Title: Moribund Society and Anarchy
Date: 1893
Source: Retrieved on July 12, 2019 from https://www.libertarian-labyrinth.org.
Notes: Translated from the French of Jean Grave by Voltairine de Cleyre. [With a Preface from the French edition by Octave Mirbeau. English translation published 1899.]


“Moribund Society and Anarchy” first appeared in France about a decade since, published by P. V. Stock, printer of numerous works pertaining to Anarchy. The conscience (?) of the French army, which the Dreyfus affair has since revealed in all its delicate scrupulosity, was immediately incensed by the chapter entitled “Militarism,” and the author was speedily arrested, tried, and sentenced to two years imprisonment. The book was suppressed, and the French army, presumably, breathed more freely.

A mistake! When persecution begins the gospel spreads. Men were anxious to know what it was that had so frightened the “free government” of France as to call forth such severe punishment of a poor shoemaker. The work was circulated, translated in German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Jewish; only in English it remained untranslated. Several times announcements that we were about to have an English version appeared; still it was not forthcoming.

In 1897 the writer met Jean Grave at the residence of an exiled French comrade in London, and there engaged to undertake the work, the author concurring. Although originally prompted by the English comrades and their promise of a publisher, later developments have made it more expedient to get out an American edition. Among these the only one which really concerns the public is the gigantic stride toward militarism which this country has taken during the past year. Previous to that I was exceedingly dubious as to the effect of the famous prosecuted chapter, which was likely to fall flat on the unmilitary American public. But now that we have entered upon the “manifest destiny” of “civilized nations;” now that our government has resorted to the same tactics of colonization, protection, subjugation, and conquest; now that our standing army has been increased four-fold, and military place-hunting is the ambition of the hour; now that our workingmen are seizing the opportunity to barter their “free citizenship in the greatest country on earth” for the abject service of man-killing on foreign soils at the rate of $15.60 per month and keep, this proscribed Chapter XIII comes with its own note—a most discordant one indeed—into the war-chorus at present holding the public ear. And the translator devoutly prays that as in France the great sin was its distribution among the soldiery, the like offense may be repeated here, where the army is still in a nascent condition and the man not yet buried under the uniform. Look in the glass and see how you like the reflection, soldiers!

The P. V. Stock edition having been suppressed, E. Pouget, the daring publisher of Père Peinard, brought out another, ostensibly published in London. Though inelegant in appearance it contains an additional chapter; and it is from this Pouget edition that the present translation has been made. I have adhered as strictly as possible to the text, being unwilling to make either additions or subtractions, though it has sometimes seemed to me that Mr. Grave is unnecessarily diffuse.

As to the principal object of the work, that of furnishing an inclusive criticism of the institutions of our moribund society and the necessity of its speedy dissolution, I think any fair-minded reader will be convinced that it has been pretty thoroughly done. As to the “What next?” it is far less certain.

With this, however, Jean Grave,—sturdy, patient, indomitable Jean Grave, sitting today in his fifth-floor Parisian garret, untouched by his imprisonment, convinced as ever, steadily writing, writing to the workers of the world, casting forth images of the “Future Society,”—would not agree. He is sure of his remedy—Communism; I, of his criticism, Anarchy.

Voltairine de Cleyre.

June, 1899.


I have a friend who shows a strong desire, a truly touching desire, to understand things. Naturally, he aspires to that which is simple, great and beautiful. But his education, fouled with the prejudices and lies inherent in all the education called “higher,” almost always stops him in his dash towards spiritual deliverance. He would like to free himself completely from traditional ideas, from the ancient routines where his mind is bogged down, despite himself, but he cannot. Often, he comes to see me and we have long talks. The doctrines of anarchism, so maligned by some, so misunderstood by others, greatly concern him; and his honesty is great enough, if not to embrace them all, at least to understand them. He does not believe, as so many people believe in his circles, that those doctrines consist solely in blowing up houses. He glimpses, on the contrary, in a fog that will perhaps dissipate, some beauties and harmonic forms; and he takes an interest in them as we do in a thing that we like, but which seems still a bit terrible to us, and which we dread because we do not understand it well.

My friend has read the admirable books of Kropotkin, and the eloquent, fervent and wise protestations of Elisée Reclus, against the impiety of governments and societies based on crime. Of Bakunin, he knows what the anarchist journals, here and there, have published. He has labored through the uneven Proudhon and the aristocratic Spencer. And recently, the declarations of Etiévant have moved him. All of that sweeps him along, for a moment, toward those heights where the intelligence is purified. But from those brief excursions through the realm of the ideal, he returns more troubled than ever. A thousand obstacles, purely subjective, detain him; he loses himself in an infinity of ifs, ands and buts, an inextricable forest, from which he sometimes asks me to extricate him.

Just yesterday, he confided in me the torment of his soul, and I said to him:

— Grave, whose judicious and manly spirit you know, is going to publish a book: Moribund Society and Anarchy. This book is a masterpiece of logic. It is full of light. This book is not the cry of a blind and narrow-minded sectarian; nor is it the tom-tom beat of an ambitious propagandist; it is the considered, reflective, reasoned work of one who is passionate, it is true, of one “who has faith,” but who knows, compares, questions, analyzes, and who, with a singular lucidity of critique, glides among the facts of social history, the lessons of science, the problems of philosophy, in order to reach those infrangible conclusions of which you are aware, and of which you can deny neither the greatness nor the justice.

My friend sharply interrupted me:

— I deny nothing… I understand, indeed, that Grave, whose ardent campaigns I have followed in La Révolte, dreams of the suppression of the State, for example. Myself, I do not have all his boldness, but I dream of it too. The State bears down on the individual with a weight that is greater, more intolerable each day. Of the man it unnerves and exhausts, it makes only a bundle of flesh to tax. His sole mission is to live for it, as a louse lives on the beast on which it has fixed its suckers. The State takes from the man his money, pitifully acquired in this prison: work; it filches from him at every minute his liberty, already shackled by the laws; from his birth, it kills his individual and administrative faculties, or it distorts them, which amounts to the same thing. Assassin and thief—yes, I am convinced that the State is indeed this sort of double criminal. As soon as a man walks, the State breaks his legs; as soon as he stretches out his arms, the State busts them; as soon as he dares think, the State takes his head, and tells him: “Walk, take, and think.”

— Well? said I.

My friend continued:

— Anarchy, on the contrary, is the winning back of the individual, it is liberty of development for the individual, in a normal and harmonic sense. We can define it, in short, as the spontaneous utilization of all the human energies, criminally squandered by the State! I know that… and understand why all sorts of young artists and thinkers, — the contemporary elite — look forward impatiently to rising to that long-awaited dawn, where they glimpse not only an ideal of justice, but an ideal of beauty.

— Well? said I anew.

— Well, one thing concerns and troubles me, the terrorist side of Anarchy. I detest violent means; I have a horror of blood and death, and I want anarchy to await its triumph from the coming justice alone.

— Do you believe then, I replied, that the anarchists are drinkers of blood? Don’t you feel, on the contrary, all the immense tenderness, the immense love of life, with which the heart of a Kropotkin swells. Alas! Those are struggles inseparable from all human struggles, and against which we can do nothing… So!… do you want me to give you a classical comparison? The earth is parched; all the little plants, all the little flowers are burned by a blazing, by a persistent, deadly sun; they blanch, wilt, and they will die… But then a single cloud darkens the horizon, it advances and covers the blazing sky. Lightning and thunder burst forth, and the waters stream over the shaken earth. What matter if the lightning has broken, here and there, an oak grown too tall, if the little plants that would have died, the little plants watered and refreshed, straighten their stems, and again raise their flowers in the newly calm air?… We should not, you see, be moved too much by the death of the ravenous oaks… Read Grave’s book… Grave has said, in this regard, some excellent things. And if, after having read this book, where so many ideas are turned over and clarified, if after having thought through it, as befits a work of such intellectual stature, you cannot manage to reach a stable and calm opinion, you would be better off, I warn you, to give up becoming the anarchist that you want to be, and remain the good bourgeois, the inveterate and hopeless bourgeois, the bourgeois “despite himself,” that perhaps you are. . .


[This section translated by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Moribund Society and Anarchy.


Anarchy signifies the negation of authority. Now, authority claims to justify its existence by the necessity of defending social institutions—the family, religion, property, etc.—and it has created a mass of tools to secure it in the exercise of its functions and its sanctioning privilege. Chief among these are the law, the magistracy, the army, the legislative and executive power, etc., so that, forced to reply to all these, the idea of Anarchy had to attack all social prejudices, go to the bottom of all human knowledge, in order to demonstrate that its conceptions were in conformity with the physiological and psychological nature of man and adequate to the observance of natural laws, whilst our present organization, established contrary to all logic and common sense, causes our societies to be unstable, overturned by revolutions, themselves occasioned by the accumulated hatred of those who are crushed under these arbitrary institutions.

In combating authority, then, the Anarchists had to attack every institution of which power had constituted itself the defender, and the necessity for which it seeks to demonstrate in order to justify its own existence. Thus the scope of Anarchistic ideas was widened. Starting out, with a simple political negation, the Anarchist has had to attack economic and social prejudices also, to find a formula which, while denying private property, the basis of our present economic order, should at the same time affirm our aspirations for a future organization. Hence the word Communism naturally came to be coupled with the word Anarchy.

Further on we shall see that certain lovers of the quintessence of abstraction have sought to claim that, from the moment Anarchy signified complete expansion of individuality, the words Anarchy and Communism protested against such a coupling. Against this insinuation we shall prove that individuality cannot develop except in the community; that the latter cannot exist unless the former evolves freely; and that they mutually complement each other.

It is this diversity of problems to attack and to solve which has made the success of Anarchistic ideas, and contributed to their rapid growth; so much so that, launched forth by a group of unknown persons without means of propaganda, they today more or less invade art, science, and literature. Hatred of authority, social demands, date far back; they arise as soon as man is able to recognize that he is oppressed. But through how many phases and systems was it necessary that the idea should pass, before it could assume its present form!

One of the first who formulated it in its intuitional stage was Rabelais, in describing the life of the Abbey of Thelemes. But how obscure it still was! How little he believed it applicable to society in its entirety, since entrance into the community was reserved to a minority of privileged persons attended by a train of domestics attached to their person!

In 1793 the Anarchists were much talked of. Jacques Roux and “the madmen” appear to us to have been the ones who, during the Revolution, saw most clearly, and sought the best means of turning it to the ‘benefit of the people. Hence the bourgeois historians have left them in the shade. Their history is still to be written; the documents buried in the archives and the libraries still await him who shall have the time and the courage to dig them up, bring them to light, and reveal the secret of things still very incomprehensible to us, in that tragic period of history. We can therefore scarcely form any appreciation of their program. One must come down to Proudhon before he sees Anarchy positing itself as the adversary of authority and power, and beginning to take definite shape. But as yet it is but a theoretical enemy; practically, Proudhon, in his social organization, leaves in existence, under different names, the administrative machinery which is the very essence of government. Up to the end of the empire Anarchy appears under the form of a vague mutualism, which, in France, during the first years that followed the Commune, foundered in the misled and misleading movement of co-operative associations for production and consumption. But before coming to this impotent solution, a sprout had detached itself from the springing tree. In Switzerland, the International had given birth to the “Jurassian Federation” in which Bakounine propagated the idea of Proudhon,—Anarchy the enemy of authority—but developing, enlarging, incarnating it in social demands. From this epoch dates the true dawn of the present Anarchist movement.

Certainly many prejudices still existed, many illogical notions appeared in the ideas promulgated. The propagandist organization still contained many of the germs of authoritarianism; many of the elements of the authoritarian conception still survived. But what of it? The movement was launched; the idea grew, purified itself, and became more and more defined. And when, not quite thirteen years ago, Anarchy was affirmed at the Congres du Centre, in France, though still very feeble, though the act of a very weak minority (having against it not only those satisfied with the present social order, but also those pseudo-revolutionaries who only see in popular demands a means of grasping at power) the idea contained sufficient expansive force to take root without any other means of propaganda than the fervor of its adherents. It had sufficient vigor to induce the supporters of the capitalistic regime to injure and persecute it, and men of good faith to discuss it,—a proof of strength and vitality. Hence, in spite of the crusade of those who could consider themselves, in some degree, leaders of any of the divers divisions of public opinion, in spite of calumnies, excommunications, condemnations, in spite of the prison, the idea of Anarchy has made headway. Groups have been founded, propagandist organs have been created in France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Holland, England, Norway, America, Australia, in the Slavic tongue, in German, Jewish, Tcheque, Armenian,—a little everywhere and in all idioms. But what is more important, from the little group of mal-contents by whom they were formulated, Anarchistic ideas have radiated through all classes of society. Wherever man displays his cerebral activity they have infiltrated. Art, science, literature, are impregnated with the new ideas and serve as vehicles for them. These ideas commenced at first in unconscious formulas, in illy-defined aspirations, more often caprices than real convictions. Today not only are Anarchistic ‘aspirations formulated, but men know that it is Anarchy they are spreading, and boldly place the label on it.

The Anarchists are not, then, the only ones to find that things are bad, and to desire a change. These complaints, these aspirations, are expressed by the very persons who believe themselves defenders of the capitalistic order. Still more, men begin to feel that they ought not to confine themselves to sterile desires, but should work for the realization of what they demand. They begin to understand and proclaim action, propaganda by deed; that is to say, that having made the comparison between the pleasure which the satisfaction of acting as one thinks is bound to bring, and the annoyances which one must endure for the violation of a social law, they try, more and more, to conform their life to their manner of conceiving things, according to the degree of resistance which the particular temperament may offer to the harassments of social prosecution.

That Anarchistic ideas have been able to develop with this energy and rapidity, is because, while running counter to accepted opinions and established prejudices, while frightening, at the first exposition, those to whom they were addressed, they were answers, on the other hand, to their secret sentiments, their undefined aspirations. They offered to humanity, in a concrete form, that ideal of well-being and liberty which it had scarcely dared to outline in its hopeful dreams. At first they frightened their opponents, because they preached hatred or contempt of a number of institutions believed to be necessary to the life of society; because they demonstrated, contrary to received ideas, that these institutions are bad in the very essence, and not because intrusted to the hands of weak or wicked individuals. They taught the people that not only must the latter not be contented with changing the persons in power, with partially modifying the institutions which govern them, but that, before all, the people must destroy that which makes men bad, which makes it possible for a minority to make use of social forces to oppress the majority; they taught that what until now has been taken for the cause of the evils from which humanity suffers, is but the effect of a still more profound evil, that it is the very basis of society which must be attacked. Now, we have observed in the beginning that the basis of society is private property. Authority has but one excuse for existence: the defense of capital. Bureaucracy, the family, the army, the magistracy, flow directly from private property. The work of the Anarchists, then, has been to demonstrate the iniquity of the monopoly of the soil and of the fruits of the labor of past generations, by an idle minority; to sap authority by showing it to be detrimental to human development, by exposing it in its role of protector to the privileged, by proving the emptiness of the principles under cover of which it justifies its institutions.

That which contributed to alienate the ambitious and intriguing from Anarchistic teachings was just that which led the thinker to study them, to question himself as to their message, viz., that they offered no place to personal preoccupations or paltry ambitions, and could in no way serve as a stepping-stone to those who see, in the demands of the workers, nothing but a means of carving themselves a position among the exploiters. The butterflies of politics have nothing to do in the ranks of the Anarchists. Little or no chance for petty personal vanities, no procession of candidatures opening a career to all kinds of hopes, and all sorts of recantations. In the political and authoritarian Socialist parties an ambitious person can bring about his “ conversion” by insensible degrees; no one perceives that he has changed till long after the conversion is accomplished. Among the Anarchists this is impossible, because he who would consent to accept any office whatever In the present society, after having demonstrated that all those who are in office cannot remain there except on condition that they become defenders of the existing system, would at the same moment incur the epithet of renegade, for he could have no semblance of a reason to justify “evolution.” Thus that which provoked the hatred of intriguers at the same time awakened the spirit-of investigation in honest men; and this explains the rapid progress of the Anarchistic idea.

What reply, indeed, can be made to those who prove to you that if you want a thing well done you must do it yourself, and delegate it to nobody? With what can you reproach those who make you see that if you wish to be free, you must commission no one to “direct” you? What answer is there to those who ‘ show you the causes of the ills from which you suffer, indicate the remedy to you, but do not make themselves the dispensers of it,—on the contrary, taking care to make people understand that the individual alone is able to comprehend his own needs, is the judge of what he should avoid?

Ideas strong enough to inspire men with a conviction which makes them fight and suffer for the propagation thereof, without expecting anything directly from those ideas, were, in the eyes of sincere men, worth being studied; and that is what has happened. Hence without heeding the clamors of some, the rancor of others, the attempts of governments, the idea grows and progresses without cessation, proving to the bourgeoisie that the truth can neither be suppressed nor silenced. Sooner or later it will be reckoned with.

Anarchy has its victims,—its dead, its imprisoned, its exiled; but it remains alive and strong, the number of its propagandists constantly increasing;—propagandists conscious of their acts, because they have understood all the beauty of the conception; accidental propagandists also, content with hurling their cries of hate against the institution which has clashed most with their secret sentiments and their instincts of justice and truth.

By its amplitude the Anarchistic idea shelters and draws to it all those who have the feeling of personal dignity, the thirst after the beautiful and true. Should not the ideal of man be released from all fetters, all constraint? Have not all the divers revolutions he has wrought, pursued this end? If he still submits to the authority of his exploiters, if the human mind still struggles under the pressure of the vulgarities of capitalistic society, it is because accepted ideas, routine, prejudice, and ignorance, have been till now stronger than its dreams and desires for emancipation, precipitating it, after it has driven away the reigning masters, into a fresh abandonment of them, at the very moment it expects to free itself. Anarchistic ideas have come to bring light into the minds not only of the workers, but also of thinkers of every category; helping them to analyze their own feelings, stripping bare the causes of misery and indicating the means of destroying them, showing to all the route to follow and the end to be attained, explaining why previous revolutions have been abortive. It is this close relation with the secret sentiments of individuals which explains their rapid extension, which gives them their strength and renders them irrepressible. Governmental fury, oppressive measures, the rage of frustrated ambition, may set themselves against the ideas and their propagators; today the opening is made; they can no longer be prevented from making headway, from becoming the ideal of the disinherited, the motors of their attempts at emancipation.

Capitalistic society is so paltry, so narrow; large aspirations find themselves so cramped in it; it annihilates so many good intents, so many hopes, crushing and killing so many individualities that cannot stoop to its narrow views, that, could it succeed in stifling the voice of every living Anarchist, its oppressions would raise up new ones, equally implacable.


“Anarchy and Communism protest against being coupled together,” declared certain dishonest adversaries, little anxious to throw light upon the question. “Communism is an organization; an organization prevents the development of individuality;—we will have none of it!” “We are individualists, we are Anarchists; nothing more!” exclaimed after them certain persons, sincere in the sense that they desired to appear more advanced than all their comrades, and having no originality their own. They entangled themselves in exaggerations, pushing the ideas to absurdity; and around them collected the whom the governing class has an interest in introducing among its adversaries, to divide or mislead them.

Now, behold those Anarchists launched into discussions Anarchy, Communism, the initiative, organization; the harmful useful influence of groups; egoism and altruism; in fine, lot of things one more absurd than the other. For, after being thoroughly discussed by honest opponents, the end of it is that all want the same thing, though calling it by different name. As a matter of fact the Anarchists who demand Communism are the first to recognize that the individual has not been put into the world for society’s sake; that, on the contrary, the latte has been formed solely for the purpose of furnishing the former greater facility for evolution. It is quite plain that when certain number of persons group together and unite their forces they have in view the obtaining of a greater sum of enjoyment with a less expenditure of energy. In nowise have they the intention of sacrificing their initiative, their will, their individuality, for the benefit of an entity which did not exist before their union, which will disappear with their dispersion. To economize their forces while continuing to wrest from nature the things necessary to their existence, and which they could not obtain but by the concentration of their efforts, was certainly the motive which guided those human beings who first commenced to group themselves; or what, at least, must have been tacitly understood as such, if not completely reasoned out in their primitive associations, which associations might well be, even had to be, temporary and limited to the duration of the effort, falling apart when the result was once attained.

No Anarchist, therefore, thinks of subordinating the existence of the individual to the progress of society. Freedom of the people, complete freedom in all their modes of action, is all we ask. And if there be those who repudiate organization, who swear by the individual alone, who say that they despise the community, declaring that the egoism of the individual should be his only rule of conduct, and that the adoration of his ego should come before and above all humanitarian considerations, —believing themselves to be therein more advanced than others —such people can never have studied the psychological and physiological nature of man, never have given themselves an account of their own feelings; they have no idea of what constitutes the real life of man, its physical, moral, and intellectual needs.

Our present society exhibits some of these perfect egoists: the Delobelles, the Hjalmar Eikdals, are not rare; they are found not only in romances. Without meeting any great number of them, it is sometimes given to us to run up against these types who think only of themselves, who see nothing in life but their own persons. If there is a tempting bit on the table they appropriate it without scruple. They live largely outside while their folks at home are dying of hunger. They accept the sacrifices of all who surround them,—father, mother, wife, children—as their due, while they shamelessly put on dignified airs and take their ease. The sufferings of others are not counted, provided that their own existence runs smoothly. Still worse, they do not even perceive that others suffer for them and through them. When they are fed and well-disposed, humanity is satisfied and refreshed! Behold the type of your perfect egoist in the absolute sense of the word! -But we may also add it is the type of a very sorry individual. The most repugnant bourgeois does not even approach this type; he, at times, still has love for his own people, or at least something akin to it which takes its place. We do not believe that the sincere partisans of the most exaggerated individualism have ever had the intention of giving us this type as the ideal of future humanity; no more than the Communist-Anarchists have meant to preach abnegation and renunciation for the individual in the society which they anticipate. Disclaiming the entity “society,” they equally disclaim that other entity, the “individual,” which those who have carried the theory to absurdity tend to create.

The individual has a right to his entire liberty, to the satisfaction of all his needs; that is understood. Only, as there exist more than a billion of individuals on the earth, with equal rights if not with equal needs, it follows that all these rights must be satisfied without encroaching on one another; otherwise that would be oppression, which would render the success of the revolution futile.

What tends greatly to befog our ideas is that this adulterate society which governs us, based upon the antagonism of interests, has made people prey upon one another, and forces them to tear each other to pieces in order to secure to themselves the possibility of living. In the existing society one must be either robber or robbed; there is no middle way. Today the one who helps a neighbor runs great risk of being duped; hence the belief, among those who do not reason, that men cannot live without fighting each other. The Anarchists, however, say that society should be based on the strictest solidarity. In that society which they wish to realize, it must not be that individual happiness, were it only in its very least important division, be attained at the expense of another individual. Personal well-being must flow from the general well-being; when an individual feels himself injured in his autonomy or in his belongings, all other individuals must feel the same injury in order that they may remedy it. So long as this ideal is not realized, so long as this goal is not reached, societies will be but arbitrary organizations, against which persons who feel themselves wronged will have the right to revolt.

If men could live isolated, if they could return to the state of nature, there would be no discussion as to how they should live: each would live as he pleased. The earth is big enough to accommodate everybody. But would the earth, if left to itself, furnish sufficient for all to live upon? This is less certain. It would probably mean ferocious war between individuals, the “struggle for existence” of the early ages, in all its fury. It would be the cycle of evolution already run through and recommencing,—the stronger oppressing the weaker until superseded by the cunning, until money-value should displace force-value. If we have had to traverse this period of blood, of misery and exploitation, which is called the history of humanity, it is because man has been egoistic in the absolute sense of the word, without any corrective, without any mitigation. He has had in view from the outset of all his associations, nothing but the satisfaction of his immediate desires. Whenever he has been able to enslave a weaker fellow he has done so without scruple, seeing only the amount of work to be got out of the victim, without reflecting that the necessity of surveillance, the revolts he will have to suppress, will end, in the long run, in compelling him to perform an equally onerous labor, and that it would be better to work side by side, lending each other mutual aid.

It is thus that authority and property have succeeded in establishing themselves. Now, if we wish to overturn them, it cannot be done by beginning our past evolution over again. If this theory that the motive of the individual should be egoism pure and simple,—the adoration and culture of the ego,—were admitted, one would necessarily declare that the individual should launch into the melee and work to gain the means of self-gratification without concerning himself as to whether he crushes others at his side. To affirm this would be to confess that the coming revolution should be made by and for the strong, that the new society must be a perpetual conflict between individuals. If it were so we should have no reason to proclaim the idea of general enfranchisement. We should rebel against the existing society only because its capitalistic organization did not permit us likewise to possess.

It may be that among those calling themselves Anarchists there are some who regard the question from this standpoint. This would explain to us the defections and recantations of persons who, after having been most ardent, have deserted their principles to range themselves among the defenders of the existing society, because it offered them compensations. Certainly we do combat this society because it does not afford us satisfaction for all our aspirations; but we also comprehend that our own interests, rightly understood, would have this satisfaction of our needs extended to all the members of society. Man is always egoistic, he always tends to make of his ego the centre of the universe. But with the development of his intelligence he comes to understand that if his ego wishes to be satisfied there are other egos that equally wish to be satisfied, (those that have not been have made it understood that they had a right to be) whence sentimentalists and mystics have come to preach renunciation, sacrifice, devotion to one’s neighbor.

Social authority, while continuing to preach the oppression of the individual for the sake of the collectivity—this dogma has contributed to its maintenance even as much as force has— social authority has had to modify itself, to concede a larger share to individuality. For if narrow, badly understood egoism is opposed to the functioning of society, renunciation and the spirit of sacrifice are fatal to individuality. To sacrifice oneself for others, above all when they are indifferent to you, does not enter into every one’s disposition. And besides it would, in the long run, be even prejudicial to humanity, for it would allow narrow minds, egoistic in the the bad sense of the word, to rule; that type of humanity farthest from perfect would come to absorb the others. Altruism, properly so-called, could not, therefore, take root either.

But though egoism or altruism, separately, each pushed to its extreme, is pernicious to the individual and society, united they are resolved into a third term, which is the law of future societies. This law is Solidarity.

Many of us will combine with the intention of realizing one of our aspirations. This association having nothing forced in it, nothing arbitrary, prompted only by some need of our being, it is quite evident that the more pressing the need the more force and activity shall we contribute to the association. All having cooperated in production, we shall all have rights in consumption; that is plain; but as the sum of needs will have been calculated (counting in those which must be foreseen) that the satisfaction of all may be attained, solidarity will have no trouble in securing to each his share. Is it not said that man’s nature is to have his eyes bigger than his stomach? Now, the more intense his desire is the greater an amount of activity will he devote to its realization. Thus he will come to produce not only sufficient to satisfy the co-participants, but also those in whom desire would not have been awakened but for the sight of the thing produced. Man’s needs being infinite, infinite will be his means of satisfying them, and it is this variety of needs which will concur in the establishment of general harmony.

In our present society, wherein we are accustomed to depend upon the toil of others to obtain the things necessary for existence, there is but one object: to procure money enough to enable one to buy what he wants. Now, as manual labor does not even enable one to keep himself from starving, he who has only this resource, seeks to obtain money by every means except work, becoming an official, journalist, or what-not, including blackmailer. He who has a start goes into commerce and increases his income by robbing his contemporaries; he gambles in stocks, he speculates, or makes others work for him. People engage in all %orts of occupations, more or less dishonorable, except the one thing necessary that all might have their share,—useful production. So that each one pulls the cover over himself without concerning himself about those whom he lays naked, whence this unreasoned egoism which seems to have become the sole motive of human actions.

But as man grows refined, he comes also to live not only for himself and in himself. The type of the humane egoist, perfectly developed, is to suffer with the sufferings of those who surround him, to have his enjoyment spoiled by the reflection that others, owing to the vicious social organization in which we live, may suffer by it. Among the bourgeoisie there are persons whose sensitiveness is certainly highly developed; when the influences of environment, education, or heredity, leave them leisure to reflect upon social misery and turpitude; when they reckon up their existence, they try as much as possible to remedy misery with charity. Whence, philanthropic works! But the habit of believing society normally constituted, the habit of considering poverty eternal, the result of the laborer’s misconduct, engenders an unfeeling character, inquisitorial in its philanthropy. Because for the man born, educated, brought up in the hothouses of wealth and luxury, it is very difficult, even impossible, save under exceptional circumstances, to come to doubt the legitimacy of the situation he occupies. For the parvenu it is still more difficult, for he believes he owes his situation to his talent and his work. Religion, conceit, and the economists, have so reiterated that work is a punishment, that poverty is the result of the improvidence of those who are a prey to it, that how can you expect him who has never had to struggle against adversity not to believe himself of a superior essence! From the day he begins to doubt it, sets himself to study the social organization, if he is sufficiently endowed to understand its viciousness, his pleasures will be poisoned at their fountainhead. This man will suffer when he says to himself that his luxury necessitates the misery of a mass of workers, that every one of his possessions is purchased at the expense of the sufferings of those who are sacrificed to produce them. If this man’s combativeness is developed equally with his sensitiveness he will make one more rebel against the social order which does not secure moral and intellectual satisfaction even to him. For it must not be forgotten that the social problem is not confined to a simple material question. We certainly do contend, and that before everything else, that all should have enough to eat. But our demands are not limited to this; we also contend that each should be able to develop himself according to his faculties, and to procure those intellectual gratifications which the needs of his brain create. True that for many Anarchists the question stops there; and that is what has brought about these divers interpretations and discussions of egoism, altruism, etc. Nothing more urgent than the stomach question! Only it would be dangerous to the success of the revolution to stop there, for then one might just as well accept the Socialistic State, which could, and would, secure all in the satisfaction of their physical needs.

If the next revolution were to confine its objects to the sole problem of material life, it would greatly risk being arrested or the way, degenerating into a vast revel of gluttony, which, the orgy once over, would not be long in surrendering the insurgent: to the blows of capitalistic reaction. Happily this problem, paramount today to the workingmen whose future is rendered uncertain by more and more prolonged periods of idleness, as we admit, is not the only one which will be solved in the next revolution. Without doubt the first work of the Anarchists towards making the revolution a success, will be to seize social wealth, to call upon the disinherited to take possession of stores, machinery, and the soil; to install themselves in healthy localities, destroying the rat-holes in which they are forced to remain today. The revolutionists should destroy all the old parchments which guarantee the functioning of property; the offices of bailiffs, notaries, register of land surveys, register of deeds, the entire civil staff, should be visited and “cleaned out.” But to do all this work something more than famishing people is needed,—individuals, conscious of their individuality, jealous of all their rights, determined to conquer them and capable of defending them once they are acquired. This is why a question of subsistence only would be powerless to effect such a transformation; and it is also why there rise up, together with the right to subsistence which the Anarchists demand, all these questions of art, science, and philosophy, which they are forced to study, to fathom, to elucidate, and which are the cause of Anarchistic ideas embracing every branch of human science. Everywhere have arguments in favor of these ideas been found, everywhere there have risen up adherents who furnished their quota of demands, and reinforced the principles with their special knowledge. The sum of human learning is so great that the most privileged brains can appropriate only a portion; likewise the conception of Anarchism though condensed by certain minds which outline its bases and trace its program, cannot be elucidated but by the collaboration of all, by the help of each one’s knowledge. And this it is which gives it its strength, for it is the collaboration of all which enables it to sum up all human aspirations.


“You are too abstract!” This is an objection frequently raised against the Anarchists by many people. They say that since we address ourselves to the workers we should make man fruitful propaganda if we should take up less elevated subjects By the preceding chapters we have seen that it is the development of the ideas themselves which has drawn us into the treatment of questions not always within the scope of those whom w address; this is a fatality to which we submit and against which we can do nothing. To those who are just beginning to nibble at the social question our writings may often appear dry; this we do not deny. But can we alter the fact that the question: which we treat and which must be treated, are dry in them’ selves? Can we prevent the principles which we defend, linked together as they are, identified with every branch of human knowledge, from leading those who wish to elucidate them to study things they did not before deem necessary? And, moreover, has not all this preparatory work to which they would condemn us, been already performed by our predecessors, the Socialists? Do not the capitalistic classes themselves work for the demolition of their society? Are not all ambitious radicals, Socialists more or less deeply dyed, bent upon demonstrating to the workers that the present society can do nothing for them; that it must be changed?

The Anarchists therefore have only to analyze this enormous work, to coordinate it, to extract its essence. Their role is limited to proving that it is not by changing governors that the ills from which we suffer may be cured; that it is not by merely modifying the machinery of the social organism that we shall prevent it from producing those evil effects which the very bourgeois, desirous of getting into power, knows so well how. to show up. But our task is complicated precisely because the ideas which we advocate are abstract. If, indeed, we were willing to content ourselves with declamations and assertions, the task would be rendered easy, both for us and for our readers. The more difficult the problems to be solved the more need is there to acquaint ourselves with arguments and logic. It is easy to say and write, “Comrades, the bosses rob us! The bourgeoisie are drunkards! Rulers are scoundrels! We must rebel, kill the capitalists, set fire to the factories!” Moreover, before any one wrote it the exploited had sometimes killed their exploiters, the governed had revolted, the poor had rebelled against the rich; yet the situation was in nowise altered. They had changed rulers. In 1789 property changed hands; subsequently the people revolted, hoping thereby to force it to change hands again. Yet the governing continued to oppress the governed, the rich continued to live at the expense of the exploited; nothing was altered. Since it was written the people have likewise revolted, and nothing is altered. Hence it is not a question of saying or writing that the laborer is exploited; it is necessary to explain to him above all how in changing masters he does not cease to be exploited, and how, were he to put himself in his master’s place, he would in turn become an exploiter, leaving behind him the exploited who would then make against him the same complaints he now makes against those he would like to have dispossessed. It is necessary to make him understand further how the capitalistic classes have interested him in the existing society, persuaded him to defend the privileges of his exploiters while he believes himself defending his own interests in an organization which, in fact, has nothing for him but promises never to be realized.

By its organization, based upon the antagonism of interests, our bourgeois society charges itself with the task of bringing the workers to a revolution. Now, the workers have always made revolutions, but have forever allowed the benefits thereof to be juggled away, because they “did not know.” The role of the propagandist, then, is to teach the workers; and to teach them one must give demonstrations to them. Assertion makes believers, but not conscious ones. At the time when, even for the most advanced Socialists, authority was the basis of all organization, there was nothing wrong in having mere believers. On the contrary it facilitated the task of those who set themselves up as directors. One could go ahead with assertions; one was believed according to the degree of authority he had been clever enough to acquire; and as the directors did not exact of their proselytes a knowledge of why they were to act, but only to “believe” strongly enough to make them blindly obey received orders, they had no need of killing themselves to furnish arguments. Believing in providential men who were to think and act for them, the mass of proselytes did not need to learn much. Had not the leaders a plan of social organization already prepared in their heads, which they would hasten to execute once they were carried into power? To know how to fight and kill each other, that was all they asked the common herd to know and to do. The leaders once in power the dear people had nothing to do but wait; everything would come to them at the proper time without their troubling themselves about it.

But Anarchistic principles have come to overthrow all this. Denying the necessity of providential men, making war upon authority, and claiming for each individual the right and the duty to act under the pressure of his own impulses only, of submitting to no constraint or restriction of his autonomy; proclaiming individual initiative as the basis of all progress and of every truly libertarian association, Anarchism cannot content itself with making believers; it must, above all, aim to convince, that its converts may know why they believe, that the arguments with which they have been furnished may have struck home, that they may have weighed, discussed and considered the value of these for themselves. Hence a propaganda more difficult, more arduous, more abstract, but also more effective.

From the moment the individual relies solely on his own initiative, he must be enabled to exercise it effectively. That such initiative may adapt itself freely to the action of other individuals, it must be conscious, reasoned, based upon the logic of the natural order of facts. That all these separate acts may converge to a common end, they must be animated by a common idea, well understood and clearly elaborated; whence it follows that nothing but a close, logical, and thoroughly defined discussion of the principles can open the minds of those who adopt them, and lead such to reflect for themselves. Hence our method of procedure, which, instead of causing us to get a lot of rhetorical fireworks out of any idea we take up, leads us to turn it over in all its aspects, to dissect it, even to its final toms, in order to extract from it the greatest possible amount of argument.

