This is the second half of Vernon Richard’s 1974 Freedom Press translation of Malatesta‘s 1891 pamphlet, Anarchy. I posted the first half earlier.
Organ and function are inseparable terms. Take away from an organ its function and either the organ dies or the function is re-established. Put an army in a country in which there are neither reasons for, nor fear of, war, civil or external, and it will provoke war or, if it does not succeed in its intentions, it will collapse. A police force where there are no crimes to solve or criminals to apprehend will invent both, or cease to exist.
In France there has existed for centuries an institution, the louveterie, now incorporated in the Forestry Administration, the officials of which are entrusted with the task of destroying wolves and other harmful creatures. No one will be surprised to learn that it is just because this institution exists that there are still wolves in France and in exceptional winters they play havoc.
The public hardly worries about the wolves as there are the wolf-exterminators who are there to deal with them; and these certainly hunt the wolves but they do so intelligently, sparing the dens long enough for them to rear their young and so prevent the extermination of an interesting animal species. French peasants have in fact little confidence in these wolf-catchers and consider them more as wolf-preservers. And it is understandable: what would the “Lieutenants of the louveterie” do if there were no more wolves?
A government, that is a group of people entrusted with making the laws and empowered to use the collective power to oblige each individual to obey them, is already a privileged class and cut off from the people. As any constituted body would do, it will instinctively seek to extend its powers, to be beyond public control, to impose its own policies and to give priority to its special interests. Having been put in a privileged position, the government is already at odds with the people whose strength it disposes of.
In any case, even if a government wanted to, it could not please everybody, even if it did manage to please a few. It would have to defend itself against the malcontents, and would therefore need to get the support of one section of the people to do so. And then the old story of the privileged class which arises through the complicity of the government starts all over again and, in this instance, if it did not seize the land would certainly capture key posts, specially created, and would oppress and exploit no less than the capitalist class.
The rulers accustomed to giving orders, would not wish to be once more members of the public, and if they could not hold on to power they would at least make sure of securing privileged positions for when they must hand over power to others. They would use every means available to those in power to have their friends elected as the successors who would then in their turn support and protect them. And thus government would be passed to and fro in the same hands, and democracy, which is the alleged government of all, would end up as usual, in an oligarchy, which is the government of a few, the government of a class.
And what an all-powerful, oppressive, all-absorbing oligarchy must one be which has at its service, that has at its disposal, all social wealth, all public services, from food to the manufacture of matches, from the universities to the music-halls!
But let us even suppose that the government were not in any case a privileged class, and could survive without creating around itself a new privileged class, and remain the representative, the servant as it were, of the whole of society. And what useful purpose could this possibly serve? How and in what way would this increase the strength, the intelligence, the spirit of solidarity, the concern for the well-being of all and of future generations, which at any given time happen to exist in a given society?
It is always the old question of the bound man who having managed to live in spite of his bonds thinks he lives because of them. We are used to living under a government which takes over all that energy, intelligence and will which it can direct for its own ends; and it hinders, paralyzes and suppresses those who do not serve its purpose or are hostile—and we think that everything that is done in society is carried out thanks to the government, and that without the government there would no longer be any energy, intelligence or goodwill left in society. Thus (as we have already pointed out), the landowner who has seized the land gets others to work it for his profit, leaving the worker with the bare necessities so that he can and will want to go on working—and the enslaved worker imagines that he could not live without the master, as if the latter had created the land and the forces of nature.
What can government itself add to the moral and material forces that exist in society? Would it be a similar case to that of the God of the Bible who creates from nothing?
Since nothing is created in what is usually called the material world, so nothing is created in this more complicated form of the material world which is the social world. And so the rulers can only make use of the forces that exist in society—except for those great forces which governmental action paralyzes and destroys, and those rebel forces, and all that is wasted through conflicts; inevitably tremendous losses in such an artificial system. If they contribute something of their own they can only do so as men and not as rulers. And of those material and moral forces which remain at the disposal of the government, only a minute part is allowed to play a really useful role for society. The rest is either used up in repressive actions to keep the rebel forces in check or is otherwise diverted from its ends of the general good and used to benefit a few at the expense of the majority of the people.
