Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Anselme Bellegarrigue, "The Revolution" (1 of 4)

Anarchy: A Journal of Order

Anselme Bellegarrigue

Issue Two


The editor of Anarchy, tackling head-on a word which the politicians have used to intimidate the population and hold it for ransom, has proposed two things:

First, to prove that order is a popular and anti-governmental element. The best argument that can be furnished in support of this thesis is that the monarchist papers openly greet the civil war as a Providence.

Second, to establish that the Revolution is purely and simply a matter of business. The indifference and political skepticism to which the people abandon themselves more and more, the disgust that they show for the quibbles and the contempt they profess for the men who want to command them, come to corroborate that opinion and show that the editor of Anarchy is in agreement with public sentiment.

The royalist parties being historically and materially ruined, it is not necessary to combat them. What it is important to destroy is the pretension of the new parties who, under the pretext of burying royalty, wish to inherit its power. Anarchy has then to unmask the revolutionaries, for the benefit of the Revolution.

The old journalism is on its way out, hated by the interests that it has compromised, loaded with curses by the people, about whom it has understood nothing, damned by the civilization that it has fouled.

The old journalism understands nothing of finance, nor of industry, nor of commerce, nor practical philosophy; as the positive sciences are established, its dull ignorance is revealed and, in a few months, it will disappear in its own shame.

When the fictions are overwhelmed by the facts, the controversialists no longer have anything to say.




In theory, the Revolution is the development of well-being.

In practice, it has only been the extension of malaise.

The Revolution is supposed to enrich everyone: that is the idea.

The Revolution has ruined everyone: that is the fact.

Do you know why the revolutionary fact finds itself so strongly in dissonance with the idea?

Nothing is more simple: in theory, the revolution should make itself, and each social interest should furnish to it its part of the action; in practice, the Revolution has been made by a handful of individuals and submitted to the authority of a group of rhetoricians.

The essential genius of the Revolution is the acquisition of wealth; the dominant instinct of the revolutionaries is the hatred of riches, and this is precisely why, by becoming wealthy, the revolutionaries cease to be revolutionary. While each seeks to enrich himself by labor and industry, while everyone loudly demands the calm which multiplies transactions and constantly displaces wealth by mobilizing and developing it; while, in that way, the true Revolution, that of individual needs and interests, struggles with vigor against the nuisances and barriers of the tyrannical regulations of the governments, the revolutionaries arrive, a fateful tribe who, to satisfy their sole, sordid desire—to offer themselves as replacements in power for men already pushed aside by the force of things—halt the general advance, suspend the solemn manifestation of the public interests, paralyze the Revolution, complicate the legislative details which the social facts seek to suppress, and consolidate the governmental mastery that business was in the process of subjugating.

There are, in truth, no worse counter-revolutionaries than the revolutionaries; for there are no worse citizens than the envious.

This is not the place to examine in detail the period of ambition between 1789 and 1848. I have neither enough time nor space to give myself over to that review, from which it would follow, as it results from faits accomplis, that the European Revolution has been halted and the European governments consolidated by the revolutionary doctrinaires, men of the most sinister sort that ever existed. I will recount someday the history of those sixty years, and you will be surprised to see to what dark joke the western world has owed more than a half-century of ruinous troubles and bloody mystifications.

For the moment, limited by contemporary history, I will examine the event of 1848, which I would much less than a Revolution, since, from my point of view, the Revolution must be the ruin not just of a government, but of government as such, and since the evolution of 1848 has only been the consolidation of what it was a question of destroying, and which would indeed be destroyed today, if the movement of February 24 had not taken place. I would not, however, go so far as to say that that movement, accepted by all the citizens, would not have been able to turn to the profit of the Revolution; far from arguing that, I will strive on the contrary to demonstrate that it would have obliged the leaders of that movement to convert its governmental character into a character that was revolutionary, industrial or anarchic, which is all one.


