Category Archives: International Workingmen’s Association

To the Compagnons of the International Workingmen’s Association of Locle and La Chaux de fond, Article 1 (1869)

(Progrès, no 6, Geneva, February 23, 1869 – March 1, 1869)

To the Compagnons of the International Workingmen’s Association
of Locle and La Chaux de fond.

Friends and brothers,

Before leaving your mountains, I felt the need to express to you one more time, in writing, my profound gratitude for the fraternal reception that you have given me. Isn’t it a marvelous thing that a man, a Russian, a former noble, who until now was perfectly unknown to you and who has for the first time set foot in your country, hardly arrived, finds himself surrounded by several hundred brothers! This miracle can only be accomplished today by the International Workingmen’s Association, and for one simple reason: it alone represents today the historic life, and the creative power of the political and social future. Those who are united by a living thought, by a common will and great common passion, are really brothers, even when they do not know each other.

There was a time when the bourgeoisie, endowed with the same power of life and constituting exclusively the historic class, offered the same spectacle of fraternity and union as much in acts and in thought. That was the finest time for that class, always respectable, no doubt, but from now on powerless, stupid and sterile, the era of its most energetic development. It was so before the great revolution of 1793; it was still, though to a much lesser degree, before the revolutions of 1830 and 1848. Then the bourgeoisie had a world to conquer, a place to take in society, and organized by the combat, intelligent, audacious, feeling itself strong with the right of everyone, it was endowed with an irresistible power: alone it made three revolutions against the monarchy, the nobility and the clergy united.

In that era the bourgeoisie had also created an international, universal, formidable association, Freemasonry.

We would be badly mistaken if we judged the Freemasonry of the past century, or even that of the beginning of the present century, according to what it is today. Institution par excellence bourgeois, in its development, by its growing power at first and then by its decadence, Freemasonry represented in some ways the intellectual and moral development, power and decadence of the bourgeoisie. Today, descended to the role of an old, prattling schemer, it is null, useless, sometimes destructive and always ridiculous, while before 1830 and especially before 1793, having gathered within it, with very few exceptions, all the elite minds, the most ardent hearts, the proudest wills, the boldest characters, it had constituted an active organization, powerful and really beneficial. It was the energetic incarnation and practice of the humanitarian idea of the 18th century. All those great principles of liberty, equality, fraternity, reason and humane justice, elaborated at first theoretically by the philosophy of that century, had become in the heart of Freemasonry practical dogmas and the bases of a new morality and politics,—the soul of a gigantic enterprise of demolition and reconstruction. Freemasonry had been nothing less in that era than the universal conspiracy of the revolutionary bourgeoisie against feudal, monarchical and divine tyranny.—That was the International of the Bourgeoisie.

We know that almost all the major actors of the first Revolution were Freemasons, and when that Revolution broke out, it found, through Freemasonry, friends and dedicated, powerful cooperators in all other countries, which certainly helped its triumph a great deal. But it is equally obvious that the triumph of the Revolution killed Freemasonry, for the Revolution having largely fulfilled the wishes of the Bourgeoisie and having made them take the place of the noble aristocracy, the Bourgeoisie, having been so long an exploited and oppressed class, became quite naturally in its turn the privileged, exploitative, oppressive, conservative and reactionary class, the friend and the firmest supporter of the State. After the coup of the first Napoleon, Freemasonry had become, on a large part of the European continent, an imperial institution.

The Restoration revived it somewhat. Seeing themselves threatened by the return of the old regime, constrained to yield the place that it had won by the first revolution to the Church and the united nobility, the bourgeoisie necessarily became revolutionary again. But what a difference between this reheated revolutionism and the fiery, powerful revolutionism that had inspired it at the end of the last century! Then the bourgeoisie had been in good faith, it had believed seriously and naively in human rights, it had been driven, inspired by the genius of demolition and reconstruction, it had found itself in full possession of its intelligence, and in the full development of its strength; it did not suppose that an abyss separated it from the people; she believed, it felt, it was really the representative of the people. The Thermidorian reaction and the conspiracy of Babeuf have forever deprived it of that illusion.—The gulf that separated the working people from the exploiting, dominant and enjoying bourgeoisie was opened, and nothing less than the body of the whole bourgeoisie, all the privileged existence of the bourgeois, could fill it.

So was it no longer the bourgeoisie as a whole, but only a part of the bourgeoisie that began to conspire, after the Restoration, against the clerical regime, the nobility and against the legitimate kings.

In my next letter, I will elaborate, if you will permit me, my ideas on this last phase of constitutional liberalism and bourgeois carbonarism.

M. Bakunin.

 

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Paul Brousse, L’état à Versailles et dans l’association internationale des travailleurs (1873)

L’ÉTAT

à

Versailles et dans l‘Association Internationale des Travailleurs.

P[aul] Brousse

Membre de l’Internationale

1873

Dans une séance qui restera célèbre, le Congrès des Fédérations libres ouvert à Genève le 1e Septembre 1873, a renversé « l’Etat Ouvrier » que les communistes-autoritaires prétendaient établir au sein de l’Internationale. Agir ainsi, était pour les membres de ce Congrès favoriser l’avènement de la révolution sociale; c’était au contraire pour les hommes du Conseil Général désarmer le prolétariat au profit de la bourgeoisie.

En France, les députés versaillais engagent de leur côté une lutte intestine sur la question de savoir quelle forme doit revêtir « 1’Etat bourgeois » pour garantir à leur classe les privilèges de tous genres qu’elle possède et qui, de jour en jour, menacent de lui échapper. « Pour éviter Monsieur Thiers, » — disent les Droites réunies, — « qui conduit la société française au radicalisme prélude de la Révolution, il faut rétablir l’Etat clérico-monarchique. » — « Tenter une restauration pareille, — écrit à son tour Mr. Casimir Périer en motivant son adhésion à la ligne de conduite des Gauches coalisées, —- c’est préparer une révolution à courte échéance. »

La RÉVOLUTION, espérance pour les uns, épouvantail pour les autres, est donc la chose que l’on vise dans les deux camps; à Genève pour la faire réussir, à Versailles pour l’écraser.

Le moment nous semble bien choisi pour que tous ceux qui vivent comme nous de la pensée révolutionnaire recherchent ce qui, dans les circonstances actuelles, peut surgir de plus favorable à l’émancipation du prolétariat. C’est ce devoir qu’avec nos faibles forces nous voulons essayer de remplir.

I. Du rôle que joue l’Etat dans la société bourgeoise.

Et d’abord une question. Quelle est la cause véritable du maintien de l’antagonisme social? la cause qui fait que l’immense majorité formée de ceux qui produisent reste éternellement courbée sous la domination de cette minorité infime qui se compose de ceux qui exploitent? Comment peut-il arriver que, contrairement à la loi physique des masses, le plus grand nombre spontanément soulevé n’écrase pas le plus petit, que majorité et minorité restent ainsi en équilibre? Quelle raison enfin peut fausser ainsi la balance de la Justice sociale? Pareille situation serait impossible s’il n’y avait point en dehors de la majorité et de la minorité, venant en aide à celle-ci, un système politique quelconque faisant office de contre-poids. Pour nous ce contre-poids existe et il n’est point autre chose que l’institution que l’on appelle l’Etat.

Certes, nous sommes loin de prétendre que ce phénomène de l‘état soit une création de l’intelligence bourgeoise. Nous pensons au contraire que dans tout ceci la bourgeoisie est inconsciente de son œuvre et que c’est par un simble instinct de conservation qu’elle l’accomplît. Quant à nous, le soin de notre salut l’exige, nous devons nous rendre maître de tous les secrets de ce mécanisme, car, si un jour nous désirons être libres, il faudra en briser les ressorts.

C’est sur l‘Autorité acquise d’un certain nombre de principes, de croyances, qui dans la pratique se traduisent en Institutions, que repose toute organisation sociale. Quiconque admet ces croyances, accepte ces principes, accorde facilement son obéissance à ces institutions. Le but le plus important à atteindre est donc, au point de vue bourgeois, de perpétuer ces préjugés au sein des masses de telle sorte que rien ne leur paraisse légitime en dehors de ce qui existe; que tout projet de rénovation sociale soit traité par elle de chimère et que les audacieux qui l’ont formé soient qualifiés d’utopistes ou d’ambitieux. Quant à ceux-ci qui discutent, on leur imposera l’obéissance par la force. Tout se réduit donc en dernière analyse à l’organisation de la foi (politique ou religieuse) pour les uns et de la contrainte pour les autres. Mais quels procédés emploiera-t-on assez puissants, pour faire ainsi pénétrer dans le cœur de l’opprimé les principes de sa résignation, pour lui faire accepter sa misère? Pour l’immensité de la tâche, la propagande même officielle resterait sans résultats. Il ne serait pas facile de convaincre un esprit déjà formé à l’école du simple bon sens, dénué de préjugés de naissance et dont la culture aurait été abandonnée aux seules influences naturelles. La propagande d’ailleurs eut appelé la propagande et pouvait-on raisonnablement espérer que celle de l’injustice et du mensonge l’emporterait toujours sur celle de la justice et de la vérité? Il fallait un moyen plus assuré, un instrument d’une pratique plus sûre. Il fut trouvé dans l’éducation officielle. Dés que l‘enfant tombe du berceau, qu’il se détache du sein maternel, il est livré à l’influence de cette éducation bourgeoise. On l’a vue à l’œuvre, on peut la juger. Religieuse ou libérale, elle fait bien les choses! L’enfant lui doit une constitution intellectuelle, un cerveau façonné, moulé à la forme bourgeoise. Plus tard quand cet enfant devient un homme, un culte ou un doctrinarisme philosophique quelconque suffit pour conserver à son esprit sa forme originelle. Vienne maintenant la propagande socialiste essayer ses forces sur cet homme civilisé; quelles difficultés n’aura-t-elle point à vaincre pour faire un homme libre de ce produit de la civilisation!

L’Autorité ainsi acceptée en principe, il faut la faire entrer dans le domaine de la pratique, lui donner sa forme, la mettre en marche, assurer son action. On y parvient par l’établissement de tout un cortège d’institutions dont l’ensemble constitue le Pouvoir, l’Autorité est l’Idée; le Pouvoir est le Fait. Parmi ces institutions, les unes ont pour but de formuler des lois, garanties de la puissance bourgeoise, les autres d’en imposer le respect aux esprits enclins à la révolte. Sur le premier point seulement les opinions se divisent. Les uns prétendent que le Roy est le seul dépositaire de la puissance politique; les autres soutiennent au contraire que la souveraineté réside exclusivement dans le peuple, et, brisant sur le front royal l’ampoule Mérovingienne, ils donnent pour origine à tout pouvoir les majorités sorties des urnes populaires. Parlementariste ou divin le pouvoir n’en est pas moins constitué; il dicte des Lois et commande l’obéissance. Pour dompter les récalcitrants la plus touchante unanimité recommence à régner. Une magistrature s’établit sur le vieux principe de Justice distributive pour décider de la peine, une force publique, armée, police ou bourreau s’organise pour l’appliquer.

Ainsi donc, par l’Éducation officielle on prépare le corps électoral au respect de l’autorité; par l’exercice du suffrageprincipe il se donne un pouvoir faiseur de Lois; une magistrature qui le juge, une force publique qui le frappe. C’est ce Tout qui l’écrase sous prétexte de le civiliser, ce Tout qui le tue, s’il se révolte, ce cortège d’institutions qu’on appelle l’État.

II. De la négation de l’État.

L’idée de la négation de l’État ne date pas seulement de notre époque et comme toutes les autre idées rénovatrices elle a eu sa progression dans l’histoire. Avant de contracter le caractère aussi nettement destructif que lui ont donné quelques socialistes modernes et de jouer un rôle dans la politique militante, elle a pris naissance presque furtivement. L’État, a d’abord été nié dans son principe, l’autorité; les institutions qui le réalisent ont été attaquées ensuite, et ce n’est que ces derniers temps, que la résolution de le détruire dans ses manifestations diverses et partout où on le rencontre, a fait son entrée dans la propagande socialiste.

Il faut remonter jusqu’à Luther pour rencontrer la première négation authentique du principe d’autorité et encore les attaques du grand révolté ont-elles borné leur action à la sphère purement religieuse. Le père de la réforme recula devant les conséquences politiques de sa révolte et prècha à ses fidèles le respect des pouvoirs établis. Jurrieu fut le premier qui transporta le libre-examen du spirituel au temporel en opposant l’idée de pacte ou de Contrat à l’idée gouvernementale.

Puis il se fit un long silence. La négation de l’État traversa presque incomprise tout le 18e siècle et à part quelques lueurs presque aussitôt étouffées que l’on rencontre au fond de l’utopie de Morelly et dans les manifestations des Hébertistes et des Enragés, il faut arriver à Saint-Simon pour ressaisir la filière. Mais déjà à cette époque un progrès s’est accompli. Ce n’est plus dans le domaine de la théorie pure que s’exercera désormais la critique mais déjà le gouvernement lui-même sera mis en question.

