Reflections on Violence  

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This page Reflections on Violence is part of the politics series.
Illustration:Liberty Leading the People (1831, detail) by Eugène Delacroix.

"Proletarian violence, carried on as a pure and simple manifestation of the sentiment of class struggle, appears thus as a very fine and heroic thing; it is at the service of the immemorial interests of civilization; it is not perhaps the most appropriate method of obtaining immediate material advantages, but it may save the world from barbarism." p.85


"Georges Sorel's 1908 book Reflections on Violence is an ugly, hate-filled book."[1] --Surreal Documents


"Bataille is likely to have been influenced by Georges Sorel, who figures as an intellectual bogeyman in "Dr. Faustus"."[2] -- Surreal Documents


“To become and to remain an American, one must look upon life as a struggle and not as a pleasure, and seek in it, victorious effort, energetic and efficacious action, rather than pleasure, leisure embellished by the cultivation of the arts, the refinements proper to other societies. Everywhere-—We have seen that what makes the American succeed, what constitutes his type—is character, personal energy, energy in action, creative energy.”, citing La Vie américaine by Paul de Rousiers

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Reflections on Violence (Réflexions sur la violence) is a book by French revolutionary syndicalist Georges Sorel that was published in 1908 on class struggle and revolution. Sorel is known for his theory that political revolution depends on the proletariat organizing violent uprisings and strikes to institute syndicalism, an economic system in which syndicats (self-organizing groups of only proletarians) truly represent the needs of the working class.

One of Sorel's most controversial statements claimed that violence could save the world from "barbarism". He equates violence with life, creativity, and virtue.

A major contention argued by Sorel in the book is on the importance of myths as "expressions of will to act". He supports the creation of an economic system run by and for the interests of producers rather than consumers Sorel's philosophical influences for the material in the book derive from Giambattista Vico, Blaise Pascal, Ernest Renan, Friedrich Nietzsche, Eduard von Hartmann, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, John Henry Newman, Karl Marx, Alexis de Tocqueville and others.

Keywords include political myth, violence, general strike, sexual morality, morality, drama, class war. Names include Karl Robert Eduard von Hartmann, Proudhon and Daniel Halevy.

The book cites Paul de Rousiers La vie Americaine.

Contents

Bibliography

Réflexions sur la violence (1908); translated as Reflections on Violence first authorised translation by T. E. Hulme (B. W. Huebsch, 1914; P. Smith, 1941; AMS Press, 1975, ISBN 0-404-56165-9); in an unabridged republication with an introduction by Edward A. Shils, translated by T.E. Hulme and J. Roth (The Free Press, 1950; Dover Publications, 2004, ISBN 0-486-43707-8, pbk.); edited by Jeremy Jennings (Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-521-55117-X, hb)

Full text[3]

REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE


REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE


BY


GEORGES SOREL


AUTHORISED TRANSLATION

BY T. E. HULME



LONDON : GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD. RUSKIN HOUSE 40 MUSEUM STREET, W.C.


First published in i^i^.

Reprinted in Saxony 192k;..

AU Rights Reserved.


A LA MEMOIRE

DE LA COMPAGNE DE MA JEUNESSE

JE DEDIE CE LIVRE

TOUT INSPIRE PAR SON ESPRIT


A NOTE TO THE THIRD FRENCH EDITION

I HAVE often been asked lately if I have not observed any facts since 1906 which invalidated some of the arguments set forth in this book. On the contrary, I am more than ever convinced of the value of this philosophy of violence. I have even thought it useful to add to this reprint an " Apology for Violence " which I pubUshed in the Matin of May 18, 1908, on the day when the first edition appeared. This is one of those books which public opinion will not permit an author to improve ; I have only allowed myself to change a few words here and there in order to make certain phrases clearer.


CONTENTS

rAGK

Introduction i

Introduction to the First Publication . 43


CHAPTER I Class War and Violence 52

CHAPTER II

Violence and the Decadence of the Middle

Classes 74

CHAPTER III

Prejudices against Violence . . . .100

CHAPTER IV The Proletarian Strike . . . . .126


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CHAPTER V

PAGE

The Political General Strike . . . .168


CHAPTER VI The Ethics of Violence 205

CHAPTER Vn

The Ethics of the Producers . . . . 252

APPENDIX 297


INTRODUCTION

LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY

My dear Halevy — I should doubtless have left these studies buried in the bound volumes of a review if some friends, whose judgment I value, had not. thought that it would be a good thing to bring them before the notice of a wider public, as they serve to make better known one of the most singular social phenomena that history records. But it seemed to me that it would be necessary to give this public some additional explanations, since I cannot often expect to find judges as indulgent as you have been.

When I published, in the Mouvement Socialiste, the articles which are now collected in this volume, I did not write with the intention of composing a book : I simply wrote down my reflections as they came into my mind. I knew that the subscribers to that review would have no difficulty in following me, since they were already famiHar with the theories, which for some years my friends and I had developed in its pages. But I am con- vinced that the readers of this book, on the contrary, will be very bewildered if I do not submit a kind of defence which will enable them to consider things from my own habitual point of view. In the course of our conversations, you have sometimes made remarks which fitted so well into the system of my own ideas that


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they often led me to investigate certain questions more thoroughly. I am sure that the reflections which I here submit to you, and which you have provoked, will be very useful to those who wish to read this book with profit.

There are perhaps few studies in which the defects of my method of writing are more evident ; I have been frequently reproached for not respecting the rules of the art of writing, to which all our contemporaries submit, and for thus inconveniencing my readers by the disorder of my explanations. I have tried to render the text clearer by numerous corrections of detail, but I have not been able to make the disorder disappear. I do not wish to defend myself by pleading the example of great writers who have been blamed for not knowing how to compose. Arthur Chuquet, speaking of J. J. Rousseau, said : '* His writings lack harmony, order, and that connection of the parts which constitutes a unity." ^ The defects of illustrious men do not justify the faults of the obscure, and I think that it is better to explain frankly the origin of this incorrigible vice in my writings.

It is only recently that the rules of the art of writing have imposed themselves in a really imperative way ; contemporary authors appear to have accepted them readily, because they wished to please a hurried and often very inattentive public, and one which is desirous above all of avoiding any personal investigation. These rules were first applied by the people who manufacture scholastic books. Since the aim of education has been to make the pupils absorb an enormous amount of information, it has been necessary to put into their hands manuals suitable to this extra rapid instruction ; everything has had to be presented in a form so clear, so logically arranged, and so calculated to dispel doubt, that in the end the beginner comes to believe that science is much simpler than our fathers supposed. In this

  • A. Chuquet, Jean Jacques Rousseau, p. 179.


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY j

way the mind is very richly furnished in a very Httle time, but it is not furnished with implements which facili- tate individual effort. These methods have been imitated by poHtical publicists and by the people who attempt to popularise knowledge.^ Seeing these rules of the art of writing so widely adopted, people who reflect little have ended by believing that they were based on the nature of things themselves.

I am neither a professor, a populariser of knowledge, nor a candidate for party leadership. I am a self-taught man exhibiting to other people the notebooks which have served for my own instruction. That is why the rules of the art of writing have never interested me very much.

During twenty years I worked to deliver myself from what I retained of my education ; I read books, not so much to learn as to efface from my memory the ideas which had been thrust upon it. It is only during the last fifteen years that I have really worked for the purpose of learning ; but I have never found any one to teach me what I wanted to know. I have had to be my own master, and in a way to educate myself. I make notes in which I formulate my thoughts as they arise ; I return three or four times to the same question, adding correc- tions which amplify the original, and sometimes even transform it from top to bottom ; I only stop when I have exhausted the reserve of ideas stirred up by recent reading. This work is very difficult for me ; that is why I like to take as my subject the discussion of a book by a good author : I can then arrange my thoughts more easily than when I am left to my own unaided efforts.

You will remember what Bergson has written about the impersonal, the socialised, the ready-made, all of which contains a lesson for students who need knowledge

1 I recall here a phrase of Renan : " Reading, in order to be of any use, must be an exercise involving some effort " {Feuilles detachees, P- 231)-


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for practical life. A student has more confidence in the formulas which he is taught, and consequently retains them more easily, when he believes that they are accepted by the great majority ; in this way all metaphysical pre- occupations are removed from his mind and he is to feel no need for a personal conception of things ; he often comes to look on the absence of any inventive spirit as a superiority.

My own method of work is entirely opposed to this ; for I put before my readers the working of a mental effort which is continually endeavouring to break through the bonds of what has been previously constructed for common use, in order to discover that which is truly personal and individual. The only things I find it worth while entering in my notebooks are those which I have not met elsewhere ; I readily skip the transitions between these things, because they nearly always come under the heading of commonplaces.

The communication of thought is always very difficult for any one who has strong metaphysical preoccupations ; he thinks that speech will spoil the most fimdamental parts of his thought, those which are very near to the motive power of the mind, those which appear so natural to him that he never seeks to express them. A reader has great difficulty in grasping the thought of an inventor, because he can only attain it by finding again the path traversed by the latter. Verbal communication is much easier than written communication, because words act on the feelings in a mysterious way and easily establish a current of sympathy between people ; it is for this reason that an orator is able to produce conviction by arguments which do not seem very comprehensible to any one reading the speech later. You know how useful it is to have heard Bergson if one wants to recognise clearly the tendencies of his doctrine and to imderstand his books rightly. When one has followed his courses


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY J

of lectures for some time one becomes familiar with the order of his ideas and gets one's bearings more easily amidst the novelties of his philosophy.

The defects of my manner of writing prevent me getting access to a wide public ; but I think that we ought to be content with the place that nature and circumstances have assigned to each of us, without desiring to force our natural talent. There is a necessary division of fimctions in the world ; it is a good thing that some are content to work, simply that they may submit their reflections to a few studious people, whilst others love to address the great mass of busy humanity. All things considered, I do not think that mine is the worst lot, for I am not exposed to the danger of becoming my own disciple, as has happened to the greatest philo- sophers when they have endeavoured to give a perfectly symmetrical form to the intuitions they brought into the world. You will certainly not have forgotten the smiUng disdain with which Bergson has spoken of this infirmity of genius. So little am I capable of becoming my own disciple that I am unable to take up an old work of mine again with the idea of stating it better, or even of completing it ; it is easy enough for me to add correc- tions and to annotate it, but I have many times vainly tried to think the past over again.

Much more, then, am I prevented from ever becom- ing the founder of a school ; ^ but is that really a great

1 I think it may be interesting to quote here some reflections borrowed from an admirable book of Newman's : " It will be our wisdom to avail ourselves of language, as far as it will go, but to aim mainly, by means of it, to stimulate in those to whom we address ourselves, a mode of thinking and trains of thought similar to our own, leading them on by their own independent action, not by any syllogistic compulsion. Hence it is that an intellectual school will always have something of an esoteric character ; for it is an assemblage of minds that think, their bond is unity of thought, and their words become a sort of tessera, not expressing thought but symbolising it" {Grammar of Assent, p. 309). As a matter of fact, the schools have hardly ever resembled this ideal sketched out bv Newman.


6 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

misfortune ? Disciples have nearly always exercised a pernicious influence on the thought of him they called their master, and who has often believed himself obliged to follow them. There is no doubt that his transformation by young enthusiasts into the leader of a party was a real disaster for Marx ; he would have done much more useful work if he had not been the slave of the Marxists.

People have often laughed at Hegel's belief — that humanity, since its origins, had worked to give birth to the Hegelian philosophy, and that with that philosophy Spirit had at last completed its development. Similar illusions are found to a certain extent in all founders of schools ; disciples expect their master to close the era of doubt by giving final solutions to all problems. I have no aptitude for a task of that kind. Every time that I have approached a question, I have found that my enquiries ended by giving rise to new problems, and the farther I pushed my investigations the more disquieting these new problems became. But philosophy is after all perhaps only the recognition of the abysses which lie on each side of the footpath that the vulgar follow with the serenity of somnambulists.

It is my ambition to be able occasionally to stir up personal research. There is probably in the mind of every man, hidden under the ashes, a quickening fire, and the greater the number of ready-made doctrines the mind has received blindly the more is this fire threatened with extinction ; the awakener is the man who stirs the ashes and thus makes the flames leap up. I do not think that I am praising myself without cause when I say that J have sometimes succeeded in liberating the spirit of invention in my readers ; and it is the spirit of invention which it is above all necessary to stir up in the world. It is better to have obtained this result than to have gained the banal approbation of people who


LETTER TO DANIEL HA LEVY 7

repeat formulas and enslave their own thought in the disputes of the schools.


My Reflections on Violence have irritated many people on account of the pessimistic conception on which the whole of the study rests ; but I know that you do not share this impression ; you have brilliantly shown in your Histoire de quatre ans that you despise the deceptive hopes with which the weak solace themselves. We can then talk pessimism freely to each other, and I am happy to have a correspondent who does not revolt against a doctrine without which nothing very great has been accomplished in this world. I have felt for some time that Greek philosophy did not produce any great moral result, simply because it was, as a rule, very optimistic. Socrates was at times optimistic to an almost unbearable degree.

The aversion of most of our contemporaries from every pessimistic conception is doubtless derived, to a great extent, from our system of education. The Jesuits, who created nearly ever5^hing that the University still con- tinues to teach, were optimists because they had to combat the pessimism which dominated Protestant theories, and because they popularised the ideas of the Renaissance ; the Renaissance interpreted antiquity by means of the philosophers, and consequently misunderstood the masterpieces of tragic art so completely that our con- temporaries have had considerable difficulty in redis- covering their pessimistic significance.^

1 " The significant melancholy found in the masterpieces of Hellenic art prove that, even at that time, gifted individuals were able to peer through the illusions of life to which the spirit of their own surrendered itself without the slightest critical reflection " (Hartmann, The Philosophy of the Unconscious, Eng. trans., vol. iii. p. 78 ; ii. p. 436).

I call attention to this view, which sees in the genius of the great Greeks a historical anticipation ; few doctrines are more important for an understanding of history than that of anticipations, which Newman used in his researches on the history of dogmas.

B


8 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there was such a concert of groaning that pessimism became odious. Poets, who were not, as a matter of fact, much to be pitied, professed to be victims of fate, of human wickedness, and still more of the stupidity of a world which had not been able to distract them ; they eagerly assumed the attitudes of a Prometheus called upon to dethrone jealous gods, and with a pride equal to that of the fierce Nimrod of Victor Hugo (whose arrows, hurled at the sky, fell back stained with blood), they imagined that their verses inflicted deadly wounds on the estab- lished powers who dared to refuse to bow down before them. The prophets of the Jews never dreamed of so much destruction to avenge their Jehovah as these literary people dreamed of to satisfy their vanity. When this fashion for imprecations had passed, sensible men began to ask themselves if all this display of pretended pessimism had not been the result of a certain want of mental balance.

The immense successes obtained by industrial civilisa- tion has created the belief that, in the near future, happi- ness will be produced automatically for everybody. '* The present century," writes Hartmann, " has for the last forty years only entered the third period of illusion. In the enthusiasm and enchantment of its hopes, it rushes towards the realisation of the promise of a new age of gold. Providence takes care that the anticipations of the isolated thinker do not disarrange the course of history by prematurely gaining too many adherents." He thinks that for this reason his readers will have some difficulty in accepting his criticism of the illusion of future happiness. The leaders of the contemporary world are pushed towards optimism by economic forces.^

So little are we prepared to imderstand pessimism, that we generally employ the word quite incorrectly :

  • Hartmann, loc. cit. vol. iii. p. 102.


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY g

we call pessimists people who axe in reality only dis- illusioned optimists. When we meet a man who, having been unfortunate in his enterprises, deceived in his most legitimate ambitions, humihated in his affections, ex- presses his griefs in the form of a violent revolt against the dupHcity of his associates, the stupidity of society, or the blindness of destiny, we are disposed to look upon him as a pessimist ; whereas we ought nearly always to regard him as a disheartened optimist who has not had the courage to start afresh, and who is unable to under- stand why so many misfortunes have befallen him, con- trary to what he supposes to be the general law governing the production of happiness.

The optimist in politics is an inconstant and even i dangerous man, because he takes no accoimt of the great difficulties presented by his projects ; these projects seem to him to possess a force of their own, which tends I to bring about their reahsation all the more easily as they | are, in his opinion, destined to produce the happiest results, i He frequently thinks that small reforms in the political constitution, and, above all, in the personnel of the govern- ment, will be sufficient to direct social development in such a way as to mitigate those evils of the contemporary world which seem so harsh to the sensitive mind. As soon as his friends come into power, he declares that it is necessary to let things alone for a Httle, not to hurry too much, and to learn how to be content with whatever their own benevolent intentions prompt them to do. It is not always self-interest that suggests these expressions of satisfaction, as people have often believed ; self- interest is strongly aided by vanity and by the illusions of philosophy. The optimist passes with remarkable facility from revolutionary anger to the most ridiculous! social pacificism.

If he possesses an exalted temperament, and if unhappily he finds himself armed with great power, permitting him


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to realise the ideal he has fashioned, the optimist may lead his country into the worst disasters. He is not long in finding out that social transformations are not brought about with the ease that he had counted on ; he then supposes that this is the fault of his contemporaries, instead of explaining what actually happens by historical necessities ; he is tempted to gi^i rid of people whose obstinacy seems to him to be so dangerous to the happi- ness of all. During the Terror, the men who spilt most blood were precisely those who had the greatest desire to let their equals enjoy the golden age they had dreamt of, and who had the most sympathy with human wretched- ness : optimists, idealists, and sensitive men, the greater desire they had for imiversal happiness the more inexor- able they showed themselves.

Pessimism is quite a different thing from the caricatures of it which are usually presented to us ; it is a philosophy of conduct rather than a theory of the world ; it considers the march towards deliverance as narrowly conditioned, on the one hamd, by the experimental knowledge that we have acquired from the obstacles which oppose them- selves to the satisfaction of our imaginations (or, if we like, by the feeling of social determinism), and, on the other, by a profound conviction of our natural weakness. These two aspects of pessimism should never be separated, although, as a rule, scarcely any attention is paid to their close connection.

I. The conception of pessimism springs from the fact that literary historians have been very much struck with the complaints made by the great poets of antiquity on the subject of the griefs which constantly threaten mankind. There are few people who have not, at one time or another, experienced a piece of good fortime ; but we are surrounded by malevolent forces always ready to spring out on us from some ambuscade and overwhelm us. Hence the very real suiferings which arouse the


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY it

sympathy of nearly all men, even of those who have been more favourably treated by fortune ; so that the literature of grief has always had a certain success throughout the whole course of history.^ But a study of this kind of literature would give us a very imperfect idea of pessim- ism. It may be laid down as a general rule, that in order to understand a doctrine it is not sufficient to study it in an abstract manner, nor even as it occurs in isolated people : it is necessary to find out how it has been mani- fested in historical groups ; it is for this reason that I am here led to add the two elements that were mentioned earlier.

2. The pessimist regards social conditions as forming a system boimd together by an iron law which cannot be evaded, so that the system is given, as it were, in one block, and cannot disappear except in a catastrophe which involves the whole. If this theory is admitted, it then becomes absurd to make certain wicked men re- sponsible for the evils from which society suffers ; the pessimist is not subject to the sanguinary follies of the optimist, infatuated by the unexpected obstacles that his projects meet with ; he does not dream of bringing about the happiness of future generations by slaughter- ing existing egoists.

3. The most fundamental element of pessimism is its method of conceiving the path towards deliverance. A man would not go very far in the examination either of the laws of his own wretchedness or of fate, which so much shock the ingenuousness of our pride, if he were not borne up by the hope of putting an end to these tyrannies by an effort, to be attempted with the help of a whole band of companions. The Christians would not have discussed original sin so much if they had not felt

1 The sham cries of despair which were heard at the beginning of the nineteenth century owed part of their success to the analogies of form which they presented to the real literature of pessimism.


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the necessity of justifying the dehverance (which was to result from the death of Jesus) by supposing that this sacrifice had been rendered necessary by a frightful crime, which could be imputed to humanity. If the people of the West were much more occupied with original sin than those of the East, it was not solely, as Taine thought, owing to the influence of Roman law,^ but also because the Latins, having a more elevated conception of the imperial majesty than the Greeks, regarded the sacrifice of the Son of God as having realised an extraordinarily marvellous deliverance ; from this proceeded the necessity of intensifying human wretchedness and of destiny.

It seems to me that the optimism of the Greek philo- sophers depended to a great extent on economic reasons ; it probably arose in the rich and conunercial urban populations who were able to regard the universe as an immense shop full of excellent things with which they could satisfy their greed.^ I imagine that Greek pessimism sprang from poor warlike tribes living in the mountains, who were filled with an enormous aristocratic pride, but whose material conditions were correspondingly poor ; their poets charmed them by praising their ancestors and made them look forward to triumphal expeditions con- ducted by superhuman heroes ; they explsdned their present wretchedness to them by relating catastrophes in which semi-divine former chiefs had succumbed to fate or the jealousy of the gods ; the courage of the warriors might for the moment be imable to accompUsh anything, but it would not always be so ; the tribe must remain faithful to the old customs in order to be ready for great and victorious expeditions, which might very well take place in the near future.

1 Taine, Le Regime Moderns, vol. ii. pp. 121-122.

' The Athenian comic poets have several times depicted a land of Cokaigne, where there was no need to work (A. and M. Croiset, Histoire de la litter ature Grecque, vol. iii. pp. 472-474).


LETTER TO DANIEL HA LEVY 13

Oriental asceticism has often been considered the most remarkable manifestation of pessimism ; Hartmann is certainly right when he regards it as having only the value of an anticipation, which was useful since it re- minded men how much there is that is illusory in vulgar riches ; he was wrong, however, in saying that asceticism taught men that the ** destined end to all their efforts *' was the annihilation of will,* for in the course of history deliverance has taken quite other forms than this.

In primitive Christianity we find a fully developed and completely armed pessimism : man is condemned to slavery from his birth — Satan is the prince of the world — the Christian, already regenerate by baptism, can render himself capable of obtaining the resurrection of the body by means of the Eucharist ; * he awaits the glorious second coming of Christ, who will destroy the rule of Satan and call his comrades in the fight to the heavenly Jerusalem. The Christian Hfe of that time was dominated by the necessity of membership in the holy army which was constantly exposed to the ambuscades set by the accom- plices of Satan ; this conception produced many heroic acts, engendered a courageous propaganda, and was the cause of considerable moral progress. The deliverance did not take place, but we know by innumerable testimonies from that time what great things the march towards deliverance can bring about.

Sixteenth^ century Calvinism presents a spectacle which is perhaps even more instructive ; but we must be careful not to confuse it, as many authors have done, with contemporary Protestantism ; these two doctrines

  • Hartmann, loc cit. p. 130. " Contempt for the world, combined

with a transcendent Hfe of the spirit, had, indeed, in India, already found a place in the esoteric doctrine of Buddhism. But this teaching was only within the reach of a narrow circle of celibate adepts ; -the outside world had only taken the ' letter which kills,' so that the thought only attained realisation in the eccentric phenomena of hermits and penitents" (p. 81).

« Battifol, £tudes d'histoire et de tfUologie positive, 2nd series, p. 162.


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are the antipodes of each other. I cannot understand how Hartmann came to say that Protestantism '* is a halting place in the journey of true Christianity," and that it " allied itself with the renaissance of ancient paganism." ^ These judgments only apply to recent Protestantism, which has abandoned its own principles in order to adopt those of the Renaissance. Pessimism, which formed no part of the current of ideas which char- acterised the Renaissance,^ has never been so strongly affirmed as it was by the Reformers. The dogmas of sin and predestination which correspond to the two first aspects of pessimism, the wretchedness of the human species, and social determinism, were pushed to their most extreme consequences. Deliverance was conceived imder a very different form to that which had been given it by primitive Christianity ; Protestants organised them- selves into a military force wherever possible ; they made expeditions into Catholic countries, expelled the priests, introduced the reformed cult, and promulgated laws of proscription against papists. They no longer borrowed from the apocalypses the idea of a great final catastrophe, of which the brothers-in-arms who had for so long defended themselves against the attacks of Satan would only be spectators ; the Protestants, nourished on the reading of the Old Testament, wished to imitate the exploits of the conquerors of the Holy Land ; they took the offensive, and wished to establish the kingdom of God by force. In each locality they conquered the Calvinists brought about a real catastrophic revolution, which changed everything from top to bottom.

1 Hartmann, The Religion of the Future, Eng. trans., p. 23.

  • " At this epoch commenced the struggle between the Pagan love

of life and the Christian hatred of this world and avoidance of it " (Hartmann, op. cit. p. 88). This pagan conception is to be found in liberal protestantism, and this is why Hartmann rightly considers it to be irreligious ; but the men of the sixteenth century took a very different view of the matter.


LETTER TO DANIEL HA LEVY is

Calvinism was finally conquered by the Renaissance ; it was full of theological prejudices derived from medieval traditions, and there came a time when it feared to be thought too far behind the times ; it wished to be on the level of modem culture, and it finished by becoming simply a lax Christianity.^ To-day very few people suspect what the reformers of the sixteenth century meant by " free examination " ; the Protestants of to-day apply the same method to the Bible that philol- ogists apply to any profane text; Calvin's exegesis has been replaced by the criticisms of the humanists.

The annalist who contents himself with recording facts is tempted to regard the conception of deliverance as a dream or an error, but the true historian considers things from a different point of view ; whenever he endeavours to find out what has been the influence of the Calvinist spirit on morals, law, or literature, he is always driven back to a consideration of the way in which former Protestant thought was dominated by the con- ception of the path to deliverance. The experience of this great epoch shows quite clearly that in this warlike excitement which accompanies this will-to-deliverance the courageous man finds a satisfaction which is sufficient to keep up his ardour. I am convinced that in the history of that time you might find excellent illustrations of the idea that you once expressed to me — that the Wandering Jew may be taken as a S3nnbol of the highest aspirations of mankind, condemned as it is to march for ever without knowing rest.


II

My theses have shocked many people who are, to a certain extent, under the influence of the ideas of natural

1 If Socialism comes to grief it will evidently be in the same way, because it will have been alarmed at its own barbarity.


\


i6 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

justice implanted in us by our education ; very few educated men have been able to free themselves from these ideas. While the philosophy of natural justice is in perfect agreement with that of force (understanding this word in the special meaning that I have given it in Chapters IV. and V.), it cannot be reconciled with my conception of the historical function of violence. The scholastic doctrines of natural right contain nothing but this simple tautology — ^what is just is good, and what is unjust is bad ; as if in enunciating such a doctrine we did not implicitly admit that the just must adapt itself to the natural order of events. It was for a reason of this kind that the economists for a long time asserted that the conditions created under the capitalist regime of competition are perfectly just, because they result from the natural course of things ; and inversely the makers of Utopias have always claimed that the actual state of the world was not natural enough) they have wished, consequently, to paint a picture of a society naturally better regulated and therefore juster.

I cannot deny myself the pleasure of quoting some of Pascal's Pensees which terribly embarrassed his con- temporaries, and which have only been understood in our day. Pascal had considerable difficulty in freeing himself from the ideas of natural justice which he found in the philosophers ; he abandoned them because he did not think them sufficiently imbued with Christianity. " I have passed a great part of my life believing that there was justice, and in this I was not mistaken, for there is justice according as God has willed to reveal it to us. But I did not take it so, and this is where I made a mistake, for I believed that our justice was essentially just, and that I possessed means by which I could know this and judge of it " (fragment 375 of the Braunschvieg edition). ** Doubtless there are natural laws ; but this good reason once corrupted,


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY 17

has corrupted all^ (fragment 294) ; " Veri juris. We have it no longer " (fragment 297).

Moreover, mere observation • showed Pascal the ab- surdity of the theory of natural right ; if this theory was correct, we ought to find laws which are imiversally ad- mitted ; but actions which we regard as criminal have at other times been regarded as virtuous. ** Three degrees of latitude nearer the Pole reverse all jurisprudence, a meridian decides what is truth ; fundamental laws change after a few years of possession, right has its epochs, the entry of Saturn into the constellation of the Lion marks to us the origin of such and such a crime. A strange justice that is bounded by a river 1 Truth on this side of the Pyrenees becomes error on the other. . . . We must, it is said, get back to the natural and fundamental laws of the State, which an imjust custom has abolished. This is a game certain to result in the loss of all ; nothing will be just on the balance" (fragment 294 ; cf. fragment 379).

As it is thus impossible for us to reason about justice, we ought to appeal to custom ; and Pascal often falls back on this precept (fragments 294, 297, 299, 309, 312). He goes still further and shows how justice is practically dependent on force : " Justice is subject to dispute ; might is easily recognised and is not disputed. Thus it is not possible to attribute might to justice, because might has often contradicted justice, and said that it itself was just. And thus not being able to make what was just strong, what was strong has been made just " (fragment 298 ; cf. fragments 302, 303, 306, 307, 311).

This criticism of natural right has not the perfect clearness that we could give it at the present day, because we know now that it is in economics we must seek for a

^ It seems to me that Pascal's editors in 1670 must have been alarmed at his Calvinism. I am astonished that Sainte-Beuve should have said nothing more than that there " was in Pascal's Christianity something which they could not understand, that Pascal had a greater need than they had of Christian faith (Port Royal, vol. iii. p. 383).


i8 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

type of force that has attained absolutely uncontrolled development, and can thus be identified naturally with right, whilst Pascal under the one heading confuses together all the manifestations of force. ^

Pascal was vividly impressed by the changes that the conception of justice has experienced in the course of time, and these changes still continue to embarrass philosophers exceedingly. A well-organised social system is destroyed by a revolution and is replaced by another system, which in its turn is considered to be perfectly just ; so that what was just before now becomes unjust. Any amount of sophisms have been produced to show that force has been placed at the service of justice during revolutions ; these arguments have been many times shown to be absurd. But the public is so accustomed to believe in natural rights that it cannot make up its mind to abandon them.

There is hardly anything, not excepting even war, that people have not tried to bring inside the scope of natural right : they compare war to a process in which one nation reclaims a right which a malevolent neighbour refuses to recognise. Our fathers readily acknowledged that God decided battles in favour of those who had justice on their side ; the vanquished were to be treated as an unsuccessful litigant : they must pay the costs of the war and give guarantees to the victor in order that the latter might enjoy their restored rights in peace. At the present time there are plenty of people who propose that international conflicts should be submitted to arbitration ; this would only be a secularisation of the ancient mythology. ^

1 Cf. what I say about force in Chapter V.

« I cannot succeed in finding the idea of international arbitration in fragment 296 of Pascal, where several people claim to have discovered it ; in this paragraph Pascal simply points out the ridiculous aspect of the claim made in his time by every belligerent — to condemn the conduct of his adversary in the name of justice.


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY ig

The people who believe in natural right are not always implacable enemies of civil struggles, and certainly not of tumultuous rioting ; that has been sufficiently shown in the course of the Dreyfus question. When the force of the State was in the hands of their adversaries, they acknowledged, naturally enough, that it was being employed to violate justice, and they then proved that one might with a good conscience " step out of the region of legality in order to enter that of justice " (to borrow a phrase of the Bonapartists) ; when they could not over- throw the government, they tried at least to intimidate it. But when they attacked the people who for the time being controlled the force of the State, they did not at all desire to suppress that force, for they wished to utilise it some day for their own profit ; all the revolu- | tionary disturbances of the nineteenth century have \ ended in reinforcing the power of the State.

Proletarian violence entirely changes the aspect of all the conflicts in which it intervenes, since it disowns the force organised by the middle class, and claims to suppress the State which serves as its central nucleus. , Under such conditions, it is no longer possible to argue *|\ about the primordial rights of man. That is why our parliamentary socialists, who spring from the middle classes and who know nothing outside the ideology of the State, are so bewildered when they are confronted with working-class violence. They cannot apply to it the commonplaces which generally serve them when they speak about force, and they look with terror on movements which may result in the ruin of the institutions by which they live. If revolutionary syndicaHsm triumphs, there will be no more brilliant speeches on immanent Justice, and the parliamentary regime, so dear to the intellectuals, will be finished with — ^it is the abomination of desolation ! We must not be astonished, then, that they speak about violence with so much anger.


20 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

Giving evidence on June 5, 1907, before the Cours d' Assises de la Seine, in the Bousquet-Levy case, Jaur^s said, '* I have no superstitious beUef in legality, it has already received too many blows; but I always advise workmen to have recourse to legal means, for violence is the sign of temporary weakness.'* This is clearly a remini- scence of the Dreyfus question. Jaur^s remembered that his friends were obliged to have recourse to revolu- tionary manifestations, and it is ezisy to understand that, as a result of this affair, he had not retained very great respect for legality. He probably likened the present position of the syndicalists to the former position of the Dreyfusards ; for the moment they are weak, but they are destined ultimately to have the force of the State at their own disposal ; they would then be very imprudent to destroy by violence a force which is destined to become theirs. He may even regret at times that the State has been so severely shaken by the Dre5^us agitation, just as Gambetta regretted that the administration had lost its former prestige and discipline.

One of the most elegant of Republican ministers ^ has made a speciality of high-sounding phrases directed against the upholders of violence. Viviani charms deputies, senators, and the employes assembled to admire his excellency on his official tours, by telling them that violence is the caricature, or rather ** the fallen and degenerate daughter," of force. After boasting that he has, by a magnificent gesture, extinguished the lamps of

1 The Petit Parisien, that one always quotes with pleasure as the barometer of democratic stupidity, teUs us that " this scornful definition of the elegant and immoral M. de Morny — Republicans are people who dress badly — seems to-day altogether without any foundation." I borrow this philosophical observation from an enthusiastic description of the marriage of the charming minister Cl^mentel (October 22, 1905). This well-informed newspaper has accused me of giving the workers hooligan advice (April 7, 1907).


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY 2t

Heaven, he assumes the attitudes of a matador, at whose feet a furious bull has fallen.^

If I were more vain about my literary efforts than I am, I should like to imagine that he was thinking of me when he said in the Senate, on November i6, 1906, that '* one must not mistake a fanatic for a party, nor rash statements for a system of doctrine." There is only one pleasure greater than that of being appreciated by in- telligent people, and that is the pleasure of not being understood by blunderheads, who are only capable of expressing in a kind of jargon what serves them in the place of thought. But I have every reason to suppose that, in the brilliant set which surrounds this charlatan,^ there is not one who has ever heard of the Mouvement Socialiste. It is quite within the comprehension of Viviani and his companions in the Cabinet that people may attempt an insurrection when they feej themselves solidly organised enough to take over the State ; but

1 " I have seen violence myself," he told the Senate on November 16, 1906, " face to face. I have been, day after day, in the midst of thousands of men who bore on their faces the marks of a terrifying exaltation. I have remained in the midst of them, face to face and shoulder to shoulder." He boasted that in the end he had triumphed over the strikers in the Creusot workshops.

2 In the course of the same speech, Viviani strongly insisted on his own Socialism, and declared that he intended " to remain faithful to the ideal of his first years of public hfe." If we are to judge by a brochure in 1897 by the Allemanistes, under the title La Viriti sur I' union socialiste. this ideal was opportunism ; when he left Algeria for Paris, Viviani was transformed into a Socialist, and the brochure then asserts that his new attitude is a he. Evidently this work was edited by fanatics with no understanding of the manners of polite society.

[Allemanistes : this was the name given to the members of the " Revolutionary Socialist Workmen's Party " because Allemanc was the best-known member of the group. They did not wish (in principle at any rate) to admit any but workmen into the party ; they were for a long time very hostile to the parhamentary Sociahsts. During the Dreyfus affair they went with the rest and demanded a retrial ; to-day they have disappeared, but they had some influence in the formation of the Syndicalist idea. — Trans. Note.]




22 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

working-class violence which has no such aim, seems to them only folly and an odious caricature of revolution. Do what you like, but don't kill the goose.


Ill

In the course of this study one thing has always

been present in my mind, which seemed to me so

evident that I did not think it worth while to lay

> much stress on it — that men who are participating in

V a great social movement cdways picture their coming

\ ; action as a battle in which their cause is certain to

1 triumph. These constructions, knowledge of which is

so important for historians, I propose to call myths ; ^

the syndicalist " general strike *' and Marx's catastrophic

revolution are such myths. As remarkable examples

of such myths, I have given those which were constructed

by primitive Christianity, by the Reformation, by the

Revolution and by the followers of Mazzini. I now

wish to show that we should not attempt to analyse such

groups of images in the way that we analyse a thing into

its elements, but that they must be taken as a whole,

I as historical forces, and that we should be especially

careful not to make any comparison between accomplished

fact and the picture people had formed for themselves

before action.

I could have given one more example which is perhaps still more striking : Catholics have never been discouraged even in the hardest trials, because they have alwa5rs pictured the history of the Church as a series of battles between Satan and the hierarchy supported by Christ ; every new difficulty which arises is only an episode in a war which must finally end in the victory of Catholicism.

^ In the Introduction d, Viconomie moderne, I have given the word myth a more general sense, which closely corresponds to the narrower meaning given to it here.


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY 23

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the revolu- tionary persecutions revived this myth of the struggle with Satan, which inspired so many of the eloquent pages in Joseph de Maistre ; this rejuvenation explains to a large extent the religious renascence which took place at that epoch. If Catholicism is in danger at the present time, it is to a great extent owing to the fact that the myth of the Church militant tends to disappear. Ecclesiastical literature has greatly contributed to render- ing it ridiculous ; thus in 1872, a Belgian writer recom- mended a revival of exorcisms, as they seemed to him an efficacious means of combating the revolutionaries.^ Many educated Catholics are horrified when they discover that the ideas of Joseph de Maistre have helped to encourage the ignorance of the clergy, which did not attempt to acquire an adequate knowledge of a science which it held to be accursed ; to these educated Catholics the myth of the struggle with Satan then appears dangerous, and they point out its ridiculous aspects ; but they do not in the least understand its historical bearing. The gentle, sceptical, and, above all, pacific, habits of the present generation are, moreover, unfavourable to its continued existence ; and the enemies of the Church loudly proclaim that they do not wish to return to a regime of persecution which might restore their former power to warlike images.

In employing the term myth I believed that I had made a happy choice, because I thus put myself in a position to refuse any discussion whatever with the people who wish to submit the idea of a general strike to a detailed criticism, and who accumulate objections

  • p. Bureau, La Crise morale des temps nouveaux, p. 213. The author,

a professor of the Institut Catholique de Paris, adds: " This recom- mendation can only excite hilarity nowadays. We are compelled to believe that the author's curious proposition was then accepted by a large number of his correUgionists, when we remember the astonishing success of the writings of L60 Taxil after his pretended conversion."

C


94 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

against its practical possibility. It appears, on the contrary, that I had made a most unfortunate choice, for while some told me that myths were only suitable to a primitive state of society, others imagined that I thought the modem world might be moved by illusions analogous in nature to those which Renan thought might usefully replace religion.^ But there has been a worse misunderstanding than this even, for it has been asserted that my theory of myths was only a kind of lawyer's plea, a falsification of the real opinions of the revolu- tionaries, the sophistry of an intellectualist.

If this were true, I should not have been exactly fortunate, for I have always tried to escape the influence of that intellectualist philosophy, which seems to me a great hindrance to the historian who allows himself to be dominated by it. The contradiction that exists between this philosophy and the true understanding of events has often struck the readers of Renan. Renan is continually wavering between his own intuition, which was nearly always admirable, and a philosophy which cannot touch history without falling into platitudes ; but, alas, he too often beUeved himself bound to think in accordance with the scientific opinions of his day.

The intellectualist philosophy finds itself unable to explain phenomena like the following — the sacrifice of his life which the soldier of Napoleon made in order to have had the honour of taking part in " immortal deeds *' and of living in the glory of France, knowing all the time that " he would always be a poor man ** ; then, again, the extraordinary virtues shown by the Romans who resigned themselves to a frightful inequality and who suffered so much to conquer the world;23, "the belief in

1 The principal object of these illusions seems to me to have been the calming of the anxieties that Renan had retained on the subject of the beyond (cf. an article by Mgr. d'Hulst in the Correspondent on October 25, 1892, pp. 210, 224-225).


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY 23

glory (which was) a value without equal," created by Greece, and as a result of which " a selection was made from the swarming masses of humanity, life acquired an incentive and there was a recompense here for those who had pursued the good and the beautiful." * The intellectualist philosophy, far from being able to explain these things, leads, on the contrary, to an admiration for the fifty-first chapter of Jeremiah, " the lofty though profoundly sad feeling with which the peaceful man contemplates these falls of empires, and the pity excited in the heart of the wise man by the spectacle of the nations labouring for vanity, victims of the arrogance of the few." Greece, according to Renan, did not experience anything of that kind, and I do not think that we need complain about that.* Moreover, he himself praises the Romans for not having acted in accordance with the conceptions of the Jewish thinker. ** They laboured, they wore themselves out for nothing, said the Jewish thinker — yes, doubtless, but those are the virtues that history rewards."'

Religions constitute a very troublesome problem for the intellectualists, for they can neither regard them as being without historical importance nor can they explain them. Renan, for example, has written some very strange sentences on this subject. " Religion is a necessary imposture. Even the most obvious ways of throwing dust in people's eyes cannot be neglected when you are dealing with a race as stupid as the human species, a race created for error, which, when it does admit the truth, never does so for the right reasons. It is necessary then to give it the wrong ones." *

Comparing Giordano Bruno, who ** allowed himself to be burnt at Champ -de - Flore " with Galileo, who

  • Renan, loc. cit. p. 267. « Renan, loc. cit. pp. 199-200.

• Renan. op. cit. vol. iii. pp. 458-459. « Renan, op. cit. vol. v. pp. 105-106.


26 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

submitted to the Holy See, Renan sides with the second, because, according to him, the scientist need not bring anything to support his discoveries beyond good argu- ments. He considered that the Italian philosopher wished to supplement his inadequate proofs by his sacrifice, and he puts forward this scornful maxim : " A man suffers martyrdom only for the sake of things about which he is not certain." ^ Renan here confuses conviction, which must have been very powerful in Bruno's case, with that particular kind of certitude about the accepted theories of science, which instruction ultimately produces ; it would be difficult to give a more misleading idea of the forces which really move men.

The whole of this philosophy can be summed up in the following phrase of Renan's: "Human affairs are always an approximation lacking gravity and precision " ; and as a matter of fact, for an intellectualist, what lacks precision must also lack gravity. But in Renan the conscientious historian was never entirely asleep, and he at once adds as a corrective : "To have realised this truth is a great result obtained by philosophy ; but it is an abdication of any active role. The future lies in the hands of those who are not disillusioned." ^ From this we may conclude that the intellectualist philosophy is entirely unable to explain the great movements of history.

The intellectualist philosophy would have vainly endeavoured to convince the ardent Catholics, who for

1 Renan, Nouvelles ttudes d'histoire religieuse, p. vii. Previously he had said, speaking of the persecutions: " People die for opinions, and not for certitudes, because they believe and not because they know . . . whenever beliefs are in question the greatest testimony and the most efficacious demonstration is to die for them " {L'^glise chrSiienne, p. 317). This thesis presupposes that martyrdom is a kind of ordeal, which was partly true in the Roman epoch, by reason of certain special circumstances (G. Sorel, Le SysUtne historique dt Renan, p.

335)-

2 Renan, Histoire du peupU d'Israil, vol. iii. p. 497.


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY 27

SO long struggled successfully against the revolutionary traditions, that the myth of the Church militant was not in harmony with the scientific theories formulated by the most learned authors according to the best rules of criticism ; it would never have succeeded in persuading them. It would not have been possible to shake the faith that these men had in the promises made to the Church by any argument ; and so long as this faith remained, the myth was, in their eyes, incontestable. Similarly, the objections urged by philosophy against the revolutionary myths would have made an impression only on those men who were anxious to find a pretext for abandoning any active role, for remaining revolutionary in words only.

I can understand the fear that this myth of the general strike inspires in many worthy progressives} on account of its character of infinity ; * the world of to-<iay is very much inclined to return to the opinions of the ancients and to subordinate ethics to the smooth working of public affairs, which results in a definition of virtue as the golden mean ; as long as socialism remains a doctrine expressed only in words, it is very easy to deflect it towards this doctrine of the golden mean ; but this transformation is manifestly * impossible when the myth of the " general strike " is introduced, as this implies an absolute revolution. You know as well as I do that all that is best in the modem mind is derived from this " torment of the infinite " ;

  • Translator's Note. — In French^ " 6mo«s gens." Sorel is using the

words ironically to indicate those naive, philanthropically disposed people who believe that they have discovered the solution to the problem of social reform — whose attitude, however, is often complicated by a good deal of hypocrisy, they being frequently rapacious when . their own personal interests are at stake.

• Parties, as a rule, define the reforms that they wish to bring about ; { but the general strike has a character of infinity, because it puts on one | side all discussion of definite reforms and confronts men with a ! catastrophe. People who pride themselves on their practical wisdom J are very much upset by such a conception, which puts forward no | definite project of future social organisation.


28 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

you are not one of those people who look upon the tricks by means of which readers can be deceived by words, as happy discoveries. That is why you will not condemn me for having attached great worth to a myth which gives to socialism such high moral value and such great sincerity. It is because the theory of myths tends to produce such fine results that so many seek to dispute it.

IV

The mind of man is so constituted that it cannot remain content with the mere observation of facts, but always attempts to penetrate into the inner reason of things. I therefore ask myself whether it might not be desirable to study this theory of myths more thoroughly, utilising the enlightenment we owe to the Bergsonian philosophy. The attempt I am about to submit to you is doubtless very imperfect, but I think that it has been planned in accordance with the only method which can possibly throw light on the problem. In the first place, we should notice that the discussions of the moralists hardly ever come into contact with what is truly fundamental in ouf individuality. As a rule, they simply try to appraise our already completed acts with the help of the moral valuations formulated in advance by society, for the different types of action commonest in contemporary life. They say that in this way they are determining motives ; but these motives are of the same nature as those which jurists take account of in criminal justice ; they are merely social valuations of facts known to everybody. Many philosophers, especially the ancients, have believed that all values cotdd be deduced from utility, and if any social valuation does exist, it is surely this latter, — theologians estimate transgressions by the place they occupy on tlie road whicli, according to average human experience, leads to mortal sin ; they are thus


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY 99

able to ascertain the degree of viciousness of any given sin, — while the modems usually teach that we act after having established a particular maxim (which is, as it were, an abstraction or generalisation of our projected conduct), and justify this maxim by deducing it (more or less sophistically) from general principles which are, to a certain extent, analogous to the Declaration of the Rights of Man ; and, as a matter of fact, this theory was probably inspired by the admiration excited by the Bill of Rights placed at the head of each American constitution.^

We are all so extremely concerned in knowing what the world thinks of us that, sooner or later, considerations analogous to those the moralists speak of do pass through our mind ; as a result of this the moralists have been able to imagine that they have really made an appeal to experience for the purpose of finding out what exists at the bottom of the creative conscience, when, as a matter of fact, all they have done is to consider already accom- plished acts from the point of view of its social effects.