Much has been said about the respective roles of individual initiative and social action in the life and progress of human societies, and by the usual tricks of the language of metaphysics, the issues have become so confused that in the end those who declared that everything is maintained and kept going in the human world thanks to individual initiative, appear as radicals. In fact this is a commonsense truth which is obvious the moment one tries to understand the significance of words. The real being is man, the individual. Society or the collectivity—and the State or government which claims to represent it—if it is not a hollow abstraction, must be made up of individuals. And it is in the organism of every individual that all thoughts and human actions inevitably have their origin, and from being individual they become collective thoughts and acts when they are or become accepted by many individuals. Social action, therefore, is neither the negation nor the complement of individual initiative, but is the resultant of initiatives, thoughts and actions of all individuals who make up society; a resultant which, all other things being equal, is greater or smaller depending on whether individual forces are directed to a common objective or are divided or antagonistic. And if instead, as do the authoritarians, one means government action when one talks of social action, then this is still the resultant of individual forces, but only of those individuals who form the government or who by reason of their position can influence the policy of the government.
Therefore in the age-long struggle between liberty and authority, or in other words between socialism and a class state, the question is not really one of changing the relationships between society and the individual; nor is it a question of increasing the independence of the individual at the expense of social interference or vice versa. But rather it is a question of preventing some individuals from oppressing others; of giving all individuals the same rights and the same means of action; and of replacing the initiative of the few, which inevitably results in the oppression of everybody else. It is after all a question of destroying once and for all the domination and exploitation of man by man, so that everyone can have a stake in the commonweal, and individual forces, instead of being destroyed or fighting among themselves or being cut off from each other, will find the possibility of complete fulfillment, and come together for the greater benefit of everybody.
Even if we pursue our hypothesis of the ideal government of the authoritarian socialists, it follows from what we have said that far from resulting in an increase in the productive, organizing and protective forces in society, it would greatly reduce them, limiting initiative to a few, and giving them the right to do everything without, of course, being able to provide them with the gift of being all-knowing.
Indeed, if you take out from the law and the entire activity of a government all that exists to defend the privileged minority and which represents the wishes of the latter themselves, what is left which is not the result of the action of everybody? Sismondi said that “the State is always a conservative power which legalizes, regularizes and organizes the victories of progress” (and history adds that it directs them for its own ends and that of the privileged class) “but never introduces them. These victories are always started down below, they are born in the heart of society, from individual thought which is then spread far and wide, becomes opinion, the majority, but in making its way it must always meet with and combat the powers-that-be, tradition, habit, privilege and error”.
Anyway, in order to understand how a society can live without government, one has only to observe in depth existing society, and one will see how in fact the greater part, the important part, of social life is discharged even today outside government intervention, and that government only interferes in order to exploit the masses, to defend the privileged minority, and moreover it finds itself sanctioning, quite ineffectually, all that has been done without its intervention, and often in spite of and even against it. Men work, barter, study, travel and follow to the best of their knowledge moral rules and those of well-being; they benefit from the advances made in science and the arts, have widespread relations among themselves—all without feeling the need for somebody to tell them how to behave. Indeed it is just those matters over which government has no control that work best, that give rise to less controversy and are resolved by general consent so that everybody feels happy as well as being useful.