« L’Espèce humaine » — écrivait Saint-Simon, en 1818 — « a été appelée à vivre d’abord sous le régime gouvernemental et féodal ;

« Elle a été destinée à passer du régime gouvernemental ou militaire sous le régime administratif ou industriel, après avoir fait suffisamment de progrès dans les sciences positives et dans l’industrie. »

Proudhon vint ensuite qui publia sa théorie du principe fédératif. Il opposa le régime des contrats au régime parlementaire, faisant observer que la « notion d’anarchie consiste en ce que, les fonctions politiques étant ramenées aux fonctions industrielles, l’ordre social peut résulter du seul fait des transactions et des échanges. »

C’est à l’école fédérale qu’appartient la plupart des républicains espagnols; c’est de cette école que procèdent les révoltés cantonalistes de l’Andalousie. La cause qui n’a pas permis à l’Internationale de la péninsule de se jeter dans le mouvement est facile à comprendre. Elle savait fort bien que ce n’était pas l’État lui-même que l’on voulait détruire, que ce qui déplaisait à Madrid ou le conserverait dans les provinces, que le mouvement ne serait que décentralisateur. C’est dans cet ordre d’idées que nous écrivions dès le 17 Juin 1873 dans la Solidarité révolutionnaire de Barcelone, un article intitulé, la République fédérale, et que nous demandons la permission de reproduire en partie:

« Enfin, la République fédérale est proclamée. Déjà, cette nouvelle a fait le tour du monde, portant la consternation sur les trônes de l’Europe et la joie dans les ateliers. Certes, nous ne venons pas au milieu de l’enthousiasme général jeter une note discordante, mais nous sommes de ceux qui pensent que la vigilance du peuple est le salut de la Révolution. Qu’il veille donc ce peuple qui a le doigt sur la détente de son fusil et son émancipation politique et sociale est assurée. »

« République fédérale! Que de choses dans ce mot! Il signifie autonomie de l’individu, autonomie de la corporation, autonomie de la Commune; il contient à lui seul la Révolution toute entière. Oui, nous l’acclamons cette république, mais nous exigeons qu’on nous la donne toute entière, jusque dans ses dernières conséquences. Nous avons le mot, nous voulons la chose. Si l’on refuse, si l’on s’arrête dans la voie où l’on vient de s’engager, ce ne sera pas un pas en avant qu’on aura fait, mais un pas en arrière, et le peuple encore une fois trompé ne comptera dans son histoire qu‘une mystification de plus. »

« Fédération vient du mot latin, fœdus, fœderis, qui signifie pacte, contrat, alliance. Quiconque donc se prononce pour la Fédérale, prend parti pour le régime des Contrats contre celui des gouvernements; fédéral est synonyme d’anarchiste. »

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

« Le contrat révolutionnaire doit être la base de toute république sérieusement fédérale, et ceux que les circonstances ont chargé d’organiser celle qui vient de naître ne doivent pas l’oublier. La première unité sociale qui réclamera son autonomie est le travailleur. Il a des intérêts qui lui sont propres, qu’il connaît et que nul mieux que lui n’est capable de défendre. C’est à lui d’arrêter le contrat sous lequel il veut vivre; ni au nom du droit divin, ni au nom du droit populaire on ne peut lui imposer des lois. Chaque travailleur a un intérêt comme producteur; cet intérêt est clair, net, précis, le même pour tous ceux qui exercent la même profession. Qu’il s’entende donc, qu’il contracte avec eux pour sauvegarder cet intérêt, et ainsi se formera l’un des organes les plus importants du corps social, un organe ayant droit à son autonomie, l’organe de la production. De même au point de vue de la consommation, chaque travailleur s’entendra avec ceux qui habitent la même commune que lui. C’est à la Commune que l’on consomme, que l’on se nourrit, que l’on s’habille, que l’on se délasse, que l’on s’instruit, que l’on jouit en un mot de tous les produits de la civilisation moderne. Il y a là un intérêt majeur qui doit être la base d’une autre collectivité autonome, la collectivité communale. Que l’on trouve des groupes ou des individus plus capables de contracter que ceux-ci? Travailleurs, corporations, communes? »

« Seront-ce les États (Cantons)? Si c’est a la constitution indépendante des provinces, à une autonomie territoriale arbitraire que visent les bourgeois fédéraux, ils n’ont pas la conscience de l’idée fédérale. Que nous importe à nous que le pouvoir soit seulement à Madrid ou qu’il y en ait un dans toutes les capitales des provinces? Est-ce que le pouvoir sera détruit? On ne sera parvenu qu’à en établir un plus grand nombre. Ce n’est pas le déplacement du gouvernement qu’il nous faut, c’est sa destruction complète, absolue, ainsi que celle des institutions qui lui font cortège. S’ils ne veulent ces hommes qu’arracher au pouvoir central toutes ses prérogatives pour les transporter au sein des assemblées provinciales, s’ils veulent que toutes les vexations gouvernementales pèsent toujours sur nos têtes, s’ils sont partisans des demi-mesures, effrayés de la Révolution, ce sont des ennemis du peuple. »

De nos jours donc, le parti révolutionnaire a compris qu’il fallait envelopper dans la même réprobation, non seulement le gouvernement, mais toutes les institutions qui composent le mécanisme de l’État. Cette manière de comprendre la négation de l’État à pris le nom de Politique destructive.

« Mr. Bakounine, le conspirateur socialiste russe, » — écrit Malon dans son Exposé des écoles socialistes francaises — « veut que la Révolution sociale soit précédée d’une tempête révolutionnaire, d’un déchaînement de haine, pour préparer l’ordre nouveau, en détruisant, dans l’esprit et dans les choses, tout ce qui a été partie constitutive de la vieille civilisation. Il faut (dit-il) qu’une destruction colossale passe sur le monde pour rompre la cohésion administrative, juridique, politique et religieuse; il faut que tous les éléments sociaux soient mêlés, confondues, dispersés, que l’axe de la pensée et de l’activité humaine soit déplacé, pour que l’initiative des masses populaires ne trouve que des matériaux désagrégés quand il faudra refaire. C’est ainsi, selon lui, que l’égalité communale, l’organisation fédérative, l’harmonie universelle, le libre essor de tous les êtres, remplaceront notre civilisation égoïste, autoritaire. »

III. Considérations sociologiques.

La sociologie avec la certitude inséparable de toute science pouvait nous faire prévoir les conclusions qui viennent d’être déduites de la théorie et de l’histoire. Mais pour saisir comme il convient la portée de la démonstration que nous allons essayer de faire, une petite digression devient inévitable; nous promettons au lecteur de la rendre la plus courte possible et de le ramener bientôt à la question.

L’instinct populaire se trompe rarement dans le choix des termes qu’il emploie pour désigner les choses et telle locution triviale en apparence devient quand elle est sérieusement approfondie, la source d’un grand nombre d’aperçus aussi nouveaux que remplis de profondeur. C’est ainsi que dans le langage vulgaire on donne par analogie le nom de corps à toute réunion d’hommes que la communauté d’un but ou d’un intérêt rassemble et d’où se dégage une force collective d’un caractère spécial. Corps délibérant, corps d’armée, corps de métiers, . . . etc. . . . sont autant de dénominations empruntées à cette nomenclature. Le terme, Corps social, est dans ce cas.

On peut, en effet, considérer la société comme réalisant d’une manière générale l’idée que l’on se fait du corps dans les sciences exactes, et surtout d’une façon plus spéciale celle que rappelle la constitution d’un corps organisé.

Si les éléments de la matière inerte (atomes ou molécules), sont maintenus rapprochés par les forces d’attraction, de répulsion, ou par celles de l’affinité chimique; si ceux de la matière vivante (cellules ou noyaux) coexistent sous l’action des lois physiologiques de la vie; de la même façon, les parties élémentaires du corps social, c’est-à-dire les êtres humains, obéissent en ce qui concerne leur constitution collective à l’instinct de sociabilité qui pousse l’homme vers l’homme, à la puissance des idées, des intérêts et des sentiments, à la solidarité économique, en un mot à l’action de Lois sociales. La série des corps ne se fermerait donc pas après son second terme, corps inorganiques, corps organisés, elle en contiendrait encore un troisième, corps soucieux.

Semons de plus près cette idée qui peut ne paraître en ce moment qu’une analogie en apparence banale, et nous arriverons à démontrer quelle est au contraire une réalité.

Nul n’oserait nier la vague ressemblance qui existe entre les corps inertes et les corps organisés? La ressemblance est autrement complète entre ceux—ci et le corps social. Comme ceux-ci, en effet, les sociétés naissent, se développent, contractent des caractères qui les rapprochent, d’autres qui les séparent (différences on analogies des civilisations), enfin vieillissent et meurent. La loi du Travail existent pour elles comme pour les autres corps, de telle façon que celui-ci se développe aussi en une série ternaire, travail physique, travail physiologique, travail social. Or, qui dit travail, dit fonctions, et, qui dit fonctions dit organisme. Le corps social n’a-t-il pas lui aussi des fonctions à remplir? Qu’est-ce donc que la production, la consommation et l’échange? N’a-t-il pas des organes qui se forment pour cela? Ne voyons— nous pas de nos jours se développer les organes de la production collective dans les unions de métiers? Ne trouvons-nous pas ceux de la consommation collective dans les essais d‘associations communales? Ce développement organique est le fait le plus saillant de notre époque. Aveugle qui oserait en contester, ou la puissance, ou la réalité !’ Nous pourrions pousser l’analogie plus loin encore et la chercher jusque dans la mort. Voir par exemple avec Mr. Edgard Quinet (Origine des religions) dans les civilisations éteintes de la Chine et de l’Égypte des fossiles du corps social. Fossiles, unissant comme ceux de Cuvier (le mastodonte par exemple) la simplicité primitive de l’organisme à leur colossale grandeur.

Quel rôle va jouer l’État ou sa négation dans la société considérée ainsi au point de vue sociologique? Il est facile de le deviner.

Comme corps organisé, avons-nous dit, le Corps social se développe; il a son enfance, son âge mûr, sa vieillesse. Quoi d’étonnant alors qu’enfant il ait eu besoin de langes? qu’à l’époque où chaque homme producteur universel consommait seul ses produits, où la vie sociale n’existait point, où l’évolution des phénomènes économiques n’avait pas encore créé la Solidarité, un système capable de maintenir sa cohésion, un État, ait été nécessaire? Mais quoi de surprenant aussi que de nos jours, l’existence de cet état soit devenue inutile et même nuisible? Inutile, car la solidarité sociale est créée; nuisible, puisqu’il entrave la libre formation de l’organisme collectif nouveau, que loin de la protéger il la combat. Il ne le laisse éclore cet organisme, que dans les endroits où il se déchire comme en France quand il laissa passer la commune et dans les endroits affaiblis par l’action révolutionnaire continue comme en Espagne, terre où fleurissent les associations de métiers. L’État doit subir la loi de tous les organes. S’atrophier s’il est inutile, être arraché s’il devient nuisible. L’homme-collectif n’a que faire aujourd’hui des lisières de son enfance, il faut qu’il s‘en débarrasse, s’il veut d’un pas libre poursuivre sa destinée.

IV. L’Etat bourgeois à Versailles.

Si nos ennemis sont d’accord pour maintenir sur nos têtes l’influence dominatrice de l‘État, ils se divisent dan les détails, lorsqu’il s’agit de choisir la forme qu’il convient de lui donner. Atterrés des progrès incessants que fait dans la société moderne la propagande socialiste, ils se demandent quel est le Palladium qui protégera leur lendemain : à quelle forme de gouvernement ils donneront leur suffrages ? Choisiront-ils la monarchie légitime ou la monarchie constitutionnelle, la république bourgeoise ou l’empire des plébiscites? Ils interrogent les enseignements de l’histoire et l’histoire les laisse dans l’anxiété. Tous ces gouvernements ils les ont essayés en Moins d’un siècle! Tous, après quelques années de cet ordre qu’ils chérissent, sont devenus impuissants. pour les préserver de la tourmente révolutionnaire. Cependant, comme ils sentent la société trembler sur ses bases, il faut prendre un parti. Les plus imbus des vieux préjugés, nous voulons dire les hommes de la Droite, désirent en revenir simplement à l’État de Droit divin, la durée de la monarchie d’avant 89 les aveugle. D’autres, préfèrent la monarchie orléaniste, ce vieux dada de la haute bourgeoisie. Enfin, les plus intelligents, MM. Thiers et Gambetta à leur tête, sentent le besoin d’avoir recours au suffrage universel pour donner à l’État de plus larges assises; ils cherchent à rallier tous les éléments conservateurs sur le terrain d’une invention nouvelle, la république conservatrice.

Cette division dans le camp ennemi est pour nous d’un favorable augure, mais puisque bon gré mal gré nous allons recevoir un état des mains de nos honorables, il est bon de rechercher quel serait pour nous le moins dangereux. La logique, la science et l’histoire, nous ayant conduit à la négation de l’État et sa destruction étant devenue pour nous le but qu’il convient de poursuivre, notre critérium est tout trouvé. L’État le plus avantageux sera pour nous celui que nous pourrons le plus facilement détruire. Ce qu’il faudra surtout éviter dans l’étude que nous allons entreprendre, c’est d’être dupes des apparences. De nous figurer, par exemple, que nous devons préférer la république bourgeoise, sous prétexte que la république est un progrès de l’État; ou bien, que parce que les républiques de 93, de 48 et de 71 ont toutes abouti, grâce au réveil de la liberté, à de nouvelles explosions de l’idée sociale, il y a. là raison suffisante pour nous rallier à l’établissement d’une république conservatrice. L’expérience nous a appris ce que vaut le progrès de l’État ! Il conduit les travailleurs aux fusillades du champ de Mars, aux mitraillades des journées de Juin, aux massacres de la chiite de la Commune; laissons cette théorie des hécatombes populaires aux réactionnaires de toutes couleurs qui en profitent. Quant aux faits historiques que l’on met en avant pour démontrer la corrélation intime qui existe entre ces deux termes, République et Révolution, nous aurons à considérer s’ils ne perdent rien de leur valeur en présence des circonstances actuelles.

L’État le plus facile à détruire est le plus faible assurément. Or, la plus grande cause de faiblesse pour un État est dans le nombre de ses ennemis. Tout gouvernement a besoin pour s’établir, mais surtout pour se conserver de rencontrer un soutien dans une classe ayant des intérêts qu’il favorise: la monarchie du droit divin s’appuyait sur la noblesse, la monarchie de Juillet sur le bourgeois censitaire; la république conservatrice trouverait son point d’appui dans la bourgeoisie toute entière. Lorsqu’un quelconque de ces gouvernements a réussi à s’emparer de la France, ses concurrents ne songent qu’à le renverser et c’est le prolétariat qui sert de lever dans ces querelles intestines; on le caresse par ce qu’il est le nombre, on le flatte par ce qu’il est l’énergie; a entendre le langage de ceux qui dans ces moments le recherchent, on croirait vraiment que tout ce que son courage va entreprendre tournera exclusivement à son profit! Confiant comme il l’est toujours, ayant foi dans des promesses qui partent du bout des lèvres et que l’on est fermement décidé à ne point tenir, il se laisse entraîner dans la lutte. Si quelque temps après la victoire, ceux qu’il a hissée sur le pavois mentent à leur parole, les trois mois de misère écoulés; si après les lui avoir donnée ou cherche à lui retirer les canons et les armes qui lui garantissent sa conquête; furieux, poussé par la famine ou la colère, c’est pour sa propre cause qu’il descend dans la rue. Ce jour là marchent à sa rencontre toutes les classes coalisées.