Bergson asks us, on the contrary, to consider the inner depths of the mind and what happens there during a creative moment. " There are," he says, " two different selves, one of which is, as it were, the external projection of the other, its spatial and, so to speak, social representa- tion. We reach the former by deep introspection, which leads us to grasp our inner states as living things, con- stantly becoming, as states not amenable to measure. . . . But the moments at which we thus grasp ourselves are

1 The Constitution of Virginia dates from June 1776. The American constitutions were known in Europe by two French translations, in 1778 and 1789. Kant had published the Foundations of the Metaphysic of Custom in 1785 and the Critique of Practical Reason in 1788. One might say that the utilitarian system of the ancients has certain analogies with economics, that of the theologians with law, and that of Kant with the political theory of growing democracy (cf. Jellinck, La Declaration des droits de I'homme et du citoyen, trad, franc, pp. 18-25 ; pp. 49-50 ; p. 89).


so REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

rare, and that is just why we are rarely free. The greater part of our time we live outside ourselves, hardly per- ceiving anything of ourselves but our own ghost, a colour- less shadow. . . . Hence we live for the external world rather than for ourselves ; we speak rather than think ; we are acted rather than act ourselves. To act freely is to recover possession of oneself, and to get back into pure duration." ^

In order to acquire a real understanding of this psy- chology we must " carry ourselves back in thought to those moments of our life, when we made some serious decision, moments unique of their kind, which will never be repeated — any more than the past phases in the history of a nation will ever come back again." ^ It is very evident that we enjoy this liberty pre-eminently when we are making an effort to create a new individuality in ourselves, thus endeavouring to break the bonds of habit which enclose us. It might at first be supposed that it would be sufficient to say that, at such moments, we are dominated by an overwhelming emotion ; but everybody now recognises that movement is the essence of emotional life, and it is, then, in terms of movement that we must speak of creative consciousness.

It seems to me that this psychology of the deeper life must be represented in the following way. We must abandon the idea that the soul can be compared to some- thing moving, which, obeying a more or less mechanical law, is impelled in the direction of certain given motive forces. To say that we are acting, implies that we are creating an imaginary world placed ahead of the present world and composed of movements which depend entirely on us. In this way our freedom becomes perfectly

1 Bergson, Time and Free Will, Eng. trans., pp. 231-232. In this philosophy a distinction is made between duration which flows, in which our personality manifests itself, and mathematical time, which science uses to measure and space out accomplished facts.

  • Bergson, op. cit., Eng. trans., pp. 238-239.


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY 31

intelligible. Starting from a study of these artificial constructions which embrace everything that interests us, several philosophers, inspired by Bergsonian doctrines, have been led to formulate a rather starthng theory. Edouard Le Roy, for example, says : *' Our real body is the entire universe in as far as it is experienced by us. And what common sense more strictly calls our body is only the region of least unconsciousness and greatest liberty in this greater body, the part which we most directly control and by means of which w^e are able to act on the rest." ^ But we must not, as this subtle philosopher constantly does, confuse a passing state of our willing activity with the stable affirmations of science.*

These artificial worlds generally disappear from our minds without leaving any trace in our memory ; but when the masses are deeply moved it then becomes possible to trace the outlines of the kind of representation which constitutes a social myth.

This belief in " glory" which Renan praised so much quickly fades away into rhapsodies when it is not sup- ported by myths ; these myths have varied greatly in different epochs : the citizen of the Greek republics, the Roman legionary, the soldier of the wars of Liberty, and the artist of the Renaissance did not picture their con- ception of glory by the help of the same set of images. Renan complained that " the faith in glory " is com- promised by the limited historical outlook more or less prevalent at, the present day. "Very few," he said, " act with a view to immortal fame. . . . Every one wants to enjoy his own glory ; they eat it in the green blade, and do not gather the sheaves after death." ^ In my opinion, this limited historical outlook is, on the contrary,

^ E. Le Roy, Dogme et critique, p. 239.

  • It is easy to see here how the sophism creeps in ; the universe

experienced by us may be either the real world in which we live or the world invented by us for action.

  • Renan, op. cit. vol. iv. p. 329.


32 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

not a cause but a consequence ; it results from the weaken- ing of the heroic myths which had such great popularity at the beginning of the nineteenth century ; the belief in " glory " perished and a limited historic outlook became predominant at the time when these myths vanished.^

As long as there are no myths accepted by the masses, one may go on talking of revolts indefinitely, without ever provoking any revolutionary movement ; this is what gives such importance to the general strike and renders it so odious to socialists who are afraid of a revolution ; they do all they can to shake the confidence felt by the workers in the preparations they are making for the revolution ; and in order to succeed in this they cast ridicule on the idea of the general strike — the only idea that could have any value as a motive force. One of the chief means employed by them is to represent it , as a Utopia ; this is easy enough, because there are very few myths which are perfectly free from any Utopian element.

The revolutionary myths which exist at the present time are almost free from any such mixture ; by means of them it is possible to understand the activity, the feelings and the ideas of the masses preparing themselves ^ to enter on a decisive struggle ; the myths are not descrip- ' tions of things, but expressions of a determination to act. A Utopia is, on the contrary, an intellectual product ;

^ " Assent," said Newman, " however strong, and accorded to images however vivid, is not therefore necessarily practical. Strictly speaking, it is not imagination that causes action ; but hope and fear, likes and dislikes, appetite, passion, affection, the stirrings of selfishness and self-love. What imagination does for us is to find a means of stimulating those motive powers ; and it does so by providing a supply of objects strong enough to stimulate them " {pp. cit. p. 82). It may be seen from this that the illustrious thinker adopts an attitude which strongly resembles that of the theory of myths. It is impossible to read Newman without being struck by the analogies between his thought and that of Bergson : people who Hke to make the history of ideas depend on ethnical traditions will observe that Newman was descended from Israelites.


LETTER TO DANIEL HA LEVY 33

it is the work of theorists who, after observing and dis- cussing the known facts, seek to establish a model to which they can compare existing society in order to estimate the amount of good and evil it contains.^ It is a combination of imaginary institutions having sufficient analogies to real institutions for the jurist to be able to reason about them ; it is a construction which can be taken to pieces, and certain parts of it have been shaped in such a way that they can (with a few alterations by way of adjustment) be fitted into approaching legislation. Whilst contemporary myths lead men to prepare them- selves for a combat which will destroy the existing state of things, the effect of Utopias has always been to direct men's minds towards reforms which can be brought about by patching up the existing system ; it is not surprising, then, that so many makers of Utopias were able to develop into able statesmen when they had acquired a greater experience of political life. A myth cannot be refuted, since it is, at bottom, identical with the convictions of a group, being the expression of these convictions in the language of movement ; and it is, in consequence, unanalysable into parts which could be placed on the plane of historical descriptions. A Utopia, on the contrary, can be discussed like any other social constitution ; the spontaneous movements it presupposes can be compared with the movements actually observed in the course of history, and we can in this way evaluate its verisimilitude; it is possible to refute Utopias by showing that the economic system on which they have been made to rest is incompatible with the necessary conditions of'modem production.

Liberal political economy is one of the best examples of a Utopia that could be given. A state of society

  • It was evidently a method of this kind that was adopted by those

Greek philosophers who wished to be able to argue about ethics without being obliged to accept the customs which historical necessity had imposed at Athens.


w


34 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

was imagined which could contain only the types pro- duced by commerce, and which would exist under the law of the fullest competition ; it is recognised to-day that this kind of ideal society would be as difficult to realise as that of Plato ; but several great statesmen of modem times have owed their fame to the efforts they made to introduce something of this ideal of commercial liberty into industrial legislation.

We have here a Utopia free from any mixture of myth ; the history of French democracy, however, presents a very remarkable combination of Utopias and myths. The theories that inspired the authors of our first constitutions are regarded to-day as extremely chimerical ; indeed, people are often loth to concede them the value which they have been so long recognised to possess — that of an ideal on which legislators, magistrates, and admini- strators should constantly fix their eyes, in order to secure for men a little more justice. With these Utopias were mixed up the myths which represented the struggle against the ancient regime ; so long as the myths survived, all the refutations of liberal Utopias could produce no result ; the myth safeguarded the Utopia with which it was mixed.

For a long time Socialism was scarcely anything but a Utopia ; the Marxists were right in claiming for their master the honour of bringing about a change in this state of things ; Socialism has now become the preparation of the masses employed in great industries for the suppression of the State and property ; and it is no longer necessary, therefore, to discuss how men must organise themselves in order to enjoy future happiness ; everything is reduced to the revolutionary apprentice- ship of the proletariat. Unfortunately Marx was not acquainted with facts which have now become familiar to us ; we know better than he did what strikes are, because we have been able to observe economic conflicts


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY 35

of considerable extent and duration ; the myth of the " general strike " has become popular, and is now firmly established in the minds of the workers ; we possess ideas about violence that it would have been difficult for him to have formed ; we can then complete his \ doctrine, instead of making commentaries on his text, \ as his unfortunate disciples have done for so long. ^

In this way Utopias tend to disappear completely I from Socialism ; Socialism has no longer any need to \ concern itself with the organisation of industry since capitalism does that. I think, moreover, that I have shown that the general strike corresponds to a kind of feeling which is so closely related to those which are necessary to promote production in any very progressive state of industry, that a revolutionary apprenticeship may at the same time be considered as an apprentice- ship which will enable the workmen to occupy a high rank among the best workmen of his own trade. \

People who are living in this world of " myths," are secure from all refutation ; this has led many to assert that Socialism is a kind of religion. For a long time people have been struck by the fact that religious con- victions are unaffected by criticism, and from that they have concluded that everything which claims to be beyond science must be a religion. It has been observed also that Christianity tends at the present day to be less a system of dogmas than a Christian life, i.e. a moral reform penetrating to the roots of one's being ; conse- quently, a new analogy has been discovered between religion and the revolutionary Socialism which aims at the apprenticeship, preparation, and even reconstruc- tion of the individual, — a gigantic task. But Bergson has taught us that it is not only religion which occupies the profounder region of our mental life ; revolutionary myths have their place there equally with religion. The arguments which Yves Guyot urges against Socialism on


j6 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

the ground that it is a religion, seem to me, then, to be founded on an imperfect acquaintance with the new psychology.

Renan was very sutprised to discover that Socialists are beyond discouragement. " After each abortive experi- ment they recommence their work : the solution is not yet found, but it will be. The idea that no solution exists never occurs to them, and in this lies their strength." ^ The explanation given by Renan is superficial ; it regards Socialism as a Utopia, that is, as a thing which can be compared to observed realities ; if this were true, it would be scarcely possible to understand how confidence can survive so many failures. But by the side of the Utopias there have always been myths capable of urging on the workers to revolt. For a long time these myths were founded on the legends of the Revolution, and they pre- served all their value as long as these legends remained unshaken. To-day the confidence of the Socialists is greater than ever since the myth of the general strike dominates all the truly working-class movement. No failure proves anything against Socialism since the latter has become a work of preparation (for revolution) ; if they are checked, it merely proves that the apprentice- ship has been insufficient ; they must set to work again with more courage, persistence, and confidence than before ; their experience of labour has taught workmen that it is by means of patient apprenticeship that a man may become a true comrade, and it is also the only way of becoming a true revolutionary. ^

1 Renan, op. cit. vol. iii. p. 497.

  • It is extremely important to notice the analogy between the

revolutionary state of mind and that which corresponds to the morale of the producers, I have indicated some remarkable resemblances at the end of these reflections, but there are many more analogies to be pointed out.


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY 37


The works of my friends have been treated with great contempt by the Socialists who mix in poHtics, but at the same time with much sympathy by people who do not concern themselves with parHamentary affairs. We cannot be suspected of seeking to carry on a kind of intellectual industry, and we protest every time people profess to confuse us with the intellectuals, who do, as a matter of fact, make the exploitation of thought their profession. The old stagers of democracy cannot under- stand why people should take so much trouble unless they secretly aim at the leadership of the working classes. However, we could not act in any other way.

The man who has constructed a Utopia designed to make mankind happy is inclined to look upon the invention as his own personal property ; he believes that no one is in a better position than he is to apply his system. He thinks it very unreasonable that his writings do not procure him some post in the government. But we, on the contrary, have invented nothing at all, and even assert that nothing can be invented ; we have limited ourselves to defining the historical bearing of the notion of a general strike. We have tried to show that a new culture might spring from the struggle of the revolutionary trades unions against the employers and the State ; our greatest claim to originality consists in our having maintained that the proletariat can emanci- pate itself without being compelled to seek the guidance of that section of the middle classes which concerns itself professionally with matters of the intellect. We have thus been led to regard as essential in contemporary phenomena what was before regarded as accessory, and what is indeed really educative for a revolutionary


3S REFLECTIONS ON V OLENCE

proletariat that is serving its apprenticeship in struggle. It would be impossible for us to exercise any direct influence on such a work of formation.

We may play a useful part if we limit ourselves to attacking middle-class thought in such a way as to put the proletariat on its guard against an invasion of ideas and customs from the hostile class.

Men who have received an elementary education are generally imbued with a certain reverence for print as such, and they readily attribute genius to the people who attract the attention of the literary world to any great extent ; they imagine that they must have a great deal to learn from authors whose names are so often mentioned with praise in the newspapers ; they listen with singular respect to the commentaries that these literary prize- winners present to them. It is not easy to fight against these prejudices, but it is a very useful work ; we regard this task as being absolutely of the first importance, and we can carry it to a profitable conclusion without ever attempting to direct the working-class movement. The proletariat must be preserved from the experience of the Germans who conquered the Roman Empire ; the latter were ashamed of being barbarians, and put themselves to school with the rhetoricians of the Latin decadence ; they had no reason to congratulate themselves for having wished to be civiUsed.

In the course of my career I have touclied on many subjects which might be considered to be outside the proper range of a SociaUst writer. I have endeavoured to show that the science whose marvellous results the middle class constantly boasts of is not as infallible as those who live by its exploitation would have us believe ; and that a study of the phenomena of the Socialist world would often furnish philosophers with an enlightenment which they do not find in the works of the learned. I do not believe, then, that I am labouring in vain, for in this


LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY jg

way I help to ruin the prestige of middle-class culture, a prestige which up to now has been opposed to the complete development of the principle of the " class war."

In the last chapter of my book, I have said that art is an anticipation of the kind of work that ought to be carried on in a highly productive state of society. It seems that this observation has been very much misunderstood by some of my critics, who have been imder the impression that I ^\dshed to propose as the socialist solution — an aesthetic education of the proletariat under the tutelage of modem artists. This would have been a singular paradox on my part, for the art that we possess to-day is a residue left to us by an aristocratic society, a residue which has, moreover, been greatly corrupted by the middle class. According to the most enlightened minds, it is greatly to be desired that contemporary art could renew itself by a more intimate contact with craftsmen ; academic art has used up the greatest geniuses without succeeding in producing anything which equals what has been given us by generations of craftsmen. I had in view something altogether different from such an imitation when I spoke of cin anticipation. I wished to show how one found in art (practised by its best representatives, and, above all, in its best periods) analogies which make it easier for us to imderstand what the qualities of the workers of the future would be. Moreover, so Uttle did I think of asking the Ecole des Beaux- Arts to provide a teaching suitable to the proletariat, that I based the morale of the producers not on an aesthetic education transmitted by the middle class, but on the feelings developed by the struggles of the workers against their masters.

These observations lead us to recognise the enormous difference which exists between the new school and the anarchism which flourished twenty years ago in Paris. The middle class itself had much less admiration for its

D


40 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

literary men and its artists than the anarchists of that time felt for them ; their enthusiasm for the celebrities of a day often surpassed that felt by disciples for the greatest masters of the past. We need not then be astonished that by a kind of compensation the novelists and the poets thus adulated have shown a sympathy for the anarchists which has often astonished people who do not know what a force vanity is in the artistic world.

Intellectually, then, this kind of anarchism was entirely middle class, and the Guesdistes attacked it for this reason. They said that their adversaries, while proclaiming them- selves the irreconcilable enemies of the past, were them- selves the servile pupils of this cursed past; they observed, moreover, that the most eloquent dissertations on revolt could produce nothing, and that Hterature cannot change the course of history. The anarchists replied by showing that their adversaries had entered on a road which could not lead to the revolution they announced; by taking part in poHtical debates, Socialists, they said, will become merely reformers of a more or less radical type, and will lose the sense of their revolutionary formulas. Experience has quickly shown that the anarchists were right in this view, and that in entering into middle-class institutions, revolutionaries have been transformed by adopting the spirit of these institutions. All the deputies agree that there is very little difference between a middle- class representative and a representative of the pro- letariat.

Many anarchists, tired at last of continually reading the same grandiloquent maledictions hurled at the capitalist system, set themselves to find a way which would lead them to acts which were really revolutionary. They became members of syndicates which, thanks to violent strikes, reahsed, to a certain extent, the social war they had so often heard spoken of. Historians will one


LETTER TO DANIEL f/ALEVY 41

day see in this entry of the anarchists into the syndicates one of the greatest events that has been produced in our time, and then the name of my poor friend Femand Pelloutier will be as well known as it deserves to be.i

The anarchist writers who remained faithful to their former revolutionary literature do not seem to have looked with much favour upon the passage of their friends into the syndicates ; their attitude proves that the anarchists who became syndicalists showed real originality, and had not merely appUed theories which had been fabricated in philosophical coteries.

Above all, they taught the workers that they need not be ashamed of acts of violence. Till that time it had been usual in the Socialist worid to attenuate or to excuse the violence of the strikers ; the new members of the syndicates regarded these acts of violence as normal manifestations of the struggle, and as a result of this, the tendencies at work in the syndicates, pushing them towards trades unionism, were abandoned. It was their revolutionary temperament which led them to this con- ception of violence, for it would be a gross error to suppose that these former anarchists carried over into the workers' associations any of their ideas about propaganda by deed.

Revolutionary syndicaUsm is not then, as many believe, the first confused form of the working-class move- ment, which is bound, in the end, to free itself from this youthfi4 error ; it has been, on the contrary, the produce of an improvement brought about by men who had just arrested a threatened deviation towards middle -class ideas. It might be compared to the Reformation, which wished to prevent Christianity submitting to the influence

» I believe that L6on de Seilhac was the first to render justice to the high qualities of Fernand Pelloutier {Les Congres ouvriers en France, p. 272).


42 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

of the humanists ; like the Reformation, revolutionary syndicalism may prove abortive, if it loses, as did the latter, the sense of its own originality ; it is this which gives such great interest to inquiries on proletarian violence.

July i^ih, 1907.


INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST PUBLICATION 1

The reflections that I submit to the readers of the Mouve- ment Socialistc on the subject of violence have been inspired by some simple observations about very evident facts, which play an increasingly marked role in the history of contemporary classes.

For a long time I had been struck by the fact that the normal development of strikes is accompanied by an important series of acts of violence ; ^ but certain learned sociologists seek to disguise a phenomenon that every one who cares to use his eyes must have noticed. Revolu- tionary syndicalism keeps alive in the minds of the masses the desire to strike, and only prospers when important strikes, accompanied by violence, take place. Socialism tends to appear more and more as a theory of revolutionary syndicalism — or rather as a philosophy of modem history, in as far as it is under the influence of this syndicalism. It follows from these incontestable data, that if we desire to discuss Sociahsm with any benefit, we must first of all investigate the functions of violence in actual social conditions.^

  • These Reflections were first published in the Mouvement Socialiste

(first six months, 1906).

  • Cf. " Les Greves " in the Science sociale, October-November 1900.

' In the Insegnamenti sociali della economia contemporanea (written

in 1903, but not pubhshed till 1906) I had already, but in a very in- adequate manner, pointed out what seemed to me to be the function of violence, in maintaining the division between the proletariat and the middle classes (pp. 53-55).

43'


44 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

I do not believe that this question has yet been approached with the care it admits of ; I hope that these reflections will lead a few thinkers to examine the problems of proletarian violence more closely. I cannot too strongly recommend this investigation to the new school which, inspired by the principles of Marx rather than by the formulas taught by the ofl&cial proprietors of Marxism, is about to give to SociaHst doctrines a sense of reaUty and a gravity which it certainly has lacked for several years. Since the new school calls itself Marxist, syndicaHst, revolutionary, it should have nothing so much at heart as the investigation of the exact historical significance of the spontaneous movements which are being produced in the working classes, movements which may possibly ensure that the future direction of social development will conform to Marx's ideas.

Socialism is a philosophy of the history of contemporary institutions, and Marx has alwa3rs argued as a philosopher of history when he was not led away by personal polemics to write about matters outside the proper scope of his own system.

The Socialist imagines, then, that he has been trans- ported into a very distant future, so that he can consider actual events as elements of a long and completed develop- ment, and he can attribute to them the colour that they might take for a future philosopher. Such a procedure certainly presupposes a considerable use of hypothesis ; but without certain hypotheses about the future there can be no social philosophy, no reflection on evolution, j and no important action in the present even. The object of this study is a more thorough investigation of customs, and not a discussion of the merits or faults of certain important people. I want to find out how the feelings by which the masses are moved form themselves into groups ; all the discussions of the moraUsts about the motives for the actions of prominent men, and all psycho-


INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST PUBLICATION 45

logical analyses of character are, then, quite secondary in importance, and even altogether negUgible.

It seems, however, that it is more difi&cult to reason in this way, when we are concerned with acts of violence, than with any other set of circumstances. That is due to our habit of looking on conspiracy as the typical example of violence, or as the anticipation of a revolution ; we are thus led to ask ourselves whether certain criminal acts could not be considered heroic, or at least meritorious, if we were to take into accoimt the happy consequences for their fellow-citizens anticipated by the perpetrators, as the result of their crimes. Certain individual criminal attempts have rendered such great services to democracy that the latter has often consecrated as great men those who, at the peril of their lives, have tried to rid it of its enemies ; it has done this the more readily since these great men were no longer living when the hour for dividing the spoils of victory arrived, and we know that the dead obtain admiration more easily than the living.

Each time an outrage occurs, the doctors of the ethico- social sciences, who swarm in journalism, indulge in reflections on the question, Can the criminal act be excused, or sometimes even justified, from the point of view of the highest justice ? Then there is an irruption into the democratic press of that casuistry for which the Jesuits have so many times been reproached.

I think it may be useful here to mention a note on the assassination of the Grand Duke Sergius which appeared in HumanitS of Febniary 18, 1905 ; the author was not one of those vulgar members of the Bloc whose inteUigence is hardly superior to that of a negrito, he was one of the leading Ughts of the State universities : Lucien Herr is one of those who ought to know what they are talking about. The title Just Reprisals warns us that the question is to be treated from a high ethical standpoint ; it is the


46 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

judgment of the world ^ which is about to be pronounced. The author scrupulously endeavours to assign the responsi- bility, calculates the equivalence which ought to exist between a crime and its expiation, goes back to the original misdeeds which have engendered this series of acts of violence in Russia ; all this is a philosophy of history strictly in accordance with the pure principles of I the Corsican vendetta. Carried away by the lyricism of his subject, Lucien Herr concludes in the style of a prophet : " The battle will go on in this way, in suffering and in blood, abominable and odious, till that predestined day, which cannot be far off, when the throne itself, the homicidal throne, the throne which heaps up so many crimes, will fall down into the ditch that has to-day been dug for it." This prophecy has not yet been realised, but the true character of all great prophecies is never to be realised ; the homicidal throne is much more secure than the cash- box of Humanite. But, after all, w^hat can we learn from all this ?

It is not the business of the historian to award prizes for virtue, to propose the erection of statues, or to establish any catechism whatever ; his business is to understand what is least individual in the course of events ; the questions which interest the chroniclers and excite novelists are those which he most willingly leaves on one side. And so I am not at all concerned to justify the perpetrators of violence, but to inquire into the function of violence of the working classes in contemporary SociaHsm.

It seems to me that the problem of violence has been very badly formulated by many Socialists ; as a proof of this, I instance an article published in the Socialiste on October 21, 1905, by Rappoport. The author, who has written a book on the philosophy of history,^ ought, it

1 This expression is not too strong, seeing that the author's studies have been mainly confined to Hegel.

^ Ch. Rappoport, La Philosophic de i'histoire comme sciefice de Vivolution.


INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST PUBLICATION 47

seems to me, to have discussed the question by examining the remoter consequences of these events ; but, on the con- trary, he considered them under their most immediate, most paltry, and, consequently, least historical aspect. Accord- ing to him, syndicalism tends necessarily to opportimism, and as this law does not Seem to be verified in France, he adds : " If in some Latin countries it assumes revolutionary attitudes, that is mere appearance. It shouts louder, but that is always for the purpose of demanding reforms inside the framework of existing society. It is a meliorism by blows, but it is always meliorism."

Thus there would be two kinds of meliorism : the one patronised by the Musee Social, the Direction du Travail, and Jaurds, which would work with the aid of maxims, half-Ues, and supphcation to eternal justice ; the other proceeds by blows — the latter being the only one that is within the scope of imeducated people who have not yet been enlightened by a knowledge of advanced social economics. These worthy people, democrats devoted to the cause of the Rights of man and the Duties of the informer, sociologist members of the Bloc, think that violence will disappear when popular education becomes more advanced ; they recommend, then, a great increase in the numbers of courses and lectures ; they hope to overturn revolutionary s>TidicaHsm by the breath of the professors. It is very strange that a revolutionary like Rappoport should agree with these worthy progressives * and their acolytes in their estimate of the meaning of syndicalism ; this can only be explained by admitting that even for the best-informed Socialists the problems of violence still remain very obscure.

To examine the effects of violence it is necessary to start from its distant consequences and not from its immediate results. We should not ask whether it is more or less directly advantageous for contemporary

  • See note p. 13. Trans,


4S REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

workmen than adroit diplomacy would be, but we should inquire what will result from the introduction of violence into the relations of the proletariat with society. We are not comparing two kinds of reformism, but we are endeavouring to find out what contemporary violence is in relation to the future social revolution.

Many will reproach me for not having given any information which might be useful for tactical purposes ; no formulas, no recipes. What then was the use of writing at all ? Clear-headed people will say that these studies are addressed to men who Hve outside the reahties of everyday life and outside the true movement — that is, outside editors* offices, parliamentary lobbies, and the ante -chambers of the Socialist financiers. Those who have become scientists merely by coming into contact with Belgian sociology will accuse me of having a meta- physical rather than a scientific mind.^ These are opinions which will scarcely touch me, since I have never paid any attention to the views of people who think vulgar stupidity the height of wisdom, and who admire above all men who speak and write without thinking.

Marx also was accused by the great lords of positivism of having, in Capital, treated economics metaphysically ; they were astonished " that he had confined himself to a mere critical analysis of actual facts, instead of formulat- ing receipts." * This reproach does not seem to have moved him very much ; moreover, in his preface to his book, he had warned the reader that he would not determine the social position of any particular country, and that he would confine himself to an investigation of the laws of capitalist production, ** the tendencies working with iron necessity towards inevitable results." ^

  • This expectation has been realised ; for in a speech in the Chambre

des Deputes on May ii, 1907, Jaur^s called me " the metaphysician of Syndicalism," doubtless ironically,

  • Capital, Eng. trans., p. xxvi. » Loc. cit. p. xvii.


INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST PUBLICATION 49

One does not need a great knowledge of history to perceive that the mystery of historical development is only inteUigible to men who are far removed from super- ficial distm'bances ; the chroniclers and the actors of the drama do not see at all, what, later on, will be regarded as fimdamental ; so that one might formulate this \ apparently paradoxical rule, "It is necessary to be out- side in order to see the inside/* When we apply these principles to contemporary events we nm the risk of being taken for metaphysicians, but that is of no importance, for this time we are not at Brussels savez-vous, sais-tu, pour unefois. * If we are dissatisfied with the uns5^tematic views formed by common sense, we must follow a method altogether opposed to that of the sociologists, who found their reputation amongst stupid people by means of insipid and confused chatter; we must firmly resolve to ignore immediate applications, and think only of elaborating generalisations and concepts ; it is necessary to set aside all the favomite preoccupations of the politicians. I hope that in the end it will be recognised that I have never broken this rule.

Though they may lack other quahties, these reflections possess one merit which cannot be questioned ; it is quite evident that they are inspired by a passionate love of truth. Love of truth has become a rare enough quality ; the members of the Bloc despise it profoundly ; official Socialists regard it as having anarchical tendencies ; poUticians and their haingers-on cannot sufficiently insult the wretched people who prefer truth to the dehghts of

  • Some Belgian comrades have been offended by these innocent

jokes, which nevertheless I retain here ; Belgian Socialism is best known in France through Vandevelde, one of the most useless creatures that ever existed, who not being able to console himself for having been born in a country too small to give scope to his genius, came to Paris and gave lectures on all kinds of subjects, and who can be reproached, among other things, for having made an enormous profit on a very small intellectual capital. I have already said what I think of him in the Introduction d I'iconomie moderne, pp. 42-49.


JO /REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

power. But there are still some honest people left in France, and it is for them alone that I have always written.

The greater my experience the more I have recognised that in the study of historical questions a passion for truth is worth more than the most learned methodologies ; it enables one to break through conventional wrappings, to penetrate to the foundations of things, and to grasp reality. There has never been a great historian who has not been altogether carried along by this passion; and looking at this matter closely, one sees that it is this passion which has given rise to so many happy intuitions.

I do not claim that I have, in this book, said every- thing that there is to say about violence, and still less to have produced a systematic theory of violence. I have merely reunited and revised a series of articles which appeared in an Italian review, // Divenire sociale} a review which maintains, on the other side of the Alps, the good fight against the exploiters of popular creduHty. The articles were written without any fixed plan ; I have not tried to rewrite them, because I did not know how to set about giving a didactic appearance to such an exposi- tion ; it even seemed to me better to preserve their imtidy arrangement, since in that form they will perhaps more easily awake thought. We should always be careful in opening up a little-known subject, not to trace its boundaries too rigorously, for in this way the door is closed to the many new facts which arise from unforeseen circumstances. Time after time the theorists of Socialism have been embarrassed by contemporary history. They had constructed magnificent formulas, clear-cut and

  • The last four chapters have been much more developed than they

were in the Italian text. I have thus been able to give more space to philosophic considerations The Italian articles have been collected in a brochure under the title Lo Sciopero generaU e la violenza with a preface by Enrico Leone.


INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST PUBLICATION j/

symmetrical, but they could not make them fit the facts. Rather than abandon their theories, they pre- ferred to declare that the most important facts were mere anomalies, which science must ignore if it is to obtain a real understanding of the whole.

CHAPTER I CLASS WAR AND VIOLENCE [and the rest]

1. War of the poorer groups against the rich groups — Opposition of democracy to the division into classes — Methods of buying social peace — The corporative mind.

II. Illusions relating to the disappearance of violence — The mechan- ism of conciliation and the encouragement which it gives to strikers — Influence of fear on social legislation and its con- sequences.

I

Everybody complains that discussions about Socialism are generally exceedingly obscure. This obscurity is due, for the most part, to the fact that contemporary Socialists use a terminology which no longer corresponds to their ideas. The best known among the people who call themselves revisionists do not wish to appear to be abandoning certain phrases, which have served for a very long time as a label to characterise Socialist literature. When Bernstein, perceiving the enormous contradiction between the language of social democracy and the true nature of its activity, urged his German comrades to have the courage to appear what they were in reality,^ and to revise a doctrine that had become mendacious, there was a tmiversal outburst of indignation at his audacity ; arid

1 Bernstein complains of the pettifoggery and cant which reigns among the social democrats {Socialisme thiorique et socicUdimocratie pratique, French translation, p. 277). He addresses these words from Schiller to social democracy : " Let it dare to appear what it is " (p. 238).

5*


CLASS WAR AND VIOLENCE 53

the refomiists themselves were not the least eager of the defenders of the ancient formula. I remember hearing well-known French Socialists say that they found it easier to accept the tactics of Millerand than the arguments of Bernstein.

This idolatry of words plays a large part in the history of all ideologies ; the preservation of a Marxist vocabulary by people who have become completely estranged from the thought of Marx constitutes a great misfortime for Socialism. The expression " class war," for example, is employed in the most improper manner ; and imtil a precise meaning can be given to this term, we must give up all hope of a reasonable exposition of Socialism.

A. To most people the class war is the principle of Socialist tactics. That means that the Socialist party founds its electoral successes on the clashing of interests which exist in an acute state between certain groups, and that, if need be, it would undertake to make this hostility still more acute ; their candidates ask the poorest and most numerous class to look upon themselves as forming a corporation, and they offer to become the advocates of this corporation ; they promise to use their influence as representatives to improve the lot of the disinherited. Thus we are not very far from what happened in the. Greek states ; Parliamentary Socialists are very much akin to the demagogues who clamoured constantly for the abolition of debts, and the division of landed property, who put all public charges upon the rich, and invented plots in order to get large fortimes confiscated. " In the democracies in which the crpwd is above the law," says Aristotle, " the demagogues, by their continual attacks upon the rich, always divide the city into two camps . . . the oligarchs should abandon all swearing of oaths Uke those they swear to-day; for there are cities in which they have taken this oath — I will be the constant enemy of the


J4 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

people, and I will do them all the evil that lies in my power." 1 Here, certainly, is a war between two classes as clearly defined as it can be ; but it seems to me absurd to assert that it was in this way that Marx understood the class war, which, according to him, was the essence of Socialism.

I beHeve that the authors of the French law of August II, 1848, had their heads full of these classical reminis- cences when they decreed punishment against all those who, by speeches and newspaper articles, sought " to trouble the public peace by stirring up hatred and con- tempt amongst the citizens." The terrible insurrection of the month of June was just over, and it was firmly believed that the victory of the Parisian workmen would have brought on, if not an attempt to put commimism into practice, at least a series of formidable requisitions on the rich in favour of the poor ; it was hoped that an end would be put to civil wars by increasing the difficulty of propagating doctrines of hatred, which might raise the proletariat against the middle class.

Nowadays Parliamentary Socialists no longer enter- tain the idea of insurrection ; if they still occasionally speak of it, it is merely to give themselves airs of import- ance ; they teach that the ballot-box has replaced the gun ; but the means of acquiring power may have changed without there being any change of mental attitude. Electoral literature seems inspired by the purest demagogic doctrines ; Socialism makes its appeal to the discontented without troubling about the place they occupy in the world of production ; in a society as complex as ours, and as subject to economic upheavals, there is an enormous number of discontented people in all classes — that is why Socialists are often found in places where one would least expect to meet them. Parliamentary Socialism speaks as many languages as it has types of clients. It makes

» Aristotle, Politics, v. 9, §§ 10, 11.


CLASS WAR AND VIOLENCE jj

its appeal to workmen, to small employers of labour, to peasants ; and in spite of Engels, it aims at reaching the farmers ; ^ it is at times patriotic ; at other times it declares against the Army. It is stopped by no con- tradiction, experience having shown that it is possible, in the course of an electoral campaign, to group together forces which, according to Marxian conceptions, should normally be antagonistic. Besides, cannot a Member of Parhament be of ser\Tice to electors of every economic situation ?

In the end the term " proletariat " became synony- mous with oppressed ; and there are oppressed in all classes : ^ German Socialists have taken a great interest in the adventures of the Princess of Cobiu-g.' One of our most distinguished reformers, Henri Turot, for a long time one of the editors of the Petite Repuhlique^ and mimicipal coimcillor of Paris, has written a book on the " proletariat of love," by which title he designates the lowest class of prostitutes. If one of these da}^ the suffrage is granted to women, he will doubtless be called upon

> Engels. La Question agraire et le sociaJisme. Critique du programme du parti ouvrier franf/ii^. translated in the Mouvement sociaJiste. October 15, 1900, p. 453. It has often been pointed out that certain Socialist candidates had separate bills for the town and the country.

' Hampered by the monopoly of the licensed stockbrokers {agents de change), the other brokers {coitlissiers) of the Bourse thus form a financial proletariat, and among them more than one Socialist admirer of Jaur^s may be found. [Trans. Note. — The coulissiers are only allowed to deal in certain markets — the Kaffir, Argentine, etc. They are constantly conducting press campaigns against the privileged brokers. Many of them are naturalised German Jews, and the licensed brokers utilise this fact in defending their own position.]

• The SociaUst deputy Sudekum, the best-dressed man in Berlin, played a large part in the abduction of the Princess of Coburg ; let us hope that he had no financial interest in this affaire. At that time he represented Jaurds's newspaper at Berlin.

  • H. Turot was for some considerable time one of the editors of the

nationalist paper L' Eclair, and of the Petite Republique at the same time. When Judet took over the management of U Eclair he dismissed his Socialist contributor.

E


S6 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

to draw up a statement of the claims of this special proletariat.

B. Contemporary democracy in France finds itself somewhat bewildered by the tactics of the class war. This explains why ParHamentary Socialism does not mingle with the main body of the parties of the extreme left.

In order to understand this situation, we must remember the important part played by revolutionary war in our history ; an enormous nimiber of our poHtical ideas originated from war ; war presupposes the union of national forces against the enemy, and our French historians have alwa5rs severely criticised those insurrec- tions which hampered the defence of the country. It seems that our democracy is harder on its rebels than monarchies are ; the Vend^ens are still denounced daily as infamous traitors. All the articles pubUshed by Cl^menceau to combat the ideas of Herve are inspired by the purest revolutionary tradition, and he says so himself clearly : "I stand by and shall always stand by the old-fashioned patriotism of our fathers of the Revolu- tion," and he scoffs at people who would " suppress international wars in order to hand us over in peace to the amenities of civil war" (Aurore, May 12, 1905).

For some considerable time the Republicans denied 1 that there was any struggle between the classes in France ; :| they had so great a horror of revolt that they would not 1 recognise the facts. Judging all things from the abstract \ point of view of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, they said that the legislation of 1789 had been created in order to abolish all distinction of class in law ; for that reason they were opposed to proposals for social legislation, which, nearly always, reintroduced the idea of class, and distinguished certain groups of citizens as being unfitted. for the use of liberty. '* The revolution


CLASS WAR AND VIOLENCE 37

was supposed to have suppressed class distinction,*' wrote Joseph Reinach sadly in the Matin of April 19, 1895 ; " but they spring up again at every step. . . . It is necessary to point out these aggressive returns of the past, but they must not be allowed to pass un- challenged ; they must be resisted." *

Electoral dealing led many Republicans to recognise that the Socialists obtain great successes by utilising the passions of jealousy, of deception, or of hate, which exist in the world ; thenceforward they became aware of the class war, and many have borrowed the jargon of the Parliamentary Socialists : in this way the party that is called Radical SociaHst came into being. Cl^menceau asserts even that he knows moderates who became SociaUsts in twenty-four hours. " In France," he says, " the Socialists that I know* are excellent Radicals who, thinking that social reforms do not advance quickly enough to please them, conceive that it would be good tactics to claim the greater in order to get the less. How many names and how many secret avowals I could quote to support what I say ! But that would be useless, for nothing could be less mysterious" (Aurore, August 14,

1905).

L6on Bourgeois — ^who was not willing to adapt himself completely to the new methods, and who, for that reason perhaps, left the Chamber of Deputies for the Senate — said, at the congress of his party in July 1905 : " The class war is a fact, but a cruel fact. I do not believe that it is by prolonging this war that the solution of the problem will be attained ; I believe that the solution rather hes in its suppression ; men must be brought to look upon themselves as partners in the same work." It would therefore seem to be a question of creating social peace by legislation, thus

  • J. Reinach, Dimagogues et socialistes, p. 198.

■ Clemenceau knows the Socialists in Parliament exceedingly well, and from long experience.


\


jS /REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

demonstrating to the poor that the Government has no greater care than that of improving their lot, and by imposing the necessary sacrifices on people who possess a fortune judged to be too great for the harmony of the classes.

CapitaHst society is so rich, and the future appears to it in such optimistic colours, that it endures the most frightful burdens without complaining overmuch : in America politicians waste large taxes shamelessly ; in Europe, the expenditure in military preparation increases every year ; ^ social peace might very well be bought by a few supplementary sacrifices.* Experience shows that the middle classes allow themselves to be plundered quite easily, provided that a little pressure is brought to bear, and that they are intimidated by the fear of revolu- tion ; that party will possess the future which can most skilfully manipulate the spectre of revolution ; the radical party is beginning to understand this ; but, however clever its clowns may be, it will have some difliculty in finding any who can dazzle the big Jew^ bankers as well as Jaures and his friends do.

C. The Syndicalist organisation gives a third value to the class war. In each branch of industry employers and workmen form antagonistic groups, which have continual discussions, which negotiate and make agree- ments. Socialism brings along its terminology of class

» At The Hague Conference the German delegate declared that his country bore the expense of armed peace with ease ; L^on Bourgeois held that France bore " quite as lightly the personal and financial obUgations which the national defence imposed on its citizens." Ch. Guieysse, who quotes this speech, thinks that the Tsar had asked for the limitation of military expenditure because Russia was not rich enough yet to maintain herself at the level of the great capitalist countries {La France ei la paix armie, p. 45).

3 That is why Bhand told, on June 9, 1907, his constituents at Saint-Etienne that the Republic had made a sacred pledge to the workers about old-age pensions.


CLASS IVAR AND VIOLENCE jp

war, and thus complicates conflicts which might haye remained of a purely private order ; corporative exclusive- hess, which resembles the local or the racial spirit, is thereby consolidated, and those who represent it Hke to imagine that they are accomplishing a higher duty and are doing excellent work for Socialism.

It is well known that htigants who are strangers in a town are generally very badly treated by the judges of commercial courts sitting there, who try to give judg- ment in favour of their fellow -townsmen. Railway companies pay fantastic prices for pieces of ground, the value of which is fixed by juries recruited from among the neighbouring landowners. I have seen Italian sailors overwhelmed with fines, for pretended infractions of the law, by the fishing arbitrators with whom they had come to compete on the strength of ancient treaties. Many workmen are in the same way inchned to assert that in all their contests with the employers, the worker has morality and justice on his side ; I have heard the secretary of a syndicate (so fanatically a reformer as distinct from a revolutionary that he denied the oratorical talent of Guesde) declare that nobody had class feeling so strongly developed as he had, — because he argued in the way I have just indicated, — ^and he concluded that the revolutionaries did not possess the monopoly of the just conception of the class war.

It is quite understandable that many people have considered this corporative spirit as no better than the parish spirit, and also that they should have attempted to destroy it by employing methods very analogous to those which have so much weakened the jealousies which formerly existed in France between the various provinces. A more general culture and the intermixing with people of another region rapidly destroy provincialism : would it not be possible to destroy the corporative feeling by frequently bringing the important men in the sjudicates


6o /REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

into connection with the employers, and by furnishing them with opportunities of taking part in discussions of a general order in mixed commissions ? Experience has shown that this is feasible.

11

The efforts which have been made to remove the causes of hostility which exist in modem society have undoubtedly had some effect, although the peacemakers may be much deceived about the extent of their work. By ishowing a few of the of&cials of the syndicates that the middle classes are not such terrible men as they had believed, by loading them with poHteness in commissions set up in ministerial of&ces or at the MusSe social, and by giving them the impression that there is a natural and Republican equity, above class prejudices and hatreds, it has been foimd possible to change the attitude of a few former revolutionaries.* These conversions of a few of their old chiefs have caused great confusion in the mind of the working classes ; the former enthusiasm of more than one Socialist has given place to discomragement ; many working men have wondered whether the trades imion organisation was not becoming a kind of poUtics, a means of getting on.

But simultaneously with this evolution, which filled the heart of the peacemakers with joy, there was a re- crudescence of the revolutionary spirit in a large section of the proletariat. Since the Republican Government and the philanthropists have taken it into their heads to exterminate Socialism by developing social legislation,

1 In the matter of social " clowneries " there are very few new things under the sun. Aristotle had already laid down the rules of social peace : he says that demagog " should in their harangues appear to be concerned only with the u erest of the rich, just as in oHgarchies the government should only s em to have in view the interests of the people " {loc. cit). That is text which should be inscribed on the door of the offices of the Directi«a du Travail.


CLASS WAR AND VIOLENCE 6i

and by moderating the resistance of the employers in strikes, it has been observed that, more than once, the conflicts have become more acute than formerly.^ This is often explained away by saying that it was an accident, the result simply of the survival of old usages ; people Uke to lull themselves with the hope that everything will go perfectly well on the day when manufacturers have a better understanding of the usages of social peace.* I beUeve, on the contrary, that we are in the presence ! of a phenomenon which flows quite naturally from the I conditions in which this pretended pacification is carried j out.

I observe, first of all, that both the theories and action of the peacemakers are founded on the notion of duty, , and that duty is something entirely indefinite — ^while law seeks rigid definition. This difference is due to the fact that the latter finds a real basis in the economics of pro- duction, while the former is foimded on sentiments of resignation, goodness, and of sacrifices ; and who can judge whether the man who submits to duty has been sufficiently resigned, sufficiently good, sufficiently self-sacrificing ? The Christian is convinced that he will never succeed in doing all that the gospel enjoins on him ; when he is free from economic ties (in a monastery) he invents all sorts of pious obUgations, so that he may bring his life nearer to that of Christ, who loved men to such an extent that he accepted an ignominious fate that they might be redeemed.

In the economic world everybody limits his duty by > his imwillingness to give up certain profits. While the j employer will be always convinced that he has done the I

  • Cf. G. Sorel, Insegnamenti sodali, p. 343.
  • In his speech of May 11, 1907, Jaurds said that nowhere had there

been such violence as there was in England during the period when both the employers and Government refused to recognise the trade unions. " They have given way ; there is now vigorous and strong action, but which is at the same time legal, firm, and wise."


62 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

\ whole of his duty, the worker will be of a contrary opinion, and no argument could possibly settle the matter : the first will believe that he has been heroic, and the second will treat this pretended heroism as shameful exploitation.

Our great pontiffs of duty refuse to look upon a con- tract to work as being of the nature of a sale ; nothing is so simple as a sale ; nobody troubles himself to find out whether the grocer or his customer is right when they do not agree on the price of cheese ; the ciistomer goes where he can buy more cheaply, and the grocer is obUged to change his prices when his customers leave him. But when a strike takes place it is quite another thing. All the well-intentioned people, all the " progressives " and the friends of the Republic, begin to discuss which of the two parties is in the right : to he in the right is to have accomplished one's whole social duty. Le Play has given much advice on the means of organising labour with a view to the strict fulfilment of duty ; but he could not fix the extent of the mutual obligations ; he left it to the tact of each, to the just estimation of the duties attaching to one's place in the social hierarchy, to the master's intelligent appreciation of the real needs of the workmen.^

The employers generally agree to discuss disputes on these lines ; to the claims of the workers they reply that they have already reached the limit of possible conces- sions — while the philanthropists wonder whether the seUing price will not permit of a slight rise in wages. Such a discussion presupposes that it is possible to ascertain the exact extent of a man's social duty, and i what sacrifices an employer must continue to make in / order to carry out the duties of his social position. As there is

  • Le Play, Organisation du travail, chap. ii. § 21. According to this

writer, more attention should be paid to moral forces than to the systems that are invented in order to regulate wages in a more or less automatic manner.


