Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Anselme Bellegarrigue, "The Revolution" (3 of 4)

Anarchy: A Journal of Order

Anselme Bellegarrigue

Issue Two
[continued from Part 2


The Revolution is the emancipation of the individual or it is nothing; it is the end of the political and social tutelage, or it means nothing. In this I am, and indeed must be, in agreement with everyone, even with those we are accustomed to call reactionaries and who are, after all, only minors promised to the tutelage of the self-styled democrats, as the democrats are today minors under the tutelage of the so-called reactionaries. From a national point of view, the names of the parties matter little; I meet here only some people who want to take hold one another, precisely in pour order to free themselves from one another. The means are brutal and their ineffectiveness is demonstrated by experience, but it is a certain fact that the desire to be emancipated is everywhere. Thus, the Revolution is universal, and it is for this reason, because it does not want to be localized, that it is the Revolution.

The Revolution being the end of tutelage, what must the Revolutionary logic be?

Will it be political opposition?

Will it be insurrectionary opposition?

It will be neither politics nor insurrection, I would respond, and I demonstrate:

Politics, in the usual meaning of the word, as a social or domestic question, is the art of governing people; it is the recognition of the minority of the public, and the code of the tutelage. It is the tutelage itself. To combat politics with politics, to battle the government with government, is to engage in politics and government. It is to confirm the tutelage, instead of abolishing it. It is to halt the Revolution, instead of accomplishing it. For, finally, what is the opposition, if it is not the critique, in other words, the government of the government?

Before the Revolution, all politics, like all governments, resemble one another and are equal, for the Revolution is, by principle, nature, character and temperament, the enemy of all politics and all government, whether social, domestic or internal. The Revolution has swallowed up the Estates-General, the Constituent Assembly, the Convention, the Directory, the Empire, the Restoration, Louis-Philippe, the provisional government and M. Cavaignac, and it will devour Louis Bonaparte and all the would-be governors who could come after him, for the Revolution, I repeat, is the negation of all political tutelage.

Thus, politics and government are not, and cannot be, Revolutionary means. Robespierre was as hostile to the Revolution as Guizot; and Ledru-Rollin has halted it no less than Mr. Baroche; for Robespierre and Ledru-Rollin were political men, government men, as much as Guizot et Baroche, from which it follows from the Revolutionary point of view that both belong to the traditional category of public tutors that it is a question of eliminating. The men who, either  in Parliament or in the press, make opposition to politics and government, are inevitably anti-Revolutionaries, for they engage in politics and government. They are involved in the heights of political and governmental complicity. They serve the cause of the tutelage and plead against emancipation.

That could appear paradoxical at first, but it is very true. When an orator of the opposition takes the floor against a piece of legislation which harms the common right or liberty, and when the writers of the opposition take up the pen to combat some governmental measure, they give to that measure, which they don’t know how to stop, the ultimate sanction of a public hearing. They give it its legal reason to be. To discuss is to combat, and whoever combats subscribes in advance to the law which must result from their defeat. Now, the defeat of the opposition is never in doubt. The government cannot be wrong.

All the legal oppressions, suppressions, and prohibitions which have been accomplished since the unfortunate invention of the parliamentary regime are due much more to the opposition than to the government. I say much more, because there are two senses in which these tyrannical measures are attributable to the opposition: first, because it is the opposition which has provoked them; and second, because the opposition regularly makes itself an accomplice in their adoption by debating them.


The parliamentary opposition was born of an error of logic, which the ambition of men has sadly had a great interest in propagating. The irregular minds and ardent hearts, stimulated by generosity and, too often also, by an envy of which, perhaps, they have not taken account, have believed, and persist in believing, that the Revolution or Liberty can be represented and localized in a legislative space. That is—I have said it above and I repeat it—a fatal mistake of the modern spirit. Liberty is not a social principle; it is only an individual fact. No one can represent any liberty but his own individual liberty. As soon as a man presents himself as representative of the liberty of others, he is already an authority. Now, the authority of liberty transforms itself and becomes at once the liberty of authority. In this case only the delegate is free. The magistrate absorbs the city.

Let us also note that by placing themselves alongside the parliamentary opposition on the terrain of the discussion of the acts of power, the writers of the opposite press engage in politics, in government, and that by imitating the government in the care that they take to name the country as guarantee for its acts, they truly displace that country which is social and not political, which makes industry and business and not controversy.

I will repeat then, after having sufficiently demonstrated it, that politics is not a Revolutionary means. The facts, moreover, come to the aid of my reasoning. The political history of the last sixty years confirms all that I have said. Thanks to politics, the question is still today what it was on the eve of the storming of the Bastille.

We come to the second question, regarding insurrection.

I said, in speaking of politics, nearly all there is to say about insurrection. Insurrection is the opposition in the street. Here it no longer discusses, but acts; it is always the same combat, only it has taken some material proportions. Victorious or vanquished, its triumph or defeat is summarized in the government, in the negation of the Revolution.

The insurrectional opposition is found to have exactly the same character as the parliamentary opposition, in the sense that it affirms the tutelage instead of denying it, that it denies the Revolution instead of affirming it, except that, in the confines of an assembly, the opposition only confirms the governmental principle, while in the street, it confirms the fact.

Insurrection is no more a Revolutionary means than politics and, here again, the facts come to the aid of my reasoning. Experience shows, indeed, that every insurrection has only served to strengthen and even, I must say, to aggravate the tutelage.

So it has become as urgent as it is rational to renounce, in order to accomplish the Revolution, the means, recognized as ineffective, of politics and insurrection.