Quel touchant accord n’existe—t-il pas dans le monde de l’élégance et du privilège quand il s’agit de mitrailler la canaille, de charger les frères-et-amis ! S’il le voulait pourtant ce peuple que tour à tour on pourlèche et on écrase . . . . si dans les jours où ayant promis l’appui de son courage, il inonde de son sang répandu les pavés amoncelés en barricades, où il prend d’assaut les hôtels-de-ville, il n’entendait plus être la dupe des partis et gardait pour lui—même sa conquête? Si au lieu d’aider les princes de la parole à bâtir un État nouveau, il détruisait l’ancien de fond en comble, est-ce-que son émancipation ne vous paraîtrait pas assurée? D’assez longue date les partis politiques se battent avec ses bras et sur son dos! Il est grand temps que l’on change de rôle et qu’à son tour il profite des querelles de ses ennemis. Que ce soit désormais sur les luttes de ses adversaires qu’il compte et s’il a l’intention bien arrêtée de les faire tourner à son profit, il sera convaincu qu’aujourd’hui, lorsque après l’avoir écrasé, ses gouvernants se disputent ses dépouilles, ce qui peut lui arriver de plus heureux c’est de voir installer le pouvoir donc la constitution organique est la plus faible, celui qui n’obtient que l’appui d’une faible portion de la noblesse, rejetant dans les insurrections futures que son établissement provoque le plus’ grand nombre de mécontents. L’État qui présente le mieux ce caractère, diagnostic certain de sa faiblesse, est celui du comte de Chambord. Celui qui serait au contraire le plus dangereux, s’il parvenait à s’établir jamais d’une manière définitive serait l’État de Mr. Thiers. Il rallierait bientôt en effet non seulement la noblesse comme l’État de Droit divin, non seulement la haute bourgeoisie comme l’État orléaniste, mais la noblesse, la haute bourgeoisie, le grand et le petit commerce, la banque, la haute et basse industrie, les millionnaires, les simples entrepreneurs, en un mot tous ceux qui ont à conserver un privilège quelconque.

« Mais » — répéteront, quelques intelligences timides, désireuses avant tout de ne point paraître faire cause commune avec le réaction cléricale, — « c’est aller à rebours du progrès. L’Orléanisme est un progrès sur la légitimité, la république même conservatrice est un progrès sur la monarchie de Juillet, nous avons péniblement passé par ces différentes phases aux prix de bien du sang et de bien des larmes, regardons devant nous, mais surtout redoutons d’être ra. menés en arrière » —— nous répondons: -— Si ce n’est que le progrès qu’il faut que l’on constate, nous reconnaissons que le Thiérisme est pour l’État un grand progrès. En sera-t-on plus avancé? Mais le progrès dans l’État est une chose monstrueuse, songez donc! l’Etat étant lui-même le danger, le progrès dans l’État ne saurait être en ce qui nous concerne que le Progrès dans le danger. Grand merci, d’un progrès semblable. Nous aimons mieux mettre en pratique le proverbe, et reculer pour mieux sauter.

Consultez, nous dit-on ensuite, l’histoire de nos républiques; toutes aboutissent infailliblement au réveil du principe social. Nous reconnaissons volontiers que jusqu’à ce jour ou pour parler d’une manière plus exacte, jusqu’au 18 Mars, toutes les républiques que nous avons eues en France nous ont donné la liberté. Grâce à ce bienfaisant génie, la presse a été démuselée, les réunions publiques ouvertes, les associations tolérées. Six mois de ce régime ont suffi et suffiraient encore, nous l’avouons sans peine, à faire éclore la Révolution. Nous partageons même l’espérance que le prolétariat ne serait pas toujours vaincu; la progression évidente qui se manifeste dans la puissance de nos explosions populaires, de l’insurrection lyonnaise de 1832 à la révolte de la commune, nous en imposent la certitude. Mais; nous osons affirmer que selon toute probabilité les choses ne se passeront plus ainsi. Il ne faut pas regarder comme un acte de pure volonté l’abandon fait au peuple de toutes les libertés par Messieurs les radicaux. Il faut y voir au contraire un acte de fatalité pure. A peine élevés au pouvoir, les républicains de nos gauches parlementaires ont toujours vu malgré leurs avances et leur modération excessive les hommes des partis monarchiques se coaliser pour combattre leur gouvernement. Pour assurer la résistance, il fallait chercher un point d’appui dans le peuple et l’on ne pouvait s’assurer son concours qu’au prix des plus larges libertés. Si les libertés de nos républiques bourgeoises paraissent théoriquement plus étendues que les libertés-nécessaires de la monarchie libérale, c’est qu’elles permettent à la fois d’attaquer plus de choses et un plus grand nombre de personnalités, mais le vœu le plus cher de ceux qui nous les donnent est de les voir reculer devant l’infaillibilité de leurs dominations et ils n’hésitent pas, nos princes de la parole, à réclamer l’appui des partis réactionnaires quand elles vont jusqu’à menacer l’ordre social établi. D’ailleurs le volte-face récente de Mr. Thiers suivi en cela par ses anciens amis de l’école parlementaire vient de changer complètement les données de notre ancienne République classique. Un contrat qu’il ne faut pas oublier a été récemment conclu entre les orléanistes libéraux et les hommes du radicalisme qui pour se rendre possibles n’hésiteront pas tour à tour à se modérer. Pour avoir un avant-goût des libertés qui resteraient debout sous une république basée sur un pacte semblable, il suffit de se rapporter par la pensée à l’époque de la dernière guerre. Alors, le vieux patriotisme avait, comme aujourd’hui le contrat Thiéro-Gambettiste, réuni toutes les forces conservatrices sous la haute direction de la bourgeoisie libérale. Que les hommes de la Ligue du Midi arbitrairement dissoute, que les rédacteurs de la presse (le la capitale, que les révolutionnaires parisiens condamnés par les tribunaux militaires nous fassent l’historique des libertés .dont ils ont joui. Si l’on veut se faire une idée juste de ce qui résulterait pour nous de l’établissement de cette république conservatrice que l’on cherche à organiser, ce n’est point en France où l’expérience n’est pas faite, mais à l’étranger qu‘il faut en chercher des exemples. C’est sur un pacte conservateur analogue, que dans des circonstances spéciales, les républiques américaine et suisse se sont constituées. Le prolétariat de ces pays en supporte hélas les conséquences. L’édifice bourgeois y est d’une solidité telle qu’il est devenu proverbial, et que la liberté même qui y règne sans conteste, ne mettra pas six mois comme en France ou en Espagne, mais des siècles pour le renverser. C’est là, il ne faut pas en douter, les conséquences qu’auraient pour nous dans notre pays la réalisation des projets de notre bourgeoisie républicaine.

Que l’on ne se méprenne pourtant pas sur notre pensée. On ne nous fera pas sans doute l’injure de croire que nous désirons une restauration clérico-monarchique par préférence théorique? Nous soutenons seulement, par le raisonnement et l’examen des faits, que l’état républicain, conservateur qui va s’élever sur les ruines du radicalisme, étant le dernier progrès de l’État, consacre au grand détriment du prolétariat européen l’alliance indissoluble de tous les éléments de la bourgeoisie. Nous pensons, au contraire, que le retour à un régime d’un autre âge perpétuerait les divisions bourgeoises et les luttes intestines, rouvrant ainsi à notre profit l‘ère des révolutions. Si le prolétariat s’y trompe, la finesse de nos vieux conservateurs, elle, ne s’y trompe pas.

V. L’État ouvrier dans l’Internationale.

A l’époque du Congrès de La Haye les socialistes de l’école autoritaire croyaient parvenir enfin à la réalisation de leurs espérances. Le fameux « État Ouvrier », destiné à jouer au profit de leurs intérêts d’école le rôle que joue l’État Orléaniste au profit de la bourgeoisie, et l’État absolu au profit de la noblesse, semblait s’établir pièce à pièce au sein de l’Internationale. Depuis longtemps déjà les membres de cette société avaient trouvé dans les Congrès généraux des espèces d’assemblées parlementaires d’où sortaient annuellement des règlements de police, un socialisme officiel et un gouverne ment. Des sections nombreuses payaient régulièrement l’impôt et constituaient ainsi les Finances de l’État prolétaire. Cependant quelques indices de révolte ayant commencé à se manifester, on avait rêvé comme nos bourgeois doctrinaires l’établissement d’un pouvoir-fort. La conférence de Londres (1871) avait même voté dans ce but au profit du Conseil Général certaines mesures dictatoriales dont il est bon de conserver le souvenir: Droit d’adjoindre aux membres élus des individualités sans mandat; Droit d’admission, de refus, d’expulsion même, sous la réserve de rendre compte de sa conduite devant les Congrès généraux dont on organisa de longue main la majorité factice. Le Congrès de la Haye, préparé de cette façon, ne craignit pas de s’engager encore plus loin dans cette voie autoritaire. Il se permit, contrairement à la volonté des sections, de rejeter du sein de l’Internationale les plus connus des récalcitrants; quant. aux autres (comme celui par exemple qui écrit ces lignes), on se contenta, sans consulter sa section, sans le faire comparaître, de le faire exclure par un ukase d’un simple proconsul. Ayant ainsi trouvé dans son sein les organes de sa Justice distributive, il restait peu de chose à désirer à l’État ouvrier. Il avait son parlementarisme, son gouvernement, ses proconsuls, ses finances, sa justice, sa doctrine, une seule chose lui manquait encore, une force publique suffisante pour assurer l’application de la peine, pour percevoir les contributions qui commençaient à appliquer la théorie du citoyen Gambon et n’allaient plus au profit de menées pareilles s’accumuler dans les caisses du Conseil Général. Cet État manquait de gendarmes, cette lacune l’a tué.

Au moment où nous écrivons ces lignes, le Conseil Général exilé agonise à New-York. Faut-il avec la réaction nous réjouir de sa chute, ou comme les autoritaires la déplorer?

Vous reconnaissez, nous dit-on, que c’est à l’institution de l’État que la bourgeoisie emprunte sa puissance, pourquoi donc ne pas mettre cette arme au service du prolétariat? S’il est vrai que son mécanisme suffise pour rendre en face de la minorité la majorité impuissante, à plus forte raison sera-t-il utile dans les mains de la majorité! Ces conclusions, nous le reconnaissons, ont en apparence la logique pour elles, mais elles reposent malheureusement sur une assimilation inexacte. Il suffira pour nous en convaincre d’étudier sous toutes ses faces le mécanisme de l’État.

Qu’est donc que l’État? Nous l’avons dit et répété: c’est une institution édifiée sur toutes les classes qui composent la société actuelle, y compris le prolétariat; c’est un contrepoids destiné à conserver la domination de la classe moyenne sur la majorité immense des travailleurs. Son action n’est donc point extérieure, il ne saurait frapper ce qui l’entoure, il agit sur les éléments qu’il contient. Sa destination principale n’est donc point la guerre extérieure, mais la lutte intestine, de sorte que si nous voulons la guerre civile au sein de l’Internationale le plus sûr moyen de l’avoir est certainement de l’y établir. Dans l’Internationale, où sont donc les classes? Peut-il y avoir une telle divergence d’intérêts que la constitution d’une majorité et d’une minorité permanentes puisse s’en suivre? Évidemment non. Le seul État prolétaire que l’on pourrait regarder comme l’analogue de l’État bourgeois ne serait pas un état constitué dans l’Internationale; mais un état créé dans la société même au lendemain d‘une révolution triomphante. Là, si nous ne nous prononcions pas aussi formellement pour l’abolition des classes, peut-être pourrions nous découvrir une classe à appuyer, celle des prolétaires, une classe à contenir, celle de la bourgeoisie? Mais, bâtons-nous de le dire, cette sorte d’État n’est publiquement demandée par personne (*). Ne perdons donc pas de vue aussi facilement que le terrain que l’on a choisi pour bâtir un état au profit de la classe ouvrière est justement celui de cette Internationale qui ne reconnait qu’une seule classe et qu’un intérêt unique, qui ne reconnait pas de privilèges pas plus théoriques que matériels, qui se compose enfin exclusivement de travailleurs. A peine cet état organisé, son action a été ce quelle est dans la société bourgeoise, c’est-à-dire que comme tout organisme il a obéi à sa loi. Ne rencontrant plus de classes, il s’est appuyé sur une secte, mettant à son service la puissance tyrannique de son mécanisme, l’élevant au rôle de classe dirigeante et opprimant à son profit toutes les aspirations rivales. Cependant, loin de viser à imposer aux travailleurs une doctrine officielle la pensée de notre association était d’accepter au contraire et sur le pied de ’égalité la plus absolue toutes les idées rénovatrices; c’est même à la largeur de ce programme qu’elle doit d’être devenue l’école pratique et vivante du socialisme moderne. N’apportons donc aucun obstacle à sa mission. Aucune propagande officielle ne doit intervenir chez nous entre les diverses écoles; aucune d’elles n’a le droit de rêver et surtout d’obtenir le concours d’un pouvoir créé à son avantage.

La lutte intestine que l’on préparait par ces ambitieuses menées ne se fit pas longtemps attendre. Le jour où se trop fameux État ouvrier commença à faire sentir son influence au profit du communisme allemand, deux dangers apparurent dans l’Internationale D’une part, le gouvernement ne cherchant plus qu’à gagner une majorité à sa cause, des sections fictives de quelques membres se formèrent en France par les soins de ses proconsuls, tandis que d’autres sections beaucoup plus importantes mais qu’il n’espérait pas pouvoir dominer virent leurs demandes d’affiliation rester sans réponses; d’autre part, le mouvement sécessionniste commença. Ces deux courants, l’orthodoxie gouvernementale et le protestantisme autonomiste eussent pu tuer notre association; heureusement, elle profita de la crise et lui survécut. Les fédérations attaquées en revinrent au principe contractuel que l’on n’eut jamais du oublier, et concluent à St-Imier un pacte de solidarité et de défense mutuelle auquel vinrent se rallier les sections autonomistes françaises assez vivaces pour avoir pu résister à l’action désorganisatrice des proconsuls du Conseil général. Le dernier acte de ce mouvement fût la convocation du Congrès anti-autoritaire de Genève.

Nous prévoyons une objection que nous tenons à ne pas laisser sans réponse. Il peut se rencontrer quelques esprits qui croient pouvoir assimiler à un État national celui qu’ils voudraient voir s’établir au sein de l’Internationale. Il y a dom lieu de se demander avant de conclure, si l’on ne pourrait pas reconnaître à l’État ouvrier une action extérieure analogue à celui que sous le nom de guerre exercent les États Européens. C’est-à-dire si l’on ne pourrait pas considérer le prolétariat universel comme une nation spéciale, s’organisant pour le combat contre toutes les bourgeoisies du monde et opposant pour cela État à État. On avouera d’abord que ce serait un singulier programme que celui qui consisterait à enrégimenter tout le prolétariat pour le faire vaincre sous le drapeau et au profit d’une doctrine spéciale? Mais sans nous arrêter à cette considération qui intéresse à un si haut degré la liberté socialiste examinons si le projet peut être exécutable. Pour organiser ainsi une guerre officielle contre les États bourgeois, en dehors de l’action purement économique, le gouvernement du prolétariat devrait disposer d’un budget autrement considérable que le nôtre, imposer une discipline impossible parmi nous. Concevoir un pareil projet c’est montrer ensuite une absence complète d’expérience révolutionnaire. On ne déclare pas une Révolution comme on déclare la guerre, et, lorsque par bonheur elle éclate, on ne la dirige pas de la même façon. Les mouvements sérieux ne naissent pas sur commande, en d’autres termes, on ne fait pas une révolution. Nul conseil général, nul comité révolutionnaire ne pourront atteindre un but aussi déraisonnable; toutes nos héroïques sociétés secrètes y ont échoué. Elles avaient pourtant pour elles deux choses qui ne se trouvent pas dans l’action au grand jour, le mystère de l’organisation et les chances de la surprise. Une révolution se prépare longuement dans l’intelligence collective des masses et le plus souvent son explosion est due à des inconstances secondaires. Elle est toujours d’ailleurs autonomiste par nature, empruntant au pays, aux idées, aux circonstances, un caractère spécial qui est le gage de son succès. On peut par la propagande socialiste unifier de longue main les aspirations des masses, donner aux efforts au moment de la lutte une direction pratique et une forme aux résultats, mais là s’arrête l’action de l’activité humaine sur ces phénomènes collectifs de la vie sociale. Quant au concours, à l’appui des fédérations voisines, c’est de l‘esprit de la solidarité ouvrière qu’il faut l’attendre; dans les cas où cet esprit serait impuissant, toutes les décisions d’un pouvoir désarmé resteraient sans résultats.