Ah, it is no small thing to overthrow a society as we talk of doing, above all when it is desired that this social upheaval shall be universal as we wish it to be! It is clear that the people who compose this society, however cruel it may be to them, are not going to see the necessity of its overthrow as we do, all in a moment, having been accustomed to look upon it as the palladium of their safety and the means of their well-being. They know very well that this society does not furnish them what it has promised, but they cannot understand the necessity for its total destruction. Has not every one his little reform to propose, which is to grease the wheels and make the machine run to the satisfaction of all? They want, therefore, to know whether this upheaval will be profitable or prejudicial to them, whence arise a mass of questions leading to the discussion of every branch of human knowledge, in order to know whether they will survive in the cataclysm we would provoke. And hence the perplexity of the worker who sees unfolding before him a multitude of questions which they took good care not to teach him at school, discussions which it is very hard for him to follow, subjects which for the most part he hears treated of for the first time;—questions, however, which he must study to the bottom and solve if he desires to be able to profit by this autonomy which he demands, if he does not want to use his initiative to his own detriment, and, more than all, if he wishes to get on without providential men.

When a question, however abstract it may be, presents itself to the investigations of the Anarchist propagandist, he cannot make it otherwise than abstract; nor can he pass it by in silence, under the pretext that those to whom he speaks have never heard of it. To explain it in plain, clear, precise, and concise language; to avoid “thousand-legged words,” as one of our comrades puts it,—that is words which are understood only by the initiated;—to avoid burying one’s thought in high-flown and redundant phraseology, or seeking after phrases and effects, this is all that can be done by those who have it at heart to propagate the principles, to spread them and make them understood among the masses; but we cannot mutilate them with the excuse that they are not accessible to the people. If it were necessary to evade every question which the majority of readers are not able to understand upon first enunciation, we should be condemned to return to declamation, to the art of stringing out meaningless phrases one after the other, and saying nothing. This role is too well played by the bourgeois rhetoricians for us to attempt to supersede them in it. If the workers want to emancipate themselves they must understand that this emancipation will not come of itself; that they must obtain it; and that self-education is one of the forms of the social struggle. The possibility and the continuance of their exploitation by the capitalistic class proceed from their ignorance. They must know how to free themselves intellectually if they wish to be able to free themselves materially. If they already recoil before the difficulties of mental emancipation, which depends solely upon their own willingness, what then will it be before the difficulties of a more active struggle in which it will be necessary to expend an altogether incommensurate force of character and amount of will! Useless and injurious as it is, the bourgeoisie has nevertheless succeeded in concentrating in the brains of a few all the scientific knowledge necessary to the present development of humanity. If we do not want the revolution to be a step backward, the worker must be able intellectually to replace the bourgeoisie which he wishes to overthrow; his ignorance must not be an obstacle to the development of sciences already acquired. If he does not know them thoroughly he must be able to comprehend them when he finds himself in their presence.

To be sure we quite understand all this impatience; we can imagine that those who are hungry would like to see the dawning of the day when they will be able to appease their hunger: we are perfectly aware that those who submit to the yoke of authority only by suppressing their anger, are impatient to shake it off, desirous of listening to words in conformity with their condition of mind, reminding them of their hatreds, their desires, their aspirations, their thirst for justice. But however jreat this impatience, however legitimate the demands and the iced of realizing them, the idea advances only by degrees, penetrates the mind and lodges there only when matured and elaborated. When we consider that the bourgeoisie which we wish to overthrow took centuries of preparation before it overturned the royalty, it should cause us to reflect upon the work of elaboration which we have to do. In the fourteenth century, when Etienne Marcel attempted to seize the power for the benefit of the bourgeoisie, already organized in corporations, the bourgeois class already felt itself to be strong; for a long time it had been aspiring to authority and had organized itself for that purpose, had educated and developed itself, had worked for its enfranchisement by endeavoring to obtain from the baronage the freedom of the communes. It was not, however, till four centuries later that it succeeded in winning the long coveted boon.

Assuredly we hope not to have to wait so long for our enfranchisement and the overthrow of capitalistic exploitation. Its complete collapse at the end of so short a period of power is hurrying it on to a speedy fall. Yet if the bourgeoisie was able in 1789 to substitute itself for “divine right,” it was because it had prepared itself intellectually for such substitution; and the more rapid the downfall the more haste should we workers make to prepare ourselves intellectually, not to replace the power which we must destroy but to organize ourselves so as to prevent any aristocracy’s substituting itself for that which has given way. The idea of free individual initiative once being established, people should be enabled (we cannot repeat it too often) to learn how to reason and to combine their initiative. If they have not the will to deliver themselves from their own ignorance, how will they be able to make others understand when they themselves have not been able to learn? Let us have no fear, then, of discussing the most abstract questions; each solution obtained is a step forward on the pathway of emancipation. Leaders being discarded, the knowledge hitherto in their possession must be diffused among the masses; and there is but one means of bringing it within their reach, which is, that, while continuing to go forward we persuade them to interest themselves in questions which interest us. Once more: Let us make ourselves as clear as possible; but let us not mutilate ourselves for then, instead of bringing the masses to us we should be brought to them; instead of going forward we should go back ward,—truly a queer way of understanding progress.


It is upon the contention that “ man is too evil to know to govern himself,” that authoritarians base their justification of the power they wish to establish. “ Power is necessary to reform mankind “ is the reply to the Anarchists when they speak of establishing a society based upon solidarity, entire equality, and absolute autonomy for the individual, without authority, rule, or constraint. “Man is evil.” Undoubtedly! But may he become better, and may he become worse? Is any change in his present condition possible, either for good or ill? Can he be improved or deteriorated physiologically and morally? And if evolution in one sense or another be possible (as history proves that it is) does the heritage of ancient laws, the harness of old institutions, tend to make men better, or do they help to make him worse? The answer to this question will tell us which of the two, modern man or the social state, must be reformed first.

Nowadays no one denies that the physical environment has an enormous influence upon the physiological constitution of man; now, with still greater reason the intellectual and moral environment must influence his psychological constitution.

Upon what is our present society based? Does it tend to create harmony among men? Is it so managed that the adversity of, one shall be felt by others, in order that all may be led to diminish or prevent it? Does personal well-being flow from general well-being, and is no one interested in disturbing the operation thereof? This society of kings, priests, merchants, and employers—does it permit all generous ideas to come forth, or does it not rather tend to stifle them? Has it not at its command, for the purpose of crushing the weak, this brute force—money—which puts the most generous and least egoistic at the mercy of the most greedy and least scrupulous?

To study the mechanism of capitalistic society is sufficient to discover that it can produce nothing good. Aspirations towards lie good and the beautiful must be perennial in the human race, rot to have been choked by the rapacity and narrow, unreasoning egoism which official society has inculcated in it from the cradle. This society, as we have observed in the preceding chapter, is based upon the antagonism of interests, and makes every individual the enemy of his neighbor. The seller’s interest is opposed to the buyer’s; the stock-raiser and the agriculturist ask for nothing better than a “good epidemic and a good hailstorm” among their neighbors, in order to raise the price of their commodities, when they do not have recourse to the State which “protects” them, while seizing, by virtue of “superior right,” the products of their competitors; the development of mechanical appliances tends to greater and greater division of the workers, throwing them out of employment and leading them to disputes among themselves for the chance to take each other’s jobs, and the number of these is increasing largely beyond the demand. In fine, everything in our traditional’ “society” tends to split up mankind.

Why is there idleness and misery at the present moment? Because the stores are glutted with products. How is it that it has not yet occurred to anybody to set them on fire or take possession of them, and thus procure that employment which is refused, by creating among the workers themselves the markets which their exploiters go so far to seek?—“Because we are afraid of the soldiers and militia,” does some one say? This fear is real, but it does not of itself suffice to explain the apathy of the starving. How many occasions present themselves in the course of one’s life to do wrong without the slightest risk, and yet one does not commit it for other reasons than for fear of the soldiery. And besides, the starving, if they should all unite, are numerous enough, in Paris, for instance, not to be afraid of the troops, to hold the police-force in check for a whole day, empty the stores, and have a good feast for once. In the case of those who go to prison for tramping and begging, is it in reality the fear of prison which makes them beg for that which it would cost them no more to take? It is because in addition to cowardice there is a sentiment ‘of sociability which prevents people from returning evil for evil, and makes them submit to the heaviest shackles in the belief that these are necessary to the functioning of society. Does any one believe that force alone would suffice to insure respect for property, were it not mingled in the people’s minds with a character of legitimacy which makes them accept it as the result of individual labor? Have the severest penalties ever prevented those who, without troubling themselves whether it were legitimate or not, have wished to live at the expense of others, from carrying out their intents? What would it be, then, if people, studying over their misery and discovering its cause in property, were of a nature so given to evil as is popularly alleged? Society would not endure another moment; there would then be “the struggle for existence” in its most ferocious expression, a return to pure barbarism. It is precisely because man has tended towards what is better, that he has allowed himself to be ruled, enslaved, deceived, exploited, and still repudiates violent measures to effect his final enfranchisement.

This declaration that “man is born to evil,” and that there is no change to hope for, means, when analyzed: “Man is bad society is therefore bad, and there is nothing to hope for, either from one or the other. What is the use of losing one’s time in seeking for a perfection which humanity cannot attain? Let us look out for ourselves as best we can. If the sum of gratifications we obtain is made up of the tears and blood of the victim we have sown along our route, what does it matter to us? On must crush others to escape being crushed himself. So much the worse for those who fall.”—Well, let the privileged one who have thus far managed to bolster up their sway, to send the workers to sleep, to transform them into defenders of their masters’ privileges, first by promising them a better life in the other world, then, when they ceased to believe in God, by preaching to them morality, patriotism, social utility, etc., and today by making them hope to gain, through universal suffrage, a multitude of reforms and improvements impossible to effect, (for the ills which flow from the very essence of the social organization cannot be prevented so long as we attack the effects only, without finding the cause, so long as society itself be not transformed)—let the exploiters of the poor, then, proclaim the unadulterated right of force, and we shall see how long their sway will last! Force will balance force.

When man first began to group together with his fellows, he must still have been much more of an animal than a human being; ideas of morality and justice did not exist in him. Having had to struggle against other animals, against all nature, his first groups were formed out of the necessity for an association of forces, not by the desire for solidarity. No doubt these associations were, as we have already said, temporary at the start, limited to the capture of the game to be hunted or the overthrow of the obstacle to be conquered, later to the repulse or killing of an assailant. It was only by thus practicing association that men were brought to understand its importance; and the societies thus formed continued to live and became permanent. But on the other hand this life of continual struggle could not help developing the sanguinary and despotic instinct in people. The weaker had to submit to the rule of the stronger when they did not serve the latter as food. It could not have been till much later that cunning gained a precedence equal to that of force.

When we study man in his earliest appearance it must be admitted that he was then a wicked enough animal indeed; but since he has reached his present development and formed conceptions of which he was formerly incapable, what reason is there why he should stop and go no further? To attempt to deny that man may still progress is to be as much in error as if one had affirmed, at the time he dwelt in caves and had nothing but a club or a stone weapon as a means of defense, that he would not one day become capable of building the opulent cities of today, of utilizing electricity and steam. Why shall man, who has reached the point of guiding the selection of domestic animals in the direction of his needs, not reach the point of guiding his own tastes in the direction of the good and beautiful of which he begins to have conceptions? Little by little man has evolved and does evolve every day. His ideas are constantly modified. Physical force, though sometimes thrusting itself upon him, is no longer admired in the same degree. Ideas of morality, of justice, of solidarity have developed; they have so much weight that the privileged, to succeed in maintaining their privileges, are obliged to make people believe themselves exploited and gagged in their own interest. This deception cannot last. People begin to feel themselves too cramped in this illy-balanced society. Aspirations which began to come to light centuries ago, at first isolated and incomplete, today begin to assume definite shape; they are found even among those who may be classed among the privileged of the present organization. There is not a single person who has not at times uttered his cry of revolt or indignation against this society, still governed by the dead, which seems to have undertaken the task of crushing all our sentiments, acts, aspirations, and from which we suffer the more in proportion to our development. Ideas of liberty and justice are becoming more defined; those who proclaim them are still in the minority, but a minority strong enough to make the possessing classes uneasy and afraid.

Man, then, like all other animals, is but the product of an evolution worked out under the influence of the environment in which he lives and the conditions of existence he is forced to submit to or combat; only, more than other animals, or at least in a higher degree, has he come to reason upon his origin, to formulate aspirations for his future. It depends upon him to conjure this fatality of “evil” alleged to be attached to his existence. By succeeding in creating for himself other conditions of life he will succeed in modifying himself also. For the rest, without going further the question may be summarized thus: “Has every individual, good or bad, the right to live as he likes, to revolt if exploited, or if others seek to bind him to conditions of existence repugnant to him?” The pets of fortune and those who are in power claim to be better than others; but it would suffice that “the bad” should overthrow them and establish themselves in their place, thus inverting the roles, to have equal reason with the first for being “good.” The system of private property, by putting all our social wealth in the hands of a few, has permitted these to live as parasites at the expense of the mass whom they have enslaved, and whose product only serves o keep up their show and idleness, or to defend their interests. This condition, recognized as unjust by those who submit to it, cannot last. The workers will demand free possession of what .hey produce, and will revolt if the denial of the request continues. Vainly does capitalism seek to entrench itself behind the argument that “man is evil;” the revolution will come. Then it will appear either that man is indeed incapable of perfectibility, (we have just seen the contrary) in which case there would be a war of appetites, and whatever theirs might be the capitalistic classes would be doomed in Advance, since they are the minority,—or that man is evil because institutions help to make him such; in which case he may elevate himself to a social state which will contribute to his moral, intellectual, and physical development, and manage to transform society in such a way as will effect the solidarity of all its interests. But however it be, the revolution will come! The sphinx interrogates us and we answer without fear, for we Anarchists, destroyers of laws and property, we know the key to the enigma.


Before proceeding with the exposition of our ideas it will be well to review the institutions which we wish to destroy, to discover upon what bases capitalistic society rests, the positive value of these bases, and why and how society is transformable only on condition that the entire organization be changed; why no improvement will be possible so long as this transformation is not wrought. From this study the reasons why we are Anarchists and revolutionists will naturally follow.

Protection to private property and hereditary transmission of the same in families,—this is the principle upon which existing society rests. Authority, the family, the magistracy, the army, and every hierarchic and bureaucratic organization, which stifles and devours us, proceed from this principle. There is religion also, but we leave it aside, since science, bourgeois though it be, has killed that.

We do not propose to give the history of property. That has been done, again and again, by Socialists of all schools; all have shown that it is nothing else than the result of robbery, fraud, and the right of force. Here, therefore, we have only to notice certain facts which demonstrate its iniquity and exhibit the evils which flow from it; which prove that proposed reforms are but snares to deceive the exploited, and that, to prevent the evils we wish to cure, we must attack their principal source, the present proprietary and capitalistic organization.

Science shows us today that the earth owes its origin to a nucleus of cosmic matter, primevally detached from the solar nebula. This nucleus, by the effect of its rotation upon its axis and around the central star, became condensed to such a degree that the compression of the gases led to their conflagration; and this globe, son of the sun, like that which had given it birth, must then have shone with its own light in the Milky Way like a very small star. The globe cooled, having passed from the gaseous to the liquid state, then to a slimy condition, then, becoming more and more dense, to complete solidification. But in this primitive furnace the association of different gases was effected in such a fashion that their various combinations had given birth to those fundamental materials which form the composition of the earth: minerals, metals, free gases suspended in the atmosphere. The operation of cooling progressing by degrees, the action of air and water upon the minerals helped to form a coating of vegetable earth. During this time the association of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen, begot in the depths of the waters, a species of organic jelly, without definite form, without organs, without consciousness, but already endowed with the faculty of changing place by pushing out pro longations of its substance on the side towards which it wished to go, or rather on the side upon which some attraction made itself felt; endowed, too, with this additional faculty of assimilating foreign bodies taken into its substance and thereby nourishing itself. Finally, endowed with one last faculty: having reached a certain degree of development, the power of dividing itself in two and giving birth to a new organism, in every respect similar to its progenitor.

Behold the modest beginnings of humanity! So modest that it is only very much later, after a long series of evolutions, after the formation of a certain number of types in the chain of beings, that we come to distinguish the animal from the vegetable. To trace the whole series up to man would be to rewrite here the history of evolution, which modern science explains in a manner so clear and comprehensible to those who are willing to judge without prejudice, that we can only refer the reader to it, contenting ourselves with instancing merely the principal facts in support of our demonstration concerning the arbitrary monopolization of a part of the soil by a certain set of individuals, who take possession of it for their own profit and that of their descendants, to the injury of others less favored and of future generations. It is perfectly plain that this explanation of the appearance of man upon the earth destroys all the marvelous story of his creation. No more God, nor creative entity! Man is but the product of an evolution of terrestrial life which is itself but the product of a combination of gases which gases have in turn undergone an evolution before attaining the power of combining in the density and proportions necessary to the development of vital phenomena.

The theory of the supernatural origin of man being set aside, the idea that society, such as exists, with its divisions of rich and poor, governed and governing, proceeds from a divine will, no longer holds good. Authority, so long propped up by its “supernatural origin,”—a fable which has contributed at least as much as brute force to maintain it—was in its turn exhausted under the discussion and menaced with ruin; today it entrenched itself behind universal suffrage and majority rule. But authority could maintain itself intact only so long as it was not discussed. We shall see further that it no longer has any means to support itself save force. Hence we may say that property and authority, being placed under discussion, are on the highroad to extinction, for what is discussed is scarcely revered any longer; that which force alone sustains force can destroy.

The vegetable sustains itself at the expense of the mineral and the atmosphere, the animal at the expense of the vegetable and, later, at the expense of the animal itself. But there are no preconceived ideas in this, having in view the establishment of any hierarchy among beings, on the part of a creator, or of a nature-entity, who should have created the vegetable to serve as food for the animal, the animal and vegetable to feed man or to be slaves to the human race in order to create the happiness of the elect. There is only an evolving sequence of natural laws, which so resulted that the condensation of gases having formed minerals, there was nothing but vegetable life which could assimilate the mineral and transform it into an organic combination capable of hastening the birth of animal life.

The evolutional origin of man being admitted it becomes evident to all that, when the first thinking beings appeared upon the earth, there could no longer be any need of a tutelary providence to facilitate their development, and consequently nobody to assign to some a directing power over their fellows, to others property in the soil, and to the great mass misery and privation, respect for their masters, with the sole function of producing for the benefit of the latter. However “the struggle for existence” having begun as the sole law for individuals, to eat in order not to be eaten was their sole preoccupation. But when they commenced unconsciously to practice this other and higher vital law, assistance in struggle, heredity having developed in them the instincts of combativeness, of oppression towards the victim, (everything being a prey to man, even man himself) it follows according to all the evidence that this spirit of struggle and domination, stored up in the brain by past generations, sought to gain like precedence in the organized collectivity. Those persons who possessed it in the highest degree imposed their will upon those who possessed it in a lesser degree. This authority, being established, followed the fluctuations of human intelligence, and transformations of the social organization were effected accordingly as force, the religious spirit, or commercialism, were triumphant. Authority under its divers modes of operation, therefore, has maintained itself up to the present time, and will maintain itself until man, freed from error and prejudice, reconquers himself entirely, renouncing the imposition of his will upon others in order not to have to submit to the will of those stronger than himself.

But the divine origin of authority and property being denied by bourgeois science itself, the bourgeoisie have sought to give them solid and natural bases. The economists have taken social facts resulting from a bad organization, and setting them up as “ natural laws,” making them the cause of what exists while they are but the effects, decorating these absurdities with the name of science, they have pretended to legitimize the most monstrous social crimes, the most heinous piracies of capitalism, blaming the causes of poverty upon the poor themselves, setting up the most monstrous egoism as a law of social conservation, when, on the contrary, as we have seen in one of the preceding chapters, egoism is but a cause of conflict, of loss of energy, and retrogression, if it be not tempered and softened by this other more evolved and humane law of solidarity.

Bourgeois society being founded upon capital, and this being represented by money, the economists, in order to mask the peculiar role it plays in the work of production and exchange, have reduced everything to capital. The man who impregnates his wife and begets children, expends capital; but he creates some also, for the child, become a man, will be—capital! The muscular power which the workman spends in production—capital! (Observe, by the way, that besides their arms the workmen, in the performance of no matter what sort of work, bring to bear an amount of intelligence often superior to that of the contractor; but as it would then be necessary to count two portions of capital for the workman, and as that would embarrass the economists in their calculations, they pass this over in silence). Yet as all this reduction of human activity to capital does not explain the origin of money-capital, the economists have discovered that “money-capital is that portion of labor which industrious and provident persons have not immediately consumed and have held in reserve for future needs.” Right here the calculation becomes interesting. All capital put into use, the economists dogmatically affirm:—

  1. It ought to produce a sum equal to its own value, that it may reconstitute itself completely;

  2. As this employed capital runs risks, it should produce a surplus value, which represents an insurance-premium to cover the said risks.

Now, the workman, who is paid right along for his labor and consequently runs no risks, has a right to the first claim only, permitting him to replace his capital expended; that is to say, to feed, clothe, and lodge himself and finally to repair the strength which he has depleted. He should not produce more children than the excess of his wages permits him to bring up.

But the employer—Oh! it is a different affair with him! In the first place he invests an original capital, the money necessary to pay the workmen, settle for purchases, etc., which represents the pleasures of which he has deprived himself. This capital, like that of the workman, ought to bring in sufficient to replace itself, but in addition the insurance premium for the risks it runs, which constitutes the profit of the exploiter. Secondly, if it be an industrial enterprise, there are buildings and machines for the employees,—still more capital to be reproduced and to bring in its insurance premium. But this is not all. The exploiter’s intelligence is capital, too, and none of the least. A capitalist must know how to make judicious employment of his capital, how to manage his business and himself; he must inquire as to what products it is advantageous to produce, where they are in demand, etc. This third capital must be restored out of the enterprise. Observe that if the investor be an engineer, a scholar, or a doctor, the premium must be much greater, because, costing more dearly to establish, they consequently cost much more dearly to repair.

This subtle distinction established, transforming into capital the divers elements of production, the division seems fair: the capitalist pockets three-fourths of the product for his share and the trick is played. The workman has received his pay, why should he complain? Let him economize also and he may likewise invest his savings in enterprises and triple his share! Let him stop spending his money foolishly in saloons! Let him not have so many children! The struggle is hard; they must learn how to curtail their pleasures if they want to increase them later, pack of loafers that they are!

Would the gentlemen economists, who talk to us of the greater intelligence of the capitalists, venture to affirm that those who, by a stroke on the bourse, by stock-jobbing and monopolies, sweep away millions, have expended an intelligence a million times superior, we will not say to that of the workman who may pass as an artist at his trade, but to that of even the humblest workman in the lowest trade? Take a workman, supposing him to be one of the most favored, earning good wages as compared with the least favored, having no periods of enforced idleness or sickness. Can this workman live the larger life which ought to be assured to those who produce, in order to satisfy their physical and intellectual needs while working? Nonsense! He cannot satisfy the hundredth part of his needs, however limited they be. He must reduce them still further if he wants to save a few pennies for his old age. And however great his parsimony he will never manage to save enough to live without working. The savings accumulated during his productive period will hardly amount to compensation for the deficit which old age brings, unless he receive an inheritance or some other windfall which has nothing to do with work. And for every one of these privileged workers how many wretched ones are there who have nothing to appease their hunger! The development of machinery has permitted the exploiters to reduce the number of their hands; the unemployed, become more and more numerous, have diminished wages and multiplied periods of enforced idleness; sickness reduces them still further, so that “the wage-earner in good circumstances” tends more and more to become a myth, and, instead of hoping to get out of his misery, the worker must expect, if capitalistic society endures much longer, to sink still deeper in it.

Now, let us suppose that the well-situated workman, instead of continuing to invest his savings in values of any kind, sets himself up in business on his own account after he has gathered together a certain amount. This is becoming more and more impossible, thanks to machinery, which requires the concentration of enormous capital and leaves no room for the isolated workman; but we will assume its possibility and suppose that this workman-employer works alone. If the postulate of political economy be true, that every faculty of man is employed capital, and that it produces a fortune for him who puts it into use, here is an individual who invests money-capital, force-capital, and intelligence-capital; having to divide with nobody it will not be long till he sees his money-capital increase ten-fold in his hands, and becomes in his turn a millionaire.

In practice the workman who works alone on his own account is rarely to be found. The small employer, with two or three workmen, lives perhaps a little better than those he employs, but he must work as hard, if not harder, constantly pressed as he is to meet his obligations; he can expect no improvement, happy if he manage to maintain himself in his comparative comfort and escape failure. Big profits, big fortunes, life “ driven four-in-hand,” are reserved to the big proprietors, big share-holders, big manufacturers, big speculators, who do not work themselves but employ workmen by hundreds; which proves that capital is indeed accumulated labor, but the labor of others accumulated in the hands of one person—a robber! For the rest the best proof that there is something fundamentally vicious in the social organization, is that machinery, a development begotten by all our acquired knowledge transmitted from generation to generation, and which consequently ought to benefit every human being, rendering all lives broader and easier by the fact that it increases their power of production and furnishes them the means of producing much more while working fewer hours,—machinery has brought nothing but an increase of misery and privation to the workers. The capitalists are the only ones to benefit by the advantages of mechanical inventions, which enable them to reduce the number of their employees, and with the help of the antagonism thus established, competition between the unemployed and the employed, they profit by lowering the wages of the latter, poverty forcing the former to accept the price offered, even though it be less than the amount necessary to their maintenance and restoration of energy; which proves that the pretended “natural laws” are violated by their own operation, and that consequently if they be laws they are far from being natural.

On the other hand it is certain that the capitalists, with all their capital, all their machinery, could produce nothing without the co-operation of the workers, whilst the latter, by coming to an understanding among themselves and uniting their forces, could produce very well without the assistance of capital. But setting that aside the conclusion we want to draw is this:—From the moment it is admitted that the capitalists cannot put their capital into use without the co-operation of the worker, the latter becomes the most important factor in production, and in all logic ought to receive the greater share of the product. Now, how comes it that it is the capitalists, on the contrary, who absorb the greater share of the product? The less they produce the more they get! And the more the workers produce the more they increase their chances of idleness, and have consequently less chances to consume! How comes it that the more the stores are crammed with products the more the producers die of hunger, and what ought to be a source of general wealth and enjoyment becomes a source of misery for those who labor?

From all this it follows clearly that private property is accessible only to those who exploit their fellows. The history of humanity shows that this form of property was not that of the first human associations; that it was only at a much later period of their evolution, when the family commenced to emerge from promiscuity, that private property begins to be seen in property common to the clan or tribe. This would prove nothing against its legitimacy if such appropriation had operated otherwise than arbitrarily; we speak of it merely to prove to the bourgeoisie; who have tried to make an argument in its favor by claiming that property has always been what it now is, that that argument no longer has any value in our eyes. For the rest, did those who declaim so much against, the Anarchists for demanding expropriation by force distress themselves very much about expropriating the nobility in 1789, and frustrating the peasantry who had made themselves useful by hanging country squires, destroying charter-houses, and seizing seigniorial wealth? Did not the confiscations and sales, either fictitious or at absurd prices, which were made, have for their object the spoliation of the former possessors and the peasants who hoped for a share, in order that the bourgeoisie might monopolize the spoil to their own profit? Did they not make use of the out-and-out right of force, which they masked and sanctioned by legal comedies? Was not this spoliation iniquitous, (admitting that which we demand to be so, which it is not) seeing that it was not done for the benefit of the collectivity, but helped solely to enrich certain traffickers, who straightway hastened to make war upon the peasants that had thrown themselves into the assault upon the castles, by shooting them or treating them as brigands? The bourgeoisie, then, are badly out of place in crying out against robbery when we want to force them to make restitution, for their property is itself but the fruit of robbery.


Property, the family, authority, have developed along parallel lines; of this there is no doubt. Granting that men united their efforts under the pressure of a common need, of some obstacle to be overcome against which individual efforts had exhausted themselves in vain, it follows that the benefits resulting from this co-operation of forces were shared in common. These associations being temporary, confined to the immediate e obtained, there is likewise no doubt that the first human association must have been, as it still is among certain mammiferous animals,—some of the anthropoid apes—the nucleus of the family; that is to say, a group of one or a number of females and their young around the strongest male, who, in order to preserve his authority, expelled from the horde all the young males that had become old enough to give him umbrage. But as to whether this authority of the male was complete and assumed sway over every group from the start, it would be rash to decide; for though we find, among savages, examples in which the association having increased in numbers, by the grouping together of several family centers the authority of the male is preponderant, yet by a number of very convincing examples, by a number of customs such as that of couvade it would seem that the mother-right of primogeniture was the first recognized.[1] Certain peoples exist in which the children belong to the tribe of the mother; others in which the authority of the male is already recognized, but in which his sister’s children inherit his possessions to the exclusion of his own. This would go to establish a transition from maternal to paternal authority. Another transitional characteristic is this custom of couvade, by which, when the woman is in confinement, it is the man who goes to bed, swallows drugs, and receives congratulations upon his delivery. In this one feels that the man, in order to affirm his authority over his progeny, needs facts to prove his paternity. He would not need them if it were not contested by anterior customs, which have perhaps disappeared, but the memory of which is perpetuated by the practice of retroactive customs that the former gave rise to.

As to the union of men and women, how many times has its form not been changed? At the outset, the very beginnings of humanity, there is no form of marriage; the most complete promiscuity reigns between the sexes; the male cohabits -with the first female that comes in his way, who on the other hand accepts or submits to the caresses of all the males that take her. As men develop and become a little less brutal, though a great amount of promiscuity still reigns, they commence to distinguish a primitive sort of relationship. They have not yet learned to distinguish the terms father, mother, brother, sister, very definitely, but unions between tribes having the same totem, or the same common origin, are forbidden; the women, however, continue to belong to all the men, and the latter to all the women, of the tribe. Later on, the male having been acknowledged, the latter begins to recognize certain degrees of consanguinity and affiliation; but marriages continue to take place between brothers and sisters, the son inherits any member of his father’s harem without scruple. A still further step in. evolution must be taken before the mother of the heir ceases to be included in the inheritance.

Observe also that if there be peoples among whom a single male may possess several females, on the other hand there exist some among whom the females possess several males. But these progressive steps, these changes of custom, do not follow logically, one after the other, mutually eliminating each other, as a more complex one appears. Rather these customs are founded one upon the other, fused and confused in such a manner that they can no longer be recognized. Their combinations are so multiplied, customs are so superimposed upon each other, eliminating one here, another there, that it is only by studying the observations of former travelers and still existing tribes that we are enabled to form an approximate idea of human evolution.

From all this, then, it follows that property has rested upon other bases than those upon which it is today supported, has had another method of division, and owes its present destiny only to force, cunning and robbery; for it is quite clear that the family having begun in common association, individual property could not then exist, and, consequently, that what originally belonged to all could not become the property of individuals without some sort of spoliation. In like manner the family has been quite different from what it now is. And the bourgeoisie, which claims that these two institutions rest upon unassailable and immovable bases do not know what they are talking about, since there is no reason why that which has evolved at all should not evolve further. Their affirmation would prove only one thing, which is that if these two institutions were not to progress any more, they must be very near their decadence. For it is a law of life that that which no longer advances, perishes and disintegrates, in order to give birth to other organisms having a period of evolution to run through. And the truth of this axiom is so apparent that the bourgeoisie have been forced to recognize it by admitting divorce as a corrective to marriage, which they would have preferred to maintain indissoluble. True, divorce is applicable only in special cases, can be obtained only by means of a lawsuit, of proceedings without number, and requires the expenditure of a great deal of money, but it is none the less an argument against the stability of the family, since, after having so long repudiated it, they have at length recognized it as necessary, and since it has so powerfully shaken the family by breaking up marriage, which sanctions the family. What more candid confession in favor of free unions could be asked? Does it not become plainly evident that it is useless to seal with a ceremony what another ceremony may unseal? Why have an old woman in pants with a belt around his waist to consecrate a union which three other old women in gowns and caps can declare null and void?

The Anarchists, therefore, reject the institution of marriage. They say that two beings who love each other have no need of the permission of a third in order to go to bed together. From the moment that their wishes so incline them, society has no reason to spy upon them and still less to intervene in the matter. Further the Anarchists say this: “By the mere fact that they have given themselves to each other, the union of a man and a woman is not therefore indissoluble; they are not condemned to finish their days together if they become antipathetic to each other. What they have made of their own free will they can unmake of their own free will. Under the empire of passion, the pressure of desire, they saw each other’s good qualities only; they shut their eyes to each other’s defects; they became united; and behold, their life in common effaces the good qualities, brings out the defects, sharpens the angles which they cannot round off. Is it necessary that these two beings, because in a moment of passionate effervescence they deceived themselves with illusions, should pay a whole lifetime of suffering for the error of a moment, which made them take for a profound and eternal passion what was but the result of an over-excitation of the senses? Nonsense! It is time to return to more healthy notions!”

Has not the love of man and woman always been stronger than all laws, all prudery, all the reprobation, which men have sought to attach to the performance of the sexual act? In spite of the blame cast upon the woman who deceives her husband—we do not here speak of the man, who has always known how to take the biggest half in matters of morals,—in spite of the role of Pariah which our modest society reserves for the unmarried mother, has it ever, for a single moment, prevented women from making cuckolds of their husbands, or girls from giving themselves to whoever pleases them, or knows how to profit by a moment when the senses speak louder than reason? History and literature talk of nothing else than men and women cuckolded and girls seduced! The creative impulse is the prime motor of man; we hide it, but we yield to its pressure. For the few passionate souls who, weak and timorous, commit suicide together with the beloved being, (sometimes not daring to break with prejudices or not having the moral force to struggle against the obstacles put in their way by custom and the idiocy of imbecile parents), there are countless numbers who mock at prejudices—in secret. All these prejudices have only helped to make us frauds and hypocrites; that is all.

Why be stubborn in seeking to regulate what has escaped long centuries of oppression? Rather let us recognize, once for all, that the feelings of mankind elude all regulations, and that entire liberty is necessary in order that they may unfold completely and normally. Let us be less puritanic and we shall be more candid, more moral.

The man who owns property, wishing to transmit the fruit of his rapine to his descendants, (the woman having been considered up till now as inferior, and rather as property than as an associate) it is evident that man has fashioned the family with a view to insuring his supremacy over woman; and to be able to transmit his possessions to his descendants at his death, he had to make the family indissoluble. Based upon interests, and not upon affection, it is plain that some force and sanction were necessary to prevent separations under the shocks occasioned by the antagonism of interests. Now, the Anarchists, who have been accused of wanting to destroy the family, want only to destroy this antagonism; to base the family upon affection in order to render it more permanent. We have never set it up as a principle that a man and woman who desire to finish their days together shall not do so, for the reason that we want unions to be free. We have never said that the father and mother should not bring up their children, because we demand that the liberty of the latter shall be respected, and that they shall no longer be considered as things—property—by their progenitors. Certainly we do want to abolish the legal family; we want men and women to be free to give themselves and take themselves back whenever they please. We want no more of a stupid and uniform law, regulating relations in regard to feelings so complex and varied as those which result from love. If a human being’s feelings be inclined to inconstancy, if his love cannot fix itself upon one object, as those who want to regulate sexual relations pretend, what does it matter to us? What can we do about it? Since up to the present hour repression has succeeded in preventing nothing and has only given us new vices, let us leave human nature free; let it evolve in whatever direction its tendencies and aspirations incline it. It is intelligent enough today to find out what is useful or harmful to it, to discover by experience its proper line of evolution. The law of evolution acting freely, we are certain that it will be the fittest, the best endowed, who will have the chance to survive and reproduce themselves. If, on the other hand, the human tendency be, as we think, inclined to monogamy, the permanent union of two beings who, having met each other, having learned to know and esteem each other, end by becoming one, their union growing intimate and complete, their wills, thoughts, and desires being identical, such will have still less need of laws to constrain them to live together. Will not their own desires be the’ surest guarantee of the indissolubility of their union?

