Sebastien Faure: “Anarchy”

anarchy

Some time ago I posted Sébastien Faure’s definition of “anarchist” from the Encyclopédie Anarchiste. Shawn Wilbur has now translated an excerpt from Faure’s definition of “anarchy” from the Encyclopédie. Faure was a French anarchist who first came to prominence doing speaking tours with the legendary Louise Michel in the 1890s. He revived the use of the term “libertarian” as a synonym for “anarchist” when it became illegal to publish anarchist propaganda in France. He later became a proponent of the “anarchist synthesis,” which sought to combine the best elements of individualist, syndicalist and communist anarchism (I included Voline’s entry from the Encyclopédie on “anarchist synthesis” in Volume One of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas).

encyclopedie-anarchiste-1

ANARCHY n. (from the Greek: a privative and archè, command, power, authority)

Preliminary observation. The object of this Anarchist Encyclopedia being to make known the full range of conceptions—political, economic, philosophical, moral, etc.—that arise from the anarchist idea or lead there, it is in the course of this work and in the very place that each of them must occupy within it, that the multiples theses contained in the exact and complete study of this subject will be explained. So it is only by drawing and joining together, methodically and with continuity, the various parts of this Encyclopedia that it will be possible for the reader to achieve the complete understanding of Anarchy, Anarchism and the Anarchists.

Consequently, I will show here only in its outlines, in a narrow and synthetic fashion, what constitutes the very essence of Anarchy and Anarchism. For the details—and it is appropriate to note that none have a great importance—the reader should consult the various words to which this text will ask them to refer.

Etymologically, the word “Anarchy” (which should be spelled An-Archy) signifies: the state of a people and, more precisely still, of a social milieu without government.

As a social ideal and in its actual fulfillment, Anarchy answers to a modus vivendi in which, stripped of all legal and collective restraint having the public force at its service, the individual would have no obligations but those imposed on them by their own conscience. They would possess the ability to give themselves up to rational inspirations of their individual initiative; they would enjoy the right to attempt all the experiments that appear desirable or fruitful to them; they would freely commit themselves to contracts of all sorts—always temporary, and revocable or revisable—that would link them to their fellows and, not wishing to subject anyone to their authority, they would refuse to submit to the authority of anyone. Thus, sovereign master of themselves, of the direction that it pleases them to give their life, of the use that they will make of their faculties, of their knowledge, of their productive activity, of their relations of sympathy, friendship and love, the individual will organize their existence as it seems good to them: radiating in every sense, blossoming as they please, enjoying, in all things, a full and complete liberty, without any limits but those that would be allocated to them by the liberty—also full and complete—of other individuals.

This modus vivendi implies a social regime from which would be banished, in right and in fact, any idea of employer and employed, of capitalist and proletarian, of master and servant, of governor and governed.

You will see that, thus defined, the world “Anarchy” has been insidiously and over time distorted from its precise meaning, that it has been taken, little by little, in the sense of “disorder” and that, in the majority of dictionaries and encyclopedias, it is only mentioned in that sense: chaos, upheaval, confusion, waste, disarray, disorder.

Apart from the Anarchists, all the philosophers, all the moralists, all the sociologists—including the democratic theorists and the doctrinaire socialists—maintain that, in the absence of a Government, of a legislation and a repression that assures respect for the law and cracks down on every infraction of it, there is and can only be disorder and criminality.

And yet!… Don’t the moralists and philosophers, men of State and sociologists perceive the frightful disorder that reigns, despite the Authority that governs and the Law that represses, in all domains? Are they so deprived of critical sense and the spirit of observation, that they are unaware that the more regulation increases, the more the more the web of legislation tightens, the more the field of repression extends, and the more immorality, disgrace, offenses and crimes increase?

It is impossible that these theorists of “Order” and these professors of “Morals” think, seriously and honestly, of confounding with what they call “Order” the atrocities, horrors, and monstrosities, the revolting spectacle of which observation places before our eyes.

And—if there are degrees of impossibility—it is still more impossible that, in order to diminish and a fortiori to make these infamies disappear, these learned doctors count on the virtue of Authority and the force of Law.