Ainsi donc, les avantages de cet État extérieur sont illusoires, les dangers de l’État intérieur trop certains. Le prolétariat peut juger de l’opportunité de l’établissement d’un État qui réunit ces deux caractères qu’il décide! Pour nous, nous croyons que l’expérience est faite et bien faite, et nous ne pensons pas que de longtemps il songe à la recommencer.

VI.Conclusion.

Quelle est dans les circonstances actuelles la ligné de conduite favorable aux intérêts du prolétariat?

La réponse à cette question, si nous avons été assez heureux et assez clairs pour nous faire comprendre doit résulter naturellement des faits que nous avons établis. L’État est devenu pour le corps social un organe inutile, même nuisible à son développement spontané; depuis longtemps déjà l’idée de sa destruction se développe progressivement dans l’histoire; la théorie nous le montre partout où il s’établit comme un obstacle à la révolution sociale; sa destruction partout où il se présente est donc devenue une nécessité.

L’État ouvrier a été abattu à Genève. Nous devons nous en féliciter, mais surtout, nous opposer à ce qu’on le reconstruise.

L’État bourgeois cherche sa forme à Versailles. Si nous intervenons dans la lutte, que ce soit dans le but que la question de forme devienne une question de fond. Ne nous laissons pas cette fois encore voler notre victoire; ne laissons rien reconstruire puisque c’est de détruire qu’il s’agit.


(*) Les deux fractions du parti autoritaire paraissent loin de le désirer. Dans une brochure publiée ces derniers temps (œuvre d’un gouvernement aux abois), L’alliance de la démocratie socialiste et l’associaiion Internationale des Travailleurs, les hommes du conseil général prétendent qu’ils admettent l’anarchie comme but, mais que comme moyen elle leur paraît désastreuse. De leur côté, dans une publication faite pour annoncer qu’ils se retirent de l’Inter— nationale les blanquistes protestent contre toute accusation de Jacobinisme et se prononcent dans le même sens.

Comments Off on Paul Brousse, L’état à Versailles et dans l’association internationale des travailleurs (1873)

Filed under 1873, French texts, International Workingmen's Association

Counter-Proposal on Resistance Funds (1869)

[“Reaction to a report of the Central Section of Geneva of the I.W.A., adopted in a session of the Alliance on August 14, [1869].”]
Counter-Proposal
1) There must be created in each section, corporation or society in the International Association a resistant fund [caisse de résistance].
2) In order to form that fund, each corporative section or society, by a decision taken in the general assembly, modifiable by later assemblies, of the section or corporative society will impose [a contribution] on all its members, always conforming to the rate of their wages.
3) No shareholder, except in very serious cases such as forced unemployment, family misfortunes orprolonged illnesses, cases that will always be recognizedby the General Assembly of the section, by the Committee—no one may avoid payment of this contribution, under pain of exclusion pronounced by the General Assembly of their section.
4) It is permitted for several or even all the sections or corporative societies of a single locality to join their individual funds into a single local fund.
But that union must be entirely voluntary on the part of each, no section can or should be forced to join even by a majority that represents all the sections of a locality, minus just one.
The section that refuses in this way to merge its individual resistance fund in that of all the others, as long as it remains faithful to the general, national and local statutes of the International Association, would preserve all its right to the solidarity of all the other sections.
5) All the costs that the members have to cover as members of the International Association, such as the costs of the section and the committee of the section, costs of the Cantonal Committee, Federal Committee as General Council, costs of the delegates for propaganda and of delegates for the Congresses, costs of the Journal, of the Circle – and if they also want it, of the funds for aid and defense, in short all the ordinary and supplementary costs, will be withdrawn from the resistance funds of the sections.
The subscriptions, except in extremely serious cases, recognized as such by the General Assembly of all the sections of a locality, are absolutely prohibited.
6) – Each Section or Corporative Society will determine the minimum sum that must properly constitute its resistance fund, which could never have any purpose but to maintain the war, that is to say the rights of the laborers against the bosses, either by nourishing its own resistance, or by making, as a loan, obligatory, or as a gift in aid of the other sections of the locality, nation or other countries, when the need of this aid has been proclaimed by the respective committees.
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7) – Each section, at its own risk and perils, has he incontestable right to come to the aid of any other section, even though it does not have any recommendation on the part of any committee. But it is only morally obligated in the case where it has a formal invitation, either on the part of the local Committee, or of the General Assembly of all the sections of the locality, or of the Federal Committee, or the General Committee.
8) In this case, each section or corporative society imposes on itself the loan that, in the situation of the fund, it is capable of making.
Of Strikes
Experience has proven to the international sections of all the countries that the strike is a very dangerous weapon, which undoubtedly bears some very noticeable blows to the interests of the bosses, but which almost never also fails to deeply wound the interests of the laborers.
Strikes, unquestionably, by maintaining a healthy agitation among the workers and kindlingin their hearts adeep hatred against bourgeois exploitation, as well as unveiling the depravity of the present social organization, contribute a lot to make our propaganda more incisive and more vivid, deeper and wider. Each strike ended happily has brought us new sections.—But, on the contrary, the strikes that have not succeeded greatly demoralizethe workers, kill their confidence in the association and ruin them. Who does not know that even the mosthappily terminated strikes are always accompanied by suffering andvery serious material sacrifices?
From all these considerations it results:
1) That no section in its own interest must decide to strike except in these three cases: either when the state of the market will be such that the triumph will be certain or easy – or when the bosses wish to worsen the situation of their workers; or finally when they want to do the least harm either to their individual dignity, or to their right of association.
2) Each section or corporative society is incidentally perfectly free to begin its isolated strike, without asking the consent of anyone. But then it must know that it damages the principle of the International, and it is just that it not demand aid when it has not had recourse to the solidarity of anyone. – A decision made in isolation by a single section cannot and must not lead the other sections into an involuntary strike; otherwise that would be pure exploitation, a dishonest exploitation of worker fraternity.
3) All the other sections not only have the right but almost the duty to refuse their aid to the section that has begun its strike without consulting them and without having obtained their agreement.
4) In order for a strike to become a matter of solidarity for all the sections in a locality, it must either be accepted by the local Committee or by the General Assembly of all the sections of that locality.—In order for it to be a matter of solidarity for all the sections of a country, it must be proclaimed by the Committee of the country, in French-speaking Switzerland, for example, by the Federal Committee.—In order for it to be a matter of solidarity for all the sections of all the countries, it must be proclaimed by the General Council.
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6) – Amendment
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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Bakunin, Two Speeches to the Congress of the IWA at Basle (1869)

 

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Two Speeches to the Congress of the IWA at Basle

[L’Egalité, September 18, October 1, 1869, Geneva]
I.
Between the collectivists who think that after having voted for collective property, it becomes useless to vote for the abolition of the right of inheritance, and the collectivists who, like us, think that it is useful and even necessary to vote for it, there is only a simple difference in point of view.
They place themselves fully in the future, and taking collective property as their point of departure, find that there is no more place to speak of the right of inheritance.
We, on the contrary, begin from the present, we find ourselves under the regime of triumphant individual property, and marching towards collective property, we encounter an obstacle: the right of inheritance.
We think that we must overthrow it, abolish it.
The report of the General Council says that the legal fact never being anything but the consequence of economic facts, it is sufficient to transform the latter to destroy the former.
It is incontestable that everything that we call legal or political right has never been anything in history by the expression or product of a fait accompli. But it is also incontestable that after having been an effect of acts or facts previously carried out, the right becomes in its turn the cause of subsequent facts, becomes itself a very real, very powerful fact, that must be overthrown if we want to arrive at a different order of things that the one that exists.
So the right of inheritance, after having been the natural consequence of the violent appropriation of natural and social wealth, later becomes the basis of the political State and legal family, which guarantee and sanction individual property.
So we must vote to abolish the right of inheritance.
One after speaks to us of practice. Well, it is in the name of practice that I urge you to vote the abolition of the right of inheritance.
It has been said today that the transformation of individual property into collective property will encounter serious obstacles among the peasants, small proprietors of land.
And, in fact, if after having proclaimed the social liquidation, we attempted to dispossess by decree these millions of small farmers, we would necessarily cast them into the reaction, and to subject them to the revolution, we would have to use force against them, that is to say reaction.
So it is necessary to leave them as possessors in fact of those parcels of which they are today the proprietors. But if you do not abolish the right of inheritance, what will happen?
They will transmit these parcels to their children, with the sanction of the State, by title of property.
You will preserve, you will perpetuate the individual property of which you have voted for the necessary abolition, and its transformation into collective property.
If, on the contrary, at the same time that you make the social liquidation, you proclaim the political and legal liquidation of the State, if you abolish the right of inheritance, what will remain to the peasants?
Nothing but possession in fact, and that possession, deprived of all legal sanction, no longer being sheltered under the powerful protection of the State, will easily let itself be transformed under the pressure of events and revolutionary forces.
II.
The absence of the representative of agriculture is not a reason to contest at the Congress the right to decide the question of property. The Congress is only a minority, but there has been in every era a minority that represents the interests of all of humanity. In 89, the bourgeois minority represented the interests of France and the world; it led to the coming of the bourgeoisie. A protest was heard in the name of the proletariat, that of Baboeuf; we are his heirs, our little minority will soon be a majority.
Contrary to what has been said, it is the collectivity that is the basis for the individual; it is society that makes the man; isolated, he would not even manage to learn, speak and think. Let no one cite the men of genius and their discoveries, Arago, Galileo, etc.; they would have invented nothing without the labor of previous generations; there is someone who has a greater mind than Voltaire, and it is everyone. The greatest genius, if he lived from the age of five on a deserted island, would produce nothing; the individual is nothing without the collectivity. Individual property has only been, and is only the exploitation of collective labor; we can only destroy that exploitation by establishing collective property.
[…]
I vote for collectivity, in particular of the soil, and in general of all the social wealth in the sense of the social liquidation.
I mean by the social liquidation the expropriation by right of all the existing proprietors, by the abolition of the political and legal State, which is the sanction and sole guarantee of existing property and of everything that is called political right; and the expropriation in fact, everywhere and as much as possible, by the force of events and things themselves.
As for the later organization, consider that all productive labor is necessarily a collective labor, and that the labor that we improperly call individual is still a collective labor, since it only becomes possible thanks to the collective labor of past and present generations.
I conclude in favor of the solidarization of the communes proposed by the majority of the commission, that much more willingly as that solidarization implies the organization from the bottom up, while the plan of the minority speaks to us of the State.
I am a resolute antagonist of the State and of every bourgeois state policy.
I demand the destruction of all the national and territorial States and, on their ruins, the founding of the international State of the workers.
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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On Cooperation (1869)

 