When men and women no longer feel themselves riveted to each other, if they truly love each other, this love will result in leading them reciprocally to seek to merit the love of the being they have chosen. Feeling that the beloved companion may fly away from the nest the day that he or she no longer finds in it the satisfaction once dreamed of, each will try all means to attach the other completely to him or herself. As with those species of birds, in which, during the mating season, the male arrays himself in new and splendid plumage, in order to appear seductive to the female whose favors he wishes to attract, human creatures will cultivate those moral qualities which will make them beloved and render their society agreeable. Based upon such sentiments, unions will become more indissoluble than the most severe laws or the most violent repression could make. them.

We have not attempted a criticism of existing marriage, which is equivalent to the most shameless prostitution:—Business marriages in which affectionate sentiments play no part; marriages of accommodation, arranged, especially among bourgeois families, by the parents, without consulting those who are to be united; unequal marriages in which we see aged semi-paralytics, thanks to their money, uniting^ their old, decaying carcasses with the freshness and beauty of very young girls, or old hags purchasing with a pile of dollars the complaisance of young pimps, who pay with their skins and a little shame for their thirst of getting rich. Such criticism has been made again and again; what is the use of reverting to it? It suffices to have demonstrated that sexual union has not always been arrayed in the same formalities, and that it cannot attain its greatest dignity save by ridding itself of all fetters. What is the use of seeking for anything else? [2]


The question of property is so mixed up with that of authority that in treating of the former in its special chapter we could not do otherwise than treat of the origin and evolution of the latter. We shall not therefore return to these, but shall concern ourselves only with the present period, with the authority which is claimed to be based upon universal suffrage, the law of the majority. As we have seen, the divine origin of property and authority being sapped, the bourgeoisie has had to seek a new and more solid basis for them. Having themselves destroyed the basis of divine right, and helped to combat that of the right of force, they sought to substitute therefore that of money, by causing the chambers to be elected under the quit-rent regime, that is to say by a certain category of individuals who paid the highest taxes. Later there was some question of including “qualifications;” this came from the excluded fraction of the bourgeoisie. But all that could be of no long duration. From the moment that authority was put under discussion it lost its strength, and those who had hitherto taken no part in the choice of their masters, were not slow to demand the right to give their opinion upon this choice. The bourgeoisie, who feared the people, did not want to make any concession; they had the power, they wanted to keep it. In order to obtain universal suffrage the workers had to revolt. The bourgeois members whom they carried into power were eager to trick them out of this newly-acquired right, to cut the claws of the monster which they thought would devour them. It was only in the long run, through seeing it in operation, that they came to understand that it was not dangerous to their privileges, that it was but a fiddle upon which one must know how to play, and that this famous weapon for enforcing demands, which the workers believed themselves to have acquired, (they had paid for it with their blood) was but a perfected instrument of authority, which enslaved those who made use of it at the very moment they expected to emancipate themselves.

Indeed what is universal suffrage if not the right of the governed to choose their master, the right of choosing the rod to be whipped with? The voter is sovereign—so far as to be able to choose his master! But he has not the right to dispense with him; for the one that his neighbor will have chosen will be his. From the moment he deposits his ballot in the box he has signed his abdication; he has no more to do but bend to the caprices of the masters of his choice; they will make the laws, will apply them to him, and throw him into prison if he resist.

We do not wish to institute a trial of universal suffrage at this point, nor to examine all the correctives, all the improvements that different people have wished to bring to bear upon it, to obviate the caprices of the elected and secure the sovereignty of the voter by giving him the means of forcing the former to keep his-promises. It would lead us too far, and is, besides, of no importance to us, since we wish to prove that there ought not to be a majority-law any more than a divine right, and that the individual ought not to be subjected to any other rule than that of his own will. And, moreover, in analyzing the operation of universal suffrage we shall come to the proof that it is not even the majority that governs, but a very small minority, issuing from a second minority, which is itself but a minority chosen from among the governed masses. That women and children, who submit equally to the laws, should be excluded from the right of sharing in the vote, is purely arbitrary. If we deduct further those who for one reason or another do not make use of this “ right,” we find ourselves in the presence of a first minority, recognized most arbitrarily as the only ones fit to choose masters for all. In the second place, it is theoretically the majority which on election day decides who is elected out of this original circumscription; but practically the choice of the voters is divided among six, eight, ten, and often more candidates, not counting those who, not finding their opinions represented among the crowd of candidates, vote contrary to their ideas. The successful candidate is, therefore, once more but the product of a second minority. In the third place, those elected being once assembled, it is again the majority which, theoretically always, is supposed to decide among them; but here again opinions being divided into groups and sub-groups innumerable, it follows in practice that small cliques of ambitious persons, standing between the extreme parties, decide the vote by lending their voices to those that offer them the most for it. From the little just said it is apparent that the pretended sovereignty of the voter comes down to a very small affair; but it must be observed that in order not to befog the reader we have simplified our criticism, and supposed that every voter acted logically and conscientiously. But if we include in the account all the intrigues, jobbing, ambitious calculations; if we take note that before being ratified the laws’ must come before another assembly, the senate, which in turn is elected by another category of voters; if we take into account that the legislative power is composed of five hundred and some odd deputies, and that each voter casts his ballot for only one, and that consequently his will goes for less than one five-hundredth of the general will, still further reduced by the veto of the senate, we shall end by perceiving that individual sovereignty enters in so infinitesimal a quantity into the national sovereignty that at last we do not find it at all.

Yet all this is still of minor importance. Universal suffrage has a still more disastrous effect, viz: that it gives birth to the reign of nonentities and mediocrities, as we shall prove. Every new idea in advance of its epoch is, by the very fact of such advance, always in the minority at the start. Very few and far between are the minds open enough to adopt and defend it. This is an acknowledged truth, and the conclusion is that people with truly broad and intelligent ideas are always in the minority. The bulk of the masses professes average current ideas; it is they who compose the majority; it is they who will choose the representative, who, in order to be elected, will take good care not to offend the prejudices of his constituents or to shock received opinions. On the contrary, in order to succeed in collecting as many people as possible under his banner, he must round off his sharp corners and select a stock of commonplaces to get off before those whose suffrages he covets. That he may not frighten them, he must outdo them in stupidity. The more flat, mediocre, and insipid he is, the more chance he has of being elected.

If the workings of all manner of groups be thoroughly examined,—committees, representative congresses, associations for mutual help, societies of artists, litterateurs, etc.,—you will always see the offices in these hierarchic organizations, elected by universal suffrage, held by persons who, setting aside their ambitious desire of showing themselves off, getting themselves talked about, or creating a situation at the expense of their colleagues, and a certain capacity for intrigue, are the most mediocre of the lot. For no original mind that occupies itself solely with the realization of its ideal, can do otherwise than clash with all those—and they are legion—who follow the laws of holy routine. Everybody cries out, “Look at the jackass!” He who seeks the truth and would make it prevail, has no time to stoop to the shabby wire-pulling behind the scenes. He will surely be beaten in the electoral lists by him who, having no original ideas, accepting those received by the greater number, will have less trouble in insinuating his projecting angles (which he has not) in a manner to offend no one. The more one wishes to please people the more the average line of ideas adopted must be disembarrassed of new and original conceptions, and consequently the aforesaid line will be found trite tame, and mediocre. This is all there is of universal suffrage,—a sonorous ass’s skin, giving out nothing but noise under the blows of those who wish to make it speak!

But though authority is discussed, jeered at, lashed, it is, unfortunately, far from having disappeared from our customs. People are so used to being led by a string that they would imagine themselves lost the moment there was no longer anybody to keep them tied. They are so accustomed to seeing the gendarme’s cap, the belted paunch of the mayor, the meddling and official insolence of the bureaucracy, the sorry-looking countenances of judge and policeman, appear in their lives at every turn, that they have reached the point of becoming accustomed to these filthy promiscuities, considering them as things which are certainly disagreeable, on which, when occasion offers, they never miss playing a dirty trick with satisfaction, but which they cannot imagine disappearing without humanity’s being dislocated at once! Strange contradiction of the human mind! Men submit to this authority with reluctance, they scoff at it, violate it when they can, and believe themselves lost when any one talks of doing away with it. A matter of habit, it seems!

But this prejudice is so much the more illogical, if we may use the term, so much the more stupid, when the ideal of each individual in regard to “ good” government, is to have one which he would have the chance to cashier the moment it tried to prevent him from acting as he pleased. It was to flatter this ideal that the bourgeoisie invented universal suffrage.

If the republic has enjoyed so much credit among the workers; if, after so many deceptions, universal suffrage is still considered by the governed as a means of enfranchisement, it is because they have been made to believe that by changing the men in power they could change the system of exploitation which oppresses us into a system from which welfare and felicity for all would result. Profound error, which allows the intriguing to lead the workers astray, in pursuit of illusory reforms, incapable of bringing about any change in their situation, and accustoming them to expect everything from a change of personnel in this machine for oppression called the State;—an error which, in every revolution, has permitted schemers to juggle away popular victories, to install themselves in the sinecures of those who have been swept away by the revolutionary tempest, and to form a new caste of exploiters by creating around them new interests, which, once established, have succeeded in imposing their authority, reducing to silence those who had had the naïveté to carry them to the pinnacle of power!

What an abyss of contradictions is the human mind! If one discusses with individuals even slightly intelligent, they will readily agree that if all men were reasonable there would be no need of government. They themselves could get along easily without it. But unfortunately all men are not reasonable; some would abuse their strength to oppress others, to live at others’ expense and do nothing. To guard against these inconveniences some authority is necessary “to keep them straight.” Which in concrete terms comes back to saying that, taken in a lump, people are too bad to come to an understanding among themselves, but that, taken individually or in fractions, they know how to govern others, and that we must make haste to put the power into their hands, in order that they may enforce their will upon all. O unhappy logic! How human reasoning doth trip thee up!

So long as there are persons to give commands, will they not necessarily be in antagonism with those they command? Will not those in power, if they be sincere, have ideas of their own to further? And these ideas, though they may be good, may also be very bad. Drowned in the mass, they will remain without power; with authority in the hands of those who profess them, they will be thrust upon those who reject them. And the more sincere the individuals in power the more pitiless would they be against those who should revolt against their way of seeing things, being convinced that they were working for the good of humanity.

In the preceding chapter we saw that our political slavery is determined by our economic situation’. We have soldiers, judges, ministers, etc., because we have bankers and proprietors; the one entails the other. If we succeed in overthrowing those who exploit us in the workshop, if we succeed in ridding ourselves of those who have got us by the entrails, there will no longer be any need of the force which protects them; it will have no more reason for existence. In fact there is a necessity for government, for laws, for deputies to make these laws and a magistracy to apply them, for a police-force to maintain the decisions of the magistracy, because those who possess need some force to defend what they have seized against the claims of those they have dispossessed.

But the worker—what has he to defend? What matters to him all this governmental paraphernalia, the expense for whose maintenance he alone bears, without deriving any profit therefrom, and which is there solely to teach him that he has no rights save that of starving in the midst of the abundance lie has created? In the somber days of revolt, when misery grown more intense urges the workers into the street en masse, it is again these “social” institutions which stand before them and bar their route to the future. We must, therefore, destroy them, and take good care to reconstitute no new aristocracy, which could have but one purpose: to enjoy the most and the quickest at the expense of its protégés. What matters the choice of the hand that strikes you? It is not to be struck at all, that one should aim at! Let us not forget that whatever the name in which the new authority clothes itself, however benign it may seek to appear, whatever be the amendments it proposes, whatever be the mode of recruiting its personnel, we shall none the less have to encounter the following dilemma: Either its decisions will have the force of law and be obligatory upon all, in which case all our existing institutions will be needed to apply them and enforce respect for them,—hence renunciation of liberty,—or people will remain free to discuss governmental decisions, conform to them if they please, or send authority hunting a job if it annoys them,—in which case liberty remains intact, but the government is useless though remaining a fetter and a menace!

Conclusion: No Government.


Authority, as we have seen, springs from that right which arrogates force to itself. But man having widened the field of his thought it became necessary for this authority to justify its existence. Combining with religious sentiment and the support of the priests, it claimed to be of divine origin, assumed the form of an exclusive caste, and eventually succeeded in resisting the brutal power of the king and the nobles: thus the magistracy was founded. And when the bourgeoisie seized the power, in 1789, they took care not to destroy this pillar of social order. (Moreover, did not the nobility of gowns belong much more properly to the bourgeoisie than to the nobility of the sword?) They were thus relieved of the task of searching for a mode of recruit more in accord with the new aspirations.

Divine right having gotten a powerful shock in the decapitation of Louis XVI, the magistracy could not continue to lean upon the said right without the risk of likewise passing under this equalizing leveler. Hence they invented, or rather deified, the “law.” The magistracy was constituted its guardian and incorruptible administrated, so-called. The trick was done; the most redoubtable and necessary institution for the defense of privilege succeeded in preserving itself, and becoming the priestess of this new entity, the law, created by the new masters. The submission of France to the regime of the “law” is, in fact, one of the conquests of ‘89 whose benefits the bourgeois historians are exceedingly fond of setting forth. The codification of authority, according to these, its censer-bearers, had the immediate effect of legitimizing the most shameless arbitrariness. From then on Frenchmen were all to be equal; the people no longer had anything to demand. ‘Thereafter there was to be but one master, before ‘whom, it is true, all had to bow, which had the effect of equalizing their situations. This master was the “law.” But we who are not satisfied with words, when we try to find out what the workers have gained by this transformation, see that they have got just one more duping. In fact, in the time of the absolute monarchy, when the king and the nobles constrained the peasant to serve them, there was no way of deceiving oneself about it; the formula “for such is our good pleasure” showed whence they derived their rights: they claimed them by the right of the sword only, counting much more upon that than the divine will; consequently it was upon force that their claim was based. Their orders were obeyed, their claims were submitted to; but because the people were in no condition to resist them. There were at least no imbeciles to come and say to us—repeating the phrases of the interested—that we must obey because it is “the law,” and it is the duty of every one to conform thereto until it be changed.

If it be admitted that the law may change it is thereby presumed that the law may become retrogressive; and to acknowledge that, is to admit that from its very nature it may injure some one, for there are always individuals in advance of their generation. The law, then, is not just; it has not that respectable character with which men have sought to invest it. If this law injures my interests or violates my liberty why should I be compelled to obey it, and what is the unalterable compact which can justify these abuses? In scientific matters when the savants after great research and labor at length formulate what is called a natural law, it is not because a majority or “chamber,” composed of persons believing themselves superior to the rest of mortals, has decided, by virtue of its members’ will, that natural forces were ordered to conform to such or such a mode of evolution. We should laugh in the face of the imbecile who would make such a pretense. When a natural law is proclaimed, it is because it has been discovered that if a certain phenomenon be produced, if a certain chemical combination had been effected, it is by virtue of such and such a force, or the existence of such and such affinities; the environment in which the phenomenon took place being given, it was impossible for it to be otherwise. Given forces set in motion under given conditions produce given results; this is mathematical. Therefore the newly-discovered law does not come upon the scene to govern the phenomenon, but to explain its causes. These laws may be discovered, doubted, and even denied; the divers substances which compose our earth will none the less continue to combine according to their properties or affinities, the earth will turn, without any force being needed to protect the evolution thereof, or punish, those who might want to “violate the laws.”

In our society it is otherwise. These laws seem to be made to be violated; because those who made them consulted only their personal preferences, the interests of those whom they represented, and the average degree of moral evolution in their epoch, without taking into account the character, tendencies, and affinities of those who were to submit to them,—which, moreover, would be impossible, the diversity of individual character and tendencies being given. Each estate has its laws; not can there be any single and universal law in sociology, as there is in physics, under penalty of its becoming arbitrary and inapplicable. In fact there is not, in our society, a single law which does not injure some of its members, either in their material interests or their ideas; not a single law which each triumphant party has not been able to turn against its adversaries. Power once obtained, every illegal party becomes legal, for it is that party which, through its creatures, administers the “law.” We may then conclude that the law being nothing but the will of the strongest, one is obliged to obey it only when toe weak to resist it; that nothing really legitimizes it, and that this famous “legality” is only a question of more or less force. So when these rogues oppose the workers with their supreme argument, “legality,” the latter may laugh in their faces and ask if any one ever came to consult the toilers about the making o those laws. And even if the people should have adhered t these laws for a time, the latter could have no effectiveness except so long as those who accepted them continued to believe them useful, and were willing to conform to them. It would be funny if, under the pretext that at a given moment of on life we had agreed to a certain line of conduct, we were force to adopt it for the rest of our existence, without being able 1 modify it, because to do so would be to displease a certain nun her of persons who, for one cause or another finding profit for themselves in the existing order, would like to crystallize the present condition. But what is more ridiculous still, is to desire to subject us to the laws of past generations, the pretend that we should believe we owe respect and obedience to fancies which it pleased certain nincompoops to codify and set up as laws fifty years ago! The presumption of wanting to enslave the present to the conceptions of the past!

At this point we hear the recriminations of all the makers of laws and those that get their living out of them; they naively fall into line and cry out with the others that society could not exist if there were no longer any laws; that people would be cutting each other’s throats if they had- no tutelary authority to keep them in fear and respect of acquired rank and condition.

:Later we shall see that, in spite of law and coercion, crimes continue to be committed; that the law’s are powerless to repress or prevent them, since they are the result of the vicious organization which governs us; and that, consequently, we must not seek to maintain or to modify the laws, but to change the social system.

But what makes us still more indignant is that certain persons are audacious enough to set themselves up as judges of others. So long as authority leaned upon its divine source, so long as justice passed for an emanation from God, we can understand that those invested with authority should have believed themselves peculiar beings, endowed by the divine will with a portion of its omnipotence and infallibility, and should have imagined themselves fit to distribute rewards and punishments to the herd of vulgar mortals. But in our century of science and free criticism, when it is recognized that all men are kneaded out of the same dough, subject to the same passions, the same caprices, the same mistakes, today when an agonizing divinity no longer comes to animate with its breath the ever fallible reason of mortals, we ask ourselves how it comes that there are men ignorant Id, enough, or presumptuous enough, to dare to assume in cold blood jilt and with deliberate intent the terrible responsibility of taking away another man’s life or any portion of his liberty. When, in the most ordinary affairs of daily life we are most of the time unable to succeed in analyzing not only the causes which prompt our immediate neighbors to act but very often the true motives of our own acts, how can anybody have the self-sufficiency to believe himself capable of disentangling the truth in an affair of which he knows neither the beginning, nor the actors, nor the motives which prompted their actions, and which comes before the tribunal only after being magnified, commented upon, distorted by the misrepresentations of those who participated in it in any way whatsoever or, more frequently, have heard of it only through the repetitions of others?

You, who pose as severe and infallible judges of this man who has killed or robbed, do you know the motives which prompted him? Do you know the circumstances of environment, heredity, or even chance, which influenced his mind and led him to commit the act with which you reproach him? You, the implacable men that hurl your anathema against the accused whom public force has brought before your bar, have you ever asked yourselves whether, if placed in the same circumstances and surroundings under which” this man acted, you would not have done worse? If, even, you were the impeccable, austere, and stainless men you are supposed to be, you, who with a word pitilessly cut off human life and liberty, you would not dare to utter your decisions if you had thoroughly reflected on human frailty; were you conscious of what you are doing, you would recoil appalled before your task! How could you help being troubled with nightmares! How could your dreams help being peopled with specters of the victims which your pretended justice creates every day! Were it not for that official unconsciousness which stupidity and habit give, you would end by succumbing to the weight of remorse and the haunting of phantoms evoked by your judgments. Our epoch of criticism and positive science no longer admits the principle of distributive justice, nor recognizes the legitimacy of a superior authority rewarding the good and chastising the wicked. Against this ancient doctrine, which the conceptions of the age during one period of humanity’s evolution rendered logical, we promulgate the opposite idea. We no longer see actions as good or bad, except as they are agreeable or disagreeable to us, and in consequence act accordingly. We approve or become enthusiastic, defend or attack, according to the benefit or injury received by our interests, our passions, and our conceptions of the ideal. The common need of solidarity which leads people subjected to the same attacks to unite for their defense is to us the guarantee of a future social order less troubled than our own. We do not judge, but work and struggle; and we believe that universal harmony will result from the free action of all men, when once the suppression of private property no longer permits a handful of persons to enslave their fellows. Hence we cannot admit that, six weeks or six years after an act has been committed, a group of persons supported by armed force should assemble to judge, in the name of some entity or other, and reward or punish the author of the act. That is hypocrisy and cowardice. You reproach a man with having tilled, and to teach him that he was wrong you have him killed by the executioner, society’s hired assassin! The executioner and you have not even the excuse of. having risked your own necks, since you proceed under cover of an armed force which protects you. We are at war with the ruling caste: recognize, gentlemen of the magistracy, that you are its retainers, and let us alone with your big words and fine phrases. Maintain the privileges whose care is confided to you, use the force which ignorance concedes to you, but leave justice in peace; she has nothing to do with you!

That you might be able to judge appreciatively of the ignominy of your role in beating down others, we would like, O judges, that it might happen to you that, being innocent, you should fall into the clutches of your fellows, to be judged in your turn. In such a situation you might learn what anguish and terror they have had to pass through who have filed before your bar, and whom you have tortured, you, magistrates, as the cat tortures the mouse. With the floods of eloquence from the prosecuting attorney pleading against you rolling about your ears, you might see passing before your eyes the specters of those unfortunates that, during your career, you have immolated upon the altar of social vengeance; you might ask yourselves then, with terror, if they also were not innocent. O yes, we would heartily wish that there might be one among you falsely accused, who should go through the terrors of those that come before your bar. For if, his innocence being one day admitted, he were reinstated in his functions, it is strongly to be presumed that he would re-enter his place in the tribunal only to tear his robe and apologize for his criminal life as magistrate, judging haphazard and trafficking in human lives.


Science, today, admits without dispute that man is the sport of a multitude of forces to whose play he is subjected, and that free will does not exist. Environment, heredity, education, climatic and atmospheric influences, act upon man in turn, now clashing with each other, now combining, but exercising an undeniable influence upon his brain, and whirling him about under their impact as the teetotum spins under the gyratory motion of the fingers of the player who sets it agoing. According to his heredity, his education and environment in which he lives, the individual will be more or less docile to the stimulus of certain forces, more or less refractory to certain others; but it is none the less sure that his personality is but the product of these forces. Having stated these facts, a number of savants, whose acknowledged chief is C. Lombroso, tried to establish a criminal type. They applied themselves to a search for anomalies that should characterize this type, which they claim to have discovered; and after having wrangled a good deal over the aforesaid type, created by themselves, they decide for energetic repression, life imprisonment, etc.—-Man acts under the influence of causes external to himself; hence he is not responsible for his acts. The savants recognize this, and therefore decide for—repression!

Hereafter we shall have occasion to explain this contradiction. For the present let us examine the principal anomalies designated by the criminologists as the characteristic of criminality:

Old wounds;

Anomalies of the skin;

Anomalies of the ears and nose;


There are many others which seem to us to have no more relation to a person’s mentality than the foregoing, but our ignorance of anatomy does not permit us to discuss them thoroughly. Let us rest content with those we have just enumerated. Wounds:—It is quite evident that a person who bears the marks of old wounds may be something else than a regular criminal, especially if he received those wounds in an accident, while at work, or in risking his life to save one of his fellows. Until now we had believed that criminality consisted rather in giving blows than receiving them; it appears that the contrary is the case for science,—that it is he who gets wounded! Brothers, let us bow! As to anomalies of the nose and ears, we have sought in vain for what relation they could have to the brain; we have not found it. But there is better to follow. Lombroso concedes that many cases which he instances as anomalies are frequently found among those whom he calls honest people. These, then, are anomalies tending to become generalities! Till now we had been inclined to believe that an anomaly was a case of departure from the generality. Lombroso’s science tends to prove the contrary. Sad inconsequence, which proves, more than anything else, that men who have gotten astride a hobbyhorse, shut themselves in one corner of science, finish by losing a proper conception of things in their entirety, and have but one object: to include all things under those particular studies which they have embraced.

To have an ear or a nose badly shaped,—the nose especially! Nothing can be more disagreeable,—above all if this defective conformation is carried to the extreme limit of the ludicrous! There is nothing very gratifying in carrying around a sack of lard on one’s face, or a wine-spot on one side of it; it is often unpleasant enough both to those who look at them and those who have them; however, we should have thought that persons so afflicted were affected painfully enough, without being regarded as criminals besides! But since Lombroso says so, stretching his theory to its furthest consequences, we are led to demand that midwives and accoucheurs be obliged to put to death all the newly born who shall come into the world with a pug-nose or a deformed ear. Every pigmentary spot, evidently, can be naught else but an indication of our black perversity. Thus I, too, (it seems to me I remember having some of these spots—somewhere—I am an Anarchist, which is by some people considered an indication of criminality to begin with)—I—the thing fits! I am destined to be but a common criminal! Death to him, death to him! The theory predicts that I shall die on the scaffold!

After applying the theory to all amenable thereto, there would probably be but very few survivors; but how perfect would humanity be, morally and physically! We should never recoil before the consequences of a theory founded upon observation as this is!

As to tattooing, we had not up to the present taken it as an indication of very elevated aesthetics. O no. It is a remnant of atavism which leads certain men “to highten their natural beauty” by means of embellishments pricked into the skin, precisely as our ancestors of the stone age might have done. This same atavism still leads many women to have their ears pierced in order to hang pieces of metal or brilliant pebbles from them, exactly as the Botocudos of Brazil, or certain Australian and African tribes, cut their lips, the cartilage of the nose, or the lobes of the ears, in order to insert wooden or metal rings, which, so at least it seems to them, have the effect of bestowing unequaled beauty upon them. We decidedly look upon such proceedings as a trifle primitive; but we had not seen any character of ferocity in the custom. However, since Lombroso informs us that there is, we certainly hope that we shall get rid not only of those who tattoo themselves, but of those who have their ears pierced and dye their hair!

Lombroso has also tried very hard to discover a type of the political criminal, supporting the theory upon information quite as imaginary; [3] but to follow him into this region would carry us too far away from our subject: we shall keep to the criticism of criminalism properly so-called.

For that matter, some few more enlightened savants themselves have not been slow to offer criticism upon the by far too fanciful theories of the criminalistic school, and have victoriously demonstrated the lack of consistency in the pretended criminal characters sought to be attributed to those designated by that label. Among others Dr. Manouvrier, in his course on “ Criminal Anthropology,” before the Anthropological Society in 1890, ‘91, refuted, in an admirable manner, the theories of Lombroso and the criminalistic school concerning the alleged born criminal. After having demonstrated the falsity of the observations upon which the Italian savant and his imitators depended in creating the criminal type, by taking as subjects of observation only individuals already deformed by prison life or by an abnormal existence, Manouvrier declared that persons might have such or such aptitudes as would adapt them to such or such acts, but that they are not, by the conformation of their brain or their skeleton, predestined to accomplish those acts and become what are called criminals. A certain sort of aptitudes might indifferently, according to the circumstances, prompt the person to do an act reputed honorable, as well as one reputed criminal. For instance a powerful muscular organization may, in a moment of fury, make a vigorous man a strangler; but quite as easily it may make one of the officers who arrest the criminal. Violent instincts, contempt of danger, carelessness of death, whether it be give or take, are indifferently the vices of the criminal or the virtues demanded of the soldier. A crafty disposition, inclined to deceit, cunning, and insinuating, may make the swindler who thinks of nothing but schemes for robbery and fraud; but they are also the qualities required to make an admirable detective or examining magistrate.

Drawn on by the truth of his argument the doctor did not, moreover, hesitate to acknowledge that, very often, it is difficult to distinguish the alleged criminal from the alleged honest man; and that many an individual out of prison ought to be in it, and vice versa. And after having, with the other savants, admitted that man is but the sport of circumstances, according to the sum total of which he acts at any given moment; after having denied free will; after having recognized that justice is but a figment, and is, in fact, nothing but revenge exercised by society, which substitutes itself for the individual wronged, the doctor unfortunately, stops short; after having given utterance to perceptions which bring him very nearly in touch with the Anarchists, he thence comes to the conclusion that present penalties are not severe enough and that they must be increased. He intrenches himself, it is true, behind social preservation. Those acts reputed criminal, he says, shake society; society has the right to defend itself, by substituting itself for individual revenge, and smiting those who trouble it with a penalty severe enough to take away from them any desire to continue. Whence comes this flagrant contradiction between perceptions so broad and conclusions so narrow, since the latter demand the maintenance of what is shown by the premises to be absurd? This contradiction, alas, is not to be ascribed to their authors; it is essentially in the nature of human imperfection. Man cannot be universal. The savant who devotes himself passionately to a study attains prodigies of sagacity in that particular groove of science which he has hollowed out. By deduction after deduction he succeeds in solving the most arduous problems coming under that domain, which he has undertaken the task of cultivating; but as he has not been able to keep abreast in the study of all the sciences, of all social phenomena, the result is that he remains behind the progress of the other sciences; therefore, when he seeks to apply the admirable discoveries which he has made to other human conceptions, it follows that he most frequently applies them wrongly and draws an erroneous conclusion from a truth which he has demonstrated. In fact if the anthropologists who have studied man, analyzed him, and reached some comprehension of his true nature, had studied sociology with equal success, passed all the social institutions which govern us through the sieve of reason, no doubt their conclusions would have been different. Since they have admitted that man acts under the impulse of external influences, they should be led to seek what these influences are. In considering the reputed criminal and his acts, the study of the nature of these acts should necessarily force itself upon their minds and make them seek to find out why they are in antagonism to the laws of society. Here it is that the influence of environment, the prejudices of education, comparative ignorance of scientific questions which they have not studied, unknown to themselves combine to dictate to them conclusions so favorable to the existing order of things. These make it impossible for them, though they recognize that order as bad, though they demand some ameliorations in favor of the disinherited, to conceive anything better outside of authority. Accustomed to stir only with the chain around their necks and under the stings of the whip of power, it seems the more independent ones should certainly like to be rid of these themselves, or that a small minority should; but their conceptions cannot allow that humanity is able to go forward without leading-strings, dungeons, and chains.

If we study what crimes are the most anti-social, most common, and against which the code is chiefly directed, we shall soon discover that outside of crimes of passion, which are very rare, and concerning which judges and physicians agree that leniency should be used, attacks upon property furnish the largest contingent of crimes or misdemeanors. Hence arises the question to which only those who have studied society in its nature and effects can reply: “Is property just? Is an organization which creates such a number of crimes defensible?” If this regime involves so many crimes as an inevitable reaction it must be very illogical, it must crush out many interests; and the social compact, far from having been freely and unanimously agreed to, must be distorted by arbitrariness and oppression. This is what we have undertaken to prove in this work; and the fundamental vice of the social organization being recognized, we shall show by the evidence that in order to destroy criminals we must destroy the social conditions which beget them. Let society once be so arranged that every individual shall be assured of the satisfaction of all his needs; that nothing shall fetter his free evolution; that in the social organization there shall be no more institutions of which he may avail himself to enslave his fellows, and you will see crime disappear. If there remain a few isolated natures so corrupted or degenerated through our existing society as to commit crimes for which no other cause than folly can be assigned, such cases will be taken up by science and not by the executioner, the paid assassin of capitalistic and authoritarian society.

You say you make war upon thieves and assassins; but what is a thief, or an assassin? Persons who claim the right to live without being useful, at the expense of society, you will say. But cast a glance over your society and you will discover that it is swarming with thieves, and that, far from punishing them, your laws are made for the express purpose of protecting them. Far from punishing laziness, society holds it up as an ideal, and awards the pleasure of doing nothing to those who can, by no matter what means, succeed in living well without being useful. You punish as a thief the unfortunate who, having no work, risks imprisonment to get hold of a piece of bread to appease his hunger; but you take off your hat and bow to the millionaire monopolist who by the help of his capital has cornered at a bargain those things necessary for the consumption of all, that he may sell them back at an enormous profit! You are eager to present yourselves, very humbly and submissively, in the ante-chamber of the financier who, by a stroke on the bourse, has ruined hundreds of families to enrich himself from the spoil! You punish the criminal who, to gratify his taste for idleness and debauchery, victimizes somebody; but who inculcated in him this idleness and debauchery, if not your society? You punish him who operates on a small scale, but you support whole armies that you may send them over-sea to operate on a large scale Against peoples unable to defend themselves. And the exploiters who kill not only a few persons, but exhaust entire generations, crushing them with overwork, cutting down their wages day by day, driving them into a corner with the most sordid poverty,—Oh, for such exploiters you reserve your sympathies, and will, if need be, put all the forces of your society at their service. And the law, whose timid guardians you are, —when the exploited, tired of suffering, lift up their heads and demand a little more bread, a little more rest, you make that law the humble servant of the privileged against the “untimely” demands of the barefooted mob. You punish the imbecile caught in your nets, but the adventurer strong enough to break through their meshes,—him you let go in peace! You imprison the tramp who steals an apple in passing, but you put at the disposal of the proprietor all the machinery of your law, that he may be enabled to rob the poor devil who owes him a few cents on the article which has cost him hundreds in labor, and which represents a part of his very life! Your justice cannot find rigors enough for the thieves in rags, but it protects those who operate upon a class, an entire nation! Have not all your institutions been established to assure to the possessors undisputed possession of what they have taken from the dispossessed?

But still more revolting to us are all these hypocritical forms employed to make us consider sacred the theatrical buffooneries, with which the bourgeoisie surround their sinister motives, and which they have not the courage to avow frankly. And what is most revolting to us is the attitude of all these mountebanks who, under pretense of attacking the existing regime, attack only the men who apply its texts and the manner in which they apply them, but take good care to respect the essence itself, making believe that there may be a number of methods of applying the law and that among that number there is but one good one; that among the men who climb into power some may be found honest enough, broad enough in their views, men, in short, the like of whom does not exist, who will be able to disentangle this one good method and make use of it to the satisfaction of all. Truly, we know not which to admire most: the knavery of those who utter these stupidities, or the naïveté of those who continue to look up to this farce, the entire weight of which they alone support. It is hard to understand that, amongst the countless number of persons who have undergone the examinations of “justice,” not one has yet been found sufficiently free from prejudice to go and lift up the robes of those who had struck him and show the public that all these togs serve but to mask men subject to the same weaknesses and errors as the rest of humanity, not counting the crimes inspired by their class interests.

Hence for us Anarchists, who attack authority, legality is one of those hypocritical forms which we must most energetically assail, in order to tear off the tinsel which serves to hide the recantations and the shames of those who govern us. Too long have these mummeries been respected; too long have the people believed that these institutions emanated from some superior essence which, causing them to float in an ethereal sphere, enabled them to soar above human passions. Too long have people believed in men distinct from their fellows, men of a special mould, charged with distributing here below—“from each according to his necessities, to each according to his needs”— that ideal justice which each regards from his own point of view, according to the condition in which he is placed; justice which these men filled as they are with the most backward and superannuated ideas, have codified in order to defend the exploitation and enslavement of the weak by those who have managed to create and force upon others their own predominance. It is time to break with these absurdities and openly attack these worm-eaten institutions whose aim is to lessen human personality; the free man does not admit this claim of individuals arrogating to themselves the right to judge and condemn other individuals. The idea of justice, such as existing institutions imply, has fallen with that of divinity; the one involved the other. The idea of God’s inspiring magistrates with the verdict to be pronounced caused the infallibility of man’s justice to be accepted, as long as the masses were backward enough to believe in a super-terrestrial existence, in some benevolent being existing outside of the material world, busying itself with what went on on our planet, and regulating the actions of all the people who inhabited it. But the belief in God being destroyed, faith in the supernatural having disappeared, human personality alone remaining with all its defects and passions, this inviolability and supreme character which are the essence of divinity, and with which the magistracy re-invested itself in order to keep itself above society, must likewise disappear, and allow those whose eyes have been opened to see what is really hidden by these,— oppression and exploitation of one class by another, fraud and violence elevated into a principle and transformed into “social institutions.”

Science has helped us to lift the veil; it has furnished us with the weapons which have assisted to strip the colossus. It is too late for it to be able effectually to turn backward and endeavor to reconstitute in the name of the metaphysical entity, society, what it has wrested from the metaphysical entity, divinity. The savants must manage to eliminate from themselves, completely, the bourgeois education they have received, and study social phenomena with the same strictness and disinterestedness with which they have approached the study of any special science. Then, when they are no longer influenced by considerations or prejudices foreign to science, they will no longer conclude in favor of the condemnation of criminals, but like we, rather, in favor of the destruction of a social state which makes it possible that there should be within its bosom, and because of its own vicious organization, some persons reputed honest, and others reputed criminal.


This is a truth which is beginning to be recognized and is making its way in the scientific world; the modifying influence of environments upon organized beings is no longer combated save by the old fogies of official science. It is acknowledged today that the soil and climate, the obstacles or advantages in the way of living found by the organisms of a continent, have an influence upon their development as great as the other laws by which, exclusively, their adaptation or their tendencies to variability have heretofore been sought to be explained, if not indeed, greater. As to man, who has always been made a separate and distinct being, the new truth was harder to admit; the more so that he, also, is able to transform the environment by which evolved. But at length it was admitted that man, like all other animals, u subject to the same influences and evolved under the pressure o the same original causes. When it became necessary to explain his moral evolution according to the same laws, the task was still more difficult; and even some of those who deny free will, who recognize that man acts only under the pressure of external circumstances—even some of those cannot accept the law in all consequences,—that is to say, so far as to trace the causes man’s criminality to the entire social organization and to demand the transformation of the latter. The boldest—and they are rare—admit indeed in principle, that the social organization is bad, that it needs reforms, that some of its institutions beget misdemeanors; but to them the grand culprit is still the evil nature of mankind which necessitates a bridle upon their passions, and which society, defective as it is, can alone succeed in repressing. Moreover, in order to minimize the responsibility of society as a whole, they cut up the social environment into several slices, which they likewise baptize with the name of environments, and upon which they saddle the evil effects of the influence produced. As to society, they say, it does, perhaps, leave something to be desired; but such as it is, it protects the weak against the wicked, guarantees individuals in the free exercise of their right to labor, and furnishes them a surer, more effective, and cheaper protection than as if they were forced to defend themselves. In a word, they conclude, society is a contract of mutual insurance established between individuals; if misdemeanors occur, they are much more attributable to the evil nature of man than to the social organization itself.

Certainly we are far from pretending that man is a model of perfection: indeed he is a sorry animal enough, who, when he is not crushing his fellows under his heel, licks the heels of those who crush him; but summing it all up, man does not act exclusively under the influence of bad instincts, and the beautiful sentiments of love, charity, fraternity, devotion, and solidarity, sung and exalted by poets, religionists, and moralists, prove to us that, though he sometimes act under the impulse of evil sentiments, he has a fund of idealism, a yearning after perfection; and it is this yearning which- society represses and prevents from developing.

Man is not created unique, either morally or physically. Like other animals, of which he is but a superior specimen, he is the product of a concourse of circumstances, of combination and association of matter. He has struggled to develop himself, and if he has contributed in a large measure to the transformation of the environment wherein he is situated, the latter has in turn influenced the customs he has adopted, his manner of living, thinking, and acting. Under the empire of his character and passions, therefore, he established society, and continues to have a certain amount of influence upon its operations. But it must not be forgotten that he has continued to evolve since the establishment of society, while the latter, after being organized in various groups, has always remained based upon authority and property. Changes of detail have been brought about by revolutions; power and property have changed hands, passed from one caste to another; but society itself has not ceased to be based upon the antagonism of individuals, the competition of their interests; nor has it ceased to press down with all its weight upon the development of their minds. Surrounded by society they are born into the world, within the environment it offers them they acquire their first ideas, and learn a mass of prejudices and lies which they come to recognize as false only after many centuries of criticism and discussion. Hence we are bound to acknowledge that the influence of the social environment upon the individual is immense, that it weighs upon him with all the heft of its institutions, with the collective strength of its members and that acquired by the long duration of its existence, whilst the individual, in reacting upon it, is reduced solely to his unaided strength.

Society, which is a first essay at solidarity, should have for its object the betterment of individuals, teaching them to practice this solidarity in view of which they have come together, to love each other as brothers, leading them to put all things in common: joys, pleasures, gratifications, pains, sorrows, and sufferings, toil and production. Society has, on the contrary, found nothing better to do than to divide them into a number of castes, which may be resolved into two principle ones. . governors and possessors on the one side, the governed and n possessors on the other. On the side of the first contentment and plethora; on the side of the second misery, privation, and anæmia; the result of which division is to pose these two categories of individuals as enemies, between whom a ferocious war is perpetuated,—a war which can end only in the irretrievable enslavement of the second or the complete destruction—so far as concerns class privilege at least—of the first.

But the defective and ill-conceived organization of society into two distinct classes does not stop here in its pernicious effects. Based upon antagonism of interests it opposes individual against individual within each class; it sows warfare among them by its institution of private property which forces per to hoard in order to secure themselves against the morrow those necessaries which society cannot guarantee to them. Private competition is the great actuating force of the present society; whatever be the business, profession, or kind of work to which people devote themselves, they have to fear the competition of those who choose the same department of activity. To increase their incomes, their chances of success, or sometimes simply not to go under themselves, they are forced to speculate in the ruin of their competitors. Even when they league together it is always only to the detriment of those dependent upon their special occupation. Founded upon this struggle between individuals, society makes of every creature the enemy of all others; it provokes war, crime, theft, and all the misdemeanors which are attributed to the evil nature of man, though they are but the consequence of the social order, and which society helps to perpetuate, though under the new moral notions acquired by humanity they would totally disappear.

This struggle between individuals has the effect of leading the possessors to make war upon each other, to divide them and prevent them from seeing their caste interest, which would b to work to insure their powers of exploitation by avoiding and stalling everything which would open the eyes of the exploited,—a war which causes them to commit a multitude of mistakes that contribute largely to their downfall. If the capitalistic classes were truly united among themselves, if their members no longer had private interests and were moved solely by the interests of caste, given the power which the possession of fortune, authority, and all the administrative machinery, coercive and executive, secures to them, given their intellectual development, necessarily superior to that of the workers the nourishment of whose brains they apportion to the nourishment of their bodies, the bourgeoisie might, for an indefinite period, rivet upon the exploited the yoke of poverty and dependence under which it now holds them. Happily the thirst to own, to shine, to parade, and to amass, makes them give themselves up to a warfare among themselves not less cruel than that in which they engage the workers. Eager to possess, they heap error upon error; the workers finally take an account of things, become acquainted with the causes whence flows their misery, and conscious of the subjection in which they are held.

But the same war which goes on among the capitalists goes on also among the workers; and while the first compromises the stability of the bourgeois edifice, the second helps to secure its continued existence. Forced to struggle among themselves in order to snatch the vacancies in these dungeons which the capitalists offer them, the workers regard each other as so many enemies while they are led to consider him who exploits them as a benefactor. Starved by the bourgeoisie, who in exchange for their toil give them just enough to keep them from dying of hunger, they are, at the very start, led to treat as an enemy the one who comes into the workshop to compete with them for the place they have had so much trouble to obtain. The scarcity of these vacancies again sharpens the competition, causing them to offer themselves at a lower price than their competitors. So that the anxiety of the daily struggle for daily bread makes them forget that their worst enemies are their masters. For the bourgeoisie, strengthened, it is true, by fortune, intellectual supremacy, and the possession of the governmental forces, are, after all, but a feeble minority in comparison with the multitude of workers; nor would the former be long in surrendering to the more numerous class, had they not found means for dividing the latter and making the same contribute to the defense of their privileges.

All this, therefore, certainly shows us that man is far from being an angel. He has even been a brute in the fullest acceptation of the word; this is true enough also. When men first became organized into societies they based these societies upon I their instincts for struggle and mastery; and this explains why society is so badly constructed. Only, society has remained bad. Its authority resting in the hands of a minority, the latter have turned it to their own profit; and the more society has evolved the more this concentration of power in the hands of a few has tended to increase and develop the evil effects of these ill-omened institutions. Man, on the contrary, in proportion as his brain has developed, as facilities for procuring the means of subsistence have increased, has felt evolving within him that sentiment of solidarity which he had already obeyed in founding the first groups. This sentiment of solidarity has become such a necessity that religions have carried it to the extreme of sacrifice, preaching charity and self-renunciation, and therein finding a new element for exploitation. To what dreams of social reorganization, of plans for the happiness of humanity has the longing to live harmoniously with our fellows not given birth! But society was there, stifling with all its weight the good instincts of man, reviving in him his savage primitive egoism, forcing him to consider other people as so many enemies whom he must overthrow in order not to be overthrown himself, accustoming him to look with a dry eye upon those who disappear, ground up in the monstrous gearing of the social mechanism, he being powerless to help them under pain of being caught himself in the same insatiable jaws, which mainly devour the good and the innocent who yield to their humanitarian sentiments, allowing the survival only of the malicious who have learned how to push others into those jaws in order to delay their own fall.

You make a great outcry against the lazy, against thieves and assassins; you berate the “fundamentally evil” side of human nature; and you do not perceive that these vices would most naturally disappear were they not supported and developed by the social organization. How can you expect a man to be a worker when, in the organization which governs us, work is considered degrading, reserved for the Pariahs of society, and since the cupidity of those who exploit him has made it a torture and a slavery? How can you expect to be free from lazy people when the ideal, the goal of attainment for everybody who wants to rise in the world is to succeed in amassing, by no matter what means, money enough to live without doing anything or by making others work? The greater the number of slaves a person manages to exploit, the higher his situation and the more respect he receives; the greater, likewise, the amount of income he gets out of it. You have made society a hierarchy, with the top of the social scale (considered as a reward for merit, intelligence, and industry) reserved precisely for those who have never done anything! Those who by one means or another have succeeded in perching on the summit, eat, drink, and wanton, without the slightest employment for their ten fingers. They offer the spectacle of their idleness and indulgence to the exploited, who, at the bottom of the ladder, sweat, suffer, and produce for them, receiving in exchange just enough to keep from starving to death, without being able to hope to get out of their condition but. by some stroke of chance. And you are astonished that people have a tendency to want to live without doing anything! For our own part we are astonished at one thing only: that there are still people stupid enough to work! In the presence of the example furnished him by society, the individual’s ideal cannot be anything else but to succeed in making other people work, in exploiting others in order not to be exploited himself. And when the means of legally exploiting him of his labor fail, other devices are sought. Commerce and finance are also licit methods, accepted by the law, yielding enormous incomes when followed on a big scale, but to which, when one is able to go in only on a small scale, are added certain proceedings which enable one to walk between the borders of the code and even excuse one for stepping on them a little if one can do it without getting caught. Fraud and deceit are the exceedingly useful auxiliaries which enable one to increase his income manifold.

For those who cannot operate under these conditions another resource is left: the exploitation of human credulity, swindling, and other analogous methods. Lower still there remain brutal robbery and assassination. According to the means at one’s disposal, according to the environment in which one has grown up, one or another of the methods just enumerated is made use of, or they may perhaps be combined in order to. escape as long as possible, the severities of the code which is supposed to defend society. Poverty and suffering, this is the lot of the workers; leisure and all sorts of indulgence to those who by force, cunning, or the right of birth, have become their parasites. Here is solidarity for you!

How can you expect people not to tear each other in pieces, when they must ask themselves how they and theirs are to eat on the morrow if their competitor obtain the place in the workshop which they themselves covet? How can you expect solidarity in them when they reflect that the mouthful of bread which they sometimes give to the beggar passing by, may fail them later? How could they think about solidarity when they are forced to struggle every day for the conquest of bread; when there are a multitude of enjoyments which will ever remain a closed paradise to them? It may be, perhaps this necessity for locking elbows in the struggle which has brought them nearer together, little by little transformed this sentiment into the desire to love one’s neighbor; but however that may be, it is to society that we must trace the responsibility for the survival of the war between individuals and the animosities which flow from it. How can you expect that men will not desire what is bad, when they know that the disappearance of such or such a person will allow them to go up another round of the ladder, that the disappearance of such another is a chance in favor of their getting the place they covet, the elimination of a dangerous competitor? How should a man resist the evil instigations of his nature, when he knows to a certainty that what will be an injury to his neighbor must be a benefit to himself? You say that man is evil! We say that he must have strong tendencies to become good or society would get on worse than it does, and crimes and disasters would be of more frequent occurrence.

In spite of all the stimulus of evil surroundings, man has been able to develop aspirations towards solidarity, harmony, and justice; and even these good sentiments have been exploited by those who live at his expense. These dreams of happiness, these tendencies towards something better, have given rise to a class of parasites who have speculated upon such aspirations by promising their realization. Still worse, these good sentiments have been punished as subversive of the social order; and in spite of all, the tendency of humanity is to move in the direction of their realization. And you dare to talk about the evil nature of man! The noble sentiments of humanity, its aspirations after liberty and justice have been hunted down and punished, because those who had succeeded in ridding themselves of the narrow and ferocious egoism which helps to perpetuate the present society, having begun to dream of an era of contentment and general harmony, ended by asking themselves how it happens that society, having been constituted for the advantage of all, turns out only to secure the privileges of the few. The unavoidable conclusion was that society is badly organized, that its institutions are vicious, that they must disappear in order to give place to a more equitable and rational organization. But, as those who are in possession do not wish to abandon their privileges, they have prohibited these aspirations as subversive; whence new struggles, new causes for the development of bad instincts.

The pernicious influence of society upon the morals of the individual being discovered, it is easy to suppress the bad instincts and develop the good. Your society based on antagonism of interests having produced the struggle between individuals, procreates the malevolent beast called “civilized man.” Conceive, then, an organization based, on the contrary, upon the strictest solidarity. Make it so that private interests shall no longer be opposed to each other, nor contrary to public interests. Make it so that personal well-being shall flow from the general well-being, or produce it. Make it so that, in order to live and to enjoy, people need not fear the competition of their fellows. Make it so that by associating their energies and aspirations they may find their expectations realized thereby. Make it so that this association shall not be turned to the detriment of neighboring groups.

You are afraid of the lazy! Make work attractive. Instead of riveting it upon a small minority of society to whom it becomes a torture, do away with all your State machinery, your useless offices, and organize your society in such a way that each shall be led, by mere force of circumstances and not by any authority whatever, to co-operate in social production. Make work useful, necessary, and so that it may be a hygienic exercise instead of a torture. From the present organization you reap a harvest of wars, crimes, thefts, fraud, and misery. This is the result of private property and authority; it is the influence of environment making itself felt. If you would have a society in which reign confidence, solidarity, and well-being for all, base it upon liberty, reciprocity, and equality.


Religion, property, authority, the family, having slowly evolved from human aspirations, became gradually defined; but as they became precise in conception, as their purposes grew clear, they became the nucleus of an evolution which, as it developed, led them to concentrate more within themselves, and gradually transformed them into well-defined castes, each having its attributes and privileges. Of these the military caste was not the last to form, develop, and become preponderant everywhere. For wherever it was compelled to cede the foremost rank to the sacerdotal caste, it yielded merely an honorary precedence. Was it not at bottom the military caste which could, by its co-operation, insure stability of power in the hands of those who held that power? Did it not furnish the nominal or real chiefs in whom was summed up the omnipotence of caste?

In all this conflict of interests the idea of “the country” held very little place. Group fought against group, tribe against tribe, and, in historic times, city against city; whole peoples, even, sought to enslave other peoples; nations, indeed, commenced to be distinguished; but the notion of a “fatherland” was still very vague and uncertain. We must come down to modern times before we see the idea of “the country” formulated, exact, and setting its authority above that of kings, priests, or warriors, who are no more than servants of this new metaphysical entity, “the country,” priests of the new religion. In France it was in 1789 that the idea of the country, together with that of the law, revealed itself in all its potency. It was an idea congenial to the bourgeoisie to substitute the authority of the nation for that of divine right, to present it to the workers as a synthesis of all rights, and to lead them to defend the new order of things by affording them the belief that they were struggling for the defense of their own rights. (For it is well to observe that the idea of the country, the nation, as it is called, summed up the whole of the people, their rights and institutions, rather than the soil itself. It was only little by little, and under the influence of ulterior causes, that the idea of the country shrunk and shriveled to the narrow sense taught today, of love of the soil without concern for those who live upon it or the institutions in operation among them.) But whatever the prevalent idea of the country, the bourgeoisie found it too much to their interest to cultivate that idea not to seek to develop it in men’s minds and make a religion of it, in the shelter of which they could preserve their sturdily contested authority. At all events the defense of the soil was but too good a pretext for maintaining the army necessary to the support of their privileges, and the “collective interest” an invincible argument for compelling the workers to contribute to the defense of said privileges. Happily the spirit of criticism grows and spreads day by day, and man no longer content with words wants to know their meaning. If he does not grasp it at the first attempt, his memory is capable of storing up the facts, deducing consequences and drawing a logical conclusion from them.

What, in reality, does the word “country” represent, beyond the natural affection one has for his family and his neighbors, and the attachment engendered by the habit of living upon one’s native soil? Nothing, less than nothing, to the major portion of those who go off to get their heads broken in wars of whose causes they are ignorant and whose cost they alone pay, as workers and combatants! Successful or disastrous, these wars cannot alter their situation in the least. Conquerors or conquered they are the ever-to-be-exploited, submissive cattle, subject to impress, which the capitalist class is anxious to keep under its thumb.

If we agree to the interpretation given it by those who talk the most about it, “the country” is the soil, the territory belonging to the State of which one is a subject. But States have only arbitrary limits; such limitation most frequently depends upon the issue of battles. Political groups were not always constituted in the same manner as they exist today, and tomorrow, if it pleases those who exploit us to make war, the issue of another battle may cause a portion of the country to pass under the yoke of another nationality. Has it not always been the same throughout the ages? As, in consequence of the wars they have made upon each other, nations have appropriated, then lost again or retaken the provinces which separated their frontiers, it follows that the patriotism of these provinces, tossed first to this side then to that, consisted in fighting sometimes under one flag, sometimes under another, in killing their allies of the day before, in struggling side by side with their enemies of the day after:—first proof of the absurdity of patriotism!

And, moreover, what can be more arbitrary than frontiers? For what reason do men located on this side of a fictitious line belong to a nation more than those on the other side? The arbitrariness of these distinctions is so evident that nowadays the racial spirit is claimed as the justification for parceling peoples into distinct nations. But here again the distinction is of no value and rests upon no serious foundation, for every nation is itself but an amalgamation of races quite different from each other, not to speak of the interminglings and crossings which the relations operating among nations, more and more developed, more and more intimate, bring about every day. According to such a method of calculation, the ancient division of France into provinces was more logical, for it took into account the ethnic differences of the populations. Yet today even this consideration would no longer have any value; for the human race is moving too rapidly towards unification and the absorption of the variations which divide it, to leave any distinctions remaining save those of climate and environment which will have been too profound to be completely modified.

But wherein the inconsistency is still greater, on the part of . the major portion of those who go to get themselves killed without having any motive for hatred against those designated to them as their enemies, is that this soil which they thus go forth to defend or to conquer does not and will not belong to them. This soil belongs to a minority of property-owners, who, sheltered from all danger, bask tranquilly in their chimney-corners, while the workers foolishly go out to slay each other, stupidly permitting themselves to take up arms for the purpose of wresting from others the soil which will serve—their masters, as a means to exploit themselves—the workers—still further. We have seen in fact that property does not belong to those who possess it: robbery, pillage, assassination, disguised under the pompous names of conquest, colonization, civilization, patriotism, have been its not least important factors. We shall not, therefore, repeat what we have already said concerning its formation; but if the workers were logical, instead of defending “the country” by fighting—other workers, they would begin by getting rid of those who command and exploit them; they would invite all the workers, of whatever nationality, to do the same, and would all unite in production and consumption at their ease. The earth is vast enough to support everybody. It is not lack of room nor the scarcity of provisions that has brought about these bloody wars in which thousands of men have cut each other’s throats for the greater glory and profit of a few; on the contrary, it is these iniquitous wars to which the desires of rulers, the rivalries of the ambitious, the commercial competition of the great capitalists have given birth, which have fenced off the peoples as distinct nations, and which, in the middle ages, brought about those plagues and famines that mowed down those whom the wars had spared.

Just at this point, however, the capitalist, and with him the gullible patriot, interrupt, exclaiming: “But if we no longer had an army the other great powers would come in and make laws for us, massacre us and impose conditions upon us still harder than those, we are now subjected to.” Some, even though not believing in patriotism, exclaim: “We are not patriots; certainly property is badly divided, society does need reformation; but admit with us at least that France is in the vanguard of progress. To let it be dismembered would be to permit a step backward, to lose the fruit of past struggles; for, vanquished by a despotic power, what would become of our liberties?”

Most assuredly we have no intention at this time of tracing a line of conduct for Anarchists in case of war. Such conduct must depend upon circumstances, condition of mind, and a multitude of things which it is impossible to foresee; we desire only to treat the question from the standpoint of logic, and logic tells us that wars being enterprises for the profit of our exploiters solely, we can take no part in them.

We have seen that no matter whence authority proceeds, he who is subjected to it is always a slave. The history of the proletariat proves to us that national governments are not afraid to shoot down their “subjects” when the latter demand a few liberties. What more, then, could foreign exploiters do? Our enemy is the master, no matter to what nationality he belongs! Whatever the excuse with which a declaration of war be decorated or disguised, there can be nothing in it at bottom but a question of bourgeois interest: whether it be disputes on the subject of political precedence, commercial treaties, or the annexation of colonial countries, it is the advantage of the privileged alone—of rulers, merchants, or manufacturers,—which is at stake. The republicans of today humbug us nicely when they congratulate us upon the fact that their wars are no longer made in the interest of dynasties, the republic having replaced kings. Caste interest has replaced dynastic interest,—that is all; what difference does it make to the worker? Conquerors, or conquered, we shall continue to pay the tax, to die of hunger when out of work; .the almshouse or the hospital will continue to be our refuge at old age. And the capitalistic class would like us to interest ourselves in their quarrels! What have we to gain by it?

As to fearing a worse condition, the stoppage of progress in case a nation should disappear, this is failing to take into account what international relations are nowadays, and the general diffusion of ideas. A nation, today, might be divided, parceled out, dismembered, its name taken away, yet you could not succeed, short of utter extermination, in changing its proper foundation, which is diversity of character and temperament, the very nature of the races composing it. And if war were declared, all these liberties, real or pretended, which are claimed as our especial Jot, would be speedily suspended, the Socialist propaganda muzzled, authority reinstated in the hands of the military power; and we should no longer have anything for the most thorough absolutism to envy.

War, consequently, can bring no good to the workers; we have no interests engaged in it, nothing to defend but our skins; it is our lookout to defend them still better by not exposing ourselves to get holes put through them, for the greater profit of those who exploit and govern us. The bourgeoisie, on the other hand, have an interest in war; it enables them to preserve the armies which keep the people respectful, and defend their institutions; through it they can succeed in forcing the products of “their industry” on others, opening up new markets with cannon shots. They alone subscribe to the loans which war necessitates, the interest upon which we, the workers, alone pay. Let the capitalists fight themselves, then, if they want to; once more: it is no concern of ours. And, moreover, let us revolt once for all; let us endanger the privileges of the bourgeoisie, and it will not be long till we see those who preach patriotism to us, appealing to the armies of their conquerors, be they German, Russian, or of no matter what country. They are like Voltaire, their- patron: he did not believe in God, but judged that some religion was necessary to the common people; they have frontiers between their slaves, but for themselves they mock at such when their interests are at stake.

There is no “country” for the man truly worthy of the name; or at least there is but one,—that in which he struggles for true right, in which he lives and has his affections; but it may extend over the whole earth! Humanity is not to be chucked into little pigeon-holes, wherein each is to shut himself up in his corner, regarding the rest as enemies. To the genuine individual all men are brothers and have equal rights to live and to evolve according to their own wills, upon this earth which is large enough and fruitful enough to nourish all. As to your countries by convention, the workers have no interest in them, and nothing in them to defend, consequently, on whichever side of the frontier they may chance to have been born, they should not, on that account, have any motive for mutual hatred. Instead of going on cutting each other’s throats, as they have done up to the present, they ought to stretch out their hands across the frontiers and unite all their efforts in making war upon their real, their only, enemies: authority and capital.


We have shown that “the country” is a sonorous word designed to induce the workers to defend an order of things which oppresses them. We shall see now if the “love of country,” this “holy sentiment,” this “love of the soil which is born in every one,” is so deeply rooted in those who make the declaration; whether it rises from purely subjective causes, as among the workers, or from purely material causes, from vulgar preoccupations of mercantile interests. It is among the writings published by themselves for their own use that we must search for their innermost conviction. It is edifying.

To hear them when they are addressing the workers there is nothing so sacred as the country; every citizen should be ready to sacrifice his life or his liberty for the defense of the country. In fine, according to them the country represents the highest degree of the general interest; to make sacrifices for it is to sacrifice for one’s own and one’s self. We have only to rummage among their treatises on political economy to convict them of lying; to see that all these high-sounding phrases, these sentiments which they parade, are nothing but bluffs for the benefit of the simpletons who let themselves be duped by the like, masks which they take care to leave in the dressing-room when among their intimates. Here is what one of their political doctors, whose authority is officially recognized, says:

“It is the interest of the governing classes, of the preponderance which they hold and for which they are indebted precisely to a continuation of the state of war, which artificially maintains that state among civilized peoples.” [4]

Could anything be neater? And our good capitalists, who declaim so loudly against the frightful Anarchists that have the audacity to demonstrate to the workers how their interest is antagonistic to the interests of the bourgeois class, make no mistake among themselves in properly defining this antagonism, in order to find a basis for their governmental system. But here is a still more damaging admission:

“Motives or pretexts are no more lacking under the new regime than they were under the old; but under the one as under the other, the true motive of every war is always the interest of the class or party in possession of the government,—an interest which must not be confounded with that of the nation or the mass of consumers in the body politic; for as much as the governing class or party is interested in the continuation of a state of war, so much is the nation governed interested in the maintenance of peace.” [5]

As to the advantage which the governing class finds in the continuation of a state of war, the same author goes on to tell us:

“War without implies peace within; that is to say, a period of easy government, during which the opposition is reduced to silence under pain of being accused of complicity with the enemy. And what is more desirable, above all when the opposition is troublesome and its forces nearly balance those of the government? In fact if a war be unsuccessful, it inevitably involves the downfall of the party which undertook it; but if, on the other hand, it be successful, (and it is not undertaken unless some favorable chances are assured) the party which engaged in it and carried it to a satisfactory issue, acquires, for a time, a crushing preponderance. How many motives are there, not to speak of the small profits to which it opens the way, for not letting a favorable opportunity to make war escape!” [6]

As to the “small profits,” here is an enumeration of them:

“But, up to our own day, it has been the inferior classes, those whose influence counts the least, who have generally furnished the common soldiers. The wealthy classes have escaped by a money sacrifice; and this sacrifice, ordinarily very moderate, has been more than compensated for by the market which the state of war offered to members of the said classes, upon whom the proscription of foreigners and the obligation of passing through the military schools (access to which was, in fact, impossible to the poorer classes) ‘conferred the monopoly of the remunerative offices’ of the military profession. Finally if war be cruel to the conscripts who, according to the forcible popular expression, furnish ‘ meat for the cannon,’ the departure of these impressed troops, brought up to farm labor or in the workshop, by diminishing the supply of hands has the effect of increasing wages, and thus palliating the horrors of war to those who escape military service.” [7]

This is categorical. We see that the “sacred love” of the metaphysical entity, “country,” is nothing more than exploitation and “small profits;” but the avowal is complete; it is a triumphant retort to those who would object that “there is a public opinion of which the governing are forced to take account,” that “a war may be just and obtain the assent of the public,” that “it is wrong to declaim against war in general,” that “there may be cases into which rulers are dragged in spite of themselves,” and moreover that “war is a consequence of the existing social state,” that “one may declaim against it or deplore its necessity,” but that “we are compelled to submit to it.”

Let us continue to quote:

“Nevertheless, whatever be the power of the men who decide peace or war, and the influence of the class from which the political, administrative, and military staff is recruited, they are, as we have just observed, obliged to reckon, in a certain measure, with the much more numerous class whose interests are involved in the various branches of production, to whom war is a nuisance. Experience all the time demonstrates that the resisting force of this pacific element is in nowise proportionate to its mass. The vast majority of the men who compose it are absolutely ignorant, and ‘nothing is easier than to excite their passions or lead them astray as to their interests.’ The enlightened minority is less numerous; and besides, what means would these latter have of getting their opinions to prevail, in the presence of the powerful organization of the centralized State?” [8]

Thus our capitalists do not hide from themselves the fact that they see nothing in war but a means of continuing their exploitation of the workers; the massacres which they organize serve to rid them of the surplus which encumbers the market. To them armies are created with the sole view of furnishing place and rank to those of their dependents by whom they would otherwise be importuned. To them, finally, these wars which they pompously call “national,” making the hollow, sounding words “country,” “patriotism,” “national honor,” vibrate in the ears of the naive,—to them these wars are but pretexts for “small profits.”

War upon “small profits”! War upon all the wars undertaken in the name of the “country” or “civilization”!! For now that patriotism is beginning to decline, this new mockery—“civilization”—is used a great deal in launching the workers on a crusade against inoffensive peoples whom the capitalists would exploit and whose sole offense consists in being behindhand in reaching that degree of development which we have agreed to call present civilization.

Ostensibly it is to punish a band of imaginary marauders and secure our national preponderance that wars like the expedition to Tunis are undertaken, while the real object is to open up a new country to the rotten financial operations of a few dubious schemers; it is to secure a free field to these parasites upon the social revenue that the money wrung from the workers by taxation is expended in armaments; it is to realize “small profits” from the offices created in the conquered countries that these new markets, which enable the capitalists to get rid of their stale products, are opened with cannon shots, that a robust youth is impoverished, that a multitude of young men is sent to perish in an unaccustomed climate or be massacred by people who, after all, are at home, and are only defending what belongs to them.

War upon these “small profits,” these expeditions to Senegal, Tonquin, the Congo, Madagascar, forever being: undertaken in the name of “civilization,” which has nothing to do with such expeditions, that are brigandage, pure and simple! We exalt patriotism at home, and shoot or decapitate, as brigands or pirates, those who are guilty of nothing but defending the soil on which they live, or of having revolted against those who have imposed their rulership upon them in order to exploit and enslave them! [9]

But we shall have to return to this question in a special chapter upon colonization; let us confine ourselves for the moment to the patriotism of the governing classes. Recent events have laid it bare in all its hideous reality. The secrets of our armaments and defenses betrayed, through the complicity of the employees of the bureau of the minister of war; the most disgraceful intrigues, operating with this whirlpool of billions to the detriment of the taxpayers’ pocketbooks and the security of the country! The government, instead of hunting down the guilty, sought to cover them up and throw a veil over the most shameless turpitudes! [10] We behold the great manufacturing metallurgists—deputies for the most part, having old military officers at’ the head of the list—becoming furnishers of arms, cannon, armor-plate ships, powder, and other explosives, to foreign nations, and delivering to them the latest engines of destruction, without concerning themselves that these may one day serve against our army and contribute to the massacre of those of our compatriots whom they, in their capacity of governors, will have sent to the frontier to be pierced by bullets. Is it not the Grand International Swindling. Association of Jewish and Christian Bankers which owns our railways, holds the key of our arsenals, and has the monopoly of our supplies? O bourgeois! Talk no more, then, of your patriotism! If you could parcel out your “country” and sell it in shares you would do it speedily!

What did you do in 1871, in the Franco-Prussian war, which terminated for us, as everybody knows, in paying an indemnity of five billion francs? To whose interest was it to pay this indemnity, if not to that of the bourgeoisie alone in order to remain sole master of the power to exploit the “country”? Now, in order to pay this indemnity upon whom did they “draw at sight”? Upon the workers! A loan was made, reimbursement for which was guaranteed by the taxes which had to be levied, and which the workers alone have to pay since they alone work, and since work alone is productive of wealth. Let us pause to admire this sleight-of-hand trick. The bourgeoisie, having to pay the war indemnity, in order to get the Prussians out of power and pocket the taxes themselves, had to borrow the money necessary to pay it; but as this money was not immediately in the pockets of the famishing workers, the capitalists alone subscribed to the loan, thus lending to themselves the money which they needed. But the workers alone will have to toil for ninety-nine years to repay this loan, principal and interest, which never entered their pockets. Behold capitalistic “patriotism” in all its splendor!

After this let any one deny that “virtue is always rewarded.”


It is impossible to speak of the fatherland and patriotism without touching on that frightful plague of humanity, militarism. In studying mankind’s origin and the course of its evolution, we noted that the warrior caste was one of the first to be constituted and to impose its authority upon other members of the clan or tribe. A little later this caste was re-divided into chiefs and simple warriors, as a former step in advance had divided the tribe into warriors and non-warriors, all members of the clan having originally been warriors in case of need. We do not know whether humanity followed a regular course of progress; that is to say whether it passed successively through the three stages of hunting, pasturing, and agriculture. That it began by hunting and fishing, the gathering of plants and wild fruits, there is no doubt. As to knowing whether tribes passed from this first stage into the pastoral, then into the agricultural, after the manner one takes his bachelor’s degree in a course in science and letters, we are not so sure. We believe, however, that these different ways of procuring food must have been combined according to the natural resources of the regions inhabited. Thus hunters might continue to live principally by the chase, even after having found the means of cultivating some alimentary plants, before they succeeded in domesticating animals. But be that as it may, the warrior caste continued to remain preponderant and to preserve a large proportion of power even when forced to share it; and this caste has remained the firmest support of those who have succeeded to authority. So long as it remained a closed caste, recruiting itself from within, making war upon its own account, the population suffered greatly from its depredations, the armed man standing on no ceremony about taking from the peasant at his pleasure; but the tithe once paid, and no troops or castle being in his neighborhood, the peasant might hope for a little respite; at all events he was not constrained to give the best years of his life to re-enforce the battalions of his exploiters. There came an epoch, however, when the lords began to arm the peasants on their domains during emergencies. Then by«means of bounties or by stratagem, they attracted such as it was desired to have enlist in the king’s armies. But it was left to the bourgeoisie to throw the burden of its defense entirely upon its slaves. It is the bourgeoisie which has perfected the system by forcing the workers to devote a certain portion of their youth to the defense of their masters. But since it could not, without some danger, put arms into their hands and say to them: “Protect me in my possessions,” it invented the worship of “the country.” And it is by the help of this lie that it has succeeded in getting the workers to submit ever since to this blood-sucking tax. It is by help of this sophism that for several generations it has been able to take away the strongest and healthiest of their youth, to send them to rot, morally and physically, in the dungeons called barracks, without any one dreaming of resisting or escaping, without a single voice being raised to inquire by what right people are asked to be transformed for seven, five, or, in the last resort, three years, into automatons, machines for killing and food for cannon.

Nevertheless there have been protests. There have always been some; desertion and insubordination were necessarily born with the institution of standing armies, but these were scarcely conscious acts; the deserter, the insubordinate, did not appeal directly to individual rights; their acts were undoubtedly due to feelings of personal repugnance which they hardly took the trouble to analyze. Let us go further: the protests raised in literature against war and militarism were scarcely more than explosions of feeling, and hardly, if at all, supported by logical deductions based upon human nature and individual rights.

