Anarchism and Socialism
by George Plechanoff
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Translated with the permission of the author by Eleanor Marx Aveling

Chicago Charles H. Kerr & Company














In reprinting Anarchism and Socialism, by George Plechanoff, we realize that there is not the same need for assailing and exposing anarchism at present as there has been at different times in the past. Yet the book is valuable, not merely because of its historic interest but also to workers coming into contact with the revolutionary movement for the first time. The general conception of anarchism that a beginner often gets is that it is something extremely advanced. It is often expressed somewhat as follows: "After capitalism comes socialism and then comes anarchism." Plechanoff very ably explodes such notions.

Within the pages of this work the author shows not only the reactionary character of anarchism, but he exposes its class bias and its empty philosophic idealism and utopian program. He shows anarchism to be just the opposite of scientific socialism or communism. It aims at a society dominated by individualism, which is simply a capitalist ideal. Such ideals as "liberty," "equality," "fraternity," first sprang from the ranks of the petty property owners of early capitalism, as Plechanoff shows. He also points out that while Proudhon is usually credited with being "the father of anarchism" that actually Max Stirner comes closer to being its "father." Stirner's "League of Egoists," he says, "is only the utopia of a petty bourgeois in revolt. In this sense one may say he has spoken the last word of bourgeois individualism."

Bakounine and Kropotkine, the famous Russian anarchists, are exposed as confused idealists, who have not aided but rather hindered the development of the working-class movement. Lenin speaks highly of the book in this relation, but takes Plechanoff severely to task for his failure properly to set forth the Marxian concepts of the State, and for his total evasion of the form the State must take during the time it is in the hands of the workers. When writing on the "Vulgarisation of Marx by the Opportunists," in his State and Revolution, Lenin said:

"Plechanoff devoted a special pamphlet to the question of the relation of socialism to anarchism entitled Anarchism and Socialism, published in German in 1894. He managed somehow to treat the question without touching on the most vital, controversial point, the essential point politically, in the struggle with the anarchists: the relation of the revolution to State, and the question of the State in general. His pamphlet may be divided into two parts: one, historico-literary, containing valuable material for the history of the ideas of Stirner, Proudhon, and others; the second, ignorant and narrow-minded, containing a clumsy disquisition on the theme 'that an anarchist cannot be distinguished from a bandit,' an amusing combination of subjects and most characteristic of the entire activity of Plechanoff on the eve of revolution and during the revolutionary period in Russia. Indeed, in the years 1908 to 1917 Plechanoff showed himself to be half doctrinaire and half philistine, walking, politically, in the wake of the bourgeoisie.

"We saw how Marx and Engels, in their polemics against the anarchists, explained most thoroughly their views on the relation of the revolution to the State. Engels, when editing in 1891, Marx's Criticism of the Gotha Program, wrote that 'we'—that is, Engels and Marx—'were then in the fiercest phase of our battle with Bakounine and his anarchists; hardly two years had then passed since the Hague Congress of the International' (the First). The anarchists had tried to claim the Paris Commune as their 'own,' as a confirmation of their teachings, thus showing that they had not in the least understood the lessons of the Commune or the analysis of those lessons by Marx. Anarchism has given nothing approaching a true solution of the concrete political problems: are we to break up the old State machine, and what shall we put in its place?

"But to speak of Anarchism and Socialism, leaving the whole question of the State out of account and taking no notice at all of the whole development of Marxism before and after the Commune—that meant an inevitable fall into the pit of opportunism. For that is just what opportunism wants—to keep these two questions in abeyance. To secure this is, in itself, a victory of opportunism."

The anarchist desire to abolish the State at one blow, and to abolish money, etc., in much the same way, springs from their inability to understand the institutions of capitalist society. To many of them the State is simply the result of people having faith in authority. Give up this belief and the State will cease to exist. It is a myth like God and rests entirely on faith. The anarchist's desire for the abolition of the State arises from entirely different concepts to that of the communists. To these anarchist anti-authoritarians the State is simply bad. It is the most authoritarian thing in sight. It interferes with individual freedom and consequently is the greatest obstruction to "absolute liberty" and other utopian desires of the champions of individualism.

Communists also want a society without a State but realize that such can only come about when society is without classes. The aim of the communist movement is to destroy the capitalist form of the State and substitute a proletarian form during the time in which society is undergoing its classless transformation. When all property is centralized into the hands of this working-class "State" and when the administration of things has taken the place of political dominance, the State, in its final form, will have withered away. Therefore, the communist realizes that the State cannot be abolished in the manner visualized by anarchists, but that it must be used, that is, the proletariat must be raised "to the position of ruling class," for the purpose of expropriating the capitalists and putting an end to the exploitation of the producing class. The State is not abolished. Only its capitalist form is abolished. The State dies out in the hands of the workers when there is no longer an opposing class to coerce.


The work of my friend George Plechanoff, "Anarchism and Socialism," was written originally in French. It was then translated into German by Mrs. Bernstein, and issued in pamphlet form by the German Social-Democratic Publishing Office "Vorwaerts." It was next translated by myself into English, and so much of the translation as exigencies of space would permit, published in the Weekly Times and Echo. The original French version is now appearing in the Jeunesse Socialiste, and will be issued in book form shortly. The complete English translation is now given to English readers through the Twentieth Century Press. I have to thank the Editor of the Weekly Times and Echo, Mr. Kibblewhite, for his kindness in allowing me to use those portions of the work that appeared in his paper.

As to the book itself. There are those who think that the precious time of so remarkable a writer, and profound a thinker as George Plechanoff is simply wasted in pricking Anarchist wind-bags. But, unfortunately, there are many of the younger, or of the more ignorant sort, who are inclined to take words for deeds, high-sounding phrases for acts, mere sound and fury for revolutionary activity, and who are too young or too ignorant to know that such sound and fury signify nothing. It is for the sake of these younger, or for the sake of the more ignorant, folk, that men like Plechanoff deal seriously with this matter of Anarchism, and do not feel their time lost if they can, as this work must, help readers to see the true meaning of what is called "Anarchism."

And a work like this one of Plechanoff's is doubly necessary in England, where the Socialist movement is still largely disorganised, where there is still such ignorance and confusion on all economic and political subjects; where, with the exception, among the larger Socialist organisations, of the Social-Democratic Federation (and even among the younger S.D.F. members there is a vague sort of idea that Anarchism is something fine and revolutionary), there has been no little coquetting with Anarchism under an impression that it was very "advanced," and where the Old Unionist cry of "No politics!" has unconsciously played the reactionary Anarchist game. We cannot afford to overlook the fact that the Socialist League became in time—when some of us had left it—an Anarchist organisation, and that since then its leaders have been, or still are, more or less avowed Anarchists. While quite recently the leader of a "new party"—and that a would-be political one!—did not hesitate to declare his Anarchist sympathies or to state that "The methods of the Anarchists might differ from those of the Socialists, but that might only prove that the former were more zealous than the latter."

It is also necessary to point out once again that Anarchism and Nihilism have no more in common than Anarchism and Socialism. As Plechanoff said at the Zurich International Congress: "We (i.e., the Russians) have had to endure every form of persecution, every thinkable misery; but we have been spared one disgrace, one humiliation; we, at least, have no Anarchists." A statement endorsed and emphasised by other Russian revolutionists, and notably by the American delegate, Abraham Cahan—himself a Russian refugee. The men and women who are waging their heroic war in Russia and in Poland against Czarism have no more in common with Anarchism than had the founders of the modern Socialist movement—Carl Marx and Frederick Engels.

This little book of Plechanoff will assuredly convince the youngest even that under any circumstances Anarchism is but another word for reaction; and the more honest the men and women who play this reactionist game, the more tragic and dangerous it becomes for the whole working class movement.

Finally, there is a last reason why the issuing of this work at the present moment is timely. In 1896 the next International Socialist and Trade Union Congress meets in London. It is well that those who may attend this great Congress as delegates, and that the thousands of workers who will watch its work, should understand why the resolutions arrived at by the Paris, Brussels, and Zurich International Congresses with regard to the Anarchists should be enforced. The Anarchists who cynically declare Workers' Congresses "absurd, motiveless, and senseless" must be taught once and for all, that they cannot be allowed to make the Congresses of the Revolutionary Socialists of the whole world a playground for reaction and international spydom.