In the last years of the reign of Louis-Philippe, the Revolution, — and by this word I mean the development of interests, — had so undermined the government that it split on all sides, and through its numerous fissures, badly repaired with the aid of the emergency laws, was introduced in continuous jets the free flood that should have carried it away.

Education felt itself restricted by academic regulation.

Worship balked under the yoke of the state.

Justice was ashamed of its contacts with politics.

Commerce and industry, tired of governmental supervision, already sought the means of freeing themselves from the routine of regulations and from the financial monopoly.

The arts and letters protested against a tyrannical protection which granted subsidies to favor and incapacity, while preventing true merit from producing itself.

And, in conjunction with all these other elements of public life, agriculture, their common mother, demanded a relief which could only be obtained by the suppression of various sections of the protectorate, and of the budgets allocated to that protectorate.

The manifestation of public needs has rendered the abuses of the tutelage so prominent; the social eddies caused by the administrative dikes were made so strong; the floating existences that the regulatory restrictions had created formed so formidable a logjam, that M. Guizot, to avoid an overflow, had been forced to buy, not only the parliamentary riverbed, but also and especially the source of that political river which carried the governmental ship. The minister of Louis-Philippe purchased the voter himself: official France was his, from the censitaire to the legislator, from the base to the summit.

Having reached this ultimate point of political appropriation, the government found itself cornered; the Revolution should necessarily have made it spit it all back up; I mean that the flood of interests should have submerged and overwhelmed it; there was no escape for it in new encroachments: everything was taken, everything except the social nation, the real France, the industrial ascendancy, the appetite for comfort—in a word, the Revolution.

Now that unassailable and unconquerable adversary, which the government finally found itself facing, that natural enemy which pressed it from all sides, the Revolution, has never had,—this must be well understood,—and can never have the name of a man.

It was called Mirabeau, it protested.

It was called Danton, it was indignant.

It was called Marat, it trembled.

It was called Robespierre, it roared.

In our time, it has been given the names of Ledru-Rollin, of Louis Blanc, and of Raspail. You see what it has done about that.

Bad luck to the man who presumes to make Revolution; for the Revolution is the people, and whoever has the audacity to try to personify the people commits the greatest assault that history has ever witnessed!

The Revolution is the flux of interests: no one can represent the interests; they are represented by themselves; the strength and intensity of their persistent and calm expression is the only revolutionary force that is possible, or even thinkable. Nothing is more pathetic, nothing is more ruinous than to see in the assemblies, in journalism, or in the street a few individuals boast of representing the interests of the people, and thus confining the Revolution within a radius of a few square feet. Interest is a notion that springs from the needs, the taste and the aptitudes of each. Thus it is a purely personal act that rejects all delegation. No one is capable of realizing any interest but their own. When a man appears who says to another man, “I am going to do your business,” it is clear that from the political or unguaranteed perspective, this businessman will make the affairs of the constituent his own business.

Interest being a purely personal and individually realizable fact, its revolutionary object is to lead to liberty of action. Now, can the liberty necessary to the realization of interest be personified in a public capacity in one or more delegates? No! One is no more the representative of the liberty of others than of their interests. Liberty is not a political principle; it is an individual fact. Man is free in the dependency of what he loves; he sacrifices his liberty to his interests daily, and he is truly free only as long as he has the option not to be so.

In this way, no one can pose as the representative of the liberty or the interests of others without becoming in the same instant an authority, and without being, consequently, caught red-handed in the act of government.

Thus, by confining—in an assembly, or in a club, or in a journal, or on the public square, or behind a barricade—the interest and the liberty that belong essentially to the public domain, one has confined the Revolution which, as I have already said, is nothing other than the flux of interests and of liberty, and by confining the Revolution, one has gelded it, neutralized it.

Thus, I have reason to say that there are no worse counter-revolutionaries than the revolutionaries.


The governmentalists of the monarchy and the Republic make an admirable attempt to persuade the people that their fortune is in the hands of authority; it is exactly the opposite that is true. Power possesses only what it takes from the people, and in order for the citizens to believe that they should pursue well-being by giving up what they possess, their good sense would have to be subjected to a profound upheaval.