The army! The country! But the bourgeoisie and the litterateurs, its censer-bearers, had intoned so many praises in their honor, heaped up so many sophisms and lies in their favor, a to succeed in making them appear embellished with all the qualities with which they had decorated them, and nobody dare to question the existence of the said qualities; it was posited as a fact that the army was the reservoir of all the civic qualities an virtues. Hardly a romance in which we do not find the portrait of “the brave old soldier,” model of loyalty and probity, attached to his old general, whose servant he had been, following his master through all the vicissitudes of the latter’s existence, helping that master to escape the snares spread by invisible enemies, and finally giving his life to save his superior’s. Or again—for a change—saving an orphan, hiding him and bringing him up, making a hero of him, and furnishing him the means of entering into possession of the fortune which the enemies of his family had stolen from him!

Anon behold how the poets exalted the brave troopers! Military honor, devotion, fidelity, loyalty, were the least of their virtues. The bourgeoisie had to commit this tremendous blunder of forcing everybody to pass a longer or shorter time under its flags before men could see that, under the brilliant tinsel with which the poets and litterateurs had been pleased to cover their idol, were hidden nothing but infamies and rottenness. The volunteering for a year and twenty-eight days has done more against militarism than all that anybody had previously been able to say against it. As long as the workers were the only ones to sacrifice their youth, to become brutalized in the barracks, as long as the public knew nothing of the army but its stage-setting, the glittering of its brass, the rolling of its drums, the gilt of its stripes, the flapping of the flag in the wind, the clatter of arms, in fine all the apotheosis with which it is surrounded when exhibited to the people, so long did the litterateurs and poets help to swell this apotheosis in their works, to contribute their share of lies to the glorification of the monster. But with the day they were put in a position to study the institution closely; with the day they had to bow to the brutalizing discipline themselves; when they themselves had to endure the rebuffs and coarseness of the fellows with stripes on their sleeves;—with that day respect departed; they commenced to pull off the mask from the infamy; they belittled these “virtues” which their forefathers had been so ready to extol; and the soldier, including the officer, began to make his appearance before the public in his true character,—that is to say in the character of an alcoholic brute, an unconscious machine!

Ah! One must have sojourned in that hell to understand all that a man of refined sensibilities can suffer there; one must have worn the uniform to know all the vileness and idiocy it engenders. Once matriculated you are no longer a man, but an automaton bound to obey the nod and beck of him who commands. You have a gun in your hands, but you must submit without flinching to the insolence of every petty officer who vents upon you his ill-humor or the fumes of the alcohol he has drunk. Not a move, not a word, or you may pay for it with your whole life or with many years of your liberty. In addition they will take care to read to you, every Saturday, the penal code, whose refrain “Death, death, death!” will haunt your brain whenever the instincts of rebellion begin buzzing beneath your skull.

But what exasperates you most are the thousand and one minutiae of the trade, the meddlings, the annoyances of rule. And for the subaltern who bears a grudge against you, or who, without having a grudge, is simply an unconscious brute, there are numberless opportunities daily to find fault with you, to make you submit to vexations of every sort which his brutishness may find pleasure in inflicting upon you. At roll-call for a poor adjustment of a strap, one button more tarnished than the rest, for the probable neglect to put on braces, etc., you’ get a blackguarding; the guard-house, and fault-finding inspections without end! Kvery seam of your clothes is inspected; you are even made to open your garments to let your underclothes be inspected. [11] There is more to follow in the dormitories: a bed out of plumb—a blackguarding! “Beds square as billiard-tables!” is the hideous expression continually dinned into your ears and well known to those who have been through the barracks. Your effects badly arranged on the floor—blackguarding again! But the consummation of the art is to make you wax the soles of the extra pair of boots hung on the wall over the head of your bed, requiring that the heads of the nails shall appear without a spot of wax on them!

And the inspections! No end to these, either. Saturdays the inspection of arms, always with the same observations and epithets of “Dirty soldier”! “Pig”! and similar amenities. For a variation you have examinations as to your cleanliness, when your captain assures himself that your hands and feet are clean! Every month there is something still better,—the so-called “hospital inspection;” [12] then the pork-butcher of the regiment examines your most private parts! Have delicacy of feeling, and they will make it a laughing stock in the army; your delicacy will soon be crushed under the ignoble paw of your commanders. “The army is the school of equality;” so say the hirelings of the bourgeoisie. Equality in brutalization—yes! But that is not the equality we want.

Our inspections continue; every three or six months (I no longer recollect which) there is a kitchen inspection by a commissary of some sort; every year a general inspection by the commander of the division. During the fortnight which precedes this latter there is a clean-up in the barracks; kitchens and premises are cleaned. For a diversion you have one day an inspection by the sergeant of the week, [13] next day the company inspection, then regiment inspection, brigade inspection, division inspection, corps inspection, [14]—inspections are endless! At each of these inspections you must arrange your outfit on your bed: first a handkerchief,—which is religiously preserved for these occasions—which you spread out delicately on your bed; on this handkerchief you must arrange your brushes, your extra pair of boots, your drawers—which likewise are hardly ever taken out except on those particular days—an undershirt rolled up in a certain way, and of a certain length, your night-cap, your grease-box, your bottle of polish, a needle-case, thread, and scissors. In order that this exposition may be made according to the rules, illustrative placards are posted in the bunk-room, which must be consulted every moment in order to know the exact place for the everlasting brush, the bottle of polish, and all the other equally important objects. For you must be very careful to put every object in its place! If not, you will soon hear a storm of imprecations bursting upon your ears, vomited forth by whichever of your chiefs happens to perceive the irregularity. Know that the death penalty would not be too heavy to expiate such negligence! Horror! Abomination and desolation! A bottle of polish in the place intended for the grease-box! It would be the ruin of France if the general should come to know of it! We have already spoken of the consummation of the art, but here is sublimity attained: they make you wax the feet of the bed! [15]

It is in those inspections at which a general presides that the servility of the subaltern and even of the superior officers is shown. Front the instant the general is spied, you behold these officers, so arrogant before the poor devil of a private, crawl and cringe, range themselves most humbly behind the general, who on the other hand draws himself up,—when he is not broken down with paralysis [16]—proud as Lucifer! And his eyes! Fulminating lightnings upon the wretch who lays himself open to an observation from the grand chief! The officers are all topsy-turvey; there is a trooper with a needle short, or who, having forgotten that the fortnight ended the night before, has buttoned his overcoat on the left side when he ought to have buttoned it on the right! The colonel stammers with fury, the commander quakes under his tunic, the captain is green with fright; the corporal alone says nothing; he knows that every one of them, commencing with the sergeant, will take satisfaction out of him. His course is clear; he will turn around and revenge himself upon the delinquent.

Between times, while there is no inspection in view—usually on Saturday afternoon—in order to liven you up a bit, they call for fatigue-duty in the quarter; this consists in making you walk up and down the barrack-yard gathering into heaps the stones and pebbles that may be found therein. After an hour of this agreeable pastime, you go up again to the bunk-room; the little piles of pebbles are scattered by the passers of the week, so you begin again the following Saturday. The military trade has a number of these spiritual little distractions.

And when in the evenings, after days thus spent, you feel a desire to chat with your companions in slavery, their conversation is not of a nature to uplift your morals or inspire you. with ennobling thoughts. You perceive a group convulsed with laughter; you approach imagining you will hear something instructive: it is some idiot rehashing smutty jokes, neither new nor wittily told. You turn away and fall in« with another group of imbruted creatures, who appear to have no pleasures except in recalling the gluttonies they have been indulging in, or in anticipation of the feast they are going to bury themselves in when the paltry bet they have made, (the amount for which was received from their parents) shall have brought in a few cents. Vulgar gluttony and debauchery! Do not try to go beyond these for they will not understand you! Nothing any longer exists outside of these two pleasures. After this are you astonished that, at the end of three years of this regime, so many men come out of the barracks fit for nothing but policemen and detectives? The army is nothing but a school for demoralization ; it can produce nothing but spies, drones, and drunkards. Small indeed is the number of those who are unaffected by those three years of brutalization, and even they retain some traces of it for a long time after they have left the army.

Oh, this brutal and abject discipline, which breaks a man utterly, crushes his spirit, deforms his character, destroys his will! Horrible machine for brutalization, to which you deliver up a young man who only asks the opportunity to develop his sentiments towards the beautiful and the true, whose energies might be unfolded in the daily struggle for life, whose intellect might expand under the impulse of knowledge already acquired and the necessity of knowing more! Military discipline lays upon him a leaden weight which will cramp him and contract his brain forever, slackening even the rhythm of his heart-beats. After having ground him for three years in the multiple gearings of its hierarchy, it will give you back a shapeless rag, if it have not completely devoured him!

We have seen, O savage bourgeoisie, that this fatherland of which you wish to make us the defenders, is but the organization of your privileges; this militarism, that you teach is a duty to which all should conform, is instituted solely for your defense, all the burden whereof you cast upon those against whom it is directed. It furnishes you, into the bargain, with the chance to bestow rank, honors, and emoluments upon those of your relations incapable of performing more elevated functions, the aforesaid ranks and emoluments serving at the same time to stimulate the unhealthy ambitions of those who abandon the class whence they sprang to become your convict-keepers!

What are your country, your frontiers, your arbitrary boundaries between peoples to us? Your country exploits us, your frontiers stifle us, your nationalities are strangers to us! We are men, citizens of the universe; all men are our brothers; our only enemies are our masters, those who exploit us, who prevent Ms from evolving freely, developing the plenitude of our forces. We no longer wish to serve you as playthings, to be defenders of your privileges, to have the degrading livery of your militarism, the brutalizing yoke of your discipline thrust upon us. We want to bow our heads no longer; we want to be free.

And you, poor devils destined to fall under the stroke of the military law, and who read in the newspapers the recitals of injustices committed every day in the name of discipline, who have not gone without hearing from time to time the story of other infamies of which those who were silly enough to enlist have been the victims, will you not indulge in some reflections on the life which awaits you in the barracks? And all you who had never, until now, beheld the military life save through the smoke of the incense burned before it by the poets, can you not understand all the knavery of these bourgeois writers who have celebrated in every key the “military virtues,” the “honor of the soldier,” and “warlike dignity?” Go, poor devils, who for the sake of the word “country,” or for fear of the court-martial, are going to waste the best years of your youth in these schools of corruption called “barracks.” Go, and know the destiny that awaits you! If you wish to finish your term of service without accidents, leave behind you with your civil clothes ever)’ sentiment of personal dignity; crush out of your heart every feeling of independence; the “virtues” and “military honor” require that you be nothing more than killing machines, passive brutes; for if you have unluckily preserved in your heart, under the livery with which they clothe you, the least grain of pride, it may prove fatal to you. If some drunken veteran is pleased to insult you, and if he have stripes upon his sleeves, take care to hide the jerk which in spite of you will twitch your muscle under the insult; the hand which you have lifted to strike the insulter in the face—carry it with military precision to your cap and salute; if you open your mouth to reply to threat or insult, twist it into saying, “Brigadier, you are right!” And yet a gesture, a word, the slightest sign of emotion might be interpreted as irony, and draw down punishment upon you for want of respect to your superior! Whatever be the insult or outrage, nerve yourself against the anger which will prompt you to resent it; remain calm, insensible, inert,—your hand in its place, your heels close together! That’s well! You remain impassive under the injury? You do not flinch? No.—Well and good! You are good soldiers. That is what the country demands of its defenders!

“But if it be impossible for us to remain calm,” you will ask; “if, in spite of us, the blood rise to our heads making us blush?” Then there is but one thing for you: do not set foot in this prison, whence you cannot reissue without being debased, brutalized, corrupted. If you wish to remain men, do not be soldiers; if you cannot stand humiliations do not don the uniform. If, however, you have already committed the imprudence of clothing yourselves therewith, and some day you find yourselves in the situation of being unable to control your indignation—neither insult nor strike your superiors— . . . . . . .

Let daylight through them! You will pay no more for it.


Colonization is extending too widely, in the present epoch, for us to neglect to treat separately of this hybrid product of patriotism and mercantilism combined,—brigandage and highway robbery for the benefit of the ruling classes! A private individual goes into his neighbor’s house, breaks everything he lays his hands on, seizes everything he finds convenient for his own use: he is a criminal; society condemns him. But if a government find itself driven to a standstill by an internal situation which necessitates some external “diversion;” if it be encumbered at home by unemployed hands of which it knows not how to rid itself, of products which it cannot get distributed; let this government declare war against remote peoples which it knows to be too feeble to resist it, let it take possession of their country, subject them to an entire system of exploitation, force its products upon them, massacre them if they attempt to escape this exploitation with which it weighs them down,—oh, then, this is moral! From the moment you operate on a grand scale it merits the approbation of honest men. It is no longer called robbery or assassination; there is an honorable word for covering up the dishonorable deeds that government commits: this is called “civilizing” undeveloped peoples.

And let no one deem this exaggeration. No nation is reputed to be a colonizing one save when it has succeeded in getting out of a country the maximum product it is capable of yielding. Thus England is a colonizing country, because she knows how to “reward” her colonies with the prosperity of the people she sends out to rule them, how to gather back into her coffers the taxes with which she burdens them. In the Indies, for instance, those whom she sends out make colossal fortunes. The country, to be sure, is completely ravaged from time to time by frightful famines that decimate hundreds of thousands of people. But of what moment are the details so long as John Bull can market his manufactured products and thereby succeed in obtaining, for his own advantage, what the soil of Great Britain could not produce? Such are the benefits of colonization!

In France it is different; we are not colonizers. Oh, reassure yourself; that is not to say we are any the less brigands, that our conquered people are less exploited! No; only we are less “practical.” Instead of studying the peoples we conquer we deliver them over to the caprices of the sword; we subject them to the regime of the “mother country;” if these peoples cannot bend to it, so much the worse for them! They will disappear little by little under the degenerating influence of an administration to which they are not accustomed. What of it? If they revolt we hunt them like wild beasts, track them like deer! Pillage in that case is not only tolerated but approved; it is called a “raid.” The ferocious beast which we train and keep, under the name of “soldier,” is let loose upon inoffensive peoples. The latter behold themselves delivered over to every excess which these unchained brutes can conceive; their women are violated, their children’s throats are cut, whole villages are given to the flames, entire populations are driven into the plains where they are destined to perish miserably.

Is that all? Let it pass; it is a civilized nation carrying civilization to savages!

Certainly, upon thorough examination of what goes on around us there is nothing illogical or abnormal in all this; it is, in fact, the result of our present organization. It is nothing astonishing that these high feats of arms obtain the approval and applause of the bourgeois world. The bourgeoisie is interested in these strokes of brigandage; they serve as a pretext for maintaining permanent armies; they occupy the praetorians who, during these slaughters, set their hands to more serious “labor;” these armies themselves serve to unload a whole pack of idiots and worthless persons by whom the bourgeoisie would be much embarrassed, and who, by virtue of a few yards of gilt stripes, are made their most furious defenders. These conquests facilitate an entire series of financial schemes by means of which they may skim off the savings of speculators in search of doubtful enterprises. They will monopolize the stolen or conquered lands. These wars cause massacres of workers whose excessive numbers embarrass them; the conquered countries being in “need” of an administration, there is a new market for a whole army of office-seekers and ambitious persons whom they thus harness to their chariot, whereas had these latter remained unemployed its route might have been hampered thereby. Still better, there are peoples to exploit, to be yoked in their service, upon whom their products may be forced, whom they may decimate without being held accountable to any one. In view of these advantages the bourgeoisie need not hesitate; and the French bourgeoisie have so well understood this that they have launched headlong into colonial enterprises. But what astonishes and disheartens us is that there are workers who approve of these infamies; who feel no remorse in lending a hand to these rascalities, and do not understand the flagrant injustice of massacring people in their own homes, in order to mould them to a way of living not natural to them. Oh, we know the ready-made rejoinders which it is customary to make to those who become indignant at too flagrant injustices: “They have revolted, they have killed our people; we cannot endure it. . . . They are savages, they must be civilized . . . . The needs of commerce require it. . . . Yes, perhaps it was wrong to go among them in the first place, but the colonies have cost us too many men, too much money, to abandon them now,” etc.

“They have revolted; they have killed our men!” Well, what else? What were we doing in their country? Why did we not let them alone? Did they ever come and ask anything of us? We have tried to impose laws upon them which they do not want to accept. They have revolted; they have done well. So much the worse for those of us who perish in the struggle; they should have refrained from participating in these infamies.

“They are savages; they must be civilized.” Let any one take up the history of conquests, and then tell us which were the most savage,—those who were called so, or the “civilized.” Which are in greatest need of being civilized, the conquerors or the inoffensive peoples who generally welcomed their invaders with open arms, and as the reward for their advances have been tortured and decimated? Take the history of the conquests in America by Spain, of India by England, of Africa, Cochin China, and Tonquin by France, and then boast about “civilization.” Remember, too, that in these histories you will find recorded only the “great events,” whose importance has left traces; but if you were to picture to yourself all the “little events” of which these are composed and which pass by unperceived; if you were to bring to light all the turpitudes which are absorbed in the imposing mass of the principal facts, then what would it be? You would recoil affrighted before these horrors!

For ourselves, having spent some time in the naval service, we have listened to the description of numbers of scenes which prove that when a soldier arrives in a conquered country, he considers himself, by that mere fact, absolute master therein; for him the natives are beasts of burden, which he may order about at will; he has the right to seize upon every object which suits him; woe to the native that would oppose him! He will not be slow in teaching that the law of the sword is the only law;—the institution which protects property in Europe does not recognize it in another latitude. And in all this the soldier is encouraged by the officers who preach by example, by the administration which puts the cudgel in his hand that he may superintend the natives it employs upon its works. How many repugnant actions are naively recounted to you as altogether natural occurrences! If you happen to say of some native who revolted and killed his oppressor, that he did well, you should hear the cries of stupefaction which greet your remark! “What! Since we are the masters, since we command them, they must obey us; if we let them alone they would all revolt, they would drive us out! After having spent so much money and so many men, France would lose the country! She would have no more colonies!” Behold what an effect military discipline and brutalization have upon the minds of the workers. They endure the same injustices, the same turpitudes, with which they are helping to burden others; and they no longer feel the ignominy of their conduct; they have come to serve, unconsciously, as the instruments of despotism and to boast of this role, not realizing its baseness and infamy.

As to “the needs of commerce,” here, indeed, we have the genuine motive. Messieurs the bourgeois being embarrassed with products which they cannot dispose of, find nothing better to do than to go and declare war against poor devils powerless to defend themselves, in order to impose these products upon them. To be sure it would be easy enough to come to an understanding with them; one might traffic with them by means of barter, not being overscrupulous, even, about the value of the objects exchanged; these latter being valueless to them save when attractive to the eye, it would be easy enough to get the best of them and realize fine profits therefrom. Was it not thus before the dark continent was penetrated? Were we not, through the intermediary of the coast tribes in communication with the tribes of the interior? Did we not get the same products then as we get now?—“Yes, it is possible that it was so, but the devil of it is that to operate in such a way takes time and patience; it is impossible to go in on a grand scale; one must figure on competition; ‘commerce must be protected.’”—We know what that means: two or three fast iron-clads, in double-quick order, half-a-dozen gun-boats, a body of troops to be landed—salute! Civilization is going to perform its work! We have taken a people, strong, robust, and healthy; in forty or fifty years from now we shall have them turned into a horde of anæmics, brutalized, miserable, decimated, corrupted, who will shortly disappear from the surface of the globe. Then the civilizing job will be finished!

If any one doubt what we here assert let him take the accounts of travelers, let him read the descriptions of those countries in which Europeans have installed themselves by the right of conquest: everywhere the native populations decrease and disappear; everywhere drunkenness, syphilis, and other European importations mow them down in great swaths, atrophy and anæmiate those who survive. And can it be otherwise? No, not when such means are employed! Here are peoples who have another mode of life than ours, other aptitudes, other needs; instead of studying these needs and aptitudes, seeking to adapt them to our civilization gradually, insensibly, not demanding that they take any more of it than they can assimilate, we try to bend them to it at a single blow, we break everything asunder; and not only do they become refractory but the experience is fatal to them.

How glorious might the role of the so-called civilized man have been, had he but understood it, and had not he himself been afflicted with these two pests, government and mercantilism,—two frightful plagues, of which he would do well to consider how to rid himself before seeking to civilize others. The education of undeveloped tribes might go on peacefully and bring into civilization new elements, capable in the course of their adaptation, of putting new life into it. Let no one talk to us of the duplicity and ferocity of the barbarians. We have but to read the accounts of those truly courageous men who have gone into the midst of unknown tribes, urged on solely by the ideal of science and the desire for knowledge. Such persons have succeeded in making friends of these people, have gone among them, having nothing to fear; duplicity and ferocity came in only with these miserable traffickers who falsely decorate themselves with the name of travelers, seeing nothing in their travels but a good commercial or political deal. They have excited the animosity of these peoples against the whites by cheating them in their exchanges, by failing to keep their agreements, by massacring them, if need be, when they could do it with impunity. Go to, go to, philanthropists of commerce, civilizers by the sword! Forbear your tirades on the benefits of civilization! That which you call thus, that which you disguise under the name of colonization, has a name perfectly denned in your code, when it is the act of a few obscure individuals: it is called “pillage and assassination by armed bands.” But civilization has nothing in common with your highway-robber practices!

What the ruling classes must have is new markets for their products and new peoples to exploit; for this they send out their Solcillets, their de Brazzas, their Crampels, Triviers, etc., in search of unknown territories, there to open up factories which shall deliver these countries over to their unlimited exploitation. They commence by exploiting commercially and finish by exploiting in every way, when once these tribes have been brought under their protectorate. What they stand in need of is immense tracts of earth which they may gradually annex after having depopulated them;—do they not need plenty of room whereinto they may divert the surplus population which embarrasses them? What have you done with the tribes of Polynesia, which all travelers agreed in depicting to us as strong and vigorous peoples, .and who are now disappearing under your rule, you “civilizers”?

But at the rate your civilization is going on, if the workers are bound to succumb to the struggle to which you deliver them up, you, in your turn, will not be long in succumbing likewise under your indolence and laziness, even as fell the Greek and Roman civilizations, which having reached the pitch of luxury and exploitation, having lost all the faculties of struggle, in preserving the faculty of enjoyment, succumbed much more under the pressure of their own bloated nervelessness than to the blows of the barbarians, who, entering into the struggle in the fullness of their strength, had no great trouble to overturn this rapidly decaying civilization. As you have undertaken to destroy these races,—not inferior, as we shall show later on, but merely retarded,—you tend in like manner to destroy the working class, which you also qualify as inferior. Day by day you seek to eliminate the worker from the workshop, replacing him by machines. Your triumph would be the end of humanity; for, losing little by little the faculties acquired by the necessity for struggle, you would return to the most rudimentary ancestral forms of society and humanity would soon have no other ideal than that of an association of digestive sacs commanding a nation of machines, waited upon by automatons, having nothing human left but the name.


This question of colonization immediately brings up that of the so-called inferior races: for have not those actions of the whites that have led to the extinction of these conquered peoples been attempted to be justified by the argument of so-called race inferiority? Is this not, moreover, the same argument employed against the worker to justify the exploitation to which he is subjected by taxing him with belonging to the inferior classes? Does it mean, then, that for the capitalist, and even for certain savants, the worker is but a beast of burden whose sole role consists in creating prosperity for the “elect,” and reproducing other beasts of burden who in their turn may work out the happiness of the descendants of the “elect,” and so on? However, we workers do not believe ourselves lower than anybody else; we believe our brains to be quite as capable of cultivation as those of our exploiters if we but had the leisure and means for it. Why should it not be the same with races said to be inferior?

If it were nobody but the politicians who asserted the inferiority of races an attempt to refute their assertion would be quite unnecessary; at the bottom of their hearts they care very little whether the assertion be proven or disproven, since it is but a pretext anyway; if it were shown to be false they would not fail to find others. But certain savants have tried to bring science to the support of this theory and prove that the white race is a superior race. There was a time when man believed himself to be the centre of the universe; he not only thought that the sun and stars revolved around the earth., but he declared that all this had been so created with a sole view to his advent. This is called the anthropocentric theory. Long centuries of study were required to eradicate these vain illusions, and make man understand the insignificant place he held in nature. But his ideas of domination are so strong and tenacious, he renounces them with so much difficulty, that after having lost the sceptre which he claimed over the stars he fell back upon the declaration that the terrestrial globe with all its products had been made on purpose to serve as a cradle for him, the king of creation. Again dispossessed of this fictitious kingdom by science, which shows that he is but the product of evolution, the result of a concurrence of fortuitous circumstances, that there was nothing premeditated in his coming into being, and consequently, that nothing could have been created with a view to his advent, man’s spirit of domination was incapable of resolving to accept the facts as they are and consider itself an intruder; summing everything up it re-intrenched itself in this idea of superior races, and as a matter of course every race declared itself to be the most intelligent, the most beautiful, the most perfect. It is in virtue of this declaration that the white race absorbs all others, and upon their elimination the savants base the declaration!

The savants have, moreover, endeavored to justify their opinion by propping it upon the three following supports:

First, the antiquity of the inferior races is explicitly recognized by the scientific world as equal to that of the white race; consequently the stationary condition of the former, whereas the latter have progressed, proves absolute inferiority;—

Second, undeveloped peoples generally inhabit the most favored climates which ought to have helped to hasten their development;—

Third, savage children whom it has been sought to bring up in European fashion have in nowise fulfilled the hopes of their educators.

Further examples are given in the cases of those agglomerations of savages penned up in villages, which have remained unchanged for hundreds of years, as well as the negro republic of Hayti with its endless revolutions.

One need not go very far into history to discover that the “universal concensus” is not always proof. Up to the time that Galileo proved that the earth revolved around the sun it had been almost universally believed that it was the sun which revolved around the earth. Universal consent, therefore, proves nothing if it be not supported by facts; and again, in the case cited above the apparent facts seemed to support the erroneous opinion. Do the facts corroborate the opinion that all races are of equal antiquity? This is what we want to know.

Upon the Egyptian monuments there have been found representations of certain African types still existing in our days, which would, indeed, prove a relative antiquity; it is also averred that these tribes, formerly subject to the Egyptians, do not appear to have progressed. At first glance this would seem to be in favor of the partisans of the inferiority of races, but a deeper examination would show this conclusion to be too hasty. As a matter of fact the admitted antiquity of the Egyptian monuments is about eight thousand years; let us put it in round numbers at ten thousand. Thus in ten thousand years these tribes do not appear to have progressed, while the white race has made that progress with which we are familiar. But at the epoch when these monuments were raised Egypt already represented a very advanced civilization; the difference between these backward tribes and the builders of the temples of Philæ, Karnak, and Memphis was already enormous; the Egyptians had already passed through the pre-historic period which is estimated at hundreds of thousands of years. [17] Slow indeed must have been the progress of man during the quarternary epoch, and the period of development is still longer if the existence of man during the tertiary epoch be admitted. The ten thousand years of stagnation of the tribes in question represent, then, but an insignificant amount in the history of the unfoldment of humanity, and it is probable that ten thousand years after he had cut the. first stone the primitive Egyptian would have presented hardly any sensible improvement to the observer, and would also have appeared to be of a fundamentally inferior race. On the other hand these Egyptians, who made the great progress attested by their science and their monuments, are not whites; and this same people, which is classed among the “superior” races of antiquity, is now classed among the “inferior” races. Its English overlords have thoroughly demonstrated that. What a mass of contradictions! For the necessities of the argument the Egyptians are alternately both “superior” and “inferior.”

The skulls and jaw-bones of Cros-Magnon, Neanderthal, and Naulette, which date back to a remote epoch, present characteristics so simian that while studying them the anthropologists were in doubt whether to class their possessors among the ancestors of man or among the large anthropoid apes. In the presence of such humble beginnings are we happy in designating ourselves “the phœnix of humanity”? And by what right do we speak of the inferiority of other races when their present condition proceeds from our barbarous persecutions? Thus the present inferiority of the red-skinned race proves nothing; for let it not be forgotten that the aboriginal civilizations which were developing at the time of the European conquests were destroyed by their invaders; and the descendents of the aborigines, hunted, despoiled, massacred, were compelled little by little to retreat and be annihilated before the conqueror. Highly flourishing civilizations thus disappeared, no one knowing what they might have brought forth; we cannot judge of them by the brutalized and degenerate natives which the United States is in the course of wiping out. I will not instance in example the Empire of Mexico nor that of the Incas; upon the arrival of the Spaniards these empires were already on the highway to decay. For that very reason they were unable to resist. The Hurons, the Iroquois defended themselves with much greater energy than the Aztecs and Peruvians.

One might suppose that in order to prove the equal antiquity of races there remained one last resource,—that of making researches in as yet unexplored strata and comparing the age of the skeletons which would certainly be found therein. But -this resource is illusive; no possible means of establishing the exact concordance of the formation of earthy strata in the divers parts of the world exists. How then can we discover a perfect concordance between the remains found in these strata? To sum up, this question of the equal antiquity of races is an insoluble one and quite without value in the solution of the problem of virtual equality. Has it the least importance to those who consider all progress derived from the incessantly changing influence of environments?

“Undeveloped peoples generally inhabit the most favored countries,” declared Prof. G. Herve, one of the partisans of the theory of inferiority of races, in one of his courses on zoological anthropology at the Anthropological College. This declaration remains to be proven. Can it be applied to the Esquimaux or the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego; to the Red-skins, destitute of all those animals which they might have domesticated; or to the negroes who live in the region of the marshes of the Nile, or the endless forests of the Congo; or to the Tongoos of the Siberian steppes; or to the Bushmen of the waterless deserts of Kalahari? One should not distort the truth so violently. And besides there remains to be decided the momentous question: which are the most favored countries, those which require labor or those which do not?

Furthermore this declaration may quite as easily be turned against the position which it is intended to defend. Is it not precisely this facility of existence which has left many tribes stationary? Having wherewith to satisfy their primary needs without work, men may very easily have failed to experience that quickening of faculties which continued to lie dormant, whilst other peoples forced to wrest their daily existence from soil and climate, have been led to develop instincts and faculties which in turn have awakened others, and thus launched them upon the pathway of progress. The others, being “favored,” could live without exertion.

Then follow the arguments drawn from the attempts to educate certain African tribes, or from colonies’ of savages which, it is claimed, have been left to develop themselves in villages on their reservations. It may be that there have been’ unfruitful attempts at such education; that would prove no general conclusion, seeing that questions would arise as to what were the conditions under which these attempts were made, in what situation was the group experimented upon found, and whether causes of degeneracy had not been suffered to remain. These examples prove so much less since there are also instances of the contrary. The Iroquois of Canada are in every respect equal to the whites around them. The greatest geographer of Mexico is an Aztec, and we have the satisfaction of knowing that the “greatest warriors of the world” were neatly turned out of Mexico by the descendants of the “inferior races.” Many generations are necessary to render any new acquisition permanent; however great its powers of development no individual brain can, during the course of its single existence, go through that evolution which it required entire generations for the race to go through. Negative results in individuals, therefore, prove nothing, even granting the attempt to have been made under practical conditions, for they may be offset by many positive results just as the progress of the whites may be disputed on account of many instances of retrogression. Do not ethnographical works quote the cases of red-skins, negroes, or other “savages” who have been successfully instructed, and who had attained a considerable degree of knowledge, but who, seized with contempt for what had been taught them, have thrown aside the garments of civilization to resume their nomadic existence?

That atavism may sometimes be more powerful than the faculty of perfectibility nobody denies; but such examples in nowise prove the imperfectibility of the race, since the same individuals subjected to European education did certainly, during that period of their existence, advance along the path marked out by their educators.

This same Herve, whom we once more quote, for it is by him that we have heard “the inferiority of races” best sustained, again instances the’ fact that the savage appears more apt in childhood than at an adult age. But what does that prove? The less developed the race the earlier must the little ones learn to provide for themselves, to evince an already dawning sagacity. As to the adults, if their cerebral development is arrested at an early age it does, indeed, involve the consideration of a physical fact, viz: the obliteration of the cranial sutures. Contrary to the white races the consolidation first takes place in the anterior portions, so that the development of the brain is arrested, at the outset, in precisely the most active centers of intelligence. This early closing of the futures might be a proof of inferiority if it were proven that the white races had not passed through this stage. But it has been discovered by examination of pre-historic skulls that the sutures originally closed from the front backwards and at an early age, precisely as among our so-called inferior races. In our own days cases of atavism in which this same process occurs are instanced. What, then, remains of this argument?

The example of the republic of Hayti and its military revolutions is quoted for the purpose of turning it into ridicule; hut need we go very far back in our own history to find similar examples less excusable since we pretend to be superior? At all events the Haytians reconquered their independence from the French: who were the superiors,—those who regained their liberty or those who wanted to keep a people in slavery? Besides one must ignore history completely not to recognize progress among the Haytians, notwithstanding their Souloques, counterparts of our Badingues. When we reflect that the greater-number of our self-styled civilized people suffer and die in misery to enrich a minority of idlers and parasites, when we remember that the exploited furnish the force which defends their exploiters, can we believe that we have the right to be very proud and brag of our superiority?

And as for the groups of savages which have been allowed to exist, can we believe that conditions have been procured for them which permit them to expand fully? Certainly we do not want to assert that all races are absolutely identical; but we are persuaded that all have certain aptitudes, certain moral, intellectual, and physical qualities, which, had they been allowed to evolve freely, would have enabled them to take their part in the labor of human civilization. Thus for example, did not these miserable Australians, so low in the scale of humanity, invent the boomerang, that projective missile with its curious power of returning to the thrower, which the Europeans, in spite of their ability, have not succeeded in imitating, and which all their science of ballistics is unable to explain? To be sure the invention of the boomerang has been of no great profit to the history of humanity, but since the ingenuity of its inventors was able to express itself in an object absolutely peculiar to themselves, while the lance, the tomahawk, and the arrow have been known to all other races, who will tell us that, under other conditions, this faculty might not have evolved in more important directions? But no; the white race,—aided by the Jewish race which has become white by the necessities of the case,—wants to invade all, exploit all. Wherever it has intruded itself the retarded races have had to disappear. In face of the ruins which its conquering fury has heaped up in the presence of the massacres which its exploitations have brought about, one may well inquire whether its role has not been quite as much pernicious as beneficent.

One hundred and fifty thousand years, perhaps, were required for us to emerge from animality; and ten thousand years have witnessed the extinction of the Egyptian, Chaldean, Greek, Roman, Hindoo, and Mauritanian civilizations, whilst the Mongolian race was continuing a parallel development. Today we witness the beginning of the decadence of the Latin races, which will shortly become a death-agony unless a social transformation occurs in time to rejuvenate the physical and moral decay entailed by the capitalistic system. Perhaps, if the nations continue to intrench themselves behind their frontiers, our prestige may be taken from us by the Slavic races, which appear younger to us, having more lately come into the current of European civilization. But how long will that period last? What will come after? What will be the regenerating current which will come to restore our anæmiated race, exhausted by the excesses of a badly directed civilization? Every civilization, in its decline, has seen a new race surging in, which, being capable of assimilating the knowledge of the race it replaced, yielded in exchange a new brain, new aptitudes, young and vigorous blood; and this disappearance of civilizations would seem to show that every race has but a certain amount of energy and ability to expend, after which it disappears or remains stationary.

Relative to the foregoing, however, some friends object that today there are no more races, that the civilized world is divided into States, (remains of a past which is in discord with present reality) but constituting an indissoluble whole,—civilization from France to Russia and from America to Australia being the same civilization everywhere; that there are no longer any opposing races, but opposing classes. Assuredly we also are convinced that, given facilities of locomotion from one country to another, the enormous extension of international relations, races are bound to disappear by fusing, mixing with each other through intercrossings; that is the very reason we are choked with indignation at seeing entire tribes disappear before they have been able to contribute to our civilization the original share which they may have potentially possessed. When we reflect upon the massacre of inoffensive tribes, on whole races vanished or about to disappear, our thoughts overflow with sadness and melancholy; for we ask ourselves if these “inferior” brothers did not possess some of those qualities, so many of which are lacking in us. The white race could not understand the retarded races; it has broken them. If it had sought to bring them up to a higher phase of development, it could only have done so after the course of a long evolution; but it has never desired to educate; it has desired to exploit, and exploitation becomes extermination in the long run.

