Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Mutualist #1 - Intro

I'm putting the finishing touches on issue #1 of The Mutualist, and will start shipping orders over the next couple of days. Here is the introduction to that issue:

Out of the Labyrinth

This first issue of THE MUTUALIST continues the work begun in the two issues of LEFTLIBERTY, but with significant difference in context and approach. The earlier works were part of a tentative, exploratory phase of my work, a kind of preliminary mapping of the “Libertarian Labyrinth,” where the focus was really on establishing the radical diversity of our anarchist/libertarian heritage. There is certainly much, much more exploring to do, but I’ve come to feel that the argument about diversity has pretty well been made. There are plenty of folks out there willing to deny the legitimacy of some or all of the lesser-known varieties of anti-authoritarian thought, but their existence is hardly in question. And among the historically-minded radicals that I meet, it appears that there is actually an emphasis on these previously marginal figures and schools.

Barring unforeseen problems, we should see anthologies this year of the works of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (from AK Press, edited by Iain McKay) and Josiah Warren (from Fordham University, edited by Crispin Sartwell), two anarchist pioneers more often cited than actually read. With a little luck, my Corvus Editions project will have made all of William Batchelder Greene’s major works available in pamphlet form by year’s end. Translators working on the Proudhon anthology and at the Collective Reason site have already made this a banner year for new “classical anarchist” material available in English, and there’s a lot of year left. At the pace they have been producing things, I would expect some more Ukrainian material from Black Cat soon as well. Anarchist/libertarian bibliography seems to have sprung back into very healthy life, with important work being done by Ernesto Longa and John Zube—and I’m gearing up to focus on bibliographic work for much of the remainder of the year. New digital archives, such as the Anarchist Library and the various online sites inspired by the Proudhon anthology, are making historical material increasingly easy to access. I hope the Corvus Editions project is contributing to that as well.

That’s a lot of progress, but even if we were able to suddenly make all the “lost classics” and fascinating ephemera available, there remains the labor of making sense of it all and applying it to present-day concerns. Acknowledging the vast extent and imposing complexity of our heritage has been a necessary step—a useful antidote to certain over-simplistic understandings of our histories—but to the extent that it changes our understanding of the anarchist and libertarian traditions, it also presses on us the need to rethink the whole application-of-tradition part of anarchist practice. To the extent that our sense of theoretical and practical alternatives has been expanded, the complexities involved in our present choices have been increased. And, given the exigencies of the present day, we probably need to get to it. For myself, after some years of (very useful) wandering “In the Libertarian Labyrinth,” it feels very much like time to get out. There is undoubtedly no straight-and-narrow path, out there beyond the exit signs—and certainly not for an advocate of the mutualist “anarchism of approximations”—but there’s a different kind of complexity to deal with.

The change in title, from LEFTLIBERTY to THE MUTUALIST, marks, on the one hand, a narrowing of focus, from the nominally “big-tent” approach of the first issues—which never really panned out anyway—to a much more programmatic attempt to elaborate a roughly “neo-Proudhonian” mutualism adapted to contemporary issues. LEFTLIBERTY was named, in part, as a tribute to Benjamin R. Tucker and his magnificent paper, LIBERTY, at a time when I was very deeply involved in market-anarchist coalitions very similar to the theoretical alliances Tucker sought to establish. Tucker remains an important touchstone for me, and the preservation and dissemination of the work published in LIBERTY remains a top priority. Tucker’s broad interests have influenced my own, and his example has been one of my key inspirations as a translator. But, ultimately, having compared Tucker to his influences, he comes up wanting—in my mind, at least. In many ways, the “plumb-line” approach that he advocated was a rejection of the central principles of Proudhon and Greene, and is arguably not the most faithful adaptation of Warren’s thought. Though Tucker sometimes spoke of “mutualism,” and while his various approaches to the question of liberty emphasized reciprocity in one sense or another, he was almost certainly not a “mutualist” in the same sense as any of his predecessors. THE MUTUALIST is not an organ of Tuckerite individualist anarchism, nor of the broad “mutualism” which makes no distinction between Proudhon and Warren and Tucker—and a host of others—nor even of the modern “Carsonian synthesis”—despite the great respect and admiration as I have for Kevin Carson’s work. It is, as I have said, “neo-Proudhonian” in its emphases, and hopes to demonstrate both the sense of Proudhon’s social philosophy and its application to the present.

But—and here is the “on the other hand,” so inevitable for anyone involved with Proudhon’s antinomies—refocusing on the work of Proudhon immediately gives us pressing reasons to engage with all sorts of other figures—influences, followers, colleagues, antagonists, etc.—who impose themselves on us as we try to understand that work and its context. Indeed, almost everyone and everything excluded with the first move rushes back in with the second, but the work is not a matter of mere gestures. What I hope to accomplish in THE MUTUALIST, and related works, is a reexamination of the broad mutualist tradition, including the works of Proudhon himself, but with a sort of “neo-Proudhonian eye.” Indeed, this is what I have already been attempting in works like “The Gift Economy of Property,” where it has been a question of completing Proudhon’s stated projects and exploring alternate routes to his stated ends. There is no question that Proudhon’s work was unfinished and unevenly developed, and then adapted by a variety of followers and intellectual heirs in an equally uneven manner. Those adaptations included significant advances, as well as significant misunderstandings—and they inform large portions of the spectrum of anarchisms and libertarian philosophies, in one way or another.

That’s probably the way Proudhon—or our speculative “neo-Proudhon”—would have wanted it. He understood progress as a matter of “approximation” and adaptation, of conflicts between more-or-less absolutist projects. And he understood liberty as growing out of more and more complex associations—in the realm of thought, as well as in the social realm. One of the goals of THE MUTUALIST will be to “open up” Proudhon’s own writings, to show his influences, to engage with criticisms in a way that he never did, and to attempt to make explicit and useful that history of choices, adaptations and approximations that is marked by the changing nature of “mutualism,” from the pre-anarchist friendly societies to the various modern variants. I’m starting with a fairly well-researched intuition about the mutualist “big picture”—none of which will be particularly new, probably, to readers of my blogs and of LEFTLIBERTY—and we’ll see how the details work themselves out. But expect, in general, that while I have narrowed my focus with regard to what I will call “mutualism,” the result is likely to be a considerably broadening of what I consider related to the discussion of it.

Two-Gun Mutualism?

I’m starting in this issue with what may seem a classic mutualist provocation. The tradition that has given us “property is theft” and “free market anti-capitalism” may perhaps be excused for dressing up the Golden Rule in wild-west drag. But there’s more at stake than just a family tradition or a dubious gag. There’s frankly very little point in going to all this trouble reimagining mutualism if readers persist in thinking of it as a kind of squishy place midway between social anarchism and market anarchism—when, in fact, its original project, the “synthesis of community and property,” was intended to encompass all the ground ultimately covered by those schools, along with all of the complications that come from tackling both individual and social emphases all at once.

That’s a pretty big project, and, let’s face it, even the mutualist tradition itself has not managed to remain focused on it—gravitating instead towards particular approximations, like the mutual bank, in some instances long after those particular institutions offered much in the way of promise.

But, big project or not, it appears to be mutualism’s project, the “solution of the social problem” or, as Claude Pelletier put it, the workers’ freedom. (Talk about your “big f***ing deals”…) The trouble for us seems to be that we are a little jaded about this sort of thing, and, frankly, we’re also pretty seriously out of practice at tackling the sort of complexities involved. Mostly, we live in a much simpler—if not simplist—world, where the established relation between individualism and socialism is pretty close to “never the twain shall meet, and where embracing both looks like a sort of intentional folly.