Green Street Green, Orpington, Kent. August, 1895.




The French Materialists of the 18th century while waging relentless war against all the "infames" whose yoke weighed upon the French of this period, by no means scorned the search after what they called "perfect legislation," i.e., the best of all possible legislations, such legislation as should secure to "human beings" the greatest sum of happiness, and could be alike applicable to all existing societies, for the simple reason that it was "perfect" and therefore the most "natural." Excursions into this domain of "perfect legislation" occupy no small place in the works of a d'Holbach and a Helvetius. On the other hand, the Socialists of the first half of our century threw themselves with immense zeal, with unequalled perseverance, into the search after the best of possible social organisations, after a perfect social organisation. This is a striking and notable characteristic which they have in common with the French Materialists of the last century, and it is this characteristic which especially demands our attention in the present work.

In order to solve the problem of a perfect social organisation, or what comes to the same thing, of the best of all possible legislation, we must eventually have some criterion by the help of which we may compare the various "legislations" one with the other. And the criterion must have a special attribute. In fact, there is no question of a "legislation" relatively the best, i.e., the best legislation under given conditions. No, indeed! We have to find a perfect legislation, a legislation whose perfection should have nothing relative about it, should be entirely independent of time and place, should be, in a word, absolute. We are therefore driven to make abstraction from history, since everything in history is relative, everything depends upon circumstance, time, and place. But abstraction made of the history of humanity, what is there left to guide us in our "legislative" investigations? Humanity is left us, man in general, human nature—of which history is but the manifestation. Here then we have our criterion definitely settled, a perfect legislation. The best of all possible legislation is that which best harmonises with human nature. It may be, of course, that even when we have such a criterion we may, for want of "light" or of logic, fail to solve this problem of the best legislation. Errare humanum est, but it seems incontrovertible that this problem can be solved, that we can, by taking our stand upon an exact knowledge of human nature, find a perfect legislation, a perfect organisation.

Such was, in the domain of social science, the point of view of the French Materialists. Man is a sentient and reasonable being, they said; he avoids painful sensations and seeks pleasurable ones. He has sufficient intelligence to recognise what is useful to him as well as what is harmful to him. Once you admit these axioms, and you can in your investigations into the best legislation, arrive, with the help of reflection and good intentions, at conclusions as well founded, as exact, as incontrovertible as those derived from a mathematical demonstration. Thus Condorcet undertook to construct deductively all precepts of healthy morality by starting from the truth that man is a sentient and reasonable being.

It is hardly necessary to say that in this Condorcet was mistaken. If the "philosophers" in this branch of their investigations arrived at conclusions of incontestable though very relative value, they unconsciously owed this to the fact that they constantly abandoned their abstract standpoint of human nature in general, and took up that of a more or less idealised nature of a man of the Third Estate. This man "felt" and "reasoned," after a fashion very clearly defined by his social environment. It was his "nature" to believe firmly in bourgeois property, representative government, freedom of trade (laissez-faire, laissez passer! the "nature" of this man was always crying out), and so on. In reality, the French philosophers always kept in view the economic and political requirements of the Third Estate; this was their real criterion. But they applied it unconsciously, and only after much wandering in the field of abstraction did they arrive at it. Their conscious method always reduced itself to abstract considerations of "human nature," and of the social and political institutions that best harmonise with this nature.

Their method was also that of the Socialists. A man of the 18th century, Morelly, "to anticipate a mass of empty objections that would be endless," lays down as an incontrovertible principle "that in morals nature is one, constant, invariable ... that its laws never change;" and that "everything that may be advanced as to the variety in the morals of savage and civilised peoples, by no means proves that nature varies;" that at the outside it only shows "that from certain accidental causes which are foreign to it, some nations have fallen away from the laws of nature; others have remained submissive to them, in some respects from mere habit; finally, others are subjected to them by certain reasoned-out laws that are not always in contradiction with nature;" in a word, "man may abandon the True, but the True can never be annihilated!"[1] Fourier relies upon the analysis of the human passions; Robert Owen starts from certain considerations on the formation of human character; Saint Simon, despite his deep comprehension of the historical evolution of humanity, constantly returns to "human nature" in order to explain the laws of this evolution; the Saint-Simonians declared their philosophy was "based upon a new conception of human nature." The Socialists of the various schools may quarrel as to the cause of their different conceptions of human nature; all, without a single exception, are convinced that social science has not and cannot have, any other basis than an adequate concept of this nature. In this they in no wise differ from the Materialists of the 18th century. Human nature is the one criterion they invariably apply in their criticism of existing society, and in their search after a social organisation as it should be, after a "perfect" legislation.

Morelly, Fourier, Saint Simon, Owen—we look upon all of them to-day as Utopian Socialists. Since we know the general point of view that is common to them all, we can determine exactly what the Utopian point of view is. This will be the more useful, seeing that the opponents of Socialism use the word "Utopian" without attaching to it any, even approximately, definite meaning.

The Utopian is one who, starting from an abstract principle, seeks for a perfect social organisation.

The abstract principle which served as starting point of the Utopians was that of human nature. Of course there have been Utopians who applied the principle indirectly through the intermediary of concepts derived from it. Thus, e.g., in seeking for "perfect legislation," for an ideal organisation of society, one may start from the concept of the Rights of Man. But it is evident that in its ultimate analysis this concept derives from that of human nature.

It is equally evident that one may be a Utopian without being a Socialist. The bourgeois tendencies of the French Materialists of the last century are most noticeable in their investigations of a perfect legislation. But this in no wise destroys the Utopian character of these enquires. We have seen that the method of the Utopian Socialist does not in the least differ from that of d'Holbach or Helvetius, those champions of the revolutionary French bourgeoisie.

Nay, more. One may have the profoundest contempt for all "music of the future," one may be convinced that the social world in which one has the good fortune to live is the best possible of all social worlds, and yet in spite of this one may look at the structure and life of the body social from the same point of view as that from which the Utopians regarded it.

This seems a paradox, and yet nothing could be more true. Take but one example.

In 1753 there appeared Morelly's work, Les Isles Flottantes ou la Basiliade du celebre Pelpai, traduit de l'Indien.[2] Now, note the arguments with which a review, La Bibliotheque Impartiale, combated the communistic ideas of the author:—"One knows well enough that a distance separates the finest speculations of this kind and the possibility of their realisation. For in theory one takes imaginary men who lend themselves obediently to every arrangement, and who second with equal zeal the views of the legislator; but as soon as one attempts to put these things into practice one has to deal with men as they are, that is to say, submissive, lazy, or else in the thraldom of some violent passion. The scheme of equality especially is one that seems most repugnant to the nature of man; they are born to command or to serve, a middle term is a burden to them."

Men are born to command or to serve. We cannot wonder, therefore, if in society we see masters and servants, since human nature wills it so. It was all very well for La Bibliotheque Impartiale to repudiate these communist speculations. The point of view from which it itself looked upon social phenomena, the point of view of human nature, it had in common with the Utopian Morelly.

And it cannot be urged that this review was probably not sincere in its arguments, and that it appealed to human nature with the single object of saying something in favour of the exploiters, in favour of those who "command." But sincere or hypocritical in its criticism of Morelly, the Bibliotheque Impartiale adopted the standpoint common to all the writers of this period. They all of them appeal to human nature conceived of in one form or another, with the sole exception of the retrogrades who, living shadows of passed times, continued to appeal to the will of God.

As we know, this concept of human nature has been inherited by the 19th century from its predecessor. The Utopian Socialists had no other. But here again it is easy to prove that it is not peculiar to the Utopians.

Even at the period of the Restoration, the eminent French historian, Guizot, in his historical studies, arrived at the remarkable conclusion that the political constitution of any given country depended upon the "condition of property" in that country. This was an immense advance upon the ideas of the last century which had almost exclusively considered the action of the "legislator." But what in its turn did these "conditions of property" depend on? Guizot is unable to answer this question, and after long, vain efforts to find a solution of the enigma in historical circumstances, he returns, falls back nolens volens, upon the theory of human nature. Augustin Thierry, another eminent historian of the Restoration, found himself in almost the same case, or rather he would have done so if only he had tried to investigate this question of the "condition of property" and its historical vicissitudes. In his concept of social life, Thierry was never able to go beyond his master Saint Simon, who, as we have seen above, held firmly to the point of view of human nature.

