cry of "No politics!" has unconsciously played
the reactionary Anarchist game. We cannot afford to overlook the fact
that the Socialist League became in time--when some of us had left
it--an Anarchist organisation, and that since then its leaders have
been, or still are, more or less avowed Anarchists. While quite recently
the leader of a "new party"--and that a would-be political one!--did not
hesitate to declare his Anarchist sympathies or to state that "The
methods of the Anarchists might differ from those of the Socialists, but
that might only prove that the former were more zealous than the
It is also necessary to point out once again that Anarchism and
Nihilism have no more in common than Anarchism and Socialism. As
Plechanoff said at the Zürich International Congress: "We (_i.e._, the
Russians) have had to endure every form of persecution, every thinkable
misery; but we have been spared one disgrace, one humiliation; we, at
least, have no Anarchists." A statement endorsed and emphasised by other
Russian revolutionists, and notably by the American delegate, Abraham
Cahan--himself a Russian refugee. The men and women who are waging their
heroic war in Russia and in Poland against Czarism have no more in
common with Anarchism than had the founders of the modern Socialist
movement--Carl Marx and Frederick Engels.
This little book of Plechanoff will assuredly convince the youngest even
that under any circumstances Anarchism is but another word for reaction;
and the more honest the men and women who play this reactionist game,
the more tragic and dangerous it becomes for the whole working class
Finally, there is a last reason why the issuing of this work at the
present moment is timely. In 1896 the next International Socialist and
Trade Union Congress meets in London. It is well that those who may
attend this great Congress as delegates, and that the thousands of
workers who will watch its work, should understand why the resolutions
arrived at by the Paris, Brussels, and Zürich International Congresses
with regard to the Anarchists should be enforced. The Anarchists who
cynically declare Workers' Congresses "absurd, motiveless, and
senseless" must be taught once and for all, that they cannot be allowed
to make the Congresses of the Revolutionary Socialists of the whole
world a playground for reaction and international spydom.
ELEANOR MARX AVELING.
Green Street Green, Orpington, Kent.
ANARCHISM AND SOCIALISM
THE POINT OF VIEW OF THE UTOPIAN SOCIALISTS
The French Materialists of the 18th century while waging relentless war
against all the "_infâmes_" whose yoke weighed upon the French of this
period, by no means scorned the search after what they called "perfect
legislation," _i.e._, the best of all possible legislations, such
legislation as should secure to "human beings" the greatest sum of
happiness, and could be alike applicable to all existing societies, for
the simple reason that it was "perfect" and therefore the most
"natural." Excursions into this domain of "perfect legislation" occupy
no small place in the works of a d'Holbach and a Helvétius. On the other
hand, the Socialists of the first half of our century threw themselves
with immense zeal, with unequalled perseverance, into the search after
the best of possible social organisations, after a perfect social
organisation. This is a striking and notable characteristic which they
have in common with the French Materialists of the last century, and it
is this characteristic which especially demands our attention in the
In order to solve the problem of a perfect social organisation, or what
comes to the same thing, of the best of all possible legislation, we
must eventually have some criterion by the help of which we may compare
the various "legislations" one with the other. And the criterion must
have a special attribute. In fact, there is no question of a
"legislation" _relatively_ the best, _i.e._, _the best legislation under
given conditions_. No, indeed! We have to find a _perfect_ legislation,
a legislation whose perfection should have nothing relative about it,
should be entirely independent of time and place, should be, in a word,
absolute. We are therefore driven to make abstraction from history,
since everything in history is relative, everything depends upon
circumstance, time, and place. But abstraction made of the history of
humanity, what is there left to guide us in our "legislative"
investigations? Humanity is left us, man in general, human nature--of
which history is but the manifestation. Here then we have our criterion
definitely settled, a perfect legislation. The best of all possible
legislation is that which best harmonises with human nature. It may be,
of course, that even when we have such a criterion we may, for want of
"light" or of logic, fail to solve this problem of the best legislation.
_Errare humanum est_, but it seems incontrovertible that this problem
_can_ be solved, that we can, by taking our stand upon an exact
knowledge of human nature, find a perfect legislation, a perfect
Such was, in the domain of social science, the point of view of the
French Materialists. Man is a sentient and reasonable being, they said;
he avoids painful sensations and seeks pleasurable ones. He has
sufficient intelligence to recognise what is useful to him as well as
what is harmful to him. Once you admit these axioms, and you can in your
investigations into the best legislation, arrive, with the help of
reflection and good intentions, at conclusions as well founded, as
exact, as incontrovertible as those derived from a mathematical
demonstration. Thus Condorcet undertook to construct deductively all
precepts of healthy morality by starting from the truth that man is a
sentient and reasonable being.
It is hardly necessary to say that in this Condorcet was mistaken. If
the "philosophers" in this branch of their investigations arrived at
conclusions of incontestable though very relative value, they
unconsciously owed this to the fact that they constantly abandoned their
abstract standpoint of human nature in general, and took up that of a
more or less idealised nature of a man of the Third Estate. This man
"felt" and "reasoned," after a fashion very clearly defined by his
social environment. It was his "nature" to believe firmly in bourgeois
property, representative government, freedom of trade (_laissez-faire,
laissez passer!_ the "nature" of this man was always crying out), and so
on. In reality, the French philosophers always kept in view the economic
and political requirements of the Third Estate; this was their real
criterion. But they applied it unconsciously, and only after much
wandering in the field of abstraction did they arrive at it. Their
conscious method always reduced itself to abstract considerations of
"human nature," and of the social and political institutions that best
harmonise with this nature.
Their method was also that of the Socialists. A man of the 18th century,
Morelly, "to anticipate a mass of empty objections that would be
endless," lays down as an incontrovertible principle "that in morals
nature is one, constant, invariable ... that its laws never change;" and
that "everything that may be advanced as to the variety in the morals of
savage and civilised peoples, by no means proves that nature varies;"
that at the outside it only shows "that from certain accidental causes
which are foreign to it, some nations have fallen away from the laws of
nature; others have remained submissive to them, in some respects from
mere habit; finally, others are subjected to them by certain
reasoned-out laws that are not always in contradiction with nature;" in
a word, "man may abandon the True, but the True can never be
annihilated!" Fourier relies upon the analysis of the human passions;
Robert Owen starts from certain considerations on the formation of human
character; Saint Simon, despite his deep comprehension of the historical
evolution of humanity, constantly returns to "human nature" in order to
explain the laws of this evolution; the Saint-Simonians declared their
philosophy was "based upon a new conception of human nature." The
Socialists of the various schools may quarrel as to the cause of their
different conceptions of human nature; all, without a single exception,
are convinced that social science has not and cannot have, any other
basis than an adequate concept of this nature. In this they in no wise
differ from the Materialists of the 18th century. Human nature is the
one criterion they invariably apply in their criticism of existing
society, and in their search after a social organisation as it should
be, after a "perfect" legislation.
Morelly, Fourier, Saint Simon, Owen--we look upon all of them to-day as
Utopian Socialists. Since we know the general point of view that is
common to them all, we can determine exactly what the Utopian point of
view is. This will be the more useful, seeing that the opponents of
Socialism use the word "Utopian" without attaching to it any, even
approximately, definite meaning.
The _Utopian is one who, starting from an abstract principle, seeks for
a perfect social organisation_.
The abstract principle which served as starting point of the Utopians
was that of human nature. Of course there have been Utopians who applied
the principle indirectly through the intermediary of concepts derived
from it. Thus, _e.g._, in seeking for "perfect legislation," for an
ideal organisation of society, one may start from the concept of the
Rights of Man. But it is evident that in its ultimate analysis this
concept derives from that of human nature.
It is equally evident that one may be a Utopian without being a
Socialist. The bourgeois tendencies of the French Materialists of the
last century are most noticeable in their investigations of a perfect
legislation. But this in no wise destroys the Utopian character of these
enquires. We have seen that the method of the Utopian Socialist does not
in the least differ from that of d'Holbach or Helvétius, those champions
of the revolutionary French bourgeoisie.
Nay, more. One may have the profoundest contempt for all "music of the
future," one may be convinced that the social world in which one has the
good fortune to live is the best possible of all social worlds, and yet
in spite of this one may look at the structure and life of the body
social from the same point of view as that from which the Utopians
This seems a paradox, and yet nothing could be more true. Take but one
In 1753 there appeared Morelly's work, _Les Isles Flottantes ou la
Basiliade du célébre Pelpai, traduit de l'Indien_. Now, note the
arguments with which a review, _La Bibliothèque Impartiale_, combated
the communistic ideas of the author:--"One knows well enough that a
distance separates the finest speculations of this kind and the
possibility of their realisation. For in theory one takes imaginary men
who lend themselves obediently to every arrangement, and who second with
equal zeal the views of the legislator; but as soon as one attempts to
put these things into practice one has to deal with men as they are,
that is to say, submissive, lazy, or else in the thraldom of some
violent passion. The scheme of equality especially is one that seems
most repugnant to the nature of man; they are born to command or to
serve, a middle term is a burden to them."
Men are born to command or to serve. We cannot wonder, therefore, if in
society we see masters and servants, since human nature wills it so. It
was all very well for _La Bibliothèque Impartiale_ to repudiate these
communist speculations. The point of view from which it itself looked
upon social phenomena, the point of view of human nature, it had in
common with the Utopian Morelly.
And it cannot be urged that this review was probably not sincere in its
arguments, and that it appealed to human nature with the single object
of saying something in favour of the exploiters, in favour of those who
"command." But sincere or hypocritical in its criticism of Morelly, the
_Bibliothèque Impartiale_ adopted the standpoint common to all the
writers of this period. They all of them appeal to human nature
conceived of in one form or another, with the sole exception of the
retrogrades who, living shadows of passed times, continued to appeal to
the will of God.
As we know, this concept of human nature has been inherited by the 19th
century from its predecessor. The Utopian Socialists had no other. But
here again it is easy to prove that it is not peculiar to the Utopians.
Even at the period of the Restoration, the eminent French historian,
Guizot, in his historical studies, arrived at the remarkable conclusion
that the political constitution of any given country depended upon the
"condition of property" in that country. This was an immense advance
upon the ideas of the last century which had almost exclusively
considered the action of the "legislator." But what in its turn did
these "conditions of property" depend on? Guizot is unable to answer
this question, and after long, vain efforts to find a solution of the
enigma in historical circumstances, he returns, falls back _nolens
volens_, upon the theory of human nature. Augustin Thierry, another
eminent historian of the Restoration, found himself in almost the same
case, or rather he would have done so if only he had tried to
investigate this question of the "condition of property" and its
historical vicissitudes. In his concept of social life, Thierry was
never able to go beyond his master Saint Simon, who, as we have seen
above, held firmly to the point of view of human nature.
The example of the brilliant Saint Simon, a man of encyclopædic
learning, demonstrates more clearly perhaps than any other, how narrow
and insufficient was this point of view, in what confusion worse
confounded of contradictions it landed those who applied it. Says Saint
Simon, with the profoundest conviction: "The future is made up of the
last terms of a series, the first of which consist of the past. When one
has thoroughly mastered the first terms of any series it is easy to put
down their successors; thus from the past carefully observed one can
easily deduce the future." This is so true that one asks oneself at the
first blush why a man who had so clear a conception of the connection
between the various phases of historical evolution, should be classed
among the Utopians. And yet, look more closely at the historical ideas
of Saint Simon, and you will find that we are not wrong in calling him a
Utopian. The future is deducible from the past, the historical evolution
of humanity is a process governed by law. But what is the impetus, the
motive power that sets in motion the human species, that makes it pass
from one phase of its evolution to another? Of what does this impetus
consist? Where are we to seek it? It is here that Saint Simon comes back
to the point of view of all the Utopians, to the point of view of human
nature. Thus, according to him, the essential fundamental cause of the
French Revolution was a change in the temporal and spiritual forces,
and, in order to direct it wisely and conclude it rightly, it "was
necessary to put into direct political activity the forces which had
become preponderant." In other words, the manufacturers and the
_savants_ ought to have been called upon to formulate a political system
corresponding to the new social conditions. This was not done, and the
Revolution which had began so well was almost immediately directed into
a false path. The lawyers and metaphysicians became the masters of the
situation. How to explain this historical fact? "It is in the nature of
man," replies Saint Simon, "to be unable to pass without some
intermediate phase from any one doctrine to another. This law applies
most stringently to the various political systems, through which the
natural advance of civilisation compels the human species to pass. Thus
the same necessity which in industry has created the element of a new
temporal power, destined to replace military power, and which in the
positive sciences, has created the element of a new spiritual power,
called upon to take the place of theological power, must have developed
and set in activity (before the change in the conditions of society had
begun to be very perceptible) a temporal or spiritual power of an
intermediary, bastard, and transitory nature, whose only mission was to
bring about the transition from one social system to another."
So we see that the "historical series" of Saint Simon really explained
nothing at all; they themselves need explanation, and for this we have
again to fall back upon this inevitable human nature. The French
Revolution was directed along a certain line, because human nature was
so and so.
One of two things. Either human nature is, as Morelly thought,
invariable, and then it explains nothing in history, which shows us
constant variations in the relations of man to society; or it does vary
according to the circumstances in which men live, and then, far from
being the _cause_, it is itself the _effect_ of historical evolution.
The French Materialists knew well enough that man is the product of his
social surroundings. "Man is all education," said Helvétius. This would
lead one to suppose that Helvétius must have abandoned the human nature
point of view in order to study the laws of the evolution of the
environment that fashion human nature, giving to socialised man such or
such an "education." And indeed Helvétius did make some efforts in this
direction. But not he, nor his contemporaries, nor the Socialists of the
first half of our century, nor any representatives of science of the
same period, succeeded in discovering a new point of view that should
permit the study of the evolution of the social environment; the cause
of the historical "education" of man, the cause of the changes which
occur in his "nature." They were thus forced back upon the human nature
point of view as the only one that seemed to supply them with a fairly
solid basis for their scientific investigations. But since human nature
in its turn varied, it became indispensable to make abstraction from its
variations, and to seek in nature only stable properties, fundamental
properties preserved in spite of all changes of its secondary
properties. And in the end all that these speculations resulted in was a
meagre abstraction, like that of the philosophers, _e.g._, "man is a
sentient and reasonable being," which seemed all the more precious a
discovery in that it left plenty of room for every gratuitous
hypothesis, and every fantastical conclusion.
A Guizot had no need to seek for the best of social organisations for a
perfect legislation. He was perfectly satisfied with the existing ones.
And assuredly the most powerful argument he could have advanced to
defend them from the attacks of the malcontents would still have been
human nature, which he would have said renders every serious change in
the social and political constitution of France impossible. The
malcontents condemned this same constitution, making use of the same
abstraction. And since this abstraction, being completely empty, left,
as we have said, full room for every gratuitous hypothesis and the
logical consequences resulting therefrom, the "scientific" mission of
these reformers assumed the appearance of a geometrical problem; given a
certain nature, find what structure of society best corresponds with it.
So Morelly complains bitterly because "our old teachers" failed to
attempt the solution of "this excellent problem"--"to find the condition
in which it should be almost impossible for men to be depraved, or
wicked, or at any rate, _minima de malis_." We have already seen that
for Morelly human nature was "one, constant, invariable."
We now know what was the "scientific" method of the Utopians. Before we
leave them let us remind the reader that in human nature, an extremely
thin and therefore not very satisfying abstraction, the Utopians really
appealed, not to human nature in general, but to the idealised nature of
the men of their own day, belonging to the class whose social tendencies
they represented. The social reality, therefore, inevitably appears in
the words of the Utopians, but the Utopians were unconscious of this.
They saw this reality only across an abstraction which, thin as it was,
was by no means translucent.
 See "Code de la Nature," Paris, 1841. Villegardelle's edition, Note
to p. 66.
 "The floating islands or the Basiliades of the celebrated Pelpai,
translated from the Indian."
THE POINT OF VIEW OF SCIENTIFIC SOCIALISM
The great idealistic philosophers of Germany, Schelling and Hegel,
understood the insufficiency of the human nature point of view. Hegel,
in his "Philosophy of History," makes fun of the Utopian bourgeoisie in
search of the best of constitutions. German Idealism conceived history
as a process subject to law, and sought the motive-power of the
historical movement _outside the nature of man_. This was a great step
towards the truth. But the Idealists saw this motive-power in the
absolute idea, in the "Weltgeist;" and as their absolute idea was only
an abstraction of "our process of thinking," in their philosophical
speculation upon history, they reintroduced the old love of the
Materialist philosophers--human nature--but dressed in robes worthy of
the respectable and austere society of German thinkers. Drive nature out
of the door, she flies in at the window! Despite the great services
rendered to social science by the German Idealists, the great problem of
that science, its essential problem, was no more solved in the time of
the German Idealists than in the time of the French Materialists. What
is this hidden force that causes the historic movement of humanity? No
one knew anything about it. In this field there was nothing to go upon
save a few isolated observations, more or less accurate, more or less
ingenious--sometimes indeed, very accurate and ingenious--but always
disjointed and always incomplete.
That social science at last emerged from this No Thoroughfare, it owes
to Karl Marx.
According to Marx, "legal relations, like forms of State, can neither be
understood in themselves nor from the so-called general development of
the human mind, but are rather rooted in those material conditions of
life, whose totality Hegel, following the English and the French of the
18th century, summed up under the name of 'bourgeois society.'" This is
almost the same as Guizot meant when he said that political
constitutions had their roots in "the condition of property." But while
for Guizot "the condition of property" remained a mystery which he
vainly sought to elucidate with the help of reflections upon human
nature, for Marx this "condition" had nothing mysterious; it is
determined by the condition of the productive forces at the disposal of
a given society. "The anatomy of bourgeois society is to be sought in
political economy." But Marx himself shall formulate his own conception
"In the social production of their lives, men enter upon certain
definite, necessary relations, relations independent of their will,
relations of production that correspond with definite degrees of
development of their material productive forces. The totality of these
relations of production constitute the economic structure of society,
the true basis from which arises a juridical and political
superstructure to which definite social forms of consciousness
correspond. The mode of production of material life determines the
social, political and intellectual processes of life. It is not the
consciousness of mankind that determines their being, but, on the
contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. In a
certain stage of their development, the material forces of production of
society come into contradiction with the existing relations of
production, or, which is only a juridical expression for the same thing,
with the relations of property within which they had hitherto moved.
From forms for the development of these forces of production, they are
transformed into their fetters. We then enter upon an epoch of social
This completely materialist conception of history is one of the greatest
discoveries of our century, so rich in scientific discoveries. Thanks to
it alone sociology has at last, and for ever, escaped from the vicious
circle in which it had, until then, turned; thanks to it alone this
science now possesses a foundation as solid as natural science. The
revolution made by Marx in social science may be compared with that made
by Kopernicus in astronomy. In fact, before Kopernicus, it was believed
that the earth remained stationary, while the sun turned round it. The
Polish genius demonstrated that what occurred was the exact contrary.