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ON COOPERATION

[L’Egalité, September 4, 1869; Guillaume’s note (Oeuvres, t.IV, p.210) suggests this article may be by Charles Perron.
What should be the character and what will be the means of the economic agitation and of the laborers of the International, before that social revolution that alone could emancipate them in a complete and definitive manner? The experience of recent years indicates two ways, one negative, the other positive: the strike funds andcooperation.
Under this general word cooperation, we mean all the known systems of consumptions of mutual credit or of credit to labor or production.
In the application of all these systems and even in the theory that they take for basis, there are two contrary currents that we must clearly distinguish: the bourgeois current and the purely socialist current.
Thus in the societies for consumption, credit and production, founded or recommended by some bourgeois socialists, we find all the elements of bourgeois political economy: interest on capital, dividends and premiums.
Which of these two systems is the good, the true?
The first, that of the bourgeois socialists, is most generally accepted by those in the sections of the International who love to call themselves practical men. In fact, they are practical in appearance, but only in appearance, very practical, since all their thought comes down to continuing in the heart of the workers’ world the rich practice of the bourgeois: the exploitation of labor by capital.
When one association, founded on bourgeois bases, is undertaken by some dozens or hundreds of workers, what can its result be? Either it does not succeed, it goes bankrupt, and then it plunges these workers into an even greater poverty than that from which they had attempted to escape by founding it, or else it succeeds, and then, without improving the general condition of the working class, it can only lead to creating some dozens or hundreds of bourgeois, this is what the Congress of Lausanne expressed very well in the following resolution:
The Congress thinks that the efforts attempted today by the workers’ associations (if those are generalized, preserving their present form), tend to create a fourth estate [class], having below it a fifth estate more miserable still.
That fourth estate would be forted by a limited number of workers constituting among them a sort of bourgeois limited partnership, which necessarily excludes from within it the fifth estate, the great mass of the workers not associated in that cooperation, but, on the contrary, exploited by it.
Such is the cooperative system that the bourgeois socialists not only preach, but attempt to realize within the International, some knowing well, and others ignorant that this system if the negation of the principle and aim of that association?
What is the aim of the International? Isn’t it to emancipate the working class by the united action of the workers of all countries? And what is the aim of the bourgeois cooperation? It is to wrest a limited number of workers from the common poverty, in order to make them bourgeois, to the detriment of the majority of the workers. Aren’t we right to tell you that this practice that is so often recommended by the practical men of the International is an entirely bourgeois practice, and that as such it must be excluded from the International!
Suppose that a thousand mean are exploited and oppressed by ten.
What would you think, if among these thousand men, there are found twenty, thirty or more who would say: We are tired of being victims, but as on the other hand it is ridiculous to hope for the salvation of everyone, as the prosperity of the few absolutely demands the sacrifice of the many, let us abandon our comrades to their fate, and think only of ourselves, in order to be fortunate enough to become bourgeois in our turn, fortunate exploiter.
That would be treason, wouldn’t it?
And yet isn’t that precisely what our practical men advise? In theory as well as in practice, in cooperation as well as in administration, they are consequently exploiters and enemies of the working class. – They want to conduct their business, not that of the International; but in order to better conduct their own business, they want to use the International.
What we must note incidentally is that they earn that name of practical men that they give themselves, much more by their individual, bourgeois intentions than by their success.
There are many among them who are not of very good faith, who are not misled, but misleading. Not knowing, never having imagined any practice but the bourgeois practice, many among them think that it would be only fair to have recourse to that same practice in order to fight the bourgeoisie. They have the naïveté to believe that what kills labor can emancipate it, and that they could use as well as the bourgeoisie itself, against it, the weapon by means of which the bourgeoisie crushes it.
It is a great error. These naïve men do not account for the immense superiority that the monopoly of wealth, of science, and of an age-old practice, as well as the overt or masked, but always active support of the States, and all the organization of the present society, give the bourgeoisie over the proletariat. So this would be a very unequal struggle for one to reasonably hope for success. In these conditions, the bourgeois weapons, which moreover being nothing but unbridled competition, the war of each against all, prosperity gained on the ruin of others, these weapons, these means can only serve the bourgeoisie, and would necessarily destroy solidarity, that single power of the proletariat.
 The bourgeoisie knew it well. Can we see it too?
While they continue to relentlessly combat the strike funds and Trades Unions, which are the sole means of truly effective war that the workers could employ against them, they have suddenly reconciled themselves, after a certain hesitation it is true, but which has not been of long duration, with the system of bourgeois cooperation.
All the bourgeois economists and publicists, even the most conservative, sing the beauty of that system in every way, and the partisans—alas, still as numerous as the bourgeoisie in the International—strive to lead the whole worker association in this sense. In this regard, Mr. Coullery and the Journal de Genève, Mr. Henri Dupasquier, the conservative-bigot de Neuchâtel, et Professor Dameth, that apostate of socialism converted by the bigots of Genève, are in agreement.
All shout themselves hoarse, crying out to us:
Worker, cooperate!”
Yes! Engage in good bourgeois cooperation, so that it demoralizes and ruins you for the profit of a few fortunate businessmen, who will use you as footboards, so that in their turn they can become bourgeois. Engage in bourgeois cooperation, it will lull you to sleep, and after having exhausted all your means, it will make you incapable of organizing your international power, that power without which you could never assert your right and make it triumph against the bourgeoisie.
We also want cooperation; we are even convinced that cooperation in all the branches of labor and science will be the preponderant form of social organization in the future. But, at the same time, we know that it could only prosper, develop itself full and freely, and embrace all human industry when it is founded on equality, when all capital, all the instruments of labor, including the soil, is given, as collective property, to labor.
So we consider that demand above all, and the organization of the international power of the laborers of all countries as the principal aim of our great Association.
This, once accepted, far from being the adversaries of the cooperative enterprises in the present, we find them necessary in many respects. First, and this is even their primary advantage for the moment, they accustom the workers to organize, to conduct, to direct their affairs by themselves, without any intervention of bourgeois capital or bourgeois direction.
It is desirable that when the hour of the social liquidation sounds, it finds in every country, in every locality many cooperative associations, which, if they are well organized, and above all founded on the principles of solidarity and collectivity, not on bourgeois exclusivism, will make society pass from its present state to that of equality and justice without too great tremors.
But in order for them to be able to fulfill that mission, the International Association must only protect the cooperative associations based on these principles.
In the articles to follow, we will speak of cooperation according to the principles of the International, and already today we publish an draft that appears to us to make a rather important step in the realization of these principles.

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Bakunin, “To the Brothers of the Alliance in Spain” (1872)

To the Brothers of the Alliance in Spain
[Manuscript: Lucarno, Switzerland, June 12-13, 1872]
Brothers,
I am an old and close friend, I can say the brother of Christophe [Giuseppe Fanelli?], the friend and brother whom many among you certainly have not forgotten. With him, I was one of the first founders of the Alliance. And it is by this double title that I address myself to you, Brothers of the Alliance.
Some unfortunate dissensions produced by struggles of pride between brothers who seem to have sacrificed our great purpose, the triumph of the universal, social revolution, to that of their vanity and their personal ambitions, have had as last result the dissolution of the Alliance in Madrid.
I set myself up as the judge of no one, but in the name of our principles as well as in that of all our brothers, I must say that those who have contributed to that dissolution, those who have divulged the secret of the Alliance, a secret that we have all promised on our honor to protect, are very culpable….
To betray the Alliance is to betray the revolution, for the Alliance has no other purpose than to serve revolution. We do not form a theoretical or exclusively economic institution. The Alliance is neither an academy, nor a workshop; it is an essentially militant association, seeking the organization the power of the popular masses in preparation for destruction of all the States and all presently existing institutions, whether religious, political, legal, economic or social, with an eye to the absolute emancipation of the enslaved and exploited laborers of the entire world. The aim of our organization is to urge the masses to make a clean slate, so that the agricultural and industrial populations can reorganize and federalize themselves, according to the principles justice, equality, liberty and solidarity, from top to bottom, spontaneously, freely, apart from all official tutelage, whether it be of a reaction or even a so-called revolutionary variety.
To those who ask us what good is the existence of the Alliance when the International exists, we would respond: the International is certainly a magnificent institution; it is unquestionably the finest, most useful, and most beneficial creation of the present century. It has created the basis for the solidarity of the laborers of the entire world. It has given them a beginning of organization across the borders of all the States and outside of the world of the exploiters and the privileged. It has done more; already today it contains the germs of the organization of the unity to come, and at the same time it has given to the proletariat of the entire world the feeling of its own power. Certainly these are immense services that it has rendered to the great cause of the universal, social revolution. But it is not an institution sufficient to organize an direct that revolution.
All the serious revolutionaries who have taken an active part in the labors of the International in any country, since 1864, the year of its foundation, must be convinced of that. The International prepares the elements of the revolutionary organization, but it does not accomplish it. It prepares them by organizing the public, legal struggle of the laborers joined in solidarity from all countries against the exploiters of labor, capitalists, proprietors and entrepreneurs of industry, but it never goes farther. The only thing that it does beyond the very useful work, is the theoretical propaganda of socialists ideas among the working masses, a work equally useful and necessary as the preparation of the revolution of the masses, but that is still far from the revolutionary organization of the masses.
The International is, in a word, an immense milieu favorable and necessary to that organization, but it is still not that organization. The International accepts within it, absolutely setting aside all the differences of political and religious beliefs, all honest laborers, on the sole condition that they accept, in all its consequences, the solidarity of the struggle of the laborers against bourgeois capital, exploiter of labor. That is a positive condition, sufficient to separate the world of the laborers of the world from the world of the privileged, but insufficient to give a revolutionary direction to the former. Its program is so large that the monarchists and Catholics themselves can enter. And that breadth of program is absolutely necessary, so that the International can embrace hundreds of thousands of workers, and it is only by counting hundreds of thousands of members that it becomes a true power. If the International was given a more explicit and determined program with regard to political, religious and social questions, if it recognized an obligatory and, as it were, official doctrine, if, for example, it made the acceptance of the principles of atheism in religion, or communalism is politics a condition for the entry of each member, it would barely number a few thousand members, and it would exclude millions who labor in industry or on the earth, who by their whole position, as well as by their instincts, are revolutionaries, atheists, and socialists, but who have still not lost the bad habit of reactionary thoughts. It would only have formed a rather second-rate party, which would hardly have counted a few thousand members in all of Europe. And that party itself would inevitably have fractured into many different coteries. For from the moment that there is an official theory, there will be, without fail, different and contrary theories. There would be bourgeois socialists, peaceful socialists, cooperativists, authoritarian socialists, hoping for their emancipation from the reform of the State and revolutionary socialists expecting it only from the destruction de the State.
All these theories, with many other shades, already exist today in the International; but as long as none of them is proclaimed as the official theory, these differences of doctrine and the peaceful struggles that follow from them in the very heart of the International, far from being an evil, are in my opinion a great good, in that the contribute to the development of thought and the spontaneous labor of the intelligence of each; they cannot damage the solidarity, which must unite the laborers of all countries, because that solidarity is not of a theoretical nature, but is entirely practical.—It is, I repeat again, the solidarity of the economic struggle of labor against capital, with all the practical consequences that it brings. The workers of the Jura Federation, for example, who have a horror of all authoritarian organization and who have adopted for a program the abolition of the State, are profoundly separated from this point of view from the workers of Germany, the great majority of whom seem to accept the authoritarian theories of Marx; and yet let a strike break out in Germany, the laborers of the Jura will be the first to support it with all their means. I am not certain, but I hope that the workers of Germany will do the same thing. So that is the true, the only solidarity created by the International. It is entirely practical, and it persists, it remains powerful despite all the theoretical dissidences that could be raised between different groups of workers.
It can, however, only maintain itself on the sole condition that no theory, whether political, socialist, or philosophical, can ever become the official, obligatory theory of the International. At first, each official theory is a good sense. In order to have the courage and the pretext to impose itself, it must proclaim itself absolute, and the time of the absolute has passed, at least in the camp of the revolution–for the men of liberty and humanity, the absolute is the absurd. Then, as there has never been an example of it in history and as it will always be impossible that any specific theory will really be the product of the individual thought of everyone; as all theories, insofar as they are explicit, finite theories, have been and always will be elaborated by a small number of individuals, the theory that is called absolute will in reality never represent anything but the despotism exerted by the thought of a few on the thought of all–a theoretical despotism that will never fail to turn into practical despotism and exploitation.