I hope, in the pages of THE MUTUALIST, to demonstrate a number of reason why the full mutualist project is neither as daunting nor as foolish as it may appear. But I have no intention of suggesting that something like “the solution of the social problem” is going to be easy—and I’m going to have to spend some time, at this stage in the investigation, focusing on the very antagonistic forms in which we have inherited individualism and socialism. Taking up our tools where, and in the condition in which we find them, there will undoubtedly be some initial dangers, even mishaps perhaps. Hence “two-gun” mutualism, picking up a metaphor from Pierre Leroux’s “Individualism and Socialism,” in which the two isms are likened to, among other things, “charged pistols.” After all these years, let’s acknowledge that they are old pistols, and that perhaps we have taken as good care of them as we might have, so that picking them up poses all sorts of potential hazards.

“Two-Gun Mutualism” is intended as a sort of transitional engagement. Ultimately, our goals are of a relatively peaceful sort, the sort where pistols will be of little use to us. But one of the shared assumptions of virtually all of the early anarchists seems to have been that real peace arises only from the “perfection” of conflict. We will have to really take up these two “charged” concepts, and engage with them as they come to us, before we can transform them into tools more suitable to an anarchist future. When it comes right down to it, snake-handling might be safer, and more fun. But here we go…

IN FUTURE ISSUES

The goal for the year is to put together a set of essays introducing most of the key aspects of a “neo-Proudhonian” mutualism. The second issue will most likely be built around the conclusion of “Two-Gun Mutualism and the Golden Rule” and an essay called “Owning Up,” about mutualism, egoism and Walt Whitman. Beyond that, future issues will contain the remainder of “The Anarchism of Approximations: Philosophical Issues” (which began in LeftLiberty), more on “the gift economy of property,” a discussion of value theories, thoughts on ecology, micro-enterprise, and the relationship between mutualism and syndicalism, plus notes towards a comprehensive history of the mutualist tradition. By the time 2011 rolls around, I hope to have the cards pretty well on the table—at which point it should be possible to talk much more seriously and concretely about what comes after the “two-gun” transition.

Proudhon on Force and Rights

The following extracts from Proudhon's War and Peace will appear in The Mutualist #1 (which will itself appear in the next couple of days.) It's useful to recall that Proudhon treated "justice" almost entirely as a matter of the balance of forces, and acknowledged that there would be "degrees" of justice, just as there are of liberty, or of the strength and present expression of all human faculties. As early as What is Property?, Proudhon gave a historical account of the development of justice in its earliest stages: balance of strength, followed by balance of strength and guile. His scattered treatments of the further development suggest that justice has developed by incorporating new sorts of "forces" into the balance. When, here, in the discussion of the "gamut of rights," Proudhon places "liberty" at the opposite end of the series from the balance of brute strengths, we have some confirmation that each element in the series involves a greater or lesser variety of forces than the ones on either side of it. Proudhon understood liberty, after all, as quantifiable according to the number of forces at play within a given "individual," and the complexity of the relations between those forces.


War and Peace
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

[extracts]

CHAPTER XI

CONTINUATION OF THE SAME SUBJECT: 3) POLITICAL RIGHT, CIVIL RIGHT, ECONOMIC RIGHT.—GAMUT OF RIGHTS.

Let us summarize some points.

RIGHT, in general, is the recognition of human dignity is all its faculties, attributes and prerogatives. There are thus as many special rights as humans can raise different claims, owing to the diversity of their faculties and of their exercise. As a consequence, the genealogy of human rights will follow that of the human faculties and their manifestations.

The right of force is the simplest of all and the most basic: it is the homage rendered to man for his strength. Like every other right, it exists only under the condition of reciprocity. Just as the recognition of the superior force in no way implies the negation of the inferior, the right which belongs to the first does not destroy that of the second. If the earth is attracted by the sun, the sun is in its turn attracted by the earth and the other planets: by virtue of this double attraction, the center of the whirl is not at the center of the sun, but at a distance proportional to the power of reciprocal attraction of the sun and the planets.

Thus, no matter what the fabulist has said, the right of the strongest is a positive right, and its reason a true reason; the wrong, in all this, comes either from the exaggeration of the right of force, or from the falsity of its application. The lion’s share, in itself, is legitimate. What makes the morality of the fable of the Lion and his three associates, the Cow, the Goat and the Hind, and what constitutes the rascality of the first, is not that he appropriates a greater part because of his strength and his courage, it is that, by a procurer’s trick, making of his quality of being a lion, then of his force, then again of his courage, three identical terms, so many titles to grant to himself a part of the product, and threatening with his claws the associate who dares make a claim to the rest, he pays himself four times for what should have only been counted once.

The right of war derives directly from the right of force. Its object is to regulate combat and determine the effects of it, when, force being denied or its right misunderstood, it becomes necessary, to resolve the difference, to proceed to conflict. This is why, as we have said, war is a form of procedure which by itself creates no right, not even that of force, but which establishes it, puts it in evidence, sanctions it by victory, and adjudges to it its conclusions by making, by the supreme reason of force, antagonism cease.

As much as it is true, however, that antagonism is the law of social life, we say even of life universally, so much can we say that bloody war is repugnant to the social sentiment of man. As bellicose as a nation may be, its first movement, in case of difficulty, is always to avoid, if it can, combat. From this rises the notion of the right of peoples.

The right of peoples has its principle in the consideration that, from State to State, and in certain circumstances, force positively makes right; it is possible, in the case of conflict between two States, to determine à priori, by the evaluation of forces, to which of the two parties the preponderance must belong; consequently to prevent, by an amiable transaction, the decision of war, at the very least to define the effects of victory and to render more equitable the treaty of peace.

If the conflict is of such a nature and seriousness that the solution demands the sacrifice of one of the warring sovereignties, the right of peoples teaches us,—and it is here that it is eminently distinguished from any other right, which makes of it one of the best marked categories of the science of justice,—that this sacrifice can be required by that one of the powers which is believed to be the strongest, and executed by arms. All that which, in international relations, can be reduced to a question of life or death for the State to decide by force, pertains to the right of peoples.

Let us come now to public right or political right.

Political right aims to prevent all types of aggression by the individual against the community and against other individuals, by defining, as much as possible, the rights and duties of citizens towards each other and towards the State, and placing them all under the protection and authority of one public force which is the government.

But there is this difference between the international right and the political right, that the first implies essentially the possibility of the absorption of States by one another, and consequently in case of conflict, the legitimacy of their immolation, while by political right neither the sovereignty of the State, nor the liberty of the citizen can perish; far from that, the masterwork of the constitution is to make them increase unceasingly the one alongside the other and the one by the other. In international right, if the equilibrium of powers cannot be amiably obtained, there will be suppression, by war, of one or more of the antagonistic states; in political right, on the contrary, order is imperiously demanded without it costing the sacrifice of a single liberty or a single life: the proscription, which is, so to speak, the soul of the right of peoples, becomes contradictory here.

Thus the notion of the right of force is always present in the thought of the eternal legislator. It follows it in all of its creation, whether it founds the State or it coordinates the independent nations; and always one encounters it again, except for differences of application, in each of the metamorphoses of the law.

But it necessary to enter further into the spirit of the constitutions, and to show, by the facts, that ubiquity of right and of force. Certainly, everything is not connected, in public right, to force; but everything supposes it, not only as means of action and organ of authority, instrumentum regni, but as principle and source of right, which is very different.

We have seen above, in Chapter II, the patriarchy or patrician class form spontaneously from the just recognition of the right of force. One consequence of that principle has been the formation of the aristocracy or the castes. The idea that force engenders force, that the strong spring from the strong, producing the institution of hereditary nobility:—that is, as I said before, right becoming subjective in man in the name of his most visible quality, force. Thus it is always, at base, force which decides justice, except for the introduction of a new element, the family.

But nobility abuses its privileges: from one side, it is corrupted by power and wealth; from the other, it exploits the plebians well beyond what is permitted by the right force. Soon even the superiority of force, which in the beginning had created the aristocracy, passes to the side of the people; and one sees the nobles, without knowledge of their privilege, demand the benefit of force when they already lack the reality; to speak of their seigneural rights when they no long have anything, neither as individuals, nor as caste, of that which made the seigneury.

This is then revolution, and revolution in the name of force.

Sieyès’ brochure, Qu’est-ce que le tiers État? has no other meaning. Just as all despotism resolves itself, by virtue of force and the right that pertains to it, in aristocracy, so all aristocracy ends in its turn in the bourgeoisie and roture. That is inevitable, and it is just.

Here a new modification of the right of force is produced. By the nobiliary institution the right of force was combined with that of the family; it had become a right by birth: but with the coming of democracy, it becomes a right of numbers or of the majority. The force of collectivity is the point of departure and base of the social contract.

By virtue of that contract, at first purely fictive and tacit, each citizen is supposed to voluntarily abandon a part of his force, his liberty and his property, in order to create a public force, capable of vanquishing all individual resistances, and which insures justice and protection to all. [1]

Now, to whom will that public force be entrusted? To a magistrate, an elected representative, representing the collectivity, or the major part of the collectivity, which is to say always force. Universal suffrage is, from all points of view, only a peaceful recognition of force, and the representative system, with its law of majorities, a reasoned application of the right of the strongest. The Polish nobility could never understand that transformation of the right of force, accepted by all peoples. At each election of the prince, the Diet voted on horseback; the minority opposing its veto, there was battle, and the most numerous faction was forced to maintain the validity of the election by the defeat of the dissidents.

Certainly, in the law of the majority there is something other than numerical force. There is that principle of common prudence that, in doubtful cases, the opinion of the greatest number is more probable than the opinion of some few, the conscience of the nation than that of one sect. But the majority of opinions will be, it is necessary to note, not very respectable, if they did not express as the same time those of the majority. Now, interests are forces, and, in supposing the opinions of the majority and those of the minority of equal value, it will remain always, in favor of the first, that, in cases of doubt, the most considerable interest must be preferred.

What is it then which, in a republic or a representative monarchy, can motivate insurrection? It is certainly not the consideration, very sustainable in itself, that in matters of right or science numbers mean nothing, and that twenty-five can be right against five hundred. I do not believe that an insurrection ever rested on a grievance of that sort. One has never reproached, that I know of, in the name of the people, a government which had the multitude in favor of it, of having used the right that it held from that multitude, of the right of force. One rises up when the government, like that Charles X, after having lost the majority, wants to act against the majority, to be right against force; or while having the majority it violates the law, lies about the constitution, and calls for more, as a consequence, than it is accorded to it by the right of force.

One observation to enter here is that relative to the choice of the prince, above all to the increase what his power rarely fails to take, despite the resistance of the friends of liberty. At all times the sages have dreamed of placing a sage at the head of affairs and of ruling so well his attributions that, though sufficiently armed to maintain order, he could not act against the rights and liberties of the citizens. We know how rarely this hope has been fulfilled. If the power is elective and the election is left to the multitude, it will most often be a military man, a general illustrious for his feats at arms, who will carry off the votes. Let us suppose that the prince belongs to the civil order, as in the case of heredity: it will suffice that the prince, making war by his generals, triumphs in some campaigns, in order to count the victory his own, as if he had triumphed in person. Then, and in this case as in the first, the victorious chief does not fail to assume more extended powers, higher prerogatives, that nobody dreams of disputing, and that one would challenge in vain.

Such is the prestige of force that, where it exists, the vulgar are included to accept that there is an authority, and consequently a right.

One conceives now how war, which exerts such great action on ideas, exerts one no less strong on public liberties and the constitution of the State. A nation at war is a nation gathered on itself, formed in battalions, and which no longer obeys anyone but the military chief, lives only a governmental and central life. The man who leads the war is a being so highly placed that all involuntarily obey him; he becomes the judge of others, representing right as well as force, at once legislator, judge and general. If he beats the enemy, everyone adores him; the power that he has been given by combat remains with him: there is the master.

What of the precautions taken, in Rome, in order to prevent the usurpation of the dictator, sovereign for fifteen days, for one year at most! Yet Marius and Sulla knew how to make themselves masters; Caesar became one in his turn: there have been masters for six hundred years. In our times, one escapes military dictatorship by constitutional and hereditary monarchy; but that is on the condition, in addition, of reserving to the bourgeoisie the exercise of political rights. As soon as the plebs enter the arena, they make a chief for themselves according to his genius, that is according to his force. After a republican interregnum, Cromwell succeeds, by puritan democracy, to Charles I; Bonaparte, Jacobin plebs, to Louis XVI.

Under the Roman emperors, heredity, somewhat favorable to the soldiers and the people, failed to establish itself. The reason was that in Rome there was not the quality of being an heir which served to make the emperor recognized, it was, on the contrary, the title of emperor, earned or already obtained, which came to consecrate the filiation. Titus and Marcus Aurelius succeeded without difficulty, one to his father Vespasian, the other to his stepfather Antoninus Pius. But Titus and Marcus Aurelius, before being associated with the empire, were illustrious from their services; parentage served only to give to their military title one more illustration. Every victorious general was, among the Romans, by fact and by right imperator; if Augustus had only his birth, it was rare that he did not succumb sooner or later before an imperator more real. That is what happened to Caligula, Nero, Commodus, Elagabal, Alexander Severus, Gordien the younger and others.

There are truly only two ways for a country to shield public liberties from the encroachments of force and ward off despotism. It is to organize, as in England, a hereditary monarchy, acting by agents responsible before a Parliament, and to reserve the electoral privilege to the bourgeoisie; or else, if the constitution of the country is established on universal suffrage to confer to the multitude, with the enjoyment of political rights, that of economic rights, which means equality of education and fortune.

If it was permitted to speculate on the future according to analogies with the past, I would say that Napoléon III having been made emperor, not by military fortune, but by heredity, and the French nation rejecting praetorianism, it seems inevitable, for that double reason, that the present empire becomes a parliamentary monarchy. But, on the other hand, that same head of State holds his right from universal suffrage, and his government having thus far had for its principal object to suppress the economic revolution, it appears equally impossible, for that double reason, for the parliamentary monarchy to reestablish itself; and it is exactly that which makes the originality of the situation. Fata viam invenient.

Just as the political constitution rests, in the last analysis, on force, it also has force for sanction: in which public right comes to be confused with international right. Every nation, indeed, incapable of organizing itself politically, and in which power is unstable, is a nation destined to be consumed by its neighbors. As those who do not know how or do not want to make war, or who would be too weak to defend themselves, have not a right to occupy a place on the map of States; … it is necessary that they submit to a suzerainty. Neither religion, nor language, nor race, are anything here; the predominance of force dominates all and makes law. Right of force, right of war, right of peoples, and political right thus become synonyms: where force is lacking, government does not hold, and nationality still less. A terrible right, you say, regicidal right, in which we hesitate to recognize a form of justice. Eh! no; no vain sensibility. Remember that the death of the State does not lead to that of the citizens, and that there is no worse condition for them than a crumbling State, torn by factions. When the homeland is resistant to liberty, when public sovereignty is in contradiction with that of the citizen, nationality becomes an opprobrium, and regeneration by an outside force a necessity….

A few words only about civil right and economic right.

Civil right is made up of the ensemble of rights of man and of citizen: right of family, rights of property, of inheritance, of labor, or exchange, or habitation, etc., which are all placed under the protection of the public authority, subordinated to the public interest, and have their sanction in the right of force.

Property, for example, as it tends more and more to be legitimated by labor and by the just relation between land-rent, interest on capital and wages, does not come down less obviously to the right of force, founded as it is originally on the right of first occupation or conquest, and subordinated the condition, by the proprietor, to exploit in that of good father, to the better of the interests of his family and the State. If a proprietor, said Napoleon I, could not cultivate or make cultivated his lands, if he left them wild and abandoned them, I will repossess them by authority and give them to the most capable and best deserving. Whoever cannot exploit, thought the conqueror, is not worthy to possess; in other words, whoever has no force has no right. Such is, indeed, the principle for property in land. It is also only by a subsequent convention, a kind of legal fiction, supported by the State, that the proprietor can possess nominally and exploit by the intermediary of a tenant farmer. The nature of right, like that of things, does not allow that abstract property; society makes effort against it; and every day we see property fall again from the hand of the rentier into those of the cultivator.

Thus, from citizen to citizen, from family to family, from corporation to corporation, from society to society, is transformed, by the mutuality of guarantees, the right of force. It is necessary, in some way, to uncover it in order to make it reappear. It is no longer sense except now and then, in an indirect manner, in the work for hire contract, in the sponsorship, etc., where the superiority force, of labor, of capital, of industry, leads to the superiority of wages. As if force, animal thing, disgraced intelligent and free humanity, the legislator disguises it as much as possible; one says that, reached to that height, he judges the right of force as little worthy of the well brought up man as wrestling and boxing. It is the fleur-de-lis which renounced the bulb from which it has come. But that which seems improper to the citizen is glorious to the prince. The right of force is the prerogative of sovereignty, the symbol of justice. In this regard, forbidden to anyone to claim it and to take advantage of it: Be careful if you touch it! Under the feudal system, the right of force had been confiscated only in part; part was left to the baron, who, by virtue of that right of force, also enjoyed the right of war and the right of justice. The Revolution has completed the work begun by the kings by imposing an eternal silence on feudal quarrels, and by putting, under the relation of the right of force, the great feudal lords on a level with their serfs.

Moreover, in the same civil order, the right of force is far from having said its last word. It along can end the debate raised some years ago between the class called the bourgeoisie which will go … and the working and salaried class which comes always. It matters little if that will be by a battle or by consent to a constitution: it is necessary that the regime of labor, of credit and of commerce, change; that wages and value, which are the freest in the world, come to police themselves. Certainly, one will not deny that muscular force be happier and more dignified before justice than the metal which serves as an intermediary in exchange; labor more honorable than traffic, lending and agio; the working masses, preserved by labor and frugality, more moral than the parasitism which exploits them. Force, and right with it, are to the arms, to labor, to the masses; yet, neither the arms, nor labor, nor the masses, have their account.

It is when the citizens, making an assessment of their interests as laborers, and comparing those with the interests of the privileged, of entrepreneurs and capitalists, will have recognized the superiority of the first to the second; when the petit bourgeois, small proprietor, the small industrialist, like the peasant, the clerk and the laborer, will find that they have more to gain by work than by rent and agio; it is then that the people, the industrial democracy, will destroy, in the name of right of force, synonym of the right of labor, synonym of the right of intelligence, la suzerainty or money, will balance rent and tax, will restore property to its just limit, change the relations of labor and capital, and will create, as the crowning of the edifice, economic right. And that will be justice; force, once more, will make right.

If, now, from the point of view of force, so new in jurisprudence, we consider the development of right in its principle categories, we discover there a series or that would have filled with joy the heart of Fourier:

1. Right of force;

2. Right of war;

3. Right of peoples;

4. Political right;

5. Civil or domestic right;

6. Economic right, which subdivides into two branches, like the things that it represents, labor and exchange;

7. Philosophical right, or right of free thought;

8. RIGHT OF LIBERTY, or humanity, formed by war, by politics, by institutions, by labor and commerce, by the sciences and the arts, is no longer governed by anything but pure liberty, under the single law of reason.

In that gamut of rights, force makes the bass note, and liberty is the octave. The dominant varies according to the character of the race and the degree of civilization: patriarchal or family right among the nomads; right of property, or landed patricians, among the ancient Romans; right of labor, in the industrial towns of the Middle Ages, in Italy and Flanders; mercantile right at Tyr, Carthage, Athens, Corinth, Marseille, and in modern England.

The tendency is for pure liberty to become the synonym of pure right: it is the ideal of civilization, the most elevated expression of force.



CONCLUSION

We said in the first book:

War animates society. Its thought, its influence, are present everywhere. It is war which has given the impetus and the form to all our powers, to religion, to justice, to philosophy, to the liberal and the useful arts. War has made society what it is, to such an extent that, if one left aside war, from his ideas and his work, one could no longer imagine what civilization would be, what the human race would be.

These propositions, broadly presented, although in a small number of pages, have acquire in this second book, a mean serious in other ways. In discovering that war contains a moral element; that it implies, in its notion, in its motives and its aim, an idea of right; that this it resolves into a veritable judiciary mandate; that such is the opinion of all people, the intimate faith of the human race; we have understood the key to that mysterious and gigantic phenomenon and the more that formidable apparition had seemed to us hitherto to swallow our species, the more we have sensed that it suddenly lifted us up.

Thus all of our efforts have tended to determine, in a precise manner, that moral element. For that, we have had to triumph over the universal disapproval of the authors, in the eyes of whom war is purely and simply an evil, not to say the evil, and the right of force the negation of all right and all justice. We have demonstrated that on that hypothesis, inherent in the idea of war, of the reality of a right and the legitimacy of a jurisdiction of force, all the authors, jurists and publicists, philosophers and poets, divide radically, and unanimously, from the faith of nations. Those who have recourse to force, as a necessary sanction of right, do it only unwillingly, by invoking a principle foreign to right, the principle of utility, or by implying that justice having its sanction, like its principle, only in God, humanity being fallen, the sanction of force is the sign of our meanness and the instrument of our punishment. The right of force, they all say, is not a right; it is the negation of right. From which it results, if the authors speak true, that war had in its turn nothing juridical, to which they willingly agreed; but also, which they have not realized, that the right of peoples would be a vain phrase, political right a fiction, and, finally, civil and economic right conventions without guaranties as without principles.

An opposition so marked between universal sentiment and the authority of the school, the disastrous consequences entailed by the theory of the jurists, as much for the certainty of principles as for the conduct of societies, demand that we take up again at its base the examination of the problem. Now, the result of that examination has been, contrary to the talk of the school, but in agreement with the belief of the nations, in accord with the hopes that have given rise in us to that grandiose phenomenology of war, that as much as it is certain that justice is a real faculty and positive of man, so much is it true that there exists a real and positive right of force; that that right is subject to the same conditions of reciprocity as the others; that it has, like all others, its specialty, and consequently its limits, its competence and its incompetence; that its most ordinary application, since the formation of the first societies, takes place between States, whether it acts for their formation and enlargement, or for their division and their balancing; finally, that war is the form of action of the right of force, since it along has for aim, in the determined cases, to pursue the claim of the prerogatives of force, by rendering, through combat, force itself manifest. Like the right of property and the right of labor, like the right of intelligence and that of love, the right of force is one of the rights of man and of the citizen, the first of all in the order manifestation; only, by the effect of the social, the citizen is delivered into the hands of the prince, who alone finds himself invested, in the name of all, with the right of war and the right of justice.

The right of force, hence that of war, once recognized as real rights, restored in legislation and in science, the deduction of other rights no longer poses the least difficulty. The right of peoples aims to legalize, so to speak, war; to predict and to regulate its effects, if need be to prevent it, by defining in advance the relations of powers and their prerogatives. Political right rises from the substitution of a public force, acting for all, by force scattered to individuals. Civil right and economic right have for their point of departure the equality of persons before the law, and the mutual recognition of all the rights which can result from their respective attributes and from the free exercise of their faculties, as these attributes and faculties serve in the deployment of their forces.

All is then soon perfectly coordinated; everything is in order, everything holds, follows and makes a body. We have a principle, a base of operations, a perspective, an aim and a method. No more schism either in the home or in society; force and right, mind and matter, war and peace, are based on a homogeneous and indissoluble thought.

We know now what causes the enthusiasm of nations for battles. We can say by what mystery religion and ware are two expressions, one in the real and the other in the ideal, of one single nature and law; why the thought of war breathes in all poetry and all love, as in all politics and all justice; how it has come to be that the virile ideal, among all peoples, is a composite of magistrate, priest and warrior; how it comes, finally, when societies are corrupted by a long jouissance, that they are regenerated by war. It is that, as we presented it at the beginning of the first book, there exists in war a moral element; it is that war is the upholder of the law, and of all the forms of justice the most sublime, the most incorruptible, the most solemn.

It remains to see at present in what manner war, which seems to us so normal, so glorious, so fruitful, fulfills its mandate; how it behaves in its summons, in its enforcements, let us say the word, in its proceedings; how far extends its remit, its competence; what is the value of its judgments; what guarantee of its justice does it offer to the nations; in what abuses it can fall through the immoderate use of force, and what consequences can result, for the universal order, from its prevarications. For we still possess only half the truth; after having found the principle of the sublimities of war, it remains for us to discover the reason for its horrors.

It is this that we propose to investigate in the next book.


[1] This manner of interpreting the social contract is very different from that of Rousseau. According to the philosopher of Geneva, the sovereignty of the people proceeds from the gathering of individual wills, freely expressed; from which it follows that the right of man, origin of the right of the nation, has its seat in the will of man. But it is clear that the union of 100,000 electors could not juridically invalidate the will of one alone, nor found, consequently, despite its claims, a legitimate sovereignty. My right, expression of my will, is indestructible and inalienable; and if I refuse, there is absolutely nothing, in the agreement of my 100,000 contradictors, which drowns out my refusal. Thus a single man could, opposing his veto to the will of the majority, prevent the law from passing, paralyze the action of the government, and make the sovereign impossible. The example of the Poles, cited below, demonstrates it. The absurdity of that result proves the falsity of the purely metaphysical theory of Rousseau. I know well that in the end one will declare the right of the majority superior to that of the minority, which means simply that one will appeal to force. But, unless force has right by itself, one will only have exerted violence; that would be a usurpation, not an act of justice. Thus it is the right of force, the respectability inherent in force, as a human faculty, which forms the first foundation of right, the first echelon of the legal and political order. One will object that that which has the force, the people, cannot very well have reason at the same time: in that case, would it be necessary to always say that it is sovereign? To that I respond, always by virtue of the same principle, that force has right only insofar as it is human; that a force deprived of intelligence is nothing more than bestiality, an instrument a the disposition of the intelligent power that knows how to seize it, and with which that power will contain and enslave the people. This is what has been seen at all times, it is this that happened in 1848, when the people, convened in electoral assemblies, named reactionary assemblies, and what is evidenced in a more sensible manner still since the coup d’État. Force, I repeat, only has right if it is human, which is to say intelligent, moral and free. From the moment that it is reduced to the raw state, it belongs to that which seizes it, and will count to its profit.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Note on "Another note on the term 'private property'”

I posted this reply to Brad Spangler's "Another note on the term 'private property.'" I think it's worth posting here, since it sums up my own present approach to the question of what makes a useful and theoretically "elegant" theory of property:
I’m constantly uncertain why modern Lockeans support Locke’s analysis. It seems to me that the strength of the model is that it gives us a clear mechanism for appropriation (labor mixing), a rationale for that appropriation (extension of the self), and a rule for avoiding the monopolization of property (the provisos.) That’s pretty elegant. Add an active, “unmixing” nature to the picture, and apply some attention and ingenuity to how expropriation will adjust property claims to fit the demands of the provisos, and you have some pretty simple, and fairly sustainable, guidelines. The provisos make the whole apparatus explicitly social in nature; changes of various sorts will require adjustments, expropriations and reappropriations (all of a voluntary sort, if folks are following the “rules.”) What puzzles me is that non-proviso Lockeans don’t seem to admire any of that except the fact that the rule of labor-mixing seems simple. It’s precisely all the dynamic potential, and the elegance of the rationale (the fact that self-ownership and the ownership of chattel or real property don’t have to be treated as separate) that they seem to oppose. What non-proviso Lockeans draw from Locke seems to be a ritual of appropriation with little or no logical connection to even the principles — like self-ownership — that they appeal to. Occupancy and use is certainly a lot less cut-and-dried, but compared to the “correct position” it certainly seems a lot more robust and complete.

Anselme Bellegarrigue on "The Revolution"

Bellegarrigue's Anarchy: A Journal of Order only lasted for two issues, although he had projected several more. The first issue contained his "Manifesto"  — translated and published in part by Benjamin Tucker in Liberty, and in full by the Kate Sharpley Library — and the second was dedicated to "The Revolution." Like Proudhon, Bellegarrigue was a strong critic of the direction that the 1848 revolution had taken: "In theory, the Revolution is the development of well-being. In practice, it has only been the extension of malaise." And, like Proudhon, he pointed to certain essential contradictions which prevented that "development of well-being." His analysis of the problem is a little different, however:
"The essential genius of the Revolution is the acquisition of wealth; the dominant instinct of the revolutionaries is the hatred of riches, and this is precisely why, by becoming wealthy, the revolutionaries cease to be revolutionary."
Bellegarrigue sees the Revolution as a mechanism for extending prosperity. People want to prosper, he argues, but they also associate prosperity with their own domination, so they can't seem to remain truly revolutionary and prosperous at the same time. The problem is another sort of "conflation" between class-based capitalism and a generally thriving market society, a "vulgar revolutionism" that ultimately just amounts to a failure to come to grips with either the realities of pre-revolutionary society or those of the society we presumably desire. It's a provocative argument, particularly since we have largely treated this sort of position as a product of much later periods. But here is Bellegarrigue, promoting laissez faire, laissez passer and consistent anti-governmentalism in 1850.

There are, I think, some good reasons to criticize Bellegarrigue's overtly market-anarchist program, but very few reasons to question his anarchist credentials. There's a lot to be said, ultimately, about Bellegarrigue's contribution, some of which will have to wait for the complete translations (nearly accomplished!) of his Au Fait! Au Fait!! (To the Point! To Action!!) and the second issue of Anarchy. But, for now, I can give a pretty clear sense of his general approach in those works. Here, for example, is the "Advertisement" from the second issue:

Advertisement

The editor of Anarchy, in tackling head-on a word with the aid of which politicians have intimidated and held for ransom the population, has proposed two things:

First, to prove that order is a popular and anti-government element. The best argument that one can furnish in support of this thesis is that the monarchist papers openly greet the civil war as a Providence.

Second, to establish that the Revolution is purely and simply a matter of business. The indifference and political skepticism to which the people abandon themselves more and more, the disgust that they show for the quibbles and the contempt they profess for the men who want to command them, come to corroborate that opinion and show that the editor of Anarchy is in agreement with public sentiment.