And so, up to the time of Marx, the point of view taken by social
science, was that of "human nature;" and it was from this point of view
that men attempted to explain the historical movement of humanity. To
this the point of view of the German genius is diametrically opposed.
While man, in order to maintain his existence, acts upon nature outside
himself, he alters his own nature. The action of man upon the nature
outside himself, pre-supposes certain instruments, certain means of
production; according to the character of their means of production men
enter into certain relations within the process of production (since
this process is a social one), and according to their relations in this
social process of production, their habits, their sentiments, their
desires, their methods of thought and of action, in a word, their
nature, vary. Thus it is not human nature which explains the historical
movement; it is the historical movement which fashions diversely human
But if this is so, what is the value of all the more or less laborious,
more or less ingenious enquiries into "perfect legislation" and the best
of possible social organisations? None; literally none! They can but
bear witness to the lack of scientific education in those who pursue
them. Their day is gone for ever. With this old point of view of human
nature must disappear the Utopias of every shade and colour. The great
revolutionary party of our day, the International Social-Democracy, is
based not upon some "new conception" of human nature, nor upon any
abstract principle, but upon a scientifically demonstrable economic
necessity. And herein lies the real strength of this party, making it as
invincible as the economic necessity itself.
"The means of production and exchange on whose foundation the
bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a
certain stage in the development of these means of production and
exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and
exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture and manufacturing
industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property become no longer
compatible with the already developed productive forces, they become so
many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder.
Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and
political constitution adapted to it, and by the economical and
political sway of the bourgeois class. A similar movement is going on
before our own eyes. Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of
production, of exchange, and of property, a society that has conjured up
such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer,
who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he
has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of
industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern
productive forces against the property relations that are the conditions
for the existence of the bourgeoisie and its rule. It is enough to
mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put on
its trial, each time more threateningly, the existence of the entire
bourgeois society.... The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled
feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie
The bourgeoisie destroyed the feudal conditions of property; the
proletariat will put an end to the bourgeois conditions of property.
Between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie a struggle, an implacable
war, a war to the knife, is as inevitable as, was in its way, the
struggle between the bourgeoisie and the privileged estates. _But every
class war is a political war._ In order to do away with feudal society
the bourgeoisie had to seize upon political power. In order to do away
with capitalist society the proletariat must do the same. Its political
task is therefore traced out for it beforehand by the force of events
themselves, and not by any abstract consideration.
It is a remarkable fact that it is only since Karl Marx that Socialism
has taken its stand upon the class war. The Utopian Socialists had no
notion--even an inexact one--of it. And in this they lagged behind their
contemporary theorists of the bourgeoisie, who understood very well the
historical significance at any rate of the struggle of the third estate
against the nobles.
If every "new conception" of human nature seemed to supply very
definite indications as to the organisation of "the society of the
future," Scientific Socialism is very chary of such speculations. The
structure of society depends upon the conditions of its productive
forces. What these conditions will be when the proletariat is in power
we do not know. We now know but one thing--that the productive forces
already at the disposal of civilised humanity imperatively demand the
socialisation and systematised organisation of the means of production.
This is enough to prevent our being led astray in our struggle against
"the reactionary mass." "The Communists, therefore, are practically the
most advanced and resolute section of the working class parties of every
country ... theoretically they have over the great mass of the
proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march,
the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian
movement." These words, written in 1848, are to-day incorrect only in
one sense: they speak of "working class parties" independent of the
Communist party; there is to-day no working class party which does not
more or less closely follow the flag of Scientific Socialism, or, as it
was called in the Manifesto, "Communism."
Once again, then, the point of view of the Utopian Socialists, as indeed
of all social science of their time, was human nature, or some abstract
principle deriving from this idea. The point of view of the social
science, of the Socialism of our time is that of economic reality, and
of the immanent laws of its evolution.
It is easy, therefore, to form an idea of the impression made upon
modern Socialists by the arguments of the bourgeois theorists who sing
ceaselessly the same old song of the incompatibility of human nature and
communism. It is as though one would wage war upon the Darwinians with
arms drawn from the scientific arsenal of Cuvier's time. And a most
noteworthy fact is that the "evolutionists" like Herbert Spencer,
themselves are not above piping to the same tune.
And now let us see what relation there may be between modern Socialism
and what is called Anarchism.
 "Zur Kritik der Politischen OEkonomie," Berlin, 1859. Preface iv. v.
 "Manifesto of the Communist Party." By Karl Marx and Frederick
Engels. Authorised English translation by S. Moore, pp. 11-12.
 "Communist Manifesto," p. 16.
 "The belief not only of the Socialists, but also of those so-called
Liberals who are diligently preparing the way for them, is that by due
skill an ill-working humanity may be framed into well-working
institutions. It is a delusion. The defective nature of citizens will
show themselves in the bad acting of whatever social structure they are
arranged into. There is no political alchemy by which you can get golden
conduct out of leaden instincts."--Herbert Spencer's "The Man _versus_
the State," p. 43.
THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE ANARCHIST DOCTRINE
THE POINT OF VIEW OF ANARCHISM.
"I have often been reproached with being the father of Anarchism. This
is doing me too great an honour. The father of Anarchism is the immortal
Proudhon, who expounded it for the first time in 1848."
Thus spoke Peter Kropotkin in his defence before the Correctional
Tribunal of Lyons at his trial in January, 1883. As is frequently the
case with my amiable compatriot, Kropotkin has here made a statement
that is incorrect. For "the first time" Proudhon spoke of Anarchism was
in his celebrated book "_Qu'est-ce que le Propriété, ou Recherches sur
le principe du droit et du Gouvernement_," the first edition of which
had already appeared in 1840. It is true that he "expounds" very little
of it here; he only devotes a few pages to it. And before he set
about expounding the Anarchist theory "in 1848," the job had already
been done by a German, Max Stirner (the pseudonym of Caspar Schmidt) in
1845, in his book "Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum." Max Stirner has
therefore a well defined claim to be the father of Anarchism. "Immortal"
or not, it is by him that the theory was "expounded" _for the first
The Anarchist theory of Max Stirner has been called a caricature of the
"philosophy of religion" of Ludwig Feuerbach. It is thus, _e.g._, that
Ueberweg in his "Grundzüge der Geschichte der Philosophie," (3rd. part,
"Philosophie der Neu Zeit") speaks of it. Some have even supposed that
the only object Stirner had in writing his book was to poke fun at this
philosophy. This supposition is absolutely gratuitous. Stirner in
expounding his theory was not joking. He is in deadly earnest about it,
though he now and again betrays a tendency, natural enough in the
restless times when he wrote, to outdo Feuerbach and the radical
character of his conclusions.
For Feuerbach, what men call Divinity, is only the product of their
phantasy, of a psychological aberration. It is not Divinity that has
created man, but man who creates Divinity in his own image. In God man
only adores his own being. God is only a fiction, but a very harmful
fiction. The Christian God is supposed to be all love, all pity for poor
suffering humanity. But in spite of this, or rather _because of it_,
every Christian really worthy the name, hates, and must hate, the
Atheists, who appear to him the living negation of all love and all
pity. Thus the god of love becomes the god of hate, the god of
persecution; the product of the phantasy of man becomes a real cause of
his suffering. So we must make an end of this phantasmagoria. Since in
Divinity man adores only his own being, we must once for all rend and
scatter to the winds the mystic veil beneath which this being has been
enveloped. The love of humanity must not extend beyond humanity. "Der
Mensch ist dem Menschen das höchste Wesen" (Man is the highest being for
Thus Feuerbach. Max Stirner is quite at one with him, but wishes to
deduce what he believes to be the final, the most radical consequences
of his theory. He reasons in this fashion. God is only the product of
phantasy, is only a _spook_. Agreed. But what is this humanity the love
of which you prescribe to me? Is not this also a spook, an abstract
thing, a creature of the imagination? Where is this humanity of yours?
Where does it exist but in the minds of men, in the minds of
individuals? The only reality, therefore, is the _individual_, with his
wants, his tendencies, his will. But since this is so, how can the
_individual_, the reality, sacrifice himself for the happiness of man,
an abstract being? It is all very well for you to revolt against the old
God; you still retain the religious point of view, and the emancipation
you are trying to help us to is absolutely theological, _i.e._,
"God-inspired." "The highest Being is certainly that of man, but because
it is his _Being_ and is not he himself, it is quite indifferent if we
see this Being outside of him as God, or find it in him and call it the
'Being of Mankind' or 'Man.' _I_ am neither God nor Man, neither the
highest Being, nor my own Being, and therefore it is essentially a
matter of indifference if I imagine this Being in myself or outside
myself. And, indeed, we do always imagine the highest being in the two
future states, in the internal and external at once; for the 'Spirit of
God' is, according to the Christian conception, also 'our spirit' and
'dwells within us.' It dwells in heaven and dwells in us; but we poor
things are but its 'dwelling-place,' and if Feuerbach destroys its
heavenly dwelling-place and forces it to come down to us bag and
baggage, we, its earthly abode, will find ourselves very
To escape the inconveniences of such over-crowding, to avoid being
dominated by any spook, to at last place our foot upon actual ground,
there is but one way: to take as our starting-point the only real being,
our own Ego, "Away then with everything that is not wholly and solely my
own affair! You think my own concerns must at least be 'good ones?' A
fig for good and evil! I am I, and I am neither good nor evil. Neither
has any meaning for me. The godly is the affair of God, the human that
of humanity. My concern is neither the Godly nor the Human, is not the
True, the Good, the Right, the Free, etc., but simply my own self, and
it is not general, it is individual, as I myself am individual. For me
there is nothing above myself."
Religion, conscience, morality, right, law, family, state, are but so
many fetters forced upon me in the name of an abstraction, but so many
despotic lords whom "I," the individual conscious of my own "concerns,"
combat by every means in my power. Your "_morality_," not merely the
morality of the bourgeois philistines, but the most elevated, the most
humanitarian morality is only religion which has changed its supreme
beings. Your "_right_," that you believe born with man, is but a ghost,
and if you respect it, you are no farther advanced than the heroes of
Homer who were afraid when they beheld a god fighting in the ranks of
their enemies. Right is might. "Whoever has might, he has right; if you
have not the former you have not the latter. Is this wisdom so difficult
of attainment?" You would persuade me to sacrifice my interests to
those of the State. I, on the contrary, declare war to the knife to all
States, even the most democratic. "Every State is a despotism, whether
it is the despotism of one or many, or whether, as one might suppose
would be the case in a Republic, all are masters, _i.e._, one tyrannises
over the rest. For this is the case whenever a given law, the expressed
will perhaps of some assemblage of the people, is immediately to become
a law to the individual, which he must obey, and which it is his _duty_
to obey. Even if one were to suppose a case in which every individual
among the people had expressed the same will, and thus a perfect "will
of all" had easily been arrived at, the thing would still be the same.
Should I not to-day and in the future be bound by my will of yesterday?
In this event my will would be paralyzed. Fatal stagnation! My creation,
_i.e._, a certain expression of will would have become my master. But I,
in my will should be constrained, I, the creator should be constrained
in my development, my working out. Because I was a fool yesterday, I
must remain one all my life. So that in my life in relation to the State
I am at best--I might as well say at worst--a slave to my own self.
Because yesterday I had a will, I am to-day without one; yesterday free,
Here a partisan of the "People's State" might observe to Stirner, that
his "I" goes a little too far in his desire to reduce democratic liberty
to absurdity; further, that a bad law may be abrogated as soon as a
majority of citizens desire it, and that one is not forced to submit to
it "all one's life." But this is only an insignificant detail, to which,
moreover, Stirner would reply that the very necessity for appealing to a
majority proves that "I" am no longer the master of my own conduct. The
conclusions of our author are irrefutable, for the simple reason that
to say, I recognize nothing above myself, is to say, I feel oppressed by
every institution that imposes any duty upon me. It is simply tautology.
It is evident that no "Ego" can exist quite alone. Stirner knows this
perfectly, and this is why he advocates "Leagues of Egoists," that is to
say, free associations into which every "Ego" enters, and in which he
remains when and so long as it suits his interests.
Here let us pause. We are now face to face with an "egoist" system _par
excellence_. It is, perhaps, the only one that the history of human
thought has to chronicle. The French Materialists of the last century
have been accused of preaching egoism. The accusation was quite wrong.
The French Materialists always preached "Virtue," and preached it with
such unlimited zeal that Grimm could, not without reason, make fun of
their _capucinades_ on the subject. The question of egoism presented to
them a double problem. (1) Man is all sensation (this was the basis of
all their speculations upon man); by his very nature he is forced to
shun suffering and to seek pleasure; how comes it then that we find men
capable of enduring the greatest sufferings for the sake of some idea,
that is to say, in its final analysis, in order to provide agreeable
sensations for their fellow-men. (2) Since man is all sensation he will
harm his fellow-man if he is placed in a social environment where the
interests of an individual conflict with those of others. What form of
legislation therefore can harmonise public good and that of
individuals? Here, in this double problem, lies the whole significance
of what is called the materialist ethics of the 18th century. Max
Stirner pursues an end entirely opposed to this. He laughs at "Virtue,"
and, far from desiring its triumph, he sees reasonable men only in
egoists, for whom there is nothing above their own "Ego." Once again, he
is the theorist _par excellence_ of egoism.
The good bourgeois whose ears are as chaste and virtuous as their hearts
are hard; they who, "drinking wine, publicly preach water," were
scandalised to the last degree by the "immorality" of Stirner. "It is
the complete ruin of the moral world," they cried. But as usual the
virtue of the philistines showed itself very weak in argument. "The real
merit of Stirner is that he has spoken the last word of the young
atheist school" (_i.e._, the left wing of the Hegelian school), wrote
the Frenchman, St. Réné Taillandier. The philistines of other lands
shared this view of the "merits" of the daring publicist. From the point
of view of modern Socialism this "merit" appears in a very different
To begin with, the incontestable merit of Stirner consists in his having
openly and energetically combated the sickly sentimentalism of the
bourgeois reformers and of many of the Utopian Socialists, according to
which the emancipation of the proletariat would be brought about by the
virtuous activity of "devoted" persons of all classes, and especially of
those of the possessing-class. Stirner knew perfectly what to expect
from the "devotion" of the exploiters. The "rich" are harsh,
hard-hearted, but the "poor" (the terminology is that of our author) are
wrong to complain of it, since it is not the rich who create the poverty
of the poor, but the poor who create the wealth of the rich. They ought
to blame themselves then if their condition is a hard one. In order to
change it they have only to revolt against the rich; as soon as they
seriously wish it, they will be the strongest and the reign of wealth
will be at an end. Salvation lies in struggle, and not in fruitless
appeals to the generosity of the oppressors. Stirner, therefore,
preaches the class war. It is true that he represents it in the abstract
form of the struggle of a certain number of egoist "Egos" against
another smaller number of "Egos" not less egoist. But here we come to
another merit of Stirner's.
According to Taillandier, he has spoken the last word of the young
atheist school of German philosophers. As a matter of fact he has only
spoken the last word of idealist speculation. But that word he has
incontestably the merit of having spoken.
In his criticism of religion Feuerbach is but half a Materialist. In
worshipping God, man only worships his own Being idealised. This is
true. But religions spring up and die out, like everything else upon
earth. Does this not prove that the human Being is not immutable, but
changes in the process of the historical evolution of societies?
Clearly, yes. But, then, what is the cause of the historical
transformation of the "human Being?" Feuerbach does not know. For him
the human Being is only an abstract notion, as human Nature was for the
French Materialists. This is the fundamental fault of his criticism of
religion. Stirner said that it had no very robust constitution. He
wished to strengthen it by making it breathe the fresh air of reality.
He turns his back upon all phantoms, upon all things of the imagination.
In reality, he said to himself, these are only individuals. Let us take
the individual for our starting-point. But _what_ individual does he
take for his starting-point? Tom, Dick, or Harry? Neither. He takes the
_individual in general_--he takes a new abstraction, the thinnest of
them all--he takes the "Ego."
Stirner naïvely imagined that he was finally solving an old
philosophical question, which had already divided the Nominalists and
the Realists of the Middle Ages. "No Idea has an existence," he says,
"for none is capable of becoming corporeal. The scholastic controversy
of Realism and Nominalism had the same content." Alas! The first
Nominalist he came across could have demonstrated to our author by the
completest evidence, that his "Ego" is as much an "Idea" as any other,
and that it is as little real as a mathematical unit.
Tom, Dick and Harry have relations with one another that do not depend
upon the will of their "Ego," but are imposed upon them by the structure
of the society in which they live. To criticise social institutions in
the name of the "Ego," is therefore to abandon the only profitable
point of view in the case, _i.e._, that of society, of the laws of its
existence and evolution, and to lose oneself in the mists of
abstraction. But it is just in these mists that the "Nominalist" Stirner
delights. I am I--that is his starting-point; not I is not I--that is
his result. I+I+I+etc.--is his social Utopia. It is subjective Idealism,
pure and simple applied to social and political criticism. It is the
suicide of idealist speculation.
But in the same year (1845) in which "Der Einzige" of Stirner appeared,
there appeared also, at Frankfort-on-Maine the work of Marx and Engels,
"Die heilige Familie, oder Kritik der Kritischen Kritik, gegen Bruno
Bauer und Consorten." In it Idealist speculation was attacked and
beaten by Materialist dialectic, the theoretical basis of modern
Socialism. "Der Einzige" came too late.
We have just said that I+I+I+etc. represents the social Utopia of
Stirner. His League of Egoists is, in fact, nothing but a mass of
abstract quantities. What are, what can be the basis of their union?
Their interests, answers Stirner. But what will, what can be the true
basis of any given combination of their interests? Stirner says nothing
about it, and he can say nothing definite since from the abstract
heights on which he stands, one cannot see clearly economic reality, the
mother and nurse of all the "Egos," egoistic or altruistic. Nor is it
surprising that he is not able to explain clearly even this idea of the
class struggle, of which he nevertheless had a happy inkling. The "poor"
must combat the "rich." And after, when they have conquered these? Then
every one of the former "poor," like every one of the former "rich,"
will combat every one of the former poor, and against every one of the
former rich. There will be the war of all against all. (These are
Stirner's own words.) And the rules of the "Leagues of Egoists" will be
so many partial truces in this colossal and universal warfare. There is
plenty of fight in this idea, but of the "realism" Max Stirner dreamed
But enough of the "Leagues of Egoists." A Utopian may shut his eyes to
economic reality, but it forces itself upon him in spite of himself; it
pursues him everywhere with the brutality of a natural force not
controlled by force. The elevated regions of the abstract "I" do not
save Stirner from the attacks of economic reality. He does not speak to
us only of the "Individual"; his theme is "the Individual _and his
property_." Now, what sort of a figure does the property of the
It goes without saying, that Stirner is little inclined to respect
property as an "acquired right." "Only that property will be legally and
lawfully another's which it suits _you_ should be his property. When it
ceases to suit you, it has lost its legality for you, and any absolute
right in it you will laugh at." It is always the same tune: "For me
there is nothing above myself." But his scant respect for the property
of others does not prevent the "Ego" of Stirner from having the
tendencies of a property-owner. The strongest argument against
Communism, is, in his opinion, the consideration that Communism by
abolishing individual property transforms all members of society into
mere beggars. Stirner is indignant at such an iniquity.
