Fourth Letter


One of the greatest services rendered by bourgeois utilitarianism is, as I have said is to have killed the religion of the State, patriotism. Patriotism is, as we know, an ancient virtue, born within the Greek and Roman republics, where there had never been any real religion other than that of the State, nor any object of worship except the State.

What is the State? It is, the metaphysicians and doctors of law answer, the public thing, the collective goods and interests, the rights of everyone as opposed to the dissolving action of the interests and selfish passions of each individual. It is justice and the realization of morality and virtue on earth. Therefore the individual can perform no more sublime act or greater duty than to devote himself, sacrifice himself, to the ideal of dying for the sake of the triumph and the power of the State. This, in a few words, is the whole of the theology of the State. Let us now see if this political theology does not, like the religious theology, hide under its very beautiful and poetic appearance quite common and quite dirty realities.

We will begin by analyzing the idea itself of the State, as its advocates represent it to us. This is the sacrifice of the natural liberty and interests of each component -- of individuals, and of such comparatively small collective units as associations, communes and provinces -- to the interests and freedom of everyone, to the prosperity of the great whole. But what, in reality, is this everyone, this whole? It is the agglomeration of all the individuals and all the tightly knit human collectivities that compose it. But what actually becomes of the whole at the moment when all individual and local interests have been sacrificed in order to compose it and coordinate themselves within it? It is not the living whole, that allows each one to breathe at his ease, and becomes more fruitful, more powerful, and freer, the more widely it develops within itself the full liberty and prosperity of every man. It is not the natural human society that confirms and augments the life of every man by the life of all. On the contrary, it is the immolation of every individual, as of all local associations, the destructive abstraction of living society, the limitation, or rather, complete negation of life and all the parts that compose the "everyone," for the so-called good of everyone. It is the State, the altar of political religion, upon which the natural society is always immolated: a devouring universality, living upon human sacrifices, like the Church. The State, I repeat, is the younger brother of the Church.

In order to prove this identity of Church and State, I beg the reader to be so good as to note that the one, like the other, is founded essentially upon the idea of the sacrifice of life and of natural right, and that both have the same principle as their point of departure: that of the natural wickedness of men, which can be vanquished, according to the Church, only by divine grace and the death of the natural man in God, and according to the State, only by law and the immolation of the individual upon the altar of the State. Both strive to transform man, the one into a saint, the other into a citizen. But the natural man must die, for the religions of the Church and of the State unanimously pronounce his sentence.

Such, in its ideal purity, is the identical theory of the Church and of the State. It is a pure abstraction; but all historical abstractions presuppose historical facts. These facts, as I said in my last article, are of an utterly real and brutal nature: their nature is violence, conquest, spoliation and reduction to servitude. Man is formed in such a way, that he cannot settle for merely acting, but must also explain and legitimize his acts before his own conscience and the eyes of the world. Religion came along, therefore, to bless the acts that had been performed, and thanks to this benediction, the iniquitous and brutal deed is transformed into right. Juridical science and political right are, as is well known, issues of theology first of all, and secondly of metaphysics, which is nothing but a disguised theology, a theology that makes the pretense of not being absurd and vainly strives to give its content a scientific aspect.

Let us now examine the role this abstraction, the State, parallel to the historical abstraction called the Church, has played and continues to play in real life, in human society.

The State is, as I have said, by its very principle an immense cemetery in which all manifestations of individual and local life, all the interests of the parts that together constitute society, come to sacrifice themselves, to die and be buried. It is the altar upon which real liberty and the well-being of peoples are immolated for the sake of political grandeur; and the more complete this immolation, the more perfect is the State, I conclude from this, and it is my conviction, that the Empire of Russia is the State par excellence, the State without rhetoric and without slogans, the must perfect State in Europe. Any State, on the other hand, in which the people can still breathe, is, from the standpoint of the ideal, an incomplete State, just as all the other Churches are, in comparison with the Roman Catholic Church, only partly realized as Churches.

The State is, as I have said, a voracious abstraction of the life of the people; but in order for an abstraction to come into being, develop and continue to exist in the real world, there must be a real collective body interested in its existence. This cannot be the great mass of the people, since they are precisely its victims; it must be a privileged body, the sacerdotal body of the State, the governing and political class that is to the State what the sacerdotal class of religion, the priesthood, is to the Church.

And what do we really see in all of history? The State has always been the patrimony of some privileged class, whether sacerdotal, noble, or bourgeois, and, in the end, when all the other classes have been used up, of a bureaucratic class. The State descends or rises up, depending upon how you look at it, into the condition of a machine. It is absolutely necessary for its welfare that there be some privileged class interested in its existence. And it is precisely the solitary interest of this privileged class that we call patriotism.

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Jul 21 2005 11:35


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