The royalist parties being historically and materially ruined, it is not necessary to combat them. That which it is important to destroy is the pretension of the new parties who, under the pretext of burying royalty, wish to inherit its power. Anarchy has then to unmask the revolutionaries, for the benefit of the Revolution.

The old journalism goes, hated by the interests that it has compromised, loaded with curses by the people, about whom it has understood nothing, damned by the civilization that it has fouled.

The old journalism understands nothing of finance, nor of industry, nor of commerce, nor practical philosophy; in proportion to the establishment of the positive sciences, its dull ignorance is revealed and, in a few months, it will disappear in its own shame.

When the fictions are overwhelmed by the facts, the controversialists no longer have anything to say.
And here is the conclusion of that work on "The Revolution:"

But what is it that authorizes the crimes of the State? What is it that makes the governments deduct an enormous premium on the time, the industry, the goods, the life and the blood of individuals? Fear. If no one in society was afraid, the government wouldn't have to protect anyone, and if the government didn't have to protect anyone, it would no longer have any pretext for demanding from each an account of the use of their time, the character of their industry, or the origin of their goods; it would no longer demand the sacrifice of the blood or life of anyone.

When, to speak only of our profession — and all professions are obstructed like our own — we seek the reason for the numerous hindrances which are placed in our path; when we ask why we have to consult the minister, and then the procurator of the Republic, and then again ten prefect of police in order to publish a journal, we find that the government is afraid, but we also discover that the government is stronger than us; what gives that strength to the government? Everyone's money, the public wealth; but if it is accepted that the public wealth pays the government for being afraid, it remains to show that it is the public wealth itself which is afraid.

Why is the public wealth afraid? Precisely because it is the stake of political or insurrectionary struggles; precisely because public wealth, which is by nature revolutionary or circulating, finds itself constantly suppressed by the governmental piston of agitation and idleness.

Public wealth sustains government, not for the good that it does — that good is always and everywhere elusive — but for the evil that it is supposed to prevent. The evil that public wealth dreads and that government is supposed to avert can only com from government itself, or from the initiative of men who want to bring to the government one system or another; it sustains the politics of Peter because it fears the politics of Paul. Let the Paul-opposition withdraw from politics and the Peter-government is ruined; for the wealth sustaining Peter only for the evil that he prevents Paul from accomplishing, as soon as Paul no longer inspires fear and can no longer do evil, as soon as he labors, wealth circulates to him by right, Peter is no longer sustained, his action becomes null, his influence is dead, and his authority evaporates.

Confidence reborn in all minds, free credit is established, the interests develop on the largest scale, well-being is generalized, prosperity becomes universal, civilization is extended to all classes, and the Revolution is accomplished.

Abandon politics completely, and get seriously back to business — this then is what the true revolutionary tactic consists of; it is simple like all that is true, easy like all that is simple, and it is simple, true and easy like all that is just.

The government of the people is neither a doctrine nor an idea, but a fact; that government does not sum itself up in a motto or a color; it has for a symbol an ecu [a coin].

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bakunin's "Political Theology of Mazzini"

There are still lots of gems hidden in the pages of Liberty, and some of them are not, perhaps, quite what you would expect to find. For instance, Sarah Holmes translated Bakunin's lengthy essay, "The Political Theology of Mazzini and the International," and Tucker serialized it in his paper. I've collected the text in the Libertarian Labyrinth archive and will be releasing a pamphlet version (part of the "Liberty2.0" project) at the Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair next weekend. It's a very interesting read. Give it a look.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Down with the Bosses!

Here's a translation of an article from Le Libertaire, originally published as "L’autorité. — La Dictature," April, 1859. I've also recently translated his poem, "To the Ci-Devant Dynastics." I think the difficulties, and the resulting rough spots, in both translations will be fairly obvious. [Translation revised, and introductory quote added: January, 2012]

Authority.—Dictatorship.
aka "Down with the Bosses!"

Le Libertaire, no. 12 (April 7, 1859)
[revised translation]


What assurance have I gained?

What conclusion can I draw?

...

The knowledge that I have gained is that there is only one right in the world: it is the right of the strongest.


Thus, no more doubt, no more uncertainty, no more equivocation: might is right; there is no other right than force, for that right is the only one which is inviolable, the only one which carries in itself its own inevitable guarantee and its effective sanction.

If that conclusion is true, “transforming force” is the only object that can suggest itself to the man desiring to remove himself more and more from the state of barbarism..........

But how is it to be transformed?

By applying ourselves, relentlessly and without exception, to taking from the material force all that which it will be possible to withdraw from it, in order to add it to the immaterial force.

I call “material force:” every corporeal power, every numerical power.

I call “immaterial force:” every intellectual power, every scientific power.

I call “material force:” every artificial law, any law for the performance of which the evidence of its necessity does not suffice.

I call “immaterial force:” every natural law, any law for the performance of which the evidence of its necessity suffices.

I call “material force:” the force by which man is like an animal.

I call “immaterial force:” the force by which man is superior to all other animated beings.


Wars, conquests, authorities, what are you? You are the right of the strongest, materially, nationally.

Sciences, discoveries, liberty, what are you? You are the right of the strongest, intellectually, individually.


Such is my conclusion, and by it I come to make human thought no less inviolable than human life.

A man has no more right to prevent another man from thinking, though he is mentally deformed and infirm, than he has to prevent a man from living, though he is deformed and infirm in body.

Society has no more right against evil thinking than it has against evil conduct.

But how shall we battle evil conduct?

By not proceeding in an allopathic, but a homeopathic manner, proceeding by similarities and not by contraries; by not opposing material force to intellectual force, but by opposing force intellectual force to intellectual force.

Either Right is nothing, or Right is human inviolability: intellectually and corporeally.

When we return from laws to rights, as one goes from the mouth of a river to its source, we recognize that right cannot exist by halves.

What is the right assuring man property in his body and not assuring him property in his mind?

Is the body of a man worth a greater source of value than his mind? Is his mind less sacred than his body?

The right which puts the corporeal value of the man at a price so high, and his intellectual value at a price so low, is a right which closely resembles a human body from which the mind is absent: it is an idiotic right.

And this is the right that of which we boast! And it is this right before which I am supposed to bow my knee in respect! that I should incline my head in superstition! — No.

That right is still barbarism.

Where barbarism has not ceased to reign, man has no more property in his body than he has property in his mind; .............. it is that complete property in himself which constitutes the only right that it would be possible for my reason to recognize distinctly, the individual right of the strongest “intellectually, scientifically, industrially, ............” succeeding everywhere the collective right of the strongest “materially, numerically, legally, territorially,” the only Right, finally, which would not be a vain word.

Émile de Girardin

We are no longer in the fabulous times of Saturn, when the father devoured his children, nor in the times of Herod, when one massacred an entire generation of frail innocents—which, after all, did not prevent Jesus from escaping the massacre, or Jupiter the devouring. We live in an era in which we no longer kill many children, with the sword or the teeth, and it appears natural enough that the young bury the old. Hercules is dead; why seek to resuscitate him? We could at the most only galvanize him. The club is less mighty than saltpeter, saltpeter is less mighty than the electric battery, and the electric battery is less mighty than the idea.