"Communists think that the Commune should be the property-owner. On the
contrary, _I_ am a property-owner, and can only agree with others as to
my property. If the Commune does not do as I wish I rebel against it,
and defend my property, I am the owner of property, but property _is not
sacred_. Should I only be the holder of property (an allusion to
Proudhon)? No, hitherto one was only a holder of property, assured of
possession of a piece of land, because one left others also in
possession of a piece of land; but now _everything_ belongs to me, I am
the owner of _everything I need_, and can get hold of. If the Socialist
says, society gives me what I need, the Egoist says, I take what I want.
If the Communists behave like beggars, the Egoist behaves like an owner
of property." The property of the egoist seems pretty shaky. An
"Egoist," retains his property only as long as the other "Egoists" do
not care to take it from him, thus transforming him into a "beggar." But
the devil is not so black as he is painted. Stirner pictures the mutual
relations of the "Egoist" proprietors rather as relations of exchange
than of pillage. And force, to which he constantly appeals, is rather
the economic force of a producer of commodities freed from the trammels
which the State and "Society" in general impose, or seem to impose, upon
It is the soul of a producer of commodities that speaks through the
mouth of Stirner. If he falls foul of the State, it is because the State
does not seem to respect the "property" of the producers of commodities
sufficiently. He wants _his_ property, his _whole_ property. The State
makes him pay taxes; it ventures to expropriate him for the public good.
He wants a _jus utendi et abutendi_; the State says "agreed"--but adds
that there are abuses and abuses. Then Stirner cries "stop thief!" "I am
the enemy of the State," says he, "which is always fluctuating between
the alternative: He or I.... With the State there is no property,
_i.e._, no individual property, only State property. Only through the
State have I what I have, as it is only through the State that I am what
I am. My private property is only what the State leaves me of its own,
while it deprives other citizens of it: that is State property." So down
with the State and long live full and complete individual property!
Stirner translated into German J. B. Say's "Traité D'Economie Politique
Pratique" (Leipsic, 1845-46). And although he also translated Adam
Smith, he was never able to get beyond the narrow circle of the ordinary
bourgeois economic ideas. His "League of Egoists" is only the Utopia of
a petty bourgeois in revolt. In this sense one may say he has spoken the
last word of bourgeois individualism.
Stirner has also a third merit--that of the courage of his opinions, of
having carried through to the very end his individualist theories. He is
the most intrepid, the most consequent of the Anarchists. By his side
Proudhon, whom Kropotkin, like all the present day Anarchists, takes for
the father of Anarchism, is but a straight-laced Philistine.
 See pages 295-305 of the 1841 edition.
 "The Individual and his Property."
 "Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum." 2nd ed., Leipzig, 1882, pp. 35-36.
(American translation: "The Ego and his Own." New York: 1907.)
 Ibid. Pp. 7-8.
 Ibid. pp. 196-197.
 Ibid. p. 200.
 "The Holy Family, or Criticism of Critical Criticism, against Bruno
Bauer and Company."
 Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum.
 Ibid. p. 266.
If Stirner combats Feuerbach, the "immortal" Proudhon imitates Kant.
"What Kant did some sixty years ago for religion, what he did earlier
for certainty of certainties; what others before him had attempted to do
for happiness or supreme good, the 'Voice of the People' proposes to do
for the Government," pompously declares "the father of Anarchism." Let
us examine his methods and their results.
According to Proudhon, before Kant, the believer and the philosopher
moved "by an irresistible impulse," asked themselves, "What is God?"
They then asked themselves "Which, of all religions, is the best?" "In
fact, if there does exist a Being superior to Humanity, there must also
exist a system of the relations between this Being and Humanity. What
then is this system? The search for the best religion is the second step
that the human mind takes in reason and in faith. Kant gave up these
insoluble questions. He no longer asked himself what is God, and which
is the best religion, he set about explaining the origin and development
of the Idea of God; he undertook to work out the biography of this
idea." And the results he attained were as great as they were
unexpected. "What we seek, what we see, in God, as Malebranche said ...
is our own Ideal, the pure essence of Humanity.... The human soul does
not become conscious of its Ego through premeditated contemplation, as
the psychologists put it; the soul perceives something outside itself,
as if it were a different Being face to face with itself, and it is this
inverted image which it calls God. Thus morality, justice, order, law,
are no longer things revealed from above, imposed upon our free will by
a so-called Creator, unknown and ununderstandable; they are things that
are proper and essential to us as our faculties and our organs, as our
flesh and our blood. In two words religion and society are synonymous
terms, man is as sacred to himself as if he were God."
Belief in authority is as primitive, as universal as belief in God.
Whenever men are grouped together in societies there is authority, the
beginning of a government. From time immemorial men have asked
themselves, What is authority? Which is the best form of government? And
replies to these questions have been sought for in vain. There are as
many governments as there are religions, as many political theories as
systems of philosophy. Is there any way of putting an end to this
interminable and barren controversy? Any means of escape from this
_impasse_! Assuredly! We have only to follow the example of Kant. We
have only to ask ourselves whence comes this idea of authority, of
government? We have only to get all the information we can upon the
legitimacy of the political idea. Once safe on this ground and the
question solves itself with extraordinary ease.
"Like religion, government is a manifestation of social spontaneity, a
preparation of humanity for a higher condition."
"What humanity seeks in religion and calls God, is itself." "What the
citizen seeks in Government and calls king, emperor, or president, is
again himself, is liberty." "Outside humanity there is no God; the
theological concept has no meaning:--outside liberty no government, the
political concept has no value."
So much for the "biography" of the political idea. Once grasped it must
enlighten us upon the question as to which is the best form of
"The best form of government, like the most perfect of religions, taken
in a literal sense, is a contradictory idea. The problem is not to
discover how we shall be best governed, but how we shall be most free.
Liberty commensurate and identical with Order,--this is the only reality
of government and politics. How shall this absolute liberty, synonymous
with order, be brought about? We shall be taught this by the analysis of
the various formulas of authority. For all the rest we no more admit the
governing of man by man than the exploitation of man by man."
We have now climbed to the topmost heights of Proudhon's political
philosophy. It is from this that the fresh and vivifying stream of his
Anarchist thought flows. Before we follow the somewhat tortuous course
of this stream let us glance back at the way we have climbed.
We fancied we were following Kant. We were mistaken. In his "Critique of
Pure Reason" Kant has demonstrated the impossibility of proving the
existence of God, because everything outside experience must escape us
absolutely. In his "Critique of Practical Reason" Kant admitted the
existence of God in the name of morality. But he has never declared that
God was a topsy-turvy image of our own soul. What Proudhon attributes to
Kant, indubitably belongs to Feuerbach. Thus it is in the footsteps of
the latter that we have been treading, while roughly tracing out the
"biography" of the political Idea. So that Proudhon brings us back to
the very starting point of our most unsentimental journey with Stirner.
No matter. Let us once more return to the reasoning of Feuerbach.
It is only itself that humanity seeks in religion. It is only himself,
it is liberty that the citizen seeks in Government.... Then the very
essence of the citizen is liberty? Let us assume this is true, but let
us also note that our French "Kant" has done nothing, absolutely
nothing, to prove the "legitimacy" of such an "Idea." Nor is this all.
What is this liberty which we are assuming to be the essence of the
citizen? Is it political liberty which ought in the nature of things to
be the main object of his attention? Not a bit of it! To assume this
would be to make of the "citizen" an "authoritarian" democrat.
It is the _absolute liberty of the individual_, which is at the same
time _commensurate and identical with_ Order, that our citizen seeks in
Government. In other words, it is the Anarchism of Proudhon which is the
essence of the "citizen." It is impossible to make a more pleasing
discovery, but the "biography" of this discovery gives us pause. We have
been trying to demolish every argument in favour of the Idea of
Authority, as Kant demolished every proof of the existence of God. To
attain this end we have--imitating Feuerbach to some extent, according
to whom man adored his own Being in God--assumed that it is liberty
which the citizen seeks in Government. And as to liberty we have in a
trice transformed this into "absolute" liberty, into Anarchist liberty.
Eins, zwei, drei; Geschwindigkeit ist keine Hexerei!
Since the "citizen" only seeks "absolute" liberty in Government the
State is nothing but a fiction ("this fiction of a superior person,
called the 'State'"), and all those formulas of government for which
people and citizens have been cutting one another's throats for the last
sixty centuries, are but the "phantasmagoria of our brain, which it
would be the first duty of free reason to relegate to the museums and
libraries." Which is another charming discovery made _en passant_. So
that the political history of humanity has, "for sixty centuries," had
no other motive power than a phantasmagoria of our brain!
To say that man adores in God his own essence is to indicate the
_origin_ of religion, but it is not to work out its "biography." To
write the biography of religion is to write its history, explaining the
evolution of this essence of man which found expression in it. Feuerbach
did not do this--could not do it. Proudhon, trying to imitate Feuerbach,
was very far from recognising the insufficiency of his point of view.
All Proudhon has done is to take Feuerbach for Kant, and to ape his
Kant-Feuerbach in a most pitiful manner. Having heard that Divinity was
but a fiction, he concluded that the State is also a figment: since God
does not exist, how can the State exist? Proudhon wished to combat the
State and began by declaring it non-existent. And the readers of the
"Voix du Peuple" applauded, and the opponents of M. Proudhon were
alarmed at the profundity of his philosophy! Truly a tragi-comedy!
It is hardly necessary for modern readers to add that in taking the
State for a fiction we make it altogether impossible to understand its
"essence" or to explain its historical evolution. And this was what
happened to Proudhon.
"In every society I distinguish two kinds of constitution," says he;
"the one which I call _social_, the other which is its _political_
constitution; the first innate in humanity, liberal, necessary, its
development consisting above all in weakening, and gradually eliminating
the second, which is essentially factitious, restrictive, and
transitory. The social constitution is nothing but the equilibration of
interests based upon free contract and the organisation of the economic
forces, which, generally speaking, are labour, division of labour,
collective force, competition, commerce, money, machinery, credit,
property, equality in transactions, reciprocity of guarantees, etc. The
principle of the political constitution is authority. Its forms are:
distinction of classes, separation of powers, administrative
centralisation, the judicial hierarchy, the representation of
sovereignty by elections, etc. The political constitution was conceived
and gradually completed in the interest of order, for want of a social
constitution, the rules and principles of which could only be discovered
as a result of long experience, and are even to-day the object of
Socialist controversy. These two constitutions, as it is easy to see,
are by nature absolutely different and even incompatible: but as it is
the fate of the political constitution to constantly call forth and
produce the social constitution something of the latter enters into the
former, which, soon becoming inadequate, appears contradictory and
odious, is forced from concession to concession to its final
The social constitution is innate in humanity, necessary. Yet it could
only be discovered as the result of long experience, and for want of it
humanity had to invent the political constitution. Is not this an
entirely Utopian conception of human nature, and of the social
organisation peculiar to it? Are we not coming back to the standpoint of
Morelly who said that humanity in the course of its history has always
been "outside nature?" No--there is no need to come back to this
standpoint, for with Proudhon we have never, for a single instant, got
away from it. While looking down upon the Utopians searching after "the
best form of government," Proudhon does not by any means censure the
Utopian point of view. He only scoffs at the small perspicacity of men
who did not divine that the best political organisation is the absence
of all political organisation, is the social organisation, proper to
human nature, necessary, immanent in humanity.
The nature of this social constitution is absolutely different from, and
even incompatible with, that of the political constitution. Nevertheless
it is the fate of the political constitution to constantly call forth
and produce the social constitution. This is tremendously confusing! Yet
one might get out of the difficulty by assuming that what Proudhon meant
to say was that the political constitutions act upon the evolution of
the social constitution. But then we are inevitably met by the question.
Is not the political constitution in its turn rooted--as even Guizot
admitted--in the social constitution of a country? According to our
author _no_; the more emphatically _no_, that the social organisation,
the true and only one, is only a thing of the future, for want of which
poor humanity has "invented" the political constitution. Moreover, the
"Political Constitution" of Proudhon covers an immense domain, embracing
even "class distinctions," and therefore "non-organised" property,
property as it ought not to be, property as it is to-day. And since the
whole of this political constitution has been invented as a mere
stop-gap until the advent of the anarchist organisation of society, it
is evident that all human history must have been one huge blunder. The
State is no longer exactly a fiction as Proudhon maintained in 1848;
"the governmental formulas" for which people and citizens have been
cutting one another's throats for sixty centuries are no longer a "mere
phantasmagoria of our brain," as the same Proudhon believed at this
same period; but these formulas, like the State itself, like every
political constitution, are but the product of human ignorance, the
mother of all fictions and phantasmagorias. At bottom it is always the
same. The main point is that Anarchist ("social") organisation could
only be discovered as the result of "many experiences." The reader will
see how much this is to be regretted.
The political constitution has an unquestionable influence upon the
social organisation; at any rate it calls it forth, for such is its
"fate" as revealed by Proudhon, master of Kantian philosophy and social
organisation. The most logical conclusion to be drawn therefrom is that
the partisans of social organisation must make use of the political
constitution in order to attain their end. But logical as this deduction
is, it is not to the taste of our author. For him it is but a
phantasmagoria of our brain. To make use of the political constitution
is to offer a burnt offering to the terrible god of authority, to take
part in the struggle of parties. Proudhon will have none of this. "No
more parties," he says; "no more authority, absolute liberty of the man
and the citizen--in three words, such is our political and social
profession of faith."
Every class-struggle is a political struggle. Whosoever repudiates the
political struggle by this very act, gives up all part and lot in the
class-struggle. And so it was with Proudhon. From the beginning of the
Revolution of 1848 he preached the reconciliation of classes. Here
_e.g._, is a passage from the Circular which he addressed to his
electors in Doubs, which is dated 3rd April of this same year: "The
social question is there; you cannot escape from it. To solve it we must
have men who combine extreme Radicalism of mind with extreme
Conservatism of mind. Workers, hold out your hands to your employers;
and you, employers, do not deliberately repulse the advances of those
who were your wage-earners."
The man whom Proudhon believed to combine this extreme Radicalism of
mind with extreme Conservatism of mind, was himself--P. J. Proudhon.
There was, on the one hand, at the bottom of this belief, a "fiction,"
common to all Utopians who imagine they can rise above classes and their
struggles, and naïvely think that the whole of the future history of
humanity will be confined to the peaceful propagation of their new
gospel. On the other hand, this tendency to combine Radicalism and
Conservatism shows conclusively the very "essence" of the "Father of
Proudhon was the most typical representative of petty bourgeois
socialism. Now the "fate" of the petty bourgeois--in so far as he does
not adopt the proletarian standpoint--is to constantly oscillate between
Radicalism and Conservatism. To make more understandable what we have
said, we must bear in mind what the plan of social organisation
propounded by Proudhon was.
Our author shall tell us himself. It goes without saying that we shall
not escape a more or less authentic interpretation of Kant. "Thus the
line we propose to follow in dealing with the political question and in
preparing the materials for a constitution will be the same as that we
have followed hitherto in dealing with the social question." The _Voix
du Peuple_ while completing the work of its predecessors, the two
earlier journals, will follow faithfully in their footsteps. What
did we say in these two publications, one after the other of which fell
beneath the blows of the reaction and the state of siege? We did not
ask, as our precursors and colleagues had done, Which is the best system
of community? The best organisation of property? Or again: Which is the
better, property or the community? The theory of St. Simon or that of
Fourier? The system of Louis Blanc or that of Cabet? Following the
example of Kant we stated the question thus: "How is it that man
possesses? How is property acquired? How lost? What is the law of its
evolution and transformation? Whither does it tend? What does it want?
What, in fine, does it represent?... Then how is it that man labours?
How is the comparison of products instituted? By what means is
circulation carried out in society? Under what conditions? According to
what laws?" And the conclusion arrived at by this monograph of property
was this: Property indicates function or attribution; community;
reciprocity of action; usury ever decreasing, the identity of labour and
capital (_sic!_). In order to set free and to realise all these terms,
until now hidden beneath the old symbols of property, what must be done?
The workers must guarantee one another labour and a market; and to this
end must accept as money their reciprocal pledges. Good! To-day we say
that political liberty, like industrial liberty, will result for us from
our mutual guarantees. It is by guaranteeing one another liberty that we
shall get rid of this government, whose destiny is to symbolise the
republican motto: _Liberty_, _Equality_, _Fraternity_, while leaving it
to our intelligence to bring about the realisation of this. Now, what is
the formula of this political and liberal guarantee? At present
universal suffrage; later on free contract.... Economic and social
reform through the mutual guarantee of credit; political reform through
the inter-action of individual liberties; such is the programme of the
"_Voix du Peuple_." We may add to this that it is not very difficult
to write the "biography" of this programme.
In a society of producers of commodities, the exchange of commodities is
carried out according to the labour socially necessary for their
production. Labour is the source and the measure of their
exchange-value. Nothing could seem more "just" than this to any man
imbued with the ideas engendered by a society of producers of
commodities. Unfortunately this "justice" is no more "eternal" than
anything else here below. The development of the production of
commodities necessarily brings in its train the transformation of the
greater part of society into proletarians, possessing nothing but their
labour-power, and of the other part into capitalists, who, buying this
power, the only commodity of the proletarians, turn it into a source of
wealth for themselves. In working for the capitalists the proletarian
produces the income of his exploiter, at the same time as his own
poverty, his own social subjection. Is not this sufficiently unjust? The
partisan of the rights of the producer of commodities deplores the lot
of the proletarians; he thunders against capital. But at the same time
he thunders against the revolutionary tendencies of the proletarians who
speak of expropriating the exploiter and of a communistic organisation
of production. Communism is unjust, it is the most odious tyranny. What
wants organising is not _production_ but _exchange_, he assures us. But
how organise exchange? That is easy enough, and what is daily going on
before our eyes may serve to show us the way. Labour is the source and
the measure of the _value_ of commodities. But is the _price_ of
commodities always determined by their value? Do not prices continually
vary according to the rarity or abundance of these commodities? The
value of a commodity and its price are two different things; and this is
the misfortune, the great misfortune of all of us poor, honest folk, who
only want justice, and only ask for our own. To solve the social
question, therefore we must put a stop to the _arbitrariness of prices_,
and to the anomaly of value (Proudhon's own expressions). And in order
to do this we must "constitute" value; _i.e._, see that every producer
shall always, in exchange for his commodity, receive exactly what it
costs. Then will private property not only cease to be theft, it will
become the most adequate expression of justice. To constitute value is
to constitute small private property, and small private property once
constituted, everything will be justice and happiness in a world now so
full of misery and injustice. And it is no good for proletarians to
object, they have no means of production: by guaranteeing themselves
_credit gratis_, all who want to work will, as by the touch of a magic
wand, have everything necessary for production.
Small property and small parcelled-out production, its economic basis,
was always the dream of Proudhon. The huge modern mechanical workshop
always inspired him with profound aversion. He says that labour, like
love, flies from society. No doubt there are some industries--Proudhon
instances railways--in which _association_ is essential. In these, the
isolated producer must make way for "companies of workers." But the
exception only proves the rule. Small private property must be the
basis of "social organization."
Small private property is tending to disappear. The desire not merely to
preserve it, but to transform it into the basis of a new social
organisation is extreme conservatism. The desire at the same time to put
an end to "the exploitation of man by man," to the wage-system, is
assuredly to combine with the most conservative the most radical
We have no desire here to criticise this petty bourgeois Utopia. This
criticism has already been undertaken by a master hand in the works of
Marx: "La Misère de la Philosophie," and "Zur Kritik der Politischen
Oekonomie." We will only observe the following:--
The only bond that unites the producers of commodities upon the domain
of economics is exchange. From the juridical point of view, exchange
appears as the relation between two wills. The relation of these two
wills is expressed in the "contract." The production of commodities duly
"constituted" is therefore the reign of "absolute" individual liberty.
By finding myself bound through a contract that obliges me to do such
and such a thing, I do not renounce my liberty. I simply use it to enter
into relations with my neighbours. But at the same time this contract
is the regulator of my liberty. In fulfilling a duty that I have freely
laid upon myself when signing the contract, I render justice to the
rights of others. It is thus that "absolute" liberty becomes
"commensurate with order." Apply this conception of the contract to the
"political constitution" and you have "Anarchy."
"The idea of the contract excludes that of government. What
characterises the contract, reciprocal convention, is that by virtue of
this convention the liberty and well-being of man are increased, while
by the institution of authority both are necessarily decreased....
Contract is thus essentially synallagmatic; it lays upon the contracting
parties no other obligation than that which results from their personal
promise of reciprocal pledges; it is subject to no external authority;
it alone lays down a law common to both parties, and it can be carried
out only through their own initiative. If the contract is already this
in its most general acceptation and in its daily practice, what will the
social contract be--that contract which is meant to bind together all
the members of a nation by the same interest? The social contract is the
supreme act by which every citizen pledges to society his love, his
intellect, his labour, his service, his products, his possessions, in
exchange for the affection, the ideas, the labour, products, service,
and possessions of his fellows; the measure of right for each one being
always determined by the extent of his own contribution, and the amount
recoverable being in accordance with what has been given.... The social
contract must be freely discussed, individually consented to, signed
_manu propriâ_, by all who participate in it. If its discussion were
prevented, curtailed or burked; if consent to it were filched; if the
signature were given to a blank document in pure confidence, without a
reading of the articles and their preliminary explanation; or even if,
like the military oath, it were all predetermined and enforced, then the
social contract would be nothing but a conspiracy against the liberty
and well-being of the most ignorant, the most weak, and most numerous
individuals, a systematic spoliation, against which every means of
resistance or even of reprisal might become a right and a duty.... The
social contract is of the essence of the reciprocal contract; not only
does it leave the signer the whole of his possessions; it adds to his
property; it does not encroach upon his labour; it only affects
exchange.... Such, according to the definitions of right and universal
practice, must be the social contract."
Once it is admitted as an incontestable fundamental principle that the
contract is "the only moral bond that can be accepted by free and equal
human beings" nothing is easier than a "radical" criticism of the
"political constitution." Suppose we have to do with justice and the
penal law, for example? Well, Proudhon would ask you by virtue of what
contract society arrogates to itself the right to punish criminals.
"Where there is no compact there can be, so far as any external tribunal
is concerned, neither crime nor misdemeanour. The law is the expression
of the sovereignty of the people; that is, or I am altogether mistaken,
the social contract and the personal pledge of the man and the citizen.
So long as I did not want this law, so long as I have not consented to
it, voted for it, it is not binding upon me, it does not exist. To make
it a precedent before I have recognised it, and to use it against me in
spite of my protests is to make it retroactive, and to violate this very
law itself. Every day you have to reverse a decision because of some
formal error. But there is not a single one of your laws that is not
tainted with nullity, and the most monstrous nullity of all, the very
hypothesis of the law. Soufflard, Lacenaire, all the scoundrels whom you
send to the scaffold turn in their graves and accuse you of judicial
forgery. What answer can you make them?"
If we are dealing with the administration and the police Proudhon sings
the same song of contract and free consent. "Cannot we administer our
goods, keep our accounts, arrange our differences, look after our common
interests at least as well as we can look after our salvation and take
care of our souls?" "What more have we to do with State legislation,
with State justice, with State police, and with State administration
than with State religion?"
As to the Ministry of Finance, "it is evident that its _raison d'être_
is entirely included in that of the other ministries.... Get rid of all
the political harness and you will have no use for an administration
whose sole object is the procuring and distribution of supplies."
This is logical and "radical;" and the more radical, that this formula
of Proudhon's--constituted value, free contract--is a universal one,
easily, and even necessarily applicable to all peoples. "Political
economy is, indeed, like all other sciences; it is of necessity the same
all over the world; it does not depend upon the arrangements of men or
nations, it is subject to no one's caprice. There is no more a Russian,
English, Austrian, Tartar, or Hindoo political economy than there is a
Hungarian, German, or American physics or geometry. Truth is everywhere
equal to itself: Science is the unity of the human race. If science,
therefore, and no longer religion or authority is taken in all countries
as the rule of society, the sovereign arbiter of all interests,
government becomes null and void, the legislators of the whole universe
are in harmony."
But enough of this! The "biography" of what Proudhon called his
programme is now sufficiently clear to us. Economically it is but the
Utopia of a petty bourgeois, who is firmly convinced that the
production of commodities is the most "just" of all possible modes of
production, and who desires to eliminate its bad sides (hence his
"Radicalism") by retaining to all eternity its good sides (hence his
"Conservatism"). Politically the programme is only the application to
public relations of a concept (the "contract") drawn from the domain of
the private right of a society of producers of commodities. "Constituted
value" in economics, the "contract" in politics--these are the whole
scientific "truth" of Proudhon. It is all very well for him to combat
the Utopians; he is a Utopian himself to his finger tips. What
distinguishes him from men like Saint Simon, Fourier, and Robert Owen is
his extreme pettiness and narrowness of mind, his hatred of every really
revolutionary movement and idea.
Proudhon criticised the "political constitution" from the point of view
of private right. He wished to perpetuate private property, and to
destroy that pernicious "fiction" the State, for ever.
Guizot had already said that the political constitution of a country has
its root in the conditions of property existing there. For Proudhon the
political constitution owes its origin only to human ignorance, has only
been "imagined" in default of the "social organisation" at last
"invented" by him, Proudhon, in the year of our Lord so and so. He
judges the political history of mankind like a Utopian. But the Utopian
negation of all reality by no means preserves us from its influence.
Denied upon one page of a Utopian work, it takes its revenge on
another, where it often appears in all its nakedness. Thus Proudhon
"denies" the State. "The State--no, no--I will none of it, even as
servant; I reject all government, even direct government," he cries _ad
nauseam_. But, oh! irony of reality! Do you know how he "invents" the
constitution of value? It is very funny.
The constitution of value is the selling at a fair price, at the cost
price. If a merchant refuses to supply his merchandise at cost price
it is because he is not certain of selling a sufficient quantity to
secure a due return, and further he has no guarantee that he will get
_quid pro quo_ for his purchases. So he must have guarantees. And there
may be "various kinds" of these guarantees. Here is one.
"Let us suppose that the Provisional Government or the Constituent
Assembly ... had seriously wished to help along business, encourage
commerce, industry, agriculture, stop the depreciation of property,
assure work to the workers--it could have been done by guaranteeing,
_e.g._, to the first 10,000 contractors, factory owners, manufacturers,
merchants, etc., in the whole Republic, an interest of 5 per cent. on
the capital, say, on the average, 100,000 francs, that each of them had
embarked in his competitive business. For it is evident that the State"
... Enough! It is evident that the State has forced itself upon
Proudhon, at least "as servant." And it has done this with such
irresistible force that our author ends by surrendering, and solemnly
"Yes, I say it aloud: the workers' associations of Paris and the
departments hold in their hands the salvation of the people, the future
of the revolution. They can do everything, if they set about it
cleverly. Renewed energy on their part must carry the light into the
dullest minds, and at the election of 1852 [he wrote this in the summer
of 1851] must place on the order of the day, and at the head of it, the
constitution of value."
Thus "No more parties! No politics!" when it is a question of the class
struggle--and "Hurrah for politics! Hurrah for electoral agitation!
Hurrah for State interference!" when it is a question of realising the
vapid and meagre Utopia of Proudhon!
"_Destruam et ædificabo_," says Proudhon, with the pompous vanity
peculiar to him. But on the other hand--to use the phrase of Figaro--it
is the truest truth of all he has ever uttered in his life. He destroys
and he builds. Only the mystery of his "destruction" reveals itself
completely in his formula, "The Contract solves all problems." The
mystery of his "_ædificatio_" is in the strength of the social and
political bourgeois reality with which he reconciled himself, the more
readily in that he never managed to pluck from it any of its "secrets."
Proudhon will not hear of the State at any price. And yet--apart from
the political propositions such as the constitution of value, with which
he turns to the odious "fiction"--even theoretically he "builds up" the
State as fast as he "destroys" it. What he takes from the "State" he
bestows upon the "communes" and "departments." In the place of one great
State we see built up a number of small states; in the place of one
great "fiction" a mass of little ones. To sum up, "anarchy" resolves
itself into federalism, which among other advantages has that of making
the success of revolutionary movements much more difficult than it is
under a centralised State. So endeth Proudhon's "General Idea of the
It is a curious fact that Saint Simon is the "father" of Proudhon's
anarchy. Saint Simon has said that the end of social organisation is
production, and that, therefore, political science must be reduced to
economics, the "art of governing men" must give way to the art of
"administration of things." He has compared mankind to the individual,
who, obeying his parents in childhood, in his ripe age ends by obeying
no one but himself. Proudhon seized upon this idea and this comparison,
and with the help of the constitution of value, "built up" anarchy. But
Saint Simon, a man of fertile genius, would have been the very first to
be alarmed at what this Socialistic petty bourgeois made of his theory.
Modern scientific Socialism has worked out the theory of Saint Simon
very differently, and while explaining the historical origin of the
State, shows in this very origin, the conditions of the future
disappearance of the State.
"The State was the official representative of society as a whole, the
gathering of it together into a visible embodiment. But it was this only
in so far as it was the State of that class which itself represented,
for the time being, society as a whole; in ancient times the State of
slave-owning citizens; in the middle ages, the feudal lords; in our own
time, the bourgeoisie. When at last it becomes the real representative
of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there
is no longer any social class to be held in subjection; as soon as class
rule and the individual struggle for existence based on our present
anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from
these are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special
repressive force, a State, is no longer necessary. The first act by
virtue of which the State really constitutes itself the representative
of the whole of society, the taking possession of the means of
production in the name of society, this is, at the same time, its last
independent act as a State. State interference in social relations
becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of
itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of
things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The State is not
'abolished.' _It dies out._"
 For all these quotations see the preface to the third edition of
the "Confessions d'un Révolutionnaire." This preface is simply an
article reprinted from the _Voix du Peuple_, November, 1849. It was not
till 1849 that Proudhon began to "expound" his Anarchist theory. In
1848, _pace_ Kropotkine, he only expounded his theory of exchange, as
anyone can see for himself by reading the sixth volume of his complete
works (Paris, 1868). This "critique" of Democracy, written in March,
1848, did not yet expound his Anarchist theory. This "critique" forms
part of his work, "Solution du Problème Social," and Proudhon proposes
to bring about this solution "without taxes, without loans, without cash
payments, without paper-money, without maximum, without levies, without
bankruptcy, without agrarian laws, without any poor tax, without
national workshops, without association (!), without any participation
or intervention by the State, without any interference with the liberty
of commerce and of industry, without any violation of property," in a
word and above all, without any class war. A truly "immortal" idea and
worthy the admiration of all bourgeois, peace-loving, sentimental, or
bloodthirsty--white, blue, or red!
 "One, two, three; legerdemain isn't witchcraft."
 "Les Confessions d'un Révolutionnaire." Vol. ix., 1868 edition of
the complete works of Proudhon, pages 166 and 167.
 "Confessions," pp. 25-26.
 He is speaking of the two papers _Le Peuple_ and _Le Réprésentant
du Peuple_, which he had published in 1848-9 before the _Voix du
 "Confessions," pp. 7-8.
 For Proudhon the principle of association invoked by most schools
(he means the various Socialist schools), "a principle essentially
sterile, is neither an industrial force nor an economic law ... it
supposes government and obedience, two terms excluded by the
Revolution." (_Idée Générale de la Révolution au XIX Siècle_, 2 ed.,
Paris 1851, p. 173).
 "Idée Générale de la Revolution." Paris, 1851, pp. 124-127.
 "Idée Générale," pp. 298-299.
 "Idée Générale," p. 304.
 Ibid. p. 324.
 Ibid. p. 328.
 It was thus that Proudhon understood the determining of value by
labour. He could never understand a Ricardo.
 "Idée Générale," p. 268.
 See his book, "Du Principe Fédératif."
 _Socialism: Utopian and Scientific._ By F. Engels. Translated by
Edward Aveling. Pp. 75-77.
We have seen that in their criticism of the "political constitution,"
the "fathers" of anarchy always based themselves on the Utopian point of
view. Each one of them based his theories upon an abstract principle.
Stirner upon that of the "Ego," Proudhon upon that of the "Contract."
The reader has also seen that these two "fathers" were individualists of
the first water.
The influence of Proudhonian individualism was, for a time, very strong
in the Romance countries (France, Belgium, Italy, Spain) and in the
Slaav countries, especially Russia. The internal history of the
International Working Men's Association is the history of this struggle
between Proudhonism and the modern Socialism of Marx. Not only men like
Tolain, Chemalé or Murat, but men very superior to them, such as De
Paepe, _e.g._, were nothing but more or less opinionated, more or less
consistent "Mutualists." But the more the working class movement
developed, the more evident it became that "Mutualism" could not be its
theoretical expression. At the International Congresses the Mutualists
were forced by the logic of facts to vote for the Communist
resolutions. This was the case, _e.g._, at Brussels in the discussion on
landed property. Little by little the left wing of the Proudhonian
army left the domain of Individualism to intrench itself upon that of
The word "Collectivism" was used at this period in a sense altogether
opposed to that which it now has in the mouths of the French Marxists,
like Jules Guesde and his friends. The most prominent champion of
"Collectivism" was at this time Michel Bakounine.
In speaking of this man we shall pass over in silence his propaganda in
favour of the Hegelian philosophy, as far as he understood it, the part
he played in the revolutionary movement of 1848, his Panslavist writings
in the beginning of the sixties, and his pamphlet, "Roumanow, Pougatchew
or Pestel" (London, 1862), in which he proposed to go over to
Alexander II., if the latter would become the "Tzar of the Moujiks."
Here we are exclusively concerned with his theory of Anarchist
A member of the "League of Peace and Liberty," Bakounine, at the
Congress of this Association at Berne in 1869, called upon the
League--an entirely bourgeois body--to declare in favour of "the
economical and social equalisation of classes and of individuals." Other
delegates, among whom was Chaudey, reproached him with advocating
Communism. He indignantly protested against the accusation.
"Because I demand the economic and social equalisation of classes and
individuals, because, with the Workers' Congress of Brussels, I have
declared myself in favour of collective property, I have been reproached
with being a Communist. What difference, I have been asked, is there
between Communism and Collectivism. I am really astounded that M.
Chaudey does not understand this difference, he who is the testamentary
executor of Proudhon! I detest Communism, because it is the negation of
liberty, and I cannot conceive anything human without liberty. I am not
a Communist, because Communism concentrates and causes all the forces of
society to be absorbed by the State, because it necessarily ends in the
centralisation of property in the hands of the State, while I desire the
abolition of the State--the radical extirpation of this principle of the
authority and the tutelage of the State, which, under the pretext of
moralising and civilising men, has until now enslaved, oppressed,
exploited, and depraved them. I desire the organisation of society and
of collective or social property from below upwards, by means of free
association, and not from above downwards by means of some authority of
some sort. Desiring the abolition of the State, I desire the abolition
of property individually hereditary, which is nothing but an institution
of the State, nothing but a result of the principle of the State. This
is the sense, gentlemen, in which I am a Collectivist, and not at all a
In another speech at the same Congress Bakounine reiterates what he had
already said of "Statist" Communism. "It is not we, gentlemen," he said,
"who systematically deny all authority and all tutelary powers, and who
in the name of Liberty demand the very abolition of the "authoritarian"
principle of the State; it is not we who will recognise any sort of
political and social organisation whatever, that is not founded upon
the most complete liberty of every one.... But I am in favour of
collective property, because I am convinced that so long as property,
individually hereditary, exists, the equality of the first start, the
realisation of equality, economical and social, will be impossible."
This is not particularly lucid as a statement of principles. But it is
sufficiently significant from the "biographical" point of view.
We do not insist upon the ineptitude of the expression "the economic and
social equalisation of classes;" the General Council of the
International dealt with that long ago. We would only remark that
the above quotations show that Bakounine--
1. Combats the State and "Communism" in the name of "the most complete
liberty of everybody;"
2. Combats property, "individually hereditary," in the name of economic
3. Regards this property as "an institution of the State," as a
"consequence of the very principles of the State;"
4. Has no objection to individual property, if it is not hereditary; has
no objection to the right of inheritance, if it is not individual.
In other words:
1. Bakounine is quite at one with Proudhon so far as concerns the
negation of the State and Communism;
2. To this negation he adds another, that of property, individually
3. His programme is nothing but a total arrived at by the adding up of
the two abstract principles--that of "liberty," and that of "equality;"
he applies these two principles, one after the other, and independently
one of the other, in his criticism of the existing order of things,
never asking himself whether the results of these two negations are
reconcilable with one another.
4. He understands, just as little as Proudhon, the origin of private
property and the causal connection between its evolution and the
development of political forms.
5. He has no clear conception of the meaning of the words "individually
If Proudhon was a Utopian, Bakounine was doubly so, for his programme
was nothing but a Utopia of "Liberty," reinforced by a Utopia of
"Equality." If Proudhon, at least to a very large extent, remained
faithful to his principle of the contract, Bakounine, divided between
liberty and equality, is obliged from the very outset of his argument
constantly to throw over the former for the benefit of the latter, and
the latter for the benefit of the former. If Proudhon is a Proudhonian
_sans reproche_, Bakounine is a Proudhonian adulterated with
"detestable" Communism, nay even by "Marxism."
In fact, Bakounine has no longer that immutable faith in the genius of
the "master" Proudhon, which Tolain seems to have preserved intact.