The example of the brilliant Saint Simon, a man of encyclopaedic learning, demonstrates more clearly perhaps than any other, how narrow and insufficient was this point of view, in what confusion worse confounded of contradictions it landed those who applied it. Says Saint Simon, with the profoundest conviction: "The future is made up of the last terms of a series, the first of which consist of the past. When one has thoroughly mastered the first terms of any series it is easy to put down their successors; thus from the past carefully observed one can easily deduce the future." This is so true that one asks oneself at the first blush why a man who had so clear a conception of the connection between the various phases of historical evolution, should be classed among the Utopians. And yet, look more closely at the historical ideas of Saint Simon, and you will find that we are not wrong in calling him a Utopian. The future is deducible from the past, the historical evolution of humanity is a process governed by law. But what is the impetus, the motive power that sets in motion the human species, that makes it pass from one phase of its evolution to another? Of what does this impetus consist? Where are we to seek it? It is here that Saint Simon comes back to the point of view of all the Utopians, to the point of view of human nature. Thus, according to him, the essential fundamental cause of the French Revolution was a change in the temporal and spiritual forces, and, in order to direct it wisely and conclude it rightly, it "was necessary to put into direct political activity the forces which had become preponderant." In other words, the manufacturers and the savants ought to have been called upon to formulate a political system corresponding to the new social conditions. This was not done, and the Revolution which had began so well was almost immediately directed into a false path. The lawyers and metaphysicians became the masters of the situation. How to explain this historical fact? "It is in the nature of man," replies Saint Simon, "to be unable to pass without some intermediate phase from any one doctrine to another. This law applies most stringently to the various political systems, through which the natural advance of civilisation compels the human species to pass. Thus the same necessity which in industry has created the element of a new temporal power, destined to replace military power, and which in the positive sciences, has created the element of a new spiritual power, called upon to take the place of theological power, must have developed and set in activity (before the change in the conditions of society had begun to be very perceptible) a temporal or spiritual power of an intermediary, bastard, and transitory nature, whose only mission was to bring about the transition from one social system to another."

So we see that the "historical series" of Saint Simon really explained nothing at all; they themselves need explanation, and for this we have again to fall back upon this inevitable human nature. The French Revolution was directed along a certain line, because human nature was so and so.

One of two things. Either human nature is, as Morelly thought, invariable, and then it explains nothing in history, which shows us constant variations in the relations of man to society; or it does vary according to the circumstances in which men live, and then, far from being the cause, it is itself the effect of historical evolution. The French Materialists knew well enough that man is the product of his social surroundings. "Man is all education," said Helvetius. This would lead one to suppose that Helvetius must have abandoned the human nature point of view in order to study the laws of the evolution of the environment that fashion human nature, giving to socialised man such or such an "education." And indeed Helvetius did make some efforts in this direction. But not he, nor his contemporaries, nor the Socialists of the first half of our century, nor any representatives of science of the same period, succeeded in discovering a new point of view that should permit the study of the evolution of the social environment; the cause of the historical "education" of man, the cause of the changes which occur in his "nature." They were thus forced back upon the human nature point of view as the only one that seemed to supply them with a fairly solid basis for their scientific investigations. But since human nature in its turn varied, it became indispensable to make abstraction from its variations, and to seek in nature only stable properties, fundamental properties preserved in spite of all changes of its secondary properties. And in the end all that these speculations resulted in was a meagre abstraction, like that of the philosophers, e.g., "man is a sentient and reasonable being," which seemed all the more precious a discovery in that it left plenty of room for every gratuitous hypothesis, and every fantastical conclusion.

A Guizot had no need to seek for the best of social organisations for a perfect legislation. He was perfectly satisfied with the existing ones. And assuredly the most powerful argument he could have advanced to defend them from the attacks of the malcontents would still have been human nature, which he would have said renders every serious change in the social and political constitution of France impossible. The malcontents condemned this same constitution, making use of the same abstraction. And since this abstraction, being completely empty, left, as we have said, full room for every gratuitous hypothesis and the logical consequences resulting therefrom, the "scientific" mission of these reformers assumed the appearance of a geometrical problem; given a certain nature, find what structure of society best corresponds with it. So Morelly complains bitterly because "our old teachers" failed to attempt the solution of "this excellent problem"—"to find the condition in which it should be almost impossible for men to be depraved, or wicked, or at any rate, minima de malis." We have already seen that for Morelly human nature was "one, constant, invariable."

We now know what was the "scientific" method of the Utopians. Before we leave them let us remind the reader that in human nature, an extremely thin and therefore not very satisfying abstraction, the Utopians really appealed, not to human nature in general, but to the idealised nature of the men of their own day, belonging to the class whose social tendencies they represented. The social reality, therefore, inevitably appears in the words of the Utopians, but the Utopians were unconscious of this. They saw this reality only across an abstraction which, thin as it was, was by no means translucent.


[1] See "Code de la Nature," Paris, 1841. Villegardelle's edition, Note to p. 66.

[2] "The floating islands or the Basiliades of the celebrated Pelpai, translated from the Indian."



The great idealistic philosophers of Germany, Schelling and Hegel, understood the insufficiency of the human nature point of view. Hegel, in his "Philosophy of History," makes fun of the Utopian bourgeoisie in search of the best of constitutions. German Idealism conceived history as a process subject to law, and sought the motive-power of the historical movement outside the nature of man. This was a great step towards the truth. But the Idealists saw this motive-power in the absolute idea, in the "Weltgeist;" and as their absolute idea was only an abstraction of "our process of thinking," in their philosophical speculation upon history, they reintroduced the old love of the Materialist philosophers—human nature—but dressed in robes worthy of the respectable and austere society of German thinkers. Drive nature out of the door, she flies in at the window! Despite the great services rendered to social science by the German Idealists, the great problem of that science, its essential problem, was no more solved in the time of the German Idealists than in the time of the French Materialists. What is this hidden force that causes the historic movement of humanity? No one knew anything about it. In this field there was nothing to go upon save a few isolated observations, more or less accurate, more or less ingenious—sometimes indeed, very accurate and ingenious—but always disjointed and always incomplete.

That social science at last emerged from this No Thoroughfare, it owes to Karl Marx.

According to Marx, "legal relations, like forms of State, can neither be understood in themselves nor from the so-called general development of the human mind, but are rather rooted in those material conditions of life, whose totality Hegel, following the English and the French of the 18th century, summed up under the name of 'bourgeois society.'" This is almost the same as Guizot meant when he said that political constitutions had their roots in "the condition of property." But while for Guizot "the condition of property" remained a mystery which he vainly sought to elucidate with the help of reflections upon human nature, for Marx this "condition" had nothing mysterious; it is determined by the condition of the productive forces at the disposal of a given society. "The anatomy of bourgeois society is to be sought in political economy." But Marx himself shall formulate his own conception of history.

"In the social production of their lives, men enter upon certain definite, necessary relations, relations independent of their will, relations of production that correspond with definite degrees of development of their material productive forces. The totality of these relations of production constitute the economic structure of society, the true basis from which arises a juridical and political superstructure to which definite social forms of consciousness correspond. The mode of production of material life determines the social, political and intellectual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of mankind that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. In a certain stage of their development, the material forces of production of society come into contradiction with the existing relations of production, or, which is only a juridical expression for the same thing, with the relations of property within which they had hitherto moved. From forms for the development of these forces of production, they are transformed into their fetters. We then enter upon an epoch of social revolution."[3]

This completely materialist conception of history is one of the greatest discoveries of our century, so rich in scientific discoveries. Thanks to it alone sociology has at last, and for ever, escaped from the vicious circle in which it had, until then, turned; thanks to it alone this science now possesses a foundation as solid as natural science. The revolution made by Marx in social science may be compared with that made by Kopernicus in astronomy. In fact, before Kopernicus, it was believed that the earth remained stationary, while the sun turned round it. The Polish genius demonstrated that what occurred was the exact contrary. And so, up to the time of Marx, the point of view taken by social science, was that of "human nature;" and it was from this point of view that men attempted to explain the historical movement of humanity. To this the point of view of the German genius is diametrically opposed. While man, in order to maintain his existence, acts upon nature outside himself, he alters his own nature. The action of man upon the nature outside himself, pre-supposes certain instruments, certain means of production; according to the character of their means of production men enter into certain relations within the process of production (since this process is a social one), and according to their relations in this social process of production, their habits, their sentiments, their desires, their methods of thought and of action, in a word, their nature, vary. Thus it is not human nature which explains the historical movement; it is the historical movement which fashions diversely human nature.