Nor is the government specially needed for the large-scale enterprises and public services requiring the full-time employment of a large number of people from different countries and conditions. Thousands of these undertakings are, even today, the result of individual associations freely constituted, and are by common accord those that work best. Nor are we talking of capitalist associations, organized for the purpose of exploitation, however much they too demonstrate the potentialities and the power of a free association and how it can spread to include people from every country as well as vast and contrasting interests. But rather let us talk about those associations which, inspired by a love of one’s fellow beings, or by a passion for science, or more simply by the desire to enjoy oneself and to be applauded, are more representative of the groupings as they will be in a society in which, having abolished private property and the internecine struggle between men, everybody will find his interest in that of everybody else, and his greatest satisfaction in doing good and in pleasing others. Scientific Societies and Congresses, the international life-saving association, the Red Cross, the geographical societies, the workers’ organizations, the voluntary bodies that rush to help whenever there are great public disasters, are a few examples among many of the power of the spirit of association, which always manifests itself when it is a question of a need or an issue deeply felt, and the means are not lacking. If the voluntary association is not world-wide and does not embrace all the material and moral aspects of activity it is because of the obstacles put in its path by governments, by the dissensions created by private property, and the impotence and discouragement felt by most people as a result of the seizure of all wealth by a few.
For instance, the government takes over the responsibilities of the postal services, the railways and so on. But in what way does it help these services? When the people are enabled to enjoy them, and feel the need for these services, they think about organizing them, and the technicians don’t need a government licence to get to work. And the more the need is universal and urgent, the more volunteers will there be to carry it out. If the people had the power to deal with the problems of production and food supplies, oh! have no fear that they might just die of hunger waiting for a government to make the necessary laws to deal with the problem. If there had to be a government, it would still be obliged to wait until the people had organized everything, in order then to come along with laws to sanction and exploit what had already been done. It is demonstrated that private interest is the great incentive for all activities: well, when the interest of all will be that of each individual (and this would obviously be the case if private property did not exist) then everyone will act, and if we do things now which only interest a few, we will do them that much better and more intensively when they will be of interest to everybody. And it is difficult to understand why there should be people who believe that the carrying out and the normal functioning of public services vital to our daily lives would be more reliable if carried out under the instructions of a government rather than by the workers themselves who, by direct election or through agreements made with others, have chosen to do that kind of work and carry it out under the direct control of all the interested parties.
Of course in every large collective undertaking, a division of labour, technical management, administration, etc., is necessary. But authoritarians clumsily play on words to produce a raison d’être for government out of the very real need for the organization of work. Government, it is well to repeat it, is the concourse of individuals who have had, or have seized, the right and the means to make laws and to oblige people to obey; the administrator, the engineer, etc., instead are people who are appointed or assume the responsibility to carry out a particular job and do so. Government means the delegation of power, that is the abdication of initiative and sovereignty of all into the hands of a few; administration means the delegation of work, that is tasks given and received, free exchange of services based on free agreement. The governor is a privileged person since he has the right to command others and to make use of the efforts of others to make his ideas and his personal wishes prevail; the administrator, the technical director, etc., are workers like the rest, that is, of course, in a society in which everyone has equal means to develop and that all are or can be at the same time intellectual and manual workers, and that the only differences remaining between men are those which stem from the natural diversity of aptitudes, and that all jobs, all functions give an equal right to the enjoyment of social possibilities. Let one not confuse the function of government with that of an administration, for they are essentially different, and if today the two are often confused, it is only because of economic and political privilege.
But let us hasten to pass on to the functions for which government is considered, by all who are not anarchists, as quite indispensable: the internal and external defence of a society, that is to say war, the police and justice.
Once governments have been abolished and the social wealth has been put at the disposal of everybody, then all the antagonisms between people will soon disappear and war will no longer have a raison d’étre. We would add, furthermore, that in the present state of the world, when a revolution occurs in one country, if it does not have speedy repercussions elsewhere it will however meet with much sympathy everywhere, so much so that no government will dare to send its troops abroad for fear of having a revolutionary uprising on its own doorstep. But, by all means, let us admit that the governments of the still unemancipated countries were to want to, and could, attempt to reduce free people to a state of slavery once again. Would this people require a government to defend itself? To wage war men are needed who have the necessary geographical and mechanical knowledge, and above all large masses of the population willing to go and fight. A government can neither increase the abilities of the former nor the will and courage of the latter. And the experience of history teaches us that a people who really want to defend their own country are invincible; and in Italy everyone knows that before the corps of volunteers (anarchist formations) thrones topple, and regular armies composed of conscripts or mercenaries, disappear.