According to Bakounine "Proudhon, in spite of all his efforts to get a
foothold upon the firm ground of reality, remained an idealist and
metaphysician. His starting point is the abstract side of law; it is
from this that he starts in order to arrive at economic facts, while
Marx, on the contrary, has enunciated and proved the truth, demonstrated
by the whole of the ancient and modern history of human societies, of
peoples and of states, that economic facts preceded and precede the
facts of political and civil law. The discovery and demonstration of
this truth is one of the greatest merits of M. Marx." In another of
his writings he says, with entire conviction, "All the religions, and
all the systems of morals that govern a given society are always the
ideal expression of its real, material condition, that is, especially of
its economic organisation, but also of its political organisation, the
latter, indeed, being never anything but the juridical and violent
consecration of the former." And he again mentions Marx as the man to
whom belongs the merit of having discovered and demonstrated this
truth. One asks oneself with astonishment how this same Bakounine
could declare that private property was only a consequence of the
principle of authority. The solution of the riddle lies in the fact that
he did not understand the materialist conception of history; he was only
"adulterated" by it.
And here is a striking proof of this. In the Russian work, already
quoted, "Statism and Anarchy," he says that in the situation of the
Russian people there are two elements which constitute the conditions
necessary for the social (he means Socialist) revolution. "The Russian
people can boast of excessive poverty, and unparalleled slavery. Their
sufferings are innumerable, and they bear these, not with patience, but
with a profound and passionate despair, that twice already in our
history has manifested itself in terrible outbursts: in the revolt of
Stephan Razine, and in that of Pougatschew." And that is what
Bakounine understood by the material conditions of a Socialist
revolution! Is it necessary to point out that this "Marxism" is a little
too _sui generis_?
While combating Mazzini from the standpoint of the materialist
conception of history, Bakounine himself is so far from understanding
the true import of this conception, that in the same work in which he
refutes the Mazzinian theology, he speaks, like the thorough-faced
Proudhonian that he is, of "absolute" human morality, and he bolsters up
the idea of this morality--the morality of "solidarity,"--with such
arguments as these:
"Every actual being, so long as he exists, exists only by virtue of a
principle which is inherent in himself, and which determines his
particular nature; a principle that is not imposed upon him by a divine
law-giver of any sort" (this is the "materialism" of our author!), "but
is the protracted and constant result of combinations of natural causes
and effects; that is not, according to the ludicrous idea of the
idealists, shut up in him like a soul within its body, but is, in fact,
only the inevitable and constant form of his real existence. The human,
like all other species, has inherent principles quite special to itself,
and all these principles are summed up in, or are reducible to, a single
principle, which we call _solidarity_. This principle may be formulated
thus: No human individual can recognise his own humanity, nor,
therefore, realise it in his life except by recognising it in others,
and by helping to realise it for others. No man can emancipate himself,
except by emancipating with him all the men around him. My liberty is
the liberty of everyone, for I am not truly free, free not only in
thought but in deed, except when my liberty and my rights find their
confirmation, their sanction, in the liberty and the rights of all men,
As a moral precept, solidarity, as interpreted by Bakounine, is a very
excellent thing. But to set up this a morality, which by the way is not
at all "absolute," as principle "inherent" in humanity and determining
human nature, is playing with words, and completely ignoring what
materialism is. Humanity only exists "by virtue" of the principle of
solidarity. This is coming it a little too strong. How about the "class
war," and the cursed State, and property, "individually hereditary"--are
these only manifestations of "solidarity," inherent in humanity,
determining its special nature, etc., etc? If this is so, everything is
all right, and Bakounine was wasting his time in dreaming of a "social"
revolution. If this is not so, this proves that humanity may have
existed "by virtue" of other principles than that of solidarity, and
that this latter principle is by no means "inherent" in it. Indeed,
Bakounine only enunciated his "absolute" principle in order to arrive at
the conclusion that "no people could be completely free, free with
solidarity, in the human sense of the word, if the whole of humanity is
not free also."
This is an allusion to the tactics of the modern proletariat, and it is
true in the sense that--as the rules of the International Workingmen's
Association put it--the emancipation of the workers is not a merely
local or national problem, but, on the contrary, a problem concerning
every civilised nation, its solution being necessarily dependent upon
their theoretical and practical cooperation. It is easy enough to prove
this truth by reference to the actual economic situation of civilised
humanity. But nothing is less conclusive, here as elsewhere, than a
"demonstration" founded upon a Utopian conception of "human nature." The
"solidarity" of Bakounine only proves that he remained an incorrigible
Utopian, although he became acquainted with the historical theory of
 " ... Among those who call themselves Mutualists, and whose
economic ideas incline, on the whole, to the theories of Proudhon, in
the sense that they, like the great revolutionary writer, demand the
suppression of all levies of capital upon labour, the suppression of
interest, reciprocity of service, equal exchange of products on the
basis of cost price, free reciprocal credit, several voted for the
collective ownership of the land. Such, _e.g._, are the four French
delegates, Aubry of Rouen, Delacour of Paris, Richard of Lyons,
Lemonnier of Marseilles, and among the Belgians, Companions A. Moetens,
Verricken, De Paepe, Marichal, etc. For them there is no contradiction
between Mutualism applicable to the exchange of services and the
exchange of products on the basis of cost price, that is to say, the
quantity of labour contained in the services and the products, and
collective property applicable to the land, which is not a product of
labour, and therefore does not seem to them to come under the law of
exchange, under the law of circulation."--Reply to an article by Dr.
Coullery in the "Voix de l'Avenir," September, 1868, by the Belgians
Vanderhouten, De Paepe, Delasalle, Hermann, Delplanque, Roulants,
Guillaume Brasseur, printed in the same newspaper and reprinted as a
document in the "Mémoire of the Fédération Jurasienne," Souvillier,
1873, pp. 19-20.
 "Roumanow" is the name of the reigning family in Russia--derived
(if we overlook the adultery of Catherine II., admitted by herself in
her memoirs) from Peter III., the husband of Catherine II., and Prince
of Holstein-Gottorp. Pougatchew, the pretended Peter III., was a
Cossack, who placed himself at the head of a Russian peasant rising in
1773. Pestel was a Republican conspirator, hanged by Nicolas in 1826.
 See the documents published with the "Mémoire de la Fédération
Jurasienne," pp. 28, 29, 37.
 "The equalisation of classes," wrote the General Council to the
"Alliance" of Bakounine, who desired to be admitted into the
International Working Men's Association, and had sent the Council its
programme in which this famous "equalisation" phrase occurs, "literally
interpreted comes to the harmony of capital and labour, so
pertinaciously advocated by bourgeois Socialists. It is not the
equalisation of classes, logically a contradiction, impossible to
realise, but on the contrary, the abolition of classes, the real secret
of the proletarian movement, which is the great aim of the International
Working Men's Association."
 "Statism and Anarchy, 1873" (the Russian place of publication is
not given), pp. 223-224 (Russian). We know the word "Statism" is a
barbarism, but Bakounine uses it, and the flexibility of the Russian
language lends itself to such forms.
 "La Théologie Politique de Mazzini et l'Internationale, Neuchatel,
1871," pp. 69 and 78.
 Ibid. Appendix A, p. 7.
 "La Théologié Politique de Mazzini," p. 91.
 Ibid. pp. 110, 111.
We have said that the principal features of Bakounine's programme
originated in the simple addition of two abstract principles: that of
liberty and that of equality. We now see that the total thus obtained
might easily be increased by the addition of a third principle, that of
solidarity. Indeed, the programme of the famous "Alliance," adds several
others. For example, "The Alliance declares itself Atheist; it desires
the abolition of religions, the substitution of science for faith, of
human for divine justice." In the proclamation with which the Bakounists
placarded the walls of Lyons, during the attempted rising at the end of
September, 1870, we read (Article 41) that "The State, fallen into
decay, will no longer be able to intervene in the payment of private
debts." This is incontestably logical, but it would be difficult to
deduce the non-payment of private debts from principles inherent in
Since Bakounine in tacking his various "absolute" principles together
does not ask himself, and does not need to ask himself--thanks to the
"absolute" character of his method--whether one of these principles
might not somewhat limit the "absolute" power of others, and might not
in its turn be limited by them, he finds it an "absolute" impossibility
to harmonise the various items of his programme whenever words no longer
suffice, and it becomes necessary to replace them by more precise ideas.
He "desires" the abolition of religion. But, "the State having fallen
into decay," who is to abolish it? He "desires" the abolition of
property, individually hereditary. But what is to be done if, "the State
having fallen into decay," it should continue to exist? Bakounine
himself feels the thing is not very clear, but he consoles himself very
In a pamphlet written during the Franco-German war, "Lettres à un
français sur la crise actuelle," while demonstrating that France can
only be saved by a great revolutionary movement, he comes to the
conclusion that the peasants must be incited to lay hands upon the land
belonging to the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. But so far, the French
peasants have been in favour of property, "individually hereditary," so
this unpleasant institution would be bolstered up by the new Social
"Not at all," answers Bakounine, "_once the State is abolished they_"
(_i.e._, the peasants) "_will no longer have the juridical and political
consecration, the guarantee of property by the State. Property will no
longer be a right, it will be reduced to the condition of a simple
fact._" (The italics are Bakounine's own.)
This is very reassuring. "The State having fallen into decay," any
fellow that happens to come along, stronger than I, will incontinently
possess himself of my field, without having any need to appeal to the
principal of "solidarity;" the principle of "liberty" will sufficiently
answer his purpose. A very pleasant "equalisation of individuals"!
"It is certain," Bakounine admits, "that at first things won't work in
an absolutely peaceful manner; there will be struggles; public order,
that arch saint of the bourgeois, will be disturbed, and the just deeds
which will result from such a state of things may constitute what one is
agreed to call a civil war. But do you prefer to hand over France to the
Prussians?... Moreover, do you fear that the peasants will devour one
another; even if they tried to do so in the beginning, they would soon
be convinced of the material impossibility of persisting in this course,
and then we may be sure they would try to arrive at some understanding,
to come to terms, to organise among themselves. The necessity of eating,
of providing for their families, and the necessity therefore of
safeguarding their houses, their families, and their own lives against
unforeseen attacks, all this would soon force them individually to enter
into mutual arrangements. And do not believe, either, that in these
arrangements, _arrived at outside all official tutelage_" (italicised by
Bakounine), "by the mere force of events, the strongest, the richest,
will exercise a predominant influence. The wealth of the wealthy, no
longer guaranteed by juridical institutions, will cease to be a
power.... As to the most cunning, the strongest, they will be rendered
innocuous by the collective strength of the mass of the small, and very
small peasants, as well as by the agricultural proletarians, a mass of
men to-day reduced to silent suffering, but whom the revolutionary
movement will arm with an irresistible power. Please note that I do not
contend that the agricultural districts which will thus reorganise
themselves, from below upwards, will immediately create an ideal
organisation, agreeing at all points with the one of which we dream.
What I am convinced of is that this will be a _living_ organisation, and
as such, one a thousand times superior to what exists now. Moreover,
this new organisation being always open to the propaganda of the towns,
as it can no longer be held down, so to say petrified by the juridical
sanction of the State, it will progress freely, developing and
perfecting itself indefinitely, but always living and free, never
decreed nor legalised, until it attains as reasonable a condition as we
can hope for in our days."
The "idealist" Proudhon was convinced that the political constitution
had been invented for want of a social organisation "immanent in
humanity." He took the pains to "discover" this latter, and having
discovered it, he could not see what further _raison d'être_ there was
for the political constitution. The "materialist" Bakounine has no
"social organisation" of his own make. "The most profound and rational
science," he says, "cannot divine the future forms of social life."
This science must be content to distinguish the "living" social forms
from those that owe their origin to the "petrifying" action of the
State, and to condemn these latter. Is not this the old Proudhonian
antithesis of the social organisation "immanent in humanity," and of the
political constitution "invented" exclusively in the interests of
"order?" Is not the only difference that the "materialist" transforms
the Utopian programme of the "idealist," into something even more
Utopian, more nebulous, more absurd?
"To believe that the marvellous scheme of the universe is due to chance,
is to imagine that by throwing about a sufficient number of printers'
characters at hazard, we might write the Iliad." So reasoned the Deists
of the 18th century in refuting the Atheists. The latter replied that in
this case everything was a question of time, and that by throwing about
the letters an infinite number of times, we must certainly, at some
period, make them arrange themselves in the required sequence.
Discussions of this kind were to the taste of the 18th century, and we
should be wrong to make too much fun of them now-a-days. But it would
seem that Bakounine took the Atheist argument of the good old times
quite seriously, and used it in order to make himself a "programme."
Destroy what exists; if only you do this often enough you are bound at
last to produce a social organisation, approaching at any rate the
organisation you "dream" of. All will go well when once the revolution
has come to stay. Is not this sufficiently "materialist?" If you think
it is not, you are a metaphysician, "dreaming" of the impossible!
The Proudhonian antithesis of the "social organisation" and the
"political constitution" reappears "living" and in its entirety in what
Bakounine is for ever reiterating as to the "social revolution" on the
one hand, and the "political revolution" on the other. According to
Proudhon the social organisation has unfortunately, up to our own days,
never existed, and for want of it humanity was driven to "invent" a
political constitution. According to Bakounine the social revolution has
never yet been made, because humanity, for want of a good "social"
programme had to content itself with political revolutions. Now that
this programme has been found, there is no need to bother about the
"political" revolution; we have quite enough to do with the "social
Every class struggle being necessarily a political struggle, it is
evident that every political revolution, worthy of the name, is a social
revolution; it is evident also that for the proletariat the political
struggle is as much a necessity as it has always been for every class
struggling to emancipate itself. Bakounine anathematises all political
action by the proletariat; he extols the "social" struggle exclusively.
Now what is this social struggle?
Here our Proudhonian once again shows himself adulterated by Marxism. He
relies as far as possible upon the Rules of the International
In the preamble of these Rules it is laid down that the subjection of
the worker to capital lies at the bottom of all servitude, political,
moral and material, and that therefore the economic emancipation of the
workers is the great end to which all political movements must be
subordinated as a means. Bakounine argues from this that "every
political movement which has not for its immediate and direct object the
final and complete economic emancipation of the workers, and which has
not inscribed upon its banner quite definitely and clearly, the
principle of _economic equality_, that is, the integral restitution of
capital to labour, or else the social liquidation--every such political
movement is a bourgeois one, and as such must be excluded from the
International." But this same Bakounine has heard it said that the
historical movement of humanity is a process in conformity with certain
laws, and that a revolution cannot be improvised at a moment's notice.
He is therefore forced to ask himself, what is the policy which the
International is to adopt during that "more or less prolonged period of
time which separates us from the terrible social revolution which
everyone foresees to-day?" To this he replies, with the most profound
conviction, and, as if quoting the Rules of the International:
"Without mercy the policy of the democratic bourgeois, or
bourgeois-Socialists, must be excluded, which, when these declare that
political freedom is a necessary condition of economic emancipation, can
only mean this: political reforms, or political revolutions must precede
economic reforms or economic revolutions; the workers must therefore
join hands with the more or less Radical bourgeois, in order to carry
out the former together with them, then, being free, to turn the latter
into a reality against them. We protest loudly against this unfortunate
theory, which, so far as the workers are concerned, can only result in
their again letting themselves be used as tools against themselves, and
handing them over once more to bourgeois exploitation."
The International "commands" us to disregard all national or local
politics; it must give the working-class movement in all countries an
"essentially economic" character, by setting up as final aim "the
shortening of the hours of labour, and the increase of wages," and as a
means "the association of the working masses, and the starting of funds
for fighting." It is needless to add that the shortening of the hours of
labour must, of course, be obtained without any intervention from the
Bakounine cannot understand that the working class in its political
action can completely separate itself from all the exploiting parties.
According to him, there is no other _rôle_ in the political movement for
the workers than that of satellite of the Radical bourgeoisie. He
glorifies the "essentially economic" tactics of the old English Trade
Unions, and has not the faintest idea that it was these very tactics
that made the English workers the tail of the Liberal Party.
Bakounine objects to the working class lending a hand in any movement
whose object is the obtaining or the extension of political rights. In
condemning such movements as "bourgeois," he fancies himself a
tremendous revolutionist. As a matter of fact he thus proves himself
essentially Conservative, and if the working class were ever to follow
this line of inaction the Governments could only rejoice.
The true revolutionists of our days have a very different idea of
Socialist tactics. They "everywhere support every revolutionary movement
against the existing social and political order of things;" which
does not prevent them (but quite the contrary) from forming the
proletariat into a party separate from all the exploiter parties,
opposed to the whole "reactionary mass."
Proudhon, who we know had not any overwhelming sympathy for "politics,"
nevertheless advised the French workers to vote for the candidates who
pledged themselves to "constitute value." Bakounine would not have
politics at any price. The worker cannot make use of political liberty:
"in order to do so he needs two little things--leisure and material
means." So it is all only a bourgeois lie. Those who speak of
working-class candidates are but mocking the proletariat. "Working-class
candidates, transferred to bourgeois conditions of life, and into an
atmosphere of completely bourgeois political ideas, ceasing to be
actually workers in order to become statesmen, will become bourgeois,
and possibly will become even more bourgeois than the bourgeois
themselves. For it is not the men who make positions, but, on the
contrary, positions which make the men."
This last argument is about all Bakounine was able to assimilate of the
materialist conception of history. It is unquestionably true that man is
the product of his social environment. But to apply this incontestable
truth with advantage it is necessary to get rid of the old, metaphysical
method of thought which considers things _one after the other, and
independently one of the other_. Now Bakounine, like his master,
Proudhon, in spite of his flirtation with the Hegelian philosophy, all
his life remained a metaphysician. He does not understand that the
environment which makes man may change, thus changing man its own
product. The environment he has in his mind's eye when speaking of the
political action of the proletariat, is the bourgeois parliamentary
environment, that environment which must necessarily fatally corrupt
labour representatives. But the environment of the _electors_, the
environment of a working-class party, conscious of its aim and well
organised, would this have no influence upon the elected of the
proletariat? No! Economically enslaved, the working class must always
remain in political servitude; in this domain it will always be the
weakest; to free itself it must begin by an economic revolution.
Bakounine does not see that by this process of reasoning he inevitably
arrives at the conclusion that a victory of the proletariat is
absolutely impossible, unless the owners of the means of production
voluntarily relinquish their possessions to them. In effect the
subjection of the worker to capital is the source not only of political
but of moral servitude. And how can the workers, morally enslaved, rise
against the bourgeoisie? For the working class movement to become
possible, according to Bakounine, it must therefore first make an
economic revolution. But the economic revolution is only possible as the
work of the workers themselves. So we find ourselves in a vicious
circle, out of which modern Socialism can easily break, but in which
Bakounine and the Bakounists are for ever turning with no other hope of
deliverance than a logical _salto mortale_.
The corrupting influence of the Parliamentary environment on
working-class representatives is what the Anarchists have up to the
present considered the strongest argument in their criticism of the
political activity of Social-Democracy. We have seen what its
_theoretical_ value amounts to. And even a slight knowledge of the
history of the German Socialist party will sufficiently show how in
practical life the Anarchist apprehensions are answered.
In repudiating all "politics" Bakounine was forced to adopt the tactics
of the old English Trade Unions. But even he felt that these tactics
were not very revolutionary. He tried to get out of the difficulty by
the help of his "Alliance," a kind of international secret society,
organised on a basis of frenetic centralisation and grotesque
fancifulness. Subjected to the dictatorial rule of the sovereign pontiff
of Anarchy, the "international" and the "national" brethren were bound
to accelerate and direct the "essentially economic" revolutionary
movement. At the same time Bakounine approved of "riots," of isolated
risings of workers and peasants which, although they must inevitably be
crushed out, would, he declared, always have a good influence upon the
development of the revolutionary spirit among the oppressed. It goes
without saying that with such a "programme" he was able to do much harm
to the working class movement, but he was not able to draw nearer, even
by a single step, to that "immediate" economic revolution of which he
"dreamed." We shall presently see the result of the Bakounist
theory of "riots." For the present let us sum up what we have said of
Bakounine. And here, he shall help us himself.
"Upon the Pangermanic banner" [_i.e._, also upon the banner of German
Social-Democracy, and consequently upon the Socialist banner of the
whole civilised world] "is inscribed: The conservation and strengthening
of the State at all costs; on the Socialist-revolutionary banner" (read
Bakounist banner) "is inscribed in characters of blood, in letters of
fire: the abolition of all States, the destruction of bourgeois
civilisation; free organisation from the bottom to the top, by the help
of free associations; the organisation of the working populace (_sic!_)
freed from all trammels, the organisation of the whole of emancipated
humanity, the creation of a new human world."
It is with these words that Bakounine concludes his principal work
"Statism and Anarchy" (Russian). We leave our readers to appreciate the
rhetorical beauties of this passage. For our own part we shall be
content with saying that it contains absolutely no human meaning
The absurd, pure and simple--that is what is inscribed upon the
Bakounist "banner." There is no need of letters of fire and of blood to
make this evident to any one who is not hypnotised by a phraseology
more or less sonorous, but always void of sense.
The Anarchism of Stirner and of Proudhon was completely individualist.
Bakounine did not want individualism, or to speak more correctly, one
particular phase of individualism. He was the inventor of
"Collectivist-Anarchism." And the invention cost him little. He
completed the "liberty" Utopia, by the "equality" Utopia. As these two
Utopias would not agree, as they cried out at being yoked together, he
threw both into the furnace of the "permanent revolution" where they
were both at last forced to hold their tongues, for the simple reason
that they both evaporated, the one as completely as the other.
Bakounine is the _décadent_ of Utopism.
 "Statism and Anarchy," Appendix A. But for Russia the "science" of
Bakounine was quite equal to divining the future forms of social life;
there is to be the Commune, whose ulterior development will start from
the actual rural commune. It was especially the Bakounists who in Russia
spread the notion about the marvellous virtues of the Russian rural
 See Bakounine's articles on the "Politics of the International" in
the _Egalité_ of Geneva, August, 1869.
 The anathemas pronounced by Bakounine against political liberty for
a time had a very deplorable influence upon the revolutionary movement
 Communist Manifesto, p. 30.
 _Egalité_, 28th August, 1869.
 On the action of Bakounine in the International, see the two works
published by the General Council of that organisation: _Les Prétendus
Scissions dans l'Internationale_, and _L'Alliance de la Democratic
Sociale_. See also Engels' article _Die Bakunisten an der Arbeit_,
reprinted in the recently published pamphlet, _Internationales aus dem
Volkstaat_ (_i.e._, a series of articles published in the _Volkstaat_,)
1873-75. Berlin, 1894.
THE SMALLER FRY
Among our present-day Anarchists some, like John Mackay, the author of
"Die Anarchisten, Kulturgemälde aus dem Ende des xix. Jahrhunderts,"
declare for individualism, while others--by far the more numerous--call
themselves Communists. These are the descendants of Bakounine in the
Anarchist movement. They have produced a fairly considerable literature
in various languages, and it is they who are making so much noise with
the help of the "propaganda by deed." The prophet of this school is the
Russian refugee, P. A. Kropotkine.
I shall not here stop to consider the doctrines of the
Individualist-Anarchist of to-day, whom even their brethren, the
Communist-Anarchists, look upon as "bourgeois." We will go straight
on to the Anarchist-"Communist."
What is the standpoint of this new species of Communism? "As to the
method followed by the Anarchist thinker, it entirely differs from that
of the Utopists," Kropotkine assures us. "The Anarchist thinker does not
resort to metaphysical conceptions (like 'natural rights,' the 'duties
of the State' and so on) to establish what are, in his opinion, the best
conditions for realising the greatest happiness of humanity. He follows,
on the contrary, the course traced by the modern philosophy of
evolution.... He studies human society as it is now, and was in the
past; and, without either endowing men altogether, or separate
individuals, with superior qualities which they do not possess, he
merely considers society as an aggregation of organisms trying to find
out the best ways of combining the wants of the individual with those of
cooperation for the welfare of the species. He studies society and tries
to discover its tendencies, past and present, its growing needs,
intellectual and economical, and in this he merely points out in which
direction evolution goes."
So the Anarchist-Communists have nothing in common with the Utopians.
They do not, in the elaborating of their "ideal," turn to metaphysical
conceptions like "natural rights," the "duties of the State," etc. Is
this really so?
So far as the "duties of the State" are concerned, Kropotkine is quite
right; it would be too absurd if the Anarchists invited the State to
disappear in the name of its own "duties." But as to "natural rights" he
is altogether mistaken. A few quotations will suffice to prove this.
Already in the _Bulletin de la Fédération Jurasienne_ (No. 3, 1877), we
find the following very significant declaration: "The sovereignty of the
people can only exist through the most complete autonomy of individuals
and of groups." This "most complete autonomy," is it not also a
The _Bulletin de la Fédération Jurasienne_ was an organ of Collectivist
Anarchism. At bottom there is no difference between "Collectivist" and
"Communist" Anarchism. And yet, since it might be that we are making the
Communists responsible for the Collectivists, let us glance at the
"Communist" publications, not only according to the spirit but the
letter. In the autumn of 1892 a few "companions" appeared before the
Assize Court of Versailles in consequence of a theft of dynamite at
Soisy-sous-Etiolles. Among others there was one G. Etiévant, who drew up
a declaration of Anarchist-Communist principles. The tribunal would not
allow him to read it, whereupon the official organ of the Anarchists,
_La Révolte_, undertook to publish this declaration, having taken great
pains to secure an absolutely correct copy of the original. The
"Declaration of G. Etiévant" made a sensation in the Anarchist world,
and even "cultured" men like Octave Mirbeau quote it with respect along
with the works of the "theorists," Bakounine, Kropotkine, the
"unequalled Proudhon," and the "aristocratic Spencer!" Now this is the
line of Etiévant's reasoning:
No idea is innate in us; each idea is born of infinitely diverse and
multiple sensations, which we receive by means of our organs. Every act
of the individual is the result of one or several ideas. The man is not
therefore responsible. In order that responsibility should exist, will
would have to determine the sensations, just as these determine the
idea, and the idea, the act. But as it is, on the contrary, the
sensations which determine the will, all judgment becomes impossible,
every reward, every punishment unjust, however great the good or the
evil done may be. "Thus one cannot judge men and acts unless one has a
sufficient criterion. Now no such criterion exists. At any rate it is
not in the laws that it could be found, for true justice is immutable
and laws are changeable. It is with laws as with all the rest (!). For
if laws are beneficent what is the good of deputies and senators to
change them? And if they are bad what is the good of magistrates to
Having thus "demonstrated" "liberty," Etiévant passes on to "equality."
From the zoophytes to men, all beings are provided with more or less
perfect organs destined to serve them. All these beings have therefore
the right to make use of their organs according to the evident will of
mother Nature. "So for our legs we have the right to all the space they
can traverse; for our lungs to all the air we can breathe; for our
stomach to all the food we can digest; for our brain to all we can
think, or assimilate of the thoughts of others; for our faculty of
elocution to all we can say; for our ears to all we can hear; and we
have a right to all this because we have a right to life, and because
all this constitutes life. These are the true rights of man! No need to
decree them, they exist as the sun exists. They are written in no
constitution, in no law, but they are inscribed in ineffaceable letters
in the great book of Nature and are imprescriptible. From the
cheese-mite to the elephant, from the blade of grass to the oak, from
the atom to the star, everything proclaims it."
If these are not "metaphysical conceptions," and of the very worst type,
a miserable caricature of the metaphysical materialism of the eighteenth
century, if this is the "philosophy of evolution," then we must confess
that it has nothing in common with the scientific movement of our day.
Let us hear another authority, and quote the now famous book of Jean
Grave, "La Société mourante et l'Anarchie," which was recently condemned
by French judges, who thought it dangerous, while it is only supremely
"Anarchy means the negation of authority. Now, Government claims to base
the legitimacy of its existence upon the necessity of defending social
institutions: the family, religion, property, etc. It has created a vast
machinery in order to assure its exercise and its sanction. The chief
are: the law, the magistracy, the army, the legislature, executive
powers, etc. So that the Anarchist idea, forced to reply to everything,
was obliged to attack all social prejudices, to become thoroughly
penetrated by all human knowledge, in order to demonstrate that its
conceptions were in harmony with the physiological and psychological
nature of man, and in harmony with the observance of natural laws, while
our actual organisation has been established in contravention of all
logic and all good sense.... Thus, in combating authority, it has been
necessary for the Anarchists to attack all the institutions which the
Government defends, the necessity for which it tries to demonstrate in
order to legitimate its own existence."
You see what was "the development" of the "Anarchist Idea." This Idea
"denied" authority. In order to defend itself, authority appealed to the
family, religion, property. Then the "Idea" found itself forced to
attack institutions, which it had not, apparently, noticed before, and
at the same time the "Idea," in order to make the most of its
"conceptions," penetrated to the very depths of all human knowledge (it
is an ill wind that does not blow some good!) All this is only the
result of chance, of the unexpected turn given by "authority" to the
discussion that had arisen between itself and the "Idea."
It seems to us that however rich in human knowledge it may be now, the
"Anarchist Idea" is not at all communistic; it keeps its knowledge to
itself, and leaves the poor "companions" in complete ignorance. It is
all very well for Kropotkine to sing the praises of the "Anarchist
thinker"; he will never be able to prove that his friend Grave has been
able to rise even a little above the feeblest metaphysics.
Kropotkine should read over again the Anarchist pamphlets of Elisée
Reclus--a great "theorist" this--and then, quite seriously tell us if he
finds anything else in them but appeals to "justice," "liberty," and
other "metaphysical conceptions."
Finally, Kropotkine himself is not so emancipated from metaphysics as he
fancies he is. Far from it! Here, _e.g._, is what he said at the general
meeting of the Federation of the Jura, on the 12th October, 1879, at
"There was a time when they denied Anarchists even the right to
existence. The General Council of the International treated us as
factious, the press as dreamers; almost all treated us as fools; this
time is past. The Anarchist party has proved its _vitality_; it has
surmounted the obstacles of every kind that impeded its development;
to-day it is _accepted_." [By whom?] "To attain to this, it has been
necessary, above all else, for the party to hold its own in the domain
of _theory_, to establish its ideal of the society of the future, to
prove that this ideal is the best; to do more than this--to prove that
this ideal is not the product of the dreams of the study, but flows
directly from the popular aspirations, that it is in accord with the
historical progress of culture and ideas. This work has been done,"
This hunt after the best ideal of the society of the future, is not this
the Utopian method _par excellence_? It is true that Kropotkine tries to
prove "that this ideal is not the product of dreams of the study, but
flows directly from the popular aspirations, that it is in accord with
the historical progress of culture and ideas." But what Utopian has not
tried to prove this equally with himself? Everything depends upon the
value of the proofs, and here our amiable compatriot is infinitely
weaker than the great Utopians whom he treats as metaphysicians, while
he himself has not the least notion of the actual methods of modern
social science. But before examining the value of these "proofs," let us
make the acquaintance of the "ideal" itself. What is Kropotkine's
conception of Anarchist society?
Pre-occupied with the reorganising of the governmental machine, the
revolutionist-politicians, the "Jacobins" (Kropotkine detests the
Jacobins even more than our amiable Empress, Catherine II., detested
them) allowed the people to die of hunger. The Anarchists will act
differently. They will destroy the State, and will urge on the people to
the expropriation of the rich. Once this expropriation accomplished, an
"inventory" of the common wealth will be made, and the "distribution"
of it organised. Everything will be done by the people themselves. "Just
give the people elbow room, and in a week the business of the food
supply will proceed with admirable regularity. Only one who has never
seen the hard-working people at their labour, only one who has buried
himself in documents, could doubt this. Speak of the organising capacity
of the Great Misunderstood, the People, to those who have seen them at
Paris on the days of the barricades" (which is certainly not the case of
Kropotkine) "or in London at the time of the last great strike, when
they had to feed half a million starving people, and they will tell you
how superior the people is to all the hide-bound officials."
The basis upon which the enjoyment in common of the food supply is to be
organised will be very fair, and not at all "Jacobin." There is but one,
and only one, which is consistent with sentiments of justice, and is
really practical. The taking in heaps from what one possesses abundance
of! Rationing out what must be measured, divided! Out of 350 millions
who inhabit Europe, 200 millions still follow this perfectly natural
practice--which proves, among other things, that the Anarchist ideal
"flows from the popular aspirations."
It is the same with regard to housing and clothing. The people will
organise everything according to the same rule. There will be an
upheaval; that is certain. Only this upheaval must not become mere
loss, it must be reduced to a minimum. And it is again--we cannot repeat
it too often--by turning to those immediately interested and not to
bureaucrats that the "least amount of inconvenience will be inflicted
Thus from the beginning of the revolution we shall have an
_organisation_; the whims of sovereign "individuals" will be kept within
reasonable bounds by the wants of society, by the logic of the
situation. And, nevertheless, we shall be in the midst of full-blown
Anarchy; individual liberty will be safe and sound. This seems
incredible, but it is true; there is anarchy, and there is organisation,
there are obligatory rules for everyone, and yet everyone does what he
likes. You do not follow. 'Tis simple enough. This organisation--it is
not the "authoritarian" revolutionists who will have created it;--these
rules, obligatory upon all, and yet anarchical, it is the People, the
Great Misunderstood, who will have proclaimed them, and the People are
very knowing as anyone who has seen,--what Kropotkine never had the
opportunity of seeing--days of barricade riots, knows.
But if the Great Misunderstood had the stupidity to create the
"bureaux" so detested of Kropotkine? If, as it did in March, 1871, it
gave itself a revolutionary Government? Then we shall say the people is
mistaken, and shall try to bring it back to a better state of mind, and
if need be we will throw a few bombs at the "hide bound officials." We
will call upon the People to organise, and will destroy all the organs
it may provide itself with.
This then is the way in which we realise the excellent Anarchist
ideal--in imagination. In the name of the liberty of individuals all
action of the individuals is done away with, and in the name of the
People we get rid of the whole class of revolutionists; the individuals
are drowned in the mass. If you can only get used to this logical
process, you meet with no more difficulties, and you can boast that you
are neither "authoritarian" nor "Utopian." What could be easier, what
But in order to consume, it is necessary to produce. Kropotkine knows
this so well that he reads the "authoritarian" Marx a lesson on the
"The evil of the present organisation is not in that the 'surplus value'
of production passes over to the capitalist--as Rodbertus and Marx had
contended--thus narrowing down the Socialist conception, and the general
ideas on the capitalist regime. Surplus value itself is only a
consequence of more profound causes. The evil is that there can be any
kind of 'surplus value,' instead of a surplus not consumed by each
generation; for, in order that there may be 'surplus value,' men, women,
and children must be obliged by hunger to sell their labour powers, for
a trifling portion of what these powers produce, and, especially of what
they are capable of producing" (poor Marx, who knew nothing of all these
profound truths, although so confusedly expounded by the learned
Prince!)... "It does not, indeed, suffice to distribute in equal shares
the profits realised in one industry, if, at the same time, one has to
exploit thousands of other workers. The point is to _produce with the
smallest possible expenditure of human labour power the greatest
possible amount of products necessary for the well being of all_."
(Italicised by Kropotkine himself.)
Ignorant Marxists that we are! We have never heard that a Socialist
society pre-supposes a systematic organisation of production. Since it
is Kropotkine who reveals this to us, it is only reasonable that we
should turn to him to know what this organisation will be like. On this
subject also he has some very interesting things to say.
"Imagine a Society comprising several million inhabitants engaged in
agriculture, and a great variety of industries--Paris, for example, with
the Department of Seine-et-Oise. Imagine that in this Society all
children learn to work with their hand as well as with their brain.
Admit, in fine, that all adults, with the exception of the women
occupied with the education of children, undertake to work _five hours a
day_ from the age of twenty or twenty-two to forty-five or fifty, and
that they spend this time in any occupations they choose, in no matter
what branch of human labour considered _necessary_. Such a Society
could, in return, guarantee well-being to all its members, _i.e._, far
greater comfort than that enjoyed by the bourgeoisie to-day. And every
worker in this Society would moreover have at his disposal at least five
hours a day, which he could devote to science, to art, and to those
individual needs that do not come within the category of _necessities_,
while later on, when the productive forces of man have augmented,
everything may be introduced into this category that is still to-day
looked upon as a luxury or unattainable."
In Anarchist Society there will be no authority, but there will be the
_Contract_ (oh! immortal Monsieur Proudhon, here you are again; we see
all still goes well with you!) by virtue of which the infinitely free
individuals "agree" to work in such or such a "free commune." The
contract is justice, liberty, equality; it is Proudhon, Kropotkine, and
all the Saints. But, at the same time, do not trifle with the contract!
It is a thing not so destitute of means to defend itself as would seem.
Indeed, suppose the signatory of a contract freely made does not wish to
fulfil his duty? He is driven forth from the free commune, and he runs
the risk of dying of hunger--which is not a particularly gay outlook.
"I suppose a group or a certain number of volunteers, combining in some
enterprise, to secure the success of which all rival each other in zeal,
with the exception of one associate, who frequently absents himself from
his post. Should they, on his account, dissolve the group, appoint a
president who would inflict fines, or else, like the Academy, distribute
attendance-counters? It is evident that we shall do neither the one nor
the other, but that one day the comrade who threatens to jeopardise the
enterprise will be told: 'My friend, we should have been glad to work
with you, but as you are often absent from your post, or do your work
negligently, we must part. Go and look for other comrades who will
put up with your off-hand ways.'" This is pretty strong at
bottom; but note how appearances are saved, how very "Anarchist" is
his language. Really, we should not be at all surprised if in the
"Anarchist-Communist" society people were guillotined by persuasion, or,
at any rate, by virtue of a freely-made contract.
But farther, this very Anarchist method of dealing with lazy "free
individuals" is perfectly "natural," and "is practised everywhere to-day
in all industries, in competition with every possible system of fines,
stoppages from wages, espionage, etc.; the workman may go to his shop at
the regular hour, but if he does his work badly, if he interferes with
his comrades by his laziness or other faults, if they fall out, it is
all over. He is obliged to leave the workshop." Thus is the
Anarchist "Ideal" in complete harmony with the "tendencies" of
For the rest, such strong measures as these will be extremely rare.
Delivered from the yoke of the State and capitalist exploitation,
individuals will of their own free motion set themselves to supply the
wants of the great All of society. Everything will be done by means of
"Well, Citizens, let others preach industrial barracks, and the convent
of "Authoritarian" Communism, we declare that the _tendency_ of
societies is in the opposite direction. We see millions and millions of
groups constituting themselves freely in order to satisfy all the varied
wants of human beings, groups formed, some by districts, by streets, by
houses; others holding out hands across the walls (!) of cities, of
frontiers, of oceans. All made up of human beings freely seeking one
another, and having done their work as producers, associating
themselves, to consume, or to produce articles of luxury, or to turn
science into a new direction. This is the tendency of the nineteenth
century, and we are following it; we ask only to develop it freely,
without let or hindrance on the part of governments. Liberty for the
individual!" "Take some pebbles," said Fourier, "put them into a box and
shake them; they will arrange themselves into a mosaic such as you could
never succeed in producing if you told off some one to arrange them
A wit has said that the profession of faith of the Anarchists reduces
itself to two articles of a fantastic law: (1) There shall be nothing.
(2) No one is charged with carrying out the above article.
This is not correct. The Anarchists say:
(1) There shall be everything. (2) No one is held responsible for seeing
that there is anything at all.
This is a very seductive "Ideal," but its realisation is unfortunately
Let us now ask, what is this "free agreement" which according to
Kropotkine, exists even in capitalist society? He quotes two kinds of
examples by way of evidence: (_a_) those connected with production and
the circulation of commodities; (_b_) those belonging to all kinds of
societies of amateurs--learned societies, philanthropic societies, etc.
"Take all the great enterprises: the Suez Canal, _e.g._, Trans-Atlantic
navigation, the telegraph that unites the two Americas. Take, in fine,
this organisation of commerce, which provides that when you get up in
the morning you are sure to find bread at the bakers' ... meat at the
butchers', and everything you want in the shops. Is this the work of the
State? Certainly, to-day we pay middlemen abominably dearly. Well, all
the more reason to suppress them, but not to think it necessary to
confide to the Government the care of providing our goods and our
Remarkable fact! we began by snapping our fingers at Marx, who only
thought of suppressing surplus value, and had no idea of the
organisation of production, and we end by demanding the suppression of
the profits of the middleman, while, so far as production is concerned,
we preach the most bourgeois _laissez-faire, laissez passer_. Marx
might, not without reason, have said, he laughs best who laughs last!
We all know what the "free agreement" of the bourgeois _entrepreneur_
is, and we can only admire the "absolute" naïvété of the man who sees in
it the precursor of communism. It is exactly this Anarchic "arrangement"
that must be got rid of in order that the producers may cease to be the
slaves of their own products.
As to the really free societies of _savants_, artists, philanthropists,
etc., Kropotkine himself tells us what their example is worth. They are
"made up of human beings freely seeking one another after having done
their work as producers." Although this is not correct--since in these
societies there is often not a single _producer_--this still farther
proves that we can only be free after we have settled our account with
production. The famous "tendency of the nineteenth century," therefore,
tells us nothing on the main question--how the unlimited liberty of the
individual can be made to harmonise with the economic requirements of a
communistic society. And as this "tendency" constitutes the whole of the
scientific equipment of our "Anarchist thinker," we are driven to the
conclusion that his appeal to science was merely verbiage, that he is,
in spite of his contempt for the Utopians, one of the least ingenious of
these, a vulgar hunter in search of the "best Ideal."
The "free agreement" works wonders, if not in Anarchist society, which
unfortunately does not yet exist, at least in Anarchist arguments. "Our
present society being abolished, individuals no longer needing to hoard
in order to make sure of the morrow, this, indeed being made impossible,
by the suppression of all money or symbol of value--all their wants
being satisfied and provided for in the new society, the stimulus of
individuals being now only that ideal of always striving towards the
best, the relations of individuals or groups no longer being established
with a view to those exchanges in which each contracting party only
seeks to 'do' his partner" (the "free agreement" of the bourgeois, of
which Kropotkine has just spoken to us) "these relations will now only
have for object the rendering of mutual services, with which particular
interests have nothing to do, the agreement will be rendered easy, the
causes of discord having disappeared."
Question: How will the new society satisfy the needs of its members? How
will it make them certain of the morrow?
Answer: By means of free agreements.
Question: Will production be possible if it depends solely upon the free
agreement of individuals?
Answer: Of course! And in order to convince yourself of it, you have
only to _assume_ that your morrow is certain, that all your needs are
satisfied, and, in a word, that production, thanks to free agreement, is
getting on swimmingly.
What wonderful logicians these "companions" are, and what a beautiful
ideal is that which has no other foundation than an illogical
"It has been objected that in leaving individuals free to organise as
they like, there would arise that competition between groups which
to-day exists between individuals. This is a mistake, for in the society
we desire money would be abolished, consequently there would no longer
be any exchange of products, but exchange of services. Besides, in order
that such a social revolution as we contemplate can have been
accomplished we must assume that a certain evolution of ideas will have
taken place in the mind of the masses, or, at the least, of a
considerable minority among them. But if the workers have been
sufficiently intelligent to destroy bourgeois exploitation, it will not
be in order to re-establish it among themselves, especially when they
are assured all their wants will be supplied."
It is incredible, but it is incontestably true: the only basis for the
"Ideal" of the Anarchist-Communists, is this _petitio principii_, this
"assumption" of the very thing that has to be proved. Companion Grave,
the "profound thinker," is particularly rich in assumptions. As soon as
any difficult problem presents itself, he "assumes" that it is already
solved, and then everything is for the best in the best of ideals.
The "profound" Grave is less circumspect than the "learned" Kropotkine.
And so it is only he who succeeds in reducing the "ideal" to "absolute"
He asks himself what will be done if in "the society of the day after
the revolution" there should be a papa who should refuse his child _all
education_. The papa is an individual with unlimited rights. He follows
the Anarchist rule, "Do as thou wouldst." No one has any right,
therefore, to bring him to his senses. On the other hand, the child also
may do as he likes, and he wants to learn. How to get out of this
conflict, how resolve the dilemma without offending the holy laws of
Anarchy? By an "assumption." "Relations" (between citizens) "being much
wider and more imbued with fraternity than in our present society, based
as it is upon the antagonism of interests, it follows that the child by
means of what he will see passing before his eyes, by what he will daily
hear, will escape from the influence of the parent, and will find every
facility necessary for acquiring the knowledge his parents refuse to
give him. Nay more, if he finds himself too unhappy under the authority
they try to force upon him, he would abandon them in order to place
himself under the protection of individuals with whom he was in greater
sympathy. The parents could not send the gendarmes after him to bring
back to their authority the slave whom the law to-day gives up to
It is not the child who is running away from his parents, but the
Utopian who is running away from an insurmountable logical difficulty.
And yet this judgment of Solomon has seemed so profound to the
companions that, it has been literally quoted by Emil Darnaud in his
book "La Société Future" (Foix. 1890, p. 26)--a book especially
intended to popularise the lucubrations of Grave.
"Anarchy, the No-government system of Socialism, has a double origin. It
is an outgrowth of the two great movements of thought in the economical
and the political fields which characterise our century, and especially
its second part. In common with all Socialists, the Anarchists hold that
the private ownership of land, capital, and machinery has had its time;
that it is condemned to disappear; and that all requisites of production
must, and will, become the common property of society, and be managed in
common by the producers of wealth. And, in common with the most advanced
representatives of political Radicalism, they maintain that the ideal of
the political organisation of society is a condition of things where the
functions of government are reduced to a minimum, and the individual
recovers his full liberty of initiative and action for satisfying, by
means of free groups and federations--freely constituted--all the
infinitely varied needs of the human being. As regards Socialism, most
of the Anarchists arrive at its ultimate conclusion, that is, at a
complete negation of the wage-system, and at Communism. And with
reference to political organisation, by giving a farther development to
the above-mentioned part of the Radical programme, they arrive at the
conclusion that the ultimate aim of society is the reduction of the
functions of governments to _nil_--that is, to a society without
government, to Anarchy. The Anarchists maintain, moreover, that such
being the ideal of social and political organisation they must not
remit it to future centuries, but that only those changes in our social
organisation which are in accordance with the above double ideal, and
constitute an approach to it, will have a chance of life and be
beneficial for the commonwealth."
Kropotkine here reveals to us, with admirable clearness, the origin and
nature of his "Ideal." This Ideal, like that of Bakounine, is truly
"double;" it is really born of the connection between bourgeois
Radicalism, or rather that of the Manchester school, and Communism; just
as Jesus was born in connection between the Holy Ghost and the Virgin
Mary. The two natures of the Anarchist ideal are as difficult to
reconcile as the two natures of the Son of God. But one of these natures
evidently gets the better of the other. The Anarchists "want" to begin
by immediately realising what Kropotkine calls "the ultimate aim of
society," that is to say, by destroying the "State." Their starting
point is always the unlimited liberty of the individual. Manchesterism
before everything. Communism only comes in afterwards. But in order
to reassure us as to the probable fate of this second nature of their
Ideal, the Anarchists are constantly singing the praises of the wisdom,
the goodness, the forethought of the man of the "future." He will be so
perfect that he will no doubt be able to organise Communist production.
He will be so perfect that one asks oneself, while admiring him, why he
cannot be trusted with a little "authority."
 The few Individualists we come across are only strong in their
criticism of the State and of the law. As to their constructive ideal, a
few preach an idyll that they themselves would never care to practise,
while others, like the editor of _Liberty_, Boston, fall back upon an
actual bourgeois system. In order to defend their Individualism they
reconstruct the State with all its attributes (law, police, and the
rest) after having so courageously denied them. Others, finally, like
Auberon Herbert, are stranded in a "Liberty and Property Defence
League"--a League for the defence of landed property. _La Révolte_, No.
38, 1893, "A lecture on Anarchism."
 "Anarchist-Communism; its Basis and Principles," by Peter
Kropotkine, republished by permission of the Editor of the _Nineteenth
Century_. February and August, 1887, London.
 _l.c._, pp. 1-2.
 "La Conquête du Pain." Paris, 1892. pp. 77-78.
 Ibid., p. 111.
 As, however, Kropotkine was in London at the time of the great Dock
Strike, and therefore had an opportunity of learning how the food supply
was managed for the strikers, it is worth pointing out that this was
managed quite differently from the method suggested above. An organised
Committee, consisting of Trade Unionists helped by State Socialists
(Champion) and Social-Democrats (John Burns, Tom Mann, Eleanor Marx
Aveling, etc.) made _contracts_ with shopkeepers, and distributed
stamped tickets, for which could be obtained certain articles of food.
The food supplied was paid for with the money that had been raised by
subscriptions, and to these subscriptions the _bourgeois_ public,
encouraged by the _bourgeois_ press, had very largely contributed.
Direct distributions of food to strikers, and those thrown out of work
through the strike, were made by the Salvation Army, an essentially
centralised, bureaucratically organised body, and other philanthropic
societies. All this has very little to do with the procuring and
distributing of the food supply, "the day after the revolution;" with
the organising of the "service for supplying food." The food was there,
and it was only a question of buying and dividing it as a means of
support. The "People," _i.e._, the strikers, by no means helped
themselves in this respect; they were helped by others.
 "La Conquête du Pain," pp. 128-129.
 Ibid., pp. 201-202.
 Ibid., p. 202.
 "_L'Anarchie dans l'Evolution socialiste._" Lecture at the Salle
Levis, Paris, 1888, pp. 20-21.
 Ibid., p. 19.
 Kropotkine speaks of the Suez Canal! Why not the Panama Canal?
 "La Société au lendemain de la Révolution." J. Grave, 1889, Paris,
 Ibid., p. 47.
 Ibid., p. 99.
 Anarchist Communism, p. 3.
 "L'Anarchia è il funzionamento armonico di tutte le autonomie,
risolventesi nella eguaglianza totale delle condizioni umane."
L'Anarchia nella scienza e nelle evoluzione. (Traduzione dello
Spagnuolo) Piato, Toscana, 1892, p. 26. "Anarchy is the harmonious
functioning of all autonomy resolved in the complete equalisation of all
human conditions." "Anarchy in Science and Evolution."--Italian,
translated from the Spanish.
THE SO-CALLED ANARCHIST TACTICS. THEIR MORALITY
The Anarchists are Utopians. Their point of view has nothing in common
with that of modern scientific Socialism. But there are Utopias and
Utopias. The great Utopians of the first half of our century were men of
genius; they helped forward social science, which in their time was
still entirely Utopian. The Utopians of to-day, the Anarchists, are the
abstracters of quintessence, who can only fully draw forth some poor
conclusions from certain mummified principles. They have nothing to do
with social science, which, in its onward march, has distanced them by
at least half a century. Their "profound thinkers," their "lofty
theorists," do not even succeed in making the two ends of their
reasoning meet. They are the decadent Utopians, stricken with incurable
intellectual anæmia. The great Utopians did much for the development of
the working class movement. The Utopians of our days do nothing but
retard its progress. And it is especially their so-called tactics that
are harmful to the proletariat.
We already know that Bakounine interpreted the Rules of the
International in the sense that the working class must give up all
political action, and concentrate its efforts upon the domain of the
"immediately economic" struggle for higher wages, a reduction of the
hours of labour, and so forth. Bakounine himself felt that such tactics
were not very revolutionary. He tried to complete them through the
action of his "Alliance;" he preached riots. But the more the class
consciousness of the proletariat develops, the more it inclines towards
political action, and gives up the "riots," so common during its
infancy. It is more difficult to induce the working men of Western
Europe, who have attained a certain degree of political development, to
riot, than, for example, the credulous and ignorant Russian peasants. As
the proletariat has shown no taste for the tactics of "riot," the
companions have been forced to replace it by "individual action." It was
especially after the attempted insurrection at Benevento in Italy in
1877 that the Bakounists began to glorify the "propaganda of deed." But
if we glance back at the period that separates us from the attempt of
Benevento, we shall see that this propaganda too assumed a special form:
very few "riots," and these quite insignificant, a great many personal
attempts against public edifices, against individuals, and even against
property--"individually hereditary," of course. It could not be
"We have already seen numerous revolts by people who wished to obtain
urgent reforms," says Louise Michel, in an interview with a
correspondent of the _Matin_, on the occasion of the Vaillant attempt.
"What was the result? The people were shot down. Well, we think the
people has been sufficiently bled; it is better large-hearted people
should sacrifice themselves, and, at their own risk, commit acts of
violence whose object is to terrorise the Government and the
This is exactly what we have said--only in slightly different words.
Louise Michel has forgotten to say that revolts, causing the bloodshed
of the people, figured at the head of the Anarchists' programme, until
the Anarchists became convinced, not that these partial risings in no
way serve the cause of the workers, but that the workers, for the most
part, will not have anything to do with these risings.
Error has its logic as well as truth. Once you reject the political
action of the working-class, you are fatally driven--provided you do not
wish to serve the bourgeois politicians--to accept the tactics of the
Vaillants and the Henrys. The so-called "Independent" (Unabhängige)
members of the German Socialist Party have proved this in their own
persons. They began by attacking "Parliamentarism," and to the
"reformist" tactics of the "old" members they opposed--on paper, of
course--the "revolutionary struggle," the purely "economic" struggle.
But this struggle, developing naturally, must inevitably bring about the
entry of the proletariat into the arena of political struggles. Not
wishing to come back to the very starting-point of their negation, the
"Independents," for a time, preached what they called "political
demonstrations," a new kind of old Bakounist riots. As riots, by
whatever name they are called, always come too late for the fiery
"revolutionists," there was only left to the Independents to "march
forward," to become converts to Anarchy, and to propagate--in words--the
propaganda of deed. The language of the "young" Landauers and Co. is
already as "revolutionary" as that of the "oldest" Anarchists.
"Reason and knowledge only thou despise
The highest strength in man that lies!
Let but the lying spirit bind thee,
With magic works and shows that blind thee,
And I shall have thee fast and sure."
As to the "magic work and shows," they are innumerable in the arguments
of the Anarchists against the political activity of the proletariat.
Here hate becomes veritable witchcraft. Thus Kropotkine turns their own
arm--the materialist conception of history--against the
Social-Democrats. "To each new economical phase of life corresponds a
new political phase," he assures us. "Absolute monarchy--that is
Court-rule--corresponded to the system of serfdom. Representative
government corresponds to capital-rule. Both, however, are class-rule.
But in a society where the distinction between capitalist and labourer
has disappeared, there is no need of such a government; it would be an
anachronism, a nuisance." If Social-Democrats were to tell him they
know this at least as well as he does, Kropotkine would reply that
possibly they do, but that then they will not draw a logical conclusion
from these premises. He, Kropotkine, is your real logician. Since the
political constitution of every country is determined by its economic
condition, he argues, the political action of Socialists is absolute
nonsense. "To seek to attain Socialism or even (!) an agrarian
revolution by means of a political revolution, is the merest Utopia,
because the whole of history shows us that political changes flow from
the great economic revolutions, and not _vice versâ_." Could the
best geometrician in the world ever produce anything more exact than
this demonstration? Basing his argument upon this impregnable
foundation, Kropotkine advises the Russian revolutionists to give up
their political struggle against Tzarism. They must follow an
"immediately economic" end. "The emancipation of the Russian peasants
from the yoke of serfdom that has until now weighed upon them, is
therefore the first task of the Russian revolutionist. In working along
these lines he directly and immediately works for the good of the
people ... and he moreover prepares for the weakening of the centralised
power of the State and for its limitation."
Thus the emancipation of the peasants will have prepared the way for the
weakening of Russian Tzarism. But how to emancipate the peasants before
overthrowing Tzarism? Absolute mystery! Such an emancipation would be a
veritable "witchcraft." Old Liscow was right when he said, "It is easier
and more natural to write with the fingers than with the head."
However this may be, the whole political action of the working-class
must be summed up in these few words: "No politics! Long live the purely
economic struggle!" This is Bakounism, but perfected Bakounism.
Bakounine himself urged the workers to fight for a reduction of the
hours of labour, and higher wages. The Anarchist-Communists of our day
seek to "make the workers understand that they have nothing to gain from
such child's play as this, and that society can only be transformed by
destroying the institutions which govern it." The raising of wages
is also useless. "North America and South America, are they not there to
prove to us that whenever the worker has succeeded in getting higher
wages, the prices of articles of consumption have increased
proportionately, and that where he has succeeded in getting 20 francs a
day for his wages, he needs 25 to be able to live according to the
standard of the better class workman, so that he is always below the
average?" The reduction of the hours of labour is at any rate
superfluous since capital will always make it up by a "systematic
intensification of labour by means of improved machinery. Marx himself
has demonstrated this as clearly as possible."
We know, thanks to Kropotkine, that the Anarchist ideal has a double
origin. And all the Anarchist "demonstrations" also have a double
origin. On the one hand they are drawn from the vulgar hand books of
political economy, written by the most vulgar of bourgeois economists,
_e.g._, Grave's dissertation upon wages, which Bastiat would have
applauded enthusiastically. On the other hand, the "companions,"
remembering the somewhat "Communist" origin of their ideal, turn to Marx
and quote, without understanding, him. Even Bakounine has been
"sophisticated" by Marxism. The latter-day Anarchists, with Kropotkine
at their head, have been even more sophisticated.
The ignorance of Grave, "the profound thinker," is very remarkable in
general, but it exceeds the bounds of all probability in matters of
political economy. Here it is, only equalled by that of the learned
geologist Kropotkine, who makes the most monstrous statements whenever
he touches upon an economic question. We regret that space will not
allow us to amuse the reader with some samples of Anarchist economics.
They must content themselves with what Kropotkine has taught them about
All this would be very ridiculous, if it were not too sad, as the
Russian poet Lermontoff says. And it is sad indeed. Whenever the
proletariat makes an attempt to somewhat ameliorate its economic
position, "large-hearted people," vowing they love the proletariat most
tenderly, rush in from all points of the compass, and depending on their
halting syllogisms, put spokes into the wheel of the movement, do their
utmost to prove that the movement is useless. We have had an example of
this with regard to the eight hours day, which the Anarchists combated,
whenever they could, with a zeal worthy of a better cause. When the
proletariat takes no notice of this, and pursues its "immediately
economic" aims undisturbed--as it has the fortunate habit of doing--the
same "large-hearted people" re-appear upon the scene armed with bombs,
and provide the government with the desired and sought for pretext for
attacking the proletariat. We have seen this at Paris on May 1, 1890; we
have seen it often during strikes. Fine fellows these "large-hearted
men!" And to think that among the workers themselves there are men
simple enough to consider as their friends, these personages who are, in
reality, the most dangerous enemies of their cause!
An Anarchist will have nothing to do with "parliamentarism," since it
only lulls the proletariat to sleep. He will none of "reforms," since
reforms are but so many compromises with the possessing classes. He
wants the revolution, a "full, complete, immediate, and immediately
economic" revolution. To attain this end he arms himself with a saucepan
full of explosive materials, and throws it amongst the public in a
theatre or a café. He declares this is the "revolution." For our own
part it seems to us nothing but "immediate" madness.
It goes without saying that the bourgeois governments, whilst inveighing
against the authors of these attempts, cannot but congratulate
themselves upon these tactics. "Society is in danger!" _Caveant
consules!_ And the police "consuls" become active, and public opinion
applauds all the reactionary measures resorted to by ministers in order
to "save society." "The terrorist saviours of society in uniform, to
gain the respect of the Philistine masses must appear with the halo of
true sons of 'holy order,' the daughter of Heaven rich in blessings, and
to this halo the school-boy attempts of these Terrorists help them. Such
a silly fool, lost in his fantastical imaginings, does not even see that
he is only a puppet, whose strings are pulled by a cleverer one in the
Terrorist wings; he does not see that the fear and terror he causes only
serve to so deaden all the senses of the Philistine crowd, that it
shouts approval of every massacre that clears the road for
Napoleon III. already indulged from time to time in an "outrage" in
order once again to save society menaced by the enemies of order. The
foul admissions of Andrieux, the acts and deeds of the German and
Austrian _agents provocateurs_, the recent revelations as to the attempt
against the Madrid Parliament, etc., prove abundantly that the present
Governments profit enormously by the tactics of the "companions," and
that the work of the Terrorists in uniform would be much more difficult
if the Anarchists were not so eager to help in it.
Thus it is that spies of the vilest kind, like Joseph Peukert, for long
years figured as shining lights of Anarchism, translating into German
the works of foreign Anarchists; thus it is that the French bourgeois
and priests directly subvention the "companions," and that the
law-and-order ministry does everything in its power to throw a veil over
these shady machinations. And so, too, in the name of the "immediate
revolution," the Anarchists become the precious pillars of bourgeois
society, inasmuch as they furnish the _raison d'être_ for the most
immediately reactionary policy.
Thus the reactionary and Conservative press has always shown a hardly
disguised sympathy for the Anarchists, and has regretted that the
Socialists, conscious of their end and aim, will have nothing to do with
them. "They drive them away like poor dogs," pitifully exclaims the
Paris _Figaro, à propos_ of the expulsion of the Anarchists from the
An Anarchist is a man who--when he is not a police agent--is fated
always and everywhere to attain the opposite of that which he attempts
"To send working men to a Parliament," said Bordat, before the Lyons
tribunal in 1893, "is to act like a mother who would take her daughter
to a brothel." Thus it is also in the name of _morality_ that the
Anarchists repudiate political action. But what is the outcome of their
fear of parliamentary corruption? The glorification of theft, ("Put
money in thy purse," wrote Most in his _Freiheit_, already in 1880), the
exploits of the Duvals and Ravachols, who in the name of the "cause"
commit the most vulgar and disgusting crimes. The Russian writer,
_Herzen_, relates somewhere how on arriving at some small Italian town,
he met only priests and bandits, and was greatly perplexed, being unable
to decide which were the priests and which the bandits. And this is the
position of every impartial person to-day; for how are you going to
divine where the "companion" ends and the bandit begins? The Anarchists
themselves are not always sure, as was proved by the controversy caused
in their ranks by the Ravachol affair. Thus the better among them, those
whose honesty is absolutely unquestionable, constantly fluctuate in
their views of the "propaganda of deed."
"Condemn the propaganda of deed?" says Elysée Reclus. "But what is this
propaganda except the preaching of well-doing and love of humanity by
example? Those who call the "propaganda of deed" acts of violence prove
that they have not understood the meaning of this expression. The
Anarchist who understands his part, instead of massacring somebody or
other, will exclusively strive to bring this person round to his
opinions, and to make of him an adept who, in his turn, will make
"propaganda of deed" by showing himself good and just to all those whom
he may meet."
We will not ask what is left of the Anarchist who has divorced himself
from the tactics of "deeds."
We only ask the reader to consider the following lines: "The editor of
the _Sempre Avanti_ wrote to Elysée Reclus asking him for his true
opinion of Ravachol. 'I admire his courage, his goodness of heart, his
greatness of soul, the generosity with which he pardons his enemies, or
rather his betrayers. I hardly know of any men who have surpassed him in
nobleness of conduct. I reserve the question as to how far it is always
desirable to push to extremities one's own right, and whether other
considerations moved by a spirit of human solidarity ought not to
prevail. Still I am none the less one of those who recognise in Ravachol
a hero of a magnanimity but little common.'"
This does not at all fit in with the declaration quoted above, and it
proves irrefutably that citizen Reclus fluctuates, that he does not know
exactly where his "companion" ends and the bandit begins. The problem is
the more difficult to solve that there are a good many individuals who
are at the same time "bandits" and Anarchists. Ravachol was no
exception. At the house of the Anarchists, Oritz and Chiericotti,
recently arrested at Paris, an enormous mass of stolen goods were found.
Nor is it only in France that you have the combination of these two
apparently different trades. It will suffice to remind the reader of the
Austrians Kammerer and Stellmacher.
Kropotkine would have us believe that Anarchist morality, a morality
free from all obligations or sanction, opposed to all utilitarian
calculations, is the same as the natural morality of the people, "the
morality from the habit of well doing." The morality of the
Anarchists is that of persons who look upon all human action from the
abstract point of view of the unlimited rights of the individual, and
who, in the name of these rights, pass a verdict of "Not guilty" on the
most atrocious deeds, the most revolting arbitrary acts. "What matter
the victims," exclaimed the Anarchist poet Laurent Tailhade, on the very
evening of Vaillant's outrage, at the banquet of the "Plume" Society,
"provided the gesture is beautiful?"
Tailhade is a decadent, who, because he is _blasé_ has the courage of
his Anarchist opinions. In fact the Anarchists combat democracy because
democracy, according to them, is nothing but the tyranny of the majority
as against the minority. The majority has no right to impose its wishes
upon the minority. But if this is so, in the name of what moral
principle do the Anarchists revolt against the bourgeoisie? Because the
bourgeoisie are not a minority? Or because they do not do what they
"will" to do?
"Do as thou would'st," proclaim the Anarchists. The bourgeoisie "want"
to exploit the proletariat, and do it remarkably well. They thus follow
the Anarchist precept, and the "companions" are very wrong to complain
of their conduct. They become altogether ridiculous when they combat the
bourgeoisie in the name of their victims. "What matters the death of
vague human beings"--continues the Anarchist logician Tailhade--"if
thereby the individual affirms himself?" Here we have the true morality
of the Anarchists; it is also that of the crowned heads. _Sic volo, sic
_Thus, in the name of the revolution, the Anarchists serve the cause of
reaction; in the name of morality they approve the most immoral acts; in
the name of individual liberty they trample under foot all the rights of
And this is why the whole Anarchist doctrine founders upon its own
logic. If any maniac may, because he "wants" to, kill as many men as he
likes, society, composed of an immense number of individuals, may
certainly bring him to his senses, not because it is its caprice, but
because it is its duty, because such is the _conditio sine quâ non_ of
 In their dreams of riots and even of the Revolution, the
Anarchists, burn, with real passion and delight, all title-deeds of
property, and all governmental documents. It is Kropotkine especially
who attributes immense importance to these _auto-da-fe_. Really, one
would think him a rebellious civil servant.
 Republished in the _Peuple_ of Lyons, December 20, 1893.
 "Anarchist Communism," p. 8.
 Kropotkine's preface to the Russian edition of Bakounine's pamphlet
"La Commune de Paris et la notion de l'Etat." Geneva, 1892, p. 5.
 Ibid., same page.
 J. Grave "La Société Mourante et L'Anarchie," p. 253.
 Ibid., p. 249.
 Ibid., pp. 250-251.
 _Vorwärts_, January 23, 1894.
 "The companions were looking for someone to advance funds, but
infamous capital did not seem in a hurry to reply to their appeal. I
urged on infamous capital, and succeeded in persuading it that it was to
its own interest to facilitate the publication of an Anarchist paper....
But don't imagine that I with frank brutality offered the Anarchists the
encouragement of the Prefect of police. I sent a well-dressed bourgeois
to one of the most active and intelligent of them. He explained that
having made a fortune in the druggist line, he wanted to devote a part
of his income to advancing the Socialist propaganda. This bourgeois,
anxious to be devoured, inspired the companions with no suspicion.
Through his hands I placed the caution-money" [caution-money has to be
deposited before starting a paper in France] "in the coffers of the
State, and the journal, _La Révolution Sociale_, made its appearance. It
was a weekly paper, my druggist's generosity not extending to the
expenses of a daily."--"Souvenirs d'un Préfet de Police." "Memoirs of a
Prefect of Police." By J. Andrieux. (Jules Rouff et Cie, Paris, 1885.)
Vol. I., p. 337, etc.
 In passing, we may remark that it is in the name of freedom of
speech that the Anarchists claim to be admitted to Socialist Congresses.
Yet this is the opinion of the French official journal of the Anarchists
upon these Congresses:--"The Anarchists may congratulate themselves that
some of their number attended the Troyes Congress. Absurd, motiveless,
and senseless as an Anarchist Congress would be, just as logical is it
to take advantage of Socialist Congresses in order to develop our ideas
there."--_La Révolte_, 6-12 January, 1889. May not we also, in the name
of freedom, ask the "companions" to leave us alone?
 See in the _L'Etudiant Socialiste_ of Brussels, No. 6 (1894) the
republication of the declaration made by Elysée Reclus, to a
"correspondent" who had questioned him upon the Anarchist attempts.
 The _Twentieth Century_, a weekly Radical magazine, New York,
September, 1892, p. 15.
 See Kropotkine's _Anarchist Communism_, pp. 34-35; also his
_Anarchie dans l'Evolution Socialiste_, pp. 24-25, and many passages in
his _Morale Anarchiste_.
 The papers have just announced that Tailhade was wounded by an
explosion at the Restaurant Foyot. The telegram (_La Tribune de Genève_,
5th April, 1894) adds--"M. Tailhade is constantly protesting against the
Anarchist theories he is credited with. One of the house surgeons,
having reminded him of his article and the famous phrase quoted above,
M. Tailhade remained silent, and asked for chloral to alleviate his
THE BOURGEOISIE, ANARCHISM, AND SOCIALISM
The "father of Anarchy," the "immortal" Proudhon, bitterly mocked at
those people for whom the revolution consisted of acts of violence, the
exchange of blows, the shedding of blood. The descendants of the
"father," the modern Anarchists, understand by revolution only this
brutally childish method. Everything that is not violence is a betrayal
of the cause, a foul compromise with "authority." The scared
bourgeoisie does not know what to do against them. In the domain of
theory they are absolutely impotent with regard to the Anarchists, who
are their own _enfants terribles_. The bourgeoisie was the first to
propagate the theory of _laissez faire_, of dishevelled individualism.
Their most eminent philosopher of to-day, Herbert Spencer, is nothing
but a conservative Anarchist. The "companions" are active and zealous
persons, who carry the bourgeois reasoning to its logical conclusion.
The magistrates of the French bourgeois Republic have condemned Grave
to prison, and his book, "La Société Mourante et l'Anarchie" to
destruction. The bourgeois men of letters declare this puerile book a
profound work, and its author a man of rare intellect.
And not only has the bourgeoisie no theoretical weapons with which
to combat the Anarchists; they see their young folk enamoured of the
Anarchist doctrine. In this society, satiated and rotten to the marrow
of its bones, where all faiths are long since dead, where all sincere
opinions appear ridiculous, in this _monde où l'on s'ennui_, where after
having exhausted all forms of enjoyment they no longer know in what new
fancy, in what fresh excess to seek novel sensations, there are people
who lend a willing ear to the song of the Anarchist siren. Amongst the
Paris "companions" there are already not a few men quite _comme il
faut_, men about town who, as the French writer, Raoul Allier, says,
wear nothing less than patent leather shoes, and put a green carnation
in their button-holes before they go to meetings. Decadent writers and
artists are converted to Anarchism and propagate its theories in reviews
like the _Mercure de France_, _La Plume_, etc. And this is
comprehensible enough. One might wonder indeed if Anarchism, an
essentially bourgeois doctrine, had not found adepts among the French
bourgeoisie, the most _blasée_ of all bourgeoisies.
By taking possession of the Anarchist doctrine, the decadent,
_fin-de-siècle_ writers restore to it its true character of bourgeois
individualism. If Kropotkine and Reclus speak in the name of the worker,
oppressed by the capitalist, _La Plume_ and the _Mercure de France_
speak in the name of the _individual_ who is seeking to shake off all
the trammels of society in order that he may at last do freely what he
"wants" to. Thus Anarchism comes back to its starting-point. Stirner
said: "Nothing for me goes beyond myself." Laurent Tailhade says: "What
matters the death of vague human beings, if thereby the individual
The bourgeoisie no longer knows where to turn. "I who have fought so
much for Positivism," moans Emile Zola, "well, yes! after thirty years
of this struggle, I feel my convictions are shaken. Religious faith
would have prevented such theories from being propagated; but has it not
almost disappeared to-day? Who will give us a new ideal?"
Alas, gentlemen, there is no ideal for walking corpses such as you! You
will try everything. You will become Buddhists, Druids, Sârs, Chaldeans,
Occultists, Magi, Theosophists, or Anarchists, whichever you prefer--and
yet you will remain what you are now--beings without faith or
principle, bags, emptied by history. The ideal of the bourgeois has
For ourselves, Social-Democrats, we have nothing to fear from the
Anarchist propaganda. The child of the bourgeoisie, Anarchism, will
never have any serious influence upon the proletariat. If among the
Anarchists there are workmen who sincerely desire the good of their
class, and who sacrifice themselves to what they believe to be the good
cause, it is only thanks to a misunderstanding that they find themselves
in this camp. They only know the struggle for the emancipation of the
proletariat under the form which the Anarchists are trying to give it.
When more enlightened they will come to us.
Here is an example to prove this. During the trial of the Anarchists at
Lyons in 1883, the working man Desgranges related how he had become an
Anarchist, he who had formerly taken part in the political movement, and
had even been elected a municipal councillor at Villefranche in
November, 1879. "In 1881, in the month of September, when the dyers'
strike broke out at Villefranche, I was elected secretary of the strike
committee, and it was during this memorable event ... that I became
convinced of the necessity of suppressing authority, for authority
spells despotism. During this strike, when the employers refused to
discuss the matter with the workers, what did the prefectural and
communal administrations do to settle the dispute? Fifty gendarmes, with
sword in hand, were told off to settle the question. That is what is
called the pacific means employed by Governments. It was then, at the
end of this strike, that some working men, myself among the number,
understood the necessity of seriously studying economic questions, and,
in order to do so, we agreed to meet in the evening to study
together." It is hardly necessary to add that this group became
That is how the trick is done. A working man, active and intelligent,
supports the programme of one or the other bourgeois party. The
bourgeois talk about the well-being of the people, the workers, but
betray them on the first opportunity. The working man who has believed
in the sincerity of these persons is indignant, wants to separate from
them, and decides to study seriously "economic questions." An Anarchist
comes along, and reminding him of the treachery of the bourgeois, and
the sabres of the gendarmes, assures him that the political struggle is
nothing but bourgeois nonsense, and that in order to emancipate the
workers political action must be given up, making the destruction of the
State the final aim. The working man who was only beginning to study the
situation thinks the "companion" is right, and so he becomes a convinced
and devoted Anarchist! What would happen, if pursuing his studies of the
social question further, he had understood that the "companion" was a
pretentious ignoramus, that he talked twaddle, that his "Ideal" is a
delusion and a snare, that outside bourgeois politics there is, opposed
to these, the political action of the proletariat, which will put an end
to the very existence of capitalist society? He would have become a
Thus the more widely our ideas become known among the working classes,
and they are thus becoming more and more widely known, the less will
proletarians be inclined to follow the Anarchist. Anarchism, with the
exception of its "learned" housebreakers, will more and more transform
itself into a kind of bourgeois sport, for the purpose of providing
sensations for "individuals" who have indulged too freely in the
pleasures of the world, the flesh and the devil.
And when the proletariat are masters of the situation, they will only
need to look at the "companions," and even the "finest" of them will be
silenced; they will only have to breathe to disperse all the Anarchist
dust to the winds of heaven.
 It is true that men like Reclus do not always approve of such
notions of the revolution. But again we ask, what is left of the
Anarchist when once he rejects the "propaganda of deed"? A sentimental,
visionary bourgeois--nothing more.
 In order to obtain some idea of the weakness of the bourgeois
theorists and politicians in their struggle against the Anarchists, it
suffices to read the articles of C. Lombroso and A. Bérard in the _Revue
des Revues_, 15th February, 1894, or the article of J. Bourdeau in the
_Revue de Paris_, 15th March, 1894. The latter can only appeal to "human
nature" which, he thinks, "will not be changed through the pamphlets of
Kropotkine and the bombs of Ravachol."
 See report of the Anarchist trial before the Correctional Police
and the Court of Appeal of Lyons; Lyons, 1883, pp. 90-91.
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