But if this is so, what is the value of all the more or less laborious, more or less ingenious enquiries into "perfect legislation" and the best of possible social organisations? None; literally none! They can but bear witness to the lack of scientific education in those who pursue them. Their day is gone for ever. With this old point of view of human nature must disappear the Utopias of every shade and colour. The great revolutionary party of our day, the International Social-Democracy, is based not upon some "new conception" of human nature, nor upon any abstract principle, but upon a scientifically demonstrable economic necessity. And herein lies the real strength of this party, making it as invincible as the economic necessity itself.

"The means of production and exchange on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property become no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces, they become so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder. Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted to it, and by the economical and political sway of the bourgeois class. A similar movement is going on before our own eyes. Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange, and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeoisie and its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put on its trial, each time more threateningly, the existence of the entire bourgeois society.... The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself."[4]

The bourgeoisie destroyed the feudal conditions of property; the proletariat will put an end to the bourgeois conditions of property. Between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie a struggle, an implacable war, a war to the knife, is as inevitable as, was in its way, the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the privileged estates. But every class war is a political war. In order to do away with feudal society the bourgeoisie had to seize upon political power. In order to do away with capitalist society the proletariat must do the same. Its political task is therefore traced out for it beforehand by the force of events themselves, and not by any abstract consideration.

It is a remarkable fact that it is only since Karl Marx that Socialism has taken its stand upon the class war. The Utopian Socialists had no notion—even an inexact one—of it. And in this they lagged behind their contemporary theorists of the bourgeoisie, who understood very well the historical significance at any rate of the struggle of the third estate against the nobles.

If every "new conception" of human nature seemed to supply very definite indications as to the organisation of "the society of the future," Scientific Socialism is very chary of such speculations. The structure of society depends upon the conditions of its productive forces. What these conditions will be when the proletariat is in power we do not know. We now know but one thing—that the productive forces already at the disposal of civilised humanity imperatively demand the socialisation and systematised organisation of the means of production. This is enough to prevent our being led astray in our struggle against "the reactionary mass." "The Communists, therefore, are practically the most advanced and resolute section of the working class parties of every country ... theoretically they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement."[5] These words, written in 1848, are to-day incorrect only in one sense: they speak of "working class parties" independent of the Communist party; there is to-day no working class party which does not more or less closely follow the flag of Scientific Socialism, or, as it was called in the Manifesto, "Communism."

Once again, then, the point of view of the Utopian Socialists, as indeed of all social science of their time, was human nature, or some abstract principle deriving from this idea. The point of view of the social science, of the Socialism of our time is that of economic reality, and of the immanent laws of its evolution.

It is easy, therefore, to form an idea of the impression made upon modern Socialists by the arguments of the bourgeois theorists who sing ceaselessly the same old song of the incompatibility of human nature and communism. It is as though one would wage war upon the Darwinians with arms drawn from the scientific arsenal of Cuvier's time. And a most noteworthy fact is that the "evolutionists" like Herbert Spencer, themselves are not above piping to the same tune.[6]

And now let us see what relation there may be between modern Socialism and what is called Anarchism.


[3] "Zur Kritik der Politischen OEkonomie," Berlin, 1859. Preface iv. v.

[4] "Manifesto of the Communist Party." By Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Authorised English translation by S. Moore, pp. 11-12.

[5] "Communist Manifesto," p. 16.

[6] "The belief not only of the Socialists, but also of those so-called Liberals who are diligently preparing the way for them, is that by due skill an ill-working humanity may be framed into well-working institutions. It is a delusion. The defective nature of citizens will show themselves in the bad acting of whatever social structure they are arranged into. There is no political alchemy by which you can get golden conduct out of leaden instincts."—Herbert Spencer's "The Man versus the State," p. 43.




"I have often been reproached with being the father of Anarchism. This is doing me too great an honour. The father of Anarchism is the immortal Proudhon, who expounded it for the first time in 1848."

Thus spoke Peter Kropotkin in his defence before the Correctional Tribunal of Lyons at his trial in January, 1883. As is frequently the case with my amiable compatriot, Kropotkin has here made a statement that is incorrect. For "the first time" Proudhon spoke of Anarchism was in his celebrated book "Qu'est-ce que le Propriete, ou Recherches sur le principe du droit et du Gouvernement," the first edition of which had already appeared in 1840. It is true that he "expounds" very little of it here; he only devotes a few pages to it.[7] And before he set about expounding the Anarchist theory "in 1848," the job had already been done by a German, Max Stirner (the pseudonym of Caspar Schmidt) in 1845, in his book "Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum."[8] Max Stirner has therefore a well defined claim to be the father of Anarchism. "Immortal" or not, it is by him that the theory was "expounded" for the first time.


The Anarchist theory of Max Stirner has been called a caricature of the "philosophy of religion" of Ludwig Feuerbach. It is thus, e.g., that Ueberweg in his "Grundzuege der Geschichte der Philosophie," (3rd. part, "Philosophie der Neu Zeit") speaks of it. Some have even supposed that the only object Stirner had in writing his book was to poke fun at this philosophy. This supposition is absolutely gratuitous. Stirner in expounding his theory was not joking. He is in deadly earnest about it, though he now and again betrays a tendency, natural enough in the restless times when he wrote, to outdo Feuerbach and the radical character of his conclusions.

For Feuerbach, what men call Divinity, is only the product of their phantasy, of a psychological aberration. It is not Divinity that has created man, but man who creates Divinity in his own image. In God man only adores his own being. God is only a fiction, but a very harmful fiction. The Christian God is supposed to be all love, all pity for poor suffering humanity. But in spite of this, or rather because of it, every Christian really worthy the name, hates, and must hate, the Atheists, who appear to him the living negation of all love and all pity. Thus the god of love becomes the god of hate, the god of persecution; the product of the phantasy of man becomes a real cause of his suffering. So we must make an end of this phantasmagoria. Since in Divinity man adores only his own being, we must once for all rend and scatter to the winds the mystic veil beneath which this being has been enveloped. The love of humanity must not extend beyond humanity. "Der Mensch ist dem Menschen das hoechste Wesen" (Man is the highest being for man).

Thus Feuerbach. Max Stirner is quite at one with him, but wishes to deduce what he believes to be the final, the most radical consequences of his theory. He reasons in this fashion. God is only the product of phantasy, is only a spook. Agreed. But what is this humanity the love of which you prescribe to me? Is not this also a spook, an abstract thing, a creature of the imagination? Where is this humanity of yours? Where does it exist but in the minds of men, in the minds of individuals? The only reality, therefore, is the individual, with his wants, his tendencies, his will. But since this is so, how can the individual, the reality, sacrifice himself for the happiness of man, an abstract being? It is all very well for you to revolt against the old God; you still retain the religious point of view, and the emancipation you are trying to help us to is absolutely theological, i.e., "God-inspired." "The highest Being is certainly that of man, but because it is his Being and is not he himself, it is quite indifferent if we see this Being outside of him as God, or find it in him and call it the 'Being of Mankind' or 'Man.' I am neither God nor Man, neither the highest Being, nor my own Being, and therefore it is essentially a matter of indifference if I imagine this Being in myself or outside myself. And, indeed, we do always imagine the highest being in the two future states, in the internal and external at once; for the 'Spirit of God' is, according to the Christian conception, also 'our spirit' and 'dwells within us.' It dwells in heaven and dwells in us; but we poor things are but its 'dwelling-place,' and if Feuerbach destroys its heavenly dwelling-place and forces it to come down to us bag and baggage, we, its earthly abode, will find ourselves very over-crowded."[9]

To escape the inconveniences of such over-crowding, to avoid being dominated by any spook, to at last place our foot upon actual ground, there is but one way: to take as our starting-point the only real being, our own Ego, "Away then with everything that is not wholly and solely my own affair! You think my own concerns must at least be 'good ones?' A fig for good and evil! I am I, and I am neither good nor evil. Neither has any meaning for me. The godly is the affair of God, the human that of humanity. My concern is neither the Godly nor the Human, is not the True, the Good, the Right, the Free, etc., but simply my own self, and it is not general, it is individual, as I myself am individual. For me there is nothing above myself."[10]