This is precisely what we see produced today in the very heart of the International. The Marxian sect, all-powerful in the General Council, profiting from the momentary disarray of the revolutionary socialists of France, who had stood up to them until now, but who today murdered, decimated, deported, exiled, or forced into silence, cannot make their voices heard, obviously tends to impose the political and socialist doctrine Marx, that of the emancipation of the working classes by the power of the great centralized State, as the official doctrine of the International. Alongside this aim and as its necessary consequence, it has pursued another; that of transforming the General Council, always directed by Marx in person, as the government, the official director, as the dictator of the International.–And it works, it schemes immensely today, spreading the slanders with both hands, in order to prepare a Congress that, after having proclaimed the doctrine and dictatorship, naturally concealed, of Marx as obligatory for all the sections of the International, will declare as heretics all those who do not have to accept that doctrine, and as traitors all those who do not want to bow their heads under that dictatorship.
Such is the fatal effect of official doctrines.
Unless it betrays its mission, the International must accept none of them. But then, what will happen? It will happen that, more and more educated by the struggle and by the free propaganda of different ideas, directed by their own instinct and increasingly raised to revolutionary consciousness by practice itself and the inevitable consequences of the universal solidarity of the struggle of labor against capital, the masses will elaborate, slowly, it is true, but infallibly, their own thoughts, theories that will emerge from bottom to top, but will no longer be imposed from top to bottom.
I have said what labor will slowly be and do. Not so slowly, however, as we might think. Those who have had some practice in the development of the International, know what marvelous progress the consciousness of the workers have made in a very small number of years, thanks to the absolute freedom that has reigned thus far in the heart of the International, liberty in propaganda, as well as in organization…
In my view, this progress is immense. However, I recognize that they are insufficientto give the elementary power of the masses a revolutionary organization, and as long as the masses do not have this organization, should they be even more overwhelming with regard to number, compared to those of privileged classes, they will always be crushedby the latter.
I recognize with joy that the privileged classes in all countries have lost much of their past strength. They have absolutely lost their moral strength; they no longer have faith in their right; they know that they are wicked, despicable, and they despise themselves. That is a great deal. Having lost their moral strength, they conspicuously and necessarily also lose the strength of their intelligence. They are much more learned than the proletariat, but that does not prevent them from becoming more and more stupid. They have lost all intellectual and moral courage. They no longer dare to look forward and now only look behind. All of that unfailingly condemns them to death. The proletariat, who in their lifetime have inherited their former intellectual and moral power, is prepared to force them today from their last political and economic entrenchments.
All of that is true. But we must have no illusions, the entrenchments are still very strong: they are called the State, the Church, the stock market, the police, the army, then that great international and public, legal, admitted, that is called diplomacy.
All that is skillfully organized and powerful in the organization. And in the presence of this formidable organization, the proletariat, even united, grouped and put in solidarity in and by the International, remained disorganized. What do their numbers matter! Even if the people number a million, several millions, they will be held in check by a few tens of thousands of soldiers, maintained and disciplined at their cost, against them, by bourgeois coins produced by their own labor.
Take the most numerous, most advanced and best organized section of the International.-Is it prepared for the combat? You know well that it is not. Of a thousand laborers, it would be a great deal if you could gather one or at most two hundred on the day of the battle. That is because in order to organize a force, it is not enough to unite the interests, feelings, and thoughts… We must unite wills and characters. Our enemies organize their forces by the power of money and the authority of the State. We cannot organize our by conviction and passion.
We cannot and we would not have any army except the people, the masses. But in order for the masses to rise up entirely and simultaneously – and it is only on that single condition that it could win – what is to be done? Above all, how to sure the masses, even electrified and risen, do not contradict and paralyze themselves by their contrary movements?
There is only one single means; it is to insure the cooperation of all the popular leaders. I call popular leaders some individuals most often coming out from the people, living with them, in their life, who, thanks to their intellectual and moral superiority, exert a great influence on them. There are many among them who abuse that and make it serve their individual interests. They are very dangerous men, who must be avoided like the plague, that we must fight and destroy when we can. We must seek good leaders, those who seek their own interest only in the interests of everyone. But how are we to find them and recognize them, and where is the individual intelligent enough, discerning enough, and powerful enough, to not be mistaken first in their choice and then in order to convince them and in order to organize them all alone?
It is obvious that this cannot be the work of a single man; that many men associated can alone undertake and bring to a good end such a difficult enterprise. But for that, it is first necessary that they understand one another and that they join hands for this common work. But this work having a practical, revolutionary aim, the mutual understanding that is its necessary condition cannot be reached in public; if it is made in public, it will attract the persecutions of the whole official and unofficial world against the originators and they will see themselves crushed before they have been able to do the least thing.
So that understanding and that association that must emerge from it can only be made in secret, that is to say that it is necessary to establish a conspiracy, a secret society.
Such is also the thought and aim of the Alliance. It is a secret society formed in the very heart of the International, in order to give to the latter a revolutionary organization, in order to transform it, and all the popular masses who find themselves outside of it, and a power sufficiently organized to destroy the politico-clerical-bourgeois reaction, to destroy all the economic, legal, religious and political institutions of the States.
The last Conference of London has pronounced the anathema against any secret society that could be formed in the heart of the International. It is obviously a blow against us. But what the Marxian coterie, which directed that Conference, as it directed the General Council at that time, what it has so carefully refrained from saying to the majority of the members of that Conference, and what it has only said to its very close friends or to its henchmen, is that it has been pushed to formulate that condemnation against us in order to prepare the way for its own conspiracy, for the secret society that has existed since 1848 under the direction of Marx, founded by Marx, Engels, and Wolff, and which is nothing other than the almost exclusively Germanic society of the Authoritarian Communists.
What I have said there is not a supposition, but a fact known by many people, and that many times, in different political trials, has publically transpired in Germany. So, leaving aside the odious part of personalities that has been pushed to the  most appalling nastiness, by our vindictive and all too relentless adversaries, we must recognize that the intestine that today strikes at the heart of the International, is nothing but that of two secret societies as opposed in their principles, as in the system of their organization, and of which one, that of the Authoritarian Communists, as I just said, since 1848, the other that of the Alliance of Revolutionary Socialistsdates its existence from 1864, it is true, but has only begun to establish itself in the International since 1868.
Let us begin, first of all, by doing justice to our adversaries, where they deserve that justice. Marx is not an ordinary man. He is a superior intelligence, a man of science, especially in economic questions, and also a man who, to my knowledge since 1845, the time of my first encounter with him in Paris, has always been sincerely, completely devoted to the cause of the emancipation of the proletariat, a cause to which he has rendered some indisputable services, which he has never wittingly betrayed, but that he jeopardizes immensely today by his formidable vanity, by his hateful, malicious character, and by his tendencies to dictatorship in the very heart of the party of the revolutionary socialists. His vanity, in fact, has no limits, a truly Jewish vanity; and it is a great pity, it is a useless luxury, for the vanity is understandable in an empty being, who being nothing, wants to appear all. Marx has some qualities and a very positive, very great power of thought and action, that could have spared him, it seems to me, the trouble of resorting to the miserable means of vanity. That vanity, naturally already very strong, has been considerably fattened by the adulation of his friends and disciples. Very individual, very jealous, very sensitive, and very vindictive, like Jehovah, the God of his people, Marx would not suffer that anyone recognize any God but himself; what am I saying, that anyone even do justice to another socialist writer or personality, in his presence. Proudhon, who has never been a God, but who certainly was a great revolutionary thinker and who rendered immense services to the development of socialist ideas, has become for that same reason the bête noire of Marx. To praise Proudhon in his presence, was to commit a mortal offense, worthy of all the natural consequences of his enmity–and those consequences are: hatred first, then the filthiest slanders. Marx never stepped back from a lie, as odious or deceitful as it might be, when he believed he could use it without too great danger for himself against those who had the misfortune of incurring his wrath.—I have said that Marx is excessively individual. Here is one proof: he still believed in individual property in his ideas. After the death of Lassalle, the famous agitator and founder of the Democratic Socialist Party in Germany, in large part a disciple of Marx, an authoritarian communist like him, who like him had preached the emancipation of the working masses by the State,-after his death, I say, Marx published the first and thus far only volume of his great book on “Capital”. In the preface, he bitterly accused Lassalle of having stolen his ideas and even the form of the ideas; a reproach that was already supremely unjust since Lassalle in one of his writings, directed against Schultz-Delitsch, after having developed certain ideas, add: “These ideas and the expressions that I have used, have not been invented by me; I have borrowed them from a magnificent, still unpublished work of Marx.” That declaration was not enough for Marx. Here then is Marx caught red-handed in propertarianism, and that in the sphere of ideas, which is certainly the least proper for individual appropriation. – These friends know that main of their master so well that, for example, Engels, also a very intelligent man, the closest and oldest friend of Marx, having published a very remarkable work on the rising of the German peasants in the 16th century, was very careful to say in the introduction that the principal ideas that had served as basis for that work were not his one, but belonged to Marx.
Now, let us recognize that Marx is a very serious, very profound economic thinker. He has this immense advantage over Proudhon, of being a realist, a materialist. Proudhon, despite all his efforts to shake off the traditions of classical idealism, nonetheless remained all his life an incorrigible idealist, inspired, as I told him two months before his death, sometimes by the Bible, sometimes by Roman law, and always a metaphysician to the fingertips. His great misfortune is that he never studied the natural sciences, and he never adopted its methods. He had some instincts of genius that made him glimpse the right path, but, led by the bad idealist habits of his mind, he always fell back into the old errors: so that Proudhon has been a perpetual contradiction,—a vigorous genius, a revolutionary thinker always struggling against the phantoms of idealism, but never managing to vanquish them.
Marx, as a thinker, is on the right track. He has established as a principle that all the political, religious and legal evolutions in history are not causes, but effects of the economic evolutions. It is a great and productive thought, that he has not absolutely invented: it has been glimpsed, expressed in part, by many others than him; but finally, to him belongs the honor of having solidly established it and having posited it as the basis of his whole economic system. On the other hand, Proudhon understand and felt liberty beaucoup much better than him—Proudhon, when he did not engage in doctrine and metaphysics, had the true instinct of the revolutionary—he adored Satan and he proclaimed an-archy. It is quite possible that Marx could raise himself theoretically to an even more rational system of liberty than Proudhon—but he lacks Proudhon’s instinct. As a German and a Jew, he is an authoritarian from head to toe.
From there, the two opposing systems: the anarchic system of Proudhon, expanded by us, developed and liberated from all its metaphysical, idealist, doctrinaire accoutrements, and squarely accepting matter in science, and social economy in history as the basis of all the subsequent developments. And the system of Marx, leader of the German school of authoritarian communists.
Here are the bases of that system. Like us, the authoritarian communists want the abolition of individual property. But they differ from us principally in that they want the expropriation of all individuals by the State, while we want it by the abolition of the State and of the legal right guaranteed necessarily by the State. This is why, at the Basle Congress, we have proclaimed the abolition of the right of inheritance, while they have opposed it, saying that this abolition would become useless for the moment that the State became the sole proprietor.-The State, they say, must be the only proprietor of the land, and also the only banker. The State bank, replacing the feudal banks existing today, must alone bankroll the national labor; so that in fact all the workers, in industry as well as on the land, would become employees of the State. the English communists of that same school, have declared at the Basle Congress, that the earth should be cultivated under the direction of engineers of the State.
We have rejected this system for two reasons; first, because instead of diminishing the power of the State, it increases it by concentrating all the powers in its hand. It is true that he says that their State will be the State of the people, governed by Assemblies and officials elected directly by the people and subject to popular control.—It is the representative, parliamentary system, that of universal suffrage, corrected by the referendum and by direct voting on all the laws by the people.—But we know how much sincerity there is in these representations. What is clear is that the Marxian system leads, like that of Mazzini, to establishment of a very strong, so-called popular power, to the domination on an intelligent minority, alone capable of comprehending the complicated questions that are inseparable from centralization, and consequently to the enslavement of the masses and to their exploitation by that intelligent minority. It is the system of revolutionary authorities, of liberty directed from on high—it is a flagrant lie.
The other reason that has made us reject this system, is that it leads directly to the establishment of some new, large, national State, separated and necessarily competing and hostile, to the negation of Internationality, of humanity. For unless they claim to found a single, universal State–an absurd enterprise, condemned by history – it must inevitably found some national States, or else what is still more probable, some large States in which, one race, the most powerful and most intelligent, will enslave, oppress and exploit other races–so that without admitting it, the Marxians fatally lead to pan-Germanism… [the manuscript ends here]
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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Filed under 1872, International Alliance, International Workingmen's Association, Karl Marx, manuscript writings, Mikhail Bakunin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Spain