These means, the ultimate recourse of the ambitious types improperly called revolutionaries, discarded, what remains? I will make that question the subject of a last examination.


I have said that the Revolution was the substitution of the individual for the traditional State; that definition will be within the reach of everyone when I explain what I mean by the traditional State.

The notion of the State, as we have inherited it, incorporates in a supreme magistracy, king, emperor, president, committee, assembly, all the elements of social life. In conformity with that notion, nothing is done, nothing is said, and nothing budges in the country except by virtue of laws emanating from that official personage; the reason of the functionary is the reason of the State and from now on, before thinking, before acting, before moving with an eye to their own good, individuals must think, act and move with an eye to the preservation of the magistrate, keystone of the public edifice. This is communism or monarchy, which amounts to the same thing.

In this strange and barbarous mechanical combination, each individual, held by a bit, directed by reins and driven with a whip, finds themselves tethered, like a beast of burden, to the wagon of the State or supremacy. The State, universal driver, halts or advances, holds back or pushes forward, at its will and according to its caprices, art, science, education, worship, industry, commerce, and credit, without concerning itself with anything but its own security. The logic of the state, as Rousseau explained it, and as it was practiced by Robespierre, Guizot, Ledru-Rollin Thiers, and Louis Blanc, accepts this enormity, namely, that the supreme magistracy being saved, the destruction of all the French people would not compromise the salvation of the State at all. For the State is that same magistracy; whoever attacks it, attacks the State, and, provided that it remains standing, all can perish around it without the State courting any risk.

Such is the traditional State. MM. Thiers, Cabet, Berryer, Pierre Leroux, de Broglie, Louis Blanc, Laroche-Jaquelein, and Considerant know no other. Well! The object of the Revolution is to free the individual from the leads of that harness; the object of the Revolution is to substitute real, individual will for fictive, public will. From a traditional point of view, I am lead in order to profit my guide; from the Revolutionary point of view, I guide myself for my own profit. From a traditional point of view, the magistrate ceases to be an individual by becoming the State. From the Revolutionary point of view, the individual becomes magistrate; the State is the individual.

At this point in our demonstration, we can cast a decisive light on the vices of the political and insurrectional means in use up to this day.

The State being given, when I gather my fellow citizens in a hall or in a public square to ask them for the investiture of their confidence, in order to give combat to the State, whether by words or by arms, I do not propose to overthrow that institution for their profit; I simply intend to substitute my person for the person that I will combat. My only object is to seize the direction of public affairs from those who now hold it. I may believe that I will direct better than they have, but I will inevitably be mistaken; for, as it is precisely a question of not directing, the direction, whatever it is and wherever it comes from, is necessarily an evil.

The institution of the State can only be overthrown by the opposite institution. Now, the opposite of the State is the individual, as the opposite of fiction is fact. Let the individual constitute itself and the State perishes; let liberty be established and authority disappears.

But how, I am ask, should liberty be established? How will the individual be constituted?

The individual will constitute itself by applying itself to doing itself that which, thus far, has been left to the initiative of the State. Liberty establishes itself in labor, production, wealth, and not otherwise.


I know nothing more obscure than the demonstration from evidence. The analysis of a simple notion demands so much care that I would lose courage if I did not feel myself aided by the attention that the public gives to these questions today.

When I speak of the substitution of the individual for the State, I mean that the regulatory legislation by means of which the State has appropriated the direction of public affairs must be repealed, and that each individual must from now on conduct their own affairs, not in conformity to the laws of the State, but by virtue of their own instinct, and directed by their own interests.

But we cannot ask the assemblies to repeal the laws. The repeal of the laws of the State cannot come from the initiative of the State. The State cannot dispossess itself. That operation comes down, as a matter of fact and right, to the initiative of the individuals who have empowered the State.

A State law is repealed as soon as we put the social facts in opposition to it. All the police laws, for example, will be repealed, and all the agents of the police will disappear on the day when society becomes generally and completely calm.

Now, society will be generally and completely calm when the opposition of party or verbiage disappears to leave the material opposition of real interests and active labor, otherwise known as the popular or individual opposition, free to act. Against the force of social needs, the laws of the State can do nothing.

We make an effective opposition to the police when, without other concerns, we get close to our material interests; for those interests being enemies of every disorderly or state agitation, it follows that to concern ourselves with them is to cease to agitate. Now, to cease to agitate is quite simply to suppress the police, unless the police has some reason to be apart from agitation, which is incomprehensible.

Once the police are absorbed by labor and the interests, the suppression of the rules of the State, the repeals of the law come fast, for the confidence which supports credit develops rapidly.

Each individual occupies themselves with their own interests, so each labors; each labors, so no one threatens; no one threatens, so no one fears; no one fears, and security is universal.

Security being universal, capital, which fear had driven into the caves of the state bank, puts its nose to the transom and, seeing the passage of industry, which promises him six, ten, fifteen, or twenty percent, naturally asks the question: What am I doing here? The question posed, capital says to itself: The fear of being robbed has imprisoned me in a privilege which gives me four percent; there is no longer agitation outside; I am no longer afraid and I can have, outside, the double benefit of liberty and of a greater profit. Let us go out.

Capital leaves the bank by instinct, and it puts itself in contact with intelligence and industry, in order to know how best to realize the largest profits. The association of money with labor takes place progressively. The financial monopoly is destroyed by the interest of finance itself: free or individual credit is established. Thus, the most beautiful jewel in the crown of the State disappears gradually and without the government having more to complain about from its impoverishment than the police agents have to say against their suppression.

[Concluded in Part 4]

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

No comments: