To imagine that a government can be overturned by a secret society, and that the secret society can take its place, is an error into which have fallen all the revolutionary organizations which sprang to life in the bosom of the republican middle-class since 1820. And yet facts abound which prove what an error it is. What devotion, what abnegation, what perseverance was not displayed by the republican secret societies of the Young Italy Party! And yet all this immense work, all these sacrifices made by the youth of Italy, before which even those of the Russian Revolutionary youth pale, all the corpses piled up in the casemated of Austrian fortresses, and under the knife and bullets of the executioner — all this only brought into power the crafty, robbing middle-class and royalty!
It was the same in Russia. It is difficult to find in history a secret organization which has obtained, with such limited means, results so immense as those attained by the Russian youth, or which has shewn such energy or such powerful activity as their executive committee. It has shaken a colossus which appeared invulnerable — Czarism; and it has rendered autocratic government henceforth impossible in Russia. And still it is only simple fools who imagine that the Executive Committee will get into power when the crown of Alexander III is dragged in the more. Other men — the prudent ones, who strove to make a name for themselves while the revolutionists laid and spring mine or perished in Siberia, these others — the intriguers, the talkers, the lawyers, the journalists who now and again shed a few tears very soon dried up, on the tomb of the heroes, and make believe they are friends of the people — these are the men who will come and take the place left vacant by the Government, and will shout “stand back” to those “unknown persons” who will have prepared they way for the Revolution.
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It is inevitable, it cannot be otherwise. For it is not secret societies nor even Revolutionary organizations that can give finishing blown to governments. Their functions, their historic mission is to prepare men’s minds for the Revolution and then when men’s minds are prepared and external circumstances are favourable, the final rush is made, not by the group that initiated the movement, but by the mass of the people altogether outside of the society. On the 31st of August Paris was deaf to the appeals of Blanqui. Four day later he proclaimed the fall of the government; but then the Blanquists were no longer the initiators of the movement; it was the people, the millions who dethrone the man of December, and proclaimed the humbugs whose names for two hears had resounded in their ears. When a Revolution is ready to burst out, when the movement is felt in the air, when its success is already certain, then a thousand new men, on whom the organization has never exercised any direct influence, come and join the movement, like birds pf prey coming to the field of battle to feed on the victims. These help to make the final effort, but it is not in the ranks of the sincere and irreconcilable conspirators, it is among the men on the fence that they look for their leaders. The conspirators who still are possessed with the prejudice of a dictature work then unconsciously to put into power their own enemies.
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But if all this that we have just said is true with regard to political revolutions or rather outbreaks, it is much more true with regard to the Revolution we desire — the Social Revolution. To allow any government to be established, a strong and recognized power, it is to paralyse the work of the Revolution at once. The good that this government could do is nil, and the evil immense.
For what is it we have on hand? What do we understand by Revolution? It is not a simple change of governors. It is the taking possession by the people of all social wealth. It is the abolition of all the forces which have so long hampered the development of Humanity. But is it by decrees emanating from a government that this immense economic revolution can be accompolished? We have seen in the past century the Polish revolutionary dictator Kosciusko decree the abolition of personal servitude, yet the servitude continued to exist for eighty years after this decree. We have the Convention, the omnipotent Convention, the terrible Convention as its admirers call it, decree the equal division per head of all he Communal lands taken back from the nobles. Like so many other this decree remained a dead letter because in order to carry it out it was necessary that the proletarians of the rural districts should make an entirely new Revolution, and Revolutions are not made by the force of decrees. In order that the taking possession of social wealth should become an accomplished fact it is necessary that the people should have their hands free, that they would shake off the slavery to which they are too much habituated, that they act according to their own will, and march forward without waiting for orders from anyone. And it is this very thing which a dictature would prevent however well integrated it might be, while it would be incapable of advancing in the slightest degree the march of the Revolution.
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But if government, were it even an ideal Revolutionary government, creates no new force and is of no use whatever in the work of demolition which we have to accomplish, still less can we count on it for the work of reorganization which must follow that of demolition. The economic change which will result from the Social Revolution will be so immense and so profound, it must so change all the relations based to-day on property and exchange, that it is impossible for one or any individual to elaborate the different social forms, which must spring up in the society of the future. This elaboration of new social forms can only be made by the collective work of the masses. To satisfy the immense variety of conditions and needs which will spring up as soon as private property shall be abolished, it is necessary to have the collective suppleness of mind of the whole people. Any authority external to it will only be an obstacle, only a trammel on the organic labour which must be accomplished, and beside that a source of discord and hatred.
But it is full time to give up this illusion so often roved false and soften dearly paid for, of a Revolutionary Government. I is time to admit, once and for all, this political axiom that a government cannot be revolutionary. People talk of the convention, but let us not forget that the few measures taken by the Convention, little revolutionary though they were, were only the sanction of action accomplished by the people who at the time trampled under foot all governments. As Victor Hugo has said, Danton pushed forward Robespierre, Marat watched and pushed on Danton, and Marat himself was pushed on by Cimourdain — this personification of the clubs of wild enthusiasts and rebels. Like all the governments that preceded it and followed it, the Convention was only a drag on the action of the people
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The facts which history teach us are so conclusive in this respect, the impossibility of a Revolutionary Government and the injurious effect of that which is called by the name are so evident, that it would seem difficult to explain the determination with which a certain school calling itself Socialist maintains the idea of a government. But the explanation is very simple. It is that Socialists though they say they are the followers of this school, have an entirely different conception from ours of the Revolution which we have to accomplish. For them, as for them idle-class Radicals, the Social Revolution is rather an affair of the future about which we have not to think much at present. What they dream of in their inmost thoughts, though they don’t dare to confess it, is something entirely different. It is the installation of a government like that of Switzerland or the United States, making some attempts at appropriation in favour of the State of what they call “public services.” It is something after the ideal of Bismark. It is a compromise made in advance between the Socialistic aspirations of the masses and the series of the middle class. They would indeed wish the appropriation to be complete, but they have not courage to attempt it; so they put it off to the next century, and before the battle they enter into negociation with the enemy.
For us who understand that the moment is near for giving a mortal blow to the middle-class, that the time is not far off when the people will be able to lay their hands on all social wealth and reduce the class of exploiters to a state of impotence, for us I say there can be no hesitation in the matter. We fling ourselves body and soul into the Social Revolution, and as on the road we follow, a government, whatever may be its device, is an obstacle, we will sweep from our path all ambitious men, however they shall come to thrust themselves upon us as governors of our destinies.
Away with Governments; make room for the People, and Anarchy!