And what of the police and of justice? Many suppose that if there were no carabineers, policemen and judges, everyone would be free to kill, to ravish, to harm others as the mood took one; and that anarchists, in the name of their principles, would wish to see that strange liberty respected which violates and destroys the freedom and life of others. They seem almost to believe that after having brought down government and private property we would allow both to be quietly built up again, because of a respect for the freedom of those who might feel the need to be rulers and property owners… A truly curious way of interpreting our ideas! …of course it is easier to brush them off with a shrug of the shoulders than to take the trouble of confuting them.
The freedom we want, for ourselves and for others, is not an absolute metaphysical, abstract freedom which in practice is inevitably translated into the oppression of the wealthy; but it is real freedom, possible freedom, which is the conscious community of interests, voluntary solidarity. We proclaim the maxim DO AS YOU WISH, and with it we almost summarize our program, for we maintain—and it doesn’t take much to understand why—that in a harmonious society, in a society without government and without property, each one will WANT WHAT HE MUST DO.
But supposing that as a result of the kind of education received from present society, or for physical misfortune or for any other reason, someone were to want to do harm to us and to others, one can be sure that we would exert ourselves to prevent him from so doing with all the means at our disposal. Of course, because we know that man is the consequence of his own organism as well as of the cosmic and social environment in which he lives; because we do not confuse the inviolate right of defence with the claimed ridiculous right to punish; and since with the delinquent, that is with he who commits anti-social acts, we would not, to be sure, see the rebel slave, as happens with judges today, but the sick brother needing treatment, so would we not introduce hatred in the repression, and would make every effort not to go beyond the needs of defence, and would not think of avenging ourselves but of seeking to cure, redeem the unhappy person with all the means that science offered us. In any case, irrespective of the anarchists’ interpretation (who could, as happens with all theorists, lose sight of reality in pursuing a semblance of logic), it is certain that the people would not allow their well-being and their freedom to be attacked with impunity, and if the necessity arose, they would take measures to defend themselves against the anti-social tendencies of a few. But to do so, what purpose is served by people whose profession is the making of laws; while other people spend their lives seeking out and inventing law-breakers? When the people really disapprove of something and consider it harmful, they always manage to prevent it more successfully than do the professional legislators, police and judges. When in the course of insurrections the people have, however mistakenly, wanted private property to be respected, they did so in a way that an army of policemen could not.
Customs always follow the needs and feelings of the majority; and the less they are subject to the sanctions of law the more are they respected, for everyone can see and understand their use, and because the interested parties, having no illusions as to the protection offered by government, themselves see to it that they are respected. For a caravan travelling across the deserts of Africa the good management of water stocks is a matter of life and death for all; and in those circumstances water becomes a sacred thing and no one would think of wasting it. Conspirators depend on secrecy, and the secret is kept or abomination strikes whoever violates it. Gambling debts are not secured by law, and among gamblers whoever does not pay up is considered and considers himself dishonoured.
Is it perhaps because of the gendarmes that more people are not killed? In most of the villages in Italy the gendarmes are only seen from time to time; millions of people cross the mountains, and pass through the countryside far from the protecting eye of authority, such that one could strike them down without the slightest risk of punishment; yet they are no less safe than those who live in the most protected areas. And statistics show that the number of crimes is hardly affected by repressive measures, whereas it changes dramatically with changes in economic conditions and in the attitudes of public opinion.
Anyway, punitive laws are only concerned with exceptional, unusual occurrences. Daily life carries on beyond the reach of the codicil and is controlled, almost unconsciously, with the tacit and voluntary agreement of all, by a number of usages and customs which are much more important to social life than the Articles of the Penal Code, and better respected in spite of being completely free from any sanction other than the natural one of the disesteem in which those who violate them are held and the consequences that arise therefrom.
And when differences were to arise between men, would not arbitration voluntarily accepted, or pressure of public opinion, be perhaps more likely to establish where the right lies than through an irresponsible judiciary which has the right to adjudicate on everything and everybody and is inevitably incompetent and therefore unjust?
Since, generally speaking, government only exists to protect the privileged classes, so the police and the judiciary exist only to punish those crimes which are not so considered by the public and only harm the privileges of the government and of property-owners. There is nothing more pernicious for the real defence of society, for the defence of the well-being and freedom of all, than the setting up of these classes which exist on the pretext of defending everybody but become accustomed to consider every man as game to be caged, and strike at you without knowing why, by orders of a chief whose irresponsible, mercenary ruffians they are.
That’s all very well, some say, and anarchy may be a perfect form of human society, but we don’t want to take a leap in the dark. Tell us therefore in detail how your society will be organized. And there follows a whole series of questions, which are very interesting if we were involved in studying the problems that will impose themselves on the liberated society, but which are useless, or absurd, even ridiculous, if we are expected to provide definitive solutions. What methods will be used to teach children? How will production be organized? Will there still be large cities, or will the population be evenly distributed over the whole surface of the earth? And supposing all the inhabitants of Siberia should want to spend the winter in Nice? And if everyone were to want to eat partridge and drink wine from the Chianti district? And who will do a miner’s job or be a seaman? And who will empty the privies? And will sick people be treated at home or in hospital? And who will establish the railway timetable? And what will be done if an engine-driver has a stomach-ache while the train is moving? And so on to the point of assuming that we have all the knowledge and experience of the unknown future, and that in the name of anarchy, we should prescribe for future generations at what time they must go to bed, and on what days they must pare their corns.
If indeed our readers expect a reply from us to these questions, or at least to those which are really serious and important, which is more than our personal opinion at this particular moment, it means that we have failed in our attempt to explain to them what anarchism is about.
We are no more prophets than anyone else; and if we claimed to be able to give an official solution to all the problems that will arise in the course of the daily life of a future society, then what we meant by the abolition of government would be curious to say the least. For we would be declaring ourselves the government and would be prescribing, as do the religious legislators, a universal code for present and future generations. It is just as well that not having the stake or prisons with which to impose our bible, mankind would be free to laugh at us and at our pretensions with impunity!
We are very concerned with all the problems of social life, both in the interest of science, and because we reckon to see anarchy realized and to take part as best we can in the organization of the new society. Therefore we do have our solutions which, depending on the circumstances, appear to us either definitive or transitory—and but for space considerations we would say something on this here. But the fact that because today, with the evidence we have, we think in a certain way on a given problem does not mean that this is how it must be dealt with in the future. Who can foresee the activities which will grow when mankind is freed from poverty and oppression, when there will no longer be either slaves or masters, and when the struggle between peoples, and the hatred and bitterness that are engendered as a result, will no longer be an essential part of existence? Who can predict the progress in science and in the means of production, of communication and so on?
What is important is that a society should be brought into being in which the exploitation and domination of man by man is not possible; in which everybody has free access to the means of life, of development and of work, and that all can participate, as they wish and know how, in the organization of social life. In such a society obviously all will be done to best satisfy the needs of everybody within the framework of existing knowledge and conditions; and all will change for the better with the growth of knowledge and the means.
After all, a program which is concerned with the bases of the social structure, cannot do other than suggest a method. And it is the method which above all distinguishes between the parties and determines their historical importance. Apart from the method, they all talk of wanting the well-being of humanity and many really do; the parties disappear and with them all action organized and directed to a given end. Therefore one must consider anarchy above all as a method.
The methods from which the different non-anarchist parties expect, or say they do, the greatest good of one and all can be reduced to two, the authoritarian and the so-called liberal. The former entrusts to a few the management of social life and leads to the exploitation and oppression of the masses by the few. The latter relies on free individual enterprise and proclaims, if not the abolition, at least the reduction of governmental functions to an absolute minimum; but because it respects private property and is entirely based on the principle of each for himself and therefore of competition between men, the liberty it espouses is for the strong and for the property owners to oppress and exploit the weak, those who have nothing; and far from producing harmony, tends to increase even more the gap between rich and poor and it too leads to exploitation and domination, in other words, to authority. This second method, that is liberalism, is in theory a kind of anarchy without socialism, and therefore is simply a lie, for freedom is not possible without equality, and real anarchy cannot exist without solidarity, without socialism. The criticism liberals direct at government consists only of wanting to deprive it of some of its functions and to call on the capitalists to fight it out among themselves, but it cannot attack the repressive functions which are of its essence: for without the gendarme the property owner could not exist, indeed the government’s powers of repression must perforce increase as free competition results in more discord and inequality.