That pretention would be pure insanity.

The law has only a single aim: to first justify and then sanction all the usurpations and iniquities on which rest what the profiteers of these iniquities and usurpations call “the Social Order.” The holders of wealth have crystallized in the Law the original legitimacy of their fortune; the holders of Power have raised to the level of an immutable and sacred principle the respect owed by the crowds to the privileged, the to power and majesty with which they are invested. We can search, to the bottom or even deeper, all of the monuments to hypocrisy and violence that are the Codes, all the Codes, but we will never find a disposition that is not in favor of these two facts—facts of a historical and circumstantial order, which we tend to convert into facts of a natural and inevitable order—Property and Authority. I abandon to the official tartuffes and to the professionals of bourgeois charlatanism all that which, in the Legislation, deals with “Morals,” as that is, and can only be, in a social state based on Authority and Property, only the humble servant and brazen accomplice of those things.

Sébastien Faure

"Whoever denies authority and fights against it is an anarchist."

“Whoever denies authority and fights against it is an anarchist.”

Anarchy – Anarchist

The following definition of “anarchy/anarchist,” originally published in the 1930s, is taken from Sebastien Faure’s Encylopédie anarchiste. Faure was an advocate of “anarchist synthesis,” which sought to combine the best elements of anarchist communism, anarcho-syndicalism and individualist anarchism. The article on “anarchist synthesis” in the Enclyopédie anarchiste was written by Faure’s collaborator, the Russian anarchist, Voline, and is reprinted in Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume One: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE-1939).

There is not, and there cannot be, a libertarian Creed or Catechism.

That which exists and constitutes what one might call the anarchist doctrine is a cluster of general principles, fundamental conceptions and practical applications regarding which a consensus has been established among individuals whose thought is inimical to Authority and who struggle, collectively or in isolation, against all disciplines and constraints, whether political, economic, intellectual or moral.

At the same time, there may be – and indeed there are – many varieties of anarchist, yet all have a common characteristic that separates them from the rest of humankind. This uniting point is the negation of the principle of Authority in social organizations and the hatred of all constraints that originate in institutions founded on this principle.

Thus, whoever denies Authority and fights against it is an anarchist.

Hierarchy

The following definition of “hierarchy” is taken from Sebastien Faure’s Encyclopédie Anarchiste (Anarchist Encyclopedia), published by installments in the early 1930s. The translation is by Paul Sharkey. As the entry points out, the word “hierarchy” originated in ancient Greece, as does the word “anarchy” (which means without command, or without a ruler). Anarchists continue to battle the authorities in modern Greece, with sometimes tragic consequences, as the police murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos makes clear.

HIERARCHY, noun. (from the Greek hieros, sacred, and arche, command). The order and subordination of sundry ecclesiastical, civil or military authorities.

Hierarchy lies at the root of the whole authority principle. Starting off with the leader and ending with the henchman, through a whole scale of different executive agents; conjuring up a multitude of gradations which, as one rises through them, confers an ever greater measure of authority; splitting the authority of the State to infinity and bestowing a greater power of resistance upon it by virtue of its multiplicity and variety; organizing within the State a graduated scale of sinecures, benefices and privileges; the essence, in fact, of theories of government.

The yearning for prominence, the lust to command and to rule is, sad to say, a passion that still drives quite a few people. The moment an authoritarian regime is established on the ruins of its predecessor, its first care is to shower its supporters with honours, income and positions of command.

One who today is an ordinary citizen dreams of becoming a town councillor; another dreams of a generalship; still another, no more than a workingman, is gnawed by an ambition to become a supervisor or foreman.

Every authoritarian faction — even the so-called workers’ parties — cultivate this hierarchical mind-set. For it is only by planting ambition in men’s hearts that rulers or would-be rulers can pull the wool over their eyes and turn them into playthings.

Anarchists are opposed to all hierarchy, be it moral or material. They counter with respect for the freedom and absolute autonomy of the individual.

And if they think in terms of a Social Context of the future, it is an environment wherein every human being will have rights equal to those of his contemporaries.

We must banish the sentiment of hierarchy from men’s minds and replace it with love of anarchy.