To every idea, present and to come, welcome! Authority had reigned so long over men, it has taken such possession of humanity, that it has left garrisons everywhere in our minds. Even today, it is difficult, other than in thought, to chip it away completely. Each civilized person (civilizée)[1] is a fortress for it, which, guarded of prejudices, stands hostile to the passage of that invading Amazon, Liberty. Thus, those who believe themselves revolutionaries and swear only by liberty, proclaim nonetheless the necessity of dictatorship, as if dictatorship did not exclude liberty, and liberty dictatorship. What big babies there are, if the truth be told, among the revolutionaries!—and big babies who cling to their daddy—for whom the democratic and social Republic is inevitable, doubtless, but with an emperor or a dictator—it’s all one—for the governor; people mounted sidesaddle, and faced towards the rump, on their donkey’s carcass, who, with eyes fixed on the prospect of progress, move away from it the more they try to approach it,—the feet in this position galloping in the opposite direction ahead of the head. These revolutionaries, bare-necked politickers, have preserved, along with the imprint of the collar, the moral stain of servitude, and the stiff neck of despotism. Alas! They are only too numerous among us. They call themselves republicans, democrats and socialists, but they have fondness, they have love only for authority with an iron grip: more monarchistic in reality than the monarchists, who could nearly pass for anarchists beside them.

Dictatorship, whether it is a hydra with a hundred heads or a hundred tails, whether it is autocratic or demagogic, can certainly do nothing for liberty: it can only perpetuate slavery, morally and physically. It is not by regimenting a nation of helots under a yoke of iron, since there is iron, by confining them in a uniform of proconsular wills, that the people will be made intelligent and free. All that which is not liberty is against liberty. Liberty is not a thing that can be allocated. It does not pertain only at the whim of whatever personage or committee of public safety orders it, and makes a gift of it. Dictatorship can cut off the people’s heads, but it cannot make the people increase and multiply; it can transform intelligences into corpses, but it cannot transform cadavers into intelligences; it can make the slaves creep and crawl under its boots, like maggots or caterpillars, flattening them under its heavy tread,—but only Liberty can give them wings. It is only through free labor, intellectual and moral labor, that our generation, civilization or chrysalis, will be metamorphosed into a bright and shiny butterfly, will assume a truly human type and continue its development in Harmony.

Many men, I know, speak of liberty without understanding it; they know neither the science of it, nor even the sentiment. They see in the demolition of reigning Authority nothing but a substitution of names or persons; they don’t imagine that a society could function without masters or servants, without chiefs and soldiers; in this they are like those reactionaries who say: “There are always rich and poor, and there always will be. What would become of the poor without the rich? They would die of hunger!” The demagogues do not say exactly that, but they say: “There have always been governors and governed, and there always will. What would become of the people without government? They would rot in bondage!” All these antiquarians, the reds and the whites, are just partners and accomplices; anarchy, libertarianism disrupts their miserable understanding, an understanding encumbered with ignorant prejudices, with asinine vanity, with cretinism. The plagiarists of the past, the retrospective and retroactive revolutionaries, the dictatorists, those subservient to brute force, all those crimson authoritarians who call for a saving power, will croak all their lives without finding what they desire. Like the frogs who asked for a king, we see them and will always see them exchange their Soliveau for a Grue, the government of July for the government of February, the perpetrators of the massacres of Rouen for those of the massacres of June, Cavaignac for Bonaparte, and tomorrow, if they can, Bonaparte for Blanqui... If one day they cry: “Down with the municipal guard!” it is in order to cry at the next instant: “Long live the guard mobile!” Or they swap the guard mobile for the imperial guard, as they would swap the imperial guard for the revolutionary battalions. Subjects they were; subjects they are; subjects they will be. They neither know what they want nor what they do. They complained yesterday that they did not have the man of their choice; they complain the next day of having too much of him. Finally, at every moment and every turn, they invoke Authority “with its long, sharp beak, helved on its slender neck,” and they find it surprising that it bites them, that it kills them!

Whoever calls themselves revolutionary and speaks of dictatorship are only dupes or rogues, imbeciles or traitors. They are imbeciles and dupes if they advocate it as the auxiliary of the social Revolution, as a mode of transition from the past to the future, for this is always to conjugate Authority in the present indicative; rogues and traitors if they only envision it as a means of taking their part of the budget and of playing representative everywhere and at all times.

Indeed, how many little men are there who would like nothing better than to have official stilts: a title, a salary, some representation to pull themselves out of the quagmire where ordinary mortals flounder and give themselves the airs of giants. Will the common people always be stupid enough to provide a pedestal for these pygmies? Will they always be told: “You speak of suppressing those elected by universal suffrage, to throw the national and democratic representation out the windows, but what will you put in its place? For, in the end, something is necessary, and someone must command: a committee of public safety, perhaps? You do not want an emperor, a tyrant. This is understood, but who will replace them: a dictator?... because everyone can not drive, and there must be someone who devotes himself to governing the others...” Well! Gentlemen or citizens, what good is it to suppress it, if it is only in order to replace it? What is needed is to destroy evil and not displace it. What does it matter to me whether it bears one name or another, whether it is here or there, if, under this mask or that appearance, it is still and always in my way.—One removes an enemy; one does not replace it.

Dictatorship, the sovereign magistracy, the monarchy, so to speak,—for to recognize that the Authority which is evil can do good, is this not to declare oneself monarchist, to sanction despotism, to renounce the Revolution?—If one asks them, these absolute partisans of brutal force, these advocates of demagogic and compulsory authority, how they would exercise it, in what manner they will organize this strong power: some will respond to you, like the late Marat, that they want a dictator in ball and chains, and sentenced by the people to work for the people. First let us distinguish: either the dictator acts by the will of the people, and thus will not really be a dictator, and will only be like a fifth wheel on a carriage; or else he will really be a dictator, will have the leads and whip in his hands, and he will act only according to his own good pleasure, for the exclusive profit of his divine person. To act in the name of the people is to act in the name of everyone, isn’t it? And everyone is not scientifically, harmonically, intelligently revolutionary. But I admit, in order to conform to the thought of the blanquists, for example—that tail-end of carbonarism, that ba-be-bou-vist freemasonry, those invisibles of a new species, that society of secret... intelligences, ——— that there is a people and a people, the people of the initiated brothers, the disciples of the great popular architect, and the uninitiated. These affiliates, these outstanding characters, do they always agree among themselves? Let one decree be issued on property, or the family—or you-name-it—some will find it too radical, and others not radical enough. A thousand daggers, for the moment, are raised a thousand times a day against dictatorial slavery. Whoever would accept a similar role would not have two minutes to live. But he would not accept it seriously, he would have his coterie, all the men scrabbling for gain who will squeeze around him, and they would be for him a consecrated battalion of menservants in exchange for the left-overs of his authority, the crumbs of power. Thus, perhaps, he could indeed command in the name of the people, I do not deny it, but without fail, against the people. He will deport or have shot all those who have libertarian impulses. Like Charlemagne or whatever other king, who measured men by the height of his sword, he would decapitate all the intelligences that surpassed his level, he would forbid all progress which goes beyond him. He will be like all men of public safety, like the politicals of 93, followers of the Jesuits of the Inquisition, and he will propagate the general dumbing-down, he will crush individual initiative, he will make the night of the dawning day, cast shadows on the social idea. He will plunge us back, dead or alive, into the charnel house of Civilization, and will make for the people, instead of intellectual and moral autonomy, an automatism of flesh and bone, a body of brutes. Because, for a political dictator as for a Jesuit director, what is best in man, what is good, is the carcass!...