Anarchists offer a new method: that is free initiative of all and free compact when, private property having been abolished by revolutionary action, everybody has been put in a situation of equality to dispose of social wealth. This method, by not allowing access to the reconstitution of private property, must lead, via free association, to the complete victory of the principle of solidarity.
Viewed in this way, one sees how all the problems that are advanced in order to counter anarchist ideas are instead an argument in their favour, because only anarchy points the way along which they can find, by trial and error, that solution which best satisfies the dictates of science as well as the needs and wishes of everybody.
How will children be educated? We don’t know. So what will happen? Parents, pedagogues and all who are concerned with the future of the young generation will come together, will discuss, will agree or divide according to the views they hold, and will put into practice the methods which they think are the best. And with practice that method which in fact is the best, will in the end be adopted. And similarly with all problems which present themselves.
It follows from what we have said so far, that anarchy, as understood by the anarchists and as only they can interpret it, is based on socialism. Indeed were it not for those schools of socialism which artificially divide the natural unity of the social question, and only consider some aspects out of context, and were it not for the misunderstandings with which they seek to tangle the path to the social revolution, we could say straight out that anarchy is synonymous with socialism, for both stand for the abolition of the domination and exploitation of man by man, whether they are exercised at bayonet point or by a monopoly of the means of life.
Anarchy, in common with socialism, has as its basis, its point of departure, its essential environment, equality of conditions; its beacon is solidarity and freedom is its method. It is not perfection, it is not the absolute ideal which like the horizon recedes as fast as we approach it; but it is the way open to all progress and all improvements for the benefit of everybody.
Having established that anarchy is the only form of human society which leaves open the way to the achievement of the greatest good for mankind, since it alone destroys every class bent on keeping the masses oppressed and in poverty; having established that anarchy is possible and since, in fact, all it does is to free mankind from the government and obstacles against which it has always had to struggle in order to advance along its difficult road, authoritarians withdraw to their last ditches where they are reinforced by many who though they are passionate lovers of freedom and justice, fear freedom and cannot make up their minds to visualize a humanity which lives and progresses without guardians and without shepherds and, pressed by the truth, they pitifully ask that the matter should be put off for as long as possible.
This is the substance of the arguments that are put to us at this point in the discussion.
This society without government, which maintains itself by means of free and voluntary cooperation; this society which relies in everything on the spontaneous action of interests and which is entirely based on solidarity and love, is certainly a wonderful ideal, they say; but like all ideals it lives in the clouds. We find ourselves in a world which has always been divided into oppressors and oppressed; and if the former are full of the spirit of domination and have all the vices of tyrants, the latter are broken by servility and have the even worse vices that result from slavery. The feeling of solidarity is far from being dominant in contemporary society, and if it is true that men are and become always more united, it is equally true that what one sees increasingly, and which makes a deeper impression on human character, is the struggle for existence which each individual is waging daily against everybody else; it is competition which presses on everybody, workers and masters alike, and makes every man into an enemy in the eyes of his neighbour. How will these men, brought up in a society based on class and individual conflict, ever be able to change themselves suddenly and become capable of living in a society in which everyone will do as he wishes and must do, and without outside coercion and through the force of his own will, seek the welfare of others? With what single-mindedness, with what common sense would you entrust the fate of the revolution and of mankind to an ignorant mob, weakened by poverty, brainwashed by the priest, and which today will be blindly bloodthirsty, while tomorrow it will allow itself to be clumsily deceived by a rogue, or bow its head servilely under the heel of the first military dictator who dares to make himself master? Would it not be more prudent to advance towards the anarchist ideal by first passing through a democratic or socialist republic? Will there not be a need for a government of the best people to educate and to prepare the generations for things to come?