CLASS WAR AND VIOLENCE 6$

no process of reasoning which can resolve such a problem, wiseacres suggest recourse to arbitration ; Rabelais would have suggested recourse to the chance of the dice. When the strike is important, deputies loudly demand an inquiry, with the object of discovering whether the industrial leaders are properly fultilling their dniies as good masters.

Certain results are obtained in this way — which never- theless seem absurd — because on the one hand the large employers of labour have been brought up with religious, philanthropic, and ci\ac ideas ; ^ and on the other hand because they cannot show themselves too stubborn, when certain demands are made by p)eople occupying a high position in the country. Concihators stake their vanity on succeeding, and they would be extremely hurt if industrial leaders prevented them from making social peace. The workmen are in a much more favourable position, because the prestige of the peacemakers is v^ery much less with them than with the capitalists ; the latter give way, therefore, much more easily than the workers, in order to allow these well-intentioned folk the glory of ending the confhct. It is noticeable that these proceedings very rarely succeed when the matter is in the hands of workmen who have become hch : Hterary, moral, or sociological considerations have very Httle effect upon people bom outside the ranks of the middle classes.

People who are called upon to intervene in disputes in this way are misled by what they have seen of certain secretaries of syndicates, whom they find much less irreconcilable than they expected, and who seem to them to be ripe for a recognition of the idea of social peace. In the course of conciHation meetings more than one revolutionary has shown that he aspires to become a member of the middle class, and there are many intelligent ,

1 About the forces which tend to maintain sentiments of moderation, cf. Insegnanitnti sociaJi, part iii. chap. v.


64 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

people who imagine that socialistic and revolutionary conceptions are only accidents that might be avoided by estabUshing better relations between the classes. They beUeve that the working-class world looks at the economic question entirely from the standpoint of duty, and they imagine that harmony would be estabHshed if a better social education were given to the citizens.

Let us see what influences are behind the other move- ment that tends to make conflicts more acute.

Workmen quickly perceive that the labour of con- ciliation or of arbitration rests on no economico- judicial basis, and their tactics have been conducted — ^instinctively perhaps — ^in accordance with this datum. Since the feelings, and, above all, the vanity of the peacemakers are in question, a strong appeal must be made to their imaginations, and they must be given the idea that they have to accomphsh a titanic task : demands are piled up, therefore, figures fixed in a rather haphazard way, and there are no scruples about exaggerating them; often the success of the strike depends on the cleverness with which a syndicaUst (who thoroughly understands the spirit of social diplomacy) has been able to introduce claims, in themselves very minor, but capable of giving the impression that the employers are not fulfilling their social duty. It often happens that writers who concern themselves with these questions are astonished that several days pass before the strikers have settled what exactly they have to demand, and that in the end demands are put forward which had not been mentioned in the course of the preceding negotiations. This is easily understood when we consider the bizarre conditions under which the discussion between the interested parties is carried on.

I am surprised that there are no strike professionals who would undertake to draw up Usts of the workers* claims ; they would obtain all the more success in con-


CLASS WAR AND VIOLENCE 65

ciliation councils as they would not let themselves be dazzled by fine words so easily as the workers' delegates.^

When the strike is finisjied the workmen do not forget that the employers at first declared that no concession was possible ; they are led thus to the belief that the employers are either ignorant or Uars. This result is not conducive to the development of social peace !

So long as the workers submitted without protest to the exactions of the employers, they believed that the will of their masters was completely dominated by economic necessities ; they perceived, after the strike, that this necessity is not of a very rigid kind, and that if energetic pressure from below is brought to bear on the masters, the latter will find some means of hberating themselves from the pretended fetters of economic necessity ; thus within practical limits capitalism appears to the workers to be unfettered, and they reason as if it were entirely so. What in their eyes restrains this liberty is not the necessities of competition but the ignorance of the employers. Thus is introduced the notion of the . inexhaustibility of production, which is one of the postu- 11 lates of the theory of class war in the Socialism of Marx.* * J

Why then speak of social duty ? Duty has some meaning in a society in which all the parts are intimately connected and responsible to one another ; but if capital- ism is inexhaustible, joint responsibility is no longer foimded on economic realities, and the workers think they would be dupes if they did not demand all they can obtain ; they look upon the employer as an adversary with whom one comes to terms after a war. Social duty no more exists than does international duty.

  • The French law of December 27, 1892, seems to have foreseen this

possibility ; it lays down that delegates on conciliation boards should be chosen among the interested parties ; it thus keeps out these pro- fessionals whose presence would render the prestige of the authorities and of philajithropists precarious.

  • G. Sorel, Insegnamenti socitUi, p. 390.


66 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

These ideas are somewhat confused, I admit, in many minds ; but they exist in a much more stable manner than the partisans of social peace imagine ; the latter are deluded by appearances, and never penetrate to the hidden roots of the existing tendencies of Socialism.

Before passing to other considerations, it must be noticed that our Latin countries present one great obstacle to the formation of social p)eace ; the classes are more sharply separated by external characteristics than they are in Saxon countries ; these separations very much embarrass Syndicalist leaders when they abandon their former manners and take up a position in the official or philanthropic circles.^ These circles have welcomed them with great pleasure, since it has been perceived that the gradual transformation of trades union officials into members of the middle classes might produce excellent results ; but their comrades distrust them. In France this distrust has become much more definite since a great number of anarchists have entered the Syndicalist move- ment ; because the anarchist has a horror of everj'thing which recalls the proceedings of pohticians — a class of people devoured by the desire to climb into superior classes, and having already the capitahst mind while yet poor. 2

Social pohtics have introduced new elements which must now be taken into accoimt. First of all, it must be

1 Everybody who has seen trades union leaders close at hand is struck with the extreme diderence which exists between France and England from this point of view ; the English trades union leaders rapidly become gentlemen, without anybody blaming them for it (P. de Rousiers. Le Trade-unionisme en AngUUrre, p. 309 and p. 322). While correcting this proof, I read an article by Jacques Bardaux, pointing out that a carpenter and a miner had been made knights by Edward VII. [Dehats, December 16, 1907).

• Some years ago Arsene Dumont invented the term social capillarity to express the slow chmbing of the classes. If Syndicalism submitted to the induence of the pacinsts, it would be a powerful agent of social capillarity.


CLASS WAR AND VIOLENCE 67

noticed that the workers count to-day in the world by the same right as the different productive groups which demand to be protected ; they must be treated with solicitude just as the vine-growers or the sugar manu- facturers.^ There is nothing settled about Protectionism ; the custom duties are fixed so as to satisfy the desires of very influential people who wish to increase their incomes ; social politics proceed in the same manner. The Pro- tectionist Government professes to have knowledge which permits it to judge what should be granted to each group so as to defend the producers without injuring the con- simiers ; similarly, in social politics it declares, that it will take into consideration the interests of the employers and those of the workers.

Few people, outside the faculties of law, are so simple as 1 to beUeve that the State can carry out such a programme : I in actual fact, the ParHamentarians decide on a compro- mise that partially satisfies the interests of those who are most influential in elections without provoking too Uvely protests from those who are sacrificed. There is no other rule than the true or presumed interest of the electors ; every day the customs commission recasts its tariffs, and it declares that it will not stop recasting them until it succeeds in securing prices which it considers remimera- tive to the people for whom it has undertaken the part of providence : it keeps a watchful eye on the operations of importers ; every lowering of price attracts its attention and provokes inquiries with the object of discovering whether it would not be possible to raise values again artificially. Social politics are carried on in exactly the

1 It has often been pointed out that the workers' organisation in England is a simple union of interests, for the purposes of immediate matetial advantages. Some vrriters are very pleased with this situation because, quite rightly, they see in it an obstacle to Socialistic propa- ganda. To embarrass the Socialists, even at the price of economic progress and of the safety of the culture of the future, that is the great aim of certain great idealists dear to the philanthropic middle classes.


n


68 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

same way ; on June 27, 1905, the rapporteur ^ of a law on the length of the hours of work m the mmes said, in the Chamber of Deputies : " Should the appUcation of the law give rise to disappointment among the workmen, we have undertaken to lay a new bill before the house." This worthy man spoke exactly like the rapporteur of a tariff law.

There are plenty of workmen who understand per- fectly well that all the trash of ParHamentary Uterature only serves to disguise the real motives by which the Government is influenced. The Protectionists succeed by subsidising a few important party leaders or by financing newspapers which support the politics of these party leaders ; the workers have no money, but they have at their disposal a much more efl&cacious means of action ; they can inspire fear, and for several years past they have availed themselves of this resource.

At the time of the discussion of the law regulating labour in mines, the question of the threats addressed to the Government cropped up several times : on February 5, 1902, the president of the commission told the Chamber that those in power had " lent an attentive ear to clamour- ings from without ; that they had been inspired by a sentiment of benevolent generosity in allowing them- selves to be moved {despite the tone in which they were couched), by the claims of the working classes and the long cry of suffering of the workers in the mines." A little later he added : '* We have accomplished a work of social justice, ... a work of benevolence also, in going to those who toil and suffer, hke friends solely desirous of working in peace and under honourable conditions, and we must not by a brutal and too ego- tistic refusal to unbend, allow them to give way to impulses which, while not actual revolts, would yet have as many victims." All these confused phrases served

  • See Translator's Note, p. 162.


CLASS WAR AND VIOLENCE 69

to hide the terrible fear which clutched this grotesque deputy.^ In the sitting of November 6, 1904, at the Senate, the minister declared that the Government was incapable of giving way to threats, but that it was necessary to open not only ears and mind, but also the heart " to respectful claims " (!) ; a good deal of water had passed imder the bridges since the day when the Govern- ment had promised to pass the law imder the threat of a general strike.*

I could choose other examples to show that the most decisive factor in social pohtics is the cowardice of the Government. This was shown in the plainest possible way in the recent discussions on the suppression of registry ofi&ces, and on the law which sent to the civil courts appeals against the decisions of the arbitrators in industrial 'disputes. Nearly all the Syndicahst leaders know how to make excellent use of this situation, and they teach the workers that it is not at all a question of demanding favours, but that they must profit by middle- class cowardice to impose the will of the proletariat. These tactics are supported by so many facts that they were bound to take root in the working-class world.

One of the things which appear to me to have most astonished the workers during the last few years has been the timidity of the forces of law and order in the presence of a riot ; magistrates who have the right to demand the services of soldiers dare not use their power to the utmost, and officers allow themselves to be abused and struck with a patience hitherto imknown in them. It is

1 This imbecile has become Minister of Commerce, All his speeches j on this question are full of balderdash ; he has been a lunacy doctor,! and has perhaps been influenced by the logic and the language of his' clients.

  • The Minister declared that he was creating " real democracy,"

and that it was demagogy " to give way to external pressure, to haughty summonses, which, for the most part, are only higher bids and baits addressed to the credulity of people whose hfe is laborious."


^0 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

becoming more and more evident every day that work- ing-class violence possesses an extraordinary efficacity in strikes: prefects, fearing that they may be obliged to use force against insurrectionary violence, bring pres- sure to bear on employers in order to compel them to give way ; the safety of factories is now looked upon as a favour which the prefect may dispense as he pleases ; consequently he arranges the use of his poUce so as to intimidate the two parties, and skilfully brings them to an agreement.

Trades union leaders have not been long in grasping the full bearing of this situation, and it must be admitted that they have used the weapon that has been put into their hands with great skill. They endeavour to intimid- ate the prefects by popular demonstrations which might lead to serious conflicts with the police, and they com- mend violence as the most efficacious means of obtaining concessions. At the end of a certain time the obsessed and frightened administration nearly always intervenes with the masters and forces an agreement upon them, which becomes an encouragement to the propagandists of violence.

Whether we approve or condemn what is cadled the revolutionary and direct method, it is evident that it is not on the point of disappearing ; in a comitry as warlike as France there are profound reasons which would assure a considerable popularity for this method, even if its enormous efficacy had not been demonstrated by so many examples. This is the one great social fact of the present hour, and we must seek to understand its bearing.

I cannot refrain from noting down here a reflection made by Clemenceau \\ith regard to our relations with Germany, wlii^h appHes equally well to social conflicts when they take a \'iolent aspect (which seems likely to become more and more general in proportion as a cowardly


CLASS WAR AND VIOLENCE 71

middle class continues to pursue the chimera of social peace) : " There is no better means," he said (than the policy of perpetual concessions), *' of making the opposite party ask for more and more. Every man or every power whose action consists solely in surrender can only finish by self-annihilation. Everything that lives resists; that which does not resist allows itself to be cut up piecemeal" [Aurore, August 15, 1905).

A social poHcy founded on middle -class cowardice, which consists in always surrendering before the threat of violence, cannot fail to engender the idea that the middle class is condemned to death, and that its disappear- ance is only a matter of time. Thus every conflict which gives rise to violence becomes a vanguard fight, and nobody can foresee what will arise from such engagements ; although the great battle never comes to a head, yet each time they come to blows the strikers hope that it is the beginning of the great Napoleonic battle (that which will definitely crush the vanquished) ; in this way the practice of strikes engenders the notion of a catastrophic revolution.

A keen observer of the contemporary proletarian movement has expressed the same ideas : " They, like their ancestors (the French revolutionaries) , are for struggle, for conquest ; they desire to accomplish great works by force. Only, the war of conquest interests them no longer. Instead of thinking of battles, they now think of strikes ; instead of setting up as their ideal a battle against the armies of Europe, they now set up the general strike in which the capitalist regime will be annihilated. ^

The theorists of social peace shut their eyes to these embarrassing facts ; they are doubtless ashamed to admit their cowardice, just as the Government is ashamed to admit that its social politics are carried out under the threat of disturbances. It is curious that people who

  • Ch. Guieysse, 0^. cit. p. 125.

F


72 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

boast of having read Le Play have not observed that bis conception of the conditions of social peace was quite different from that of his imbecile successors. He supposed the existence of a middle class of serious moral habits, imbued with the feelings of its own dignity, and having the energy necessary to govern the country without re- course to the old traditional bureaucracy. To those men, who held riches and power in their hands, he professed to teach their social duty towards their subjects. His system supposed an undisputed authority ; it is well known that he deplored the licence of the press under Napoleon HI. as scandalous and dangerous ; his reflec- tions on this subject seem somewhat ludicrous to those who compare the newspaper of that time with those of to-day. 1 Nobody in his time would have believed that a great coimtry would accept peace at any price ; his point of view in this matter did not differ greatly from that of Clemenceau. He would never have admitted that any one could be cowardly and hypocritical enough to decorate with the name of social duty the cowardice of a middle class incapable of defending itself.

Middle-class cowardice very much resembles the cowardice of the EngUsh Liberal party, which constantly proclaims its absolute confidence in arbitration between nations : arbitration nearly always gives disastrous results for England.^ But these worthy progressives prefer to

1 Speaking of the elections of 1869, he said that there had been " violences of language which France had not till then heard, even in the worst days of the Revolution " {Organisation du Travail, 3rd ed. p. 340). Evidently, the revolution of 1848 was meant. In 1873 he declared that the Emperor could not congratulate himself on having abrogated the system of restraint on the press, before having reformed the morals of the country {Riforme sociale en France, 5th ed. tome iii. P- 356).

' Sumner Maine observed a long while ago that it was England's fate to have advocates who aroused very little sympathy {Le Droit international, French translation, p. 279). Many EngUshmen beUeve that by humiliating their country they will rouse more sympathy towards themselves ; but this supposition is not borne out by the facts.


CLASS WAR AND VIOLENCE 73

pay, or even to compromise the future of their country, rather than face the horrors of war. The EngHsh Liberal party has the word justice always on its lips, absolutely like our middle class ; we might very well wonder whether all the high morahty of our great contemporary thinkers is not founded on a degradation of the sentiment of honour.


CHAPTER II

VIOLENCE AND THE DECADENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES

I. Parliamentarians, who have to inspire fear — Parnell's methods — Casuistry ; fundamental identity of the Parliamentary Socialist groups.

II. Degeneration of the middle class brought about by peace — Marx's conceptions of necessity — Part played by violence in the restoration of former social relationships.

III. Relation between revolution and economic prosperity — The French Revolution — The Christian conquest — Invasion of the Barbarians — Dangers which threaten the world.

I

It is very difficult to understand proletarian violence as long as we think in terms of the ideas disseminated by middle-class philosophers ; according to their philosophy, violence is a relic of barbarism which is bound to dis- appear under the influence of the progress of enlightenment. It is therefore quite natural that Jaur^, who has been brought up on middle-class ideology, should have a pro- found contempt for people who favour proletarian violence ; he is astonished to see educated SociaUsts hand in hand with the Syndicalists ; he wonders by what miracle men who have proved themselves thinkers can accumulate sophistries in order to give a semblance of reason to the dreams of stupid people who are incapable

74


DECADENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES 75

of thought.* This question worries the friends of Jaur^ considerably, and they are only too ready to treat the representatives of the new school as demagogues, and accuse them of seeking the applause of the impulsive masses.

Parliamentary Socialists cannot understand the ends pursued by the new school ; they imagine that ultimately all Socialism can be reduced to the pursuit of the means of getting into power. Is it possible that they think the followers of the new school wish to make a higher bid for the confidence of simple electors and cheat the Sociahsts of the seats provided for them ? Again, the apologia of violence might have the very unfortunate result of dis- gusting the workers with electoral politics, and this would tend to destroy the chances of the Socialist candidates by multiplying the abstentions from voting ! Do you wish to revive civil war ? they ask. To our great states- men that seems mad.

Civil war has become very difficult since the discovery of the new firearms, and since the cutting of rectilinear streets in the capital towns. * The recent troubles in Russia seem even to have shown that Governments can count much more than was supposed on the energy of their officers. Nearly all French politicians had prophesied the imminent fall of Czarism at the time of the Manchurian defeats, but the Russian army in the presence of rioting did not manifest the weakness shown by the French army during our revolutions ; nearly everywhere repression was rapid, efficacious, and even pitiless. The discussions

  • This is apparently the way in which the proletarian movement

is spoken of in the fashionable circles of refined Socialism.

  • Cf. the reflections of Engels in the preface to the new edition of

articles by Marx which he published in 1895 under the title^ Struggles of the Classes in France from 1848 to iSjo. This preface is wanting in the French translation. In the German edition a passage has been left out, the social democratic leaders considering certain phrases of Engels not politic enough.


76 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

which took place at the congress of social democrats at Jena show that the Parhamentary Sociahsts no longer rely upon an armed struggle to obtain possession of the State.

Does this mean that they are utterly opposed to violence ? It would not be in their interest for the people to be quite calm ; a certain amount of agitation suits them, but this agitation must be contained within well-defined limits and controlled by poUticians. When he considers it useful for his own interests, Jaur^ makes advances to the Confederation G6n6rale du Travail ; ^ sometimes he instructs his peaceable clerks to fill his paper with revolutionary phrases ; he is past master in the art of utilising popular anger. A cunningly conducted agitation is extremely useful to Parhamentary SociaUsts, who boast before the Government and the rich middle class of their abiUty to moderate revolution ; they can thus arrange the success of the financial affairs in which they are interested, obtain minor favoiurs for many influential electors, and get social laws voted in order to appear important in the eyes of the blockheads who imagine that these Sociahsts are great reformers of the law. In order that all this may come off there must always be a certain amount of movement, and the middle class must always be kept in a state of fear.

It is conceivable that a regular system of diplomacy might be established between the Socialist party and the State each time an economic conflict arose between workers and employers ; the two powers would settle the particular difference. In Germany the Government enters into negotiations with the Church each time the clericals stand in the way of the administration. Sociahsts have even been urged to imitate Pamell, who so often

1 According to the necessities of the moment he is for or against the general strike. According to some he voted for the general strike at the International Congress of 1900 ; according to others he abstained.


DECADENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES 77

found a means of imposing his will on England. This resemblance is all the greater in that Pamell's authority did not rest only on the number of votes at his disposal, but mainly upon the terror which every EngUshman felt at the bare announcement of agrarian troubles in Ireland. A few acts of violence controlled by a. ParUamentary group were exceedingly useful to the PameUian policy, just as they are useful to the policy of Jaur^. In both cases a Parliamentary group seUs peace of mind to the Conservatives, who dare not use the force they conmiand.

This kind of diplomacy is difficult to conduct, and the Irish after the death of Pamell do not seem to have succeeded in carrying it on with the same success as in his time. In France it presents particular difficulty, because in no other country perhaps are the workers more difficult to manage : it is easy enough to arouse popular anger, but it is not easy to stifle it. As long as there are no very rich and strongly centralised trade imions whose leaders are in continuous relationship with poUtical men,i so long will it be impossible to say exactly to what lengths violence will go. Jaures would very much like to see such associations of workers in existence, for his prestige will disappear at once when the general pubUc perceives that he is not in a position to moderate revolution.

Everything becomes a question of valuation, accurate estimation, and opportunism ; much skill, tact, and calm audacity are necessary to carry on such a diplomacy, i.e. to make the workers believe that you are carrying the flag of revolution, the middle class that you are arresting the danger which threatens them, and the country that

1 Gambetta complained because the French clergy was " acephal- ous " ; he would have liked a select body to have been formed in its midst, with which the Government could discuss matters (Garilhe, Le clergS sSculier franfais au XIX' sUcle, pp. 88-89) • Sjmdicalism has no head with which it would be possible to carry on diplomatic relations usefully.


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\ you represent an irresistible current of opinion. The great mass of the electors understands nothing of what passes in politics, and has no intelligent knowledge of economic history ; they take sides with the party which seems to possess power, and you can obtain everything you wish from them when you can prove to them that you are strong enough to make the Government capitulate. But you must not go too far, because the middle class might wake up and the country might be given over to a resolutely conservative statesman. A proletarian violence which escapes all valuation, all measurement, and all opportunism, may jeopardise everything and ruin socialistic diplomacy.

This diplomacy is played both on a large and smaU scale ; with the Government, with the heads of the groups in Parliament, and with influential electors. Politicians seek to draw the greatest possible advantage from the discordant forces existing in the political field.

ParUamentary Socialists feel a certain embarrassment from the fact that at its origin Sociahsm took its stand on absolute principles and appealed for a long time to the same sentiments of revolt as the most advanced Republican Party. These two circumstances prevent them from following a party policy like that which Charles Bonnier often recommended : this writer, who has long been the principal theorist of the Guesdist party, would Uke the Socialists to follow closely the example of Parnell, who used to negotiate with the English parties without allowing himself to become the vassal of any one of them ; in the same way it might be possible to come to an agreement with the Conservatives, if the latter pledged themselves to grant better conditions to the proletariat than the Radicals (Soaa/is/^, August 27,1905). This policy seemed scandalous to many people. Bonnier was obhged to dilute his thesis. He then contented himself with asking that the party should act in the best


DECADENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES yg

interests of the proletariat (September 17, 1905) ; but how is it possible to know where these interests he when the principle of the class war is no longer taken as your unique and absolute rule ?

Parliamentary Socialists beHeve that they possess special faculties which enable them to take into accoimt, not only the material and immediate advantages reaped by the working classes, but also the moral reasons which compel Socialism to form part of the great Republican family. Their congresses spend their energies in putting together formulas designed to regulate Socialist diplomacy, in settling what alliances are permitted and what for- bidden, in reconciling the abstract principle of the class war (which they are anxious to retain verbally) with the reahty of the agreements with politicians. Such an undertaking is madness, and therefore leads to equivoca- tions, when it does not force deputies into attitudes of deplorable hypocrisy. Each year problems have to be rediscussed, because all diplomacy requires a flexibility which is incompatible with the existence of perfectly clear statutes.

The casuistry which Pascal scoffed at so much was not more subtle and more absurd than that which is to be found in polemics between what are called the Socialist schools. Escobar would have some difficulty in finding his bearings amid the distinctions of Jaur^s ; the moral theology of responsible SociaUsts is not one of the least of the buffooneries of our time.

All moral theology can be split up into two tendencies : there are casuists who say that we must be content with opinions having a slight probabiUty, others that we should always adopt those that are strictest and most certain. This distinction was bound to be met with among our Parliamentary Socialists. Jaur^s prefers the soft and conciliatory method, provided that means are found to make it agree, somehow or other, with first principles.


8o REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

and that it has behind it a few respectable authorities ; he is a prohahilist in the strongest sense of the term — or even a latitudinarian (laxist).^ Vaillant recommends the strong and belligerent method, which alone, in his opinion, is in accordance with the class war, and which has in its favom- the mianimons sanction of all the old authorities ; he is a tutiorist and a kind of Jansenist.

Jaur^ no doubt believes that he is acting for the greatest good of Socialism, just as the more easy going type of casuists believed themselves the best and most useful defenders of the Church ; they did, as a matter of fact, prevent weak Christians from faUing into irreligion, and led them to practise the sacraments — exactly as Jaur^s prevents the rich intellectuals who have come to Socialism by way of Dreyfusism from drawing back in horror before the class war, and induces them to take up the shares of the party journals. In his eyes, Vaillant is a dreamer who does not see the reality of the world, who intoxicates himself with the chimeras of an insurrec- tion which has now become impossible, and who does not understand the great advantages which may be got from universal suffrage by a boastful politician.

Between these two methods there is only a difference of degree, and not one of kind as is believed by those Parliamentary Socialists who call themselves revolutionary. On this point Jaur^s has a great intellectual superiority over his adversaries, for he has never cast any doubt upon the fundamental identity of the two methods.

Both of these methods suppose an entirely dislocated middle -class society — rich classes who have lost all sentiment of their class interest, men ready to follow blindly the lead of people who have taken up the business

1 [The writers on moral theology who maintain that our actions should be guided only by absolutely sure maxims were called tutiorists ; opposed to them were the laxists. In the Provinciales Pascal defends the tutiorist position, the Jesuits he attacks are laxists. — Trans. Note.]


DECADENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES 8i

of directing public opinion. The Dreyfus affair showed that the enHghtened middle class was in a strange mental state ; people who had long and loudly served the Con- servative party co-operated with anarchists, took part in violent attacks on the army, or even definitely enrolled themselves in the SociaHst party ; on the other hand, newspapers, which make it their business to defend traditional institutions, dragged the magistrates of the Court of CassaH:ion in the mire. This strange episode in our contemporary history brought to light the state of dislocation of the classes.

Jaurte, who w£ls very much mixed up in all the ups and downs of Dreyf usism, had rapidly judged the mentaUty of the upper middle class, into which he had not yet penetrated. He saw that this upper middle class was terribly ignorant, gapingly stupid, politically absolutely impotent ; he recognised that with people who understand nothing of the principles of capitalist economics it is easy to contrive a policy of compromise on the basis of an extremely broad SociaUsm ; he calculated the pro- portions in which it is necessary to mix together flattery of the superior inteUigence of the imbeciles whose seduc- tion was aimed at, appeals to the disinterested sentiments of speculators who pride themselves on having invented the ideal, and threats of revolution in order to obtain the leadership of people void of ideas. Experience has shown that he had a very remarkable intuition of the forces which exist at this present moment in the middle-class world. Vaillant, on the contrary, is very Uttle acquainted with this world ; he beheves that the only weapon that can be employed to move the middle class is fear; doubtless fear is an excellent weapon, but it might provoke obstinate resistance if you went beyond a certain Hmit. Vaillant does not possess those remarkable qualities of suppleness of mind, and perhaps even of peasant dupHcity, which shine in Jaurds, and which have often caused


82 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

people to say that he would have made a wonderful cattle- dealer.

The more closely the history of these last years is examined, the more the discussions concerning the two methods will be recognised as puerile : the partisans of the two methods are equally opposed to proletarian violence, because it escapes from the control of the people engaged in Pariiamentary politics. Revolutionary Syndi- calism cannot be controlled by the so-called revolutionary SociaHsts of Parliament.


II

The two methods favoured by official Socialism pre- suppose this same historical datum. The ideology of a timorous himianitarian middle class professing to have freed its thought from the conditions of its existence is grafted on the degeneration of the capitalist system ; and the race of bold captains who made the greatness of modern industry disappears to make way for an ultra- civihsed aristocracy which asks to be allowed to live in peace. This degeneration fills our Parliamentary Socialists with joy. Their role would vanish if they were con- fronted with a middle class which was energetically engaged on the paths of capitalistic progress, a class that would look upon timidity with shame, and which would find satisfaction in looking after its class interests. In the presence of a middle class which has become almost as stupid as the nobility of the eighteenth century, their power is enormous. If the stultifying of the upper middle class progresses in a regular manner at the pace it has taken for the last few years, our official Socialists may reasonably hope to reach the goal of their dreams and sleep in sumptuous mansions.

Two accidents alone, it seems, would be able to stop this movement : a great foreign war, which might renew


DECADENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES 83

lost energies, and which in any case would doubtless bring into power men with the will to govern ; ^ or a great extension of proletarian violence, which would make the revolutionary reality evident to the middle class, and would disgust them with the humanitarian platitudes with which Jaur^s lulls them to sleep. It is in view of these two great dangers that the latter displays all his resources as a popular orator. European peace must be maintained at all costs ; some limit must be put to proletarian violence.

Jaur^s is persuaded that France will be perfectly happy on the day on which the editors of his paper, and its share- holders, can draw freely on the coffers of the public Treasury ; it is an illustration of the celebrated proverb : '* Quand Auguste avait bu, la Pologne ^tait ivre." A socialist government of this kind would without doubt ruin any country, if it was administered with the same care for financial order as VKumanite has been administered ; but what does the future of the country matter, provided that the new regime gives a good time to a few professors, who imagine that they have invented Socialism, and to a few Dreyfusard financiers ?

Before the working class also could accept this dictator- ship of incapacity, it must itself become as stupid as the middle class, and must lose all revolutionary energy, at the same time that its masters will have lost all capitalistic energy. Such a future is not impossible ; and a great deal of hard work is being done to stupefy the worker for this purpose. The Direction du Travail and the Musee Social are doing their best to carry on this marvellous work of idealistic education, which is decorated with the most pompous names, and which is represented as a means of civilising the proletariat. Our professional ideaUsts are very much disturbed by the SyndicaUsts, and experience

' Cf. G. Sorel, Insegnamenti sociali, p. 38S. The hypothesis of a great European war seems very far fetched at the moment.


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shows that a strike is sometimes sufficient to ruin all the work of education which these manufacturers of social peace have patiently built by years of labour.

In order to understand thoroughly the consequences of the very singular regime in the midst of which we are living, we must hark back to Marx's conceptions of the passage from capitaUsm to Socialism. These conceptions are well known, yet we must continually return to them, because they are often forgotten, or at least undervalued by official Socialist writers ; it is necessary to insist on them strongly each time that we have to argue about the anti-Marxist transformation which contemporary Social- ism is undergoing.

According to Marx, capitaHsm, by reason of the innate laws of its own nature, is hunying along a path which will lead the world of to-day, with the inevitability of the evolution of organic Ufe, to the doors of the world of to- morrow. This movement comprises a long period of capitalistic construction, and it ends by a rapid destruction, which is the work of the proletariat. CapitaUsm creates the heritage which Socialism will receive, the men who will suppress the present regime, and the means of bringing about this destruction, at the same time that it preserves the results obtained in production.^ Capitalism begets new ways of working ; it throws the working class into revolutionary organisations by the pressure it exercises on wages ; it restricts its own political basis by competi- tion, which is constantly eliminating industrial leaders. Thus, after having solved the great problem of the organisation of labour, to effect which Utopians have brought forward so many naive or stupid hypotheses, capitaHsm provokes the birth of the cause which will

1 This notion of revolutionary preservation is very important; I have pointed out something analogous in the passage from Judaism to Christianity (Le Systime historique de Renan, pp. 72-73, 1 71-172, 467).


DECADENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES Sj

overthrow it, and thus renders useless everything that Utopians have written to induce enlightened people to make reforms; and it gradually ruins the traditional order, against which the critics of the idealists had proved themselves to be so deplorably incompetent. It might therefore be said that capitaUsm plays a part analogous to that attributed by Hartmann to The Unconscious in nature, since it prepares the coming of social reforms which it did not intend to produce. Without any co- ordinated plan, without any directive ideas, without any ideal of a future world, it is the cause of an inevitable evolution ; it draws from the present all that the present can give towards historical development ; it performs in an almost mechanical manner all that is necessary, in order that a new era may appear, and that this new era may break every hnk with the ideaUsm of the present times, while preserving the acquisitions of the capitaUstic economic system.^

SociaUsts should therefore abandon the attempt (initiated by the Utopians) to find a means of inducing the enlightened middle class to prepare the transition to a more perfect system of legislation ; their sole function is that of explaining to the proletariat the greatness of the revolu- tionary part they are called upon to play. By ceaseless criticism the proletariat must be brought to perfect their organisations ; they must be shown how the embryonic forms which appear in their unions ^ may be developed, so that, finally, they may build up institutions without any parallel in the history of the middle class ; that they may form ideas which depend solely on their position as pro- ducers in large industries, and which owe nothing to middle- class thought; and that they may acquire habits of

  • Cf . what I have said on the transformation; which Marx wrought

in Socialism, Insegnamenti sociali, pp. 179-186.

  • [The French is socUUs de rSsistance. What is meant is the syndi-

cate, considered principally as a means of combining workmen against the employers. — Trans. Note,]


86 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

liberty with which the middle class nowadays are no longer acquainted.

This doctrine will evidently be inapplicable if the middle class and the proletariat do not oppose each other implacably, with all the forces at their disposal ; the more ardently capitalist the middle class is, the more the proletariat is full of a warlike spirit and confident of its revolutionary strength, the more certain will be the success of the proletarian movement.

The middle class with which Marx was familiar in England was still, as regards the immense majority, animated by their conquering, insatiable, and pitiless spirit, which had characterised at the beginning of modem times the creators of new industries and the adventurers laimched on the discovery of unknown lands. When we are studying the modem industrial system we should always bear in mind this similarity between the capitalist type and the warrior type ; it was for very good reasons that the men who directed gigantic enterprises were named captains of industry. This type is still foimd to- day in all its purity in the United States : there are found the indomitable energy, the audacity based on a just appreciation of its strength, the cold calculation of interests, which are the qualities of great generals and great capitalists.^ According to Paul de Rousiers, every American feels himself capable of " trying his luck ** on the battlefield of business,' so that the general spirit of the country is in complete harmony with that of the multi-millionaires ; our men of letters are exceedingly surprised to see these latter condemning themselves to lead to the end of their days a galley-slave existence,

1 I will come back to this resemblance in Chapter VII. iii.

  • P. de Rousiers, La Vie ameticaine, I' Education et la sociSU, p. 19.

" Fathers give very little advice to their children, and let them learn for themselves, as they say over there " (p. 14). " Not only does (the American) wish to be independent, but he wishes to be powerful " {La V ie atnSricaine : ranches, fermes et usines, p. 6).


DECADENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES 87

without ever thinking of leading a nobleman's life for themselves, as the Rothschilds do.

In a society so enfevered by the passion for the success which can be obtained in competition, all the actors walk straight before them like veritable automata, without taking any notice of the great ideas of the sociologists ; they are subject to very simple forces, and not one of them dreams of escaping from the circumstances of his condition. Then only is the development of capitalism carried on with that inevitableness which struck Marx so much, and which seemed to him comparable to that of a natural law. If, on the contrary, the middle class, led astray by the chatter of the preachers of ethics and sociology, return to an ideal of conservative mediocrity, seek to correct the abuses of economics, and wish to break with the barbarism of their predecessors, then one part of the forces which were to further the development of capitalism is employed in hindering it, an arbitrary and irrational element is introduced, and the future of the world becomes completely indeterminate.

This indetermination grows still greater if the pro- letariat are converted to the ideas of social peace at the same time as their masters, or even if they simply consider everything from the corporative point of view ; while Socialism gives to every economic contest a general and revolutionary colour.

Conservatives are not deceived when they see in the compromises which lead to collective contracts, and in corporative particularism,^ the means of avoiding the Marxian revolution ; ^ but they escape one danger only to

1 [This refers to the conduct of former syndicates which limited their ambitions to the interests of their own handicraft without con- cerning themselves with the general interests of the working classes. — Trans. Note.]

2 There is constant talk nowadays of organising labour, i.e. of utilising the corporative spirit by giving it over to the management of well- intentioned, very serious and responsible people, and liberating the

G


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fall into another, and they run the risk of being devoured by Pariiamentary Socialism.* Jaur^s is as enthusiastic as the clericals about measures which turn away the working classes from the idea of the Marxian revolution ; I believe he understands better than they do what the result of social peace will be ; he founds his own hopes on the simul- taneous ruin of the capitalistic and the revolutionary spirit. It is often urged, in objection to the people who defend the Marxian conception, that it is impossible for them to stop the movement of degeneration which is dragging both the middle class and the proletariat far from the paths assigned to them by Marx's theory. They can doubtless influence the working classes, and it is hardly to be denied that strike violences do keep the revolutionary spirit alive ; but how can they hope to give back to the middle class an ardour which is spent ?

It is here that the role of violence in history appears to us as singularly great, for it can, in an indirect manner, so operate on the middle class as to awaken them to a sense of their own class sentiment. Attention has often been drawn to the danger of certain acts of violence which compromised admirable social works, disgusted employers who were disposed to arrange the happiness of their work- men, and developed egoism where the most noble senti- ments formerly reigned. I To repay with black ingratitude the benevolence of those I who would protect the workers ,2 to meet with insults the ■ homilies of the defenders of human fraternity, and to


workers from the yoke of sophists. The responsible people are de Mun, Charles Benoist (the amusing specialist in constitutional law), Arthur Fontaine, and the band of democratic abbSs, . . . and lastly Gabriel Hanotaux !

1 Vilredo Pareto laughs at the simple middle class who are happy, because they are no longer threatened by intractable Marxians, and who have fallen into the sn^ire of the conciliatory Marxians {Systimes socialistes, tome ii. p. 453).

  • Cf. G. Sorel, Insegnamenti sociali, p. 53.


DECADENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES 8g

reply by blows to the advances of the propagators of social peace — all that is assuredly not in conformity with the rules of the fashionable Socialism of M. and Mme. Georges Renard,^ but it is a very practical way of indicat- ing to the middle class that they must mind their own business and only that.

I believe also that it may be usefvil to thrash the orators of democracy and the representatives of the Government, for in this way you insure that none shall retain any illusions about the character of acts of violence. But these acts can have historical value only if they are the clear and brutal expression of the class war : the middle classes must not be allowed to imagine that, aided by cleverness, social science, or high-flown sentiments, they might find a better welcome at the hands of the proletariat.

The day on which employers perceive that they have nothing to gain by works which promote social peace, or by democracy, they will understand that they have been ill-advised by the people who persuaded them to abandon their trade of creators of productive forces for the noble profession of educators of the proletariat. Then there is some chance that they may get back a part of their energy, and that moderate or conservative economics may appear as absurd to them as they appeared to Marx. In any case, the separation of classes being more clearly accentuated, the proletarian movement will have some chance of developing with greater regularity than to-day.

The two antagonistic classes therefore influence each other in a partly indirect but decisive manner. Capital- ism drives the proletariat into revolt, because in daily

1 Mme. G. Renard has published in the Suisse of July 26, 1900, an article full of lofty psychological considerations about the workers' fete given by Millerand (Leon de Seilhac, Le Monde socialiste, pp. 307- 309). Her husband has solved the grave question as to who will drink Clos-Vougeot in the society of the future (G. Renard, Le Regime socialiste, p. 175).


90 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

life the employers use their force in a direction opposed to the desire of their workers ; but the future of the prole- tariat is not entirely dependent on this revolt ; the work- ing classes are organised under the influence of other causes, and Socialism, inculcating in them the revolu- tionary idea, prepares them to suppress the hostile class. Capitalist force is at the base of all this process, and its action is automatic and inevitable.^ Marx supposed that the middle class had no need to be incited to employ force, but we are to-day faced with a new and very im- foreseen fact — a middle class which seeks to weaken its own strength. Must we believe that the Marxian con- ception is dead ? By no means, for proletarian violence comes upon the scene just at the moment when the conception of social peace is being held up as a means of moderating disputes ; proletarian violence confines employers to their role of producers, and tends to restore the separation of the classes, just when they seemed on the point of intermingling in the democratic marsh.

Proletarian violence not only makes the future r^ivolu-

t \ tion certain, but it seems also to be the only means by

\ which the European nations — at present stupefied by

^ hmnanitarianism — can recover their former energy. This

kind of violence compels capitalism to restrict its attentions

solely to its material role and tends to restore to it the

warlike qualities which it formerly possessed. A growing

^ In an article written in September 1851 (the first of the series pubhshed under the title: Revolution and Cotinter-revohition) , Marx established the following parallelism between the development of the middle class and of the proletariat : To a numerous, rich, concentrated, and powerful middle class corresponds a numerous, strong, concen- trated and intelligent proletariat. Thus he seems to have thought that the intelligence of the proletariat depends on the historical con- ditions which secured power in society to the middle classes. He says, again, that the true characters of the class war only exist in countries where the middle class has recast the Government in conformity' with its needs.


DECADENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES gi

and solidly organised working class can compel the capitalist class to remain firm in the industrial war ; if a united and revolutionary proletariat confronts a rich middle class, eager for conquest, capitalist society will ( \ have reached its historical perfection. \ *

Thus proletarian violence has become an essential factor of Marxism. Let us add once more that, if properly conducted, it will suppress the Parliamentary SociaUsts, who will no longer be able to pose as the leaders of the working classes and the guardians of order.

Ill

The Marxian theory of revolution supposes that capitalism, while it is still in full swing, will be struck to the heart, when — having attained complete industrial efficiency — it has finally achieved its historical mission, and whilst the economic system is still a progressive one. Marx does not seem to have asked himself what would happen if the economic system were on the down grade ; he never dreamt of the possibihty of a revolution which would take a return to the past, or even social conserva- tion, as its ideal.

We see nowadays that such a revolution might easily come to pass : the friends of Jaures, the clericals, and the democrats all take the Middle Ages as their ideal for the future ; they would like competition to be tempered, riches Umited, production subordinated to needs. These are dreams which Marx looked upon as reactionary,^ and consequently negUgible, because it seemed to him that

  • " Those who, like Sismondi, would return to the just proportion

of production, while preserving the existing bases of society, are re- actionary, since, to be consistent, they should also desire to re-establish all the other conditions of past times. ... In existing society, in the industry based on individual exchanges, the anarchy of production, which is the source of so muck poverty is at the same time the source of all progress " (Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, Eng. trans., p. 41)-


g2 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

capitalism was embarked on an irresistible progress ; but nowadays we see considerable forces grouped together in the endeavour to reform the capitalist economic system by bringing it, with the aid of laws, nearer to the medieval ideal. Parliamentary Socialism would hke to combine with the moralists, the Church, and the democracy, with the common aim of impeding the capitaHst movement ; and, in view of middle-class cowardice, that would not perhaps be impossible.

Marx compared the passage from one historical era to another to a civil inheritance ; the new age inherits prior acquisitions. If the revolution took place during a period of economic decadence, would not the inheritance be very much compromised, and in that case could there be any hope of the speedy reappearance of progress in the economic system ? The ideologists hardly trouble themselves at all with this question ; they affirm that I ^ the decadence will stop on the day that the public Treasury is at their disposal ; they are dazzled by the immense reserve of riches which would be delivered up to their pillage ; what banquets there would be, what women, and what opportunities for self-display ! We, on the other hand, who have no such prospect before our eyes, have to ask whether history can furnish us with any guidance on this subject, which will enable us to guess what would be the result of a revolution accompUshed in times of decadence.

The researches of Tocqueville enable us to study the French Revolution from this point of view. He very much astonished his contemporaries when, a half -century ago, he showed them that the Revolution had been much more conservative than had been supposed till then. He pointed out that most of the characteristic institutions of modem France date from the Old Regime (centralisa- tion, the issue of regulations on every possible pretext,


DECADENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES 93

administrative tutelage of the communes, exemption of civil servants from the jurisdiction of the courts) ; he found only one important innovation — the coexistence, which was established in the year VI 1 1., of isolated civil servants and deliberative .councils. The principles of the Old Regime reappeared in i8oq, and the old customs were received back into favour. ^ Turgot seemed to him to be an excellent type of the Napoleonic administrator, who had " the ideal of a civil servant, in a democratic society subject to an absolute government." ^ He was of the opinion that the partition of the land, which it is customary to place to the credit of the Revolution, had begun long before, and had not gone on at an exceptionally rapid pace under its influence.^

It is certain that Napoleon did not have to make any extraordinary effort to put the country once more on a monarchical footing. He found France quite ready, and had only a few corrections of detail to make in order to profit by the experience acquired since 1789. The administrative and fiscal laws had been drawn up during the Revolution by people who had applied the methods of the Old Regime ; they remain in force to-day, still almost intact. The men he employed had served their apprenticeship under the Old Regime and under the Revolution ; they all resemble one another ; in their governmental practices they are all men of the preceding period ; they all work with an equal ardour for the great- ness of His Majesty.* The real merit of Napoleon lay in his not trusting too much to his own genius, in not giving himself up to the dreams which had so often deluded men of the eighteenth century, and had led them

  • Tocqueville, L'Ancien Rigime et la Rivolution (idition des ceuvres

computes), livre ii. chapitres i., iii., iv. pp. 89, 91, 94, 288.

  • Tocqueville, Milanges. pp. 155-156.
  • Tocqueville, L'Ancien Rigime et la Rivolution, pp. 35-37.
  • L. Madelin also comes to this conclusion in an article in the Dibats

of July 6, 1907, on the prefects of Napoleon I.


94 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

to desire to regenerate ever5rthing from top to bottom — in short, in his full recognition of the principle of historical heredity. It follows from all this that the Napoleonic regime may be looked upon as an experiment, showing clearly the enormous part played by conservation through- out the greatest revolutions.

Indeed, I think that the principle of conservation might even be extended to things military, and the armies of the Revolution and the Empire may be shown to be an extension of former institutions. In any case, it is very curious that Napoleon should have made no essential innovations in military equipment, and that it should have been the fire-arms of the Old Regime which so greatly contributed to securing the victories of the revolu- tionary troops. It was only imder the Restoration that the artillery was improved.