The Policy of the International (III & IV) (1869)

The Policy of the International
III
L’Égalité, August 21, 1869;
If the International at first showed itself indulgent toward the subversive and reactionary ideas, whether in politics and religion, that the workers might have when joining it, it was not through indifference toward these ideas. We cannot tax it with indifference since it detests them and rejects them with all the strength of its being, every reactionary idea being the overturning of the very principle of the Revolution, as we have already demonstrated in our preceding articles.
That indulgence, we repeat again, is inspired by a high wisdom. Knowing perfectly that every serious worker is a socialist by all the necessities inherent in their miserable positions, and that some reactionary ideas, it they have them, may only be the effect of their ignorance, it counts on the collective experience that they cannot fail to acquire in the heart of the International and especially on the development of the collective struggle of the workers against the bosses to deliver them from those ideas.
And indeed, from the moment that a worker takes faith in the possibility of an imminent radical transformation of the economic situation, associated with his comrades, begins to struggle seriously for the reduction of his hours of labor and the increase of his wages from the moment that he begins to interest himself seriously in that entirely material struggle, we can be certain that he will soon abandon all his heavenly preoccupations, and that becoming accustomed to count always more on the collective force of the workers, he will willingly renounce aid from heaven. Socialism takes the place of religion in his mind.
It will not be the same with his reactionary politics. It will lose its principal support to the extent that the conscience of the worker sees itself delivered from religious oppression. On another side the economic struggle, by developing and always extending to a greater extent, will make itself known more and more in a practical manner and by a collective experience that is necessarily always more instructive and broader than isolated experience, its true enemies, which are the privileged classes, including the clergy, the bourgeoisie, the nobility and the State; this last only being there to safeguard all the privileges of these classes and inevitably always taking their side against the proletariat.
The worker thus involved in the struggle will inevitably end by understanding the irreconcilable antagonism that exists between these accomplices of the reaction and its most cherished human interests, and having arrived at this point he will no fail to recognize himself and frankly declare himself a revolutionary socialist.
This is not the case with the bourgeoisie. All their interests are contrary to the economic transformation of society. And if their ideas are also contrary to it as well, if these ideas are reactionaries, or as we say more politely today, moderates; if their heart and mind reject this great act of justice and emancipation that we call the social revolution, if they enjoy real, social equality, that is political, social and economic equality at once; if in the bottom of their hearts they want to keep for themselves, for their class or for their children a single privilege, even just that of intelligence, as today so many bourgeois socialists do; if they do not detest, not just with all the logic in their minds but also all the power of their passion, the present order of things, then we can be certain that they will remain reactionaries, enemies of the cause of the workers, all their life.
We must keep them far from the International.
We must keep them very far away, for they could only enter to demoralize it and turn it from its path. It is, moreover, an infallible sign by which the workers can recognize if a bourgeois, who asks to be received in their ranks, comes to them frankly, without the shadow of hypocrisy and without the least subversive ulterior motive. That sign is the relations that they preserve with the bourgeois world.
The antagonism that exists between the world of the worker and the bourgeois world takes on a more and more pronounced character. Every man who thinks seriously and whose feelings and imagination are not altered by the often unconscious influence of self-interested sophisms, must understand today that no reconciliation is possible between them. The workers want equality, and the bourgeois want to maintain inequality. Obviously one destroys the other. And the great majority of the bourgeois capitalists and proprietors, those who have the courage to frankly admit what they want, also have the courage to display with the same frankness the horror that the present movement of the working class inspires in them. They are enemies as resolute as sincere. We know them, and that is good.
But there is another category of bourgeois who do not have the same frankness or courage. Enemies of the social liquidation—which we call for with all the power of our souls as a great act of justice, as the necessary point of departure and indispensible basis of an egalitarian and rational organization of society—they, like all the other bourgeois, preserve economic inequality, that eternal source of all the other inequalities; an at the same time they pretend to want, like us, the complete emancipation of the worker and of work. They maintain against us, with a passion worthy of the most reactionary bourgeois, the very cause of the slavery of the proletariat, the separation of labor and immobile or capitalized property, represented today by two different classes; and they pose nonetheless as the apostles of the emancipation of the working class from the yoke of property and capital!
Do they mislead or are they misled? Some are mistaken in good faith, badly mistaken; the majority are misleading and misled at the same time. They all belong to that category of bourgeois radicals and bourgeois socialists who founded the League of Peace and Freedom.
Is this League socialist? In the beginning, and for the first year of its existence, as we have already had occasion to tell, it rejected socialism with horror.
Last year, in its Congress at Berne it rejected the principle of economic equality. Today, feeling itself dying and wishing to live a little longer, and finally understanding that no political existence is possible from now on without the social question, it calls itself socialist; it has become bourgeois-socialist, which means that it wants to resolve all social questions on the basis of economic inequality. It desires, it must preserve the interest of capital and the rent of the earth, and it claims to emancipate the workers with that. It strives to give a body to nonsense.
Why do that do it? What is it that makes it attempt a work as incongruous as sterile? It is not difficult to understand.
A great portion of the bourgeoisie is tired of the reign of Caesarism and militarism that it itself established in 1848, from fear of the proletariat. Just recall the June days, precursors of the days of December; recall that National Assembly that curse and insulted, unanimously but for one voice, the illustrious and we could well say heroic socialist Proudhon, who alone had the courage to hurl the challenge of socialism at this and expose this rabid herd of bourgeois conservatives, liberals, and radicals. And we must not forget that among these traducers of Proudhon, there are a number of citizens still living, and today more militant than ever, who, baptized by the persecutions of December, have since become martyrs to liberty.
So there is no doubt that the entire bourgeoisie, including the radical bourgeoisie, has been the creator of the césarien and military despotism whose effects it deplores today. After having used them against the proletariat, they now want to be free of them. Nothing is more natural; this regime humiliates and ruins them.
But how can they free themselves? Formerly, they were brave and powerful, they had the power for conquests. Today they are cowardly and senile, and afflicted with the impotence of the old. They recognize only too well their weakness, and sense that they alone can do nothing. So they must have an aid. That aid can only be the proletariat; so they must win over the proletariat.
But how can they win them over? By promises of liberty and political equality? These are words that no longer move the workers. They have learned at their own cost, they have learned by hard experience, that these words mean nothing for them but the maintenance of their economic slavery, often more harsh than before. So if you want to touch the heart of these miserable millions of slaves to labor, speak to them about their economic emancipation. There is no a worker who does not know now that it is for him the only serious and real basis of all the other emancipations. So it would be necessary to speak to them about the economic reform of society.
Well, the members of the League for Peace and Freedom say to themselves, let us speak of it, let us could ourselves socialists as well. Let us promise them some economic and social reforms, always on the condition that they wish to respect the basis of civilization and bourgeois omnipotence: individual and hereditary property, interest on capital and land-rent. Let us persuade them that on these conditions alone, which assure us domination and the workers slavery, can the workers be emancipated.
Let us persuade them that in order to realize all these social reforms, we must first make a good political revolution, exclusively political, as red as they please from the political point of view, with a great chopping of heads, if that becomes necessary, but with the greatest respect for holy property; an entirely Jacobin revolution, in a word, that would make us the masters of the situation; and once masters, we could give to the workers… what we can and what we want.
There is an infallible sign by which the workers can recognize a false socialist, a bourgeois socialist; if in speaking to them of revolution or, if you want, of social transformation, he tells them that the political transformation must make both at once or even that the political revolution should be nothing but the immediate and direct putting into action of the full, complete social liquidation; let them turn their back, for either he is only a fool, or else a hypocritical exploiter.
IV
L’Égalité, August 28, 1869;
The International Workingmen’s Association, in order to remain faithful to its principle and in order not to deviate from the only road that can lead it to its destination, must above all protect itself against the influence of two kinds of bourgeois socialists: the partisans of bourgeois politics, including even the revolutionary bourgeois, and the so-called “practical men,” partisans of bourgeois cooperation.
Let us first consider the first group.
Economic emancipation, we said in our preceding number, is the basis of all the other emancipations. We have summarized by those words the whole policy of the International.
In fact we read, in the of our general statutes the following declaration:
“That the subjection of labor to capital is the source of all political moral and material servitude, and that for this reason the emancipation of the workers is the great aim to which every political movement must be subordinated.”
It is well understood that every political movement whose immediate, direct objective is not the definitive and complete economic emancipation of the workers, and which has not inscribed on its flag, in a very clear and decided manner, the principle of economic equality, which means the complete restitution of capital to labor, or else the social liquidation – that every such political movement is a bourgeois, and, as such, must be excluded from the International.
Must consequently be pitilessly excluded the politics of the bourgeois democrats or bourgeois socialists, who, in declaring “that political liberty is the preliminary condition for economic emancipation,” cannot intend by this words anything but this: political reforms or revolution must precede economic reforms of revolution; the workers must consequently ally with the more or less radical bourgeois in order to faire d’abord avec eux les premières, sauf à faire ensuite contre eux les dernières.
We frankly protest against this disastrous theory that could only lead, for the workers, to make them serve once again as an instrument against themselves and deliver them up anew to the exploitation of the bourgeoisie.
To conquer political liberty first can mean nothing except winning it first all alone, leaving, at least for the first days, the economic and social relations in their present state, leaving the proprietors and capitalists with their insolent wealth, and the workers with their poverty.
But, some will say, once that liberty is won, it will serve the workers as an instrument to later gain equality or economic justice.
Liberty is indeed a magnificent and powerful instrument. But everything depends on whether the workers can really make use of it, if it is really in their possession, or if, as has always been the case before, their political liberty is only a misleading appearance, a fiction.
Couldn’t a worker, in his present economic situation, respond with the refrain of a well-known song, to those who came to him to speak of political liberty:
“Do not speak of liberty.
“Poverty is slavery!”
And, in fact, he would have to be in love with illusions to imagine that a worker, in the economic and social conditions in which he finds himself at present, could profit fully, and make a real, serious use of his political liberty. For that, he lacks two things: the leisure and the material means.
Incidentally, haven’t we seen it in France, the day after the revolution of 1848, the most radical revolution we could desire from a political point of view?
The French workers were certainly not indifferent or unintelligent, yet despite the broadest universal suffrage, they had to let the bourgeois have their way [laisser faire]. Why? Because they lacked the material means that were necessary to make political liberty become a reality, because they remained the slaves of a labor forced by hunger, while the bourgeois radicals, liberals, and even conservatives, some republicans the day before, others converted the day after, came and went, acted and spoke, worked and schemed freely – some thanks to their rents or their lucrative bourgeois positions, the others thanks to the State budget that they have naturally preserved and even made greater than ever.
We know what the result has been: first the days of June, then later, as a necessary consequence, the days of December.
But, it will be said, the workers, made wiser by the very experience that have had, will no longer send the bourgeois to the constituent or legislative assemblies; they will send simple workers. Poor as they are, they could provide for their deputies. Do you know what would happen? The worker deputies, transplanted into bourgeois conditions of existence and an atmosphere of entirely bourgeois political ideas, ceasing to be workers by he act of becoming men of State, would become bourgeois and perhaps even more bourgeois than the bourgeois themselves. For the men do not make the positions; it is, on the contrary, the positions that make the men. And we know by experience that the bourgeois workers are seldom less selfish than the bourgeois exploiters, nor less deadly to the Association than the bourgeois socialists, nor less vain and ridiculous than the ennobled bourgeois.
Whatever is said and done, as long as the workers remain plunged in their present state, no liberty possible will be possible, and those who agree to win political liberty for them without first addressing the burning questions of socialism, without pronouncing that phrase that makes the bourgeois pale—social liquidation—simply say to them: First win that liberty for us, so that later we can use it against you.
But they are well intentioned and sincere, these bourgeois, it will be said. There are no good intentions and sincerity that hold out against the influences of the position, and since we have said that even the workers who put themselves in that position would inevitably become bourgeois, there is all the more reason that the bourgeois who remain in that position will remain bourgeois.
If a bourgeois, inspired by a great passion de justice, equality and humanity, wants to work seriously for the emancipation of the proletariat, let him first begin by breaking all the political and social ties, all the relations of interest as well as spirit, vanity and heart, with the bourgeoisie. Let him first understand that no reconciliation is possible between the proletariat and that class, which, living only for the exploitation of the other, is the natural enemy of the proletariat.
After having turned his back once and for all on the bourgeois world, let him then come to fall in beneath the flag of the workers, on which are inscribed these words: “Justice, Equality and Liberty for all. Abolition of the classes by the economic equalization of all. Social liquidation.” He will be welcome. 
As for the bourgeois socialists and bourgeois workers who come to speak to us of conciliation between bourgeois politics and the socialism of the laborers, we have only one bit of advice to give to the laborers: they must turn their backs on them.
Since the bourgeois socialists strive to organize today, with socialism as bait, a formidable agitation among the workers in order to win political liberty, a liberty that, as we have just seen will only profit the bourgeoisie; since the working masses, arriving at a knowledge of their position, enlightened and guided by the principle of the International, are in fact organizing and begin to constitute a true power, not national, but international; not to do the business of the bourgeois, but their own business; and since, even to realize that ideal of the bourgeois, of a complete political liberty with republication institutions, would require, and since no revolution can except through the power of the people; that power must, ceasing to pull chestnuts from the fire for the gentlemen of the bourgeoisie, only serve from now on to bring triumph to the cause of the people, the cause of all those who labor against all those who exploit labor.
The International Workingmen’s Association, faithful to its principle, will never extend its had to a political agitation whose immediate and direct aim is not the complete economic emancipation of the worker, the abolition of the bourgeoisie as a class economically separate from the mass of the population, nor to any revolution that does not, from the first day, from the first hour inscribe the social liquidation on its banner.
But revolutions are not improvised. They are not made arbitrarily, either by individuals or by the most powerful associations. Independent of all will and of all conspiracy, they are always brought about by the force of events. They can be foreseen, their approach can sometimes be sensed, but their explosion can never be accelerated.
Convinced of this truth, we pose this question: What is the policy that the International should pursue during this more or less extended period of time that separates us from that terrible social revolution which everyone senses today?
Setting aside, as its statutes command, all local and national politics, it will give to the agitation of the workers in all countries an essentially economic character, by establishing the reduction of the hours of labor and the increase of wages as its aim, the association of the working masses and the establishment of strike funds as its means.
It will propagandize its principles, for these principles, being the purest expression of the collective interests of the workers of the whole world, are the soul and constitute all the vital force of the Association. It will spread that propaganda broadly, without regard for bourgeois sensibilities, so that every worker, emerging from the intellectual and moral torpor in which he has been they have tried to keep him, will understand his situation and know what he must do, and under what conditions he can gain his rights as a man.
It will make an every more energetic and sincere propaganda, as within the International itself we will often encounter influences, which, affecting disdain for these principles, would like to portray them as a useless theory and strive to bring the workers back to the to the political, economic and religious catechism of the bourgeoisie.
It will extend and organize itself strongly across the borders of all the nations, so that when the Revolution, brought about by the force of events, breaks out, it will be a real force ready, knowing what it must do and therefore capable of grasping and giving it a direction that it truly salutary for the people; a serious international organization of the workers’ associations of all countries, capable of replacing that political world of States and of the bourgeoisie, which is on the way out.
We conclude this faithful exposition of the policy of the International, by reproducing the final paragraph of the preamble to our general statutes:
“The movement that comes about among the workers of the most industrious countries of Europe, by giving rise to new hopes, gives a solemn warning not to fall again into old errors.”
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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The Policy of the International (I & II) (1869)