To sum up: in view of our rage for mastery let us ask ourselves whether the civilization of the Iroquois, for example, was much inferior to ours. Are we right in proclaiming ourselves superior to the Incas, who had at least learned how to secure food and shelter to all the members of their society, while poverty gnaws our modern civilization? Nothing justifies the theory of the alleged “inferior races; “it serves only to justify the crimes of the alleged “superior” races.


We have demonstrated—at least we hope so,—the right of every individual, without exception, to evolve without constraint; the right of every one to satisfy his needs fully; and hence the illegitimacy of authority, property, and all the institutions which the exploiting class has established to defend those privileges which can only be secured by the spoliation of the masses. It remains for us to examine the means for overturning this state of things which we attack, for founding the society which we demand in the future, and to prove the legitimacy of these means; for many persons who admit our criticisms of the existing social condition, who applaud our vision of a harmonious world, fly into transports at the idea of employing violence. In their opinion it would be better to proceed step by step through persuasion, seeking gradually to ameliorate existing conditions. “Everything in nature,” they tell us, “is transformed by evolution; why, then, not proceed in the same way in sociology instead of wishing for sudden ruptures? While seeking to transform society by force, you risk wrecking everything without producing any good; above all you risk getting crushed yourself; bringing about a reaction not less violent than the attack and thus causing a set-back to progress for several centuries.” This reasoning which is addressed to us by honest men, who discuss solely with a desire for enlightenment, rests upon a semblance of truth and merits being considered.

It is true that everything in nature is transformed by a slow process of evolution, by an uninterrupted sequence of progress acquired little by little, imperceptible if followed throughout its course, bursting upon the eye only when we pass suddenly from one period to another. It is thus that life progressed upon our globe, it is thus that man emerged from animality; and therefore it is that man in the nineteenth century no longer resembles man in the age of stone. But one thing only is ignored, viz., that in order that this evolution should go on without shocks it must meet no obstacles in its way; if it does, and the acquired impulse is stronger than the obstacles, it breaks them; if not, it is abortive. Every time that a shock occurs between progress and some existing thing there is a revolution, whether it be the swallowing up of a continent or the disappearance of a molecule in an organism,—the size of the thing does not matter. Nowadays it is admitted that great geologic revolutions, far from having been provoked by frightful convulsions and sudden changes proceeding from violent propulsions in the interior of our globe, are but the product of slow causes and imperceptible changes which have continued their effects through thousands of centuries. We know, likewise, that these same causes which have brought the earth to that condition in which we behold it are continuing their operation in our own days and preparing a new transformation. Everywhere the rains gnaw into the mountains, filter through them, and disintegrate the hardest granite. Nothing reveals the slow work of disintegration which is going on, or betrays it to the eye of the tourist. Generations pass away without any appreciable modification being noticed. But some fine day the mountain crumbles, dragging down forests and villages, filling up the beds of rivers, altering their courses, sowing ruin and desolation in the cataclysm. Yet the excitement once over, life soon resumes its course, issuing stronger and more intense than ever from every pore of this wreckage of materials. The evolution took place very slowly, but there came a moment when it could no longer continue without imperiling the existing order of things; it continued its course, and the mountain, undermined, crumbled, overwhelming everything upon its surface.

Another instance: It is known that the sea is retreating little by little from some of our coasts and invading others; its waves, dashing their foam over certain plains, detach therefrom the materials which leave room for it to encroach upon the land, whilst these same materials, transported to other places, aid the solid earth in gaining upon the sea. The work goes on so slowly that it is scarcely perceptible,—a few centimeters per century, it appears. That will not, however, hinder a day from arriving— at the end of ten thousand or a hundred thousand years,—what matters the length of time?—when the barrier which resisted the floods will be no longer compact enough to sustain the assault; it will give way before a final shock, and the sea, borrowing new strength from the very resistance it meets upon its march, will invade the plain, destroying everything in its course until it is arrested at the foot of a new barrier, which will dam up the flood afresh for a longer or shorter period, according to the degree of resistance it may possess.

It is the same with our societies: the social organization, the institutions created to defend this organization, represent the barriers which are opposed to progress. Everything in society, on the other hand, tends to overthrow these barriers. Ideas are modified, habits are transformed, gradually sapping respect for ancient institutions which preserve themselves and seek to continue to direct society and individuals. The slow work of dissociation is sometimes imperceptible to a generation. Customs do, indeed, disappear, or a prejudice is effaced; but these disappearances have been brought about so slowly that they take place without any one being conscious thereof; nobody but old men who compare the customs of their youth with those of the youth that have succeeded them notices that manners have changed. But though manners have changed, institutions, the social organization, have remained the same; they continue to oppose their barriers to the floods which attack them, breaking impotently at their feet, contenting themselves with carrying off a stone here and there. The floods in their rage may tear out thousands of such; what does a stone matter in comparison with the imposing mass of the barriers? Nothing at all, only—this stone, the waves roll it away with them and, in the next attack, hurl it against the wall whence it was torn, make use of it as a battering ram to tear out others, which in turn are transformed into a means of attack. The struggle may last for thousands of years; the cliffs seem undiminished till some day when, undermined, they fall before a new assault, leaving a free passage to the triumphant waves.

Most assuredly we should ask no better than that the evolution of our society should be accomplished in a slow but continuous fashion; we should like it to proceed without shocks; but that does not depend upon us. We fulfill our task of propaganda, we sow our ideas of renovation; it is the drop of water which infiltrates, dissolves the minerals, scoops a pathway, and comes out at the foot of the mountain. Can we prevent the mountain from crumbling, breaking the props by which you have hoped to render it firmer?

The bourgeoisie alone is interested in having this transformation take place without jars. Why, then, instead of trying to keep the mountain as it is, propping it to that end, do they not help us to level it and enable the water to flow slowly toward the plain, carrying away the useless or harmful materials to where they may elevate the surface of the soil till it be equalized? Insensate beings! They are not willing to yield up any portion of their privileges. Like the cliffs they deem themselves invulnerable to the surges that attack them. What matter to them the few concessions that have been wrung from them during a century? Their prerogatives are so great that the void is scarcely felt. But the wave has made the breach; with the very materials torn from the exploiters it renews the attack, creating therefrom a weapon to finish their destruction. We have contributed to evolution; let them take it upon themselves and their senseless resistance if it be transformed into revolution!

And certainly a little unprejudiced study of the operation of the social mechanism would be sufficient to show that the Anarchists have been led to become revolutionists solely by the force of circumstances. They have discovered that the cause of the ills from which society suffers is within its own organization; that all the palliatives proposed by politicians and Socialists can ameliorate absolutely nothing, because they attack effects instead of removing the cause. When one is well-fed, his needs more or less satisfied, it is easy to wait. But those who are physically and intellectually hungry, having once recognized the cause, are no longer satisfied with entertaining a future prospect; they are tempted to pass from the domain of speculation to that of action. Is it not natural for people fully convinced of an idea to seek to propagate it, to translate it into action? Can a man strongly impressed with a truth prevent himself from trying to get others to accept it, and above all to realize it by conforming his actions to it? And is it not, in our present society, an act of revolt to endeavor to put our new ideas into practice? How then can it be expected that those who have done everything to propagate these new ideas, to make the evils from which we suffer understood, to explain the causes of them, to show the remedy, to bring the attainments of a better society within reach; how can it be expected that these men shall put themselves athwart the advance inarch of those who seek to realize the ideas which have been explained to them and say to them, “Content yourselves with the pleasures of anticipation, continue to suffer, have patience; perhaps some day your exploiters will consent to make some concessions to you!” It would be horrible mockery!

Oh, truly we should ask nothing better than that the bourgeoisie should themselves understand the odious role they play, give up exploiting the workers, make restitution of their machinery, houses, lands, and mines to the collectivity, which would thereupon organize itself in order to put all these into operation for the benefit of all, and substitute the reign of solidarity for that of competition. But can any one seriously hope to see the day when capitalists and exploiters will arrive at such an ideal of disinterestedness while today they have not army, police, and magistrates enough to repress even the most innocuous demands? To spin fine theories, to speculate about a better future is admirable; but if the recognition of the ignominies of the present society were confined to a parlor philosophy, to after-dinner discussions among well-fed people, if it were limited to vain recriminations against the existing order of things, to sterile aspirations towards a better future, it would be too much like the philanthropist who with a well-filled belly and well-stocked purse says to the wretch dying of hunger, “My friend, I pity you with all my heart; your fate interests me in the highest degree; I am making all sorts of vows that it shall be ameliorated; meanwhile be sober and saving,”—and passes on thinking he has discharged his duty. Ah, but in that case the bourgeoisie would have a fine chance for a good, long season of exploitation before it, and the workers would be very far from seeing the end of their sufferings.

Happily, as we have seen, there is but one step from . aspiration to the desire to realize it, and many temperaments are inclined to take this step; the more so that the theory of Anarchism being essentially one of action the more numerous are the revolutionary temperaments found among them. Hence the multiplication of those acts of revolt which timorous spirits deplore, but which according to us are simply proofs of the progress of our ideas. It would be playing into the hands of the exploiter to preach resignation to the exploited; we leave that role to Christianity. It is not by resignation or by hope that one changes his condition, but by action; now the best way to act is to get rid of the obstacles trammeling your route. Men have prostrated themselves before power long enough, awaited their redemption by providential saviors long enough, believed in political changes and the efficacy of the law quite too long. The putting of our ideas into practice requires men conscious of themselves and of their strength, knowing how to make their liberty respected without becoming tyrants over others, expecting nothing from any one else but everything from themselves, from their own initiative, activity and energy. These men are not to be found by preaching resignation, but revolt.

Furthermore the idea of Anarchism in nowise rejects the cooperation of those who, having little taste for active struggle, confine themselves exclusively to spreading the principles, preparing a future evolution; it does not even require that these be accepted in their entirety. Every attack upon prejudice, everything which destroys an error or proclaims a truth, comes under their domain. The Anarchists disdain no contribution, reject no assistance, and ask no better than to join hands with all who have something new to offer. They content themselves with coordinating such efforts, synthesizing aspirations in order that people may be able to read into their own desires.

Finally it is impossible for the Anarchists to be pacific, even if they so wished; they will be urged into action by the sheer force of circumstances. Can one endure the meddling of officials after one understands the contemptible part they play? Can one submit to the insolence of lawyers when reflection has robbed them of the sacred aureole by which they were formerly surrounded? Can one respect the rich man wallowing in his luxury when one knows that it is wrought from the misery of hundreds of families? Can one consent to go into the barracks to serve as a sport for his exploiters’ keepers, after one has discovered that “the country” is but a pretext, and that the real role reserved for him is to cut the throats of his brothers in misery? When one sees that poverty is the result of a bad social organization, that people are dying of hunger only because others are gluttons and heap up fortunes for their descendants, one is not satisfied to go off and die in a corner of the poorhouse There comes a moment when, pacific though the sufferers be, force is answered by force, and exploitation by revolt.

Those who would like to see society transformed without shocks must make up their minds to surrender the hope; it is impossible. Ideas in the course of evolving lead to revolution. We may regret it, deplore it, but the fact is there; we must accept our lot, lamentations cannot prevail against it. And since revolution is inevitable there is but one means of preventing it from going against progress, viz., to take part in it, endeavoring to utilize it towards the realization of the ideal in view. We are not of those who preach acts of violence; nor those who want to devour the employer and the capitalist, as these formerly devoured the priest; nor of those who incite people to do this or that, or accomplish such and such an act. We are convinced that people do not do anything but what they themselves have decided to do. We believe that actions are taught by example and not by writing or counsel. Therefore we confine ourselves to drawing the conclusions of things in order that people may themselves decide what they want to do. But we are also convinced that the ideas, when well understood, must in their ascending march multiply acts of revolt. The more they penetrate the mass the more will consciousness of them be awakened, the more intense will become the appreciation of their worth, and consequently the less will men be willing to submit to the meddlings of authoritarian power and the exploitation of capitalistic robbers, the more frequent and more multiplied will become acts of independence. This result has nothing disconsoling for us, quite the contrary; for every act of individual revolt is an ax-stroke against the props of the social edifice which is crushing us. And since it is admitted that progress cannot go on without shocks and victims, we salute those who disappear in this terrible tempest, hoping that their example will raise up champions more numerous and better armed, whose blows may have greater effect. But whatever the number of those who perish in the struggle, it is still very small compared to the innumerable victims daily devoured by the social Minotaur. The more intense the struggle, the shorter; and in consequence the more lives, else devoted to poverty, sickness, consumption, and degeneracy, will be spared.


Some men, with good intentions we like to believe, appear stupefied at seeing the Anarchists repudiate certain means of struggle as contrary to their principles. “Why should you not try to get possession of power,” they say, “in order to force people to put your ideas into practice?”—“Why,” exclaim others, “ should you not send your own men to the chamber as deputies, or into the municipal councils, where they could be of service to you and would have the advantage of authority to propagate your ideas among the masses?” On the other hand some Anarchists, imagining themselves very logical, carry their reasoning to absurdity; with Anarchy as an excuse they accept a mass of ideas which have nothing to do with it. Thus under color of attacking property certain persons have constituted themselves defenders of theft; others apropos of free love have come to sustain the most absurd fancies, which they would not hesitate to qualify as debauchery and vulgar excess if practiced by the bourgeoisie; the most extreme however are those who war upon principles. “Another prejudice,” they say, and declare, “I laugh at principles; I ‘sit down’ on them; to hasten the revolution all means are good; we must not allow ourselves to be checked by scruples which are out of season.”

Those who make use of such language are, in our opinion, mistaken, and if they reflect thoroughly upon it they will soon discover that not all means are good to bring about Anarchy; there are some which are quite the contrary. They may present an appearance of success, but will really have the effect of retarding the acceptance of the idea, of giving triumph to a person at the expense of the thing; and consequently, whether it be admitted or denied, there follows from the ideas which one professes a directing principle which must guide him in the choice of the means suitable for putting those ideas into practice or facilitating a comprehension of them;—a principle as inevitable as a natural law, which one cannot transgress without being punished by the transgression itself, for it carries one farther away from the proposed goal by producing the contrary of the results hoped for.

Thus, for example, take universal suffrage, allusion to which was made at the beginning of this chapter. It is easy to say with some of our opponents who, seeing nothing but immediate facts, ask us, “Why do you not try to send your own men to the chamber where they could enact the changes which you demand, or, at least, more easily group together the forces which will organize the revolution?” By a well understood and well directed opposition the ballot might certainly bring about a revolution as well as any other means; but as it is a perfected instrument of authority it could produce nothing but an authoritarian political revolution; this is the reason that Anarchists repudiate it equally with authority itself. If our ideal were merely to accomplish a transformation of society solely by means of the strong hand, which would mould the masses according to a given formula, we might try to make use of universal suffrage, seek to canvass the crowd in order to get them to confide the care of their destiny to some of our people, making the latter masters for the application of our theories. While treating of universal suffrage in the chapter on authority, however, we observed that it was effective only in giving birth to mediocrities, that it permitted too much of platitude and flatulency on the part of those who aspire to be delegates for a sincere and even moderately intelligent man to consent to solicit a candidacy.

The very thing which makes the weakness of the collectivist party in electoral struggles is that the relatively more intelligent men have been overthrown by the “opportunists” who reckon upon the shallow paroquets of the rostrum only; and that they have wanted to keep intact—though not everywhere—their revolutionary program, and at the same time to present a program of reforms. The voter who is of course very stupid, says to himself: “If I must, after all, revolt, what is the good of asking for reforms? If these reforms do not prevent the necessity for recourse to arms, what is the use of sending deputies to propose them in the chamber?” If he does not go through this reasoning in the concrete form here given—which would in fact be a little above the average intelligence of the voters—it is at least what has come out of the debates at the campaign meetings, what has intuitively presented itself to his mind; and he has voted for the Radicals, who boasted of the efficacy of the reforms which they promised him, or for a few opportunists who likewise preached the virtues of parliamentary panaceas, giving them plausibility and substance—with the idea of flattering the workers—by attacks upon the bourgeoisie; taking good care not to speak of revolution and finding more profit in intriguing with the old political parties to secure the election of their candidates, basing their action upon the adage: “Pass me the cinnamon and I will pass you the senna.” [18]

Another nullifying defect: universal suffrage is a means of stifling individual initiative which we proclaim, and which we should on the contrary seek to develop with all our might. Suffrage is an instrument of authority, and what we are after is the complete enfranchisement of human individuality; it is an instrument of repression, while we seek to inspire revolt. Far from, being able to serve us, universal suffrage can but fetter us; we must fight it. Since we tell people not to deliver themselves up to masters, to act according to their own inspirations, not to submit to the repression which forces them to do what they think wrong, we cannot, under pain of being illogical, tell them to be plastic under the intrigues behind the scenes of an electoral committee, to choose men who are to be charged with making laws for them which all must obey, and into whose hands they must resign all will and initiative. Therein would lie a flagrant contradiction which would strike even the least clear-sighted; for this contradiction would break the weapon in our very hands, showing us to be what we really should be did we lower ourselves to such means: common fakirs.

Furthermore we are aware of the imperfections of human nature; in so choosing we should greatly risk falling in with the ambitious and intriguing, who, once in the midst of the bourgeois environment, would profit thereby to create for themselves situations and let the ideas go. As to those who were sincere we should only be sending them into an environment of rottenness where they could do nothing but declare their powerlessness and retire, or else yield to parliamentary customs and become bourgeois in their turn. Now, we, who seek to caution the masses against infatuation with persons; we, who seek to make them understand that they have nothing to expect from such persons, we should be doing finely to try to lift somebody to a pinnacle!

The treachery of persons could not fail to cast discredit upon the ideas. There would be many more of those who would say, “The Anarchists are no better than the rest,” than of those who would know Enough to separate persons from ideas and not blame the weakness and unworthiness of the former upon the latter. After having lost much precious time and vainly exhausted our strength in winning triumphs for those individuals, we should again be compelled to lose more time not less precious to exhaust our forces, not less vainly, in order to prove these persons were traitors, but that their treason in nowise invalidated the justice of our avowed principles,—and then begin over again by presenting other candidates! Go to! The comparison to the rotten apple which spoils a whole basket of sound apples is very trite, but it is always true; how much more so when it is a question bf putting a healthy apple not indeed into a basket but into a dung-cart of rotten apples. We have, therefore, no service to expect from universal suffrage, not only because it can do nothing, but above all because it is contrary to the end in view, the principles which we defend.

Other opponents and some Anarchists as well claim that in time of revolution it will be necessary to have authority, not exactly of a chief,—they do not go so far as that,—but to recognize some one’s supremacy and to subordinate ourselves to his admitted superior skill. Strange anomaly! Remnant of the prejudices with which we have been imbued, atavistic return begotten of our education, which makes us, while proclaiming liberty with loud voices, recoil before its consequences and deny its efficacy, and leads us to demand authority in order to obtain—liberty! O inconsistency!

Is not the best means of becoming free to make use of liberty, acting up to the best of its inspirations, rejecting the tutelage of no matter whom? Did you ever see anybody begin by fettering the legs of a child that he wanted to teach to walk? There are things, they tell us, with which some people are acquainted better than others; it would be well before acting to consult these individuals and to subordinate our actions to their teachings. We have always been with those who contend that individual action does not exclude a common understanding where collective action is in question; that organization follows from this understanding,—a sort of division of labor rendering every individual interdependent upon the others, impelling him to adapt his actions to those of his companions in struggle or in production; but it is a long way from this to admitting that every person should be forced to surrender his will into the hands of whomsoever he should recognize as more skillful than himself in some particular thing. When we go out in camping parties with a number of friends, for example, and put ourselves under the guidance of one of our company having better knowledge of the spot selected, does it follow that we have made him our master and that we are bound to follow him blindly everywhere he pleases to lead us? Do we give him the power to constrain us in case we should refuse to follow him? No. If there be one among us who knows the way we follow him where he leads us because we suppose him capable of taking us where we want to go, because we know he is going there himself; but we have in no sense abdicated our own will and initiative. If in the course of the journey another of us perceive that he whom we have commissioned to guide the company is mistaken, or is trying to lose us, we make use of our initiative to inform ourselves and if necessary take a route which seems more direct or agreeable. It should not be otherwise in times of struggle. At the outset Anarchists must renounce the warfare of army against army, battles arrayed oh fields, struggles laid out by strategists and tacticians maneuvering armed bodies as the chess-player maneuvers his figures upon the chess-board. The struggle should be directed chiefly towards the destruction of institutions. The burning up of deeds, registers of land-surveys, proceedings of notaries and solicitors, tax-collectors’ books; the ignoring of the limits of holdings, destruction of the regulations of the civil staff, etc.; the expropriation of the capitalists, taking possession in the name of all, putting articles of consumption freely at the disposal of all;—all this is the work of small and scattered groups, of skirmishes, not regular battles. And this is the warfare which the Anarchists must seek to encourage everywhere in order to harass governments, compel them to scatter their forces; tire them out and decimate them piecemeal. No need of leaders for blows like these; as soon as some one realizes what should be done he preaches by example, acting so as to attract others to him, who follow him if they are partisans of the enterprise but do not, by the fact of their adherence, abdicate their own initiative in following him who seems most fit to direct the enterprise, especially since some one else may, in the course of the struggle, perceive the possibility of another maneuver, whereupon he will not go and ask authority from the first to make the attempt but will make it known to those who are struggling with him. These, in turn, will assist or reject the undertaking as seems most practicable.

In Anarchy those who know teach those who do not know; the first to conceive an idea puts it into practice, explaining it to those whom he wishes to interest in it. But there is no temporary abdication, no authority; there are only equals who mutually aid each other according to their respective faculties, abandoning none of their rights, no part of their autonomy. The surest means of making Anarchy triumph is to act like an Anarchist.

It would be the same were we to review all the methods of struggle which are proposed to us. Thus out of hatred to property, certain Anarchists have come to justify theft, and pushing the theory to absurdity have no blame for theft practiced by comrade upon comrade. Assuredly we do not pretend to try the thief,—we leave that task to the bourgeois society of which he is the product; but in contending for the destruction of private property what we have principally fixed on for destruction is the appropriation by a few, to the detriment of all, of all the means of existence. Now for us all those who, by no matter what means, seek to create a situation for themselves which will enable them to live as parasites upon society, are bourgeois and exploiters, even when they do not live directly upon the toil of others; and the thief is only a bourgeois without capital who, unable to exploit us legally, seeks to do it illegally, with no objection to becoming a fervent admirer of judge and policeman as soon as he is a proprietor himself.

What may we preach as believers in the revolution that we may the more certainly bring it about? The uplifting of human dignity and character, independence of the will which makes us resent command, makes us rebels against despotism and repudiate what seems false and absurd to us. Now all roundabout means, all the expedients which necessitate the use of platitudes, deals, meannesses, tricks to avoid technicalities, to get around a law, are in our opinion injurious to the propaganda and contrary to the end in view; for they force us into the same base acts which we repudiate elsewhere, and instead of uplifting character they lower and debase it, by accustoming people to exhaust their energies in petty channels. Thus, for example, just as much as we approve and should like to see an increase of those acts on the part of individuals who, pushed to extremities by our bad social organization, forcibly take possession of what they need in broad daylight, openly proclaiming their right to existence, just so much do actions, belonging to the catalogue of ordinary thefts leave us cold and indifferent; for there is nothing of the character of a demand in them, which we would fain see attached to every act of propaganda.

It is likewise with “the propaganda by deed.” How it has been wrangled over! What an amount of fallacy has been uttered apropos of it, both by those who combat and those who extol it! “Propaganda by deed” is nothing more than thought transferred into action; and in the preceding chapter we observed that to feel a thing profoundly is to want to realize it. This is a sufficient reply to detractors. But, per contra, there are some Anarchists more incensed than enlightened who have, in turn, been more anxious to relegate everything to propaganda by deed; to kill the capitalists, to knock employers on the head, set fire to the factories and monuments, that was all they could think of; whoever failed to talk about burning or killing was unworthy to call himself an Anarchist!

Now, as to action our position is this: We have already said that action is the flowering of thought; but furthermore this action must have an aim, we must know what it is about, it must tend towards an end sought and not turn against itself. Let us take for example the incendiary burning of a factory in full operation; it employs a large number of workmen. The director of this factory is an average employer, neither too good nor too bad, of whom nothing in particular is to be said. Evidently if this factory is set afire, without either rhyme or reason, it can have no other effect but to throw the workmen into the street. These latter, furious at the temporary access of misery to which they are thereby reduced, will not hunt for the reasons which prompted the authors of the deed; they will most certainly devote all their anger to the incendiaries and the ideas which led them to take up the torch. Behold the consequences of an unreasonable act! But let us, on the other hand, suppose a struggle between employers and workmen,—any sort of strike. In a strike there surely are some employers more cruel than others, who by their exactions have necessitated this strike or by their intrigues have kept it up longer by persuading their colleagues to resist the demands of the strikers; without doubt these employers draw upon themselves the hatred of the workers. Let us suppose one of the like executed in some corner, with a placard posted explaining that he has been killed as an exploiter, or that his factory has been burned from the same motive. In such a case there is no being mistaken as to the reasons prompting the authors of the deeds, and we may be sure that they will be applauded by the whole laboring world. Such are intelligent deeds: which shows that actions should always follow a guiding principle.

“The end justifies the means” is the motto of the Jesuits, which some Anarchists have thought fit to apply to Anarchy, but which is not in reality applicable save to him who seeks egoistic satisfaction for his purely personal needs, without troubling himself about those whom he wounds or crushes by the way. When satisfaction is sought in the exercise of justice and solidarity the means employed must always be adapted to the end, under pain of producing the exact contrary of one’s expectations. [19]


That there is this divergence among Anarchists ‘in the way of looking upon methods of action is because some of them, more carried away by temperament than controlled by principles, though they believe themselves to be fighting for Anarchy, really have in view only a revolution, imagining that it, by its very essence, leads to every Anarchistic ideal, exactly as the Republicans of yesterday imagined they saw the opening of an era of grandeur and prosperity for all as soon as the republic should be proclaimed. It would be useless to recapitulate the illusions which have succeeded each other in the minds of the working-classes since the putting into operation of the republican regime.; let us be forewarned against the not less terrible ones which would await us did we expect everything from the revolution, did we make it our end while it is but a means. Such persons start out with a notion with which they are saturated,—a notion laudable enough in itself,—that elements may be gathered together for the purpose of stirring up a revolution; that these may become numerous enough to attempt uprisings, may create situations from which the revolution must burst forth; and that organized revolutionary groups may guide its evolution in whatever direction it shall please them to give it impulse. Hence their acceptance of means which, to them, seem likely to hasten the hour of the revolution; hence their efforts at trying to unite everything having a revolutionary appearance under a mixed program, leaving aside details, nice distinctions which would prevent a common understanding and force them to dispense with some who seem to be of revolutionary temperament. We, on the other hand, are convinced that the revolution will come from without our ranks and before we shall be numerous enough to provoke it. We believe that the vicious organization of society leads inexorably thereto, and that an economic crisis, complicated with some political occurrence, will be sufficient to fire the powder and provoke the outburst which our friends would create. It is perfectly evident to all who do not cheat themselves with words or hide their heads under their wings to avoid seeing the facts, that the situation cannot be much further prolonged. Discontent is too general: it was that that gave so much strength to the Boulangist movement, which became abortive only through the stupidity and cowardice of its leaders; but where they failed others may succeed. Though it no longer has the definite character reached during the Boulangist movement, the discontent is none the less there, quite as wide-spread and profound. Far from subsiding the commercial crisis is increasing: the task of employing the workers becomes more and more difficult; those who are out of work behold the constant lengthening of their periods of enforced idleness; the army of the unemployed becomes more and more numerous. Winter brings us a repetition of the endless tales of beggars shivering from the nippings of frost and hunger, anxiously awaiting at the gates of barracks, hospitals, restaurants, and the doors of a few philanthropists the hour for the distribution of a bowl of soup and a bit of bread. And as this situation cannot be prolonged forever, as people will end by getting tired of starving, they will revolt.

Now, we believe that Anarchistic action will be felt so much the more in this revolution the more the ideas of Anarchism have been propagated, comprehended, elucidated, freed from all the chaff of prejudices with which habit, heredity, and education have encumbered us. What we seek before all is to state our ideas precisely, to spread them, to gather together comrades thoroughly conscious of their position, avoiding every concession which might conceal any portion of our ideal, unwilling to accept, for the sake of increasing our numbers, any alliance or compromise which at a given moment might become a fetter or set afloat a doubt about what we desire. Once more: the revolution is not for us an end, but a means,—inevitable to be sure, and to which we are convinced we must have recourse,—but which is without value save for the end we seek to make it serve. Let us, then, leave the task of making revolutionists, to society, by its crying injustices creating malcontents and rebels; let us seek to make individuals conscious, knowing what they want; in a word perfect Anarchists, revolutionists truly, but such as do not stop with giving a blow but know why they give it.

We know all about the answer of some of our opponents at this point; they will ask us: “What have your fine theories about initiative and the spontaneity of individuals accomplished so far? What are all your scattered and unrelated groups doing? Are you not yourselves obliged to oppose the acts and theories which are sought to be passed off under the name of Anarchy and which you refuse to accept as such?”—It is quite clear that the Anarchist propaganda is far from having returned all the results which its extent would warrant, far from having been understood by all those who proclaim themselves its defenders; but this only shows the necessity of their further elaboration, of not fearing too frequent repetition, in order that attention may be concentrated upon the points sought to be elucidated, And besides if the efforts of the Anarchists are slightly lacking in conscious coordination, actual, tangible organization, these efforts are none the less considerable. They have at least the spirit of connection, the coordination given by a common vision of an object in view and sharply defined. Whether in France, Spain, Italy, England, America, or Australia, the Anarchists want the abolition of private property, the destruction of authority, complete autonomy of the individual without any restriction. This is the common basis of the idea. Certainly there may be differences in the employment of the means for reaching it; the ideal has not yet been attained; we go forward insensibly, and when we shall have come to be no longer afraid of certain words by which dissimilar things are now confounded, we shall soon see an understanding established between the different international groups, and a truly earnest and entirely libertarian organization,—an understanding and an organization so much the more durable that they are the result of practice, and not of a factitious understanding made up of concessions.

As to whether there are acts and theories between which and ourselves we should draw the line of separation, it is evident that there is a kind of propaganda—subsidized to be sure—which has slipped in among us, and which the exaggerative temperament of some fair and square comrades has helped to spread, against which we should forearm ourselves with all our might. But it is not by crying out against the principles nor by urging on the revolution only, that we shall succeed in escaping false brothers, false ideas, false principles. There is but one means of distinguishing Anarchistic ideas from those which have been given currency for the purpose of side-tracking the movement: to work still harder to elucidate them, to weed out the remains of authoritarian prejudices still more thoroughly from our proceedings, to make ourselves understood by those to whom we address ourselves, and enable them to discern whether such and such an act be Anarchistic or not; this will be much more effectual than proceeding to excommunications in the lump. Doubtless those who are impatient to see our dream of happiness and harmony realized may be discouraged by what actually goes on in our ranks; it may make them despair of ever seeing a general understanding issue from the chaos of ideas which under the name of Anarchy war more or less upon the bourgeoisie. But is it not characteristic of every new idea which would destroy the existing order of things, that it momentarily creates chaos and disorder? Once more: Let us leave the impatient ones to do their fuming! Let us give precision to our ideas, and the theories, becoming better considered and more definite, will coordinate themselves so much the better that they contain nothing forced, that no fetter shall have been placed upon the free evolution of minds. We cannot repeat too often that it is by developing the Anarchistic idea that self-conscious men are created, and the chances for the success of the revolution augmented.

What has helped to lead many comrades into the error that “principles are a chain, a hindrance in the struggle,” is that, perceiving this very discord of ideas and efforts, despairing of seeing a force adequate for the purposes of revolution gather together, they treat the serious discussion of ideas as metaphysical; and, not finding in our own midst the force which they fancied themselves able to seize by other means, they return to authoritarian methods, which they naively imagine they have divested of authority because they have changed the names. Anxious for the struggle they do not perceive that, though apparently isolated, the efforts of the combatants nevertheless converge towards the same goal, that nothing is lacking to give this coordination the power they wish to impart to it save that it be reasoned out; and that this last can come about only through the diffusion of our ideas.

“When a comrade promises us his help,” say these, “we want to be able to count on him, and to be sure that he will not, under the pretext of liberty and personal autonomy, fail to respond when the day of action comes.” We are entirely of the opinion of these comrades; but we consider also that it is a part of the propaganda to demonstrate that no person should engage therein unless he is certain of being able to stand by it; that a thing once undertaken, it is a matter of honesty to fulfill one’s promises. Of course this again raises the question of the struggle against dissolving conceptions noticed above; but it is incumbent upon our propaganda to show the good effects of complete understanding and confidence between comrades. What, indeed, could all the engagements undertaken and exacted beforehand accomplish? Though it should be inscribed in colossal characters upon programs prepared in advance that people must be bound by the agreements they enter into, what could be done so long as none had power to constrain those who should violate those agreements?

Let us listen less to our impatience and more to our reason, and we shall see that “metaphysics” is not always where we suppose it to be.


In treating of the question “Why we are revolutionists,” we endeavored to show that the poverty and discontent engendered by our bad social organization leads directly to revolt, and that since we are constrained by the force of circumstances to take part in this revolution we have every interest in preparing ourselves for it. There is another reason which we have mentioned only incidentally and which is also very important, for it explains why the Anarchists decline to struggle to obtain some of the reforms offered to the workers as panaceas or as evolutional means for achieving their emancipation gradually. We have to show that the capitalistic organization being given, the separation of society into two classes, one of which lives at the expense of the other, no melioration can be granted to the exploited class without lessening the privileges of the exploiting class; consequently either the reform is illusory, a decoy used for the purpose of lulling the worker to sleep and making him exhaust his energies in the conquest of soap-bubbles which burst in his hands when he seeks to grasp them, or, if it really might alter the situation, the privileged class, which is in possession of the power, will put forth every effort to prevent its application or turn it to their own profit; hence we must always come to the same ultima ratio—force. We do not intend to review all the reforms invented by hard-up politicians, nor to criticize all the electoral canards hatched in the brains of office-seekers; we should have to write hundreds of volumes. We believe we have amply demonstrated that the sources of misery lie in our bad economic organization; the reader will therefore understand that we leave aside all those remedies which embody political changes only. As to economic reforms worth the trouble of discussing, they are very few, and easy to enumerate:

An income tax;

Reduction of the hours of labor and the fixing of a minimum wage;

Increase of taxes upon inheritances and abolition of collateral heirships;

If we make an additional note of the formation of syndicates and their transformation into cooperative societies for production we shall have listed all the reform baggage of those who seek to transform society by evolution. In quantity it is meager; let us have a look at the quality.

An income tax! For a considerable period this panacea was extolled, but of late it seems to have lost slightly in favor. It is one of those which the politicians use to dazzle the eyes of the workers; one of those also which have enjoyed most credit, for it appeared to aim to make the rich support the. expenses of the State; it seemed intended to reestablish the equilibrium between citizens by making each defray the expenses of society according to the services received therefrom. But to study the mechanism of society and find the sources of riches is sufficient to enable one to understand that the pretended reform would reform nothing, that it is nothing but a miserable bait designed to lure the workers astray by leading them to hope for improvements which will never take place, at the same time preventing them from discovering the true means of emancipating themselves. Undoubtedly there are some capitalists who are really frightened at the bare mention of this reform, already seeing themselves “despoiled” for the benefit of “the vile multitude; “ the bourgeoisie is full of just such tremblers, frightened at the least noise, hiding at the slightest alarm, but bawling like calves when any one speaks of touching their privileges. It may also be that among those who propose it there are some who actually believe in its efficacy. The outcries of the former and the naïveté of the latter admirably contribute to the deception of the workers, making them take in dead earnest this child’s play which prevents them from giving ear when some one shows them that they have nothing to hope from their exploiters, that their emancipation can be real only on the day there are no more privileges.