Religion, conscience, morality, right, law, family, state, are but so many fetters forced upon me in the name of an abstraction, but so many despotic lords whom "I," the individual conscious of my own "concerns," combat by every means in my power. Your "morality," not merely the morality of the bourgeois philistines, but the most elevated, the most humanitarian morality is only religion which has changed its supreme beings. Your "right," that you believe born with man, is but a ghost, and if you respect it, you are no farther advanced than the heroes of Homer who were afraid when they beheld a god fighting in the ranks of their enemies. Right is might. "Whoever has might, he has right; if you have not the former you have not the latter. Is this wisdom so difficult of attainment?"[11] You would persuade me to sacrifice my interests to those of the State. I, on the contrary, declare war to the knife to all States, even the most democratic. "Every State is a despotism, whether it is the despotism of one or many, or whether, as one might suppose would be the case in a Republic, all are masters, i.e., one tyrannises over the rest. For this is the case whenever a given law, the expressed will perhaps of some assemblage of the people, is immediately to become a law to the individual, which he must obey, and which it is his duty to obey. Even if one were to suppose a case in which every individual among the people had expressed the same will, and thus a perfect "will of all" had easily been arrived at, the thing would still be the same. Should I not to-day and in the future be bound by my will of yesterday? In this event my will would be paralyzed. Fatal stagnation! My creation, i.e., a certain expression of will would have become my master. But I, in my will should be constrained, I, the creator should be constrained in my development, my working out. Because I was a fool yesterday, I must remain one all my life. So that in my life in relation to the State I am at best—I might as well say at worst—a slave to my own self. Because yesterday I had a will, I am to-day without one; yesterday free, to-day bound."[12]

Here a partisan of the "People's State" might observe to Stirner, that his "I" goes a little too far in his desire to reduce democratic liberty to absurdity; further, that a bad law may be abrogated as soon as a majority of citizens desire it, and that one is not forced to submit to it "all one's life." But this is only an insignificant detail, to which, moreover, Stirner would reply that the very necessity for appealing to a majority proves that "I" am no longer the master of my own conduct. The conclusions of our author are irrefutable, for the simple reason that to say, I recognize nothing above myself, is to say, I feel oppressed by every institution that imposes any duty upon me. It is simply tautology.

It is evident that no "Ego" can exist quite alone. Stirner knows this perfectly, and this is why he advocates "Leagues of Egoists," that is to say, free associations into which every "Ego" enters, and in which he remains when and so long as it suits his interests.

Here let us pause. We are now face to face with an "egoist" system par excellence. It is, perhaps, the only one that the history of human thought has to chronicle. The French Materialists of the last century have been accused of preaching egoism. The accusation was quite wrong. The French Materialists always preached "Virtue," and preached it with such unlimited zeal that Grimm could, not without reason, make fun of their capucinades on the subject. The question of egoism presented to them a double problem. (1) Man is all sensation (this was the basis of all their speculations upon man); by his very nature he is forced to shun suffering and to seek pleasure; how comes it then that we find men capable of enduring the greatest sufferings for the sake of some idea, that is to say, in its final analysis, in order to provide agreeable sensations for their fellow-men. (2) Since man is all sensation he will harm his fellow-man if he is placed in a social environment where the interests of an individual conflict with those of others. What form of legislation therefore can harmonise public good and that of individuals? Here, in this double problem, lies the whole significance of what is called the materialist ethics of the 18th century. Max Stirner pursues an end entirely opposed to this. He laughs at "Virtue," and, far from desiring its triumph, he sees reasonable men only in egoists, for whom there is nothing above their own "Ego." Once again, he is the theorist par excellence of egoism.

The good bourgeois whose ears are as chaste and virtuous as their hearts are hard; they who, "drinking wine, publicly preach water," were scandalised to the last degree by the "immorality" of Stirner. "It is the complete ruin of the moral world," they cried. But as usual the virtue of the philistines showed itself very weak in argument. "The real merit of Stirner is that he has spoken the last word of the young atheist school" (i.e., the left wing of the Hegelian school), wrote the Frenchman, St. Rene Taillandier. The philistines of other lands shared this view of the "merits" of the daring publicist. From the point of view of modern Socialism this "merit" appears in a very different light.

To begin with, the incontestable merit of Stirner consists in his having openly and energetically combated the sickly sentimentalism of the bourgeois reformers and of many of the Utopian Socialists, according to which the emancipation of the proletariat would be brought about by the virtuous activity of "devoted" persons of all classes, and especially of those of the possessing-class. Stirner knew perfectly what to expect from the "devotion" of the exploiters. The "rich" are harsh, hard-hearted, but the "poor" (the terminology is that of our author) are wrong to complain of it, since it is not the rich who create the poverty of the poor, but the poor who create the wealth of the rich. They ought to blame themselves then if their condition is a hard one. In order to change it they have only to revolt against the rich; as soon as they seriously wish it, they will be the strongest and the reign of wealth will be at an end. Salvation lies in struggle, and not in fruitless appeals to the generosity of the oppressors. Stirner, therefore, preaches the class war. It is true that he represents it in the abstract form of the struggle of a certain number of egoist "Egos" against another smaller number of "Egos" not less egoist. But here we come to another merit of Stirner's.

According to Taillandier, he has spoken the last word of the young atheist school of German philosophers. As a matter of fact he has only spoken the last word of idealist speculation. But that word he has incontestably the merit of having spoken.

In his criticism of religion Feuerbach is but half a Materialist. In worshipping God, man only worships his own Being idealised. This is true. But religions spring up and die out, like everything else upon earth. Does this not prove that the human Being is not immutable, but changes in the process of the historical evolution of societies? Clearly, yes. But, then, what is the cause of the historical transformation of the "human Being?" Feuerbach does not know. For him the human Being is only an abstract notion, as human Nature was for the French Materialists. This is the fundamental fault of his criticism of religion. Stirner said that it had no very robust constitution. He wished to strengthen it by making it breathe the fresh air of reality. He turns his back upon all phantoms, upon all things of the imagination. In reality, he said to himself, these are only individuals. Let us take the individual for our starting-point. But what individual does he take for his starting-point? Tom, Dick, or Harry? Neither. He takes the individual in general—he takes a new abstraction, the thinnest of them all—he takes the "Ego."

Stirner naively imagined that he was finally solving an old philosophical question, which had already divided the Nominalists and the Realists of the Middle Ages. "No Idea has an existence," he says, "for none is capable of becoming corporeal. The scholastic controversy of Realism and Nominalism had the same content." Alas! The first Nominalist he came across could have demonstrated to our author by the completest evidence, that his "Ego" is as much an "Idea" as any other, and that it is as little real as a mathematical unit.

Tom, Dick and Harry have relations with one another that do not depend upon the will of their "Ego," but are imposed upon them by the structure of the society in which they live. To criticise social institutions in the name of the "Ego," is therefore to abandon the only profitable point of view in the case, i.e., that of society, of the laws of its existence and evolution, and to lose oneself in the mists of abstraction. But it is just in these mists that the "Nominalist" Stirner delights. I am I—that is his starting-point; not I is not I—that is his result. I+I+I+etc.—is his social Utopia. It is subjective Idealism, pure and simple applied to social and political criticism. It is the suicide of idealist speculation.

But in the same year (1845) in which "Der Einzige" of Stirner appeared, there appeared also, at Frankfort-on-Maine the work of Marx and Engels, "Die heilige Familie, oder Kritik der Kritischen Kritik, gegen Bruno Bauer und Consorten."[13] In it Idealist speculation was attacked and beaten by Materialist dialectic, the theoretical basis of modern Socialism. "Der Einzige" came too late.

We have just said that I+I+I+etc. represents the social Utopia of Stirner. His League of Egoists is, in fact, nothing but a mass of abstract quantities. What are, what can be the basis of their union? Their interests, answers Stirner. But what will, what can be the true basis of any given combination of their interests? Stirner says nothing about it, and he can say nothing definite since from the abstract heights on which he stands, one cannot see clearly economic reality, the mother and nurse of all the "Egos," egoistic or altruistic. Nor is it surprising that he is not able to explain clearly even this idea of the class struggle, of which he nevertheless had a happy inkling. The "poor" must combat the "rich." And after, when they have conquered these? Then every one of the former "poor," like every one of the former "rich," will combat every one of the former poor, and against every one of the former rich. There will be the war of all against all. (These are Stirner's own words.) And the rules of the "Leagues of Egoists" will be so many partial truces in this colossal and universal warfare. There is plenty of fight in this idea, but of the "realism" Max Stirner dreamed of, nothing.

But enough of the "Leagues of Egoists." A Utopian may shut his eyes to economic reality, but it forces itself upon him in spite of himself; it pursues him everywhere with the brutality of a natural force not controlled by force. The elevated regions of the abstract "I" do not save Stirner from the attacks of economic reality. He does not speak to us only of the "Individual"; his theme is "the Individual and his property." Now, what sort of a figure does the property of the "Individual" cut?

It goes without saying, that Stirner is little inclined to respect property as an "acquired right." "Only that property will be legally and lawfully another's which it suits you should be his property. When it ceases to suit you, it has lost its legality for you, and any absolute right in it you will laugh at."[14] It is always the same tune: "For me there is nothing above myself." But his scant respect for the property of others does not prevent the "Ego" of Stirner from having the tendencies of a property-owner. The strongest argument against Communism, is, in his opinion, the consideration that Communism by abolishing individual property transforms all members of society into mere beggars. Stirner is indignant at such an iniquity.

"Communists think that the Commune should be the property-owner. On the contrary, I am a property-owner, and can only agree with others as to my property. If the Commune does not do as I wish I rebel against it, and defend my property, I am the owner of property, but property is not sacred. Should I only be the holder of property (an allusion to Proudhon)? No, hitherto one was only a holder of property, assured of possession of a piece of land, because one left others also in possession of a piece of land; but now everything belongs to me, I am the owner of everything I need, and can get hold of. If the Socialist says, society gives me what I need, the Egoist says, I take what I want. If the Communists behave like beggars, the Egoist behaves like an owner of property."[15] The property of the egoist seems pretty shaky. An "Egoist," retains his property only as long as the other "Egoists" do not care to take it from him, thus transforming him into a "beggar." But the devil is not so black as he is painted. Stirner pictures the mutual relations of the "Egoist" proprietors rather as relations of exchange than of pillage. And force, to which he constantly appeals, is rather the economic force of a producer of commodities freed from the trammels which the State and "Society" in general impose, or seem to impose, upon him.

It is the soul of a producer of commodities that speaks through the mouth of Stirner. If he falls foul of the State, it is because the State does not seem to respect the "property" of the producers of commodities sufficiently. He wants his property, his whole property. The State makes him pay taxes; it ventures to expropriate him for the public good. He wants a jus utendi et abutendi; the State says "agreed"—but adds that there are abuses and abuses. Then Stirner cries "stop thief!" "I am the enemy of the State," says he, "which is always fluctuating between the alternative: He or I.... With the State there is no property, i.e., no individual property, only State property. Only through the State have I what I have, as it is only through the State that I am what I am. My private property is only what the State leaves me of its own, while it deprives other citizens of it: that is State property." So down with the State and long live full and complete individual property!

Stirner translated into German J. B. Say's "Traite D'Economie Politique Pratique" (Leipsic, 1845-46). And although he also translated Adam Smith, he was never able to get beyond the narrow circle of the ordinary bourgeois economic ideas. His "League of Egoists" is only the Utopia of a petty bourgeois in revolt. In this sense one may say he has spoken the last word of bourgeois individualism.

Stirner has also a third merit—that of the courage of his opinions, of having carried through to the very end his individualist theories. He is the most intrepid, the most consequent of the Anarchists. By his side Proudhon, whom Kropotkin, like all the present day Anarchists, takes for the father of Anarchism, is but a straight-laced Philistine.


[7] See pages 295-305 of the 1841 edition.

[8] "The Individual and his Property."

[9] "Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum." 2nd ed., Leipzig, 1882, pp. 35-36. (American translation: "The Ego and his Own." New York: 1907.)

[10] Ibid. Pp. 7-8.

[11] Ibid. pp. 196-197.

[12] Ibid. p. 200.

[13] "The Holy Family, or Criticism of Critical Criticism, against Bruno Bauer and Company."

[14] Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum.

[15] Ibid. p. 266.



If Stirner combats Feuerbach, the "immortal" Proudhon imitates Kant. "What Kant did some sixty years ago for religion, what he did earlier for certainty of certainties; what others before him had attempted to do for happiness or supreme good, the 'Voice of the People' proposes to do for the Government," pompously declares "the father of Anarchism." Let us examine his methods and their results.

According to Proudhon, before Kant, the believer and the philosopher moved "by an irresistible impulse," asked themselves, "What is God?" They then asked themselves "Which, of all religions, is the best?" "In fact, if there does exist a Being superior to Humanity, there must also exist a system of the relations between this Being and Humanity. What then is this system? The search for the best religion is the second step that the human mind takes in reason and in faith. Kant gave up these insoluble questions. He no longer asked himself what is God, and which is the best religion, he set about explaining the origin and development of the Idea of God; he undertook to work out the biography of this idea." And the results he attained were as great as they were unexpected. "What we seek, what we see, in God, as Malebranche said ... is our own Ideal, the pure essence of Humanity.... The human soul does not become conscious of its Ego through premeditated contemplation, as the psychologists put it; the soul perceives something outside itself, as if it were a different Being face to face with itself, and it is this inverted image which it calls God. Thus morality, justice, order, law, are no longer things revealed from above, imposed upon our free will by a so-called Creator, unknown and ununderstandable; they are things that are proper and essential to us as our faculties and our organs, as our flesh and our blood. In two words religion and society are synonymous terms, man is as sacred to himself as if he were God."

Belief in authority is as primitive, as universal as belief in God. Whenever men are grouped together in societies there is authority, the beginning of a government. From time immemorial men have asked themselves, What is authority? Which is the best form of government? And replies to these questions have been sought for in vain. There are as many governments as there are religions, as many political theories as systems of philosophy. Is there any way of putting an end to this interminable and barren controversy? Any means of escape from this impasse! Assuredly! We have only to follow the example of Kant. We have only to ask ourselves whence comes this idea of authority, of government? We have only to get all the information we can upon the legitimacy of the political idea. Once safe on this ground and the question solves itself with extraordinary ease.

"Like religion, government is a manifestation of social spontaneity, a preparation of humanity for a higher condition."

"What humanity seeks in religion and calls God, is itself." "What the citizen seeks in Government and calls king, emperor, or president, is again himself, is liberty." "Outside humanity there is no God; the theological concept has no meaning:—outside liberty no government, the political concept has no value."

So much for the "biography" of the political idea. Once grasped it must enlighten us upon the question as to which is the best form of government.

"The best form of government, like the most perfect of religions, taken in a literal sense, is a contradictory idea. The problem is not to discover how we shall be best governed, but how we shall be most free. Liberty commensurate and identical with Order,—this is the only reality of government and politics. How shall this absolute liberty, synonymous with order, be brought about? We shall be taught this by the analysis of the various formulas of authority. For all the rest we no more admit the governing of man by man than the exploitation of man by man."[16]

We have now climbed to the topmost heights of Proudhon's political philosophy. It is from this that the fresh and vivifying stream of his Anarchist thought flows. Before we follow the somewhat tortuous course of this stream let us glance back at the way we have climbed.

We fancied we were following Kant. We were mistaken. In his "Critique of Pure Reason" Kant has demonstrated the impossibility of proving the existence of God, because everything outside experience must escape us absolutely. In his "Critique of Practical Reason" Kant admitted the existence of God in the name of morality. But he has never declared that God was a topsy-turvy image of our own soul. What Proudhon attributes to Kant, indubitably belongs to Feuerbach. Thus it is in the footsteps of the latter that we have been treading, while roughly tracing out the "biography" of the political Idea. So that Proudhon brings us back to the very starting point of our most unsentimental journey with Stirner. No matter. Let us once more return to the reasoning of Feuerbach.