The ease >\dth which the Revolution and the Empire succeeded in radically transforming the country while still retaining such a large number of the acquisitions of the past, is bound up with a fact to which our historians have not always called attention, and which Taine does not seem to have noticed : industrial production was making great progress, and this progress was such that, towards 1780, everybody beUeved in the dogma of the indefinite progress of mankind.^ This dogma, which was to exercise so great an influence on modem thought, would be a bizarre and inexplicable paradox if it were not considered as bound up with economic progress and with the feeling of absolute confidence which this economic progress engendered. The wars of the Revolution and of the Empire only stimulated this feeling still further, not only because they were glorious, but also because they caused a great deal of money to enter the country,

  • Tocqueville, L'Ancien Regime et la Rivolution, pp. 254-262, and

Melanges, p. 62. Cf. chapter IV. iv. of my study on Les Illusions du Progris.


DECADENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES 93

and thus contributed to the development of pro- duction. *

The triumph of the Revolution astonished neariy all its contemporaries, and it seems that the most intelligent, the most deliberate, and the best informed as regards political matters, were the most surprised ; this was because reasons drawn from theory could not explain this paradoxical success. It seems to me that even to- day the question is scarcely less obscure to historians than it was to our ancestors. The primary cause of this triumph must be sought in the economic progress of the time ; it is because the Old Regime was struck by rapid blows, while production was making great strides, that the contemporary world was born with comparatively little labour, and could so rapidly be assured of a vigorous life.

We possess, on the other hand,, a dreadful historical experience of a great transformation taking place at a time of economic decadence ; I mean the victory of Christianity and the fall of the Roman Empire which closely followed it.

All the old Christian authors agree in informing us that the new religion brought no serious improvement in the situation of the world ; corruption, oppression, and disasters continued to crush the people as in the past. This was a great disillusion for the fathers of the Church ; at the time of the persecutions the Christians had believed that God would overwhelm Rome with favours on the day that the Empire ceased to persecute the faithful ; now the Empire was Christian, and the bishops had become personages of the first rank, yet everything continued to go on as badly as in the past. What was still more disheartening, the immoraUty, so often

>>

^ Kautsky has dwelt very strongly on the role played by the treasures which the French armies took possession of {La Lutte des classes en France en ijSg, French trans., pp. 104-106).


g6 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

denounced as the result of idolatry, had spread to the adorers of Christ. Far from imposing a far-reaching reform on the profane world, the Church itself had become corrupted by imitating the profane world ; it began to resemble an imperial administration, and the factions which tore it asunder were much more moved by an appetite for power than by religious reasons.

It has often been asked whether Christianity was not the cause, or at least one of the principal causes, of the fall of Rome. Gaston Boissier combats this opinion by endeavouring to show that the decadent movement observed after Constantine is the continuation of a move- ment which had existed for some time, and that it is not possible to see whether Christianity accelerated or retarded the death of the ancient world. ^ That amounts to sa5ring that the extent of the conservation was enormous ; we can, by analogy, imagine what would follow from a revolution which brought our official Socialists of to-day into power. Institutions remaining almost what they are to-day, all the middle-class ideology would be preserved ; the middle-class state would dominate with its ancient abuses ; if economic decadence had begim, it would be accentuated.

Shortly after the Christian conquest, the barbarian in- vasions began. More than one Christian wondered whether an order in conformity with the principles of the new rehgion was not at length to appear ; this hope was all the more reasonable as the bairbarians had been converted on coming into the Empire, and because they were not accustomed to the corruption of Roman life. From the economic point of view, a regeneration might be hoped for, since the world was perishing beneath the weight of urban exploitation ; the new masters, who had coarse rural manners, would not live as great lords, but as heads of large demesnes ; perhaps, therefore, the earth would

1 Gaston Boissier, La Fin du paganisme, livre iv. chap. iii.


DECADENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES 97

be better cultivated. The illusions of Christian authors contemporary with the invasions may be compared to those of the numerous Utopians who hope to see the modem world regenerated by the virtues which they attribute to the man of average condition ; the re- placing of the very rich classes by new socisd strata should bring about morality, happiness, and \miversal prosperity.

The barbarians did not establish any progressive state of society ; there were not many of them, and almost everywhere they simply took the place of the old lords, led the same Hfe as they did, and were devoured by urban civihsation. In France, the Merovingian royalty has been made the subject of particularly thorough investiga- tion ; Fustel de Coulanges has* used all his erudition in throwing Ught on the conservative character which it assumed ; its conservatism appeared to him to be so strong that he was even able to say that there had been no real revolution, and he represented the whole of the history of the late Middle Ages as a movement which had carried on the movement of the Roman Empire with a little acceleration. 1 *' The Merovingian Government," he said, " is more than three parts the continuation of that which the Roman Empire had given to Gaul." 2

The economic decadence was accentuated under these barbarian kings ; no renascence could take place until very long afterwards, when the world had gone through a long series of trials. At least four centuries of barbarism had to be gone through before a progressive movement showed itself ; society was compelled to descend to a state not far removed from its origins, and Vico was to find in this phenomenon an illustration of his doctrine of

  • Fustel de Coulanges, Origines du figime fiodal, pp. 566-567. I do

not deny that there is a good deal of exaggeration in the thesis of Fustel de Coulanges, but the conservation was undeniable.

  • Fustel de Coulanges, La Monarchic franque, p. 650.


gS /REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

ricoYsiy Thus a revolution which took place in a time of economic decadence had forced the world to pass again through a period of almost primitive civilisation, and had stopped all progress for several centuries.

These dreadful events have been many times invoked by the adversaries of Socialism ; I do not deny the validity of the argument, but two details must be added which may perhaps appear of small importance to professional sociologists. Such events presuppose (i) an economic decadence ; (2) an organisation which assures a very perfect conservation of the current system of ideas. The civilized Socialism of our professors has many times been presented as a safeguard of civilisation: I believe that it would produce the same effect as was produced by the classical education given by the Church to the barbarian kings. The proletariat would be corrupted and stultified as the Merovingians were, and economic decadence would only be more certain under the action of these pretended civilising agents.

The dangers which threaten the future of the world may be avoided, if the proletariat hold on with obstinacy to revolutionary ideas, so as to realise as much as possible Marx's conception. Everything may be saved, if the proletariat, by their use of violence, manage to re-estabhsh the division into classes, and so restore to the middle class something of its former energy ; that is the great aim towards which the whole thought of men — who are not h5^notised by the event of the day, but who think

  • [Vice's doctrine of " reflux " {ricorsi). Civilisation comes to an end

in the " barbarism of reflection " which is worse than the primitive barbarism of sensation. . . . The mind, after traversing its course of progress, after rising from sensation ... to the rational, from violence to equity, is bound, in conformity with its eternal nature, to retraverse the course, to relapse into violence and sensation, and thence to renew its upward movement, " to commence a reflux." See chap. xi. of The Philosophy of Giambattista Vico, by Benedetto Croce- Eng. trans. — Trans. Note.]


DECADENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES gg

of the conditions of to-morrow — must be directed. Proletarian violence, carried on as a pure and simple manifestation of the sentiment of the class war, appears thus as a very fine and very heroic thing ; it is at the service of the immemorial interests of civilisation ; it is not perhaps the most appropriate method of obtaining immediate material advantages, but it may save the world | from barbarism.

We have a very effective reply to those who accuse Syndicalists of being obtuse and ignorant people. We may ask them to consider the economic decadence for which they are working. Let us salute the revolutionaries as the Greeks saluted the Spartan heroes who defended Thermopylae and helped to preserve the civilisation of the ancient world.


CHAPTER III

PREJUDICES AGAINST VIOLENCE

I. Old ideas relative to the Revolution — Change resulting from the year of 1870 and from the Parliamentary regime.

II. Drumont's observations on middle-class ferocity — The judicial Third Estate and the history of the Law Courts — Capitalism against the cult of the State.

III. Attitude of the Dreyfusards — faurts's judgments on the Revolution : his adoration of success and his hatred for the vanquished.

IV. Antimilitarism as a proof of an abandonment of middle-class traditions.


The ideas current among the outside public on the subject of proletarian violence are not founded on observation of contemporary facts, and on a rational interpretation of the present Syndicalist movement ; they are derived from a comparison of the present with the past — an in- finitely simpler mental process ; they are shaped by the memories which the word revolution evokes almost automatically. It is supposed that the Syndicalists, merely because they call themselves revolutionaries, wish to reproduce the history of the revolutionaries of '93. The Blanquists, who look upon themselves as the legitimate owners of the Terrorist tradition, consider that for this very reason they are called upon to direct


PREJUDICES AGAINST VIOLENCE loi

the proletarian movement ; * they display much more condescension to the S5nidicalists than the other ParUa- mentary Socialists; they are inclined to assert that the workers' organisations will come to understand in the end that they cannot do better than to put themselves under their tuition. It seems to me that Jaur^s himself, when writing the Histoire socialiste of '93, thought more than once of the teachings which this past, a thousand times dead, might yield to him for the conduct of the present.

Proper attention has not always been given to the great changes which have taken place since 1870 in the way people judge the revolution ; yet these changes must be considered if we wish to understand contemporary ideas relative to violence.

For a very long time the Revolution appeared to be essentially a succession of glorious wars, which a people famished for liberty and carried away by the noblest passions had maintained against a coalition of all the powers of oppression and error. Riots and coups d'etat, the struggles between parties often destitute of any scruple and the banishment of the vanquished, the Parhamentary debates and the adventures of illustrious men, in a word, all the events of its political history were in the eyes of our fathers only very secondary accessories to the wars of liberty.

For about twenty-five years the form of government in France had been at issue ; after campaigns before which the memories of Caesar and Alexander paled the

  • The reader may usefully refer to a very interesting chapter of

Bernstein's book, Socialisme thdorique et socialdemocratie pratique, pp. 47-63. Bernstein, who knows nothing of the aims of our present- day syndicalism, has not, in my opinion, drawn from Marxism all that it contains. His book, moreover, was written at a time when it was impossible still to understand the revolutionary movement, in view of which these reflections are written.


J02 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

charter of 1814 had definitely incorporated in the national tradition, the Parliamentary system, Napoleonic legisla- tion, and the Church estabhshed by the Concordat ; war had given an irrevocable judgment whose preambles, as Proudhon said, had been dated from Vahny, from Jemmapes, and from fifty other battlefields, and whose conclusions ^ had been received at Saint-Ouen by Louis XVIIL' Protected by the prestige of the wars of liberty, the new institutions had become inviolable, and the ideology which was built up to explain them became a faith which seemed for a long time to have for the French the value which the revelation of Jesus has for the Catholics.

From time to time eloquent writers have thought that they could set up a current of reaction against these doctrines, and the Church had hopes that it might get the better of what it called the error of liberalism. A long period of admiration for medieval art and of con- tempt for the period of Voltaire seemed to threaten the new ideology with ruin ; but all these attempts to return to the past left no trace except in literary history. There were times when those in power governed in the least liberal manner, but the principles of the modem regime were never seriously threatened. This fact could not be explained by the power of reason and by some law of progress ; its cause lies simply in the epic of the wars

1 [The word "conclusions" is employed in two senses in civil pro- ceedings. Each counsel presents his claims and arguments to the court in writing in a document which is called " conclusion." On the other hand, at the end of the case the ministre public states what, in his opinion, is the decision the court ought to make for the best administra- tion of Justice ; these are the " conclusions " of the ministre public. The judgment always declares that the ministre public has been heard in his " conclusion." Proudhon uses the word in the second sense. On the return of the Bourbons, Louis XVIII. issued a proclamation in which he stated the principles on which it seemed to him the govern- ment of the country must henceforth rest. — Trans. Note.]

  • Proudhon, La Guerre ei la paix, livre v. chap. iii.


PREJUDICES AGAINST VIOLENCE 103

which had filled the French soul with an enthusiasm analogous to that provoked by religions.

This mihtary epic gave an epical colour to all the events of internal politics ; party struggles were thus raised to the level of an Iliad ; politicians became giants, and the revolution, which Joseph de Maistre had denounced as satanical, was made divine. The bloody scenes of the Terror were episodes without great significance by the side of the enormous hecatombs of war, and means were found to envelop them in a dramatic mythology ; riots were elevated to the same rank as illustrious battles ; and calmer historians vainly endeavoured to bring the Revolution and the Empire down to the plane of common history. The prodigious triumphs of the revolutionary and imperial arms rendered all criticism impossible.

The war of 1870 changed all that. At the moment of the fall of the Second Empire the immense majority in France still firmly believed the legends which had been spread about regarding the armies of volunteers, the miraculous role of the representatives of the people, and the improvised generals ; experience produced a cruel disillusion. Tocqueville had written : ** The Convention created the policy of the impossible, the theory of furious madness, the cult of blind audacity." ^ The disasters of 1870 brought the country back to practical, prudent, and prosaic conditions ; the first result of these disasters was the development of the conception most opposed to that spoken of by Tocqueville ; this was the idea of I opportimism, which has now been introduced even intof Socialism. I

Another consequence was the change that took place in all revolutionary values, and notably the modification in the opinions which were held on the subject of violence.

After 1871 everybody in France thought only of the

1 Tocqueville, Milanges, p. 189.

H


104 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

search for the most suitable means of setting the country on its feet again. Taine endeavoured to apply the methods of the most scientific psychology to this question, and he looked upon the history of the Revolution as a social experiment. He hoped to be able to make quite clear the danger presented in his opinion by the Jacobin spirit, and thus to induce his contemporaries to change the course of French pohtics by abandoning ideas which had seemed incorporated in the national tradition, and which were all the more solidly rooted in people's minds because nobody had ever discussed their origin. Taine failed in his enterprise, as Le Play and Renan failed, as all those will fail who try to found an intellectual and moral reform on investigations, on scientific syntheses, and on demon- strations.

It cannot be said, however, that Taine's immense labour was accomplished to no purpose ; the history of the Revolu^V ^ was thoroughly overhauled ; the mihtary epic no longer dominates people's judgments about political events. The hfe of men, the inner workings of factions, the material needs which determine the tendencies of the great masses have now come into the foreground. In the speech which he made on September 24, 1905, at the inauguration of the monument to Taine at Vouziers, the deputy Hubert, while giving all homage to the great and many-sided talent of his illustrious compatriot, expressed a regret that the epic side of the Revolution had been disregarded by him in a systematic manner. These are superfluous regrets ; the epic vision can hence- forth no longer govern that political history ; an idea of the grotesque effects to which this constant desire to return to the old methods may lead can be obtained by reading Jaures's Histoire socialiste. In vain does Jaur^s revive all the most melodramatic images of the old rhetoric ; the only effect he manages to produce is one of absurdity.


PREJUDICES AGAINST VIOLENCE 105

The prestige of the great revolutionary days has been directly hit by the comparison with contemporary civil struggles ; there was nothing during the Revolution which could bear comparison with the battles which ensanguined Paris in 1848 and in 1871 ; July 14 and August 10 seem to us now mere scuffles which would not have made an energetic Government tremble.

There is yet another reason, still hardly recognised by professional writers on revolutionary history, which has contributed a great deal towards taking all the romance out of these events. There can be no national epic about things which the people cannot picture to themselves as reproducible in a near future ; popular poetry implies the future much more than the past ; it is for this reason that the adventures of the Gauls, of Charlemagne, of the Crusades, of Joan of Arc cannot form the subject of a narrative capable of moving any but Uterary people.^ Since the people have become convinced that contemporary Governments cannot be overthrown by riots like those of July 14 and August 10, they have ceased to look upon the events of these days as epical. Parliamentary SociaHsts, who would hke to utilise the | \ memory of the Revolution to excite the ardour of the people, and who ask them at the same time to put all their confidence in Parliamentarism, are very inconsistent, for they are themselves helping to ruin the epic, whose prestige they wish to maintain in their speeches.

But then what remains of the Revolution when we have taken away the epic of the wars against the coalition, and of that of the victories of the populace ? What

  • It is very remarkable that in the seventeenth century Boileau

had already pronounced against the supernatural Christian epic ; this was because his contemporaries, however religious they might have been, did not expect that angels would come to help Vauban to capture fortresses ; they did not doubt what was related in the Bible, but they did not see matter in it for epics, because these marvels were not destined to be reproduced.


io6 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

remains is not very savoury : police operations, pro- scriptions, and sittings of servile courts of law. The \ employment of the force of the State against the van- \ quished shocks us all the more because so many of the \ coryphees of the Revolution were soon to be distinguished i (among the servants of Napoleon, and to employ the \ jsame poUce zeal on behalf of the Emperor as they did on behalf of the Terror. In a country which had been convulsed by so many changes of Government, and which consequently had known so many recantations, political justice had something particularly odious about it, because the criminal of to-day might become the judge of to-morrow : General Malet could say before the council of war which condemned him in 1812 that had he succeeded he would have had for his accomplices the whole of France and his judges themselves.^

It is useless to carry these reflections any further ; the slightest observation will suffice to show that pro- letarian violence recalls a mass of painful memories of those past times : instinctively, people start thinking of the committees of revolutionary inspection, of the brutalities of suspicious agents, coarsened and frightened by fear, of the tragedies of the guillotine. You under- stand, therefore, why Parhamentary Sociahsts make such great efforts to persuade the public that they have the souls of sensitive shepherds, that their hearts are over- flowing with good feeling, and that they have only one passion — hatred of violence. They would readily give themselves out to be the protectors of the middle class

1 Ernest Hamel, Histoire de la conspiration du giniral Malet, p. 241. According to some newspapers, Jaur^s, in his evidence before the Court of Assizes of the Seine on June 5, 1907, in the Bousquet-Levy trial, said that the police officers would show more consideration for the accused, Bousquet, when he had become a legislator. [Bousquet was the secretary of the bakers' syndicate, with whom the police dealt rather harshly. As he was a good orator Jaurds looked upon him as a future deputy. — Trans. Noie.]


PREJUDICES AGAINST VIOLENCE 107

against proletarian violence ; and in order to heighten their prestige as humanitarians they never fail to shun all contact with anarchists ; sometimes, even, they shun this contact with an abruptness which is not without a certain mixture of cowardice and hypocrisy.

When Millerand was the unquestioned chief of the Socialist party in Parliament, he advised his party to he afraid to frighten ; and, as a matter of fact, Socialist deputies would obtain very few votes if they did not manage to convince the general public that they are very reasonable people, great enemies of the old practices of bloody men, and solely occupied in meditating on the philosophy of future law. In a long speech given on October 8, 1905, at Limoges, Jaur^s strove to reassure the middle class much more than had been done hitherto ; he informed them that victorious Socialism would show princely generosity, and that he was studying the different ways in which the former holders of property might be indemnified. A few years ago Millerand promised in- demnities to the poor [Petite Republique, March 25, 1898) ; now everybody will be put on the same footing, and Jaur^s assures us that Vandervelde has written things on this subject full of profundity. I am quite willing to take his word for it !

The social revolution is conceived by Jaur^s as a kind of bankruptcy ; substantial annuities will be given to the middle class of to-day : then from generation to genera- tion these annuities will decrease. These plans must often seem very alluring to financiers accustomed to draw great advantages from bankruptcies ; I have no doubt that the shareholders of L'Humanitd think these ideas marvellous ; they will be made liquidators of the bankruptcy, and will pocket large fees, which will com- pensate them for the losses which this newspaper has caused them.

In the eyes of the contemporary middle class every-


jo8 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

thing is admirable which dispels the idea of violence. I f Our middle class desire to die in peace — after them the deluge.

II

Let us now examine the violence of '93 a little more closely, and endeavour to see whether it can be identified with that of contemporary SyndicaHsm.

Fifteen years ago Drumont, speaking of Socialism and of its future, wrote these sentences, which then appeared exceedingly paradoxical to many people :

    • The historian, who is always somewhat of a prophet,

might say to the Conservatives, ' Salute the working-men leaders of the Commune, you will never see their like again ! . . . Those who are to come will be malicious, wicked, and vindictive in a different way from the men of 1871. Henceforward, a new feeling takes possession of the French proletariat : hatred.' " ^ These were not the airy words of a man of letters : Drumont learned what he knew of the Commune and the Socialist world from Malon, of whom he gave a very appreciative portrait in his book.

This sinister prediction was founded on the idea that the working man was getting farther and farther away from the national tradition, and nearer to the middle class, which is much more accessible than he is to bad feeling. ** It was the middle-class element," said Drumont,

  • ' which was most ferocious in the Commune, the vicious

and bohemian middle class of the Latin Quarter ; the popular element, amid this dreadful crisis, remained human, that is French. . . . Among the internationalists who formed part of the Commime four only pronounced themselves in favour of violent measures." ^ As will be seen, Drumont has got no farther than that naive philo-

1 Drumont. La Fin d'un monde, pp. 137-138. 2 Drumont, op. cit. p. 128.


PREJUDICES AGAINST VIOLENCE log

sophy of the eighteenth century, and of the Utopians prior to 1848, according to which men will follow the injunctions of the moral law all the better for not having been spoiled by civihsation ; in descending from the superior classes to the poorer classes a greater number of good qualities are foimd ; good is only natural to in- dividuals who have remained close to a state of nature.

This theory about the nature of the classes led Drumont to a rather curious historical speculation : none of our revolutions was so bloody as the first, because it was conducted by the middle class — " in proportion as the people became more intimately mixed up with revolutions, they became less ferocious " — " the proletariat, when, for the first time, it had acquired an effective share of authority, was infinitely less sanguinary than the middle class." 1 We cannot remain content with the easy explanations which satisfied Drumont ; but it is certain that something has changed since '93. We have to ask ourselves whether the ferocity of the old revolutionaries was not due to reasons depending on the past history of the middle class, so that in confusing the abuses of the revolutionary middle-class force of '93 with the violence of our revolutionary Syndicalists a grave error would be committed : the word r evolutionary would, in this case, have two perfectly distinct meanings.

The Third Estate which filled the assembUes in the revolutionary epoch, what may be called the official Third Estate, was not a body of agriculturists and leaders of industry ; power was never then in the hands of manu- facturers, but in the hands of the lawyers {hasochiens).^ Taine was very much struck by the fact that out of 577 deputies of the Third Estate in the Constituent Assembly,

» Drumont, op. cit. p. 136.

« Basoche was a name given somewhat ironically to all the people employed in the law courts — principally solicitors and ushers.


ijo REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

there were 373 " unknown barristers and lawyers of a minor order, notaries, King's attorneys, court-roll com- missioners, judges and recorders of the presidial bench, bailiffs and lieutenants of the bailiwick, simple practi- tioners shut up since their youth within the narrow circle of a mediocre jurisdiction or the routine of continual scribbling, without any other escape than philosophical wanderings through imaginary spaces under the guidance of Rousseau or of Raynal." ^ We have some difficulty nowadays in understanding the importance which lawyers possessed in ancient France ; but a multitude of juris- dictions existed ; property owners were extremely punctilious in going to law about questions which appear to us nowadays as of very minor importance, but which seemed of enormous importance to them on account of the dovetailing of feudal law with the law of property ; functionaries of a judicial order were found everywhere, and they enjoyed the greatest prestige with the people. This class brought to the Revolution a great deal of administrative capacity ; it was owing to them that the country was able to pass easily through the crisis which shook it for ten years, and that Napoleon was able to reconstruct regular administrative services so rapidly ; but this class also brought a mass of prejudices which caused those of its representatives who occupied high positions to commit grave errors. It is impossible to understand the character of Robespierre, for example, if we compare him to the politicians of to-day ; we must always see in him the serious lawyer, taken up with his duties, anxious not to tarnish the professional honour of an orator of the bar ; moreover, he had literary leanings and was a disciple of Rousseau. He had scruples about legality which astonish the historians of to-day ; when he was obliged to come to supreme resolutions and to defend himself before the Convention, he showed a sim-

1 Taine, La Revolution, tome i. p. 155.


PREJUDICES AGAINST VIOLENCE in

plicity which bordered on stupidity. The famous law of the 22nd Prairial, with which he has been so often reproached and which gave so rapid a pace to the revolu- tionary courts, is the masterpiece of his type of mind ; the whole of the Old Regime is found in it, expressed in clear-cut formulas.

One of the fundamental ideas of the Old Regime had been the employment of the penal procedure to ruin any power which was an obstacle to the monarchy. It seems that in all primitive societies the penal law, at its inception, was a protection granted to the chief and to a few privileged persons whom he honoured with special favour ; it is only much later that the legal power serves to safeguard, indiscriminately, the persons and goods of all the inhabit- ants of a country. The Middle Ages being a return to the customs of very ancient times, it was natural that they should reproduce exceedingly archaic ideas about justice, and that the courts of justice should come to be considered as instruments of royal greatness. An historical accident happened to favour the extraordinary development of this theory of criminal administration. The Inquisition furnished a model for courts which, set in motion on very slight pretexts, prosecuted people who embarrassed authority, with great persistence, and made it impossible for them to harm the latter. The monarchy borrowed from the Inquisition many of its procedures, and nearly always followed the same principles.

The king constantly demanded of his courts of justice that they should work for the enlargement of his terri- tories ; it seems strange to us nowadays that Louis XIV. should have had annexations proclaimed by commissions of magistrates ; but he was following the old tradition ; many of his predecessors had used Parliament to confiscate feudal manors for very arbitrary motives. Justice, which seems to us nowadays created to secure the pros- perity of production, and to permit its free and constantly


|i


112 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

widening development, seemed created in former days to secure the greatness of the monarchy : its essential aim was not justice, hut the welfare of the State.

It was very difficult to establish strict discipUne in the services set up by royalty for war and administration Enquiries had continually to be made in order to pimish imfaithful or disobedient employees ; kings employed, for this purpose, men taken from their courts of law ; thus they came to confuse acts of discipUnary surveillance with the repression of crimes. Lawyers must transform everything according to their habits of mind ; in this way negligence, ill-will, or carelessness became revolt against authority, crime, or treason.

The Revolution piously gathered up this tradition, gave an importance to imaginary crimes which was all the greater because its political courts of law carried on their operations in the midst of a populace maddened by the seriousness of the peril ; it seemed quite natural to explain the defeats of generals by criminal inten- tions, and to guillotine people who had not been able to realise hopes fostered by a public opinion, that had returned to the superstitions of childhood. Our penal code contains not a few paradoxical articles dating from this time ; nowadays it is not easy to understand how a citizen can be seriously accused of plotting or of keeping up a correspondence with foreign powers or their agents in order to induce them to begin hostihties, or to enter into war with France, or to furnish them with the means therefor. Such a crime supposes that the State can be imperilled by the act of one person ; this appears scarcely credible to us.^

Actions against enemies of the king were always con- ducted in an exceptional manner ; the procedure was

  • Yet this was the article which was applied to Dreyfus, without

anybody, moreover, having attempted to prove that France had been in danger.


PREJUDICES AGAINST VIOLENCE 113

simplified as much as possible ; flimsy proofs which would not have sufficed for ordinary crimes were accepted ; the endeavour was to make a terrible and profoundly intimidating example. All this is to be foimd in Robes- pierre's legislation. The law of the 22nd Prairial lays down rather vague definitions of political crime, so as not to let any enemy of the Revolution escape ; and the kind of proofs required are worthy of the purest tradition of the Old Regime and of the Inquisition. '* The proof necessary to condemn the enemies of the people is any kind of document, material, moral, verbal or written, which can naturally obtain the assent of any just and reasonable mind. Juries in giving their verdict should be guided solely by what love of their country indicates to their conscience ; their aim is the triumph of the republic and, the ruin of its enemies." We have in this celebrated Terrorist law the strongest expression of the theory of the predominance of the St ate. ^

The philosophy of the eighteenth century happened to render these methods still more formidable. It pro- fessed, in fact, to formulate a return to natural law ; humanity had been till then corrupted by the fault of a small number of people whose interest it had been to deceive it ; but the true means of returning to the principles of primitive goodness, of truth, and of justice had at last been discovered ; all opposition to so excellent a reform, one so easy to apply and so certain of success, was the most criminal act imaginable ; the innovators were resolved to show themselves inexorable in destroying the evil influence which bad citizens might exercise for the piupose of hindering the regeneration of humanity. Indulgence was a culpable weakness, for it amoimted to nothing less than the sacrifice of the happiness of multi- tudes to the caprices of incorrigible people, who gave

  • The details themselves of this law can only be explained by com-

paring them with the rules of the old penal law.


114 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

proof of an incomprehensible obstinacy, who refused to recognise evidence, and only lived on lies.

From the Inquisition to the political justice of the monarchy, and from this to the revolutionary courts of justice, there was a constant progress towards greater severity in laws, the extension of the use of force, and the amplification of authority. For a considerable time the Church had felt doubts about the value of the exceptional methods practised by its inquisitors.^ The monarchy, especially when it had reached its full maturity, was troubled with very few scruples about the matter ; but the Revolution displayed the scandal of its superstitious cult of the State quite openly, in the full light of day.

A reason of an economical order gave to the State at that time a strength which the Church had never possessed. At the beginning of modem times. Governments, by their maritime expeditions and the encouragement they gave to industry, had played a very great part in production ; but in the eighteenth century this part had become exceptionally important in the minds of theorists. People at that time had their heads full of great projects ; they conceived kingdoms as vast companies undertaking to colonise and cultivate new lands, and they made efforts to ensure the good working of these companies. Thus the State was the god of the reformers. " They desire," wrote Tocqueville, " to borrow the authority of the central power and. to use it to break up and to remake everything according to a new plan which they have themselves conceived ; the central power alone appears to them capable of accomplishing such a task. The power of the State must be limitless, as its rights, ^ they say ;

1 Modern authors, by taking literally certain instructions of the papacy, have been able to maintain that the Inquisition had been relatively indulgent, having regard to the customs of the time.

  • Tocqueville is probably alluding here to the maxims of Blackstone

on the unlimited power of the English Parliament. The economists


PREJUDICES AGAINST VIOLENCE 115

all that is necessary is to persuade the State to make a suitable use of this power." ^ The physiocrats seemed ready to sacrifice individuals to the common weal ; they had no great love of liberty, and thought the idea of an equipoise of powers absurd ; they hoped to convert the State ; their system is defined by Tocqueville as "a democratic despotism " ; the Government would have been in theory the representative of everybody, controlled by an enlightened public opinion ; practically it was an absolute master.^ One of the things which most astonished Tocqueville in the course of his studies of the Old Regime is the admiration felt by the physiocrats for China, which appeared to them as the type of good government, because in that country there were only valets and clerks carefully catalogued and chosen by competition. ^

Since the Revolution there has been such an upheaval of ideas that we have considerable difficulty in imder- standing correctly the conceptions of our fathers.* The capitalist economic system has thrown full light on the extraordinary power of the individual imaided by the State ; the confidence which the men of the eighteenth century had in the industrial capacities of the State seems puerile to everybody who has studied production else- where than in the insipid books of the sociologists, which still preserve very carefully the cult for the blunders of the past ; the law of nature has become an inexhaustible subject of banter for people who have the slightest

of the eighteenth century thought that the State had the right to do everything, since it was the expression of " reason," and no single force could oppose the action of this " reason."

^ Tocqueville, L'Ancien Rigime et la R&volution, p. 100.

■ Tocqueville, op. cit. pp. 235-240.

• Tocqueville, op. cit. p. 241.

  • In the history of judicial ideas in France, full consideration must

be given to the dividing up of landed property, which, by multiplying the independent heads of productive units, contributed more to the spread of judicial ideas among the masses than was ever done among the literate classes by the finest treatises on philosophy.


ii6 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

knowledge of history ; the employment of the courts of law as a means of coercing a political adversary arouses universal indignation, and people with ordinary common sense hold that it ruins all judicial conceptions.

Sumner Maine points out that the relationships of governments and citizens have been completely over- hauled since the end of the eighteenth century ; formerly the State was always supposed to be good and wise, consequently any attempt to hinder its working was looked upon as a grave offence ; the Liberal system supposes, on the contrary, that the citizen, left free, chooses the better part, and that he exercises the first of his rights in criticising the Government, which has passed from the position of master to that of servant.^ Maine does not say what is the cause of this transformation ; the cause seems to me to be above all of an economic order. In the new state of things political crime is an act of simple revolt which cannot carry with it disgrace of any kind, which is combated for reasons of prudence, but which no longer merits the name of crime, for its author in no way resembles a criminal.

We are not perhaps better, more human, more sensitive to the misfortunes of others than were the men of '93 ; and I should even be rather disposed to assert that the country is probably less moral than it was at that time ; but we are no longer dominated to the same extent that our fathers were by this superstition of the God-State, to which they sacrificed so many \actims. The ferocity of the members of the National Convention is easily ex- plained by the influence of the conceptions which the Third Estate derived from the detestable practices of the Old Regime.

1 Sumner Maine, Essais sur le gouvernement populaire, French trauis., p. 20.


PREJUDICES AGAINST VIOLENCE 117

III

It would be strange if the old ideas were quite dead ; the Dreyfus case showed us that the immense majority of the officers and priests still conceived justice in the manner of the Old Regime and looked upon condemnations for *' State reasons" as quite natural.^ That should not surprise us, for these two t5^es of people, never having had any direct relationship with production, can under- stand nothing about law. The revolt of the enlightened public against the practices of the Minister of War was so great that for a moment it might have been believed that " reasons of State '* would no longer be admitted as a pretext for condemnation (outside the two types mentioned above), except by the readers of the Petit Journal, whose mentality would thus be characterised and shown to be much the same as that which existed a century ago. We know now, alas ! by cruel experience, that the State had its high priests and its fervent wor- shippers even among the Dreyfusards.

The Dreyfus case was scarcely over when the Govern- ment of " Republican defence " began another political prosecution, in the name of state policy, and accumulated almost as many lies as the Etat-Major (army council) had accumulated in the Dreyfus trial. No serious person nowadays can doubt that the great plot for which Deroul^de, Buffet, and Lur-Saluces were condemned was an invention of the police ; the siege of what has been called the Fort Chabrol was arranged in order to make Parisians believe that they had been on the eve of a civil war. The victims of this judicial crime were granted an amnesty, but the

1 The extraordinary and illegal severity which was brought to bear in the application of the penalty is explained by the fact that the aim of the trial was to terrify certain spies who, by their situation, were out of reach ; whether Dreyfus was guilty or innocent troubled his accusers little ; the essential thing was to protect the State from treachery and to reassure the French people, who were maddened by the fear of weir.


ii8 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

amnesty should not have sufficed : if the Dreyfusards had been sincere they should have demanded a recogni- tion by the Senate of the scandalous error which the Kes of the police had caused it to commit ; on the contrary, they seem to have seen nothing that violated the principles of eternal justice, in their continued support of a condemna- tion founded on the most evident fraud.

Jaures and many other eminent Dreyfusards commended General Andre and Combes for having organised a regular system of secret accusations. Kautsky warmly re- proached him for his conduct ; the German writer demanded that Socialists should not continue to repre- sent " the wretched practices of the middle-class Republic " as great democratic actions, and that they should remain " faithful to the principle which declares that the in- former is the worst kind of rascal " {Debats, November 13, 1904). The saddest thing about this affair was that Jaures asserted that Colonel Hartmann, who protested against the system of fiches (secret reports), had himself employed similar methods ; ^ the latter wrote to him : " I pity you for this — that you have come to defend to-day, and by such means, the guilty acts which, with us, you condemned a few years ago ; I pity you, that you should believe yourself obliged to make the Republican form of Government responsible for the vile proceedings of the police spies who dishonour it " {Debats, November 5, 1904). Experience has always shown us hitherto that revolu- tionaries plead ** reasons of State " as soon as they get into power, that they then employ poHce methods and

1 In L'Humanite of November 17, 1904, there is a letter from Paul Guieysse and from Vazeilles, declaring that nothing of this kind can be imputed to Colonel Hartmann. Jaures follows this letter with a strange commentary ; he considers that the informers acted in perfect good faith, and he regrets that the colonel should have furnished " imprudently, further matter for the systematic campaign of the reactionary newspapers." Jaures has no suspicion that this com- mentary made his own case much worse, and that it was not unworthy of a disciple of Escobar.


PREJUDICES AGAINST VIOLENCE iig

look upon justice as a weapon which they may use unfairly against their enemies. Parliamentary Socialists do not escape the universal rule ; they preserve the old cult of the State ; they are therefore prepared to commit all the misdeeds of the Old Regime and of the Revolution.

A fine collection of platitudinous political maxims might be composed by going through Jaur^s's Histoire socialiste. I have never had the patience to read the 1824 pages devoted to the story of the Revolution between August 10, 1792, and the fall of Robespierre ; I have simply turned over the leaves of this tedious book, and seen that it contained a mixture of a philosophy worthy of M. Pantalon and a policy fitting a purveyor to the guillotine. For a long time I had reckoned that Jaures would be capable of every ferocity against the van- quished ; I saw that I had not been mistaken ; but I should not have thought that he was capable of so much platitude : in his eyes the vanquished are always in the wrong, and victory fascinates our great defender of eternal justice so much that he is ready to consent to every proscription demanded of him : *' Revolutions," he says, " claim from a man the most frightful sacrifices, not only of his rest, not only of his life, but of human tenderness and pity." ^ Why write so much, then, about the in- humanity of the executioners of Dreyfus ? They also sacrificed " human tenderness " to what appeared to them to be the safety of the country.

A few years ago the Republicans were extremely indignant with the Vicomte de Vogii^, who, when receiving Hanotaux into the French Academy, called the coup d'etat of 1851 ** a somewhat harsh police exploit." ^

1 J. Jaur^s, La Convention, p. 1732.

» This was on March 24, 1898, at a particularly critical moment of the Dreyfus case, when the Nationalists were asking that agitators and enemies of the army should be swept away. J. Reinach says that De Vogu6 openly invited the army to begin again the work of 1850 (Histoire de V affaire Dreyfus, tome iii. p. 545).

I


120 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

Jaurds, taught by revolutionary history, now reasons in exactly the same manner as the jovial vicomte ; ^ he praises, for example, " the policy of vigour and of wisdom '* which consisted in forcing the Convention to expel the Girondins " with a certain appearance of legality." *

The massacres of September 1792 embarrass him somewhat ; legality is not very apparent here, but he has big words and bad reasons for every ugly cause ; Danton's conduct was not very worthy of admiration at the time of these melancholy happenings, but Jaur^ must excuse him, since Danton was triumphant during this period. '* He did not think it was his duty as a revolutionary and patriotic minister to enter upon a struggle with these misguided popular forces. How can we refine the metal of the bells when they are sounding the alarm of imperilled liberty ? " ' It seems to me that Cavaignac might have explained his conduct in the Dreyfus case in the same way. To the people who accused him of being hand in hand with the Anti-Semites, he might have answered that his duty as a patriotic minister did not compel him to enter upon a struggle with the mis- guided populace, and that on the days when the safety of national defence is at stake we cannot refine the metal of the bells which are soimding the alarm of the country in danger.

When he comes to the period when Camille Desmoulins sought to stir up a movement of opinion strong enough to stop the Terror, Jaur^s speaks energetically against this attempt. He acknowledges, however, a few pages farther on, that the guillotine system could not last for ever ; but Desmoulins, having succumbed, is wrong in the eyes of our humble worshipper of success. Jaur^s

  • De Vogu6 has the habit in his polemics of thanking his adversaries

for having given him much amusement ; that is why I take the Uberty of calling him jovial, although his writings are rather soporific.

» J. Jaur^s, op. cit. p. 1434.

» J. Jaurfes, op. cit. p. 77.


PREJUDICES AGAINST VIOLENCE J2i

accuses the author of the Vieux Cordelier of forgetting the conspiracies, the treasons, the corruptions, and all the dreams with which the Terrorists fed their infatuated imaginations ; he is even ironical enough to speak of " free France ! " and he brings forth this sentence, worthy of a Jacobin pupil of Joseph Prudhomme : " The knife of Desmoulins was chiselled with an incomparable art ; but he planted it in the heart of the Revolution." ^ When Robespierre no longer commands the majority in the Convention he is, as a matter of course, put to death by the other Terrorists, in virtue of the legitimate working of the Parliamentary institutions of that time ; but to appeal to mere public opinion against the Government leaders, that was the *' crime " of Desmoulins. His crime was also that committed by Jaur^s at the time he defended Dreyfus against the great leaders of the army and the Government ; how many times has not Jaur^ been accused of compromising the national defence ? But that time is already a long way off ; and our orator at that period, not having yet tasted the advantages of power, did not possess a theory of the State as ferocious as that which he possesses to-day.

I think that I have said sufficient to enable me to con- clude that if by chance our Parliamentary Socialists get possession of the reins of Government, they will prove to be worthy successors of the Inquisition, of the Old Regime, and of Robespierre ; political courts will be at work on a large scale, and we may even suppose that the unfortu- nate law of 1848, which abolished the death penalty in poUtical matters, will be repealed. Thanks to this reform, we might again see the State triumphing by the hand of the executioner.

Proletarian acts of violence have no resemblance to these proscriptions ; they are purely and simply acts of war ;

  • J. Jaur^s, op. cit. p. 1731.


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they have the value of military demonstrations, and serve to mark the separation of classes. Everything in war is carried on without hatred and without the spirit of revenge : in war the vanquished are not killed ; non- combatants are not made to bear the consequences of the disappointments which the armies may have experienced on the fields of battle ; ^ force is then displayed according to its own nature, without ever professing to borrow any- thing from the judicial proceedings which society sets up against criminals.

The more Syndicalism develops, by abandoning the old superstitions which come to it from the Old Regime and from the Church — through the men of letters, pro- fessors of philosophy, and historians of the Revolution, — the more will social conflicts assume the character of a simple struggle, similar to those of armies on campaign. We cannot censure too severely those who teach the people that they ought to carry out the highly idealistic decrees of a progressive justice. Their efforts will only result in the maintenance of those ideas about the State which provoked the bloody acts of '93, whilst the idea of a class war, on the contrary, tends to refine the conception of violence.

IV

Syndicahsm in France is engaged on an antimilitarist propaganda, which shows clearly the immense distance which separates it from Parliamentary Socialism in its conception of the nature of the State. Many newspapers believe that all this is merely an exaggerated humanitarian movement, provoked by the articles of Herve ; this is a

1 I bring to notice here a fact which is perhaps not very well known : the Spanish war in the time of Napoleon was the occasion of innumerable atrocities, but Colonel Lafaille says that in Catalonia the murders and cruelties were never committed by Spanish soldiers who had been enlisted for some time and had become familiar with the usages of war {Mlmoires sur les campagnes de Catalogne de j8o8 d 1814, pp. 164-165).


PREJUDICES AGAINST VIOLENCE 123

great error. We should be misconceiving the nature of the movement if we supposed that it was merely a protest against harshness of discipline, against the length of military service, or against the presence, in the higher ranks, of officers hostile to the existing institutions of the country ; ^ these are the reasons which led many middle-class people to applaud declamations against the army at the time of the Dreyfus case, but they are not the Syndicalists' reasons.

The army is the clearest and the most tangible of all possible manifestations of the State, and the one which is most firmly connected with its origins and traditions. Sjmdicalists do not propose to reform the State, as the men of the eighteenth century did ; they want to destroy it,* because they wish to realise this idea of Marx's that the Socialist revolution ought not to culminate in the replacement of one governing minority by another minority.^ The Syndicalists outline their doctrine still more clearly when they give it a more ideological aspect, and declare themselves antipatriotic — following the example of the Communist Manifesto,

It is impossible that there should be the slightest understanding between Syndicalists and official Socialists on this question ; the latter, of course, speak of breaking up everything, but they attack men in power rather than power itself ; they hope to possess the State forces, and

1 According to Joseph Reinach, an error was committed after the war in choosing as generals former pupils of the military schools (Saint-Cyr and the Polytechnique) . He said that the Jesuit colleges had sent many clericals to the School, and it would have been better to choose instead officers who had risen from the ranks ; the generals would have then been less clerical. Loc. cit. pp. 555-556 (I believe that his system would not have had the result he imagined it would).

  • " The society which will organise production on the basis of a free

and equal association of producers will transport the whole machinery of State to where its place will be henceforward — in the museum of antiquities, by the side of the spinning wheel and the bronze axe " (Engels, Les Origines de la SociitS, French trans, p. 281).

  • Manifeste communiste, translated, Andler, tome i. p. 39.


124 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

they are aware that on the day when they control the Government they will have need of an army ; they will carry on foreign politics, and consequently they in their turn will have to praise the feeling of devotion to the fatherland.

Parliamentary Socialists perceive that antipatriotism is deeply rooted in the minds of Socialist workmen, and they make great efforts to reconcile the irreconcilable ; they are anxious not to oppose too strongly ideas to which the proletariat has become attached, but at the same time they cannot abandon their cherished State, which promises them so many delights. They have stooped to the most comical oratorical acrobatics in order to get over the difficulty. For instance, after the sentence of the Court of Assizes of the Seine, condemning Herv6 and the antimilitarists, the National Coimcil of the Socialist party passed a resolution branding this " verdict, due to hatred and fear," declaring that a class justice could not " respect liberty of opinion," protesting against the employment of troops in strikes, and affirming " resolutely the necessity for action, and for an inter- national understanding among the workers, for the sup- pression of war " (Socialiste, January 20, 1906). All this is very clever, but the fundamental question is avoided.

Thus it cannot any longer be contested that there is an absolute opposition between revolutionary Syndicalism and the State ; this opposition takes in France the particu- larly harsh form of antipatriotism, because the politicians have devoted all their knowledge and ability to the task of spreading confusion in people's minds about the essence of Socialism. On the plane of patriotism there can be no compromises and half-way positions ; it is therefore on this plane that the Syndicalists have been forced to take their stand when middle-class people of every description employed all their powers of seduction


PREJUDICES AGAINST VIOLENCE 125

to corrupt Socialism and to alienate the workers from the revolutionary idea. They have been led to deny the idea of patriotism by one of those necessities which are met with at all times in the course of history,* and which philosophers have sometimes great difficulty in explaining — ^because the choice is imposed by external conditions, and not freely made for reasons drawn from the nature of things. This character of historical necessity gives to the existing antipatriotic movement a strength which it would be useless to attempt to dissimulate by means of sophistries. 2

We have the right to conclude from the preceding analysis that Syndicalist violence, perpetrated in the course of strikes by proletarians who desire the overthrow of the State, must not be confused with those acts of savagery which the superstition of the State suggested to the revolutionaries of '93, when they had power in their hands and were able to oppress the conquered — ^following the principles which they had received from the Church and from the Monarchy. We have the right to hope that a Socialist revolution carried out by pure Syndicalists would not be defiled by the abominations which sullied the middle-class revolutions.

1 After the trial of Herve, L6on Daudet wrote : " Those who followed this case were thrilled by the testimonies, by no means theatrical, of the trade union secretaries " {JLihre Parole, December 31, 1905).

  • Yet Jaur^s had the audacity to declare in the Chamber on May 11,

1907, that there was only " on the surface of the working-class move- ment a few paradoxical and outrageous formulas, which originated, not from the negation of the fatherland, but from condemnation of the abuse to which word and idea were so often put." Language hke this could only have been used before an assembly which was entirely ignorant of the working-class movement.