Under the regime of tithes the workers “knew where they were at” concerning what they paid to their masters and tyrants: so much for the lord, so much for the priest, so much for this one, so much for that one. At the end they perceived there was not much for themselves. This made a revolution; the bourgeoisie seized the power; the people having fought to abolish the tithes it would not have been politic to reestablish them; the bourgeoisie therefore invented the tax and indirect tribute. After this plan the tithe is always deducted beforehand, but it is the capitalists, traders, and other middle-men who advance the sums thus deducted for the benefit of the State, and who are thus left with a free hand to reimburse themselves royally from the pockets of producers and consumers; and as these latter have no business directly with the treasury they can form no exact estimate of what share they have to pay, and all goes for the best in this best of all possible bourgeois worlds.

It is said we have to pay an annual tax of one hundred and thirty to one hundred and forty francs a head, in France: what is that?—Why deny oneself the pleasure of having a government which busies itself with your happiness for so modest a sum? Really it is nothing at all and one would be stupid to do without such a blessing for the sake of a little thing like that! It is, indeed, nothing; and the worker does not perceive that being the only one to produce he is the only one to pay; he has not only his own bill to settle but that of all the parasites who already live from the product of his labor.

By whatever sophisms the bourgeois economists seek to prop up their system in order to justify the existence of capitalists, one thing is sure: Capital does not reproduce itself and can be nothing but the product of labor; now, as the capitalists themselves do not work their capital is therefore the fruit of others’ work. All this commerce between individual and individual, nation and nation, all these exchanges, all this transit, is the result of labor only; and the profit which remains to the middleman is the tithe torn from the labor of the producers by the owners of capital. Is it by means of the money spent that the earth produces the grain, vegetables, and fruits we need for our nourishment; the flax and hemp we must have to clothe ourselves; the pasturage necessary to fatten the cattle on which we feed? Is it by the power of capital alone that the mines yield us the metals used in our industries, or in making the machines and tools we require? Is it capital which transforms raw material and fashions it into objects for consumption?—Who would dare make the claim! Political economy itself, the object of whose existence is to ascribe everything to capital, does not go so far; it merely tries to prove that capital being indispensable to the putting of all sorts of exploitation into operation, it deserves a share—the biggest share—for the dangers and casualties it is considered to have risked in the enterprise. To demonstrate the relative unimportance of capital it is sufficient to repeat the oft-quoted hypothesis, “Let us imagine the disappearance of all monetary values, gold, silver, bank-notes, commercial paper, drafts, checks, and all other bills of exchange; should we therefore stop producing?” Would the peasant therefore cease to till his bit of ground, the miner to extract his subsistence from the mine, the mechanic to fabricate articles for consumption? Would not the workers find some means of getting along without cash in exchanging their products, and to continue to live and produce without money?

The rational answer to these questions leads us to conclude that capital is but a means by which the parasites mask the superfluousness of their presence and justify the middle-man whom they thrust upon the producers for the purpose of deducting in advance their tithe of the labor of others. Thus whatever means the State may employ to- attack their incomes, these attacks must in the end recoil upon the producers, since the incomes themselves come only from labor. So much the greater will be the burden with which they are freighted; so much the more heavily will it fall upon the workers, swelled as it will be by the middle-man; and in the final reckoning this boasted reform will be transformed, through the facts of our bad social organization, into a still greater means of exploitation and robbery.

Next after the income tax, which has had its day, the most vaunted reform of the present time is reduction of the hours of labor and the fixing of a minimum wage. To regulate the relations of capital and labor in favor of the workers, to obtain an eight-hour day instead of one of twelve, seems at first sight a tremendous progress; and it is not surprising that many allow themselves to be caught by it, using all their energies to obtain this palliative, believing themselves to be thus working for the emancipation of the proletarian class. In the chapter on authority, however, we observed that it has but one role,—to defend the existing order of things; therefore to ask that the State interfere with the social relations between labor and capital is to give proof of the greatest want of logic, for its interference can turn out profitably only to him whose defender it is. In examining the tax-reform we noted that the role of the capitalist is to live at the expense of the producer; now, to counsel the workers to go and ask the capitalists to curtail their profits at the same time they are using every means to increase them is to make most abominable sport of those you advise. Simple political changes, very far from having an importance equal to this, have required revolutions to be effected.

If the working day were reduced to eight hours, say the defenders of this reform, it would diminish the periods of enforced idleness which result from over-production; everybody would work, and the workers would be enabled to increase their wages in consequence. At first sight this reasoning seems logical, but nothing can be falser to him who has thoroughly considered the phenomena engendered by the vicious organization which today is by courtesy called society. In the chapter on property we have shown that if the stores are glutted with products it is not because production is too great but because the majority of the producers are reduced to poverty and cannot consume according ‘to their needs. The most logical means therefore for the laborer to secure work for himself would be to take possession of the products he has created and of which he has been cheated, and consume them. We will expatiate no further in this direction; it remains to us to show that the application of the proposed reform would not bring the slightest pecuniary advantage to the workers.

When a capitalist invests his capital in some industry he does so because he hopes thereby to make it fruitful. Now, in the present conditions the employer calculates that he must have the workman ten, eleven, or twelve hours, in order to get out of him the estimated profit. Reduce the working day to eight hours and the employer will find himself injured, his calculations upset; but as his capital must bring him in so much per cent, (his special labor as a capitalist consisting of getting his profit, —buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market possible,—in short robbing all those with whom he has dealings,—such being his business) he will hunt up some new device to reimburse himself for what it has been endeavored to take away from him. Three ways will present themselves to him: to increase the price of his products, to reduce the wages of his workmen, or to make them produce in eight hours the same amount they now do in twelve. The promoters of the reform have guarded against one of these by asking for the fixing of a minimum wage. It is not likely that the employers would resort to an increase in the price of goods, embarrassed as they are by competition; at any rate the dearness of the cost of living keeping pace with the rise of wages proves to us that it would not be long before the worker carried all the burdens of the reform; and though his present daily wages were maintained for the eight-hour day he would be still poorer than now, for the increase in the price of articles of consumption would make his wages actually less. Have not North and South America shown us that wherever the workman has succeeded in getting higher wages, articles of consumption have increased proportionately? And wherever he has succeeded in making twenty francs a day he needs twenty-five to live after the style a workman getting a good living is supposed to live, so that he has always remained in the same place.

But in these days of steam and electricity competition does not permit delay; one must produce “quick and cheap.” It will not, then, be by increasing the price of their goods that the exploiters will try to “catch up.” The last method, that of producing in eight hours what is now produced in twelve is the one always pointed out to the exploiters anxious to keep their profits intact. The workman must therefore produce faster; consequently the encumbering of the market with products which the reform is intended to prevent, the periods of idleness sought to be avoided, would recur just as before, since production would remain the same and the worker would not have been put in a position to consume more.

But the inconveniences of the so-called improvement would not be limited to this failure alone; there would be others more serious. First, the reduction of the working day would have the effect of stimulating the perfection of mechanical appliances and hastening the displacement of the workman of flesh by the workman of iron, which in a well-organized society would be progress, but would be found to be an aggravation of misery to the worker in our present society. Moreover, being compelled to produce faster the workman would consequently be obliged to accelerate all his movements, to concentrate his attention more and more upon his work; all his energies would thus be in a state of continual tension more injurious to his health than longer hours of work. The time is shorter, but being bound to expend more strength in less time he would become fatigued more and more rapidly. If we consider England, which is given as an example by the partisans of this project, and where the nine-hour day is in operation, we shall see that far from being an improvement the shorter day is on the contrary an aggravation to the workers. It is to Karl Marx, the oracle of those who put forward this fine scheme, that we turn for proofs to support our assertion. For instance if we open Marx’s Capital we find, on page 105, this extract from the report of a factory inspector:

“‘To maintain the quantity of our products,’ says the firm of Cochrane, British Pottery, Glasgow, ‘ we have had recourse to the usage, on a large scale, of machines which render skilled workmen superfluous, and every day demonstrates that we can produce much more than by the old method. The nine-hour factory law has had the effect of hastening the introduction of machinery.’”

On page 180 of the same book:

“Although the factory inspectors never weary, and rightly too, of setting forth the favorable results of the legislation of 1844 and 1850, they are nevertheless forced to admit that the shortening of the day has already caused an intensification of labor which attacks the health of the worker and, of course, his productive energy itself.

“In the majority of cotton and silk manufactures the excessive strain exacted by machine work, (the speed of machinery having been accelerated to an extraordinary degree of late years), appears to be one of the causes of the extreme mortality resulting from pulmonary affections which Dr. Grennhown has noted in his last admirable report. There is not the slightest doubt that the tendency of capital to catch up, through the systematic intensification of labor, for what it has had to relinquish (since the lengthening of the day is forbidden by law), and to transform every improvement in mechanical contrivance into a new means of exploitation, must lead to a condition in which a fresh diminution of hours will be inevitable.”

The displacing of the worker by the machine, increase of liability to sickness for those who remain in the workshop, annihilation of the reform to the point of bringing back the situation to the identical place it started from—without counting additional aggravations—such are the advantages of this blessed reform! Is this sufficiently conclusive?

But the advocates of the eight-hour system interrupt us, saying: “Yes, but this progress in mechanics would go on just the same if we were working twelve hours; and since the shortening of the day must bring about some temporary relief, enabling us to stay only eight hours in the workshop instead of twelve, there is in fact some moral progress with which we content ourselves while waiting for more.”—This evinces their natural kindheartedness and proves that the partisans of this so-called reform are not hard to please; but we Anarchists, who are more exacting, consider it a waste of time to bother with reforms which can reform nothing. What is the use of becoming propagandists of a thing which is good only so long as it is not applied, and when it is, is bound to turn against its proposed object? Of course the development of machinery will go on, but at present it is fettered by the everlasting red tape it encounters, forever dragging out its weary length. Everybody knows what an amount of effort it requires to get a new invention adopted. The exploiters being put into the dilemma of losing their profits or doing away with the red tape, the result will be to hasten the march of events and further the social revolution which we feel to be near. Now, as this revolution is inevitable we do not want to be surprised by it, but to be ready to profit by it to the best of our knowledge when it comes. We therefore seek to make the workers understand that they have nothing to gain by such childish efforts, and that society is transformable only on condition that the institutions which govern it be destroyed.

Oh, the organization of this exploiting society which is crushing .us is too well combined! It is not enough to modify its machinery, to improve its mode of acting, for us to believe its results can thereby be changed. Have we not seen how every new improvement, every development of machinery immediately turns against those who toil, becoming a means of exploitation to those who have set themselves up as masters of social wealth? If you desire progress to benefit all, if you want the worker to succeed in emancipating himself, commence by destroying the cause of those effects you would suppress. The poverty of the workers is caused by their being obliged to produce for a lot of parasites who have been clever enough to turn the best part of all products to their own profit. If you are sincere do not waste time in trying to conciliate antagonistic interests; do not seek to ameliorate a condition which can never be productive of good; destroy parasitism. But as this cannot be expected on the part of those who are parasites themselves; as it cannot be the work of any law, the whole system of exploitation must be destroyed, not modified.

Aside from these two reforms there is a third to which certain thinkers, enlightened at that, attach some efficacy, viz., an increase of the tax upon inheritances, where collateral heirs are concerned. Increase this tax and the same effects heretofore stated as regards the progressive income tax would speedily manifest themselves. Moreover such a measure would scarcely be possible outside of real estate, and even then it would be rendered perfectly useless by the impetus it could not fail to give to anonymous societies and to the system of “ stock held in trust.” Property-owners would get around it by renouncing family domains, contenting themselves with becoming lessees or tenants of their castles, mansions, and hunting-grounds, while anonymous associations would spring up to take charge of the leasing or renting of such immovable property, and have the laugh on the State. It is readily understood that under this system the number of inherited estates over which the State would have control would be very much reduced, and the law rendered useless. Consequently the suppression of collateral heirships would be likewise restricted, seeing that a lot of previous agreements between the testator and those whom he wishes to favor, may accord the latter certain claims upon the fortune of the former otherwise than by way of inheritance. To prevent this hundreds of laws would be required,—laws which would interfere with every act, with every relation of life, depriving people of the free disposition of their fortune; and, worse still, under such an inquisitorial system should we not inevitably come to the inquisition itself? Either a revolution or a coup d’état would be necessary to make people submit to measures so vexatious. Revolution upon revolution; would it not be better to have one that would make us go forward than one which would establish meddlesome laws?

Furthermore, admitting that these laws might have some influence upon the regime of property, in what way would the situation of the worker be improved? Property would again change hands, but it would not be put into the hands of the workers. The State would become the proprietor. The State would be transformed into a syndicate for exploitation; and we have already seen, in treating of authority, that nothing in favor of the workers must be expected from it. So long as money remains the level of the social organism those who possess it will know how to use it for their own profit. Whether the State will directly exploit those estates that fall into its hands, or sub-let them to private persons, it will always be to the profit of those who already possess. Let us even suppose, which might possibly be, that it should be to the profit of a new caste; in any event it could not be but detrimental to the generality of the people.

But if we admit the possibility of the application of this reform, this other hypothesis must also be admitted. The bourgeoisie, which set up the dogma of the infallibility of private property; the bourgeoisie, whose whole penal code is based solely upon the legitimacy of this property, and with a view to its defense, will then have allowed an attack to be made upon this proprietary organization which it claims on the contrary to be immutable. Will somebody tell us how much time it would take to bring the bourgeoisie to allow what they would consider an attack upon their rights; how much time it would take afterwards before it would be discovered, upon application thereof, that the so-called reform had reformed nothing at all; and finally whether the time so lost would not equal in length that judged necessary for the realization of our “utopias?”

It would be useless here to make a criticism of the “societies for production and consumption;” we have shown that we are in pursuit of general enfranchisement; the complete and separate enfranchisement of the individual cannot be effected save by the integral enfranchisement of all. Of what moment to us, then, are these petty means for the enfranchisement of a few persons? For the rest, with the concentration of capital, the continuous development of machinery, ever demanding the putting of more and more enormous capital into operation, these same means of enfranchising small groups of persons break to pieces in their hands before they have produced any results.

Other reformers seek to contribute their quota to the labor of human emancipation by urging the development of that branch of knowledge they have taken up with; but quickly carried away by the violence of the struggle, the difficulties to solve, they end by transforming their fixed idea into a hobby-horse to which they attribute every desirable quality, outside of which they see nothing worthy of acceptance, and which they offer as a panacea bound to cure all the ills from which our unhappy invalid, society, suffers. And how many sincere persons are found among these fanatics! Amongst this jumble of ideas how many good ones there are, which might produce excellent results in humanity’s favor if applied in a sanely constituted society! But applied separately in a corrupt society, they only yield results contrary to those expected when they are not nipped in the bud before any one has succeeded in applying them. Among these people, convinced of a fixed idea, we may instance one who is typical in affording the conclusion we wish to draw,—M. G. Ville, with his system of chemical fertilizers. We do not wish to enter into a detailed explanation of the said system. Let it suffice to say that M. Ville, having made an analysis of plants, found that they were invariably composed of fourteen elements, but varying in quantity in each different family. On subsequent analysis of the air and soil, he found that the plant takes ten of its component elements from them; that it therefore only remained to him to -supply, in the shape of manures, the other four elements lacking, which are lime, potassium, phosphorus, and azote: Thereupon he established a whole series of chemical fertilizers, based upon the soils to be cultivated and the plant to be produced. By quoting the figures and exhibiting the results he shows that with our present state of knowledge four or five times the regular harvest may be reaped from the same soil, with but a slight outlay for fertilizers compared with ordinary manures; that more cattle can be raised on a smaller area of prairie, and the price of meat thus lowered. But at this point he darts off into the conclusion that the solution of the social question lies in the improvement of agriculture.

“Alimentary products becoming abundant,” says he, “every one will profit thereby; the proprietors by reaping harvests whose abundance will enable them to sell at a low price, the workers, who by purchasing cheaply will be enabled to live more comfortably, to economize their wages, and become capitalists in turn” . . . and everything will be for the best in this best of all possible societies!

We are satisfied of the sincerity of M. Ville; as far as our slight knowledge of the matter entitles us to judge, his system appears perfectly rational; we do not deny the good effects which the general application of his method would produce in the condition of the workers, if the workers could benefit by anything at all in the present society. On the contrary his figures support the Anarchists’ assertion that according to the data of science products might, with much less labor, be rendered so abundant that there would be no need of apportioning them; that every one might consume out of the common fund according to his needs or desires, without fear of scarcity, as certain pessimists who can see nothing for humanity but weighing, measuring, and balancing, seem to fear, though they go so far as to concede to you that they themselves could of course get along without authority, but that it is necessary to repress the evil instincts by which the rest of humanity are possessed.

In a little pamphlet, “The Products of the Earth,” one of our friends has shown from official figures that even in its present infantile state of agriculture, its entire product is very considerably in excess of consumption. M. Ville shows that by the judicious use of chemical products, without additional labor, the earth may be made to return four or five times as much as at present. Is not this a triumphant confirmation of what we say? But he is mistaken in seeing in his system the solution of the social question, and in believing that products rendered thus abundant will be so cheap that the workers will be able to live by spending little and saving much. If M. Ville had read the bourgeois economists, among others M. de Molinari, he would have learned that “the superabundance of products in the market has the effect of so lowering the price of these products that their production being no longer remunerative to the capitalist drives capital out of these branches of production until the equilibrium is reestablished and things brought back to where they started from.” If M. Ville had been less absorbed in his learned calculations, and had taken some slight account of the functioning of society, he would have seen that, although there is now an enormous excess of production over consumption, there are people dying of hunger; he would have seen that the very best theoretical calculations are defeated of their aims in our present social practice. Nature aided by intelligence and human labor may indeed succeed in producing, at small cost, the wherewithal to nourish the human race; but commerce and stock-gambling, the proprietor and the capitalist, will also succeed in getting their discount thereon, in making goods scarce in order to sell them at a dearer price, and, in an emergency, in preventing their production altogether in order to raise the fictitious prices still further, and maintain them at a fixed rate through rapacity, greed for lucre, and parasitism. For example let us take coal; coal is a ready-made product. It has only to be extracted from the soil; the beds are so abundant that they are spread all over the surface of the globe and are practically inexhaustible. And yet its price is kept at a relatively high rate; not every one can be warm according to the requirements of temperature; its abundance has not made it accessible to the workers. This is because the mines have been monopolized by powerful Companies which limit the output of coal, and which, in order to escape competition, have ruined or bought up small operators, preferring to leave such acquisitions unworked rather than encumber the market and reduce the price, which would reduce their incomes.

What has happened with coal is likewise taking place with the land. Is not the small proprietor, eaten up, squeezed to the wall by usury, daily expropriated for the benefit of the capitalist? Does not property on a big scale constantly tend to reconstitute itself? Does not the use of agricultural machines result in giving impetus to the formation of agricultural syndicates and establishing those powerful anonymous companies already dominant in the manufacturing world, as they are the invariable rule in the mining world?—If we should succeed in making the earth yield four or five times as much, they would reduce by so much the area of cultivated lands, and the rest would be transformed into hunting grounds or pleasure parks for our exploiters. This is already beginning to take place in France, and is an accomplished fact on the estates of the English lords in Scotland and Ireland, the populations whereof are trampled upon and decimated for the benefit of the deer and foxes whose spirited death agonies will serve as pastime to a “select” public similar to that which applauded the lectures in which M. George Ville uttered the philanthropic harangues mentioned above!

Ah, it is because society is so constituted that he who possesses is master of the world! The exchange of products taking place only by the help of capital, money becomes their sole dispenser. All the improvements, all the progress created by labor, industry, and science, go on ever accumulating in the hands of those who already possess, becoming a means of still severer exploitation, weighing down those who possess nothing with still more frightful poverty. The perfecting of the processes of production renders the laborers less and less necessary to the capitalist, increases competition among them, forces them to offer their services at a lower price. Behold, then, how in dreaming you do the workers a service! The social organization reverses your intent so that you work for their exploitation, riveting more firmly the chain whose formidable weight is crushing them.

Certainly, M. G. Ville, you pictured there a beautiful dream: to work and multiply products so that everybody might have enough to eat; to enable the worker to save up a few cents to ward off the incertitudes of the morrow, though scarcely the perfection of human ideals, is as much as could be expected from one whose situation does not expose him to suffer the physical and moral evils that overwhelm the disinherited. Yes, even that is much; but it is only a dream, alas! so long as you have not destroyed the system of exploitation which renders all its promise deceptive and illusory. Capitalism has more than one string to its bow; and admitting that the multiplicity of products would reduce them to a relatively low price, that the worker could save his wages, there would come in another factor, at this point, which you have yourself mentioned: the increase of population. At the present moment the industrial market is encumbered with products; the development of machinery daily increases the number of the unemployed. These, in order to obtain employment, are forced to compete with each other, to work for a lower wage. Now, as progress fulfils its task and ever continues growing, as each man can in reality produce for ten, when the population shall have doubled, production will have increased twenty-fold, and this prosperity which you figure on creating for the workers, will go to swell the income of the manufacturer, who will pay his slaves so much the less when they have become more numerous in the market.

You say that the demands of the workers are in a certain measure justified, as long as they do not assume a violent form; but have you reflected that they have been struggling for thousands of years; that these ever fruitless demands were born together with the historic period? Know, then, that if they do take violent form, it is because all satisfaction has been denied them. Must they remain upon their knees repeating, “Thank you,” when they have never obtained anything save by laying their masters low at their feet and taking the liberties they wanted? Our masters thinking they were addressing slaves might disdainfully say, “Couch your demands politely; we will then consider whether we ought to grant them.” But those who behold in the enfranchisement of the workers nothing but an act of justice and not a concession, will say, “We want” so-and-so. So much the worse for the dudes whom such language offends.

Everything is linked together in this system which is crushing us. To be animated with good intentions is not enough to obtain the result desired; no amelioration is possible save by the destruction of the system. It is established solely for exploitation and oppression. We do not want to modify exploitation and oppression but to destroy them. To this conclusion all who are capable of lifting themselves above the narrow standpoint of the circumstances in which they themselves are placed, must inevitably come,—those who are capable of facing a question in its entirety and understanding that revolutions are not the creations of men alone, but of institutions which bar the path of progress, and that consequently they are necessary and inevitable. Let all those who sincerely desire to work for the future of humanity understand, once for all, that if they would succeed in realizing their particular ideals they must not traduce nor seek to fetter the Revolution; it alone can enable them to attain their goal by preventing parasitism from stifling progress or twisting it to the profit of vampires.

Reforms! Reforms! When will men discover that they have exhausted their best energies upon reforms without ever getting anything by it? The people are tired of struggling for utopias more futile than that of individual enfranchisement, since the only objection which can be raised against the latter is that it is unrealizable,—a purely gratuitous assertion, seeing that it has never been tried, while the realization of any reform is sufficient to demonstrate its ineffectualness. The Anarchists are reproached with being a hindrance to the peaceful emancipation of the workers, with being opposed to reforms. Double mistake! The Anarchists are not at all opposed to reforms; it is not the reforms themselves which we fight, but the lies of those who would set them up as an ultimate goal for the workers, knowing as we do that where they are not lies such reforms are but plasters for social ulcers. Let those who believe in reforms work for their realization; we see nothing wrong in that. On the contrary the more the bourgeoisie try them the sooner the workers will see that in spite’ of continual changes they still retain the same old thing, The point where we rebel is when people offer these reforms to us as panaceas, and say to the workers: “Be very good, very mild, very calm, and we will see whether we can do anything for you!”—Then we who understand how illusory these reforms are, and that the exploiters are occupying a usurped position, we say: “Workers, they are making fools of you! Their promised reforms are only snares, and they want to make you beg for such things as alms into the bargain, while you really have the right to obtain much more. You are at liberty to try the means they offer you; but knowing beforehand that they can in no way contribute to your emancipation, do not tarry in the vicious circle into which they wish to drag you, but organize for the purpose of taking possession of what is your due. Leave the laggards to amuse themselves with such deceptions; the Revolution engendered by the evil social organization, is here, advancing, growing formidable, and compelling you, in spite of yourselves, to take up arms and make good your right to live. Once having taken them up, do not be simple enough to content yourselves with reforms which will leave the cause of your ills still in existence. Behold the trap that has fooled you, behold the ideal towards which you should strive! It rests with you not to lose time with sops and to know enough to help on the overthrow of this worm-eaten and everywhere cracking edifice which they still presume to call society. Do not stay it by stopping up the holes with these plasters they propose to you; make a clean sweep, that you may not be trammeled in the reconstruction of a better society.”


But when, driven to the necessity of admitting the evil functioning of the social organization to which we are subjected, honest opponents of the Anarchistic idea confess that this organization needs to be transformed and allow that the means so far proposed are illusory, they think they have made an enormous concession, and they seek most earnestly for new and better remedies to apply. They even go so far as to acknowledge that an Anarchistic society is the most magnificent ideal which can be hoped for from human evolution. But—there is always a but—overcome by inherited prejudices, the legacy of our ancestors and nurtured by education, relations, and apathy, they hasten to add that it is scarcely realizable,—and forever remain in a state of speculation.

“Bad as it is, society still insures a relative degree of security, a certain rate of progress, which a revolution might sacrifice. Let us,” say they, “seek gradually to improve what we have; slowly, indeed, but surely.” If we answer them that there are people who suffer, perish, through this so-called security, this so-called civilization, they do not hesitate to admit that the capitalist class is ignoble in its exploitation; that by its rapacity it justifies the revolt of the exploited; some even admit that the revolution is inevitable, “but,” they add, “it is to be regretted, for the revolt may be defeated and ourselves thrown backward. Doubtless,” they say, “it is very easy to establish the diagnosis of a disease, but to cure it, is another thing; and the difficulties are very much greater in sociology, for we are still in the infancy of the science concerning it. The rational and experimental method only can lead to any results, and Anarchism is in no sense scientific; it is a pure speculation emanating from praiseworthy sentiments but based upon no experimentation.”

At first sight this reasoning seems logical; it is indeed true that when the disease is known only by its effects one cannot determine its real causes; but after its starting-point is actually known, its therapeutics is easy. If up till then there has been hesitation, trying first this remedy and then that, it is because the effects of such remedies upon such and such a conjunction of physical troubles were known; but as different causes may occasion the same pathological disturbance, it followed that what was good in one case was ineffectual or injurious in another. This is the reason why medicine in our days is rather empirical research than real science when it is a question of curing. It is also the reason why in social therapeutics, in which the same hiatuses, the same ignorance have existed, revolutions have broken out which have come to nothing, reforms have been attempted which yielded no results,—reforms fluctuating from one system to another, without preventing the growth of misery, without stopping the exploitation of the masses. The effects were sought to be destroyed without troubling as to the causes which produced them, and which allowed them to continue; the governmental label was changed, certain purifications of the official staff were effected, and afterward there was much astonishment because the evils complained of, and which it was supposed would thus be gotten rid of, reappeared more vigorous than ever, after an insignificant interruption, and resumed their normal course as if nothing had happened.

Nowadays it is understood in medicine that the best way of combating disease is to prevent it, by suppressing, through a thorough understanding of hygiene, the causes which engender it. The Anarchists are attempting to effect the same operation in social hygiene. They have sought for the causes of the diseases from which human society is suffering, traced them to their sources, renounced universal panaceas,—which they leave to political charlatans—and fortified with the knowledge gained from the comparative study of systems in operation and proposed reforms, they proclaim to the people:—

“The evils from which you suffer flow from the vicious organization of society, authority and property are the motors of all this enginery which is crushing you; in vain will you change the wheels, replace them, alter them,—their function is to grind you in their whirling teeth; you will be ground as long as you do not destroy them together with the principles whence they derive their strength, authority and property. Get rid of the causes if you do not want to experience the effects.”

In physiology, when, after considerable groping in darkness the causes of a disease which up till then had been known only by its effects, are at length discovered, it may happen that the method of curing it is completely reversed; what had before been forbidden to the patient may now be prescribed for him, and what had been prescribed before may now be forbidden. In politics this is called a revolution. It happens that the innovators are treated as madmen and visionaries by the regulars; they are accused of putting the patient’s life in danger, of disregarding a mass of hypotheses, each one more convincing than the other. And these clamors pursue them until repeated results compel those who have no confidence save in the formulas of the past to be silent. The physician who experiments with a new method, does on a small scale what the Anarchists want to do on a large scale with our entire society; when he leaves the beaten paths of routine to apply the new data he must not heed the outcries of retrogrades, if he be certain of his science, his studies, his observations. It is the same in sociology. Is it the fault of the Anarchists if society is so organized that people cannot do what they please without running against a prohibitory law or coming in conflict with a central power which claims to know what is wanted better than the persons interested, to furnish them with what it deems useful for them and deny them what it judges harmful? Society has been so organized that people cannot get out of it without overthrowing it; let the bourgeoisie not complain if in order to be free people dream first of breaking down what stands in their way.

In order to experiment one must go from theory to practice, and even in the most carefully established calculations there will always be an unknown quantity which timorous spirits will use as an argument for rejecting all innovation. Must one be condemned to inaction because of reactionists? The cause of the evil being discovered there is nothing to do but run the surgeon’s knife into the tumor, that its generative causes may be extirpated; and surgery every day teaches us not to shrink from the ablation of growths or organs which are atrophied, parasitical, or gangrened. Why should we fear to operate upon and to destroy what everybody except those who live thereby agrees is bad or of evil promise? We know that right here we shall be answered that society cannot be treated as an individual; that the latter may disappear without any perturbations resulting, while the overturning of society may lead to a loss or set-back for all humanity, etc.; and then they begin talking to us again about the necessity of acting slowly, gradually, by the pathway of reforms. That is what they call the experimental method!

Ah, well! Whatever our opponents say, it is they who are the empiricists; the experiments they have been making for centuries with the reforms and plasters which they recommend to us, prove to us that there are no true and effective reforms save those which attack the institutions, the bases, upon which society rests. Now, to touch institutions is the Revolution. The bourgeoisie, which holds the power, will not allow its own existence to be imperiled; so long as it holds the power it will make use of it to defend the system of organization which forms its strength. From the moment it should perceive that universal suffrage would tend to take its authority away, its bureaucracy, magistracy, police, and army would immediately be put in motion to arrest the destroying flood. The only reforms it will allow to be adopted will, therefore, be those which will not touch the institutions whence its privileges are derived; the only remedies it will consent to have tried are those which will attempt to mitigate the evils without attacking the causes. Such are the reforms we have seen adopted since the existence of universal suffrage,—the projects which at present serve as platforms for the political parties; reforms which so long as they are projects only, set the worker floating on an ocean of felicities, but which being adopted, lead to no sensible results,—lucky, indeed, if they do not become a new means of exploitation and enslavement in the hands of our masters.

Ah! It is because society is so organized that everything beautiful and good must finally concentrate in the hands of those who possess capital. Every fresh step in progress profits him, and him only, who has the wherewithal to put it into operation. Does there arise a new invention which enables production to go on more rapidly and with less expense? He who possesses will profit by it to diminish his working force, the eliminated part of which, thrown upon the street, will go to swell the somber army of the unemployed, the starving, while the rest will continue to toil as hard, as long, as before, even seeing their wages reduced in consequence of the competition waged against them by those who have been thrown out of the workshop. That is what your experimenting proves to us; that is what the reforms which have been tried have done; and these are the irrefutable objections we have to offer against all the projects that may be presented to us;—which proves very conclusively that we are right in retorting the epithet of “empiricists” upon those who claim that the ideas of Anarchism are not established by the experimental method. Moreover the strongest objection which such persons have so far been able to bring against the Anarchists is to say to them, “Your theories are very fine, but they cannot be realized.” This is not an argument. “Why can they not be realized?” we ask, and instead of answering us with reasons they bring forward their fears. They tell us that with man’s evil nature it is to be feared that he would profit by his liberty to stop working altogether; that when no mediating power existed it might happen that the stronger would exploit the weaker, etc. The Anarchists have shown the lack of foundation for these fears by proving that this evil tendency in man, these shortcomings in his character, are stimulated and encouraged by the present social organization which sets one against the other, forcing them to tear from each other the pittance it apportions with such exceeding parsimony. They also show, and support their assertions with proofs, that every social system based upon authority cannot but beget evil effects; since power is vested in persons subject to the same defects as other men, it is clear that if men do not know how to govern themselves, still less do they know how to govern others.

The great objection which remains consists, then, in assertion that as Anarchism has not so far been put to the test, it is condemned to remain a pure speculation, since it cannot be tried without overturning what has been proven to be bad. This is not serious and will not bear discussion. Because our forefathers allowed themselves to be exploited, should we, therefore, submit to exploitation? Because they bowed their necks to the yoke of authority should we, therefore, continue to be driven b the goad of power? Because the ideal of liberty and justice, after having been a vague and undefined aspiration of humanity, barely begins to shape itself in our days, must we renounce its application and wait till there are no more fearful ones? You agree that our ideal is beautiful. It is possible if individuals desire, and know how to conform their actions to it; this also you admit, and we ask no more. Those, then, who want to realize it, can only spread it, group together, stand shoulder to shoulder; and on the day they are numerous enough to overthrow all obstacles, they have only to live, according to their affinities and tendencies.

We want to be free: so much the worse for the slaves who, trembling at the idea of losing their chains, rally around their masters; we need not listen to their lamentations, for after all they will be with us when we have become the stronger. We want to be free: so much the worse for those who still want masters, and the more so that the masters usually want none of them except to pit them against others. Yes; the empiricists are those who want to destroy the effects, leaving the causes in existence, those who propose emollients when the operator’s scalpel is needed, those who seek to put the patient asleep, hoping that nature alone will act, while a small operation would relieve the patient immediately. It is surprising how people cheat themselves with words, how aphorisms seem to acquire weight when it is a question of preaching routine and fear of innovation. “One must go forward by carefully feeling one’s way,” they tell us; “humanity never advances by sudden leaps.” They forget that here it is three or four thousand years, for the Latin races only, that these experiments and step-by-step policies have been going on, that the exploited have awaited the realization of the promises made to them, have waxed passionate and struggled to obtain the same reforms forever promised though their situation has in nowise altered. We always suffer from the same evils, and now they propose to apply the same old poultices under the name of “the rational method.” Intelligence has grown, science has broadened, industry has widened to an immeasurable scope; pleasures have been refined and multiplied; but who profits by this progress?—Always the idle, possessing minority! Who famishes in order to produce without profiting thereby?—Always the spoliated masses! Ever since humanity has formed itself into societies, the exploited have made their complaints and lamentations heard; they have struggled without pause or relaxation to obtain concessions from their masters, which might soften their lot; they have prostrated themselves like flunkeys or again stood proudly erect, importuned at times like beggars or again recovered strength when the measure of poverty and oppression, being full, forced them to revolt, making death preferable to their existing condition. And yet this condition has always remained the same. Often their masters have been compelled to make room for them in legislative halls; often they have had to grant the reforms demanded; very often they themselves have been compelled to put restrictions upon their exploitations and authority. Have the governed been less oppressed, the exploited less squeezed? Has not poverty been as intense as ever, wealth concentrated in the hands of a privileged few, day by day becoming fewer?

Well, then, to propose to poor wretches to keep on with the experimental method, confining demands to new reforms just as empirical, (since those which would be likely to destroy the generating cause must be renounced for fear of the revolution) is to ask the mass of the workers to consent to be exploited indefinitely, seeing that the experience of the past proves to us that so long as the organic bases of society are unchanged these so-called reforms will always turn to the profit of those who hold wealth and power.