It is only itself that humanity seeks in religion. It is only himself, it is liberty that the citizen seeks in Government.... Then the very essence of the citizen is liberty? Let us assume this is true, but let us also note that our French "Kant" has done nothing, absolutely nothing, to prove the "legitimacy" of such an "Idea." Nor is this all. What is this liberty which we are assuming to be the essence of the citizen? Is it political liberty which ought in the nature of things to be the main object of his attention? Not a bit of it! To assume this would be to make of the "citizen" an "authoritarian" democrat.

It is the absolute liberty of the individual, which is at the same time commensurate and identical with Order, that our citizen seeks in Government. In other words, it is the Anarchism of Proudhon which is the essence of the "citizen." It is impossible to make a more pleasing discovery, but the "biography" of this discovery gives us pause. We have been trying to demolish every argument in favour of the Idea of Authority, as Kant demolished every proof of the existence of God. To attain this end we have—imitating Feuerbach to some extent, according to whom man adored his own Being in God—assumed that it is liberty which the citizen seeks in Government. And as to liberty we have in a trice transformed this into "absolute" liberty, into Anarchist liberty. Eins, zwei, drei; Geschwindigkeit ist keine Hexerei![17]

Since the "citizen" only seeks "absolute" liberty in Government the State is nothing but a fiction ("this fiction of a superior person, called the 'State'"), and all those formulas of government for which people and citizens have been cutting one another's throats for the last sixty centuries, are but the "phantasmagoria of our brain, which it would be the first duty of free reason to relegate to the museums and libraries." Which is another charming discovery made en passant. So that the political history of humanity has, "for sixty centuries," had no other motive power than a phantasmagoria of our brain!

To say that man adores in God his own essence is to indicate the origin of religion, but it is not to work out its "biography." To write the biography of religion is to write its history, explaining the evolution of this essence of man which found expression in it. Feuerbach did not do this—could not do it. Proudhon, trying to imitate Feuerbach, was very far from recognising the insufficiency of his point of view. All Proudhon has done is to take Feuerbach for Kant, and to ape his Kant-Feuerbach in a most pitiful manner. Having heard that Divinity was but a fiction, he concluded that the State is also a figment: since God does not exist, how can the State exist? Proudhon wished to combat the State and began by declaring it non-existent. And the readers of the "Voix du Peuple" applauded, and the opponents of M. Proudhon were alarmed at the profundity of his philosophy! Truly a tragi-comedy!

It is hardly necessary for modern readers to add that in taking the State for a fiction we make it altogether impossible to understand its "essence" or to explain its historical evolution. And this was what happened to Proudhon.

"In every society I distinguish two kinds of constitution," says he; "the one which I call social, the other which is its political constitution; the first innate in humanity, liberal, necessary, its development consisting above all in weakening, and gradually eliminating the second, which is essentially factitious, restrictive, and transitory. The social constitution is nothing but the equilibration of interests based upon free contract and the organisation of the economic forces, which, generally speaking, are labour, division of labour, collective force, competition, commerce, money, machinery, credit, property, equality in transactions, reciprocity of guarantees, etc. The principle of the political constitution is authority. Its forms are: distinction of classes, separation of powers, administrative centralisation, the judicial hierarchy, the representation of sovereignty by elections, etc. The political constitution was conceived and gradually completed in the interest of order, for want of a social constitution, the rules and principles of which could only be discovered as a result of long experience, and are even to-day the object of Socialist controversy. These two constitutions, as it is easy to see, are by nature absolutely different and even incompatible: but as it is the fate of the political constitution to constantly call forth and produce the social constitution something of the latter enters into the former, which, soon becoming inadequate, appears contradictory and odious, is forced from concession to concession to its final abrogation."[18]

The social constitution is innate in humanity, necessary. Yet it could only be discovered as the result of long experience, and for want of it humanity had to invent the political constitution. Is not this an entirely Utopian conception of human nature, and of the social organisation peculiar to it? Are we not coming back to the standpoint of Morelly who said that humanity in the course of its history has always been "outside nature?" No—there is no need to come back to this standpoint, for with Proudhon we have never, for a single instant, got away from it. While looking down upon the Utopians searching after "the best form of government," Proudhon does not by any means censure the Utopian point of view. He only scoffs at the small perspicacity of men who did not divine that the best political organisation is the absence of all political organisation, is the social organisation, proper to human nature, necessary, immanent in humanity.

The nature of this social constitution is absolutely different from, and even incompatible with, that of the political constitution. Nevertheless it is the fate of the political constitution to constantly call forth and produce the social constitution. This is tremendously confusing! Yet one might get out of the difficulty by assuming that what Proudhon meant to say was that the political constitutions act upon the evolution of the social constitution. But then we are inevitably met by the question. Is not the political constitution in its turn rooted—as even Guizot admitted—in the social constitution of a country? According to our author no; the more emphatically no, that the social organisation, the true and only one, is only a thing of the future, for want of which poor humanity has "invented" the political constitution. Moreover, the "Political Constitution" of Proudhon covers an immense domain, embracing even "class distinctions," and therefore "non-organised" property, property as it ought not to be, property as it is to-day. And since the whole of this political constitution has been invented as a mere stop-gap until the advent of the anarchist organisation of society, it is evident that all human history must have been one huge blunder. The State is no longer exactly a fiction as Proudhon maintained in 1848; "the governmental formulas" for which people and citizens have been cutting one another's throats for sixty centuries are no longer a "mere phantasmagoria of our brain," as the same Proudhon believed at this same period; but these formulas, like the State itself, like every political constitution, are but the product of human ignorance, the mother of all fictions and phantasmagorias. At bottom it is always the same. The main point is that Anarchist ("social") organisation could only be discovered as the result of "many experiences." The reader will see how much this is to be regretted.

The political constitution has an unquestionable influence upon the social organisation; at any rate it calls it forth, for such is its "fate" as revealed by Proudhon, master of Kantian philosophy and social organisation. The most logical conclusion to be drawn therefrom is that the partisans of social organisation must make use of the political constitution in order to attain their end. But logical as this deduction is, it is not to the taste of our author. For him it is but a phantasmagoria of our brain. To make use of the political constitution is to offer a burnt offering to the terrible god of authority, to take part in the struggle of parties. Proudhon will have none of this. "No more parties," he says; "no more authority, absolute liberty of the man and the citizen—in three words, such is our political and social profession of faith."[19]

Every class-struggle is a political struggle. Whosoever repudiates the political struggle by this very act, gives up all part and lot in the class-struggle. And so it was with Proudhon. From the beginning of the Revolution of 1848 he preached the reconciliation of classes. Here e.g., is a passage from the Circular which he addressed to his electors in Doubs, which is dated 3rd April of this same year: "The social question is there; you cannot escape from it. To solve it we must have men who combine extreme Radicalism of mind with extreme Conservatism of mind. Workers, hold out your hands to your employers; and you, employers, do not deliberately repulse the advances of those who were your wage-earners."

The man whom Proudhon believed to combine this extreme Radicalism of mind with extreme Conservatism of mind, was himself—P. J. Proudhon. There was, on the one hand, at the bottom of this belief, a "fiction," common to all Utopians who imagine they can rise above classes and their struggles, and naively think that the whole of the future history of humanity will be confined to the peaceful propagation of their new gospel. On the other hand, this tendency to combine Radicalism and Conservatism shows conclusively the very "essence" of the "Father of Anarchy."

Proudhon was the most typical representative of petty bourgeois socialism. Now the "fate" of the petty bourgeois—in so far as he does not adopt the proletarian standpoint—is to constantly oscillate between Radicalism and Conservatism. To make more understandable what we have said, we must bear in mind what the plan of social organisation propounded by Proudhon was.