CHAPTER IV

THE PROLETARIAN STRIKE

I. The confusion in Parliamentary Socialism and the clearness of the general strike — Myths in history — The value of the general strike proved by experience.

II. Researches made to perfect Marxism — Means of throwing light upon it, starting from the point of view of the general strike : class war ; preparation for the revolution and absence of Utopias ; irrevocable character of the revolution.

III. Scientific prejudices against the general strike ; doubts about science — The clear and the obscure parts in thought — Economic incompetence of Parliaments.


Every time that we attempt to obtain an exact conception of the ideas behind proletarian violence we are forced to go back to the notion of the general strike ; and this same conception may render many other services, and throw an miexpected Hght on all the obscure parts of Sociahsm. In the last pages of the first chapter I compared the general strike to the Napoleonic battle which definitely crushes an adversary ; this comparison will help us to imderstand the part played by the general strike in the world of ideas.

Mihtary writers of to-day, when discussing the new methods of wau: necessitated by the employment of troops infinitely more numerous than those of Napoleon, equipped with arms much more deadly than those of his time, do

126


THE PROLETARIAN STRIKE 127

not for all that imagine that wars will be decided in any other way than that of the Napoleonic battle. The new tactics proposed must fit into the drama Napoleon had conceived ; the detailed development of the combat will doubtless be quite different from what it used to be, but the end must always be the catastrophic defeat of the enemy. The methods of military instruction are intended to prepare the soldier for thi& great and terrible action, in which everybody must be ready to take part at the first signal. From the highest to the lowest, the members of a really solid army have always in mind this catastrophic issue of international conflicts.

The revolutionary Syndicates argue about Socialist action exactly in the same manner as military writers argue about war ; they restrict the whole of Socialism to the general strike ; they look upon every combination as one that should culminate in this catastrophe ; they see in each strike a reduced facsimile, an essay, a prepara- tion for the great final upheaval.

The new school, which calls itself Marxist, Syndicahst, and revolutionary, declared in favoiu: of the idea of the general strike as soon as it became clearly conscious of the true sense of its own doctrine, of the consequences of its activity, and of its own originality. It was thus led to leave the old official, Utopian, and political tabernacles, which hold the general strike in horror, and to laimch itself into the true current of the proletarian revolutionary movement ; for a long time past the proletariat had made adherence to the principle of the general strike the test by means of which the Socialism of the workers was distinguished from that of the amateur revolutionaries.

Parliamentary Socialists can only obtain great influence if they can manage, by the use of a very confused language, to impose themselves on very diverse groups ; for example, they must have working-men constituents simple enough to allow themselves to be duped by high-sovmding phrases


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about future collectivism ; they are compelled to repre- sent themselves as profound philosophers to stupid middle- class people who wish to appear to be well informed about social questions ; it is very necessary also for them to be able to exploit rich people who think that they are earning the gratitude of humanity by taking shares in the enterprises of Socialist politicians. This influence is founded on balderdash, and our bigwigs endeavour — sometimes only too successfully — to spread confusion among the ideas of their readers ; they detest the general strike because all propaganda carried on from that point of view is too sociaUstic to please philanthropists.

In the mouths of these self-styled representatives of the proletariat all socialistic formulas lose their real sense. The class war still remains the great principle, but it must be subordinated to national solidarity.* IntemationaUsm is an article of faith about which the most moderate declare themselves ready to take the most solenm oaths ; but patriotism also imposes sacred duties.* The emancipa- tion of the workers must be the work of the workers them- selves — their newspapers repeat this every day, — but real emancipation consists in voting for a professional poli- tician, in securing for him the means of obtaining a comfortable situation in the world, in subjecting oneself to a leader. In the end the State must disappear — and

  • The Petit Parisien, which makes a specialty of Socialist and

working-class questions, warned strikers on March 31, 1907, that they " must never imagine that they are absolved from the observance of the ordinary social duties and responsibilities."

  • At the time when the antimilitarists were beginning to occupy

public attention, the Petit Parisien was distinguished by its patriotism : on October 8, 1905, it published an article on " The Sacred Duty " and on " The Worship of this Tricolor Flag which has carried all over the World our Glories and our Liberties " ; on January i, 1906, it con- gratulated the Jury de la Seine : " The flag has been avenged for the insults flung by its detractors on this noble emblem. When it is carried through the streets it is saluted. The juries have done more than bow to it ; they have gathered round it with respect." This is certainly very cautious Socialism.


THE PROLETARIAN STRIKE i^p

they are very careful not to dispute what Engels has written on this subject — but this disappearance will take place only in a future so far distant that you must prepare yourself for it by using the State meanwhile as a means of providing the politicians with titbits ; and the best means of bringing about the disappearance of the State consists in strengthening meanwhile the Governmental machine. This method of reasoning resembles that of Gribouille, who threw himself into the water in order to escape getting wet in the rain.

Whole pages could be filled with the bare outUnes of the contradictory, comical, and quack arguments which form the substance of the harangues of our great men ; nothing embarrasses them, and they know how to combine, in pompous, impetuous, and nebulous speeches, the most absolute irreconcilabihty with the most supple opportun- ism. A learned exponent of Sociahsm has said that the art of reconciling opposites by means of nonsense is the most obvious result which he had got from the study of the works of Marx.i I confess my extreme incompetence in these difficult matters ; moreover, I make no claim whatever to be counted among the people upon whom politicians confer the title of learned ; yet I cannot easily bring myself to admit that this is the sum and substance of the Marxian philosophy.

The controversy between Jaur^sand Clemenceau demon- strated quite clearly that our Parliamentary Socialists can succeed in deceiving the pubhc only by their equivocation ;

  • Two motions had been discussed at length by the National Council,

one proposing that the departmental federations should be invited to enter the electoral struggle wherever it was possible, the other that candidates should be put forward everywhere. One member got up and said, " I should be glad of your earnest attention, for the argu- ment which I am about to state may at first sight appear strange and paradoxical. (These two motions) are not irreconcilable, if we try to solve this contradiction according to the natural Marxian method of solving any contradiction" {Socialiste, October 7, 1905). It seems that nobody understood. And, in fact, it was unintelligible.


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and that, as the result of continually deceiving their readers, they have finally lost all sense of honest discussion. In the Aurore of September 4, 1905, Clemenceau accuses Jaur^s of muddling the minds of his partisans " with meta- physical subtleties into which they are incapable of following him " ; there is nothing to object to in this accusation, save the use of the word metaphysical ; Jaures is no more a metaphysician than he is a lawyer or an astronomer. In the niunber of October 26 Clemenceau proves that his opponent possesses " the art of falsifying his texts," and he ends by saying, " It seemed to me instructive to expose certain polemical practices which we wrongly supposed to be monopoly of the Jesuits."

Against this noisy, garrulous, and lying Sociahsm, which is exploited by ambitious people of every descrip- tion, which amuses a few buffoons, and which is admired by decadents — revolutionary SyndicaUsm takes its stand, and endeavours, on the contrary, to leave nothing in a state of indecision ; its ideas are honestly expressed, without trickery and without mental reservations ; no attempt is made to dilute doctrines by a stream of confused com- mentaries. Syndicalism endeavours to employ methods of expression which throw a full Hght on things, which put them exactly in the place assigned to them by their nature, and which bring out the whole value of the forces in play. Oppositions, instead of being glozed over, must be thrown into sharp relief if we desire to obtain a clear idea of the Syndicalist movement ; the groups which are struggling one against the other must be shown as separate and as compact as possible ; in short, the movements of the revolted masses must be represented in such a way that the soul of the revolutionaries may receive a deep and lasting impression.

These results could not be produced in any very certain manner by the use of ordinary language ; use must be made of a body of images which, by intuition alone, and


THE PROLETARIAN STRIKE jjj

before any considered analyses are made, is capable of evoking as an undivided whole the mass of sentiments which corresponds to the different manifestations of the war undertaken by SociaHsm against modem society. The Syndicalists solve this problem perfectly, by con- centrating the whole of Socialism in the drama of the general strike ; there is thus no longer any place for the reconciliation of contraries in the equivocations of the professors ; everything is clearly mapped out, so that only one interpretation of Socialism is possible. This method has all the advantages which "integral" knowledge has over analysis, according to the doctrine of Bergson ; and perhaps it would not be possible to cite another example which would so perfectly demonstrate the value of the famous professor's doctrines.^

The possibiUty of the actual realisation of the general strike has been much discussed ; it has been stated that the Socialist war could not be decided in one single battle. To the people who think themselves cautious, practical, and scientific the difficulty of setting great masses of the proletariat in motion at the same moment seems pro- digious ; they have analysed the difficulties of detail which such an enormous struggle would present. It is the opinion of the Socialist-sociologists, as also of the politicians, that the general strike is a popular dream, characteristic of the beginnings of a working-class movement ; we have had quoted against us the authority of Sidney Webb, who has decreed that the general strike is an illusion of youth,2 of which the English workers — whom the mono- polists of sociology have so often presented to us as the

  • The nature of these articles will not allow of any long discussion

of this subject ; but I believe that it would be possible to develop still further the application of Bergson's ideas to the theory of the general strike. Movement, in Bergson's philosophy, is looked upon as an undivided whole ; which leads us precisely to the catastrophic con- ception of Socialism.

■ Bourdeau, Evolution du Socialisme, p. 232,


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depositaries of the true conception of the working-class movement — soon rid themselves.

That the general strike is not popular in contemporary England, is a poor argument to bring against the historical significance of the idea, for the English are distinguished by an extraordinary lack of understanding of the class war ; their ideas have remained very much dominated by medieval influences : the guild, privileged, or at least protected by laws, still seems to them the ideal of work- ing-class organisation; it is for England that the term working-class aristocracy, as a name for the trades unionists, was invented, and, as a matter of fact, trades unionism does pursue the acquisition of legal privileges.^ We might therefore say that the aversion felt by England for the general strike should be looked upon as strong presumptive evidence in favour of the latter by all those who look upon the class war as the essence of Socialism.

Moreover, Sidney Webb enjoys a reputation for competence which is very much exaggerated ; all that can be put to his credit is that he has waded through un- interesting blue-books, and has had the patience to compose an extremely indigestible compilation on the history of trades unionism ; he has a mind of the narrowest descrip- tion, which could only impress people unaccustomed to reflection.* Those who introduced his fame into France knew nothing at all about Socialism ; and if he is really in the first rank of contemporary authors of economic history, as his translator afiirms,^ it is because the

1 This is seen, for example, in the efforts made by the trade unions to obtain laws absolving them from the civil responsibilities of their acts.

« Tarde could never understand the reputation enjoyed by Sidney Webb, who seemed to him to be a worthless scribbler.

  • M6tin, Le Socialisme en Angleterre, p. 210. This writer has

received from the Government a certificate of socialism ; on July 26, 1904, the French Commissioner-General at the St. Louis exhibition said : " M. Metin is animated by the best democratic spirit ; he is an excellent republican ; he is even a socialist whom working-class organisa-


THE PROLETARIAN STRIKE 133

intellectual level of these historians is rather low ; more- over, many examples show us that it is possible to be a most illustrious professional historian and yet possess a mind something less than mediocre.

Neither do I attach any importance to the objections made to the general strike based on considerations of a practical order. The attempt to construct hypotheses about the nature of the struggles of the future and the means of suppressing capitalism, on the model furnished by history, is a return to the old methods of the Utopists. There is no process by which the future can be predicted scientifically, nor even one which enables us to discuss whether one hypothesis about it is better than another ; it has been proved by too many memorable examples that the greatest men have committed prodigious errors in thus desiring to make predictions about even the least distant future.^

And yet without leaving the present, without reasoning about this future, which seems for ever condemned to escape our reason, we should be unable to act at all. Experience shows that the framing of a future, in some indeterminate time, may, when it is done in a certain way, be very effective, and have very few inconveniences ; this happens when the anticipations of the future take the form of those myths, which enclose with them all the strongest inclinations of a people, of a party or of a class, inclinations which recur to the mind with the insistence of instincts in all the circumstances of life ; and which give an aspect of complete reality to the hopes of immediate action by which, more easily than by any other method, men can reform their desires, passions, and mental activity.

tion should welcome as a friend " {Association ouvrilre, July 30, 1904). An amusing study could be made of those persons who possess certificates of this kind, given to them, either by the Government, the Musie social, or the well-informed press.

  • The errors committed by Marx are numerous and sometimes

enormous (cf. G. Sorel, Saggi di critica del marxismo, pp. 31-57).


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We know, moreover, that these social myths in no way prevent a man profiting by the observations which he makes in the course of his Ufe, and form no obstacle to the pursuit of his normal occupations.^

The truth of this may be shown by numerous examples.

The first Christians expected the return of Christ and the total ruin of the pagan world, with the inauguration of the kingdom of the saints, at the end of the first genera- tion. The catastrophe did not come to pass, but Christian thought profited so greatly from the apocalyptic myth that certain contemporary scholars maintain that the whole preaching of Christ referred solely to this one point. * The hopes which Luther and Calvin had formed of the religious exaltation of Europe were by no means realised ; these fathers of the Reformation very soon seemed men of a past era ; for present-day Protestants they belong rather to the Middle Ages than to modem times, and the problems which troubled them most occupy very little place in contemporary Protestantism. Must we for that reason deny the immense result which came from their dreams of Christian renovation ? It must be admitted that the real developments of the Revolution did not in any way resemble the enchanting pictures which created the enthusiasm of its first adepts ; but without those pictures would the Revolution have been victorious ? Many Utopias were mixed up with the Revolutionary myth,^ because it had been formed by a society passion- ately fond of imaginative literature, full of confidence in the "science,*'* and very little acquainted with the

  • It has often been remarked that English or American sectarians

whose religious exaltation was fed by the apocalyptic myths were often none the less very practical men.

» At the present time, this doctrine occupies an important place in German exegesis ; it was introduced into France by the Abbe Loisy. » Cf. the Letter to Daniel Halevy, IV.

  • In French petite science. This expression is used to indicate the

popular science with which the majority is much more famihar than it


THE PROLETARIAN STRIKE 135

economic history of the past. These Utopias came to nothing ; but it may be asked whether the Revolution was not a much more profound transformation than those dreamed of by the people who in the eighteenth century had invented social Utopias. In our own times Mazzini pursued what the wiseacres of his time called a mad chimera ; but it can no longer be denied that, without Mazzini, Italy would never have become a great power, and that he did more for Italian unity than Cavour and all the politicians of his school.

A knowledge of what the myths contain in the way of details which will actually form part of the history of the future is then of small importance ; they are not astrological almanacs ; it is even possible that nothing which they contain will ever come to pass, — as was the case with the catastrophe expected by the first Christians.^ In our own daily life, sire we not familiar with the fact that what actually happens is very different from our preconceived notion of it ? And that does not prevent us from continuing to make resolutions. Psychologists say that there is heterogeneity between the ends in view and the ends actually realised : the slightest experience of life reveals this law to us, which Spencer transferred into natiure, to extract therefrom his theory of the multipUca- tion of effects.2

The myth must be judged as a means of acting on the present ; any attempt to discuss how far it can be taken

is with the difl&cult researches of the real scientists. These latter are generally as modest as the writers on popular science are vain and boastful.

1 I have tried to show elsewhere how this social myth, which has disappeared, was succeeded by a piety which has remained extremely important in Catholic life ; this evolution from the social to the in- dividual, seems to me quite natural in a religion {Le SysUme historique de Renan, pp. 374-382).

  • I beUeve, moreover, that the whole of Spencer's evolutionism is

to be explained as an application of the most commonplace psychology to physics,

K


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literally as future history is devoid of sense. It is the myth in its entirety which is alone important : its parts are only of interest in so far as they bring out the main idea. No useful purpose is seived, therefore, in arguing about the incidents which, may occur in the course of a social war, and about the decisive conflicts which may give victory to the proletariat ; even supposing the revolutionaries to have been wholly and entirely deluded in setting up this imaginary picture of the general strike, this picture may yet have been, in the course of the preparation for the Revolution, a great element of strength, if it has embraced all the aspirations of SociaUsm, and if it has given to the whole body of Revolutionary thought a pre- cision and a rigidity which no other method of thought could have given.

To estimate, then, the significance of the idea of the general strike, all the methods of discussion which are current among politicians, sociologists, or people with pretensions to poHtical science, must be abandoned. Everything which its opponents endeavour to estabUsh may be conceded to them, without reducing in any way the value of the theory which they think they have refuted. The question whether the general strike is a partial reahty, or only a product of popular imagina- tion, is of little importance. All that it is necessary to know is, whether the general strike contains ever5rthing that the Socialist doctrine expects of the revolutionary proletariat.

To solve this question we are no longer compelled to argue learnedly about the future ; we are not obliged to indulge in lofty reflections about philosophy, history, or economics ; we are not on the plane of theories, and we can remain on the level of observable facts. We have to question men who take a very active part in the real revolutionary movement amidst the proletariat, men who do not aspire to climb into the middle class and


THE PROLETARIAN STRIKE 137

whose mind is not dominated by corporative prejudices. These men may be deceived about an infinite number of political, economical, or moral questions ; but their testimony is decisive, sovereign, and irrefutable when it is a question of knowing what are the ideas which most powerfully move them and their comrades, which most appeal to them as being identical with their socialistic conceptions, and thanks to which their reason, their hopes, and their way of looking at particular facts seem to make but one indivisible unity. ^

Thanks to these men, we know that the general strike is indeed what I have said : the myth in which Sociahsm is wholly comprised, i.e. a body of images capable of evoking instinctively all the sentiments which correspond to the different manifestations of the war undertaken by Socialism against modem society. Strikes have en- gendered in the proletariat the noblest, deepest, and most moving sentiments that they possess ; the general strike groups them all in a co-ordinated picture, and, by bringing them together, gives to each one of them its maximum of intensity ; appeaUng to their painful memories of particular conflicts, it colours with an intense Ufe all the details of the composition presented to consciousness. We thus obtain that intuition of Socialism which language cannot give us with perfect clearness — and we obtain it as a whole, perceived instantaneously.^

We may urge yet another piece of evidence to prove the power of the idea of the general strike. If that idea were a pure chimera, as is so frequently said. Parliamentary Socialists would not attack it with such heat ; I do not remember that they ever attacked the senseless hopes which the Utopists haye always held up before the dazzled eyes of the people.^ In the course of a polemic about realisable

1 This is another application of Bergson's theories.

' This is the " global knowledge " of Bergson's philosophy.

  • I do not remember that the official Socialists have ever shown up


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social reforms, Clemenceau brought out the MachiaveHan- ism in the attitude of Jaurds, when he is confronted with popular illusions : he shelters his conscience beneath " some cleverly balanced sentence," but so cleverly balanced that it " will be received without thinking by those who have the greatest need to probe into its sub- stance, while they will drink in with delight the delusive rhetoric of terrestrial joys to come " (Aurore, December 28, 1905). But when it is a question of the general strike, it is quite another thing ; our poUticians are no longer content with complicated reservations ; they speak violently, and endeavour to induce their listeners to abandon this conception.

It is easy to understand the reason for this attitude : politicians have nothing to fear from the Utopias which present a deceptive mirage of the future to the people, and turn " men towards immediate realisations of terrestrial felicity, which any one who looks at these matters scientifically knows can only be very partially realised, and even then only after long efEorts on the part of several generations . * ' (That is what Sociahst poUticians do, according to Clemenceau.) The more readily the electors beheve in the magical forces of the State, the more will they be disposed to vote for the candidate who promises marvels ; in the electoral struggle each candidate tries to outbid the others : in order that the Socialist candidates may put the Radicals to rout, the electors must be credulous enough to beUeve every promise of future bUss ; ^ our Sociahst politicians take very good care,

fche ridiculousness of the novels of Bellamy, which have had so great a success. These novels needed criticism all the more, because they presented to the people an entirely middle-class ideal of life. They were a natural product of America, a country which is ignorant of the class war ; but in Europe, would not the theorists of the class war have understood them ?

1 In the article which I have already quoted, Clemenceau recalls that Jaur^s made use of these outbidding tactics in a long speech which he made at Beziers.


THE PROLETARIAN STRIKE ijg

therefore, not to combat these comfortable Utopias in any very effective way.

They struggle against the conception of the general strike, because they recognise, in the course of their pro- pagandist roimds, that this conception is so admirably adapted to the working-class mind that there is a pos- sibihty of its dominating the latter in the most absolute manner, thus leaving no place for the desires which the Parliamentarians are able to satisfy. They perceive that this idea is so effective as a motive force that once it has entered the minds of the people they can no longer be controlled by leaders, and that thus the power of the deputies would be reduced to nothing. In short, they feel in a vague way that the whole Socialist movement might easily be absorbed by the general strike, which would render useless all those compromises between political groups in view of which the Parhamentary regime has been built up.

The opposition it meets with from official SociaHsts, therefore, furnishes a confirmation of our first inquiry into the scope of the general strike.


II

We must now proceed further, and inquire whether the picture furnished by the general strike is really com- plete ; that is to say, whether it comprises all those features of the struggle which are recognised by modern Socialism. But, first of all, we must state the problem more precisely ; this will not be difficult if we start from the explanations given above on the nature of the conception. We have seen that the general strike must be considered as an un- divided whole ; consequently, no details about ways and means will be of the slightest help to the imderstanding of Socialism ; it must even be added that there is always a danger of losing something of this understanding, if an


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attempt is made to split up this whole into parts. We will now endeavour to show that there is a fundamental identity between the chief tenets of Marxism and the co-ordinated aspects furnished by the picture of the general strike.

This affirmation is certain to appear paradoxical to many who have read the pubhcations of the most accredited Marxians ; gind, in fact, for a very long time a well-marked hostility to the general strike existed in Marxian circles. This tradition has done a good deal of harm to the progress of Marx's doctrine ; and it is in fact a very good illustration of the way in which, as a rule, disciples tend to restrict the application of their master's ideas. The new school has had considerable difficulty in Uberating itself from these influences ; it was formed by people who had received the Marxian imprint in a very marked degree ; and it was a long time before the school recognised that the objections brought against the general strike arose from the incapacity of the official representa- tives of Marxism rather than from the principles of the doctrine itself.^

The new school began its emancipation on the day when it perceived clearly that the formulas of Socialism were often very far from the spirit of Marx, and when it recommended a return to that spirit. It was not without a certain amount of stupefaction that it discerned that it had credited the master with many so-called inventions which were in reality taken from his predecessors, or which were commonplaces, even, at the time when the Communist Manifesto was drawn up. According to an author — who, in the opinion of the Government and the

1 In an article, Introduction d la meiaphysique, published in 1903, Bergson points out that disciples are always inclined to exaggerate the points of difference between masters, and that " the master in so far as he formulates, develops, translates into abstract ideas what he brings is already in a way his own disciple." [Eng. trans, by T. E. Hulme.]


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Musee Social is considered to be well informed, — " the accumulation (of capital in the hcinds of a few individuals) is one of the great discoveries of Marx, one of the dis- coveries of whch he was most proud. ^ With all due deference to the historical science of this notable university light, this theory was one which was in everybody's mouth long before Marx had ever written a word, and it had become a dogma in the Socialist world at the end of the reign of Louis-Philippe. There are many Marxian theories of the same kind.

A decided step towards reform was made when those Marxians who aspired to think for themselves began to study the syndicalist movement; they discovered that *'the genuine trade unionists have more to teach us than they have to learn from us." ^ This was the beginning of wisdom ; it was a step towards the realistic method which had led Marx to his real discoveries ; in this way a return might be made to those methods which alone merit the name philosophical, ** for true and fruitful ideas are so many close contacts with currents of reality," and they " owe most of their clearness to the light which the facts, and the applications to which they led, have by reflection shed on them — the clearness of a concept being scarcely anything more at bottom than the certainty, at last obtained, of manipulating the concept profitably." ^ And yet another profound thought of Bergson may use- fully be quoted : " For we do not obtain an intuition from reality — that is, an intellectual sympathy with the most intimate part of it — unless we have won its confidence by a long fellowship with its superficial manifestations. And it is not merely a question of assimilating the most conspicuous facts ; so immense a mass of facts must be acciunulated and fused together, that in this fusion all

1 A. Metin. op. cit. p. 191.

  • G. Sorel, Avenir socialiste des syndieats, p. 12.

» Bergson, loc. cit.


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the preconceived and premature ideas which observers may miwittingly have put into their observations will be certain to neutralize each other. In this way only can the bare materiality of the known facts be exposed to view." Finally, what Bergson calls an integral experience is obtained.^

Thanks to the new principle, people very soon came to recognise that the propositions which in their opinion contained a complete statement of Socialism were deplor- ably inadequate, so that they were often more dangerous than useful. It is the superstitious respect paid by social democracy to the mere text of its doctrines that nuUified every attempt in Germany to perfect Marxism.

When the new school had acquired a full understanding of the general strike, and had thus obtained a profoimd intuition of the working-class movement, it saw that all the SociaUst theories, interpreted in the light of this powerful construction, took on a meaning which till then they had lacked ; it perceived that the clumsy and rickety apparatus which had been manufactured in Germany to explain Marx's doctrines, must be rejected if the con- temporary transformation of the proletarian idea was to be followed exactly ; it discovered that the conception of the general strike enabled them to explore profitably the whole vast domain of Marxism, which imtil then had remained practically unknown to the big-wigs who pro- fessed to be guiding Socialism. Thus the fundamental principles of Marxism are perfectly inteUigible only with the aid of the picture of the general strike, and, on the other hand, the full significance of this picture, it may be supposed, is apparent only to those who are deeply versed in the Marxian doctrine.

A. First of all, I shall speak of the class war, which is the point of departure for all Sociahstic thought, and which stands in such great need of elucidation,

» Bergson, loc. cit.


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since sophists have endeavoured to give a false idea of it.

(i) Marx speaks of society as if it were divided into two fundamentally antagonistic groups; observation, it has often been urged, does not justify this division, and it is true that a certain efEort of will is necessary before we can find it verified in the phenomena of everyday life.

The organisation of a capitalistic workshop fimiishes a first approximation, and piece-work plays an essential part in the formation of the class idea ; in fact, it throws into reUef the very clear opposition of interests about the price of commodities ; ^ the workers feel themselves under the thumb of the employers in the same way that peasants feel themselves in the power of the merchants and the money-lenders of the towns ; history shows that no economic opposition has been more clearly felt than the latter ; since civilisation has existed, country and town have formed two hostile camps.* Piece-work also shows that in the wage-earning world there is a group of men somewhat analogous to the retail shopkeepers, possessing the confidence of the employer, and not belong- ing to the proletariat class.

The strike throws a new light on all this ; it separates the interests and the different ways of thinking of the two groups of wage-earners — the foremen clerks, engineers, etc., as contrasted with the workmen who alone go on strike — much better than the daily circumstances of life do ; it then becomes clear that the administrative group has a natural tendency to become a Httle aristocracy ;

  • I do not know whether the learned (economists and other people

who make inquiries on social conditions) have always quite understood the function of piece-work. It is evident that the well-known formula, " the producer should be able to buy back his product," arose from reflections on the subject of piece-work.

  • " It may be said that the economic history of society turns on

this antithesis," — of town and country {Capital, vol. i. p. 152, col. I).


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for these people. State Socialism would be advantageous, because they would go up one in the social hierarchy.

But all oppositions become extraordinarily clear when conflicts are supposed to be enlarged to the size of the general strike ; then all parts of the economico-judicial structure, in so far as the latter is looked upon from the point of view of the class war, reach the smnmit of their perfection ; society is plainly divided into two camps, and only into two, on a field of battle. No philosophical explanation of the facts observed in practical affairs could throw such vivid light on the situation as the extremely simple picture called up by the conception of the general strike.

(2) It would be impossible to conceive the disappearance of capitalistic dominance if we did not suppose an ardent sentiment of revolt, always present in the soul of the worker ; but experience shows that very often the revolts of a day are far from possessing a really specifically socialistic character ; more than once the most violent out- bursts have depended on passions which could be satisfied inside the middle-class world ; many revolutionaries have been seen to abandon their old irreconcilability when they found themselves on the road to fortune.^ It is not only satisfactions of a material kind " which produce these frequent and scandalous conversions ; vanity, much more than money, is the great motive force in transformation of the revolutionary into a bourgeois. All that would be negUgible if it were only a question of a few exceptional people, but it has often been maintained that the psycho- logy of the working classes would so easily adapt itself to the capitalistic order of things that social peace would be

1 It may be remembered that in the eruption at Martinique a governor perished who, in 1879, had been one of the protagonists of the Socialist congress held at Marseilles. The Commune itself was not fatal to all its partisans ; several have had fairly distinguished careers ; the ambassador of France at Rome was among the most importunate of those who, in 1871, demanded the death of the hostages.


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rapidly obtained if employers on their part would make a few sacrifices of money and amour propre.

G. Le Bon says that the belief in the revolutionary instincts of crowds is a very great mistake, that their tendencies are conservative, that the whole power of Socialism lies in the rather muddled state of mind of the middle class ; he is convinced that the masses will always flock to a Caesar.^ There is a good deal of truth in these judgments, which are founded on a very wide knowledge of history, but G. Le Bon's theories must be corrected in one respect : they are only valid for societies which lack the conception of the class war.

Observation shows that this last conception is main- tained with an indestructible vitality in every circle which has been touched by the idea of the general strike : the day when the slightest incidents of daily life become symptoms of the state of war between the classes, when every conflict is an incident in the social war, when every strike begets the perspective of a total catastrophe, on that day there is no longer any possibihty of social peace, of resignation to routine, or of enthusiasm for philan- thropic or successful employers. The idea of the general strike has such power behind it that it drags into the revolutionary track everything it touches. In virtue of this idea. Socialism remains ever young ; all attempts made to bring about social peace seem childish ; desertions of comrades into the ranks of the middle class, far from discouraging the masses, only excite them still more to rebellion ; in a word, the line of cleavage is never in danger of disappearing.

(3) The successes obtained by politicians in their attempts to make what they call the proletarian influence

1 G. Le Bon, Psychologie du socialisme, 3rd ed. p. in and pp. 457-459. The author, who a few years ago was treated as an imbecile by the little bullies of university Socialism, is one of the most original physicists of our time.


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felt in middle-class institutions, constitute a very great obstacle to the maintenance of the notion of class war. The world has always been carried on by compromises between opposing parties, and order has always been provisional. No change, however considerable, can be looked upon as impossible in a time Hke ours, which has seen so many novelties introduced in an imexpected manner. Modem progress has been brought about by successive compromises ; why not pursue the aims of SociaUsm by methods which have succeeded so well? Many means of satisfying the more pressing desires of the imfortunate classes can be thought of. For a long time these proposals for improvement were inspired by a con- servative, feudal, or Catholic spirit. We wish, said the inventors, to rescue the masses from the influence of the Radicals. The latter, seeing their pohtical influence assailed, not so much by their old enemies as by Socialist poHticians, invent nowadays all kinds of projects of a progressive, democratic, free-thinking colour. We are beginning at last to be threatened with socialistic com- promises !

Enough attention has not always been paid to the fact that many kinds of political, administrative, and financial systems engender and support the domination of a middle class.^ We must not always attach too much importance to violent attacks on the middle class ; they may have behind them the desire to reform and perfect capitalism.* There are, it seems, quite a number of people about now- adays who, though not in the least desiring the disappear-

  • The Socialists are mistaken in believing that the existence

of a middle class is bound up with the existence of the capitalist industrial system. Any country submitted to a bureaucracy, directing production — either directly or through corporations — would have a middle class.

» I know, for instance, a very enlightened CathoUc, who gives vent with singular acrimony to his contempt for the French middle class ; but his ideal is Americanism, i.e. a very young and very active capital' istic society.


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ance of the capitalistic regime, would willingly abolish inheritance like the followers of Saint Simon.*

The idea of the general strike destroys all the theoretical consequences of every possible social policy ; its partisans look upon even the most' popular reforms as having a middle-class character ; so far as they are concerned, nothing can weaken the fundamental opposition of the class war. The more the policy of social reforms becomes preponderant, the more will Sociahsts feel the need of placing against the picture of the progress which it is the aim of this policy to bring about, this other picture of complete catastrophe furnished so perfectly by the general strike.

B. Let us now examine, with the aid of the conception of the general strike, certain very essential aspects of the Marxian Revolution.

(i) Marx says that on the day of the Revolution the proletariat will be discipUned, imited, and organised by the very mechanism of production. This exceedingly concentrated formula would not be very intelligible if we did not read it in connection with its context ; according to Marx, the working class is bowed beneath a system in which '* abject poverty, oppression, slavery, degrada- tion, and exploitation increase," and against which it is organising an ever-increasing resistance until the day when the whole social structure breaks up.^ The accuracy of this description has been many times disputed ; it seems indeed to be more suited to the Manifesto period (1847) than to the time when Capital was published (1867) ; but this objection must not stop us, and it may be thrust on

  • p. de Rousiers was very much struck by the way rich fathers in

the United States forced their sons to earn their own living ; he often met " Frenchmen who were profoundly shocked by what they called the egoism of American fathers. It seemed revolting to them that a rich man should leave his son to earn his own living, that he did nothing to set him up in life" {La Vie am^ricaine, V Education et la sociiti, p. 9).

• Capital, vol. i. p. 342, col. i.


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one side by means of the theory of m5rths. The different terms which Marx uses to describe the preparation for the decisive combat are not to be taken Hterally as statements of fact about a determined future ; it is the description in its entirety which should engage our attention, and taken in this way it is perfectly clear : Marx wishes us to understand that the whole preparation of the proletariat depends solely on the organisation of a stubborn, increas- ing, and passionate resistance to the present order of things.

This argument is of supreme importance if we are to have a sound conception of Marxism ; but it is often contested, if not in theory, at least in practice ; the proletariat, it has been held, sh9uld prepare for the part it is to play in the future by other ways than those of revolutionary Syndicalism. Thus the exponents of co- operation hold that a prominent place in the work of enfranchisement must be given to their own particular remedy ; the democrats say that it is essential to aboUsh all the prejudices arising from the old CathoUc influence, etc. Many revolutionaries believe that, however useful S5mdicaUsm may be, it is not, in itself, sufficient to organise a society which needs a new philosophy, a new code of laws, etc. ; as the division of labour is a fimdamental law of the world, SociaUsts should not be ashamed to apply to specialists in philosophy and law, of whom there is never any lack. Jaur^ never stops repeating this kind of stuff. This expansion of Socialism is contrary to the Marxian theory, as also to the conception of the general strike ; but it is evident that the conception of the general strike makes a much more striking appeal to the mind than any formula.

(2) I have already called attention to the danger for the future of civilisation presented by revolutions which take pla^e in a period of economic decadence ; many Marxists do not seem to have formed a clear idea of Marx's


THE PROLETARIAN STRIKE 149

thought on this subject. The latter believed that the great catastrophe would be preceded by an enormous economic crisis, but the crisis Marx had in mind must not be confused with an economic decadence ; crises appeared to him as the result of a too risky venture on the part of production, which creates productive forces out of pro- portion to the means of regulation. which the capitaUstic system automatically brings into play. Such a venture supposes that the future was looked upon as favourable to very large enterprises, and that the conception of economic progress prevailed absolutely at the time. In order that the lower middle classes, who are still able to find tolerable conditions of existence imder the capitalist regime, may join hands with the proletariat, it is essential that they shall be able to picture the future of production as bright with hope, just as the conquest of America formerly appeared to the EngUsh peasants, who left Europe to throw themselves into a life of adventure*

The general strike leads to the same conclusions. The workers are accustomed to seeing their revolts against the restrictions imposed by capitalism succeed during periods of prosperity ; so that it may be said that if you once identify revolution and general strike it then becomes impossible to conceive this of an essential transformation of the world taking place in a time of economic decadence. The workers are equally well aware that the peaisants and the artisans will not join hands with them unless the future appears so rosy-coloured that industriaUsm will be able to ameliorate the lot not only of the producers, but that of everybody.^

It is very important always to lay stress on the high

  • It is not difficult to see that propagandists are obliged to refer

frequently to this aspect of the social revolution : this wiU take place while the intermediary classes are still in existence, but when they become sickened by the farce of social pacification, and when a period of such great economic progress has been reached that the future will appeau: in colours favourable to everybody.


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degree of prosperity which industry must possess in order that the reaUsation of Socialism may be possible ; for ex- perience shows us that it is by seeking to stop the progress of capitalism, and to preserve the means of existence of classes who are on the down-grade, that the prophets of social peace chiefly endeavour to capture popular favour. The dependence of the revolution on the constant and rapid progress of industry must be demonstrated in a striking manner.^

(3) Too great stress cannot be laid on the fact that Marxism condemns every hypothesis about the future manufactured by the Utopists. Professor Brentano of Munich relates that in 1869 Marx wrote to his friend Beesly (who had pubhshed an article on the future of the working class) to say that up till then he had looked upon him as the sole revolutionary Enghshman, and that hence- forth he looked upon him as a reactionary — for, he said, " the man who draws up a programme for the future is a reactionary/' ^ He considered that the proletariat had no need to take lessons from the learned inventors of solutions to social problems, but simply to take up pro- duction where capitahsm left it. There was no need for programmes of the future ; the programmes were already worked out in the workshops. The idea of a techno- logical continuity dominates the whole of the Marxian position.

  • Kautsky has often dwelt on this idea, of which Engels was particu-

larly fond.

  • Bernstein said about this story that Brentano might have exag-

gerated a little, but that " the phrase quoted by him was not incon- sistent with Marx's general line of thought " (Mouvement socialiste, September i, 1899, p. 270). Of what can Utopias be composed ? Of the past and often of a very far-ofi past ; it is probably for this reason that Marx called Beesly a reactionary, while everybody else was astonished at his revolutionary boldness. The Catholics are not the only people who are hypnotised by the Middle Ages, and Yves Guyot pokes fun at the collectivist troubadourism of Lafargue (Lafargue and Y. Guyot, La Propriiti, pp. 121-122).


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Experience gained in strikes leads us to a conception identical with that of Marx. Workmen who put down their tools do not go to their employers with schemes for the better organisation of labour, and do not offer them assistance in the management of their business ; in short, Utopias have no place in economic conflicts. Jaur^ and his friends are well aware that this is a very strong argu- ment against their own ideas of the way in which SociaUsm is to be realised : they would like even now to have fragments of the industrial programmes manufactured by learned sociologists and accepted by the workers introduced into strike negotiations ; they would like to see the creation of what they call industrial parliamentarism which, exactly as in the case of political parhamentarism would imply, on the one hand, the masses who are led and, on the other, demagogues to show them the way. This would be the apprentice stage of their sham SociaHsm, and might begin at once.

With the general strike all these fine things disappear ; the revolution appears as a revolt, pure and simple, and no place is reserved for sociologists, for fashionable people who are in favour of social reforms, and for the Intellectuals who have embraced the profession of thinking for the proletariat.

Cs Socialism has always inspired terror because of the enormous element of the unknown which it contains ; people feel that a transformation of this kind would permit of no turning back. Utopists have used all their literary art in the endeavour to lull anxiety by pictures of tlie future, so enchanting that fear might be banished ; but the more they accumulated fine promises, the more did thoughtful people suspect traps, and in this they were not altogether mistaken, for the Utopists would have led the world to disasters, tyranny, and stupidity, if they had been hearkened to.

Mairx was firmly convinced that the social revolution

L


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of which he spoke would constitute an irrevocable trans- formation, and that it would mark an absolute separation between two historical eras ; he often returned to this idea, and Engels has endeavoured to show, by means of images which were sometimes a httle grandiose, how economic enfranchisement would be the point of departure of an era having no relationship with the past. Rejecting all Utopias, these two foimders of modem Socialism renounced all the resources by which their predecessors had rendered the prospect of a great revolution less formidable ; but however strong the expressions which they employed might have been, the effects which they produced are still very inferior to those produced by the evocation of the general strike. This conception makes it impossible for us to ignore the fact that a kind of irresistible wave will pass over the old civihsation.

There is something really terrifying in all this ; but I believe that it is very essential that this feature of Socialism should be insisted on if the latter is to have its full educa- tional value. Socialists must be convinced that the work to which they are devoting themselves is a serious, formidable, and sublime work ; it is only on this condition that they will be able to bear the innimierable sacrifices imposed on them by a propaganda, which can procure them neither honours, profits, nor even immediate intellectual satisfaction. Even if the only result of the idea of the general strike was to make the SociaUst con- ception more heroic, it should on that account alone be looked upon as having an incalculable value.

The resemblances which I have just established between Marxism and the general strike might be carried still further and deeper ; if they have been overlooked hitherto, it is because we are much more struck by the form of things than by their content ; a large number of people find great difficulty in believing that there can be any parallehsm between a philosophy based on Hegelian-


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ism and the constructions made by men entirely devoid of higher culture. Marx had acquired in Germany a taste for very condensed formulas, and these formulas were so admirably suited to the conditions in the midst of which he worked that he naturally made great use of them. When he wrote, there had been none of the great and numerous strikes which would have enabled him to speak with a detailed knowledge of the means by which the proletariat may prepare itself for the revolution. This absence of knowledge gained from experience very much hampered Marx's thought ; he avoided the use of too precise formulas which would have had this inconvenience of giving a kind of sanction to existing institutions, which seemed valueless to him ; he was therefore happy to be able to find in German academic writing a habit of abstract language which allowed him to avoid all discussion of detail.i

No better proof perhaps can be given of Marx's genius than the remarkable agreement which is found to exist between his views and the doctrine which revolutionary Syndicalism is to-day building up slowly and laboriously, keeping always strictly to strike tactics.


Ill

For some time yet, the conception of the general strike will have considerable difficulty in becoming acchmatised in circles which are not specially dominated by strike tactics. I think it might be useful at this point to enquire

^ I have elsewhere put forward the hypothesis that Marx, in the penultimate chapter of the first volume of Capital perhaps wished to demonstrate the difference between the evolution of the proletariat and that of middle-class force. He said that the working class is disciplined, united and organised by the very mechanism of capitalist production. There is perhaps an indication of a movement towards liberty, opposed to the movement towards automatism which will be discussed later when we come to consider middle-class force {Saggi di criiica. pp. 46-47).


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into the motives which explain the repugnance felt by many intelligent and sincere people who are disturbed by the novelty of the Syndicalist point of view. All the members of the new school know that they had to make great efforts in order to overcome the prejudices of their upbringing, to set aside the associations of ideas which sprang up spontaneously in their mind, and to reason along lines which in no way corresponded to those which they had been taught.

During the nineteenth century there existed an in- credible scientific ingenuousness which was the direct out- come of the illusions that had aroused so much excitement towards the end of the eighteenth century. ^ Because astronomers had managed to calculate the tables of the moon, it was believed that the aim of all science was to forecast the future with accuracy ; because Le Verrier had been able to indicate the probable position of the planet Neptime — which had never been seen, and which accounted for the disturbances of observable planets — it was believed that science could remedy the defects of society, and indicate what measures should be taken to bring about the disappearance of the impleasant things in the world. It may be said that this was the middle- class conception of science : it certainly corresponds very closely to the mental attitude of those capitahsts, who, ignorant of the perfected appliances of their workshops, yet direct industry, and always find ingenious inventors to get them out of their difficulties. For the middle class science is a mill which produces solutions to all the problems we are faced with : ^ science is no longer con-

1 The history of scientific superstitions is of the deepest interest to philosophers who wish to understand Socialism. These superstitions have remained dear to our democracy, as they had been dear to the beaux esprits of the Old Regime ; I have touched on a few of the aspects of this history in Les Illusions du progris. Engels was often under the influence of these errors, from which Marx himself was not always free.

• Marx quotes this curious phrase from Ure, written about 1830 : " This invention supports the doctrine already developed by us : if


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sidered as a perfected means to knowledge, but only as a recipe for procuring certain advantages.^

I have said that Marx rejected all attempts to determine the conditions of a future society ; too much stress cannot be laid on this point, for it shows that he took his stand outside middle-class science. The doctrine of the general strike also repudiates this science, and many professors consequently accuse the new school of having negative ideas only ; their own aim, on the other hand, is the noble one of constructing universal happiness. The leaders of social democracy, it seems to me, have not been very Marxian on this point ; a few years ago, Kautsky wrote a preface to a somewhat burlesque Utopia.^

I believe that among the motives which led Bernstein to part from his old friends must be counted the horror which he felt for their Utopias. If Bernstein had lived in France and had known our revolutionary Syndicalism, he would soon have perceived that the latter was on the true Marxian track ; but neither in England nor in Germany did he find a working-class movement which could guide him ; wishing to remain attached to realities, as Marx had been, he thought that it was better to carry on a policy of social reform, pursuing practical ends, than to lull himself to sleep to the soimd of fine phrases about the happiness of future himianity.

The worshippers of this useless pseudo science did not allow themselves to be stopped by the objection, legitimate in this case, that their methods of calculation were entirely inadequate of their means of determination. Their con- ception of science, being derived from astronomy, supposes

capital enlists the aid of science, the rebel hand of labour always learns how to be tractable " {Capital, Eng. trans., vol. i. p. 188, col. 2).

  • To use the language of the new school, science was considered from

the point of view of the consumer and not from the point of view of the producer.

  • Atlanticus, Ein Blick in den Zukunftsstaat. E. Seilli^re reviewed

this book in the DSbats of August 16, 1899.


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that everything can be expressed by some mathematical law. Evidently there are no laws of this kind in sociology ; but man is always susceptible to analogies connected with the forms of expression : it was thought that a high degree of perfection had been attained, and that already some- thing had been accomplished for science when — starting from a few principles not offensive to common sense, which seem confirmed by a few common experiences — it had been found possible to present a doctrine in a simple, clear, and deductive manner. This so-called science is simply chatter.^

The Utopists excelled in the art of exposition in accordance with these prejudices ; the more their exposi- tion satisfied the requirements of a school book, the more convincing they thought their inventions were. I believe that the contrary of this belief is the truth, and that we should distrust proposals for social reform all the more, when every difficulty seems solved in an apparently satis- factory manner.

I should like to examine here, very briefly, a few of the illusions which have arisen out of what may be called the little science?' which beUeves that when it has attained

  • " It has not been enough noticed how feeble is the reach of deduc-

tion in the psychological and moral sciences. . . . Very soon appeal has to be made to common sense, that is to say, to the continuous ex- perience of the real, in order to inflect the consequences deduced and bend them along the sinuosities of life. Deduction succeeds in things moral only metaphorically so to speak " (Bergson, Creative Evolution, p. 224). Newman had already written something similar to this, but in more precise terms : " Thus it is that the logician for his own purposes, and most usefully as far as these purposes are concerned, turns rivers, full, winding and beautiful, into navigable canals. . . . His business is not to ascertain facts in the concrete but to find and dress up middle terms ; and, provided they and the extremes which they go between are not equivocal, either in themselves or in their use. Sup- posing he can enable his pupils to show well in a viva voce disputation, ... he has achieved the main purpose of his profession " {Grammar of Assent, pp. 261-262). There is no weakness in this denunciation of small talk.

