That the Governments at present existing ought to be abolished, so that Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity should no longer be empty words but become living realities, and that all forms of government as yet tried have only been so many forms of oppression, and ought to be replaced by a new form of grouping, so far all who have a brain and temperament ever so little revolutionary unanimously agree. In truth one does not need to be much of an innovator in order to arrive at this conclusion; the vices of the governments of to-day, and the impossibility of reforming them, are too evident to be hidden from the eyes of any reasonable observer. And as regards overturning governments it is well-known that at certain epochs that can be down without much difficulty; there are times when governments crumble to pieces almost of themselves, like houses of cards, before the breath of the people in revolt. That has been seen clearly seen clearly in 1848 and in 1870; and will soon be seen again.

To overturn a government — this for a revolutionary middle-class man is everything, for us it is only the beginning of the Social Revolution. The machine of the State once out of gear, the hierarchy of functionaries disorganized and not knowing in what direction to take a step, the soldiers having lost confidence in their officers — in a word the whole army of the defenders of capital once routed — then it is that the grand work of destruction of all the institutions which serve to perpetuate economic and political slavery will become ours. The possibility of living freely being attained, what will revolutionists do next?

To this question the Anarchists alone give the proper answer, “No Government, Anarchy” All the others say “A Revolutionary Government!” and they only differ as to the form to be given to that government. Some decide for a government elected by universal suffrage in the State or in the Commune; others decide on a Revolutionary Dictature.

* * *

A Revolutionary Government! These are two words which sounds very strange in the ears of those who really understand what the Social Revolution means, and what a government means. The words contradict each other, destroy each other. We have seen of course many despotic governments — it is the essence of all government to take the side of the re-action against the Revolution, and to have a tendency toward despotism — but such a thing as a revolutionary government has never been seen, and the reason is that the Revolution — synonym of “disorder” of upsetting and overthrowing of venerated institutions in a few days, meaning the demolition by violence of the established forms of property, the destruction of castes, the reapid transformation of received ideas about morality, or rather about the hypocrisy which takes the place of it, individual liberty and freedom of action — is precisely the opposite, the very negation, of government, this being the synonym of “establkished order,” of conservatism, of the maintenance of existing institutions, the negation of free initiative and individual action. And yet we continually hear this white blackbird spoken of, as if a “revolutionary government” were the simplest thing in the world, as common and as well-known to al as Royalty, the Empire and the Papacy!

That the so-called revolutionists of the middle-class should preach this idea is nothing strange. We know well what they understand by Revolution. They understand by it a bolstering up of their republic, the taking possession by the so-called republicans of the lucrative employments reserved to-day for the Bonapartists or Royalists. It means at the most the divorce of Church and State, replaced by the concubinage of the two, and above all for that of the future administrators of these goods; perhaps it may mean the referendum, or some other political machinery of the same kind. But that revolutionary socialists should make themselves the apostles of such an idea — we can only explain by supposing one of two things. Either they are imbued with prejudices which they have imbibed without knowing it from literature and above all from history, written to suit middle-class ideas; and still possessed with the spirit of servility, product of ages of slavery, they cannot even imagine themselves free. Or else they do not really desire this Revolution which they have always on their lips, they would be content with a simple plastering up of present institutions, provided that they would secure power for themselves, leaving to the future to decide what they should do to satisfy “the beast” called the People. They only go against the Governors of the present time in order to take their places. With these people we care not to argue. We will then only speak to those who honestly deceive themselves.

Let us begin with the first of the two forms of “Revolutionary Government” which is advocated — the elected government.

* * *

The power of Royalty or some other we will suppose has just been overturned, the army of the defenders of capital is routed; everywhere there is fermentation, discussion of public affairs, everywhere a desire to march onward — new ideas arise, the necessity of important changes is perceived — it is necessary to act, it is necessary to begin without pity the work of demolition, in order to prepare the ground for the new life. But what do they propose to us to go? To convoke the people to elections, to elect at once a government and confide to it the work which we all of us, and each of us, should undertake of our own initiative.