These objections also would not have a raison d’être if we had succeeded in making ourselves understood and in convincing readers with what we have already written; but in any case, even at the risk of repeating ourselves, it will be as well to answer them.
We are always faced with the prejudice that government is a new force that has emerged from no one knows where, which in itself adds something to the total forces and capacities of those individuals who constitute it and of those who obey it. Instead all that happens in the world is done by people; and government qua government, contributes nothing of its own apart from the tendency to convert everything into a monopoly for the benefit of a particular party or class, as well as offering resistance to every initiative which comes from outside its own clique.
To destroy authority, to abolish government, does not mean the destruction of individual and collective forces which operate in society, nor the influences which people mutually exert on each other; to do so would reduce humanity to being a mass of detached and inert atoms, which is an impossibility, but assuming it were possible, would result in the destruction of any form of society, the end of mankind. The abolition of authority means, the abolition of the monopoly of force and of influence; it means the abolition of that state of affairs for which social power, that is the combined forces of society, is made into the instrument of thought, the will and interests of a small number of individuals, who by means of the total social power, suppress, for their personal advantage and for their own ideas the freedom of the individual; it means destroying a way of social organization with which the future is burdened between one revolution and the next, for the benefit of those who have been the victors for a brief moment.
Michael Bakunin in an article published in 1872, after pointing out that the principal means of action of the International were the propagation of its ideas and the organization of the spontaneous action of its members on the masses, adds that:
“To whoever might claim that action so organized would be an assault on the freedom of the masses, an attempt to create a new authoritarian power, we would reply that he is nothing but a sophist and a fool. So much the worse for those who ignore the natural and social law of human solidarity, to the point of imagining that an absolute mutual independence of individuals and of the masses is something possible, or at least desirable. To wish it means to want the destruction of society, for the whole of social life is no other than this unceasing mutual dependence of individuals and masses. All individuals, even the most intelligent and the strongest, indeed above all the intelligent and strong, each at every moment in his life is at the same time its producer and its product. The very freedom of each individual is no other than the resultant, continually reproduced, of this mass of material, intellectual and moral influences exerted on him by all who surround him, by the society in the midst of which he is born, develops, and dies. To want to escape from this influence in the name of a transcendental, divine, freedom that is absolutely egoistic and sufficient unto itself, is the tendency of non-being. This much vaunted independence of the idealists and metaphysicians, and individual freedom thus conceived, are therefore nothingness.
“In nature, as in human society, which is no other than this same nature, all that lives, only lives on the supreme condition of intervening in the most positive manner, and as powerfully as its nature allows, in the lives of others. The abolition of this mutual influence would be death. And when we vindicate the freedom of the masses, we are by no means suggesting the abolition of any of the natural influences that individuals or groups of individuals exert on them; what we want is the abolition of influences which are artificial, privileged, legal, official.”
Obviously, in the present state of mankind, when the vast majority of people, oppressed by poverty and stupefied by superstition, stagnate in a state of humiliation, the fate of humanity depends on the action of a relatively small number of individuals; obviously it will not be possible suddenly to get people to raise themselves to the point where they feel the duty, indeed the pleasure from controlling their own actions in such a way that others will derive the maximum benefit therefrom. But if today the thinking and directing forces in society are few, it is not a reason for paralyzing yet more of them and of subjecting many others to a few of them. It is not a reason for organizing society in such a way that (thanks to the apathy that is the result of secured positions, thanks to birth, patronage, esprit de corps, and all the government machinery) the most lively forces and real ability end up by finding themselves outside the government and almost without influence on social life; and those that attain to government, finding themselves out of their environment, and being above all interested in remaining in power, lose all possibilities of acting and only serve as an obstacle to others.