  • See note, p. 66.


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clarity of exposition that it has attained truth. This little science has contributed a great deal towards creating the crisis in Marxism, and every day we hear the new school accused of delighting in the obscurities of which Marx has so often been accused, while French Sociahsts and Belgian Sociologists, on the contrary, . . . !

Perhaps the best way of giving an accurate idea of the error committed by these sham scientists against whom the new school is waging war will be to examine the general characteristics of some social phenomena, and to run through some of the achievements of the mind, beginning with the highest.

A. (i) The positivists, who represent, in an eminent degree, mediocrity, pride, and pedantry, had decreed that philosophy was to give way before their science ; but philosophy is not dead, and it has acquired a new and vigorous lease of life thanks to Bergson, who far from wishing to reduce everything to science, has claimed for the philosopher the right to proceed in a manner quite opposed to that employed by the scientist. It might be said that metaphysics has reclaimed the lost ground by demonstrating to man the illusion of so-called scientific solutions, and by bringing the mind back to the mysterious region which the little science abhors. Positivism is still admired by a few Belgians, the employees of the Office du Travail,^ and General Andr6 ; ^ but these are people who count for very little in the world of thought.

(2) Religions do not seem to be on the point of dis- appearing. Liberal Protestantism is dying because it

1 This is the ofl&ce of the Minister for Labour, and is principally occupied with the Syndicates. It gives itself a certain socialistic air in the hope of duping the workmen.

  • A few years ago, this illustrious warrior (?) was instrumental in

blocking the candidature for the Collige de France of Paul Tennery (whose erudition was universally recognised in Europe) in favour of a positivist. The positivists constitute a lay congregation which is ready for any dirty work.


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attempted, at all costs, to give a perfectly rationalistic ex- position of Christian theology. Auguste Comte manufac- tured a caricature of Catholicism, in which he had retained only the administrative, hierarchical, and disciplinary machinery of that Church; his attempt obtained success only with those people who like to laugh at the simpHcity of their dupes. In the course of the nineteenth century, CathoUcism recovered strength to an extraordinary degree because it would abandon nothing ; it even strengthened its mysteries, and, what is very curious, it gains ground in cultivated circles >^ere the rationaHsm which was formerly in fashion at the University is scoffed at.^

(3) The old claim made by our fathers that they had created a science of art or even that they could describe a work of art in so adequate a manner that the reader could obtain from a book an exact aesthetic appreciation of a picture or of a statue, we look upon nowadays as a perfect example of pedantry. Taine's efforts in the direction first mentioned are very interesting, but only as regards the history of the various schools. His method gives us no useful information about the works themselves. As for the descriptions, they are only of value if the works themselves are of small aesthetic value, and if they belong to what is sometimes called literary painting. The poorest photograph of the Parthenon conveys a hundred times as much information as a volume devoted to the praise of the marvels of this monument ; it seems to me that the famous Frilre sur I'Acropole, so often praised as one of the finest passages in Renan, is a rather remarkable example of rhetoric, and that it is much more likely to render Greek art unintelligible to us than to make us admire the Parthenon. Despite all his enthusiasm for Diderot

  • Pascal protested eloquently against those who considered obscurity

an objection against Catholicism, and Bruneti^re was right in looking upon him as being one of the most anticartesian of the men of his time {Etudes critiques, 4« s6rie, pp. 144-149).


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(which is sometimes comical and expressed nonsensically), Joseph Reinach is obliged to acknowledge that his hero was lacking in artistic feeling in his famous Salons, because Diderot appreciated most of all those pictures which offered possibihties of literary dissertation,^ and Bruneti^re could say that Diderot's Salons were the corruption of criticism, because he discussed works of art in them as if they were books.*

The impotence of speech is due to the fact that art flourishes best on mystery, half shades and indeterminate outlines ; the more speech is methodical and perfect, the more likely is it to eliminate everything that distinguishes a masterpiece ; it reduces the masterpiece to the pro- portions of an academic product.

As a result of this preliminary examination of the three highest achievements of the mind, we are led to beUeve that it is possible to distinguish in every complex body of knowledge a clear and an obscure region, and to say that the latter is perhaps the more important. The mistake made by superficial people consists in the statement that this second part must disappear with the progress of enlightenment, and that eventually everything will be explained rationally in terms of the little science. This error is particularly revolting as regards art, and, above all, perhaps, as regards modem painting, which seeks more and more to render combinations of shades to which no attention was formerly paid on account of their lack of stabiUty and of the difficulty of rendering them by speech.*

B. (i) In ethics, the part that can be expressed easily,

1 J. ReinsLch,9Diderot, pp. 116-117, 125-127, 131-132.

« Bruneti^re, Evolution des genres, p. 122. Elsewhere he calls Diderot a philistine, p. 153.

» It is to the credit of the impressionists that they showed that these fine shades can be rendered by painting ; but some few among them soon began to paint according to the formulas of a school, and then there appeared a scandalous contrast between their works and their avowed aims.


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in clearly reasoned expositions, is that which has reference to the equitable relations between men ; it contains maxims which are to be found in many different civilisa- tions ; consequently it was for a long time believed that a resume of these precepts might form the basis of a natural morality appHcable to the whole of humanity. The obscure part of morality is that which has reference to sexual relationships, and this part is not easily expressed in formulas ; to imderstand it thoroughly you must have lived in a country for a great number of years. It is, more- over, the fundamental part ; when it is known the whole psychology of a people is understood ; the supposed uniformity of the first system in reaUty then conceals many differences ; almost identical maxims may corre- spond to very different appUcations ; their clearness was only a delusion.

(2) In legislation, everybody sees immediately that the law regulating contracts and debts constitutes the obvious part, that which is called scientific ; here again there is great uniformity in the rules adopted by different peoples, and it was believed that it was eminently desirable to draw up a common code founded on a rational revision of those which existed, but in practice it is again foimd that, in different countries, the courts generally attach different meanings to these supposed common principles ; that is because there is something individual and particular in each maxim.

The mysterious region is the family, which influences all social relationships. Le Play was very much struck by an opinion of Tocqueville on this subject : "I am astonished," said this great thinker, "that ancient and modem publicists have not attributed a greater influence on the progress of human affairs to the laws of inherit- ance. These laws, it is true, refer to civil private affairs, but they should be placed at the head of all political institutions, for they have an incredible influence on the


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social state of peoples, of which state the pohtical laws are only the expression/' ^ This remark governed all the researches of Le Play.

This division of legislation into a clear and an obscure region has one curious consequence : it is very rare for people who are not members of the legal professions to undertake any discussion of equity ; they know that it is necessary to have an intimate knowledge of certain rules of law, in order to be able to argue about these questions : an outsider would run the risk of making himself ridiculous if he were to venture on an opinion ; but on the question of divorce, of paternal authority, of inheritance, every man of letters beheves himself as learned as the cleverest lawyer, because in this obscure region there are no well-defined principles, nor regular deductions.

(3) In economics, the same distinction is, perhaps, still more evident ; questions relative to exchange can be easily expounded ; the methods of exchange are very much aUke in the different countries, and it is hardly Ukely that any very violent paradoxes will be made about monetary circulation. On the other hand, everything relative to production presents a complexity which is sometimes inextricable ; it is in production that locsd traditions are most strongly maintained ; ridiculous Utopias regarding production may be invented indefinitely without revolting the common sense of readers. Nobody denies that production is the fimdamental part of any economic system ; this is a truth which plays a great part in Mcirxism, and which has been acknowledged even by authors who have been unable to imderstand its importance.*

1 Tocqueville, Dimocratie en Amirique, tome i. chap. iii. Le Play, Reforme sociale en France, chap. xvii. 4.

  • In my Introduction d I'economie moderne I have shown how this

distinction may be used to throw light on many questions which had


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C. Let us now examine how Parliamentary assemblies work. For a long time it was believed that their principal function was that of arguing out the most important questions of social organisation, and, above all, those relating to the constitution. In such matters it is possible to proceed from first principles by way of deduction to clear and concise conclusions. Our forefathers excelled in this scholastic type of argument, which forms the luminous part of political discussions. Now that the question of the constitution is scarcely ever discussed, certain great laws still give rise to fine oratorical tourna- ments ; thus on the question of the separation of the Chruch and the State, the professional expounders of first principles were heard and even applauded ; it was the opinion of all that the debates had rarely reached so high a level, and this was because the question was one that lent itself to academic discussion. But when, as more frequently happens, commercial laws or social measures are discussed, then we see the stupidity of our representa- tives displayed in all its splendour ; ministers, presidents, or rapporteurs de commissions} speciaHsts, vie with each other in displays of stupidity ; the reason for this is that we are now dealing with economic questions, and the mind is no longer guided by simple rules ; in order to be able to give an opinion worthy of consideration on these questions, one must have had a practical acquaintance with them, and our honourable members cannot be said to possess this kind of knowledge. Among them may be found many representatives of the litUe science ; on July 5, 1905, a well-known speciaHst in venereal diseases *

till then remained exceedingly obscure, and notably to show the exact value of certain important arguments used by Proudhon.

1 [Laws in France are discussed by a committee elected by the Chamber ; they alter the text of the law, and it is the duty of the rap- porteur, named by the committee, to defend the amended text in open discussion in the Chamber. — Trans. Note.]

  • Doctor Augagneur was for a long time one of the glories of that


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declared that he had not studied political economy, having " a certain mistrust for that conjectural science." We must doubtless understand from this that it is more difficult to argue about production than it is to diagnose syphiUs.

The little science has engendered a fabulous number of sophistries which we continually come across, and which go down very well with the people who possess the stupid and mediocre culture distributed by the University. These sophistries consist in putting very different things on the same plane from a love of logical simplicity ; thus sexual morality is reduced to the equitable relations between contracting parties, the family code to that regulating debts and agreements, and production to exchange.

Because, in nearly every country and in every age, the State has undertaken to regulate circulation, both of money and of banknotes, or has laid down a legal system of measures, it does not by any means follow that there would be the same advantage in entrusting to the State, for mere love of imiformity, the management of great enterprises : yet this argument is one of those which appeal most strongly to many medical students and nurslings of the School of Law. I am convinced that Jaur^s'is even now imable to understand why industry has been abandoned by lazy legislators to the anarchical tendencies of egotists ; if production is really the base of ever5rthing, as Marx says, it is criminal not to place it in the front rank, not to subject it to a great legislative action, conceived on the same lines as those parts of legislation which owe their clearness to their abstract character, ix. not to order and arrange it so that it rests


class of Intellectuals who looked upon Socialism as a variety of Drey- fusism ; his great protests in favour of Justice have brought him to the governorship of Madagascar, which proves that virtue is sometimes rewarded.


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on great principles analogous to those which are brought forward when constitutional laws are discussed.

Sociahsm is necessarily very obscure, since it deals with production, i.e, with the most mysterious part of human activity, and since it proposes to bring about a radical transformation of that region which it is impossible to describe with the clearness that is to be found in more superficial regions. No effort of thought, no progress of knowledge, no rational induction will ever dispel the mystery which envelops Sociahsm ; and it is because the philosophy of Marx recognised fully this feature of Socialism that it acquired the right to serve as the starting-point of Socialist inquiry.

But we must hasten to add that this obscurity lies only in the language by which we endeavour to describe the methods of realising Sociahsm ; this obscurity may be said to be scholastic only ; it does not in the least prevent us picturing the proletarian movement in a way that is exact, complete, and striking, and this may be achieved by the aid of that powerful construction which the proletarian mind has conceived in the course of social conflicts, and which is called the " general strike." It must never be forgotten that the perfection of this method of representa- tion would vanish in a moment if any attempt were made to resolve the general strike into a sum of historical details ; the general strike must he taken as a whole and undivided, and the passage from capitalism to Socialism conceived as a catastrophe, the development of which baffles description.

The professors of the little science are really difficult to satisfy. They assert very loudly that they will only admit into thought abstractions analogous to those used in the deductive sciences : as a matter of fact, this is a rule which is insufficient for purposes of action, for we do nothing great without the help of warmly-coloured and clearly-defined images, which absorb the whole of oiu*


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attention ; now, is it possible to find anything more satisfying from their point of view than the general strike ? But, reply the professors, we ought to rely only on those reaUties which are given by experience : is, then, the picture of the general strike made up of tendencies which were not obtained directly from observation of the revolutionary movement ? Is it a work of pure reason, manufactured by indoor scientists attempting to solve the social problem according to the rules of logic ? Is it something arbitrary ? Is it not, on the contrary, a spontaneous product analogous to those others which students of history come across in periods of action ? They insist, and say that man ought not to let himself be carried away by his impulses without submitting them to the control of his inteUigence, whose rights are unchallenged ; nobody dreams of disputing them ; of course, this picture of the general strike must be tested, and that is what I have tried to do above ; but the critical spirit does not consist in replacing historical data by the charlatanism of a sham science.

If it is desired to criticise the basis of the idea of the general strike, the attack must be directed against the revolutionary tendencies which it groups together, and shows as in action ; by no other method worthy of attention can you hope to prove to the revolutionaries that they are wrong in giving all their energies to the cause of Socialism, and that their real interests would be better served if they were politicians ; they have known this for a long time, and their choice is made ; as they do not take up a utilitarian standpoint, any advice which you may give will be in vain.

We are perfectly well aware that the historians of the futiue are bound to discover that we laboiu"ed under many illusions, because they will see behind them a finished world. We, on the other hand, must act, and nobody can tell us to-day what these historians will know ;


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nobody can furnish us with the means of modifying our motor images in such a way as to avoid their criticisms.

Our situation resembles somewhat that of the physicists who work at huge calculations based on theories which are not destined to endure for ever. We have nowadays abandoned all hope of discovering a complete science of nature ; the spectacle of modem scientific revolutions is not encouraging for scientists, and has no doubt led many people, naturally enough, to proclaim the bankruptcy of science, and yet we should be mad if we handed the management of industry over to sorcerers, mediums, and wonder-workers. The philosopher who does not seek to make a practical application of his theories may take up the point of view of the future historian of science, and then dispute the absolute character of present-day scientific theses ; but he is as ignorant as the present-day physicist when he is asked how to correct the explanations given by the latter ; must he therefore take refuge in scepticism ?

Nowadays no philosophers worthy of consideration accept the sceptical position ; their great aim, on the contrary, is to prove the legitimacy of a science which, however, makes no claim to know the real nature of things, and which confines itself to discovering relations which can be utilised for practical ends. It is because sociology is in the hands of people who are incapable of any philo- sophic reasoning that it is possible for us to be attacked (in the name of the little science) for being content with methods founded on the laws that a really thorough psychological analysis reveals as fundamental in the genesis of action, and which are revealed to us in all great historical movements.

To proceed scientifically means, first of all, to know what forces exist in the world, and then to take measures whereby we may utilise them, by reasoning from experience. That is why I say that, by accepting the idea of the general


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strike, although we know that it is a mjrth, we are pro- ceeding exactly as a modem physicist does who has complete confidence in his science, although he knows that the future will look upon it as antiquated. It is we who really possess the scientific spirit, while our critics have lost touch both with modem science and modem philosophy ; and having proved this, we are quite easy in our minds.


CHAPTER V

THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE

I. Use made of the syndicates by politicians — Pressure on Parlia- ments — The general strike in Belgium and Russia.

II. Differences in the two currents of ideas corresponding to the two conceptions of the general strike : class war ; the State ; the aristocracy of thought.

III. Jealousy fostered by politicians — War as a source of heroism

and as pillage — Dictatorship of the proletariat and its historical antecedents.

IV. Force and Violence — Marx's ideas about force — Necessity of a

new theory in the case of proletarian violence.


Politicians are people whose wits are singularly sharpened by their voracious appetites, and in whom the himt for fat jobs develops the cunning of Apaches. They hold purely proletarian organisations in horror, and discredit them as much as they can ; frequently they even deny their efficacity, in the hope of alienating the workers from groups which, they say, have no future. But when they perceive that their hatred is powerless, that their abuse does not hinder the working of these detested organisa- tions, and that these have become strong, then they seek to turn to their own profit the forces which the pro- letariat has created.

The co-operative societies were for a long time denoimced as useless to the workers ; since they have

168


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prospered, more than one politician has cast languishing eyes on their cash-box, and would like to see the party supported by the income from the bakery and the grocery, as the Israelite consistories in many countries live on the dues from the Jewish butchers.^

The syndicates may be very useful in electoral pro- paganda ; a certain amount of skill is needed to utihse them profitably, but politicians do not lack lightness of finger. Gu^rard, the secretary of the railway syndicate, was once one of the most ardent revolutionaries in France ; in the end, however, it was borne in upon him that it was easier to play with poUtics than to prepare for the general strike; 2 he is to-day one of those men in whom the Direction du Travail has most confidence, and in 1902 he went to a great deal of trouble in order to secure the return of Millerand to Parliament. There is a very large railway station in the constituency which the Socialist minister sought to represent, and, without the support of Gu^rard, Millerand would probably have been defeated. In the Socialiste of September 14, 1902, a Guesdist denounced this conduct, which seemed to him doubly

1 In Algeria the scandals in the administration of the consistories (the administrative councils of the Jewish community), which had become sinks of electoral corruption, compelled the Government to reform them ; but the recent law respecting the separation of the Churches and the State will probably bring about a return to the old practices.

  • An attempt to organise a railway strike was made in 1898 ; Joseph

Reinach says this about it : "A very shady individual, Gu6rard, who had founded an association of railway workers and employees which had a membership of 20,000, intervened (in the conflict with the navvies of Paris) with the announcement of a general strike of his syndicate. . . . Brisson authorised search warrants, had the stations guarded by soldiery, and placed lines of sentinels along the track; nobody came out " (Histoirede V affaire Dreyfus, tome iv. pp. 310-31 1. Nowadays the Gu6rard syndicate is in such good odour with the Government that the latter has granted it permission to start a big lottery. On May 14, 1907, Clemenceau spoke of it in the Chamber as a body of " sensible and reasonable people," opposed to the goings-on of the Confederation du Travail.


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scandalous since, in the first place, the congress of railway workers had decided that the syndicate should not enter into politics and, secondly, because a former deputy, a Guesdist, was Millerand's opponent. The author of the article feared that " the corporative groups were on the wrong track, and that, although they started out to utilise poHtics, they might finally find themselves the tools of a party." He was quite right ; in any deals between the representatives of the syndicates and poli- ticians, it will always be the latter who will reap the greater advantage.

PoHticians have more than once intervened in strikes, desiring to destroy the prestige of their adversaries and to capture the confidence of the workers. The Longwy dock strikes, in 1905, arose out of the efforts of a Republican federation which attempted to organise the syndicates that might possibly serve its poUcy as against that of the employers ; ^ the business did not quite take the turn desired by the promoters of the movement, who were not familiar enough with this kind of operation. Some SociaUst poHticians, on the contrary, possess consummate skill in combining instincts of revolt into electoral forces. It was inevitable, therefore, that a few people should be struck by the idea that the great movements of the masses might be used for political ends.

The history of England affords more than one example of a Government giving way when numerous demonstra- tions against its proposals took place, even though it was strong enough to repel by force any attack on existing institutions. It seems to be an admitted principle of Parliamentary Government that the majority cannot persist in pursuing schemes which give rise to popular demonstrations of too serious a kind. It is one of the appHcations of the system of compromise on which this regime is f oimded ; no law is valid when it is looked upon

  • Mouvement socialiste, December 1-15, 1905, p. 130.


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by a minority as being so oppressive that it rouses them to violent opposition. Great riotous demonstrations are an indication that the moment is not far off when an armed revolt might break out ; Governments which are respectful of the old traditions give way before such demonstrations.^

Between the first simple threat of trouble and a riot a general political strike might take place, which might assimie any one of a large number of forms : it might be peaceful and of short duration, its aim being to show the Government that it is on the wrong track, and that there are forces which could resist it ; it might also be the first act of a series of bloody riots.

During the last few years Parliamentary Socialists have not been so sure that they would soon come into power, and they have recognised that their authority in the two Houses is not destined to increase indefinitely. When there are no exceptionad circumstances to force the Government to buy their support with large con- cessions, their Parliamentary power is very much reduced. It would therefore be a great advantage to them if they could bring outside pressure to bear on recalcitrant majorities which would appear to threaten the Con- servatives with a formidable insurrection.

If there were in existence rich working-class federations, highly centraUsed and in a position to impose a strict discipline on their members, Socialist deputies would not have very much trouble in inflicting their leadership occasionally on their Parliamentary colleagues. All that they would have to do would be to take advantage of an

1 The clerical party thought that it would be able to make use of these tactics to block the application of the law regarding the congrega- tions ; it hoped that some show of violence would cause the Govern- ment to give way, but the latter stuck to its guns, and it may be said that one of the mainsprings of the Parliamentary system was thus broken, since there arc fewer obstacles than formerly to the dictator- ship of Parliament.


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Opportunity that was favourable to a movement of revolt, in order to stop some branch of industry for a few days. It has more than once been proposed that the Govern- ment should be brought to a standstill in this fashion by a stoppage in the working of the mines or of the railways.^ For such tactics to produce the full effect desired, the strike must break out unexpectedly at the word of com- mand of the party, and must stop when the latter has signed a compact with the Government. It is for these reasons that politicians are so very much in favour of the centralisation of the syndicates, and that they talk so much about discipHne.^ It is to be understood, of course, that this discipline is one which must subject the proletariat to their command. Associations which are very decentralised and grouped into Bourses du Travail would offer them far fewer guarantees of success ; so that all those who are not in favour of a solid concentration of the proletariat round the party leaders are regarded by the latter as anarchists.

The political general strike has this immense advan- tage, that it does not greatly imperil the precious lives of the pohticians ; it is an improvement on the moral in- surrection which the " Mountain " made use of in the month of May 1793, in order to force the Convention to expel the Girondists from its midst ; Jaures, who is afraid of alarming his clients, the financiers (just as the members

1 In 1890 the National Congress at Lille of the Guesdist party passed a resolution by which it declared that the general strike of the miners was actually possible, and that a general strike of the miners by itself would bring about the results that are expected in vain from a stoppage of every trade.

  • " There may be room in the party for individual initiative, but

the arbitrary fancies of the individual must be put down. The safety of the party lies in its laws ; we must steadfastly abide by them. It is the constitution freely chosen by ourselves which binds us together, and which will enable us to conquer together or to die." Thus spoke a learned exponent of Socialism at the National Council (Socialiste, October 7, 1905). If a Jesuit expressed himself thus, there would be an outcry about monkish fanaticism.


THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE 173

of the " Mountain " were afraid of alarming the Depart- ments), admires exceedingly any movement which is free from the violent acts that distress humanity ; ^ he is not, therefore, an irreconcilable opponent of the political general strike.

Recent events have given a very great impetus to the idea of the general political strike. The Belgians obtained the reform of the Constitution by a display which has been decorated, perhaps rather ambitiously, with the name of general strike. It now appears that these events did not have the tragic aspect they have been sometimes credited with : the ministry was very pleased to be put in a position to compel the House to accept an electoral bill which the majority disapproved of ; many Liberal employers were very much opposed to this ultra-clerical majority ; what happened, therefore, was something quite contrary to a proletarian general strike, since the workers served the ends of the State and of the capitalists. Since those already far-off times there has been another attempt to bring pressure to bear on the central authority, with a view to establishing a more democratic system of suffrage ; this attempt failed completely ; the ministry, this time, was no longer secretly on the side of the promoters of the bill, and they did not force its adoption. Many Belgians were very much astonished at their failure, and could not under- stand why the king did not dismiss his ministers to please the Socialists ; he had formerly insisted on the resigna- tion of his clerical ministers in face of a display of Liberal feeling; in fact, this king in their opinion understood nothing of his duties, and, as was said at the time, he was only a pasteboard king.

This Belgian incident is not without interest, because it brings home to us the fact that the proletarian general

1 J. Jaur^s, La Convention, p. 1384.


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strike and the political general strike are diametrically opposed to one another. Belgium is one of the countries where the Sjmdicalist movement is weakest ; the whole Socialist organisation is founded on the bakers', grocers', and haberdashers' shops that are run by committees of the party ; the worker, accustomed from of old to a clerical discipline, remains an inferior, who believes him- self obliged to follow the leadership of people who sell him the commodities he needs at a slight reduction, and who din catholic or socialistic speeches into his ears. Not only do we find grocery set up as a priestcraft, but it is also from Belgium that we get the well-known theory of public services against which Guesde wrote such a violent pamphlet in 1883, and which Deville called in the same year a Belgian imitation of collectivism. ^ The whole of Belgian Socialism tends towards the development of State industrialism and the constitution of a class of State- workers who would be firmly disciplined under the iron hand of leaders accepted by democracy.* It is quite natural, therefore, that in such a coimtry the general strike should be conceived in a political form ; in such conditions the only aim of popular insurrection must be to take the power from one group of politicians and to hand it over to another — the people still remaining the passive beast that bears the yoke.'

The recent troubles in Russia have helped to popularise

1 Deville, Le Capital, p. lo.

  • Paul Leroy-Beaulieu recently proposed to call the whole body of

Government employees " the Fourth Estate," and those in private employment " the Fifth Estate " ; he said that the first tended to form hereditary castes {Dilats, November 28, 1905). As time goes on, the distinction between the two groups will grow more pronounced ; the first group is a great source of support to Socialist politicians, who desire to transform it into a perfectly disciplined corporation capable of taking the lead in the working-class movement; thus, by the inter- mediacy of the employees of the State, the Parliamentarians would govern the more easily the workers in private industry.

» This does not prevent Vandervelde from comparing the future world to the Abbey of Thelema, celebrated by Rabelais, where every-


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the idea of the general strike among professional politicians. Many people were surprised at the results produced by great concerted stoppages of work ; but what really happened and what followed from these disturbances is not very well known. People who are acquainted with the country believe that Witte was hand in glove with many of the revolutionaries, and that he was dehghted at being able to obtain, by terrifying the Czar, the dismissal of his enemies and the grant of institutions which, in his opinion, would put obstacles in the way of any retrnn to the old regime. It is very remarkable that for a long time the Government seemed paralysed, and in the adminis- tration anarchy was at its height, while, from the moment Witte thought it necessary in his personal interests to act vigorously, repression was rapid ; that day arrived (as several people had foreseen) when the financiers needed to revive Russian credit. It seems hardly probable that previous insurrections ever had the irresistible power attributed to them ; the Petit Parisien, which was one of the French newspapers that had advertised ^ the fame of Witte, said that the great strike of October 1905 came to an end on account of the hunger of the workers ; accord- ing to this newspaper, the strike had even been prolonged for a day in the hope that the Poles would take part in the movement, and would obtain concessions as the Finns had done; then it congratulated the Poles for having been wise enough not to budge, and for not having given a pre- text for German intervention {Petit Parisien, November 7, 1905)-

body did as he pleased, and from saying that he aspires to an " anarchist community " (Destree and Vandervelde, Le Socialisme en Belgiqvte, p. 289). Oh, the magic of big words !

I Many French papers advertised the merits of the Russian minister, Witte, exactly as they advertised cures made by patent medicines. The French press receives at all time large subventions from the Russian embassy, but in this period Witte spent much more than usual, in order to secure his continuance in office by quoting French opinion.


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We must not allow ourselves, therefore, to be too much dazzled by certain descriptions, and Ch. Bonnier was right when, in the Socialiste of November i8, 1905, he cast doubt on the truth of the account which had been given of the course of events in Russia ; he had always been an irreconcilable opponent of the general strike, and he pointed out that there was no resemblance at all between what had happened in Russia and what the " genuine Syndicalists in France " look forward to. In his opinion, the strike in Russia had merely been the con- summation of a very complex process, one method out of the many employed, which had succeeded owing to the exceptionally favourable circumstances in which it had developed.

We have here, then, a criterion which will serve to distinguish two kinds of movement generally designated by the same name. We have studied a proletarian general strike, which is one undivided whole ; now we have to consider the general political strike, which combines the incidents of economic revolt with many other elements depending on systems foreign to the industrial system. In the first case, no detail ought to be considered by itself ; in the second, everything depends on the art with which heterogeneous details are combined. In this case the parts must be considered separately, their importance estimated, and an attempt made to harmonise them. One would think that such a task ought to be looked upon as purely Utopian (or even quite absurd) by the people who are in the habit of bringing forward so many practical objections to the proletarian general strike ; but if the proletariat, left to itself, can do nothing, poU- ticians are equal to anjrthing. Is it not one of the dogmas of democracy that the genius of demagogues can over- come all obstacles ?

I will not stop here to discuss what chances of success


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these tactics have, and I leave it to the stock-jobbers who read L'Humanite to discover how the general political strike may be prevented from degenerating into anarchy. My only concern in the following pages will be to throw full light on the difference between the two conceptions of the general strike.


II

We have seen that the idea of the S5mdicalist general strike contains within itself the whole of proletarian Socialism ; not only are all its real elements found therein, but they are moreover grouped in the same way as in social struggles, and their movements are exactly those proper to their nature. It would be impossible to find any image which would represent equally well the political form of Socialism, and which could be contrasted with the proletarian conception of it as represented by the general strike ; yet, by making the political general strike the pivoting point in the tactics of those Socialists who are at the same time revolutionary and Parliamentary, it becomes possible to obtain an exact notion of what it is that separates the latter from the Syndicalists.

A. To begin with, we perceive immediately that the political general strike does not presuppose a class war concentrated on a field of battle in which the proletariat attacks the middle class ; the division of society into two antagonistic armies disappears, for this class of revolt is possible with any kind of social structure. In the past many revolutions were the result of coalitions between discontented groups ; SociaUst writers have often pointed out that the poorer classes have more than once allowed themselves to be massacred to no purpose, save to place power in the hands of new rulers who, with great astuteness, had managed to utilise for their own


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advantage a passing discontent of the people against the former authorities.

It seems, indeed, that the Russian Liberals had hoped to see something of the kind happen in 1905 ; they were delighted at the nmnber of peasant and working-class insurrections ; it has even been asserted that they heard with great satisfaction of the reverses of the army in Manchuria. 1 They beUeved that the Government, getting alarmed, would have recourse to their enhghtenment ; as there is a large niunber of sociologists among them, the litUe science would thus have obtained a huge success ; but it is probable that the people would have been left to twiddle their thumbs.

It is, I suppose, for much the same kind of reason that the capitalistic shareholders of UHumaniti are such ardent admirers of certain strikes ; they look upon the proletariat as a very convenient instnmient with which to clear the ground, and they feel certain from their study of history that it will always be possible for a Socialist Government to bring rebels to reason. Moreover, are not the laws against anarchists, made in an hour of madness, still care- fully preserved on the Statute books ? They are stigma- tised as rascally laws ; but they may yet serve to protect capitalist-socialists.^

B. (i) Further, imder the influence of this conception it would no longer be true to say that the whole organisa- tion of the proletariat was contained within revolutionary

  • The correspondent of the DibcUs, in the issue of November 25, 1906,

related how the members of the Duma had congratulated a Japanese journalist on the victories of his compatriots. (Cf . the Dibats, December 25. 1907.)

• We may also ask how much the old enemies of military justice desire the abolition of the courts martial. For a long time, the National- ists were able to maintain viith some show of reason that they were retained in order that Drejrfus, if the Court of Cassation ordered a third trial, should not be brought up before a Court of Assizes; a court martial can be more easily packed than a jury.


THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE ijg

Syndicalism. Since the Syndicalist general strike would no longer be the entire revolution, other organisations would have been created side by side with the syndicates ; as the strike could only be one detail cunningly dovetailed into many other incidents which must be set going at the propitious moment, the syndicates would have to await the word of command of the political committees, or at least work in perfect unison with the committees which represent the superior intelligence of the Sociahst move- ment. In Italy Ferri has symbolised this unison in a rather comical manner, by saying that Socialism has need of two legs ; this figure of speech was borrowed from Lessing, who Httle thought that it might become one of the principles of sociology. In the second scene of Minna von Barnhelm, the innkeeper says to Just that a man cannot stand on one glass of brandy any more than he can walk on one leg ; he also adds that all good things are three in niunber, and that a rope of four strands is all the stronger. I am not aware that sociology has made any use of these other aphorisms, which- are worth just as much as the one Ferri misused.

(2) If the SyndicaUst general strike is connected with the idea of an era of great economic progress, the political general strike calls up rather that of a period of decadence. Experience shows that classes on the downgrade are more easily captured by the fallacious harangues of pohticians than classes on the upgrade, so that there seems to be a close relation between the political perspicacity of men and the conditions imder which they hve. Prosperous classes may often act very imprudently, because they have too much confidence in their own strength ; they face the future with too much boldness, and they are overcome for the moment by a frenzied desire for renown. Enfeebled classes habitually put their trust in people who promise them the protection of the State, without ever trying to understand how this protection could possibly


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harmonise their discordant interests ; they readily enter into every coaUtion formed for the purpose of forcing concessions from the Government ; they greatly admire charlatans who speak with a glib tongue. Socialism must be exceedingly careful if it is not to fall to the level of what Engels called bombastic antisemitism.^ and the advice of Engels on this point has not always been followed.

The political general strike presupposes that very diverse social groups shall possess the same faith in the magical force of the State ; this faith is never lacking in social groups which are on the downgrade, and its existence enables windbags to represent themselves as able to do everything. The political general strike would be greatly helped by the stupidity of philanthropists, and this stupidity is always a result of the degeneration of the rich classes. Its chances of success would be enhanced by the fact that it would have to deal with cowardly and discouraged capitalists.

(3) Under such conditions it would no longer be possible to ignore plans of the future state of society ; these plans on which Marx poured ridicule, and which the Syndicalist general strike ignores, would become an essential element of the new system. A political general strike could not be proclaimed until it was known with absolute certainty that the complete framework of the future organisation

1 Engels feared that the Socialists, in order to gain adherents in the electoral struggles rapidly, would make promises which were contrary to Marxist doctrine. The antisemites told the peasants and the small shopkeepers that they would protect them from the development of capitalism. Engels thought that an imitation of this procedure would be dangerous, since, in his opinion, the social revolution could only be realised when capitalism had almost completely destroyed the small proprietors and small industries ; if the Socialists, then, endeavoured to hinder this evolution, they would ultimately compromise their own cause. Engels did not know that the French Socialists (whose agrarian programme he was criticising) had often made such promises, and that several Socialist deputies were very friendly with Drumont. Engels, "La Question agraire et le Socialisme," in the Mouvement socialistem October 15, 1900, p. 462. Cf. pp. 458-459 and p. 463.


THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE i8i

was ready. That is what Jaur^s intended to convey in his articles of 1901 when he said that modem society " will recoil from an enterprise as indeterminate and as empty (as the Syndicalist strike) as one draws back from a precipice." ^

There are plenty of young barristers, briefless and likely to remain so, who have filled enormous note-books with their detailed projects for the social organisation of the future. If we have not yet been favoured with the breviary of the revolution which Lucien Herr announced in 1900, we know at least that regulations have been framed for the estabUshment of the book-keeping branch of collectivist society, and Tarbouriech has even gone into the question of the printed forms to be recommended for the use of the future bureaucracy.^ Jaur^s is con- tinually bewailing the fact that so many lights are con- demned to remain hidden imder the capitalist bushel ; and he feels convinced that the revolution depends very much less on the conditions Marx had in mind than on the efiEorts of imknown geniuses.

C. I have already called attention to the terrible nature of the revolution as conceived by Marx and the SyndicaHsts, and I have said that it is very important that its character of absolute and irrevocable transformation should be preserved, because it is that which gives SociaUsm its high educational value. The comfort-loving followers of our politicians could not view with any approval the pro- foimdly serious work which is being carried on by the proletariat ; the former desire to reassure the middle

1 Jaures, t.tudes socialistes, p. 107.

  • Many idiotically serious things like thj*' may be found in

Tarbouriech's CiU future. People who call themselves well-informed say that Arthur Fontaine, Directeur du Travail, has some astonishing solutions of the social question in his portfolios, and that he will reveal them on the day he retires. Our successors will bless him for having saved up for them pleasures we shall not know.


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class, and promise not to allow the people to give them- selves up entirely to their anarchical instincts. They explain to the middle class that they do not by any means dream of suppressing the great State machine, but wise SociaHsts desire two things : (i) to take possession of this machine so that they may improve its works, and make them nm to further their friends* interests as much as possible, and {2) to assure the stability of the Government, which will be very advantageous for all business men. Tocqueville had observed that, since the beginning of the nineteenth century, the administrative institutions of France having changed very Uttle, revolutions had no longer produced any very great upheavals.^ SociaUst financiers have not read Tocqueville, but theyimderstand instinctively that the preservation of a highly centraUsed, very authori- tative and very democratic State puts immense resources at their disposal, and protects them from proletarian revolution. The transformations which their friends, the Parhamentary Socialists, may carry out will always be of a very limited scope, and it will always be possible, thanks to the State, to correct any imprudences they may conunit.

The general strike of the Syndicalists drives away from SociaUsm all financiers in quest of adventures ; the political strike rather pleases these gentlemen, because it would be carried out in circumstances favourable to the power of politicians, and consequently to the operations of their financial allies.^

  • Tocqueville, VAricien RSgime et la R^olution, p. 297.
  • In the Avant-Garde of October 29, 1905, may be read the report

of Lucien Rolland to the National Council of the Unified Socialist Party on the election at Florae of Louis Dreyfus, a speculator in grain and shareholder of L'HumaniU. " I was greatly pained," says Rolland, " to hear one of the rois de I'ipogue (kings of the time) speak in the name of our Internationale, of our red flag, of our principles, and cry, ' Long live the social republic ! ' " Those whose only knowledge of this election has been gained from the official report published in the Socialiste of October 28, 1905, will have gained a singularly false idea of it.


THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE 183

Marx supposes, exactly as the Syndicalists do, that the revolution will be absolute and irrevocable, because it will place the forces of production in the hands oifree men, i.e. of men who will be capable of running the workshop created by capitaUsm without any need of masters. This conception would not at all suit the financiers and the politicians whom they support, for both are only fit to exercise the noble profession of masters. Therefore, the authors of all enquiries into moderate Socialism are forced to acknowledge that the latter implies the division of society into two groups : the first of these is a select body, organised as a political party, which has adopted the mission of thinking for the thoughtless masses, and which imagines that, because it allows the latter to enjoy the results of its superior enlightenment, it has done some- thing admirable.^ The second is the whole body of the producers. The select body of politicians has no other profession than that of using its wits, and they find that it is strictly in accordance with the principles of immanent justice (of which they are sole owners) that the proletariat should work to feed them and furnish them with the means for an existence that only distantly resembles an ascetic's.

This division is so evident that generally no attempt is made to hide it : the officials of Socialism constantly speak of the party as of an organism having a life of its own. At the International SociaUst Congress of 1900, the party was warned against the danger it ran in f oUow-

Of&cial Socialist documents should be mistrusted. I do not believe that, during the Dreyfus case, the friends of the general stafE ever distorted truth so much as the ofi&cial Socialists did on this occasion.

The fourieriste Tousseil published in the reign of Louis-Philippe a book entitled Les Juifs rois de I'epoque, in which he attacked the great speculators. Holland is alluding to this, and wishes to recall the fact that L. Dreyfus was a large speculator in corn.

1 The Intellectuals are not, as is so often said, men who think : they are people who have adapted the profession of thinking, and who take an aristocratic salary on account of the itobility of this profession.


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ing a policy which might separate it too much from the proletariat ; it must inspire the masses with confidence if it desires to have their support on the day of the great battle.^ The great reproach which Marx levelled at his adversaries in the Alliance was this separation of the leaders and the led, which had the effect of reinstating the State — and which is to-day so marked in Germany — and elsewhere.

Ill

A. We will now carry our analysis of the ideas grouped round the political strike a little farther, and enquire first of all what becomes of the notion of class.

(i) It will no longer be possible to distinguish the classes by the place occupied by their members in capital- istic production ; we go back to the old distinction between rich groups and poor groups — such was the division between the classes as it appeared to those older Socialists who sought to reform the iniquities of the actual distribu- tion of riches. The ** social Catholics " take up this position also, and endeavour to improve the lot of the poor, not only by charity, but also by a large number of institutions which aim at a mitigation of the wretchedness caused by the capitahst industrial system. It seems that even to-day things are considered from this point of view in circles that admire Jaures as a prophet ; I have been told that the latter sought to convert Buisson to SociaHsm by making an appeal to the goodness of his heart, and that these two soothsayers had a very ludicrous discussion as to the best way to remedy the defects of society.

» For example, Vaillant says : " Since we have to fight this great battle, do you think that we can win it if we have not the proletariat behind us ? We must have the proletariat ; and we shall not have it if we have discouraged it, if we have shown it that the Party no longer represents its interests, no longer represents the war of the working class against the capitalist class " {Cahiers de la Quinzaine, i6« de la II« serie, pp. 159-160). This number contains the shorthand note of the proceedings at the Congress.


THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE 185

The masses believe that they are suffering from the iniquitous consequences of a past which was full of violence, ignorance, and wickedness ; they are confident that the genius of their leaders will render them less unhappy ; they believe that democracy, if it were only free, would replace a malevolent hierarchy by a benevo- lent hierarchy.

The leaders, who foster this sweet illusion in their men, see the situation from quite another point of view ; the present social organisation revolts them just in so far as it creates obstacles to their ambition ; they are less shocked by the existence of the classes than by their own inability to attain to the positions already acquired by older men ; when they have penetrated far enough into the sanctuaries of the State, into drawing-rooms and places of amusement, they cease, as a rule, to be revolutionary and speak learnedly of " evolution."

(2) The sentiment of revolt which is met with in the poorer classes will henceforth be coloured by a violent jealousy. Our democratic newspapers foster this passion with considerable skill, imagining that this is the best means of dulling the minds of their readers and of keeping up the circulation of the paper ; they exploit the scandals which arise from time to time among the rich ; they lead their readers to feel a savage pleasure when they see shame entering the household of one of the great ones of the earth. With a really astonishing impudence, they pretend that they are thus serving the cause of the superfine morality, which they hold as much at heart, they say, as the well- being and the liberty of the poorer classes ! But it is probable that their own interests are the sole motives for their actions. ^

1 I note here, in passing, that the Petit Parisien, the importance of which as an organ of the pohcy of social reform is so great, took up strongly the case of the Princess of Saxony and the charming teacher Giron. This newspaper, which is very fond of sermonising the people,


i86 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

Jealousy is a sentiment which seems to belong, above all, to passive beings. Leaders have active sentiments ; with them, jealousy is transformed into a thirst to obtain, at whatever cost, the most coveted situations, and they employ to this end any means which enables them to set aside people who stand in the way of their onward march. In poUtics, people are no more held back by scruples than they are in sport, and we hear every day of cases where competitors in all kinds of contests seek to improve their chances by some trickery or other.

(3) The masses who are led have a very vague and extremely simple idea of the means by which their lot can be improved ; demagogues easily get them to believe that the best way is to utilise the power of the State to pester the rich. We pass thus from jealousy to vengeance, and it is well known that vengeance is a sentiment of extraordinary power, especially with the weak. The history of the Greek cities and of the Italian republics of the Middle Ages is full of instances of fiscal laws which were very oppressive on the rich, and which contributed not a little towards the ruin of governments. In the fifteenth century, Aeneas Sylvius (later Pope Pius II.) noted with astonishment the extraordinary prosperity of the commercial towns of Germany and the great hberty enjoyed therein by the middle class, who, in Italy, were persecuted.^ If our contemporary social policy were examined closely, it would be seen that it also was steeped in ideas of jealousy and vengeance ; many regulations have been framed more with the idea of pestering employers than of improving the situation of the workers. When the clericals are in a minority, they never fail to

cannot understand why the outraged husband obstinately refuses to take back his wife. On September 14, 1906, it said that " she had broken with the ordinary moral code " ; it may be concluded from this that the moral code of the Petit Parisien is something quite out of tlie ordinary.

  • Jansen, L'Allemagne et la RSforme, French trans., tome i. p. 361.


THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE i»r

recommend severe regulations in order to be revenged on free-thinking free-mason employers.^

The leaders obtain all sorts of advantages from these methods ; they alarm the rich, and exploit them for their own personal profit ; they cry louder than anybody against the privileges of fortime, and know how to obtain for themselves all the enjoyments which the latter procures ; by making use of the evil instincts and the stupidity of their followers, they realise this curious paradox, that they get the people to applaud the in- equality of conditions in the name of democratic equality. It would be impossible to understamd the success of demagogues from the time of Athens to contemporary New York, if due account was not taken of the extra- ordinary power of the idea of vengeance in extinguishing reasonable reflection.

I believe that the only means by which this pernicious influence of the demagogues may be wiped out are those employed by SociaUsm in propagating the notion of the proletarian general strike ; it awakens in the depths of the soul a sentiment of the sublime proportionate to the conditions of a gigantic struggle ; it forces the desire to satisfy jealousy by malice into the backgroimd ; it brings to the fore the pride of free men, and thus protects the worker from the quackery of ambitious leaders, hungering for the fleshpots.

B. The great differences which exist between the two general strikes (JL.e, between the two kinds of SociaUsm) become still more obvious when social struggles are com- pared with war ; in fact, war also may give rise to two

  • The application of the social laws gives rise — in France, at least —

to very singular inequalities of treatment ; judicial proceedings depend on political or financial conditions. The case of the rich tailor may be remembered who was decorated by Millerand and against whom proceedings had so often been taken for infringement of the laws for the protection of work-girls.


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Opposite systems of ideas, so that quite contradictory things can be said about it, all based on incontestable facts.

War may be considered from its noble side, i.e. as it has been considered by poets celebrating armies which have been particularly illustrious ; proceeding thus we find in war :

(i) The idea that the profession of arms cannot compare to any other profession; — that it puts the man who adopts this profession in a class which is superior to the ordinary conditions of life, — that history is based entirely on the adventures of warriors, so that the economic life only existed to maintain them.

(2) The sentiment of glory which Renan so justly looked upon as one of the most singular and the most powerful creations of hiunan genius, and which has been of such incomparable value in history.^

(3) The ardent desire to try one's strength in great battles, to submit to the test which gives the military caUing its claim to superiority, and to conquer glory at the peril of one's life.

There is no need for me to insist on these features of war at any great length ; my readers will understand the part played in ancient Greece by this conception of war. The whole of classical history is dominated by the idea of war conceived heroically : in their origin, the institu- tions of the Greek republics had as their basis the organisa- tion of armies of citizens ; Greek art reached its apex in the citadels ; philosophers conceived of no other possible form of education than that which fostered in youth the heroic tradition, and they endeavoured to keep the study and practice of music within bounds, because they wished to prevent the development of sentiments foreign to this discipline ; social Utopias were created with a view to maintaining a nucleus of homeric warriors in the cities,

  • Renan, Hisioire du peuple d'Isrviel, tome iv. pp. 199-200.


THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE i8g

etc. In our own times, the wars of Liberty have been scarcely less fruitful in ideas than those of the ancient Greeks.

There is another aspect of waf which does not possess this character of nobility, and on which the pacificists always dwell. ^ The object of war is no longer war itself ; its object is to allow politicians to satisfy their ambi- tions : the foreigner must be conquered in order that they themselves may obtain great and immediate material advantages ; the victory must also give the party which led the country during the time of success so great a preponderance that it can distribute great favours to its followers ; finally, it is hoped that the citizens will be so intoxicated by the spell of victory they will overlook the sacrifices which they are called upon to make, and will allow themselves to be carried away by enthusiastic conceptions of the future. Under the influence of this state of mind, the people permit the Government to develop its authority in an improper manner, without any protest, so that every conquest abroad may be con- sidered as having for its inevitable corollary a conquest at home made by the party in office.

The Syndicalist general strike presents a very great number of analogies with the first conception of war : the proletariat organises itself for battle, separating itself distinctly from the other parts of the nation, and regard- ing itself as the great motive power of history, all other social considerations being subordinated to that of combat ; it is very clearly conscious of the glory which will be attached to its historical role and of the heroism of its militant attitude ; it longs for the final contest in which it will give proof of the whole measure of its valour. Pursuing no conquest, it has no need to make plans for utilising its victories : it coimts on expelling the capitahsts

^ The distinction between the two aspects of war is the basis oi Proudhon's book on La Guerre et la paix.


IQO REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

from the productive domain, and on taking their place in the workshop created by capitaUsm.

This conception of the general strike manifests in the clearest manner its indifference to the material profits of conquest by affirming that it proposes to suppress the State. The State has always been, in fact, the organiser of the war of conquest, the dispenser of its fruits, and the raison d'etre of the dominating groups which profit by the enterprises — ^the cost of which is borne by the general body of society.

Politicians adopt the other point of view ; they argue about social conflicts in exactly the same manner as diplomats argue about international affairs ; all the actual fighting apparatus interests them very little ; they see in the combatants nothing but instruments. The proletariat is their army, which they love in the same way that a colonial administrator loves the troops which enable him to bring large numbers of negroes under his authority ; they apply themselves to the task of training the prole- tariat, because they are in a hurry to win quickly the great battles which wiU deliver the State into their hands ; they keep up the ardoiu: of their men, as the ardom: of troops of mercenaries has always been kept up, by promises of pillage, by appeals to hatred, and also by the small favours which their occupancy of a few political places enables them to distribute already. But the proletariat for them is food for cannon, and nothing else, as Marx said in 1873.*

The reinforcement of power of the State is at the basis of all their conceptions ; in the organisations which they at present control, the politicians are already preparing the framework of a strong, centralised and disciplined authority, which will not be hampered by the criticism of an opposition, which will be able to enforce silence, and which will give currency to its Hes.

^ L* Alliance de la dimocratie socialiste, p. 15. Marx accused his opponents of modelling their policy on Napoleonic lines.


THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE igi

C. In Socialist literature the question of a future dictatorship of the proletariat is constantly cropping up, but nobody likes to explain it ; sometimes this formula is improved and the epithet impersonal is added to the substantive dictatorships though this addition does not throw much light on the question. Bernstein pointed out a few years ago that this dictatorship would probably be that " of club orators and of literary men/' ^ and he was of opinion that the Sociahsts of 1848, when speaking of this dictatorship, had had in view an imitation of 1793, " a central, dictatorial and revolutionary authority, up- held by the terrorist dictatorship of the revolutionary clubs " ; he was alarmed by this outlook, and he asserted that all the working men with whom he had had an opportimity of conversing were very mistrustful of the future.* Hence he concluded that it would be better to base Socialist policy and propaganda on a conception of modem society more in accordance with the idea of evolution. His analysis seems to me to be inadequate.

In the dictatorship of the proletariat we may first of all notice a reminiscence of the Old Regime. Socialists have for a long time been dominated by the idea that capitalist society must be Hkened to the feudal system ; I scarcely know any idea more false and more dangerous. They imagine that the new feudalism would disappear beneath the influence of forces analogous to those which

  • Bernstein evidently had in mind here a well-known article by

Proudhon, from which, moreover, he quotes a fragment on page 47 of his book. This article closes with imprecations against the Intellectuals : " Then you will'know what a revolution is, that has been set going by lawyers, accomplished by artists, and conducted by novelists and poets. Nero was an artist, a lyric and dramatic artist, a passionate lover of the ideal, a worshipper of the antique, a collector of medals, a tourist, a poet, an orator, a swordsman, a sophist, a Don Juan, a Lovelace, a nobleman full of wit, fancy, and fellow-feeling, overflowing with love of life and love of pleasure. That is why he was Nero " (RepreserUant du peuple, April 29, 1848).

  • Bernstein, SocicUisme thiorique et social-dimocraiie pratique, pp. 298

and 226.


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ruined the old feudal system. The latter succumbed beneath the attacks of a strong and centralised power, imbued with the conviction that it had received a mandate from God to employ exceptional measures against the evil. The kings of the new model ^ who estabhshed modem monarchical system were terrible despots, wholly destitute of scruples ; but great historians have absolved them from all blame for the acts of violence they committed, because they lived in times when feudal anarchy, the barbarous manners of the old nobles and their lack of culture, joined to a want of respect for the ideas of the past,^ seemed crimes against which it was the duty of the royal power to act energetically. It is probably then with a view to treating the leaders of capitalism with a wholly royal energy that there is so much talk nowadays of a dictatorship of the proletariat.

Later on, royalty relaxed its despotism and constitu- tional government took its place. It is said that the dictatorship of the proletariat will also weaken at length, and will disappear, and that finally an anarchical society will take its place ; but how this will come about is not explained. The regal despotism did not fall by itself or by the goodness of sovereigns ; one must be very simple to suppose that the people who would profit by the demagogic dictatorship would wiUingly abandon its advantages.

Bernstein saw quite plainly that the dictatorship of the proletariat corresponds to a division of society into masters and servants, but it is curious that he did not

1 Cf. Gervinus, Introduction d, I'histoire du XI X' siicle, French trans., p. 27.

  • The history of the papacy very much embarrasses modern writers ;

some of them are fundamentally hostile to it on account of their hatred of Christianity ; but many are led to condone the greatest faults of the papal policy in the Middle Ages on account of the natural sympathy which inclines them to admire all the efforts made by theorists to tyrannise the world.


THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE igj

perceive that the idea of the political strike (which he now, to a certain extent, accepts) is connected in the closest manner with this dictatorship of politicians which he fears. The men who had managed to organise the proletariat in the form of an army, ever ready to obey their orders, would be generals who would set up a state of siege in vanquished society ; we should therefore have, on the day following the revolution, a dictatorship exercised by those poHticians who in the society of to-day already form a compact group.

I have already recalled what Marx said about the people who reinstated the State by creating in con- temporary society an embryo of the future society of masters. The history of the French Revolution shows us how these things happen. The revolutionaries made arrangements whereby their administrative staff was ready to take possession of authority immediately the old administration decamped, so that there was no break of continuity in the domination of a governing class. There are no bounds to Jaures's admiration for these operations, which he describes in the course of his Histoire socialiste ; he does not exactly understand their significance, but he guesses the analogy they bear to his own con- ceptions of social revolution. The fiabbiness of the men of that time was so great that sometimes the substitution of the old by the new officials was accomplished under conditions bordering on farce ; we always find a super- numerary state — an Etat postiche'^ (artificial state), to use

  • One of the ludicrous comedies of the Revolution is that related by

Jaur^s in La Convention, pp. 1386-1388. In the month of May 1793 an insurrectionary committee was set up at the Bishop's palace, which formed an £tat postiche (see above), and which on May 31 repaired to the town-hall and declared that the people of Paris withdrew all powers from every constituted authority ; the general council of the Commune, having no means of defence, " was forced to give in," but not without assuming an air of high tragedy : pompous speeches, embracings all round, " to prove that there was neither wounded vanity on the one part, nor pride of dofnination on the other " ; finally, this buffoonery was


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the expression of that time — ^which is organised in advance by the side of the legal State, which considers itself a legitimate before it has become a legal power, and which profits by some slight incident to take up the reins of government as they sUp from the feeble hands of the constituted authorities.

The adoption of the red flag is one of the most singular and the most characteristic episodes of that time. This signal was used in times of disaffection to give warning that martial law was about to be set up ; on August lo, 1792, it became the revolutionary symbol, in order to proclaim " the martial law of the people against rebels to the executive power.*' Jaur^ comments on this incident in these terms : " It is we, the people, who are now the law. . . . We are not rebels. The rebels are in the Tuileries, and it is against the factions of the court and the party of the constitutional monarchy that we raise, in the name of the country and of Uberty, the flag of legal repressions." ^ Thus the insurgents began by pro- claiming that they held legitimate authority ; they are fighting against a State which has only the appearance of legitimacy, and they take the red flag to S5miboUse the re-estabhshment by force of the real order. As conquerors, they will treat the conquered as conspirators, and will demand that their plots be pimished. The real conclusion to all these fine ideas was to be the massacre of the prisoners in September.

All this is perfectly simple, and the general political strike would develop in the same way with similar occurrences. In order that this strike should succeed, the greater part of the proletariat must be members of

terminated by an order which reinstated the council which had just been dismissed. Jaur^s is delightful here : the revolutionary committee, he says, " freed (the legal authority) from all the fetters of legality." This happy thought is a reproduction of the well-known phrase of the Bonapartists : " Sortir de la 16galite pour rentrer dans le droit." » Jaur^s, LtgislaXive, p. 1288.


THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE igs

syndicates which are under the thumb of political com- mittees ; there must be a complete organisation made up of the men who will take over the Government, so that it will only be necessary to make a simple transmutation in the personnel of the State. The organisation of the itat postiche would have to be more complete than it was at the time of the Revolution, because the conquest of the State by force does not seem so easy to accomplish as formerly ; but the principle would be the same. It is even possible that, since the transmission of authority operates nowadays in a more perfect fashion, thanks to the new resources at the disposal of the Parliamentary system, and since the proletariat would be thoroughly well organised under the official S5mdicates, we should see the social revolution culminate in a wonderful system of slavery.

IV

The study of the political strike leads us to a better imderstanding of a distinction we must always have in mind when we reflect on contemporary social questions. Sometimes the terms force and violence are used in speak- ing of acts of authority, sometimes in speaking of acts of revolt. It is obvious that the two cases give rise to very different consequences. I think it would be better to adopt a terminology which would give rise to no ambiguity, and that the term violence should be employed only for acts of revolt ; we should say, therefore, that the object of force is to impose a certain social order in which the minority governs, while violence tends to the destruction of that order. The middle class have used force since the beginning of modem times, while the proletariat now reacts against the middle class and against the State by violence.

For a long time I was convinced that it is very


ig6 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

important that the theory of social forces should be thor- oughly investigated — in a large measure, the forces may be compared to those acting on matter ; but I was not able to perceive the capital distinction in question here until I had come to consider the problem of the general strike. Moreover, I do not think that Marx had ever examined any other form of social constraint except force. In my Saggi di critica del marxismo I endeavoured, a few years ago, to sum up the argmnents of Marx with respect to the adaptation of man to the conditions of capitalism, and I presented these argimients in the following manner, on pages 38-40 :—

" (i) There is a social system which is to a certain extent mechanical, in which man seems subject to true natural laws : classical economists place at the beginning of things that automatism which is in reality the last product of the capitalistic regime. ' But the advance of capitalist production,' says Marx,^ ' develops a more and more numerous class of workers who, by education, tradi- tion, and habit, look upon the conditions of that mode of production as self-evident laws of nature.' The interven- tion of an intelligent will in this mechanism would appear as an exception.

" {2) There is a regime of emulation and of keen com- petition which impels men to set aside traditional obstacles, to seek constantly for what is new, and to imagine con- ditions of existence which seem to them to be better. According to Marx, it is in this revolutionary task that the middle class excelled.

" (3) There is a regime of violence, which plays an important part in history, and which assumes several distinct forms :

    • {a) On the lowest level, we find a scattered kind of

violence, which resembles the struggle for life, which acts through economic conditions, and which carries out a

1 Capital, English translation edit, by Engels, p. 76.


THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE 197

slow but sure expropriation ; violence of this character works especially \^ith the aid of fiscal arrangements.^

" (b) Next comes the concentrated and organised force of the State, which acts directly on labour, ' to regulate wages, i.e. force them within the limits suitable to surplus value making, to lengthen the working day, and to main- tain the labourer himself in the normal degree of depend- ence ; this is an essential element of the so-called primitive accumulation. 2

'* (c) We have, finally, violence properly so called, which occupies so great a place in the history of primitive acciunulation, and which constitutes the principle subject of history."

A few supplementary observations may be useful here.

We must first of all observe that these different phases are placed in a logical sequence, starting from states which most resemble an organism, and in which no independent will appears, and ending in states in which individual minds bring forward their considered plans ; but the historical order is quite the contrary of this order.

At the origin of capitalist accumulation we find some very distinct historical facts, which appear each in its proper time, with its own characteristics, and under conditions so clearly marked that they are described in the chronicles. We find, for instance, the expropriation of the peasants and the suppression of the old legisla- tion which had constituted *' serfdom and the indus- trial hierarchy." Marx adds : " The history of this

^ Marx points out that in Holland taxation was used to raise the price of necessities artificially ; this was the application of a principle of government : this system had a vicious effect on the working class and ruined the peasant, the artisan, and the other members of the better-paid workers ; but it secured the absolute submission of the workers to their masters, the manufacturers {Capital, Eng. trans, p. 781).

  • Capital, Eng. trans, p. 761.


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expropriation is not a matter of conjecture ; it is in- scribed in the annals of humanity in indehble letters of blood and fire/' ^

Farther on Marx shows how the dawn of modem times was marked by the conquest of America, the en- slavement of negroes and the colonial wars : " The different methods of primitive accumulation which the capitaUst era brought about are divided in a more or less chrono- logical order first of all [between] Portugal, Spain, France and England, imtil the latter combined the lot, during the last thirty years of the seventeenth century, into a systematic whole, embracing simultaneously the colonial system, public credit, modem finance and the protec- tionist system. Some of these methods are backed by the employment of brute force ; but all, without excep- tion, exploit the power of the State, the concentrated and organised force of society, in order to precipitate violently the passage from the feudal economic order to the capitalist economic order, and to shorten the phases of the transition." It is on this occasion that he com- pared force to a midwife, and says that it multipUes the social movement. 2

Thus we see that economic forces are closely bound up with political power, and capitalism finally perfects itself to the point of being able to dispense with any direct appeal to the public force, except in very exceptional cases. " In the ordinary run of things, the worker can be left to the action of the natural laws of production, i.e. to his dependence on capital, a dependence springing from

1 Capital, Eng. trans, p. 738.

  • Capital, Eng. ttans. p. 776. The German text says that force

is an oekonomische Potenz {Kapiial. 4th edition, p. 716) ; the French text says that force is an agent iconomique. Fourier calls geometric progressions puissancielles {Nouveau Monde industriel et societaire, p. 376). Marx evidently used the word Potenz in the sense of a multiplier ; cf. in Capital, p. 176, col. i, the term travail puissanci^ for labour of a multiplied productivity. [The English translation has economic power. — Trans. Note.]


THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE igg

guaranteed, and perpetuated by the very mechanism of production." ^

When we reach the last historical stage, the action of independent wills disappears, and the whole of society resembles an organised body, working automatically ; observers can then estabUsh an economic science which appears to them as exact as the sciences of physical nature. The error of many economists consisted in their ignorance of the fact that this system, which seemed natural or primitive to them,^ is the result of a series of transformations which might not have taken place, and always remains a very unstable structure, for it could be destroyed by force, as it had been created by the inter- vention of force ; moreover, contemporary economic literature is full of complaints respecting the intervention of the State, which has thereby upset natural laws.

Nowadays economists are little disposed to beheve that these natural laws are in reality laws of Nature ; they are well aware that the capitalist system was reached but slowly, but they consider that it was reached by a progress which should enchant the minds of all enlightened men. This progress, in fact, is demonstrated by three remarkable facts : it has become possible to set up a science of economics ; laws can be stated in the simplest, surest, and most elegant formulas, since the law of contract dominates every country of advanced capitaUsm ; ^ the caprices of the rulers of the State are no longer so apparent, and thus the path towards liberty is open. Any return

1 Capital, tome i. p. 327, col. i.

  • Natural, in the Marxian sense, is that which resembles a physical

movement as opposed to the idea of creation by an intelligent will ; for the deists of the eighteenth century, natural was that which had been created by God, and which was both primitive and excellent ; this is still, it seems, the view of G. de Molinari.

» In a very advanced capitalist regime questions of agricultural rights, women's dowries, the division of landed property go into the back- ground ; the first place is occupied by commercial associations, bills of exchange, sale of stocks and shares, etc.

O


200 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

to the past seems to them a crime against science, law, and human dignity.

SociaHsm looks upon this evolution as being a history of middle-class force, and it only sees differences of degree where the economists imagine that they are discovering difference of kind. Whether force manifests itself under the aspect of historical acts of coercion, or of fiscal oppres- sion, or of conquest, or labour legislation, or whether it is wholly bound up with the economic system, it is always a middle-class force labouring with more or less skill to bring about the capitaUst order of society.

Marx endeavoured to describe the details of this evolu- tion very carefully ; he gave very little detail, however, about the organisation of the proletariat. This gap in his work has often been explained. He found in England an enormous mass of materials concerning the history of capitalism, which was fairly well arranged, and wliich had already been discussed by economists ; he was there- fore able to investigate thoroughly the different peculiari- ties of middle-class evolution, but he was not very well furnished with matter on which he could argue about the organisation of the proletariat ; he was obliged, therefore, to remain content with an explanation, in very abstract formulas, of his ideas on the subject of the path which the proletariat must take, in order to arrive at the final revolu- tionary struggle. The consequence of this inadequacy 6f Marx's work was that Marxism has deviated from the path assigned to it by its real nature.

The people who pride themselves on being orthodox Marxians have made no attempt to add anything essential to what their master has written, and they have always imagined that, in order to argue about the proletariat, they must make use of what they had learned from the history of middle-class development. They have never suspected, th efore, that a distinction should be drawn between the force that aims at authority, endeavouring


THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE 201

to bring about an automatic obedience, and the violence that would smash that authority. According to them, the proletariat must acquire force just as the middle class acquired it, use it as the latter used it, and end finally by establishing a Socialist State which will replace the middle- class State.

As the State formerly played a most important part in the revolutions which abolished the old economic systems, so it must again be the State which should abolish capitalism. The workers should therefore sacrifice every- thing to one end alone — that of putting into power men who promise them solemnly to ruin capitalism for the benefit of the people ; • that is how a Parliamentary Socialist party is formed. Former militant Socialists provided with modest jobs, middle-class people, educated, frivolous, and eager to be in the public eye, and Stock Exchange speculators imagine that a golden age might spring up for them as the result of a cautious — a very cautious — revolution, which would not seriously disturb the traditional State. Quite naturally, these future masters of the world harbour the thought of reproducing the history of middle-class force, and they are organising themselves so that they may be able to draw the greatest possible profit from this revolution. Quite a number of such people might find a place in the new hierarchy, and what Paul Leroy Beaulieu calls the *' Fourth Estate " would become really a lower middle class. ^

The whole future of democracy might easily depend

1 In an article in the Radical (January 2, 1906), Ferdinand Buisson shows that those classes of workers who are more favoured at the present time will continue to rise above the others ; the miners, the railway workers, employees in the State factories or municipal services who are well organised form a " working-class aristocracy," which succeeds all the more easily because it has continually to discuss all kinds of affairs with corporative bodies who " stand for the recognition of the rights of man, national supremacy, and the authority of universal suffrage." Beneath this nonsense is to be found merely the recognition of the relationship existing between politicians and obsequious followers.


202 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

on this lower middle class, which hopes to make use of the strength of the really proletarian organisations for its own great personal advantage.^ The pohticians believe that this class will sdways have peaceful tendencies, that it may be organised and discipUned, and that since the leaders of such sane syndicates understand equally with the politicians the action of the State, this class will form an excellent body of followers. They would like to make use of it to govern the proletariat ; it is for this reason that Ferdinand Buisson and Jaures are in favour of syndicates of the minor grades of civil servants, who, entering the Bourses du Travail, would inspire the proletariat with the idea of imitating their own feeble and peaceful attitude.

The poHtical general strike concentrates the whole of this conception into one easily imderstood picture: it shows us how the State would lose nothing of its strength, how the transmission of power from one privileged class to another would take place, and how the mass of the producers would merely change masters. These new masters would very probably be less able than those of to-day ; they would make more flowery speeches than the capitalists, but there is every evidence that they would be much harder and much more insolent than their predecessors.

The new school approaches the question from quite another point of view : it cannot accept the idea that the historical mission of the proletariat is to imitate the middle class ; it cannot conceive that a revolution as vast as that which would abolish capitaUsm could be attempted for a trifling and doubtful result, for a change of masters, for the satisfaction of theorists, politicians,

1 " A portion of the nation throwing in its lot with the proletariat to demand its just rights," says Maxime Leroy, in a book devoted to the defence of the S5aidicates o£ civil servants {Les Transformations de la puissance publique, p. 216).


THE POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE 203

and speculators — all worshippers and exploiters of the State. It does not wish to restrict itself to the formulas of Marx ; although he gave no other theory than that of middle-class force, that, in its eyes, is no reason why it should confine itself to a scrupulous imitation of middle- class force.

In the course of his revolutionary career, Marx was not always happily inspired, and too often he followed inspirations which belong to the past ; he even allowed from time to time a quantity of old rubbish which he found in the Utopists to creep into his writings. The new school does not in the least feel itself bound to admire the illusions, the faults, and the errors of the man who did so much to work out revolutionary ideas ; it endeavours to separate what disfigures the work of Marx from what will immortalise his name ; its attitude is thus the reverse of that of official Socialists, who admire especially in Marx that which is not Marxian. We shall therefore attach no importance whatever to the numerous extracts which may be quoted against us to prove that Marx often under- stood history as the politicians do.

We know now the reason for his attitude : he did not know the distinction, which appears to us nowadays so obvious, between middle-class force and proletarian violence, because he did not move in circles which had acquired a satisfactory notion of the general strike.^ We now possess sufficient material to enable us to imderstand the Syndicalist strike as thoroughly as we do the political strike ; we know what differentiates the proletarian movement from the older middle-class movement ; we find in the attitude of the revolutionaries towards the


  • The inadequacy of, and the errors contained in Marx's work in

respect to everything concerning the revolutionary organisation of the proletariat may be cited as memorable examples of that law which prevents us from thinking anything but that which has actual bases in life. Let us not confuse thought and imagination.


204 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

State a means of elucidating ideas which were still very confused in Marx's mind.

The method which has served us to mark the difference which exists between middle-class force and proletarian violence may also serve to solve many questions which crop up in the course of researches about the organisation of the proletariat. In comparing attempts to organise the Syndicalist strike, and attempts to organise the political strike, we may often judge what is good and what is bad, i.e. what is specifically socialistic and what has middle-class tendencies.

Popular education, for example, seems to be wholly carried on in a middle-class spirit ; history shows us that the whole effort of capitalism has been to bring about the submission of the masses to the conditions of the capitalist economic system, so that society might become an organ- ism ; the whole revolutionary effort tends to create/r^^ w^«, but democratic rulers adopt as their mission the accom- plishment of the moral unity of France. This moral imity is the automatic discipline of the producers, who would doubtless be happy to work for the glory of their intel- lectual leaders.

It may be said, too, that the greatest danger which threatens Syndicalism would be an attempt to imitate democracy ; it would be better for it to remain content for a time with weak and chaotic organisations rather than that it should fall beneath the sway of syndicates which would copy the political forms of the middle class.

The revolutionary Syndicalists have never yet made that mistake, because those who seek to lead them into an imitation of middle-class methods happen to be adver- saries of the Syndicalist general strike, and have thus stood confessed as enemies.


CHAPTER VI

THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE

I. Observations of P. Bureau and of P. de Rousiers — The era of martyrs — Possibility of maintaining the cleavage with very little violence, thanks to a catastrophic myth.

II. Old habits of brutality in schools and workshops — The dangerous classes — Indulgence for crimes of cunning — Informers.

III. Law of 1884 passed to intimidate Conservatives — Part played by Millerand in the Waldeck-Rousseau ministry — Motives behind present ideas on arbitration.

IV. Search for the sublime in morality — Proudhon — No moral development inTrade Unionism — The "sublime " in Germany and the catastrophic conception.

I

There are so many legal precautions against violence, and our upbringing is directed towards so weakening our tendencies towards violence, that we are instinctively inclined to think that any act of violence is a manifestation of a return to barbarism. Peace has always been con- sidered the greatest of blessings and the essential condition of all material progress, and it is for this reason that industrial societies have so often been contrasted favour- ably with military ones. This last point of view explains why, almost uninterruptedly since the eighteenth century, economists have been in favour of strong central authori- ties, and have troubled little about political Hberties. Condorcet levels this reproach at the followers of Quesnay,

205


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and Napoleon III. had probably no greater admirer than Michel Chevalier.^

It may be questioned whether there is not a little stupidity in the admiration of our contemporaries for gentle methods. I see, in fact, that several authors, remarkable for their perspicacity and their interest in the ethical side of every question, do not seem to have the same fear of violence as our official professors.

P. Bureau was extremely surprised to find in Norway a rural population which had remained profoundly Christian. The peasants, nevertheless, carried a dagger at their belt ; when a quarrel ended in a stabbing affray, the police enquiry generally came to nothing for lack of witnesses ready to come forward and give evidence.

The author concludes thus : "In men, a soft and effeminate character is more to be feared than their feeling of independence, however exaggerated and brutal, and a stab given by a man who is virtuous in his morals, but violent, is a social evil less serious and more easily curable than the excessive profligacy of young men reputed to be more civilised." ^

I borrow a second example from P. de Rousiers, who, like P. Bureau, is a fervent CathoHc and interested especially in the moral side of all questions. He narrates how, towards i860, the country of Denver, the great mining centre of the Rocky Mountains, was cleared of the bandits who infested it ; the American magistracy being impotent, courageous citizens undertook the work. " Lynch law was frequently put into operation ; a man accused of murder or of theft might be arrested, con- demned and hanged in less than a quarter of an hour, if

1 " One day Michel Chevalier came beaming into the editorial room of the louvnal des dibats. His first words were : ♦ I have achieved liberty ! ' Everybody was all agog ; he was asked to explain. He meant the liberty of the slaughter-houses " (Renan, Feuilles ditachies, p. 149).

  • P. Bureau, Le Paysan des fjords de Norwige, pp. 114 and 115.


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 207

an energetic Vigilance Committee could get hold of him. The American who happens to be honest has one excellent habit — he does not allow himself to be crushed on the pretext that he is virtuous. A law-abiding man is not necessarily a craven, as is often the case with us ; on the contrary, he is convinced that his interests ought to be considered before those of an habitual criminal or of a gambler. Moreover, he possesses the necessary energy to resist, and the kind of life which he leads makes him capable of resisting effectively, even of taking the initiative and the responsibility of a serious step when circumstances demand it. . . . Such a man, placed in a new country, full of natural resources, wishing to take advantage of the riches it contains and to acquire a superior situation in life by his labour, will not hesitate to suppress, in the name of the higher interests he represents, the bandits who compromise the future of this country. That is why, twenty-five years ago at Denver, so many corpses were dangling above the little wooden bridge thrown across Cherry Creek." ^

This is a considered opinion of P. de Rousiers, for he returns elsewhere to this question. " I know," he says, " that lynch law is generally considered in France as a symptom of barbarism . . . ; but if honest virtuous people in Europe think thus, virtuous people in America think quite otherwise." ^ He highly approved of the Vigilance Committee of New Orleans which, in 1890, " to the great satisfaction of all virtuous people," hanged maffiosi acquitted by the jury.^

In Corsica, at the time when the vendetta was the regular means of supplying the deficiencies or correcting the action of a too halting justice, the people do not appear to have

1 De Rousiers, La Vie americaine : ranches, fermes et usines, pp. 224-225.

  • De Rousiers, La Vie amirioaine, VedMcation et la sociiU, p. 218.

» De Rousiers, loc. cit. p. 221.


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been less moral than to-day. Before the French conquest, Kabylie had no other means of punishment but private vengeance, yet the Kabyles were not a bad people.

It may be conceded to those in favour of mild methods that violence may hamper economic progress, and even, when it goes beyond a certain Umit, that it is a danger to morality. This concession cannot be used as an argument against the doctrine set forth here, because I consider violence only from the point of view of its influence on social theories. It is, in fact, certain that a great development of brutality accompanied by much blood-letting is quite imnecessary in order to induce the workers to look upon economic conflicts as the reduced facsimiles of the great battle which will decide the future. If a capitalist class is energetic, it is constantly affirming its determination to defend itself ; its frank and con- sistently reactionary attitude contributes at least as greatly as proletarian violence towards keeping distinct that cleavage between the classes which is the basis of all Sociahsm.

We may make use here of the great historical example provided by the persecutions which Christians were obUged to suffer during the first centuries. Modem authors have been so struck by the language of the Fathers of the Church, and by the details given in the Acts of the Martyrs, that they have generally imagined the Christians as out- laws whose blood was continuedly being spilt. The cleavage between the pagan world and the Christian world was extraordinarily well marked ; without this cleavage the latter would never have acquired all its characteristic features ; but this cleavage was maintained by a combination of circumstances very different from that formerly imagined.

Nobody believes any longer that the Christians took refuge in subterranean quarries in order to escape the


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 209

searches of the police ; the catacombs were dug out at great expense by communities with large resources at their disposal, under land belonging generally to powerful families which protected the new cult. Nobody has any doubt now that before the end of the first century Christianity had its followers among the Roman aristo- cracy ; "in the very ancient catacomb of Priscilla . . . has been found the family vault in which was buried from the first to the fourth century the Christian line of the Acilii/' ^ It seems also that the old belief that the number of the martyrdoms was very great must be abandoned.

Renan still asserted that the literature of martyrdom should be taken seriously. *' The details of the Acts of the Martyrs," he said, ** may be false for the most part ; the dreadful picture which they unroll before us was nevertheless a reality. The true nature of this terrible struggle has often been misconceived, but its seriousness has not been exaggerated." ^ The researches of Hamack lead to quite another conclusion : the language of the Christian authors was entirely disproportionate to the actual importance of the persecutions ; there were very few martyrs before the middle of the third century. Tertullian is the writer who has most strongly indicated the horror which the new rehgion felt for its persecutors, and yet here is what Harnack says : "If, with the help of the works of Tertullian, we consider Carthage and Northern Africa we shall find that before the year 180 there was in those regions no case of martyrdom, and that from that year to the death of Tertullian (after 220), and adding Numidia and the Mauritanias, scarcely more than two dozen could be counted." ^ It must be remembered that at that time there was in Africa a rather large number of Montanists. who extolled the glory of martyrdom,

^ p. Allard, Dix lepons sur le martyre, p. 171.

  • Renan, i.glise chritienne, p. 137.

> P. Allard, op. cit. p. 137.


210 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

and denied that any one had the right to fly from persecution.

P. Allard combats Hamack's proposition with argu- ments which seem to me somewhat weak.^ He is unable to understand the enormous difference which probably exists between the reality of the persecutions and the conceptions which the persecuted formed of them. " The Christians," says the German professor, *' were able to complain of being persecuted flocks, and yet such persecu- tion was exceptional ; they were able to look upon them- selves as models of heroism, and yet they were rarely put to the proof; and I call attention to the end of this sentence : " They were able to place themselves above the grandeurs of the world, and yet at the same time to make themselves more and more at home in it." *

There is something paradoxical at first sight in the situation of the Church, which had its followers in the upper classes, who were obliged to make many concessions to custom, and who yet could hold beliefs based on the idea of an absolute cleavage. The inscriptions on the catacomb of Priscilla prove " the continuance of the faith through a series of generations of the Acilii, among whom were to be found not only consuls and magistrates of the highest order, but also priests, priestesses, even children, members of illustrious idolatrous colleges, reserved by privilege for patricians and their sons." ^ If the Christian system of ideas had been rigorously based on actual facts, such a paradox would have been impossible.

The statistics of persecutions therefore play no great part in this question ; what was of much greater import- ance than the frequency of the torments were the remark- able occurrences which took place during the scenes of

  • Revue des questions historiques, July 1905.
  • P. Allard, op. cit. p. 142. Cf >vhat I have said in Le Systiihr

hisiorique de Renan, pp. 312-315.

' P. Allard, op. cit. p. 206.


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 211

martyrdom. The Christian ideology was based on these rather rare but very heroic events ; there was no necessity for the martyrdoms to be numerous in order to prove, by the test of experience, the absolute truth of the new religion and the absolute error of the old, to establish thus that there were two incompatible ways, and to make it clear that the reign of evil would come to an end. " In spite of the small number of martyrs,*' says Hamack, " we may estimate at its true value the courage needed to become a Christian and to live as one. Above all else we ought to praise the conviction of the martyr whom a word or a gesture could save, and who preferred death to such freedom." ^ Contemporaries who saw in martyrdom a judicial proof ^ testifying to the honour of Christ,^ drew from these facts quite other conclusions than those which a modem historian, whose mind runs in modem grooves, might draw from them ; no ideology was ever more remote from the facts than that of the early Christians.

The Roman administration dealt very severely with any one who showed a tendency to disturb the public peace, especially with any accused person who defied its majesty. In striking down from time to time a few Christians who had been denounced to it (for reasons which have generally remained hidden from us) it did not think that it was accomplishing an act which would ever interest posterity ; it seems that the general pubhc itself hardly ever took any great notice of these punishments ; and this explains why the persecutions left scarcely any trace on pagan literature. The pagans had no reason to attach to martyrdom the extraordinary importance which the faithful and those who already sympathised wdth them attached to it.

This ideology would certainly not have been formed

1 p. AUard, op. cit. p. 142.

  • G. Sorel, Le Systime historique de Renan, pp. 33'5-336.


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in so paradoxical a manner had it not been for the firm beUef that people had in the catastrophes described by the numerous apocalypses which were composed at the end of the first century and at the beginning of the second ; it was the conviction of all that the world was to be delivered up completely to the reign of evil, and that Christ would then come and give the final victory to His elect. Any case of persecution borrowed from the mythology of the Antichrist something of its dread dramatic character; instead of being valued on its actual importance as a misfortune which had befallen a few individuals, a lesson for the community, or a temporary check on propaganda, it became an incident of the war carried on by Satan, prince of this world, who was soon to reveal his Anti- christ. Thus the cleavage sprang at the same time from the persecutions and from the feverish expectation of a decisive battle. When Christianity had developed suffi- ciently, the apocalyptic hterature ceased to be cultivated to any extent ; although the root idea contained therein still continued to exercise its influence, the Acts of the Martyrs were drawn up in such a way that they might excite the same feelings that the apocalypses excited; it may be said that they replaced these : ^ we sometimes find in the literature of the persecutions, set down as clearly as in the apocalypses, the horror which the faithful felt for the ministers of Satan who persecuted them.^

It is possible, therefore, to conceive Socialism as being perfectly revolutionary, although there may only be a few short conflicts, provided that these have strength enough to evoke the idea of the general strike : all the

^ It is probable that the first ChrisLian generation had no clear idea of the possibility of replacing the apocalypses imitated from Jewish literature by the Acts of the Martyrs ; this would explain why we possess no accounts prior to the year 155 (letter of Smx-rniotes telling of the death of Saint Polycarpe) , and why all memory of a certain number of very ancient Roman martyrs has been lost.

' Marc AurHe, p. 500.


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 213

events of the conflict will then appear under a magnified form, and the idea of catastrophe being maintained, the cleavage will be perfect. Thus one objection often urged against revolutionary Socialism may be set aside — there is no danger of civilisation succumbing under the con- sequences of a development of brutality, since the idea of the general strike may foster the notion of the class war by means of incidents which would appear to middle- class historians as of small importance.

When the governing classes, no longer daring to govern, are ashamed of their privileged situation, are eager to make advances to their enemies, and proclaim their horror of all cleavage in society, it becomes much more difficult to maintain in the minds of the proletariat this idea of cleavage which without Socialism cannot fulfil its historical role. So much the better, declare the worthy progressives ; we may then hope that the future of the world will not be left in the hands of brutes who do not even respect the State, who laugh at the lofty ideas of the middle class, and who have no more admiration for the professional expounders of lofty thought than for priests. Let us therefore do more and more every day for the disinherited, say these gentlemen ; let us show ourselves more Christian, more philanthropic, or more democratic (according to the temperament of each) ; let us unite for the accomplish- ment of social duty. We shall thus get the better of these dreadful Socialists, who think it possible to destroy the prestige of the Intellectuals now that the Intellectuals have destroyed that of the Church. As a matter of fact, these cunning moral combinations have failed ; it is not difficult to see why.

The specious reasoning of these gentlemen — the pontiffs of " social duty ** — supposes that violence cannot increase, and may even diminish in proportion a.s the Intellectuals unbend to the masses and make platitudes


214 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

and grimaces in honour of the union of the classes. Unfortunately for these great thinkers, things do not happen in this way ; violence does not diminish in the proportion that it should diminish according to the principles of advanced sociology. There are, in fact. Socialist scoundrels, who, profiting by middle -class cowardice, entice the masses into a movement which every day becomes less like that which ought to result from the sacrifices consented to by the middle class in order to obtain peace. If they dared, the sociologists would declare that the Socialists cheat and use unfair methods, so httle do the facts come up to their expectations. However, it was only to be expected that the Socialists would not allow themselves to be beaten without having used all the resources which the situation offered them. People who have devoted their life to a cause which they identify with the regeneration of the world, could not hesitate to make use of any weapon which might serve to develop to a greater degree the spirit of the class war, seeing that greater efforts were being made to suppress it. Existing social conditions favour the production of an infinite number of acts of violence, and there has been no hesitation in urging the workers not to refrain from brutality when this might do them service. Philan- thropic members of the middle class having given a kindly reception to members of the syndicates who were willing to come and discuss matters with them, in the hope that these workmen, proud of their aristocratic acquaintances, would give peaceful advice to their comrades, it is not to be wondered their fellow-workmen soon suspected them of treachery when they became upholders of ** social reform." Finally, and this is the most remarkable fact in the whole business, anti-patriotism becomes an essential element of the Syndicalist programme.^

^ As we consider everything from the historical point of view, it is of small importance to know what reasons were actually in the mind of


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 213

The introduction of anti-patriotism into the working- class movement is all the more remarkable because it came just when the Government was about to put its theories about the solidarity of the classes into practice. It was in vain that Leon Bourgeois approached the proletariat with particularly amiable airs and graces ; in vain that he assured the workers that capitalist society was one great family, and that the poor had a right to share in the general riches ; he maintained that the whole of contemporary legislation was directed towards the appUcation of the principles of solidarity ; the proletariat repUed to him by denying the social compact in the most brutal fashion — by denying the duty of patriotism. At the moment when it seemed that a means of suppressing the class war had been found, behold, it springs up again in a particularly displeasing form.^

Thus all the efforts of the worthy progressives only brought about results in fiat contradiction with their aims ; it is enough to make one despair of sociology I If they had any common sense, and if they really desired to protect society against an increase of brutality, they would not drive the Socialists into the necessity of adopt- ing the tactics which are forced on them to-day ; they would remain quiet instead of devoting themselves to

  • ' social duty " ; they would bless the propagandists of

the general strike, who, as a matter of fact, endeavour to render the maintenance of Socialism compatible with the minimum of brutality. But these well-intentioned people are not blessed with common sense ; and they have yet to suffer many blows, many humiliations, aoid many losses

the first apostles of anti-patriotism ; reasons of this kind are almost never the right ones ; the essential thing is that for the revolutionary workers anti-patriotism appears an inseparable part of Socialism.

^ This propaganda produced results which went far beyond the expectations of its promoters, and which would be inexplicable without the revolutionary idea.

P


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of money, before they decide to allow Socialism to follow its own course.

II

We must now carry our investigations farther, and enquire what are the motives behind the great aversion felt by moralists for acts of violence ; a very brief simimary of a few very curious changes which have taken place in the manners of the working classes is first of all indis- pensable.

A. I observe, in the first place, that nothing is more remarkable than the change which has taken place in the methods of bringing up children ; formerly it was believed that the rod was the most necessary instnunent of the schoolmaster ; nowadays corporal punishments have disappeared from our public elementary schools. I believe that the competition which the latter had to maintain against the Church schools played a very great part in this progress ; the Brothers applied the old principles of clerical pedagogy with extreme severity ; and these, as is well known, involve an excessive amount of corporal punishment inflicted for the purpose of taming the demon who prompted so many of the child's bad habits.^ The Government was inteUigent enough to set up in opposition to this barbarous system a milder form of education which brought it a great deal of sympathy ; it is not at all improbable that the severity of clerical punishments is largely responsible for the present tumult of hatred against which the Church is struggling with such difficulty. In 1901 I wrote : *' If (the Church) were well advised, it would suppress entirely that part of its activities which is devoted to children ; it would do away

1 Cf. Renan, Histoire du peuple d'Jsrael, tome iv. pp. 289 and 296 ; Y. Guyot, La Morale, pp. 212-215 ; Alphonse Daudet, Numa Roumestan, chap. iv.


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 217

with its schools and workshops ; it would thus do away with the principal sources of anti-clericalism : far from showing any desire to adopt this course, it seems to be its intention to develop these establishments still further, and thus it is laying up for itself still further opportunities for displays of popular hatred for the clergy." ^ What has happened since 1901 surpasses my forecast.

In factories and workshops customs of great brutality formerly existed, especially in those where it was necessary to employ men of superior strength, to whom was given the name of "grosses culottes " (big breeches) ; in the end these men managed to get entrusted with the task of engaging other men, because " any individual taken on by others was subjected to an infinite number of humiUations and insults " ; the man who wished to enter their workshop had to buy them drink, and on the follow- ing day to treat all his fellow- workers. " The notorious Whens it to he ? (Quand est-ce ?) ^ would be started ; every- body gets tipsy. . . . When's it to he ? is the devourer of savings ; in a workshop where When's it to he ? is the custom, you must stand your turn or beware." Denis Poulot, from whom I borrow these details, observes that machinery did away with the prestige of the grosses culottes, who were scarcely more than a memory when he wrote in 1870.^

The manners of the compagnonnages * (a kind of trade

  • G. Sorel, Essai sur I'iglise et I'etat, p. 63.

« Quand est-ce ? This was the question addressed to the new- comer in a workshop, to remind him that according to custom he must pay for drinks all round — " Pay your footing."

» Denis Poulot, Le Sublime, pp. 150-153. I quote from the edition of 1887. This author says that the grosses culottes very much hampered progress in the forges.

  • The compagnonnages were very ancient workmen's associations,

whose principal purpose was to enable carpenters, joiners, locksmiths, farriers, and others, to make a circular tour round France, in order to learn their trades thoroughly. In the towns on this circuit there was an hotel kept bj' the Mere des • compagnons ; the newly arrived


2i8 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

union) were for a long time remarkable for their brutality. Before 1840 there were constant brawls, often ending in bloodshed, between groups with different rites. Martin Saint Leon, in his book oh the compagnonnage, gives extracts from really barbarous songs. ^ Initiation into the lodge was accompanied by the severest tests ; young men were treated as if they were pariahs in the " Devoirs de Jacques et de Suhise " : ^ " Compagnons (carpenters) have been known," says Perdiguier, " to call themselves the Scourge of the Foxes (candidates for admission), the Terror of the Foxes. ... In the provinces, a * fox ' rarely works in the towns ; he is himted back, as they say, into the brushwood." ' There were many secessions when the tyranny of the companions came into opposition with the more liberal habits which prevailed in society. When the workers were no longer in need of protection, especially for the purpose of j&nding work, they were no longer so willing to submit to the demands which had formerly seemed to be of little consequence in comparison with the advantages of the compagnonnage. The struggle for work more than once brought candidates into opposi- tion with companions who wished to reserve certain privileges.* We might find still other reasons to explain

workman was received there and the older men found him work. The compagnonnages are now in a state of decay.

1 Martin Saint-Leon, Le Compagnonnage, pp. 115, 125, 270-273, 277-278.

  • Each trade possessed often several rjval associations of workmen,

which often engaged each other in bloody combats. Each association was called a Devoir. What was intended by de Jacques and de Subisf has long been forgotten. They are traditional words indicating the rules, and so by extension, the associations which follow these rules.

» Martin Saint-Leon, op. cit. p. 97. Cf. pp. 91-92, p. 107.

  • In 1823, the companion joiners claimed La Rochelle as theirs, a

town which they had for a long time neglected as being of too little importance ; they had previously only stopped at Nantes and Bordeaux (Martin Saint-Leon, op. cit. p. 103). L' Union des travailleurs du tour de France was formed in 1830 to 1832 as a rival organisation to the


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 219

the decline of an institution which, while rendering many important services, had contributed very much to main- taining the idea of brutahty.

Everybody agrees that the disappearance of these old brutalities is an excellent thing. From this opinion it was so easy to pass to the idea that all violence is an evil, that this step was bound to have been taken ; and, in fact, the great mass of the people, who are not accustomed to thinking, have come to this conclusion, which is accepted nowadays as a dogma by the bleating herd of moralists. They have not asked themselves what there is in brutahty which is reprehensible.

When we no longer remain content with current stupidity we discover that our ideas about the disappear- ance of violence depend much more on a very important transformation which has taken place in the criminal world than on ethical principles. I shall endeavour to prove this.

B. Middle-class scientists are very chary of touching on anything relating to the dangerous classes ; ^ that is one of the reasons why their observations on the history of morals always remain superficial ; it is not very difficult to see that it is a knowledge of these classes which alone enables us to penetrate the mysteries of the moral thought of peoples.

The dangerous classes of past times practised the simplest form of offence, that which was nearest to hand, that which is nowadays left to groups of young scoundrels without experience and without judgment. Offences of brutahty seem to us nowadays something abnormal ; so


cotnpagnonnage, following the refusals with which the latter had met a few rather modest demands for reforms presented by the candidates for election (pp. 108-116, 126, 131).

1 On March 30, 1906, Monis said in the Senate : " We cannot write in a legal text that prostitution exists in France for both sexes."


220 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

much so, that when the brutaUty has been great we often ask ourselves whether the culprit is in possession of all his senses. This transformation has evidently not come about because criminals have become moral, but because they have changed their method of procedure to suit the new economic conditions, as we shall see farther on. This change has had the greatest influence on popular thought.