Finally, this: our opponents, when honest, do not hesitate to admit the present social organization is bad, vicious, and arbitrary, the bourgeoisie deriving their luxury and idleness solely from the poverty and overwork it imposes upon the toilers. They admit with us that the situation cannot last, that revolt is inevitable, that the social organization is forcing us into it; for there must necessarily come a time when the wretched will weary of starving while compelled to toil like beasts of burden. Well, then, since the conflict is inevitable—and legitimate—why exhaust strength in trying to avoid it? Why seek to make others hope for a pacific solution which you know to be impossible? Is not this a benevolent playing into the hands of the exploiters who seek to lull the intelligence of the workers to sleep by lying promises, in order to muzzle them more easily and lengthen the period of their exploitation? This is another of the consequences of the vicious social organization to which we are subjected, that he who is not squarely with the exploited and does not accept all their demands, finds himself necessarily on the side of the exploiters. All his good will and intentions in desiring to relieve our sufferings are nothing but narcotics, which, while dulling the edge of the miseries of the poor, deliver us over, bound hand and foot, to our exploiters.

If the conflict be inevitable would it not be better to prepare for it by seeking to develop within the minds of all the idea of a regenerated future society which, after all, is admitted to be good?—“If it were practicable,” add these well-meaning conservatives by way of corrective and as a concession to conservatism.—Is not such enlightenment necessary in order that when the day is come, those who take part in the revolution, may be able to profit by the struggle they will be called upon to sustain; that they may know what institutions are hurting them and must be destroyed; that they may not once more be turned into ridicule by their exploiters? Would this not be more rational and scientific than to lose one’s time deploring what cannot be prevented; than to devote oneself to protecting what is acknowledged to be bad under the pretext that it might be worse? Is it not, in fact, an utter want of logic to claim that because new ideas have not yet been applied, their application must be indefinitely postponed, because we do not know what they might bring forth? Is it not reasoning under pressure of fear of the new, and apathy in breaking off acquired habits, to conclude that one must be satisfied with what he has, (though seeking to improve it meanwhile) for fear of greater evils?

It has been amply demonstrated that the present society cannot be improved so long as the bases of organization are not transformed. Now, to reject the application of a new idea with the excuse that it has not been tested, is to reason in an absolutely unscientific fashion, for it would condemn humanity to utter immobility, new ideas being always more or less in contradiction with the ideas of the majority at a given time; and every time a new discovery is made it must be experimented upon to determine its value. If we had already had the experience, it would no longer be a new idea; it would already have struggled to obtain the necessary tests; it would be already prepared for admission into current practice. And besides, (it is a trifle vulgar and has been said a thousand times, but it is profoundly true) if one has the small-pox he does not seek to improve it but to get rid of it. We are dying of poverty and spoliation, we want to get rid of what is killing us; what worse can we get afterwards?

I know that at this point our opponents will drag out the “chestnut” of “compromising progress, the triumphs of science lost in the cataclysm, the human mind risking retrogression as the consequence of the victory of the masses, more corrupt and less learned than the class in power.” Further on we shall show the inaneness of such a fear, but let us for the moment accept the argument, such as it is; what weight can it have with those who suffer unjustly and are tired of suffering? What do progress and the marvels of industry matter to those who are considered to be no more than their instruments, without ever profiting by them? What do science and the discoveries of the human mind matter to those who suffer and to whom society refuses the means of developing their intelligence, if these must forever help to bind them faster in their slavery and brutishness? Go, then, and tell them that you greatly deplore the misery in which they are steeped; that you pity them, with all your heart, for the sufferings they undergo; but that their sudden enfranchisement involving the risk of a set-back to the march of progress, it is imperative that the great mass continue to accept toil and suffering, in order that an inconsiderable minority of scholars—chosen from among another minority of parasitical possessors who absorb the product of all solely for their personal profit— may have the facilities for laboring at the solution of scientific problems! Have the courage of your convictions, and go and talk this to those who are starving or whose strength is exhausted in forced and protracted labors, and see what sort of a welcome you will get! In vain would you add that their patience will not be lost . . . to future generations, that the latter, in the long run, will reap the fruit of their ancestors’ abnegation . . . when they have succeeded in finding and applying useful reforms; the starving would answer you that they relinquished Christianity because it promised them a paradise only after death; you others cannot even promise that to their descendants, and they are tired of toiling and suffering for others; they want to enjoy the fruits of their pains and labors, not in their posterity, but right away! —And they are right.

If you do not want progress to be stranded, or the marvels of science to disappear, stop opposing the claims of the disinherited; instead of trying to prop up unhealthy and ruinous institutions, help us to clear the ground that no obstacle may irritate the popular wave, or seek to arrest it with stupid and unjust prejudice when it rushes to the assault of institutions which oppose it. Instead of ranging himself on the side of the defenders of the past, let whosoever thinks and really wants to work for the development of the human mind, array himself on the side of those who only ask to profit by their share of the happiness and light which they have helped to produce. Leave those who unjustly desire to monopolize all these joint products, the fruits of solidarity, to themselves; let these representatives of the past cling desperately to their stolen prerogatives, which evolution at every step shows to be unjust. Though you cannot thus avoid the cataclysm which their blind obstinacy makes inevitable, you may help to save from wreck those conquests of science which humanity could not, indeed, lose, without great damage. But know this: there are people who are suffering, dying of poverty, who can develop neither their bodies nor their minds, from whom all that which you fear may disappear has already been taken away; they are tired of being despoiled of it, they want to possess it also. Help them to get it; it will only be justice. This is the sole means of helping to preserve it. If you do not do this, blame nobody but yourselves and your own timorousness for the disasters which may follow the victory of the masses, if disasters there be.

Finally, as a last objection, we are told that, in spite of all, progress asserts itself; that the average level of the worker has been raised, that his intelligence has grown, his situation improved, his requirements have increased and found wherewith to be satisfied; that the law itself has evolved; the penal code gradually assuming a character plainly conformable to general utility. We shall review all these claims, and try to sift out what is really true in them.

It is evident that the moral level of the worker has been raised; his wants have increased with the facilities for satisfying them; nowadays he eats meat and drinks wine at every meal, which he did not do barely fifty years ago. But it must also be remembered that this depends more than anything else on his power of production having likewise increased enormously. It is nothing astonishing then if, expending more energy, he requires more nutritive aliment to restore it. Fifty years ago the workman wore a blouse for his Sunday dress and dined on vegetables and cheese, thinking he had broken the record of feasting when on a Monday, at the barrier, (fortifications about’ Paris, used as a rendez-vous for pleasure parties), he had eaten a rabbit and drunk several bottles of wine; that lasted for a whole week and was naturally not repeated every Monday. But on the other hand while in the workshop, he was not harnessed to a machine which forced him to follow its accelerated movements. The greater part of all work being done by hand, he went on in his old-fashioned way, producing what he could; the employer was frequently his workmen’s chum, spending his holidays with them, asking no more of them than to give a stronger pull when he needed to deliver the work on time, and letting them go on comfortably the rest of the while. Today the workingman is no longer anything but a machine, utterly unacquainted with his exploiters most of the time; in this direction, therefore, there has been a moral loss.

His needs have grown,—that is sure,; he wants a relative luxury which he formerly did without,—that is evident. But this results, as we have already seen, from the increase in the expenditure of his energies on the one hand, and on the other, from his intellectual development; whence it comes that though the relations between himself, and his exploiters rank him beneath them, he acquires a greater consciousness of his own worth and personal dignity. This luxury, these wants, tie knows to be legitimate, for he has earned them.

Nor will any one dare maintain that this increase in expenditures is superfluous on the part of the worker; no one will dare contest his right to partake of the wealth he has helped to create. Nobody but the economists of the old school are still stupid enough to charge him with improvidence, or have the effrontery to preach economy to those who can satisfy only the fewest of their desires. It would be still more out of place to reproach the worker with the new wants he has created for himself, since at the present . moment he pays for them with the severest privations, and since that sort of prosperity—altogether relative—which he enjoyed during the period of the development of industry, is now barely maintained by a very limited number of the privileged employes of each corporation, while the great mass are again forced to live on wages which, in consequence of periods of enforced idleness, have been reduced to the same rate as fifty years ago.

While the needs of the workers have doubled, the means of production have been multiplied ten-fold; the increase in wages and the reduction in the price of products would have enabled them to satisfy this increase of needs; but the capitalists alone have benefited most definitely and extensively by the excess of production, and today the worker with his new needs and the impossibility of satisfying them, on account of the multiplicity of his periods of enforced idleness, is more miserable than before; for over and above his misery he is conscious of not having deserved it, knowing that he alone is the producer of all which is consumed or possessed. What he also knows, is that if the stores are crammed with products, reducing him to idleness, it is because he and his are forced to deprive themselves and cannot consume as they wish. He knows that what creates his exploiters’ wealth creates poverty for him. Had he been allowed to consume at will, and had he not been driven to produce, the stores would not be crammed, there would be no periods of enforced idleness while he and his family are starving. This is what every worker must say to himself, who reflects, compares the results obtained and reasons upon the facts unfolded during his existence. Yes, the worker has developed; yes, he has seen the outflowering of progress, which vanishes when he seeks to grasp it; and the acuteness of his sensations has come to make him suffer today from what would scarcely have touched him formerly. And here again experience, far from making him hope for a gradual improvement, reveals to him an ever growing poverty, its increase becoming heavier and heavier, and always more debasing. Far from fearing an abrupt transformation, he who reflects will seek with all his might to hasten it.

There remains the alleged amelioration of the laws, their raison d’etre conforming more and more to the general welfare rendering them protectors of public utility. And this again is an illusion, for the best laws are by their very nature falsified in practice, distorted from their purpose in the application. The penal code is always just as severe, weighs with equal vexation upon the poor, while remaining equally indulgent, equally benevolent to the privileged. The law is always just as ferocious towards him who steals a rabbit from his neighbor, but it lets the bankers who operate with millions “work” at their ease; the stock-jobbers of the bourse, the lottery swindlers of the “General Union,” the Panama sharks, the “Mary-Renauds,” the “Mace Bernauds,” the founders of pepper mines and sugarloaf quarries, may catch suckers in perfect security; if some magistrate should venture to poke his nose into their affairs and ask for explanations, instead of having them brought before him between two constables, like vulgar Anarchists, he very humbly goes to them, taking good care to cut short his indiscretion, which he himself recognizes to be out of place. He is ready, however, to get even with the first wretch who may have helped himself to a meal without paying for it, because he had no cash.

All are equal before the law: that is understood. But let a drunkard make some slight resistance to the “cop” that is maltreating him, let him merely curse at him, and he will be sentenced for “resisting an officer in discharge of his duty;” let him complain that he has been robbed of his tobacco by some of these brutes who have left him half-dead on the station-house plank and he will have a narrow escape if they do not get him sentenced for “using violence” against them. It is notorious among those who frequent police courts that every person who is tried for “outrages” or “resistance” against the police, is always advised by his lawyer not to deny the accusation, even though false, but merely to throw himself on the mercy of the court. The maximum penalty is always given to those who are bold enough to contradict the conclusions of the magistrate, or the testimony of the police. The law is a fine thing! It is equitable! This is true in the sense that it may serve, in case the power changes hands, to strike tomorrow those who use it today.

Finally, if every branch of human knowledge be reviewed, it will be seen that all our aspirations are hindered by the present social organization; that the mass is always oppressed for the benefit of a small minority which takes more from the collectivity than it gives back. The fears set forth concerning the disappearance of certain things now existing in the advent of the revolution, relate only to things of whose nature the masses may have, can have, no knowledge, while as to positive facts, it is amply proven that they are bound to gain by a social transformation. Let us laugh at these tremblers, and fear not to redouble our blows against a society which can no longer defend itself save by the help of sophisms and lies.


“And what then?” ask many of our opponents, after we have shown the evil effects of the vicious social organization which governs us, and made them understand that no reform is possible under the present regime; that by the very nature of existing institutions the best of them are bound to react against their original purpose and become a further aggravation to the miseries of the exploited; that those which might indeed effect a change in the lot of the worker cannot do so save on condition of attacking the aforesaid institutions; and that since such are rejected by the governing classes, it would require a revolution to realize them. Now, it is this revolution which frightens most people; the general overtoppling of things it would occasion makes them recoil before the remedy even after recognizing the evil. “Yes,” say they, “perhaps you are right; it is true society is badly constituted; some change must take place. The Revolution!—Maybe—I cannot say—but afterwards, what then?”—Afterwards, we reply, there will be full liberty for individuals, the possibility for all to satisfy their physical, moral, and intellectual needs. Authority and property being abolished, society being no longer based, as now, upon the antagonism of interests, but, on the contrary, upon the strictest solidarity, people, being sure of the morrow and no longer having to hoard up provision against the future, will cease to regard each other as enemies ready to devour each other for the sake of getting a mouthful of bread or taking another’s job in some exploiter’s sweatshop. The causes of struggle and animosity being destroyed, social harmony will reestablish itself. Some competition between the divers groups may indeed arise, some emulation in attaining what is best, the ideal aim which will always expand in proportion as people find it easier to satisfy their aspirations; but this competition must be but brief, since neither mercantile, proprietary, nor governmental interest will stand in the way, and those competitors who are behindhand will have every facility for assimilating the progress made by their happier competitors.

What creates poverty today is the congestion of products, which choking up the warehouses occasions enforced idleness and hunger among those who cannot find work until the said products have been distributed. This alone shows the abnormal state of our present society. In that society for which we are striving, the more abundant the products the more easily will harmony among people be established, since they will no longer be under the necessity of measuring the means of existence. The quicker the production, the faster the perfection of mechanical appliances proceeded, the more rapidly would the amount of productive labor incumbent upon each be reduced, the sooner would it become what it really ought to be, a mere gymnastic exercise requisite for the health of the muscles. In a normally constituted society, labor would lose the character of toil and suffering which it has acquired through its intensity, in these our days of exploitation. It would no longer be anything more than a diversion in the midst of all the other employments in which people would engage merely for their own pleasure just as they do in their studies, as expressions of the needs of their temperaments, undertaken under penalty of otherwise being gradually transformed into mere digestive sacks, which the bourgeoisie would soon become if their sway could be firmly secured; which a certain species of ant has already become, it being incapable of feeding itself, and starving to death when there are no slaves about to give it food. [20] “Yes,” say our opponents again, “what you want is very good; it is certainly the highest ideal which humanity could attain; but there is no way at all of telling that it would get along so nicely as you imagine,—that the strong would not want to impose their will upon the weak, or that there would not be lazy ones seeking to live at the expense of those who work. If no bounds be set to restrain the masses, who shall say whether instead of being a step in advance this revolution will not be a retrogression? If you should be conquered, would it not retard the movement for twenty, thirty, fifty years, and perhaps more? If you conquer, will you be able to prevent private revenge? Who knows whether you may not be ‘snowed under’ by the masses? From one end to the other there will be an unloosing of bestial passions,—violence, savagery, and all the horrors of mankind returning to animality.”

To this we reply that with the economic crisis constantly accentuating, involuntary idleness becoming more and more frequent, the difficulties of getting a living more and more pronounced every day, and political entanglements more aggravated, keeping relative pace with the increase of folly on the part of those who hold “the reins of government,” we are marching steadily towards this revolution, which will be brought about by the force of circumstances, which nothing can prevent, and concerning which, therefore, there is but one thing to do, viz., to be ready to take part in it in order to turn it to the profit of the principles we champion. But this fear of the unknown is so strong, so tenacious, that after having admitted the logic of all our objections and agreed to the truth of all our deductions, our opponent begins again: “Yes, that is all true; but would it not be better to act prudently? Progress advances by slow degrees; brutal action should be avoided; we might perhaps succeed at last in getting the bourgeoisie to make concessions!”

Assuredly if we had to deal only with insincere people that contradict for pure love of contradiction, because they are determined not to be convinced, the proper thing to do would be to quit the discussion, turn our backs, and give them Cambronne’s answer. [21] Unfortunately the most sincere people in the world, affected by their surroundings, education, and habituation to authority, likewise believe that everything is lost when they see it disappear from their horizon; and having no further answer to make, regularly come back, without perceiving it, to their first argument, unable to imagine a society without laws, judges, or policemen, wherein people should live side by side, mutually aiding each other instead of leaping at each other’s throats. What can we say to them? They want proofs that society will go on as we foresee. We may draw conclusions from the logic of events, form a comparison of them through the arguments we may gather from the analysis thereof. But palpable proofs! Experiment alone can give them to us, and these experiments can only be made by commencing with the overthrow of existing society!

But one thing is left for us to say to them: We have shown you that the present society begets poverty, creates famine, entails the ignorance of an entire class,—the most numerous at that,—prevents the development of new generations by bequeathing to them a heritage of prejudices and lies which it preserves alive. We have shown you that its organization tends to insure the exploitation of the mass for the benefit of a privileged minority. We have shown you that its evil functioning, together with the development of new aspirations in the breasts of I he workers, is leading us to a revolution. What more do you want us to say?—If we have got to fight, let it at least be for the realization of what seems just and best to us!

Shall we be conquerors or conquered? Who can foresee? If we waited to be sure of the victory before demanding our rights, we might wait centuries for our emancipation. Moreover we do not dictate circumstances; much oftener they sweep us along; the most we can do is to foresee them that we may not be submerged in the flood. Once in the melee the duty of the Anarchists will be to exert all the energy of which they are capable towards carrying the masses along with them.—That there may be acts of private vengeance in the coming revolution, massacres, deeds of savagery, is very likely. Not only can nobody prevent it, but nobody ought to prevent it. If the propagandists are outdone by the crowd, so much the better. Let them shoot everybody who would turn the revolution into sentimentality! For if they suffered reactionary measures in order to save a few victims, they might also permit such as would stem the revolutionary outburst for the purpose of preventing an attack upon those institutions which must disappear, causing it to spare what ought to be destroyed. The struggle once begun sentimentality will be out of place; the masses should ignore all phrase-makers, and pitilessly crush everything which would stand in the way. All that we can do is to declare, from now on, that the doing away with individuals can be of but small moment to the workers; that it is institutions they must attack; that it is these that must be sapped, overthrown, destroyed, and no vestige of them allowed to remain, thus preventing any reconstruction of them under other names. Capitalistic society is strong only by virtue of its institutions and because it has succeeded in making the workers believe that they are interested in the preservation of these institutions; because it has succeeded partly through their own will, partly by force, in making them its defenders. Reduced to their own unaided strength the capitalistic class could not resist the revolution; and how many of them would have the slightest will to do so? Individuals, therefore, are not dangerous, taken individually. But if, on the day of the revolution, there be some who are obstacles, let them be swept away by the tempest! If private revenge be indulged in, so much the worse for those who have served to resurrect such vengeance! Their evil deeds must have been many for hatred of their personality to be unappeased by the destruction of their caste and the abolition of their privileges; so much the worse for those who stay behind to defend them! The masses never go too far; it is only the leaders who think so, because they shrink from moral or practical responsibility. No silly sentimentalism, even though the fury of the masses should miscarry and break upon more or less innocent heads! To silence our pity we have only to recall the thousands of victims which the present social Minotaur devours daily for the sake of the all-powerful belly of the bourgeoisie. And if some of these people get strung up to lampposts, knocked on the head at some street-corner, or drowned in the river, they will only reap the harvest that their class has sown. So much the worse for them! Whoever is not with the people is against them.

For us workers the situation is clear: On one side we have the existing society with its cortege of poverty, uncertainty for the morrow, privations and sufferings without hope of allayment, —a society in which we are stifled, in which our brains sicken for want of light, in which we must crush down deep into the obscurity of our being all our sentiments of beauty, goodness, justice, and love;—on the other side, the future!—An ideal of liberty, happiness, intellectual and physical satisfaction, the complete unfolding of our individuality! Our choice is made. Whatever the future revolution may bring forth, whatever happens to us, it cannot be for us worse than our present condition. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by a change. Society fetters us; well, let us overthrow it. So much the worse for those who get crushed in the fall; it will be because they tried to shelter themselves under its walls, or to cling to its rotten supports. They should have been on the side of the abolitionists.


“Your ideas are all right in theory, but they are riot practicable; men need some tangible power to govern them and force them to respect the. social contract.” Such is the objection urged against us as a last resort by advocates of the present social order, when after thorough discussion we have answered their arguments and demonstrated that the worker can hope for no sensible improvement of his lot while the machinery of the present social system is preserved. “Your ideas are all right, but they are not practicable; man is not yet sufficiently developed to live in such an ideal state. In order to put them into practice human beings must first have become perfect,” is added by many other persons, undoubtedly sincere, but who misled by education and habit, see only the difficulties and are not yet sufficiently convinced of the principles to work for their realization. And in addition to these avowed adversaries and these indifferentists who may become friends, there rises up a third category of persons more dangerous than declared opponents. These latter pretend to be animated with enthusiasm for our ideas; they loudly assert that nothing can be greater, that the present organization is worthless and must vanish before the new idea, that it is the goal towards which humanity is tending, etc. “But,” they add, “it is not immediately practicable; humanity must be prepared for it, brought to understand this happy condition;” and under this pretext of being practical they seek to revive those reform projects which we have just shown to be illusory. They perpetuate existing prejudices by flattering those to whom they speak, and seek personally to profit as much as possible from the present situation; before long their ideal vanishes to make room for the instinct towards the preservation of the existing order of things. Unfortunately it is but too true that those ideas which are the end and aim of our aspirations are not immediately realizable. The number of persons who have understood them is yet too small a minority to exercise any immediate influence upon events or the course of our social organization. But is that any reason why we should not work for their realization? If one is convinced of the justice of his principles why not try to put them in practice? If everybody were to say, “It is not possible,” and passively accept the yoke of the present society, it is plain that the capitalistic order of things would still have many centuries to run.

If the first thinkers who fought the Church and the monarchy on behalf of natural ideas and independence; who faced the executioner and the scaffold in order to proclaim these, had said “it is not possible,” while dreaming of their ideal, we should, today, still be bound by mystical conceptions and seignorial rights. It is because there have always been people who were not “practical,” but singularly convinced of a truth and seeking to disseminate it, wherever they could, with all their might, that man, today, begins to be familiar with his own origin, and to get rid of his superstitions concerning divine and human authority. In one of the chapters of his really valuable book, “Outlines of a Morality without Authority or Duty,” M. Guyau develops this admirable idea: “He who does not act as he thinks, thinks incompletely.” Nothing can be truer. When one is thoroughly convinced of an idea, it is impossible for him, feeling it, not to seek to spread it and endeavor to realize it. How often do disputes arise between friends over trivial matters, in which each maintains his own view without any other motive than the conviction that he is in the right of the matter. Yet to please one’s friend, or even to avoid wounding him, it would cost nothing to let him speak his mind without either approving or disapproving; since the thing he maintains is of no real importance to our convictions, why not let him have his way? And this we often do in a conversation concerning things about which we have no fixed opinion; but directly something about which we have an opinion comes up, presto! we take sides and dispute with our best friend in defense of our own opinion. Now, if people act this way about trifles, how much stronger must be the impulse received when it is a question of opinions which have to do with the future of all humanity, the enfranchisement of our class, our posterity, and ourselves!

Truly we understand that not every one can bring the same amount of resistance to bear in the struggle, the same degree of energy in combating existing institutions. Temperaments and characters are not all moulded alike. The difficulties are so great, poverty so severe, persecutions so multiplied, that we comprehend how there must be degrees in efforts towards the propaganda of what is admitted to be true and just. But acts are always in proportion to the impulse received and the intensity of one’s faith in his beliefs. Very often one may be deterred by considerations of one’s family, one’s relations, or the necessities of earning one’s daily bread; but whatever be the force of these considerations, if one is really a man they will never go so far as to make him swallow all the infamies that spread out before his eyes. There comes a time when one sends considerations to the devil, remembering that he is a man and that he had dreamed of something better than what he has been compelled to submit to. —He who is incapable of making any sacrifice for the principles he claims to profess, does not really believe in them at all; he decorates himself with the label merely for show, because at some time it looked well, or because he pretends to justify certain vices, by the help of these principles: beware of taking him into confidence,—he will deceive you.

As to those who seek to profit by existing institutions, ostensibly for the purpose of aiding the propaganda of new ideas, they are ambitious knaves who flatter the future in order to enjoy the present in peace.

It is, then, quite plain that our ideas are not immediately realizable; we do not hesitate to admit it. But they will become so through the energy .exerted by those who will understand them. The greater the intensity of the propaganda the nearer the hour of realization. It is not by yielding to existing institutions that we shall do battle with them, nor yet by hiding our light under a bushel. To fight these institutions, to work for the advancement of new ideas we must have energy; this energy can come from nothing but conviction. Those, then, who already have the conviction must find their men and labor to impart it to them.

Reforms being inapplicable, as we think we have shown, It would hence be conscious deception to recommend them to the workers. Furthermore we know that the force of circumstances will infallibly drive the workers to a revolution: crises, enforced idleness, the development of machinery, political complications, all conspire to throw the workers upon the street, and compel them to revolt in order to affirm their right to existence. Now, since the revolution is inevitable and all reforms illusory, nothing remains but to prepare for the struggle; that is what we are doing by moving directly towards our object, leaving to the ambitious the business of carving out positions and sinecures for themselves from the misery they pretend they would assuage.

Just here, however, we anticipate an objection: “If you recognize that your ideas are not yet ready to be put in practice,” it will be said, “are you not preaching abnegation to the present generation for the sake of future generations, in asking them to strive for an idea whose immediate realization you cannot guarantee to them?” In nowise do we preach abnegation; we merely refuse to delude ourselves as to the facts, nor are we willing to encourage enthusiasts in deceiving themselves. We take the “acts as they are, analyze and set them forth thus:—A class which owns all and is unwilling to give up anything on the one side; on the other side a class which produces all, possesses nothing, and has no other alternative than a cowardly cringing to its exploiters, slavishly waiting for them to throw it. a bone to gnaw, having no longer dignity, pride, or any quality which uplifts human character, or else to revolt and imperatively demand what is refused to all its genuflections. For those who think only of their own personality, .those who want to enjoy themselves at any price and no matter how, there is nothing pleasant in the alternative. We would advise all such to yield to the exactions of present society, to try to chip out their own little niche, not to look where they plant their feet, not to be afraid of crushing those who hinder them; such people have nothing in common with us. But to those who think they can be really free only when their liberty ceases to trammel the liberty of the weakest of their fellows; to those who cannot be happy until they know that the pleasures in which they delight have not cost some disinherited one his tears, to them we say that there is no abnegation on the part of any one who recognizes that one must struggle to be free.

We proclaim this material fact, that there can be no enfranchisement of humanity save through the application of our principles; it rests with humanity to decide whether it will free itself completely, at one stroke, or whether there must forever be a privileged minority which will profit by all its progress at the expense of those who are dying of want while producing for others. Shall we be the ones to see the morning shine? Will it be the present generation, or that which follows it or a still later one? We do not know, we do not care; it will be those who will have enough energy and courage in their breasts to want to be free, who will find the way to obtain freedom.


Most assuredly what we have just said in the preceding chapter is contrary to all the language of political parties, which promise mountains and marvels, whose meanest reform is bound to bring an Edenic period to those that shall have supported it. But we who have no personal expectations to realize from the infatuation of the masses, we who want them to be able to guide themselves, we do not need to seek for means to delude them. To give more force to our thoughts, more direction to our acts, we must see our way clearly, warding off all illusions, freeing ourselves from every prejudice which might lead us astray. Our ideas can only be rendered applicable through the energy exerted in spreading and diffusing them by those who understand them. Success depends upon the strength we shall put into the service of the revolution; but since we cannot exert this strength immediately, since we cannot at once pass from theory to practice, it must be admitted that there are obstacles in the way. Were our ideas immediately realizable we should be altogether inexcusable in not attempting the solution without further delay. Now, whatever these difficulties may be, they are the things we must find out in order to surmount rather than deny them. And moreover that we do make propaganda is exactly in order to be able to put our ideas into practice, for if they were immediately realizable, the force of circumstances alone would suffice. We must get used to looking at things coldly, and not persist in regarding the object of our desires through magnifying glasses, and the thing to be dreaded through the little end of the lorgnette. It is the truth alone that we are seeking. If we deceive ourselves we also deceive others, and the revolution thus brought about would have to be begun all over again.

Generally it is only when they are at the end of their arguments, that our opponents advance the objection of the impracticability of our ideas; and we must admit that this objection is always embarrassing,—not in reality but in appearance; for in our present society our ideas do indeed appear utopian. It is very hard for a person who has never looked beyond existing arrangements to be able to understand how people could live .without government, laws, judges, policemen, or rod of any sort, without money or any representative of values, seeing we have so much trouble to get along in the world now, when the laws are supposed to aim at simplifying relations. We cannot answer this objection with facts, because what we desire is still theory. We may instance the tendencies which are carrying humanity along, enumerate the attempts which society has made on a small scale; but what value can these have for the biased mind whose aspirations never go beyond the amelioration of that which is?

Deny the force of the objection? That would be acting like the ostrich; the objection would still be there!—Answer with sophistry? We should be driven into a corner from which it would be impossible to get out, except by more sophistries. And our principles could never gain anything by such tricks. Since we wish to elucidate our ideas, to be able to answer every objection, we must search for all the arguments which can be brought against us, bring them up ourselves even, in order to answer them as best we can. But above all we must seek to be clear and exact, and not to be afraid of the “true” truth, since it is that we are seeking. We assert that our ideas rest upon the truth, and we must prove it by searching for that truth anywhere and everywhere.

We are bound to admit that such a declaration is not likely to attract the crowd nor stir up the masses; and some of our comrades may accuse us of wanting to cast discouragement and despair among our ranks, because we do not conceal the weak points in our theory. These reproaches can proceed only from a remnant of the education received from political parties. Why promise what is not in our power to keep, and as a consequence create in advance a reaction which would turn against our ideal? If we were a political party anxious to get into power, we might make a lot of promises to people in order to get ourselves carried to the top; but it is u different thing with Anarchy; we have nothing to promise, nothing to ask, nothing to give. And when after having pointed out the facts which demonstrate the tendency of humanity towards this ideal, our opponents object that our ideas are impossible, nothing remains to us but to come back to the proofs of the abuses proceeding from all our institutions, the falsity of the bases upon which these rest, the emptiness of these reforms by which charlatans would divert the people’s attention, and to remind them of the alternative open to them,—either to continue to submit to exploitation or to revolt,—at the same time demonstrating to them that the success of this revolution will depend upon the energy with which they “ will” the realization of what they know to be good. This is our task: the rest depends on others, not on us.

For our own part we are not exactly partisans of a propaganda accomplished by means of sonorous or sentimental phrases; their effect is to make people hope for an immediate triumph, which is impossible. They enter the movement, all fire, imagining the end will be reached tomorrow morning; then one by cue they disappear, and no more is heard of them. How many have we seen join the groups during the last dozen years who could talk of nothing but “overthrowing, like Sampson, the pillars of the temple!” Where are they today?

Our ideal is to fulfill a less brilliant and grandiose task, but a more lasting one. Instead of confining our efforts to capturing people through sentiment, we seek above all to win them through logic and reason. We certainly do not want to underrate those whose ability consists in winning people through an appeal to feeling. To each his task, according to his temperament and his conceptions. But for ourselves we prefer securing conviction rather than belief. All those who take part in the propaganda should know what difficulties await them, that they may be ready to meet them and not be discouraged by the first obstacle in the way. Long and arduous it stretches out before our gaze; and before girding one’s loins for the march it would be well to consult one’s powers of endurance; for there will be victims whose blood will dye the rugged places and the turnings of the road, and corpses will mark its stages. Let those whose courage is weak remain behind; they can only be a hindrance to the advancing column.

Another very generally accepted prejudice among Anarchists is to consider the masses as plastic dough, which may be moulded at will and about which there is no necessity of troubling oneself. This notion comes from the fact that, having made one step in advance of the rest, these people consider themselves in a way as prophets, and as much more intelligent than common mortals. “We shall make the masses do so-and-so,” “we shall lead them at our backs,” etc. Verily a dictator would not talk differently. This way of regarding the masses is an inheritance from our authoritarian past. Not that we wish to deny the influence of minorities upon the crowd; it is because we are convinced of such influence that we are so concerned. But we think that, in the time of revolution, the only weight the Anarchists can have with the masses will be through action: putting our ideas in practice, preaching by example; by this means only can the crowd be led. Yet we should be thoroughly aware that, in spite of all, these acts will have no effect upon the masses unless their understanding has been thoroughly prepared by a clear and well-defined propaganda, unless they themselves stand on their own feet, prompted by ideas previously received. Now, if we shall succeed in disseminating our ideas, their influence will make itself felt; and it is only on condition that we know how to explain and render them comprehensible that we shall have any chance of sharing in the social transformation. Hence we need not be afraid of not obtaining followers, but rather to be on the watch for hindrance from those who consider themselves leaders.

In times of revolution its precursors are always outdone by the masses. Let us spread our ideas, explain them, elucidate them, remodel them if necessary. Let us not fear to look the truth in the face. And this propaganda, far from alienating the adherents of our cause, cannot but help to attract thereto all who thirst after justice and liberty.

[1] We shall not cite the facts in question here, having no intention of making a resume of them and more particularly desiring to explain how we understand the family of the future. Those readers who wish to study the question more deeply may refer to the works of Letourneau: Sociology” and “Evolution of the Family;” and to that of Elie Reclus: “Primitive Folk,” in which they will also find references to the sources from which these authors have drawn.

[2] Logically, the explanation of the manner of raising children in future society as we understand it, should be inserted here; but this question being treated in “Society on the Morrow of the Revolution,” we refer the reader to the article: “Children in the New Society.”

[3] I do not know whether Jean Grave had seen Prof. Lombroso’s article on the “Physiognomy of the Chicago Anarchists,” one of a aeries on “Criminal Anthropology,” published in the Monist, Chicago, April, 1891, wherein he admits in a foot-note that his analysis was based upon portraits in Capt. Schaack’s book, which, as he had learned later, were incorrect!—Translator.

[4] G. de Molinari, “Political Evolution in the Nineteenth Century.” This work must have appeared in book form since its publication in the Journal des Economistes.

[5] The same, page 70.

[6] The same, page 63.

[7] The same, page 68.

[8] The same, page 68.

[9] These exploits have a worthy counterpart in the present brutal war of the Americana againat the Filipinos.—Proofreader.

[10] Since the above was written the famous Zola trial has given a farther demonstration of the government’s intention to make Dreyfus the scapegoat of its Judases in high places.—Translator.

[11] In the United States army this pleasing little ceremony does not take place at roll-call, but at “inspection,” and if anyone be sent to the guardhouse for “clothes offenses” he is fined by the captain or given so many days incarceration.—Translator.

[12] The hospital inspection has been abolished in the United States army. —Translator.

[13] This officer corresponds most nearly to the sergeant of the guard in the United States army, I believe, whose term, however, lasts only twenty-four hours.—Translator.

[14] have here substituted United States army terms for the French translations as being more adapted to American soldiers.—Translator.

[15] Wax plays a great role in the army. This reminds us of an officer of a company of marines who announced to his men that there being a surplus in the commissary the rations were to be increased from the next day on, and it was his duty to see that they should touch them up with—wax and enamel!

[16] The sort of paralysis here alluded to is especially prevalent in France, and is technically called Landry’s Paralysis. The patient loses control of the urinary organs.—Translator.

[17] It is to be regretted that the author did not give his authority for this large estimate. Prof. Cope the American paleontologist once said in my bearing that the approximate time of man’s presence on earth, so far as known, was thirty-two thousand years.—Translator.

[18] The adage smacks somewhat of the nation of cooks; in oar ruder Anglo-Saxon, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”—Translator.

[19] The author’s manner of rejecting the Jesuit doctrine reminds me of the reply of Justus Schwab to the query, “Does the end justify the means?” He answered: “That depends on the end.”—Translator.

[20] See Chas. Letourneau’a “Origin of Property.”

[21] Readers of Victor Hugo will recollect Cambronne’s answer at Waterloo; those who do not know “Les Miserables” may be informed that Anthony Comstock would not allow me to print it.—Translator.