Once this negative power that is government is abolished, society will be what it can be but all that it can be given the forces and abilities available at the time. If there are educated people who wish to spread knowledge they will organize the schools and make a special effort to persuade everybody of the usefulness and pleasure to be got from an education. And if there were no such people, or only a few, a government could not create them; all it could do would be what happens now, take the few that there are away from their rewarding work, and set them to drafting regulations which have to be imposed with policemen, and make intelligent and devoted teachers into political beings, that is useless parasites, all concerned with imposing their whims and with maintaining themselves in power.
If there are doctors and experts in public health, they will organize the health service. And if there were none, the government could not create them: all it could do would be to cast doubts on the abilities of existing doctors which a public, justifiably suspicious of all that is imposed from above, would seize upon to get rid of them.
If there are engineers, engine drivers and so on, they will organize the railways. And if there were none, once again, a government could not create them.
The revolution, by abolishing government and private property, will not create forces that do not exist; but it will leave the way open for the development of all available forces and talents, will destroy every class with an interest in keeping the masses in a state of brutishness, and will ensure that everyone will be able to act and to influence according to his abilities, his enthusiasm and his interests.
And this is the only way that the masses can raise themselves, for it is only through freedom that one educates oneself to be free, just as it is only by working that one can learn to work. A government, assuming it had no other disadvantages, would always have that of accustoming the governed to timidity, and of tending to become always more oppressive and of making itself ever more necessary.
Besides, if one wants a government which has to educate the masses and put them on the road to anarchy, one must also indicate what will be the background, and the way of forming this government.
Will it be the dictatorship of the best people? But who are the best? And who will recognize these qualities in them? The majority is generally attached to established prejudices, and has ideas and attitudes which have already been superseded by a better endowed minority; but among the thousand minorities all of which believe themselves to be right, and can all be right on some issues, by whom and with what criterion will the choice be made to put the social forces at the disposal of one of them when only the future can decide between the parties in conflict? If you take a hundred intelligent supporters of dictatorship, you will discover that each one of them believes that he should be if not the dictator himself, or one of them, at least very close to the dictatorship. So dictators would be those who, pursuing one course or another, succeed in imposing themselves; and in the present political climate, one can safely say that all their efforts would be employed in the struggle to defend themselves against the attacks of their enemies, conveniently forgetting any vague intentions of social education, assuming that they ever had such intentions.
Will it be instead a government elected by universal suffrage, and thus the more or less sincere expression of the wishes of the majority? But if you consider these worthy electors as unable to look after their own interests themselves, how is it that they will know how to choose for themselves the shepherds who must guide them? And how will they be able to solve this problem of social alchemy, of producing the election of a genius from the votes of a mass of fools? And what will happen to the minorities which are still the most intelligent, most active and radical part of a society?
In order to solve the social problem for the benefit of every- body there is only one means: to crush those who own social wealth by revolutionary action, and put everything at the disposal of everybody, and leave all the forces, the ability, and all the goodwill that exist among the people, free to act and to provide for the needs of all.
We struggle for anarchy, and for socialism, because we believe that anarchy and socialism must be realized immediately, that is to say that in the revolutionary act we must drive government away, abolish property and entrust public services, which in this context will include all social life, to the spontaneous, free, not official, not authorized efforts of all interested parties and of all willing helpers.
Of course there will be difficulties and drawbacks; but they will be resolved, and they will only be resolved in an anarchist way, by means, that is, of the direct intervention of the interested parties and by free agreements.
We do not know whether anarchy and socialism will triumph when the next revolution takes place; but there is no doubt that if the so-called programs of compromise triumph, it will be because on this occasion, we have been defeated, and never because we believed it useful to leave standing any part of the evil system under which mankind groans.
In any case we will have on events the kind of influence which will reflect our numerical strength, our energy, our intelligence and our intransigence. Even if we are defeated, our work will not have been useless, for the greater our resolve to achieve the implementation of our program in full, the less property, and less government will there be in the new society. And we will have performed a worthy task for, after all, human progress is measured by the extent government power and private property are reduced.
And if today we fall without compromising, we can be sure of victory tomorrow.