Our author shall tell us himself. It goes without saying that we shall not escape a more or less authentic interpretation of Kant. "Thus the line we propose to follow in dealing with the political question and in preparing the materials for a constitution will be the same as that we have followed hitherto in dealing with the social question." The Voix du Peuple while completing the work of its predecessors, the two earlier journals, will follow faithfully in their footsteps.[20] What did we say in these two publications, one after the other of which fell beneath the blows of the reaction and the state of siege? We did not ask, as our precursors and colleagues had done, Which is the best system of community? The best organisation of property? Or again: Which is the better, property or the community? The theory of St. Simon or that of Fourier? The system of Louis Blanc or that of Cabet? Following the example of Kant we stated the question thus: "How is it that man possesses? How is property acquired? How lost? What is the law of its evolution and transformation? Whither does it tend? What does it want? What, in fine, does it represent?... Then how is it that man labours? How is the comparison of products instituted? By what means is circulation carried out in society? Under what conditions? According to what laws?" And the conclusion arrived at by this monograph of property was this: Property indicates function or attribution; community; reciprocity of action; usury ever decreasing, the identity of labour and capital (sic!). In order to set free and to realise all these terms, until now hidden beneath the old symbols of property, what must be done? The workers must guarantee one another labour and a market; and to this end must accept as money their reciprocal pledges. Good! To-day we say that political liberty, like industrial liberty, will result for us from our mutual guarantees. It is by guaranteeing one another liberty that we shall get rid of this government, whose destiny is to symbolise the republican motto: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, while leaving it to our intelligence to bring about the realisation of this. Now, what is the formula of this political and liberal guarantee? At present universal suffrage; later on free contract.... Economic and social reform through the mutual guarantee of credit; political reform through the inter-action of individual liberties; such is the programme of the "Voix du Peuple."[21] We may add to this that it is not very difficult to write the "biography" of this programme.

In a society of producers of commodities, the exchange of commodities is carried out according to the labour socially necessary for their production. Labour is the source and the measure of their exchange-value. Nothing could seem more "just" than this to any man imbued with the ideas engendered by a society of producers of commodities. Unfortunately this "justice" is no more "eternal" than anything else here below. The development of the production of commodities necessarily brings in its train the transformation of the greater part of society into proletarians, possessing nothing but their labour-power, and of the other part into capitalists, who, buying this power, the only commodity of the proletarians, turn it into a source of wealth for themselves. In working for the capitalists the proletarian produces the income of his exploiter, at the same time as his own poverty, his own social subjection. Is not this sufficiently unjust? The partisan of the rights of the producer of commodities deplores the lot of the proletarians; he thunders against capital. But at the same time he thunders against the revolutionary tendencies of the proletarians who speak of expropriating the exploiter and of a communistic organisation of production. Communism is unjust, it is the most odious tyranny. What wants organising is not production but exchange, he assures us. But how organise exchange? That is easy enough, and what is daily going on before our eyes may serve to show us the way. Labour is the source and the measure of the value of commodities. But is the price of commodities always determined by their value? Do not prices continually vary according to the rarity or abundance of these commodities? The value of a commodity and its price are two different things; and this is the misfortune, the great misfortune of all of us poor, honest folk, who only want justice, and only ask for our own. To solve the social question, therefore we must put a stop to the arbitrariness of prices, and to the anomaly of value (Proudhon's own expressions). And in order to do this we must "constitute" value; i.e., see that every producer shall always, in exchange for his commodity, receive exactly what it costs. Then will private property not only cease to be theft, it will become the most adequate expression of justice. To constitute value is to constitute small private property, and small private property once constituted, everything will be justice and happiness in a world now so full of misery and injustice. And it is no good for proletarians to object, they have no means of production: by guaranteeing themselves credit gratis, all who want to work will, as by the touch of a magic wand, have everything necessary for production.

Small property and small parcelled-out production, its economic basis, was always the dream of Proudhon. The huge modern mechanical workshop always inspired him with profound aversion. He says that labour, like love, flies from society. No doubt there are some industries—Proudhon instances railways—in which association is essential. In these, the isolated producer must make way for "companies of workers." But the exception only proves the rule.[22] Small private property must be the basis of "social organization."

Small private property is tending to disappear. The desire not merely to preserve it, but to transform it into the basis of a new social organisation is extreme conservatism. The desire at the same time to put an end to "the exploitation of man by man," to the wage-system, is assuredly to combine with the most conservative the most radical aspirations.

We have no desire here to criticise this petty bourgeois Utopia. This criticism has already been undertaken by a master hand in the works of Marx: "La Misere de la Philosophie," and "Zur Kritik der Politischen Oekonomie." We will only observe the following:—

The only bond that unites the producers of commodities upon the domain of economics is exchange. From the juridical point of view, exchange appears as the relation between two wills. The relation of these two wills is expressed in the "contract." The production of commodities duly "constituted" is therefore the reign of "absolute" individual liberty. By finding myself bound through a contract that obliges me to do such and such a thing, I do not renounce my liberty. I simply use it to enter into relations with my neighbours. But at the same time this contract is the regulator of my liberty. In fulfilling a duty that I have freely laid upon myself when signing the contract, I render justice to the rights of others. It is thus that "absolute" liberty becomes "commensurate with order." Apply this conception of the contract to the "political constitution" and you have "Anarchy."

"The idea of the contract excludes that of government. What characterises the contract, reciprocal convention, is that by virtue of this convention the liberty and well-being of man are increased, while by the institution of authority both are necessarily decreased.... Contract is thus essentially synallagmatic; it lays upon the contracting parties no other obligation than that which results from their personal promise of reciprocal pledges; it is subject to no external authority; it alone lays down a law common to both parties, and it can be carried out only through their own initiative. If the contract is already this in its most general acceptation and in its daily practice, what will the social contract be—that contract which is meant to bind together all the members of a nation by the same interest? The social contract is the supreme act by which every citizen pledges to society his love, his intellect, his labour, his service, his products, his possessions, in exchange for the affection, the ideas, the labour, products, service, and possessions of his fellows; the measure of right for each one being always determined by the extent of his own contribution, and the amount recoverable being in accordance with what has been given.... The social contract must be freely discussed, individually consented to, signed manu propria, by all who participate in it. If its discussion were prevented, curtailed or burked; if consent to it were filched; if the signature were given to a blank document in pure confidence, without a reading of the articles and their preliminary explanation; or even if, like the military oath, it were all predetermined and enforced, then the social contract would be nothing but a conspiracy against the liberty and well-being of the most ignorant, the most weak, and most numerous individuals, a systematic spoliation, against which every means of resistance or even of reprisal might become a right and a duty.... The social contract is of the essence of the reciprocal contract; not only does it leave the signer the whole of his possessions; it adds to his property; it does not encroach upon his labour; it only affects exchange.... Such, according to the definitions of right and universal practice, must be the social contract."[23]

Once it is admitted as an incontestable fundamental principle that the contract is "the only moral bond that can be accepted by free and equal human beings" nothing is easier than a "radical" criticism of the "political constitution." Suppose we have to do with justice and the penal law, for example? Well, Proudhon would ask you by virtue of what contract society arrogates to itself the right to punish criminals. "Where there is no compact there can be, so far as any external tribunal is concerned, neither crime nor misdemeanour. The law is the expression of the sovereignty of the people; that is, or I am altogether mistaken, the social contract and the personal pledge of the man and the citizen. So long as I did not want this law, so long as I have not consented to it, voted for it, it is not binding upon me, it does not exist. To make it a precedent before I have recognised it, and to use it against me in spite of my protests is to make it retroactive, and to violate this very law itself. Every day you have to reverse a decision because of some formal error. But there is not a single one of your laws that is not tainted with nullity, and the most monstrous nullity of all, the very hypothesis of the law. Soufflard, Lacenaire, all the scoundrels whom you send to the scaffold turn in their graves and accuse you of judicial forgery. What answer can you make them?"[24]

If we are dealing with the administration and the police Proudhon sings the same song of contract and free consent. "Cannot we administer our goods, keep our accounts, arrange our differences, look after our common interests at least as well as we can look after our salvation and take care of our souls?" "What more have we to do with State legislation, with State justice, with State police, and with State administration than with State religion?"[25]

As to the Ministry of Finance, "it is evident that its raison d'etre is entirely included in that of the other ministries.... Get rid of all the political harness and you will have no use for an administration whose sole object is the procuring and distribution of supplies."[26]

This is logical and "radical;" and the more radical, that this formula of Proudhon's—constituted value, free contract—is a universal one, easily, and even necessarily applicable to all peoples. "Political economy is, indeed, like all other sciences; it is of necessity the same all over the world; it does not depend upon the arrangements of men or nations, it is subject to no one's caprice. There is no more a Russian, English, Austrian, Tartar, or Hindoo political economy than there is a Hungarian, German, or American physics or geometry. Truth is everywhere equal to itself: Science is the unity of the human race. If science, therefore, and no longer religion or authority is taken in all countries as the rule of society, the sovereign arbiter of all interests, government becomes null and void, the legislators of the whole universe are in harmony."[27]

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