It is true that the combination presented inevitably blinds populations by awakening the coarser instincts and agitating the base passions.

Something must be done, say the monarchists, the people are uneasy: we will think for them. Already the monarchists are posing as the Providence for the destitute masses, and naturally provoking in those masses a ferment of envy.

“The wealthy do not take care of you!” cry the republicans, addressing themselves to the subjugated population, “we will force them to give you a part of what they have!” Now the revolutionaries agree with the monarchists, and who proclaim the latter as the Providence of the masses.

Thus, the republicans and monarchists claim with a common accord that wealth must remain immobilized in a certain class of citizens and that all the rest of the population should live on charity: a disgraceful and degrading error which has engendered the right to work and to assistance, the counterpart of which is inevitably the monopoly of capital; for it is impossible that I should have to ask anyone for the right to work, if I have not previously recognized in someone the right to possess, by an immutable title, that with which and on which I would labor. It is not necessary to have much insight in order to understand that fact. Simple good sense will suffice.

It is from this error, which has divided the French nation into privileged and mendicant parties, that we get the idea of localizing the Revolution and making it the prerogative of a sect of doctrinaires. By denying to individual initiative the ability to displace and generalize wealth by multiplication, by turning in the tight circle of existing capital, without thinking about the capital to be created, by making the social question a question of envy instead of making it a question of emulation and courage, we have made ourselves believe in the efficacy of governmental initiative in the allocation of well-being; from that arises the necessity of government. But the more the revolutionaries want government to distribute, in other words to monopolize, the more also the monarchists want the government to monopolize, that is to distribute. One cannot be the master of the distribution of wealth without first being made master of wealth; distribution is thus first monopoly; from which it follows that the citizen Barbés and Mr. Léon Faucher profess exactly the same doctrine. In this way, the consolidation of the government is due to the double action of the royalists and the revolutionaries. Now, it must be clear that government is, in whatever hands, the negation of the Revolution, for a very simple reason: government is forced monopoly. The greatest enthusiast for redistribution will arrive at government, which I challenge him to divide. See for yourself.

No one can govern without relying on wealth; wealth is to government as columns are to a building, what legs are to the individual. Thus as soon as an individual, under the pretext of doing good for the poor, is driven to government, that individual must, in order to maintain the balance, rely on wealth. Now, how will he be able, from now on, to deprive the rich in order to profit the poor, since his own preservation rests with the full support, if not of personal, at least of financial monopoly?

Thus we see, as soon as the Revolution has been reduced to the slender and measly proportions of a movement of individuals, a transformation of proper names, it has gone astray; it has fallen into an abyss, and the worst of abysses, that of envy, laziness and mendicancy.

If, during the period of the reign of Louis-Philippe, the revolutionaries had set themselves to glorifying the industrial initiative of individuals, instead of developing stupid theses about the munificence of the State; if they had taught individuals to count only on themselves, instead of teaching them expect everything from the lame Providence of governments; if they had sought to produce some money-makers instead of driving the people to sterile controversy and shameful begging, liberty, which, whatever the sophists say, is a question of coins, and happiness which, whatever the idlers say, is a question of morality and labor, would have been universally established in France. And the government, forgotten in its corner, would hardly concern us. A people who conduct their own business is a people who govern themselves, and a people who govern themselves repeal and render obsolete, by this act alone, all the legislative jumble of which the popular agitation, much more than the genius of the men of State, had favored the conception.

After having indicated what, in my conviction, is the truth, that is to say: that the institution of government, shabby, decrepit and corrupt in 1848, was going, pushed by the force of things and the flux of interests, to disappear quietly and forever, if the untimely movement of the population hadn't uplifted and rejuvenated it, it remains for me to demonstrate how that movement, as governmental as it was, could only be revolutionary, industrial or anarchic.

[Continued in Part 2]

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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