The Policy of the International
I
L’Égalité, August 7, 1869;
“We have believed until now, said La Montagne, that political and religious opinions were independent of the profession of member of the International; and, as for us, that is the terrain on which we place ourselves.”
We could believe, at first glance, that Mr. Coullery was right. For, in fact, in accepting a new member the International does not ask him whether he is religious or an atheist, whether or not he belongs to any political party. It simply asks him: Are you a worker, or if you are not, do you want and do you feel you have the need and strength to frankly, fully embrace the cause of the workers, to identify with it to the exclusion of all causes that might oppose it?
Do you feel that the workers, who produce all of the world’s wealth, who are the creatures of civilization and who have won all the bourgeois liberties, are today condemned to poverty, ignorance and slavery? Do you understand that the principal source of all the evils that the workers endure is poverty, and that this poverty, which is the lot of all the workers in the world, is a necessary consequence of the present economic order of society, and particularly of the submission of labor of the proletariat to the yoke of capital, to the bourgeoisie?
Do you understand that there is an irreconcilable antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, which is the necessary consequence of their respective positions? That the prosperity of the bourgeois class is incompatible with the well-being and liberty of the workers, because this exclusive prosperity can be founded only upon the exploitation and subjugation of their labor, and that for this reason, the prosperity and human dignity of the working masses absolutely demands the abolition of the bourgeoisie as a separate class? That, as a consequence, the war between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is inevitable, and can only end with the destruction of the bourgeoisie.
Do you understand that no worker, however intelligent and energetic, can struggle all by himself against the well-organized power of the bourgeoisie, a power principally represented and sustained by the organization of the State, of all the States? That in order to give yourself the strength you must associate, not with the bourgeois, which would be a stupidity or a crime on your part, because all the bourgeois, as bourgeois, are our irreconcilable enemies, nor with some unfaithful workers, who would be so cowardly as to go beg for the smiles and benevolence of the bourgeois, but with honest, energetic workers, who frankly want what you want?
Do you understand that faced with the formidable coalition of all the privileged classes, all the proprietors and capitalists, and all the states in the world, an isolated workers’ association, local or national, even in one of the greatest European nations, could never triumph, and that to stand up to that coalition and obtain that victory, nothing less would be required than a union of all the local and national workers’ associations into a single universal association, that it would require the great International Association of the workers of all countries?
If you feel, understand and truly want all this, then come to us, whatever your political and religious beliefs. But in order to be accepted, you must promise:
1) to subordinate from now on your personal interests, and even those of your family, as well as your political and religious convictions and expressions, to the supreme interest of our association: the struggle of labor against capital, of the workers against the bourgeoisie on the economic terrain;
2) to never compromise with the bourgeoisie for your personal gain;
3) to never seek to raise yourself individually, only for your own gain, above the working mass, which would immediately make you a bourgeois, an enemy and exploiter of the proletariat; for the only difference between the bourgeois and the worker is that the first always seeks his good outside the collectivity, only seeks it and claims to win it in solidarity with all those who labor and are exploited by the capital of the bourgeois;
4) to remain always faithful to the solidarity of the workers, for the least betrayal of that solidarity will be considered by the International as the greatest crime and infamy that any worker could commit. In short, you must frankly, fully accept our general statutes and give your solemn pledge to conform to them from now on in your acts and life.
We think that the founders of the International Association have acted with a very great wisdom by first of all eliminating all political and religious questions from the program of that Association. Doubtless, they did not themselves lack political opinions, nor very marked anti-religious opinions; but they abstained from advancing them in that program, because their principal aim was to unite above all the working masses of the civilized world in a common action. They necessarily had to seek a common basis, a series of simple principles about which all the workers, whatever there political and religious aberrations, if they are serious workers, honest men who are harshly exploited and suffering, are and should be in agreement.
If they displayed the flag of a political or anti-religious system, far from uniting the workers of Europe they would still be more divided; because, with the ignorance of the workers assisting, the self-serving and most utterly corrupting propaganda of the priests, the governments and all the bourgeois political parties, including the very reddest of them, has spread a host of false ideas among the working masses, that these blind masses are unfortunately still too often fascinated by some lies, which have no other aim than to make them willingly and stupidly serve, to the detriment of their own interests, those of the privileges classes.
Besides, there still exists too great a difference in the degrees of industrial, political, intellectual and moral development of the working masses in the different countries for it to be possible for them to unite today by one single political and antireligious program. To pose such a program as that of the International, by making it an absolute condition for entry into that Association, would be to try to establish a sect, not a global association. It could only destroy the International.
There is yet another important reason for eliminating at first, in appearance and only in appearance, all political tendencies.
From the beginnings of history to this day, there has still never been a true politics of the people, and by that word we mean the lower classes, the working rabble who feed the world with their toil. There has only been the politics of the privileged classes, those classes who have used the muscular power of the people to mutually depose one another, and to replace one another. The people, in turn, have only taken the part of some against the others in the vain hope that at least one of these political revolutions, which no one has been able to make without them, would bring some relief to their century-old poverty and slavery. They have always been misled. Even the great French Revolution betrayed them. It killed the aristocratic nobility and put the bourgeoisie in its place. The people are no longer called slaves or serfs, they are proclaimed freeborn by law, but in fact their slavery and poverty remain the same.
And they will always remain the same as long as the popular masses continue to serve as an instrument for bourgeois politics, whether that politics is called conservative, liberal, progressive, or radical, and even when it is given the most revolutionary appearances in the world. For all bourgeois politics, whatever its color and name, can at base only have one aim: the maintenance of bourgeois domination; and bourgeois domination is the slavery of the proletariat.
And they will remain enslaved as long as the working masses continue to serve as tools of bourgeois politics, whether conservative or liberal, even if those politics pretend to he revolutionary. For all bourgeois politics whatever the label or color have only one purpose: to perpetuate domination by the bourgeoisie, and bourgeois domination is the slavery of the proletariat.
What then was the International to do? It first had to loose the working masses from all bourgeois politics, it had to eliminate from its own program all the political programs of the bourgeois. But at the time of its founding, there was no other politics in the world by but those of the Church or the monarchy, or of the aristocracy or bourgeoisie; the last, especially that of the radical bourgeoisie, was indisputably more liberal and more humane than the others, but all equally founded on the exploitation of the working masses and having in reality no other aim than to dispute the monopoly of that exploitation. So the International had to begin by clearing the ground, and like every politics, from the point of view of the emancipation of labor, found itself thus tarnished by reactionary elements, it first had to purge itself of every known political system, in order to be able to build on these ruins of the bourgeois world, the true politics of the workers, the politics of the International Association.
II
L’Égalité, August 14, 1869;
The founders of the International Workingmen’s Association actedwith so much more wisdom by avoiding posing political and philosophical principles as the basis of that association,and giving it at first for sole basis only the purely economic struggle of labor against capital, as they were certain that, from the moment that a worker put his foot on the land, from the moment that, taking confidence both in his right and in numerical strength, he agrees with his companions to work in a united struggle against bourgeois exploitation, he will necessarily be led, by the very force of things and by the development of the struggle, to recognize soon all the political,socialist and philosophical principlesof the International, principlesthat are nothing, in fact, but the just exposition of itsstarting point, its purpose.
We have set out these principles in previous issues. From the political and social point of view, their necessary consequences are the abolition of the classes, and consequently that of the bourgeoisie, which is the dominant class today; the abolition of all the territorial States, that of all the political homelands, and on their ruin, the establishment of the great international federation of all the productive groups, national and local. From the philosophical point of vie, as they tend to nothing less than the realization of the human ideal, of human happiness, of quality, of justice and liberty on earth, that because they tend to render completely useless all the celestial complements and all the hopes of a better world, they have as an equally necessary consequence the abolition of the cults and all the religious systems.
Announce these twogoals first of all to the ignorantworkers, crushed by the work of each day and demoralized—poisoned, as it were—knowingly by the perverse doctrines that the governments, in concert with allthe privileged castes, priests, nobility, bourgeoisie, distribute to them with both hands, and you will scarethem; they will perhaps reject you, without suspecting that all these ideas are nothing but the most faithful expression of their own interests, that these goals bear within them the realization of their dearest wishes; and that, on the contrary, the religious and political prejudices in whose name they reject them may be the direct cause of the prolongation of their slavery and poverty.
It is necessary to clearly distinguish the prejudices of the popular masses and those of the privileged classes. The prejudices of the masses, as we have just said, are only based on their ignorance and are entirely contrary to their interests, while those of the bourgeoisie are based precisely on the interests of that class, and are only maintained, against the dissolving action of bourgeois science itself, that to the collective selfishness of the bourgeois. The people want, but they do not know. The bourgeoisie know, but they do not want. Of the two, which is incurable? The bourgeoisie, of course.
General rule: You can only convert those who feel the need of conversion, only those who already bear in their instincts or in the miseries of their position, whether external or internal, all that you want to give them; never those who do not feel the need of any change, even those who, while desiring to escape from a position where they are dissatisfied, are driven by the nature of their moral, intellectual and social habits, to seek it in a world that is not the one of your ideas.
Convert to socialism, I beg you, a nobleman who covetswealth, a bourgeoiswho would be a noble, or even a worker who does tend to all the forces of his soul only to become a bourgeois! Then convert a real or imaginary aristocratof the intellect, a scholar, a half-scholar, a fourth, tenth, or hundredth part of a scholar who, full of scientificostentation, often only because they only had the good fortune to have understood, after a fashion,a few books, are full of arrogant contemptfor the illiterate masses, and imagine that they are called to form between themselves a new ruling, that is to say exploiting, caste.
No reasoning or propaganda will ever be able to convert these wretches. To convince them, there is only one means: it is the deed, the destruction of the very possibility of privileged situations, the destruction of all domination and exploitation; it is the social revolution, which, sweeping away everything that establishes inequality in the world, will moralize them and force them to seek their happiness in equality and in solidarity.
Things are different with serious workers. By serious workers we mean those who are really crushed by the weight of toil; all those whose position is so precarious and so miserable that none, except in extraordinary circumstances, can even think of attain for himself, and only for himself, in the present economic conditions and social environment, a better position; to become in their turn, for example, a boss or a member of the Council of State. We doubtless also place in this category those rare and generous workers who, though they have the opportunity to rise individually above the working class, still prefer nevertheless to suffer for a time, in solidarity with their comrades in poverty, exploitation by the bourgeoisie, than to become exploiters in their turn. Such workers do not have to be converted; they are pure socialists.
We speak of the great mass of workers who, exhausted by their daily labor, are miserable and ignorant. That mass, whatever the political and religious prejudices that have attempted or even partially succeeded in claiming its conscience, is socialistic without knowing it. It is, in the heart of its instinct and by the very force of its position, more seriously and truly socialist than all the scientific and bourgeois socialists combined. It is socialists by virtue of all the conditions of its material existence, by all the needs of its being, while the others are only socialist by virtue of the needs of their thought. In real life, the needs of the being always exert a much greater power than those of thought, thought being here, as it is everywhere and always, the expression of the being, the reflection of the successive developments, but never its principle.
What the workers lack is not the reality, the real necessity of socialist aspirations, but only socialist thought; what each worker demands in the bottom of their heart: a fully human existence as material well-being and intellectual development, based on justice, on equality and liberty for each and all in labor; that instinctive ideal of each who only live by their own labor, can obviously not be realized in the present political and social world, which is based on the cynical exploitation of the labor of the working masses. Thus, each serious worker is necessarily a socialist revolutionary, since their emancipation can only be attained by the overthrow of everything that now exists. Either that organization of injustice, with its whole display of iniquitous laws and privileged institutions must perish, or the working masses will remain condemned to an eternal slavery.
Here is the socialist thought whose seeds are found in the instinct of every serious worker. The aim is thus to make the worker fully conscious of what they want, to give rise in them to a thought that corresponds to their instinct, for from the moment that the thought of the working masses is raised to the height of their instinct, their desire will be determined and their power will become irresistible.
What is it that still prevents the more rapid development of that salutary tough in the heart of the working masses? Their ignorance, doubtless, and in large part the political and religious prejudices by which the interested classes still struggle today to obfuscate their conscience and their natural intelligence. How to dispel that ignorance, how to destroy these harmful prejudices? – By education and propaganda?
These are doubtless excellent means. But in the present state of the working masses they are insufficient. The isolated worker is too crushed by their work and by their daily cares to give much time to their education. And who will make this propaganda? Will it be the few sincere socialists, born of the bourgeoisie who are full of generous impulses, no doubt, but who are far too few in number to give their propaganda all the necessary breadth, and who, on the other hand, belonging by their position to a different world, do not have all the grasp of the workers’ world that is required and who excite in them more or less legitimate distrust.
 “The emancipation of the workers is the task of the workers themselves,” said the preamble of our general statutes. And it is a thousand times right to say it. It is the principal basis of our great Association. But the world of the workers is generally ignorant, it still completely lacks theory. So there remains to it only a single way, and it is that of its emancipation by practice. What can and should that practice be?
There is only one. It is that of the struggle of the workers in solidarity against the bosses. It is the trades unions, organization and the federation of the strike funds.
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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Speech of the citizen Bakunin to a public assembly of foreign socialists (1868)

Speech of the citizen Bakunin to a
public assembly of foreign socialists
November 23, 1868
[After saying that the Assembly had not only gathered to pay homage to the memory of the brave republican Baudin, murdered by the brigands of December, but also to express its devotion to the principles of the democratic and social Republic, the citizen Bakunin expressed himself in these terms:]
We are socialists, [he said,] that is to say that we all want:
Equality of political, economic and social conditions for all;
Equality of the means of support, education, and instruction for all children of both sexes-and equality of the means of labor for all grown individuals, including women.
We want social justice and real liberty for each human being through the solidarity of all;
We want the Fraternity of all the human beings on the earth, without distinction of nations, color and race. We want peace to reign on the earth, based on reason illuminated by science, founded on humane justice, that is on liberty in equality an on universal brotherhood.
But if we desire the ends, we must desire the means. We must then desire the abolition of all political borders created by the violence of the States. We want the suppression of the State,-their disappearance in the free and universal organization of human society.
Whoever speaks of the State, speaks of fortresses—speaks of the violent separation of one portion of humanity from all the other portions, equally imprisoned in other State, they speak of the rivalry, competition and perpetual war of the States; they speak of conquest, dispossession and patriotic and glorious massacre, both within and without: legalized and regulate oppression and exploitation of the labor of the people, for the profit of a dominant minority.
The passion corresponding to this double manifestation of the States is called patriotism. We want no more patriotism, because we want justice, human rights and human fraternity.
Whoever speaks of the State, speaks of privilege. The privilege par excellence, which serves as the foundation of all the political and social injustices, is individually hereditary property.
The elements of this property are, first, itspoint of departure, its historical and actual basis: conquest, a bloody andbrutal fact, a crime against humanity and justice-anytheft or massacre, and most often both at once; then, the consecration of the violent act accomplishedby religion-the divinity always having taken the side of the ablest and strongest; from this consecration has resulted the legal right, injustice petrified, systematizedand legalized.-The ensemble of all that is called-the political State.
So we want the abolition of that State, because it has no other mission than to protect individual property; and we want the abolition of individual property, because as long as it exists, there will necessarily be inequality. Society will remain divided into two portions, one of which-the dominant and exploiting minority-will be composed of all the fortunate of the earth, born into easy, thanks to that law of inheritance, and receiving from society education, instruction, and all the material and intellectual, political and social means of continuing that work of exploitation. The other portion encompasses the masses of the people, all those millions of laborers who only inherit the poverty and forced ignorance of their fathers and who will be eternally condemned to an excessive labor that, giving them barely enough to live, will increase the well-being, luxury and civilization of the bourgeois.
In the place of individual property, we desire collective property, and in the place of States, we desire the more and more universal organization of human society, by the free federation of the productive, industrial and agricultural associations. In the place of a social organization founded on privilege and on the politics of the States, we desire one that will have no other basis than labor, than the fair and fraternal division of all the products of labor.
[The citizen Bakunin spoke then of the International Workingmen’s Association.] That Association, [he said,] born, only four years ago, has already become a great power, recognized as such by all the political men of Europe. In forming this, it had deliberately eliminated from its program all political questions, leaving politics-that manifestation of the life of the States, of the privileged of the States-to the bourgeois. As or itself, it at first only posited a single aim: The emancipation of the laborers of all countries from the yoke of capital.
A long and harsh experience had demonstrated to the founders of the Association that this aim could only be achieved by the combined efforts, by the alliance and by the solidarity of the workers of all countries; economic science come from its side to confirm it in that conviction, by demonstrating to it the universality of the social question, that no country, as advanced and extended as it might be, will be able to resolve it alone, because as long as the competition between States exists, there will be a necessary and permanent competition between classes and individuals; but that competition is war, is exploitation and mutual oppression.
The International Association, deliberately and voluntarily foreign to all politics, thus only takes a single step, accomplished a single act, in view of the great question of the emancipation of all the workers in the world. But this act and that step are immense; they contain the whole revolution.
By proclaiming the right of the workers to the joint use of all the capital produced by the combined labor of past generations, it has proclaimed the fall not of capital, but of the monopolization of capital—the fall of individual property, of the right of inheritance—the hereditary right to the exploitation of the work of others. It has proclaimed collective property.
By proclaiming the solidarity of the laborers of all countries, it has smashed the borders and began the destruction of the States.-It has killed patriotism, that passion-that self-interested virtue of the bourgeois.
By the very fact of its organization and its existence, it has abolished, denied the existence of all these numberless homelands that, from the point of view of the aristocratic and bourgeois politics still divides Europe and the world today—so that for all the workers there now remains nothing more than two foreign countries in the world, two homelands that, divided by their principles, aspirations and interests, will soon make war to the death
One is called capital, individual property, monopoly, exploitation, and oppression—in a word, it is the reaction.
The other, labor, human right, liberty for all, equality for all, justice and fraternity—the Revolution.
Isn’t that, citizens, what we call the social question? Isn’t that the principle that must insure the triumph of the democratic and social republic.
That is, after the condemnation of all bourgeois politics, the true, unique politics of the International Workingman’s Association.
Thus, while declaring itself foreign to our politics, this great association has accomplished the greatest political act and fact of our days.It has inaugurated the policy of the people: that of the negation of individuallyhereditary property and of the the destruction of the States.
I return to Baudin.—He was a brave citizen.—He died as only heroes die, without hope of triumph, but faithful to the last moment to his faith.—He went to seek death, after vainly trying to raise the people against the butchers of December.
The workers did not want to follow him Were they wrong or right? Well, citizens, I think that they were right and wrong at the same time.
They were rightly against that reactionary assembly that Napoleon, by his coup d’état, had dissolved. For we must not always speak of the victims of December,—let us also speak of those of June.
Here especially, in the midst of this entirely popular assembly, we should not forget those victims of the people’s cause—those thousands of braves who were massacred by the bourgeois national guards, because they had demanded the right of the people—the means of life and popular liberty.—The bourgeois ferocity of June prepared the praetorian ferocity of December. Cavaignac was the precursor of Napoléon.
  Well, that national assembly that was then called the constituent assembly,—after the massacres of June, it had greeted General Cavaignac as the savior of civilization, that is, of the bourgeoisie—as its savior; it has cursed and slandered the victims and crowned the executioner with laurels. Since all its measures, all the law that it promulgated, had only a single aim: that of destroying one by one all the liberties that the people had won in February.—That is why the workers in their turn were right, a thousand times right, do not rise up for the preservation of that reactionary and bourgeois assembly as well as the entirely reactionary and bourgeois republic created by that assembly.
But if the workers were right in relation to it, they were a thousand times wrong with relation to themselves. They must rise up against the tyrant, not in the name of the bourgeois republic, but in the name of the democratic and social republic,—in the name of the life, bread and liberty of the people. For there is no more monstrous illusion, nor any more monstrous alliance than that of the working people with dictatorship, whatever it may be—but especially with military dictatorship.
Seventeen years of oppression and degradation have demonstrated that elementary truth to the people.They will no longer seek their salvation inthe power of a crowned charlatan or a fortunate criminal. It will soon break, I hope, the power of the chassepots, bayonets andsabre.But it will break them, not for the middle class, but for itself.
─────────
Second speech.
Citizens, we come to render a unanimous homage to the memory of a hero of liberty—to the memory of Baudin, murdered by the drunken, salaried heroes of December. Allow me now to fulfill another duty. I am Russian, and as such I must recall to you another Baudin, a great collective Baudin, Poland.
Murdered a hundred years ago by three crowned brigands—the monarchs of the Russian Empire, the kingdom of Prussia and the Austrian Empire—this immortal Baudin, Poland, is constantly reborn, and always with a broader and more popular program. It is not dead; it always returns to life at the moment when it is thought to be buried—and it will triumph.
An assembly of the people is not permitted to disperse, before shouting: “Long live Poland, and death and shame to its enemies.”
La Liberté, December 5, 1868, Geneva
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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Filed under 1868, International Workingmen's Association, La Liberté, Mikhail Bakunin, speeches