Others, in their dream of dictatorship, differ somewhat from these, in that they do not want the dictatorship of one alone, of a one-headed Samson, but the jawbones of a hundred or a thousand asses, a dictatorship of the small wonders of the Proletariat, deemed intelligent by them because they once reeled off some banalities in prose or verse, because they have scribbled their names on the polling lists or on the registers of some small politico-revolutionary chapel; the dictatorship, in the end, of heads and arms hairy enough to compete with the Ratapoils, and with the mission, as usual, to exterminate the aristocrats or the philistines. They think, like the others, that the evil is not so much in the liberticidal institutions as in the choice of tyrants. Egalitarians in name, they are for castes in principle. And by putting the workers in power, in the place of the bourgeois, they do not doubt that all will be for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

Put the workers in power! In truth, we need only to think back. Haven’t we had Albert in the provisional government? Is it possible to imagine anything more idiotic? What was he, if not a plastron? In the constituent or legislative assembly we have had the delegates from Lyons; if it was necessary to judge the represented by the representatives, that would be a sad specimen of the intelligence of the workers of Lyon. Paris gave us Nadaud, a dull nature, intelligent enough for a porter, who dreamed of transforming his trowel into a presidential scepter,—the imbecile! Then also Corbon, the reverend of the Atelier, and perhaps much the least Jesuitical, for he, at least, was not slow to cast off the mask and to take his place in the midst of, and side by side with, the reactionaries.—As on the steps of the throne the lackeys are more royalist than the king, so in the echelons of official or legal authority the republican workers are more bourgeois than the bourgeoisie. And that is understood: the freed slave who becomes master always exaggerates the vices of the planter who has trained him. He is a disposed to abuse his command just to the extent that he has been prone or forced into submission and baseness by his commanders.

A dictatorial committee composed of workers is certainly the thing most inflated with self-importance and nullity imaginable and, consequently, the most anti-revolutionary. If we could take the notion of public safety seriously, it would be a matter of, first and always, of unseating the workers from all governmental authority, and then and always to unseat, as much as possible, governmental authority itself from society. (Better for power to have suspected enemies than doubtful friends.)

Official or legal authority, whatever name one decorates it with, is always false and harmful. Only natural or anarchic authority is true and beneficial.

Who had authority in fact and in law, in 48? Was it the provisional government, the executive commission, Cavaignac or Bonaparte? None of the above. Although they possessed violent force, they were themselves only instruments, the meshed gears of the reaction; they were not motors, but machinery. All governmental authorities, even the most autocratic, are nothing but that. They function at the will of a faction and in the service of that faction, except for chance intrigues, and the explosions of compromised ambition. The true authority in 48, the authority of universal salvation, cannot be in the government, but, as always, outside the government, in individual initiative: Proudhon was its most eminent representative (among the people, I mean, not in the Chamber). It was he who personified the revolutionary agitation of the masses. And for that representation, he had no need of a legal title or mandate. His only title came to him from his work, his science, and his genius. He did not hold his mandate from another, from the arbitrary suffrage of brute force, but from itself alone, from conscience and from the spontaneity of his intellectual power. Natural and anarchic authority had the full share of influence to which it was entitled. And that is an authority which has no use for praetorians, for it is the dictatorship of the Intelligence: it stirs and it invigorates. Its mission is not to bind or shorten people, but to grow them all the full height of a head, to develop in all of them the expansive force of their mental nature. It does not produce, like the other dictatorships, slaves in the name of public liberty; it destroys slavery in the name of private authority. It does not impose itself on the plebs by walling itself up in a palace, by armoring itself with iron mail, by riding among its archers, like a feudal baron;—it becomes apparent in the people, as stars become apparent in the firmament, by shining on its satellites!!

What greater power would Proudhon have had being a governor? He would not have had more of it, but much less, supposing that he could have preserved his revolutionary passions while in power. His power coming to him from his brain, anything which would have tended to impede the labor of his brain would have been an attack on his power. If he had been a dictator, in boots and spurs, armed from head to toe, invested with the suzerain sash and cockade, he would have lost, politicking with his entourage, all the time that he employed to socialize the masses. He would have created reaction instead of revolution. Think instead of the chatelaine of the Luxembourg, Louis Blanc, perhaps the best-intentioned in all the provisional government, and yet the most perfidious, the one who has delivered the sermonized workers to the armed bourgeois; he has done what all preachers in vestments or authoritarian badges have done, preached Christian charity to the poor in order to save the rich.

The titles and government mandates are only good for those non-entities who, too cowardly to be anything by themselves, want to be seen. They have no reason to be, except reasons of these runts. The strong man, the man of intelligence, the man who is everything by labor and nothing by intrigue, the man who is the son of his works and not the son of his father, of his uncle or of any patron, has nothing to sort out with these carnivalesque attributions; he despises and hates them as a travesty which will sully his dignity, as something obscene and infamous. The weak man, the ignorant man, who still has the feeling for Humanity, must also fear them; he needs for that only a little common sense. For if every harlequinade is ridiculous, it is more horrible when it carries a stick!

Every dictatorial government, whether it be understood in the singular or the plural, every demagogic Power can only delay the coming of the social revolution by substituting its initiative, whatever it may be, its omnipotent reason, its civic and inevitable will to anarchic initiative, to the reasoned will, to the autonomy of each. The social revolution can be made only by all, individually; otherwise it is not the social revolution. What is necessary then, what it must tend towards, is to give each and every person the possibility, the necessity of acting, in order that their movements, communicating with each other, give and receive the impetus of progress and thus increase the force tenfold or a hundredfold. What is necessary in the end, is as many dictators as there are thinking beings, men or women, in society, in order to shake it, to rise up against it, to pull it from its inertia,—and not a Loyola in a red hat, or a general politics to discipline, to immobilize one another, to settle on chests, on hearts, like a nightmare, in order to suppress their pulsations, and on foreheads, on brains, as a compulsory or catechismal instruction, in order to torment their understanding.

Governmental authority, dictatorship—whether it is called empire or republic, throne or chair, savior of order or committee of public safety; whether it exists today under the name of Bonaparte or tomorrow under the name of Blanqui; whether it comes out of Ham or Belle-Ile; whether it has in its insignia an eagle or a stuffed lion...—dictatorship is only the violation of liberty by a corrupted virility, by the syphilitic; it is a caesarian sickness innoculated with the seeds of reproduction in the intellectual organs of popular generation. It is not a kiss of freedom, a natural and fruitful manifestation of puberty; it is a fornication of virginity with decrepitude, an assault on morals, a crime like the abuse of the tutor towards his pupil. It is humanicide!

There is only one revolutionary dictatorship, only one humanitary dictatorship: the dictatorship of the intellectual and morals. Is not everyone free to participate there? The desire is sufficient to the deed. There is no need apart from it, and no need, in order to make it recognized, for battalions of lictors nor of trophies of bayonets; it advances escorted only by its free thoughts, and has for scepter only its beam of enlightenment. It does not make the Law, it discovers it; it is not Authority, but it makes it. It exists only by the will of labor and the right of science. He who denies it today will affirm it tomorrow. For it does not command the maneuver by buttoning itself up in inactivity, like the colonel of a regiment, but it orders the movement, teaching by example, and demonstrates the principle of progress by its own progress.

— Everyone marching in step! says one, and it is the dictatorship of brute force, the animal dictatorship.

— Let he who loves me follow me! says the other, it is the dictatorship of force intellectualized, the hominal dictatorship.

One has the support of all the shepherds, all the herders, all those who command or obey in the fold, all those who live in Civilization.

The other has has the support of individualities that have become truly human, decivilized intelligences.

One is the last representation of the modern Paganism, the eve of final closure, its farewells to the public.

The other is the debut of a new era, its entry onto the scene, the triumph of Socialism.

One is so old that it has one foot in the grave; the other so young that it has one foot in the cradle.

— Old one! It is the Law, — you must perish!

— It is the law of nature, child! — you will grow!!




[1] According to the historical scheme of Charles Fourier, the civilizée is anyone who lives in the era of Civilization, the very imperfect present age, which will be succeeded by eras of Guarantee and Harmony.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]