This is what Paris did after the 18th of March 1871. “I will never forget” said a friend to us “these delightful moments of deliverance. I came down from my upper chamber in the Latin Quarter to join that immense open-air club which filled the Boulevards from one end of Paris to the other. Everyone talked about public affairs; all mere personal preoccupations were forgotten; no more was thought of buying or selling; all felt ready body and soul to advance toward the future. Men of the middle-class even, carried away by the general enthusiasm saw with joy a new world opened up. ‘If it is necessary to make a social revolution’ the said, ‘make it then. Put all things in common; we are ready for it.’ All the elements of the revolution were there, it was only necessary to set them to work. When I returned to my lodging at night I said to myself “How dine is humanity after al, but no one knew it; it has always been calumniated;’ Then came the elections, the members of the Commune were named — and then little by little the ardor of devotion, and the desire for action were extinguished. Everyone returned to his usual task saying to himself “Now we have an honest government, let it act for us” — What followed everyone knows.

Instead of acting for themselves, instead of marching forwards, instead of advancing in the direction of a new order of things, the people, confiding in their governors, entrusted to them the charge of taking the initiative — this was the first consequence of the inevitable result of elections. Let us see now what these governors did who were invested with the confidence of all.

* * *

Never were elections more free than those of March, 1871. The opponents of the Commune admit it themselves. Never was the great mass of electors more influenced with the desire to place in power the best men, men for the future, true revolutionists. And so they did. All well-known Revolutionists were elected by immense majorities; Jacobins Blanquists, Internationals, all the three revolutionary divisions were represented in the Council of the Commune. No election could give a better government.

But what was the result of it? Shout up in the City Mansion, charged to proceed after the forms established by preceding governments, these ardent revolutionists, these reformers found themselves smitten with incapacity and sterility. With all their good will and their courage they did not even know how to organize the defense of Paris. Of course people now blame the men, the individuals for this; but it was not the men who were the cause of this failure — it was the system carried out.

In fact universal suffrage, when it is quite free, can only produce, at best, an assembly which represents the average of the opinions which at the time are held by the mass of the people; and this average at the outbreak of the Revolution, has only a vague idea of the work to be accomplished, without understanding at all how they ought to undertake it. Ah, if the bulk of the nation, of the Commune, could only understand before the movement what was necessary to be done as soon as the government should be overturned! If this dream of the utopians of the chair could be realized we never would have had bloody revolutions; the will of the bulk of the nation once expressed the rest would submit to it with a good grace. But this is not how things are done. The Revolution bursts out long before a general understanding has been come to, and those who have a clear idea of what should be done the next day are only a very small minority. The great mass of the people have as yet only a general idea of the end which they wish realized, without knowing much how to advance toward that end, nor much confidence in the direction to follow. The practical solution will not be found, will not be made clear until the change will have already begun; it will be the product of the Revolution itself, of the people in action — or else it will be nothing, the brain of a few individuals being absolutely incapable of finding solutions which can only spring from the life of the people.

This is the situation which is reflected in the body elected by universal suffrage, even if it had not all the vices inherent in representative governments in general. The few men who represent the revolutionary idea of the epoch find themselves swamped among the representatives of the revolutionary schools of the past, and of the existing order of things. These men who would be so necessary among the people, particularly in the days of the Revolution, to sow broadcast their ideas, to put the mass in movement, to demolish the institutions of the past — find themselves shut up in a Hall, vainly discussing how to wrest concessions from the moderated, and how to convert their enemies, while there is really only one way of inducing them to accept the new idea — namely to put it in execution. The government becomes a parliament with all the vices of a middle-class parliament. Far from being a “revolutionary” government it becomes the greatest obstacle to the Revolution, and at last the people finds itself compelled to put it out of the way, to dismiss those that but yesterday it acclaimed as its chosen. But it is not so easy to do so. The new government which has hastened to organize a new administration in order to extend its domination and make itself to be obeyed, does not understand giving up so easily. Jealous of maintaining its power it clings to it with all the energy of an institution which has not yet had time to fall into senile decay. It decides to oppose force with force, and there is only one means then to dislodge it, namely, to take up arms, to make another revolution in order to dismiss those in whom the people had placed all their hopes.

There you see the Revolution divided against itself! After losing precious time in delays, it now loses its strength in intestine divisions between the friends of the new government, and those who see the necessity of dissolving it. And all this happens because it has not been understood that a new life requires new forms; that it is not by clinging to ancient forms that a revolution can be carried out! All this for not having understood the incompatibility of revolution and government, for not having seen that the one is, under whatever form it presents itself, the negation of the other, and that outside of Anarchy there is no such thing as revolution.

It is just the same with regard to that other form of “revolutionary government” so often extolled — a Revolutionary Dictature.

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Apr 28 2012 02:49


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