We all know that by using brutality, associations of criminals manage to maintain excellent discipline among themselves. When we see a child ill-treated we instinc- tively suppose that its parents have criminal habits. The methods used by the old schoolmasters, which the ecclesi- astical houses persist in preserving, are those of vagabonds who steal children to make clever acrobats or interesting beggars of them. Everything which reminds us of the habits of dangerous classes of former times is extremely odious to us.

There is a tendency for the old ferocity to be replaced by cunning, and many sociologists believe that this is a real progress. Some philosophers who are not in the habit of following the opinions of the herd, do not see exactly how this constitutes progress, from the point of view of morals : '* If we are revolted by the cruelty, by the brutality of past times," says Hartmann, ** it must not be forgotten that uprightness, sincerity, a lively sentiment of justice, pious respect before holiness of morals char- acterised the ancient peoples ; while nowadays we see predominant lies, duplicity, treachery, the spirit of chicane, the contempt for property, disdain for instinctive probity and legitimate customs — the value of which is not even understood.^ Robbery, deceit, and fraud

  • Hartmann here bases his statements on the authority of the

English naturalist Wallace, who has greatly praised the simplicity of life among the Malays ; there must surely be a considerable element of exaggeration in this praise, although other travellers have made similar observations about some of the tribes of Sumatra. Hartmann wishes


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 221

increase in spite of legal repression more rapidly than brutal and violent crimes, like pillage, murder, and rape, etc., decrease. Egoism of the basest kind shamelessly breaks the sacred bonds of the family and friendship in every case in which these oppose its desires." ^

At the present time money losses are generally looked upon as accidents to which we are constantly exposed and easily made good again, while bodily accidents are not so easily reparable. Fraud is therefore regarded as infinitely less serious than brutality ; criminals benefit from this change which has come about in legal sentences.

Our penal code was drawn up at a time when the citizen was pictured as a rural proprietor occupied solely with the administration of his property, as a good family man, saving to secure an honourable position for his children ; large fortunes made in business, in politics, or by specula- tion were rare and were looked on as real monstrosities ; the defence of the savings of the middle classes was one of the first concerns of the legislator. The previous judicial system had been still more severe in the punish- ment of fraud, for a royal declaration of August 5, 1725, punished a fraudulent bankrupt with death ; it would be difiicult to imagine anything further removed from our customs. We are now inclined to consider that offences of this sort can, as a rule, only be committed as the result of the imprudence of the victims, and that it is only exceptionally that they deserve severe penalties ; we, on the contrary, content ourselves with light punishment.

In a rich community where business is on a very large scale, and in which everybody is wide awake in defence of his own interests, as in America, crimes of fraud never have the same consequences as in a community which is forced to practise rigid economy ; as a matter of fact,

to show that there is no progress towards happiness, and this pre- occupation leads him to exaggerate the happiness of the ancients.

  • Hartmann, Philosophy of the Unconscious, French trans., pp. 464-465.


292 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

these crimes seldom cause a serious and lasting disturbance in the economic system ; it is for this reason that Americans put up with the excesses of their politicians and financiers with so little complaint. P. de Rousiers compares the American to the captain of a ship who, during a dangerous voyage, has no time to look after his thieving cook. " When you point out to Americans that they are being robbed by their politicians, they usually reply, ' Of course we are quite aware of that ! But as long as business is good and politicians do not get in the way, it will not be very difficult for them to escape the punishment they deserve.' " *

In Europe also, since it has become easy to gain money, ideas, analogous to those current in America, have spread among us. Great company promoters have been able to escape pimishment because in their hour of success they were clever enough to make friends in all circles. We have finally come to believe that it would be extremely unjust to condemn bankrupt merchants and lawyers who retire ruined after moderate catastrophes, while the princes of financial swindling continue to lead gay lives. Gradu- ally the new industrial system has created a new and extraordinary indulgence for all crimes of fraud in the great capitalist countries.*

In those countries where the old parsimonious and non- speculative family economy still prevails, the relative estimation of acts of fraud and acts of brutality has not followed the same evolution as in America, England, and France ; this is why Germany has preserved so many of the customs of former times,^ and does not feel the same

^ De Rousiers, La Vie amSricaine : I' Education et la socUU, p. 217.

« Several small countries have adopted these ideas, thinking by such imitation to reach the greatness of the large countries.

" It must be noticed that in Germany there are so many Jews in the world of speculation that American ideas do not spread very easily. The majority look upon the speculator as a foreigner who is robbing the nation.


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 223

horror that we do for brutal punishments ; these never seem to them, as they do to us, only suitable to the most dangerous classes.

Many philosophers have protested against this mitiga- tion of sentences ; after what we have related earlier about Hartmann, we shall expect to meet him among those who protest. " We are already," he says, " approaching the time when theft and lying condemned by law will be despised as vulgar errors, as gross clumsiness, by the clever cheats who know how to preserve the letter of the law while infringing the rights of other people. For my part, I would much rather live amongst the ancient Germans, at the risk of being killed on occasion, than be obliged, as I am in modem cities, to look on every man as a swindler or a rogue imless I have evident proofs of his honesty." ^ Hartmann takes no account of economic conditions ; he argues from an entirely personal point of view, and never looks at what goes on roimd him. Nobody to-day wants to run the risk of being slain by ancient Germans ; fraud or a theft are very easily reparable.

C. Finally, in order to get to the heart of contemporary thought on this matter, it is necessary to examine the way in which the public judges the relations existing between the State and the criminal associations. Such relations have always existed ; these associations, after having practised violence, have ended by employing craft alone, or at least their acts of violence have become somewhat exceptional.

Nowadays we should think it very strange if the magistrates were to put themselves at the head of armed bands, as they did in Rome during the last years of the Republic. In the course of the Zola trial, the Anti-Semites recruited bands of paid demonstrators, who were com- missioned to manifest patriotic indignation ; the Govem-

  • Haxtmann, loc. cit., p. 465.


224 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

ment of M61ine protected these antics, which for some months had considerable success and helped considerably in hindering a fair revision of the sentence on Dreyfus.

I believe that I am not mistaken in saying that these tactics of the partisans of the Church have been the principal cause of all the measures directed against Catholicism since 1901 ; the middle-class liberals would never have accepted these measures if they had not still been under the influence of the fear they had felt during the Dreyfus affair. The chief argument which Clemenceau used to stir up his followers to fight against the Church was that of fear ; he never ceased to denounce the danger which the Republic ran in the continued existence of the Romish faction ; the laws about the congregations, about education and the administration of the churches were made with the object of preventing the Catholic party again taking up its former warlike attitude, which Anatol France so often compared to that of the League ; ^ they were laws inspired by fear. Many Conservatives felt this so strongly that they regarded with displeasure the resistance recently opposed to the inventories of churches ; they considered that the employment of bands of pious apaches would make the middle classes still more hostile to their cause. ^ It was not a little surprising to see Brunetiere, who had been one of the admirers of the anti- Dreyfus apaches, advise submission ; this was because experience had enlightened him as to the consequences of violence.

1 [The League was a political organisation directed by the partisans of the Due de Guise against the Protestants ; it resisted Henri IV. for a considerable time. — Trans. Note.]

« At a meeting of the Municipal Council of Paris on March 26, 1906, the Prefect of Police said that the resistance was organised by a com- mittee sitting at 86. rue de Richelieu, which hired pious apaches at between three and four francs a day. He asserted that fifty-two Parisian cures had promised him either to facilitate the inventories or to be content with a merely passive resistance. He accused the Catholic politicians of having forced the hands of the clergy.


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 225

Associations which work by craft provoke no such reactions in the public ; in the time of the " clerical republic," ^ the society of Saint Vincent de Paul was an excellent centre of surveillance over officials of every order and grade ; it is not surprising, then, that free- masonry has been able to render services to the Radical Government of exactly the same kind as those which Catholic philanthropy was able to render to former Governments. The history of recent spying scandals has shown very plainly what the point of view of the country actually was.

When the nationalists obtained possession of the docu- ments containing information about officers of the army, which had been compiled by the dignitaries of the masonic lodges, they believed that their opponents were lost ; the panic which prevailed in the Radical camp for some time seemed to justify their hopes, but before long the democracy showed only derision for what they called the " petty virtue " of those who publicly denounced the methods of General Andr^ and his accomplices. In those difficult days Henry Berenger showed that he understood admirably the ethical standards of his contemporaries ; he did not hesitate to approve of what he called the " legitimate supervision of the governing classes exercised by the organisations of the vanguard " ; he denounced the cowardice of the Government which had " allowed those who had undertaken the difficult task of opposing the military caste and the Roman Church, of examining and denouncing them, to be branded as informers " {Action, Oct. 31, 1904) ; he loaded with insults the few Dreyfusards who dared to show their indignation ; the attitude of Joseph Reinach appeared particularly scandalous to him ; in his opinion the latter should have felt himself extremely honoured by being tolerated in the ** League of the Rights of Man," which had decided at last to lead " the good

1 \I.e. in the time when MacMahon was President. — Trans. Note.]


226 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

fight for the defence of rights of the citizen, sacrificed too long to those of one man " [Action, Dec. 12, 1904). Finally, a law of amnesty was voted declaring that no one wanted to hear anything more of these trifles.

There was some opposition in the provinces,* but was it very serious ? I am inclined to think not, when I read the documents published by Peguy in the ninth number of the sixth series of his Cahiers de la quinzaine. Several people, accustomed to speaking a verbose, sonorous, and nonsensical language, doubtless found themselves a Uttle imcomfortable under the smiles of the leading grocers and eminent chemists who constituted the ^lite of the lesimed and musical societies before which they had been accustomed to hold forth on Justice, Truth, and Light. They found it necessary to adopt a stoical attitude.

Could anything be finer than this passage from a letter of Professor Bougie, an eminent doctor of social science, which I find on page 13 : "I am very happy to learn that at last the League is going to speak. Its silence astonishes and frightens us." He must be a man who is easily astonished and frightened ! Francis de Pressens6 also suffered some anxiety of mind — he is a specialist in that kind of thing — but his feelings were of a very distinguished kind, as is only proper for an aristocratic Socialist ; he was afraid that democracy was threatened with a new guillotine seche,^ resembling that which had done so much harm to virtuous democrats during the Panama scandal.^ When he saw that the public quietly accepted

  • The people in the provinces are not, as a matter of fact, so

accustomed as the Parisians are to indulgence towards non-violent trickery and brigandage.

" [" Dry guillotine," popular expression meaning persecution — Trans.]

  • Cahiers de la quinzaine 9th of the Vlth series, p. 9. F. de Pressensfe

was at the time of the Panama affair H^brard's principal clerk ; we know that the latter was one of the principal beneficiaries from the Panama booty, but that has not injured his position in the eyes of the austere Huguenots ; the Temps continues to be the organ of moderate democracy and of the ministers of the Gospel.


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 227

the complicity of the Government with a philanthropic association which had turned into a criminal association, he hurled his avenging thunders against the protestors. Among the most comical of these protestors I pick out a political pastor of St-Etienne called I.. Comte. He wrote, in the extraordinary language employed by the members of the League of the Rights of Man : " I had hoped that the [Dreyfus] affair would have definitely cured us of the moral malaria from which we suffer, and that it would have cleansed the republican conscience of the clerical virus with which it was impregnated. It has done nothing. We are more clerical than ever." ^ Accordingly this austere man remained in the League I Protestant and middle-class logic ! It is always possible, you see, that the League might one of these days be able to render some small service to the deserving ministers of the Gospel.

I have insisted rather lengthily on these grotesque incidents because they seem to me to characterise very aptly the moral ideas of the people who claim to lead us. Henceforth it must be taken for granted that politico- criminal associations which work by craft have a recog- nised place in any democracy that has attained its maturity. P. de Rousiers believes that America will one day cure itself of the evils which result from the guilty manoeuvres of its politicians. Ostrogorski, after making a long and minute inquiry into " Democracy, and the organisation of political parties,*' believes that he has found remedies which will enable modem states to free themselves from exploitation by political parties. These are platonic vows ; no historical experience justifies the hope that a democracy can be made to work in a capitalist country, without the criminal abuses experienced everywhere now- adays. When Rousseau demanded that the democracy should not tolerate the existence in its midst of any private association, he reasoned from his knowledge of the republics

^ Cahiers de la quimaine, loc. cit. p. 13.


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of the Middle Ages ; he knew that part of history better than his contemporaries did, and was struck with the enormous part played at that time by the politico- criminal associations ; he asserted the impossibiUty of reconciling a rational democracy with the existence of such forces, but we ought to learn from experience that there is no way of bringing about their disappearance.^


Ill

The preceding explanations enable us to understand the ideas about the proper function of the worker's syndicates formed by the enlightened democrats and the worthy progressives. Waldeck-Rousseau has often been congratulated on having carried the law on syndicates in 1884. In order to give an account of what was expected from this law we must recall the situation of France at that epoch. Severe financial embarrassments had com- pelled the Government to sign agreements with the rail- way companies which the Radicals denounced as acts of brigandage ; the colonial policy gave opportunities for extremely violent attacks and was thoroughly unpopular \^ the discontent which a few years later took the form of Boulangism was already very marked, and in the elections of 1885 very nearly gave a majority to the Conservatives.

Waldeck-Rousseau, without being a very profound seer, was yet sharp enough to understand the danger which might threaten the opportunist republic, and C5mical enough to look for a means of defence in a politico-

^ Rousseau, stating the question in an abstract way, appeared to condemn every kind of association, and our Governments for a long time used his authority to subject every association to authority.

  • In his Morale, published in 1883, Y. Guyot violently attacks this

policy. " In spite of the disastrous experiences [of two centuries], we are taking Tunisia, we are on the point of going to Egypt, we are setting out for Tonkin, we dream of the conquest of Central Africa ' ' (p. 339).


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 22g

criminal association capable of checkmating the Con- servatives.

At the time of the Empire the Government had tried to manipulate the benefit societies in such a way as to control the employes and a section of the artisans. Later on, it believed it might be possible to find, in the work- men's associations, a weapon with which it might be capable of ruining the authority which the Liberal party had with the people, and terrorising the rich classes, who had obstinately opposed the Government since 1863. Waldeck-Rousseau was inspired by these examples and hoped to organise among the workmen a hierarchy under the direction of the police.^

In a circular of August 25, 1884, Waldeck-Rousseau explained to the prefects that they ought not to confine themselves to their too limited function of enforcing respect for the law ; they must stimulate the spirit of association and " smooth away the difficulties which were bound to arise from inexperience and lack of practice in this new liberty," their task would be so much the more useful and important if they succeeded in inspiring greater confidence in the workmen ; in diplomatic terms the Minister advised them to undertake the moral leadership of the Syndicalist movement.^ ** Although the Govern- ment is not obliged by the law of 1884 to take any part in the search for the solutions of the great economic and social problems, it cannot be indifferent to them, and I am convinced that it is its duty to participate and to put its services and zeal at the disposal of all the parties

  • I have pointed this out in the Ere nouvelle, March 1894, p. 339.

' According to the Sociahst deputy, Marius Devize, the Prefect du Gard undertook this leadership of the Syndicahst movement under the minister Combes {Etudes socialistes, p. 323). I find in the France du Sud-Ouest (January 25, 1904) a notice announcing that the Prefect of La Manche, delegated by the Government, together with the under- prefect, the mayor, and the municipality, officially inaugurated the Bourse du Travail at Cherbourg.


230 REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

concerned." It will be necessary to act with a great deal of prudence so as " not to excite mistrust," to show the workmen's associations how very much the Government interests itself in their development, and to advise them " when they make appHcations." The prefects must prepare themselves for " this role of counsellor and energetic collaborator by a thorough study of legislation, and of the similar organisations which exist in France and abroad."

In 1884 the Government did not in the least foresee that the sjmdicates might participate in a great revolu- tionary agitation, and the circular spoke with a certain irony of " the hypothetical peril of an anti-social federa- tion of the whole of the workers." Nowadays one is very tempted to smile at the ingenuousness of the man who has so often been represented to us as the prince of cunning ; but to account for his illusions it is necessary to go back to the writings of the democrats of that period. In 1887, in the preface to the third edition of Sublime, Denis Poulot, an experienced manufacturer, former mayor of the nth arrondissement and a follower of Gambetta, said that the syndicates would kill strikes ; he beUeved that the revolutionaries had no serious influence on the organised workmen, and he saw in the primary schools a sure means of bringing about the dis- appearance of Socialism ; like nearly all the opportunists of that time, he was much more preoccupied with blacks than with reds} Yves Guyot himself does not seem to have had much more insight than Waldeck-Rousseau, because in his Morale (1883) he considered collectivism to be merely a word, he denounced the existing legislation which " aims at hindering the organisation of workmen for the sale of their labour at the highest possible price and for the discussion of their interests," and he expected that what the syndicates would lead to would be the

  • Blacks and reds — clericals and Socialists.


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 931

" organisation of the sale of labour on a wholesale basis/' He makes violent attacks on the priests, and the Chagot family is denounced because it forces the miners of Monceau to go to Mass.^ Everybody then counted on the working men's organisations to destroy the power of the clerical party.

If the Waldeck-Rousseau had had the slightest fore- sight, he would have perceived the advantage that the Conservatives have tried to draw from the law on syndi- cates, with a view to attempting the restoration of social peace in the country districts imder their own leadership. For several years the peril which the RepubUc ran in the formation of an agrarian party has been denounced ; * the result has not answered to the hopes of the promoters of agricultural syndicates, but it might have been serious. Waldeck-Rousseau never suspected it for an instant ; he does not seem, in his circular, to have suspected even the material services which the new associations would render to agriculture.^ If he had had any idea of what might come to pass, he would have taken precautions in the drawing up of the law ; it is certain that neither the minister who drew up the law, nor the '* rapporteur " * imderstood the importance of the word " agricultural ** which was intro- duced by means of an amendment proposed by D'Oudet, the senator for Doubs.*^

Workmen's associations directed by democrats, using cunning, threats, and sometimes even a certain amount

  • Y. Guyot, Morale, pp. 293, 183-184, 122, 148 and 320.

« De Rocquigny, L«s Syndicats agricoles et leur ceuvre, pp. 42, 391-394.

  • This is all the more remarkable since the syndicates are represented

in the circular as capable of aiding French industry in its struggle against foreign competition.

« [See note p. 80. — Trans.]

  • It was thought to be merely a question of permitting agricultural

labourers to form themselves into syndicates ; Tolain declared, in the name of the Committee, that he had never thought of excluding them from the benefits of the new law (De Rocquigny, op. cit. p. 10). As a rule, the agricultural syndicates have served as commercial agencies for farm bailifis, landowners, etc.

Q


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of violence, could have been of the greatest service to the Government in the struggle against the Conservatives, then so threatening. Those people who have recently transformed Waldeck-Rousseau into the father of his country will probably protest against such a disrespectful interpretation of his policy ; but this interpretation will not seem altogether improbable to the people who remember the cynicism with which he, who is now repre- sented as a great Liberal, governed ; one had the impression that France was about to enter on a regime which would recall the follies, the luxuries, and the brutality of the Caesars. Moreover, when unforeseen circumstances brought back Waldeck-Rousseau to power, he immediately resumed his former policy and tried to use the syndicates against his adversaries.

In 1899 it was no longer possible to attempt to put the workmen's associations under the direction of the prefects in the way indicated by the circular of 1884 ; but there were other methods which might be tried, and in including Millerand in his ministry, Waldeck-Rousseau thought he had earned out a master-stroke. As Millerand had been able to make himself the leader of the Socialists, who had, until then, been divided into irreconcilable gi-oups, might he not become the broker who would discreetly manipulate the syndicates by influencing their leaders ? Every means of seduction was employed in order to bring the workmen to reason, and to inspire them with confidence in the higher ofhcials of the " Government of Republican Defence.'*

One cannot help being reminded of the policy that Napoleon, in signing the Concordat, intended to follow ; he had recognised that it would not be possible for him, as for Henry VIII., to directly influence the Church. " Failing that method," said Taine, " he adopts another, which leads to the same end. He does not want to change


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 233

the opinions of his people, he respects spiritual things and wishes to control them without interfering with them and without becoming entangled himself in them ; he wants to make them square with his policy, but by the influence of temporal things." ^ In the same way, Millerand was commissioned to assure the workmen that their Socialist convictions would not be interfered with ; the Government only wanted to direct the action of the syndicates and to make them fit in with its own policy.

Napoleon had said, " You will see how I shall be able to utilise the priests." ^ Millerand was instructed to gratify in every way the vanity of the leaders of the syndicates,^ while the mission of the prefects was to induce the employers to grant material advantages to the workers ; it was thought that this Napoleonic policy would give results as considerable as those obtained from the policy pursued in regard to the Church. Dumay, the Minister of Public Worship, had succeeded in creating a docile episcopacy formed of men whom the ardent Catholics contemptuously called the " prefets violets."^ Might it not be possible, by putting a shrewd principal clerk in the office of the minister, to create *' prefets rouges.'* An this was fairly well thought out and corre- sponded perfectly with the kind of talent possessed by Waldeck-Rousseau, who was all his life a great partisan of the Concordat and was fond of negotiating with Rome. It was not impleasing to him. to negotiate with the reds \ the very originality of the enterprise would have been enough to chaxm a mind Hke his, that deUghted in subtlety.

^ Taine, Le Regime moderne, vol. ii. p. 10.

2 Taine, loc. cit. p. 11,

' This is what Mme. Georges Renard very sensibly points out in her report of a workmen's fete given by Millerand (L. de Seilhac, Le Monde socialiste, p. 308).

• [Prefets violets ; this expression was used ironically by several papers to designate bishops who were too submissive to the Govern- ment. Catholic bishops wear a violet robe. — Trans. Note.]


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In a speech on December i, 1905, Marcel Sembat, who had been in a particularly good position to know how things happened in the time of Millerand, related several anecdotes which very much astounded the Chamber. He told them how the Government, in order to make itself disagreeable to the nationalist mimicipal councillors of Paris, and to reduce their influence on the Bourse du Travail,! had asked the syndicates **to make applications to it that would justify " the reorganisation of that establishment. A certain amount of scandal was caused by the march past of the red flags before the official plat- form at the inauguration of the monument to Dalou in the Place de la Nation. We now know that this happened as the result of negotiations ; the prefect of police had hesitated, but Waldeck-Rousseau had authorised these revolutionary ensigns. The fact that the Government denied having any relations with the syndicates is of no importance — a lie more or less would not trouble a pohtician of Waldeck-Rousseau's calibre.

The exposure of these manoeuvres shows us that the ministry depended on the syndicates to frighten the Con- servatives. Ever since then it has been easy to imder- stand the attitude they have adopted in the course of several strikes : on the one hand, Waldeck-Rousseau proclaimed with great fervour the necessity of giving

1 Millerand did not keep on the former Director of the Office du Travail, who was doubtless not pliant enough for the new policy. It seems to me to be clearly established that at that time considerable attention was being given in this Government department to a kind of enquiry as to the state of feeling among the miUtants of the syndicates, evidently in order to ascertain in what way they might be advised. This was revealed by Ch. Guieysse in the Pages libres of December 10, 1904 ; the protestations of the department and those of Millerand do not appear to have been very serious {Voix du peuple, December 18, 25, 1904, January i, 1905, June 25, August 27). [The Office du Travail is a ministerial office, which makes enquiries about labour and publishes statistics ; it was created principally in the hope that it would serve to put the Government into connection with the leaders of the syndicates. — Trans.]


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 235

the protection of public force to every single workman who wished to work in spite of the strikers ; on the other hand, he has more than once shut his eyes to acts of violence. The reason of this is, that he found it necessary to annoy and frighten the progressists,^ and because he meant to reserve to himself the right of forcible inter- vention at the moment when his political interests require the disappearance of all disorder. In the pre- carious state of his authority in the country he believed it possible to govern only by fear and by imposing himself as the supreme arbitrator in industrial disputes.^

Since 1884 Waldeck-Rousseau's plan had been to trans- form the syndicates into politico-criminal associations which could serve as auxiliaries to the democratic Govern- ment. The syndicates were to play a part analogous to that played by the lodges, the latter being useful in sppng on the officials, and the former designed to threaten- ing the interests of those employers who were not on the side of the administration ; the freemasons being re- warded by decorations and favours given to their friends, the workmen being authorised to extract extra wages from their employers. This poUcy was simple and cheap.

In order that this system may work properly, a certain moderation in the conduct of the workmen is necessary. Not only must violence be used with discretion, but the workmen's demands also must not exceed certain limits. The same principles must be applied in this case as in the case of the bribery of politicians. Everybody approves

  • It may be questioned whether Waldeck-Rousseau did not go too

far, and thus started the Government on a very different road from that which he wanted it to take ; I do not think that the law about associa- tions would have been voted except under the influence of fear, but it is certain that its final wording was much more anti-clerical than its promoter would have wished.

  • In a speech on June 21, 1907, Charles Benoist complains that the

Dreyfus case had thrown discredit on " reasons of State," and had led the Government to appeal to the elements of disorder in the nation in order to create order.


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of that as long as the politicians are reasonable in their demands. People who are in business know that there is quite a complete art of bribery ; certain intermediaries have acquired a special skill in estimating the amount of the presents that should be offered to high officials, or to deputies who can get bills passed. If financiers are almost always obliged to have recourse to the services of specialists, there is all the more reason why the workmen, ^^ho are quite unaccustomed to the customs of this world, must need intermediaries to fix the sum which they can exact from their employers without exceeding reasonable limits.^

We are thus led to consider arbitration in an entirely new light and to understand it in a really scientific manner, since, instead of allowing ourselves to be duped by abstrac- tions, we shall explain it by means of the dominant ideas of middle-class society, who invented it, and who want to impose it on the workers. It would be evidently absurd to go into a pork butcher's shop, order him to sell us a ham at less than the marked price, and then ask him to submit the question to arbitration ; but it is not absurd to promise to a group of employers the advantages to be derived from the fixity of wages for several years, and to ask the specialistsvfhdX present remuneration this guarantee is worth ; this remuneration may be considerable if business is expected to be good during that time. Instead of bribing some influential person the employers raise their workmen's wages ; from their point of view there is no difference. As for the Government, it becomes the benefactor of the people, and hopes that it will do well in the elections ; to the pohtician, the electoral advantages which result from a successful conciliation are worth more than a very large bribe.

It is easy to understand now why all politicians have

^ I suppose that no one is ignorant of the fact that no important undertaking is carried through without bribery.


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SO great an admiration for arbitration ; it is because an enterprise conducted without bribery is inconceivable to them. Many of our poUticians are lawyers, and clients who confide their cases to them attach great weight to their Parliamentary influence. It is for this reason that a former Minister of Justice is always sure of getting remunerative law-suits even when he is not very talented, because he has means of influencing the magistrates, with whose faihngs he is very famihar, and whom he could ruin if he wished. The great political advocates are sought out by financiers who have serious difficulties to overcome in the law courts, who are accustomed to bribe on a large scale and in consequence pay royally. The world of employers thus appears to our rulers as a world of adventurers, gamblers, and parasites of the stock ex- change; they consider that this rich and criminal class must expect to submit from time to time to the demands of other social groups. Their conception of the ideal capitalist society would be a compromise between con- flicting appetites under the auspices of political lawyers.^ The Catholics would not be sorry, now they are in

  • I borrow from a celebrated novel by Leon Daudet a description of

the character of the barrister Mederbe. " The latter was a curious character, tall, thin, of a well-set-up figure, surmounted by a head like a dead fish, green impenetrable eyes, oiled and flattened hair, his whole appearance being frozen and rigid. . . . He had chosen the profession of a barrister as being one which would supply his own and his wife's need of money. . . . He took part chiefly in financial cases, on account of the large profit to be made out of them, and of the secrets he learned from them ; he was employed in such cases on account of his semi- political, semi-judicial relations, which always secured him victory in any case he pleaded. He charged fabulous fees. What he was paid for was certain acquittal. This man then had enormous power. . . He gave one the impression of a bandit armed for social Ufe and sure of impunity. . . ." {Les Morticoles, pp. 2S7-28S). It is clear that many of these traits are copied from those of the man the Socialists so often called the Eiffel barrister, before they made him the de mi-god of Republican Defence. [In the Panama affair, Eiffel was prosecuted for having illegally appropriated a large sum. Waldeck-Rousseau defended him in the law courts. — Trans.}


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Opposition, to find support in the working classes. It is not only flattery that they address to the workers, in order to convince them that it would be greatly to their advantage to abandon the SociaUsts. They also would very much like to organise politico-criminal associations, just as Waldeck-Rousseau hoped to do twenty years ago ; but the results they have obtained up till now have been very moderate. Their aim is to save the Church, and they think that the well-disposed capitalists might sacrifice a part of their profits to give to the Christian syndicates the concessions necessary to assure the success of this reUgious pohcy. A well-informed CathoHc, who interests himself in social questions, lately told me that in a few years the workers would be obhged to recognise that their prejudices against the Church had no foundation. I think that he deluded himself as much as Waldeck-Rousseau did when in 1884 he regarded the idea of a revolutionary federation of syndicates as ridiculous, but the material interest of the Church so blinds Cathohcs that they are capable of every kind of stupidity.

The Social Cathohcs ^ have a way of looking at economic questions that makes them resemble our vilest poUticians very closely. In fact it is difficult for the clerical world to conceive that things can happen otherwise than by grace, favouritism, and bribery.

I have often heard a lawyer say that a priest can never be made to understand that certain actions which the Code never pimished are nevertheless villainies; and I have been told by a bishop's lawyer, that while a clientele composed of convents is an excellent one, yet at the same time it is very dangerous, because convents frequently want fraudulent deeds drawn up. Many people seeing during the last fifteen years so many gorgeous monuments

1 [The "catholiques soceaun " form a definite party. De Mutz has been for a long time the recognised leader of the party and still exercises considerable influence. — Trans. Note.]


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 9S9

erected by the religious congregations have wondered if a wave of madness was not passing over the Church. They are unaware that these building operations enable a crowd of pious rascals to live at the expense of the Church treasury. The imprudence of those congrega- tions which persist in carrying on long and costly law- suits against the pubHc treasury has often been pointed out, for such tactics enable the Radicals to work up a Hvely agitation against the monks by denouncing the avarice of people who claim to have taken vows of poverty. But these law-suits make plenty of business for the army of pious rascaUty. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that more than a third of the fortune of the Church has been wasted for the benefit of these vampires.

A widespread dishonesty therefore prevails in the CathoUc world, which leads the devout to believe that economic conditions depend chiefly on the caprices of the people who hold the purse. Everybody who has profited by an imexpected gain — and all profit from capital is an unexpected gain to them * — ought to share the profit with those people who have a right to his affection or to his esteem : first of all the priests,* and then their parishioners. If he does not respect this obhgation, he is a rascal, a freemason, or a Jew ; no violence is too great to be used against such an imp of Satan. When priests, then, are heard using revolutionary language, we need not take them literally and believe that these vehement orators have socialistic sentiments. It simply indicates that the capitalists have not been sufficiently generous.

Here again, then, there is a case for arbitration ; recourse

  • I do not think that there exists a class less capable of understanding

the economics of production than the priests.

« In Turkey when a high palace dignitary receives a bribe, the Sultan takes the money and then gives a certain proportion of it back to his employe ; what proportion is given back depends on the Sultan's disposition at the moment. The Sultan's ethical code in these matters is also that of our Catholic social reform group.


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must be had to men with great experience of Ufe in order to ascertain exactly what sacrifices the rich must submit to on behalf of the poor dependants of the Church.


IV

The study we have just made has not led us to think that the theorists of ** social peace " are on the way to an ethic worthy of acknowledgment. We now pass to a counterproof and enquire whether proletarian violence might not be capable of producing the effect in vain expected from tactics of moderation.

First of all, it must be noticed that modem philosophers seem to agree in demanding a kind of sublimity from the ethics of the future, which will distinguish it from the petty and insipid morality of the CathoHcs. The chief thing with which the theologians are reproached is that they make too great use of the conception of probabilism ; nothing seems more absurd (not to say more scandalous) to contemporary philosophers than to count the opinions which have been emitted for and against a maxim, in order to find out whether we ought to shape our conduct by it or not.

Professor Durkheim said recently, at the Societi francaise de philosophic (February ii, 1906), that it would be impossible to suppress the rehgious element in ethics, and that what characterised this element was its incom- mensurability with other human values. He recognised that his sociological researches led him to conclusions very near those of Kant ; he asserted that utilitarian morality had misunderstood the problem of duty and obligation. I do not want to discuss these here ; I simply cite them to show to what point the character of the sublime impresses itself on authors who, by the nature of their work, would seem the least inclined to accept it.

No writer has defined more forcibly than Proudhon


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 241

the principles of that morality which modem times have in vain sought to realise. " To feel and to assert the dignity of man," he says, " first in everything in con- nection with ourselves, then in the person of our neighbour, and that without a shadow of egoism, without any con- sideration either of divine or communal sanction — therein lies Right. To be ready to defend that dignity in every circumstance with energy, and, if necessary, against one- self, that is Justice." ^ Clemenceau, who doubtless can hardly be said to make a personal use of this morality, expresses the same thought when he writes : " Without the dignity of the human person, without independence, liberty, and justice, life is but a bestial state not worth the trouble of preserving" {Aurore, May 12, 1905).

One well-founded reproach has been brought against Proudhon, as well as against many others of the great moralists ; it has been said that his maxims were admir- able, but that they were doomed to remain ineffective. And, in fact, experience does prove, unfortunately, that those precepts which the historians of ideas call the most elevated precepts are, as a rule, entirely ineffective. This was evident in the case of the Stoics, it was no less remark- able in Kantism, and it does not seem as if the practical influence of Proudhon has been very noticeable. In order that a man may suppress the tendencies against which morality struggles, he must have in himself some source of conviction which must dominate his whole consciousness, and act before the calculations of reflection have time to enter his mind.

It may even be said that all the fine arguments by which authors hope to induce men to act morally are more hkely to lead them down the slope of probabilism ; as soon as we consider an act to be accomplished, we are led to ask ourselves if there is not some means of escaping

1 Proudhon, De la justice dans la revolution et datis I'eglise, vol. i. 216.


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the strict obligations of duty. A. Comte supposed that human nature would change in the future and that the cerebral organs which produce altruism (?) would destroy those which produce egoism ; in saying this he very likely bore in mind the fact that moral decision is instantaneous, and, like instinct, comes from the depth of man's nature.

At times Proudhon is reduced, like Kant, to appeal to a kind of scholasticism for an explanation of the paradox of moral law. " To feel himself in others, to the point of sacrificing every other interest to this sentiment, to demand for others the same respect as for himself, and to be angry with the unworthy creature who sufEers others to be lacking in respect for him, as if the care of his dignity did not concern himself alone, such a faculty at first sight seems a strange one. . . . There is a tendency in every man to develop and force the acceptance of that which is essentially himself — ^which is, in fact, his own dignity. It results from this that the essential in man being identical and one for all humanity, each of us is aware of himself at the same time as individual and as species ; and that an insult is felt by a third party and by the offender himself as well as by the injured person, that in consequence the protest is common. This precisely is what is meant by Justice." *

Religious ethics claim to possess this source of action which is wanting in lay ethics,^ but here it is necessary to make a distinction if an error, into which so many authors have fallen, is to be avoided. The great mass of Christians do not carry out the real Christian ethic, that which the philosopher considers as really pecuUar to their reUgion ; worldly people who profess Catholicism are chiefly preoccupied with probabiUsm, mechanical

  • Proudhon, loc. cit. pp. 216-217.
  • Proudhon thinks that this was also lacking in pagan antiquity :

" During several centuries, polytheistic societies had customs, but no ethics. In the absence of a morality solidly based on principles, the customs gradually disappeared " {loc. cU. p. 173).


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 243

rites and proceedings more or less related to magic and which are calculated to assure their present and future happiness in spite of their sins.^

Theoretical Christianity has never been a religion suited to worldly people ; the doctors of the spiritual life have always reasoned about those people who were able to escape from the conditions of ordinary life. " When the Council of Gangres, in 325," said Renan, '* declared that the Gospel maxims about poverty, the renunciation of the family and virginity, were not intended for the ordinary Christian, the perfectionists made places apart where the evangelical life, too lofty for the common run of men, could be practised in all its rigour. ' ' He remarks, moreover, very justly, that the " monastery took the place of martyrdom so that the precepts of Jesus might be carried out somewhere," * but he does not push this comparison far enough ; the lives of the great hermits were a material struggle against the infernal powers which pursue them even to the desert,^ and this struggle was to continue that which the martyrs had waged against their adversaries.

These facts show us the way to a right understanding of the nature of lofty moral convictions ; these never depend on reasoning or on any education of the individual will, but on a state of war in which men voluntarily partici- pate and which finds expression in well-defined myths. In Catholic countries the monks carry on the struggle against the prince of evil who triumphs in this world, and would subdue them to his will; in Protestant countries

  • Heinrich Heine claims that the Catholicism of a wife is a very good

thing for the husband, because the wife is never oppressed by the burden of her sins ; after confession she begins again " to chatter and laugh." Moreover, there is no danger of her relating her sin {L'Allemagne, 2nd edition, vol. ii. p. 322).

  • Renan, Marc-Aurile, p. 558.

» Catholic saints do not struggle against abstractions but often against apparitions which present themselves with all the signs of reality. Luther also had to fight the Devil, at whom he threw his inkpot.


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small fanatical sects take the place of the monasteries.^ These are the battle-fields which enable Christian morality to hold its own, with that character of sublimity which to-day still fascinates many minds and gives it sufficient lustre to beget in the community a few pale imitations.

When one considers a less accentuated state of the Christian ethic, one is struck by seeing to what extent it depends on strife. Le Play, who was an excellent Catholic, often contrasted (to the great scandal of his co-religionists) the solidity of the religious convictions he met with in countries of mixed religions, with the spirit of inactivity which prevails in the countries ex- clusively submitted to the influence of Rome. Among the Protestant peoples, the more vigorously the Established Church is assailed by dissident sects the greater the moral fervour developed. We thus see that convictioa is founded on the competition of communions, each of which regards itself as the army of truth fighting the armies of evil. In such conditions it is possible to find sublimity ; but when religious warfare is much weakened, probabilism, mechanical rites having a certain re- semblance to magic, take the first place.

We can point out quite similar phenomena in the history of modem Liberal ideas. For a long while our fathers regarded from an almost religious point of \dew the Declaration of the Rights of Man, which seems to us now- adays only a colourless collection of abstract and con- fused formulas, without any great practical bearing. This was due to the fact that formidable struggles had been imdertaken on account of the institutions which originated in this docmnent ; the clerical party asserted that it would demonstrate the fundamental error of Liberalism ; everywhere it organised fighting societies intended to enforce its authority on the people and on the Government ; it boasted that it would be able to destroy

^ Renan, loc. cii. p. 627.


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 245

the defenders of the Revolution before long. At the time when Proudhon wrote his book on Justice, the conflict was far from being ended ; thus the whole book is written in a warUke tone astonishing to the reader of to-day : the author speaks as if he were a veteran in the wars of Liberty ; he would be revenged on the temporary conquerors who threaten the acquisitions of the Revolu- tion ; he announces the dawn of the great revolt.

Proudhon hopes that the duel will be soon, that the forces will meet with their whole strength, and that there will be a Napoleonic battle, finally destroying the opponent. He often speaks in a language which would be appropriate to an epic. He did not perceive that when later on his belligerent ideas had disappeared, his abstract reasonings would seem weak. There is a ferment all through his soul which colours it and gives a hidden meaning to his thought, very far removed from the scholastic sense.

The savage fury with which the Church proceeded against Proudhon's book shows that the clerical camp had exactly the same conception of the nature and con- sequences of the conflict as he had.

As long as the " sublime " imposed itself in this way on the modern spirit, it seemed possible to create a lay and democratic ethic ; but in our time such an enterprise would seem almost comic. Everything is changed now that the clericals no longer seem formidable ; there are no longer any Liberal convictions, since the Liberals have ceased to be animated by their former warlike passions. Nowadays everything is in such confusion that the priests claim to be the best of democrats ; they have adopted the Marseillaise as their party hymn, and if a little persuasion is exerted they will have illuminations on the anniversary of August 10, 1792. Sublimity has vanished from the ethics of both parties, giving place to a morality of extraordinary meanness.


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Kautsky is evidently right when he asserts that in our time the advancement of the workers has depended on their revolutionary spirit. At the end of a study on social reform and revolution he says, ** It is hopeless to try, by means of moral homiUes, to inspire the English workman with a more exalted conception of life, a feeling of nobler effort. The ethics of the proletariat spring from its revolu- tionary aspirations, these are what give it the greatest force and elevation. It is the idea of revolution which has raised the proletariat from its degradation." ^ It is clear that for Kautsky morahty is always subordinate to the idea of sublimity.

The Socialist point of view is quite different from that of former democratic hterature ; our fathers believed that the nearer man approached Nature the better he was, and that a man of the people was a sort of savage ; that consequently the lower we descend the more virtue we find. The democrats have many times, in support of this idea, called attention to the fact that during revolutions the poorest people have often given the finest examples of heroism ; they explain this by taking for granted that these obscure heroes were true children of Nature. I explain it by saying that, these men being engaged in a war which was bound to end in their triumph or their enslavement, the sentiment of sublimity was bound to be engendered by the conditions of the struggle. As a rule, during a revolution the higher classes show themselves in a particularly unfavourable Hght, for this reason, that, belonging to a defeated army, they experience the feelings of conquered people, suppliant, or about to capitulate.

When working-class circles are reasonable, as the

  • Karl Kautsky, La Revolution sociale, French trans., pp. 123-124.

I have pointed out elsewhere that the decay of the revolutionary idea in the minds of former militants who have become moderate seems to be accompanied by a moral decadence that I have compared to that which as a rule one finds in the case of a priest who has lost his faith {Insegna- mente socicUi, pp. 344-345)-


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 247

professional sociologists wish them to be, when conflicts are confined to disputes about material interests, there is no more opportunity for heroism than when agri- cultural sjmdicates discuss the subject of the price of guano with manure merchants. It has never been thought that discussions about prices could possibly exercise any ethical influence on men ; the experience of sales of live stock would lead to the supposition that in such cases those interested are led to admire cunning rather than good faith ; the ethical values recognised by horse-dealers have never passed for very elevated. Among the im- portant things accomplished by agricultural s^Tidicates, De Rocquigny reports that in 1S96, " the municipality of Marmande ha\'ing wanted to impose on beasts brought to the fair a tax which the cattle-breeders considered iniquitous . . . the breeders struck, and stopped supply- ing the market of Marmande, with such effect that the municipahty found itself forced to give in.^ This was a very peaceful procedure which produced results profitable to the peasants ; but it is quite clear that nothing ethical was involved in such a dispute.

When politicians intervene there is, almost necessarily, a noticeable lowering of ethical standards, because they do nothing for nothing and only act on condition that the favoured association becomes one of their customers. We are very far here from the path of sublimity, we are on that which leads to the practices of the political- criminal societies.

In the opinion of many well-informed people, the transition from xiolence to cunning which shows itself in contemporary strikes in England cannot be too much admired. The great object of the Trades Unions is to obtain a recognition of the right to employ threats

  • De Rocquigny, op. cit. pp. 379-3S0. I am curious to know how

exactly a tax can be iniquitous. These worthy progressives speak a sjjecial language.

R


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disguised in diplomatic formulas; they desire that their delegates should not be interfered with when going the round of the workshops charged with the mission of bringing those workmen who wish to work to understand that it would be to their interests to follow the directions of the Trades Unions ; they consent to express their desires in a form which will be perfectly clear to the listener, but which could be represented in a court of justice as a solidarist^ sermon. I protest I cannot see what is so admirable in these tactics, which are worthy of Escobar. In the past the Catholics have often employed similar methods of intimidation against the Liberals; I understand thus perfectly well why so many worthy pro- gressives admire the Trades Unions, but the morahty of the worthy-progressives does not seem to me very much to be admired.

It is true that for a long time in England violence has been void of all revolutionary character. Whether corporative advantages are pursued by means of blows or by craft, there is not much difference between the two methods ; yet the pacific tactics of the Trades Unions indicate an h5rpocrisy which would be better left to the " wdl intentioned progressives." In a coimtry where the conception of the general strike exists, the blows ex- changed between workmen and representatives of the middle classes have an entirely different import, their consequences are far reaching and they may beget heroism.

I am convinced that in order to understand part, at any rate, of the dislike that Bernstein's doctrines rouse in German social democracy we must bear in mind these conclusions about the nature of the sublime in ethics. The German has been brought up on subUmity to an

  • [This is a reference to the " solidarista " doctrine, invented by

Buisson; the interests of the classes are not opposed, and the more wealthy have their duties toward the poorer. — Trans. Note.]


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extraordinary extent, first by the literature connected with the wars of independence,^ then by the revival of the taste for the old national songs which followed these wars, then by a philosophy which pursues aims very far removed from sordid considerations. It must also be remembered that the victory of 1871 has considerably contributed toward giving Germans of every class a feeling of confidence in their strength that is not to be found to the same degree in this country at the present time ; compare, for instance, the German Catholic party with the chicken-hearted creatures who form the cHent^le of the Church in France ! Our clergy only think of humiliating themselves before their adversaries and are quite happy, provided that there are plenty of evening parties during the winter ; they have no recollection of services which are rendered to them.*

The German Socialist party drew its strength particu- larly from the catastrophic idea everywhere spread by its propagandists, and which was taken very seriously as long as the Bismarckian persecutions maintained a warlike spirit in the groups. This spirit was so strong in the masses that they have not yet succeeded in understanding thoroughly that their leaders are anything but revolutionaries.

  • Renan even wrote : " The war of 18 13 to 18 15 is the only one of

our century that had anything epic and elevated about it . . . [it] corresponded to a movement of ideas and had a real intellectual signific- ance. A man who had taken part in this great struggle told me that, awakened by the cannonade on the first night that he passed with the volunteer troops collected in Silesia, he felt that he was witnessing an immense divine service " {JEssais de morale et de critique, p. 116). Com- pare Manzoni's ode entitled " Mars 1821," dedicated to " the illustrious memory of Theodore Koemer, poet and soldier of German independence and killed on the field of battle at Leipzig, a name dear to all those peoples who are struggling to defend or to reconquer their fatherland." Our own wars of Liberty were also epic, but they have not been so well written up as the war of 181 3.

  • Drumont has often denounced this state of mind of the fashionable

religious world.


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When Bernstein (who was too intelligent not to know what was the real spirit of his friends on the directing committee) announced that the grandiose hopes which had been raised must be given up, there was a moment of stupefaction ; very few people understood that Bernstein's declarations were courageous and honest actions, intended to make the language of Socialism accord more with the real facts. If hereafter it was necessary to be con- tent with the policy of social reform, the parliamentary parties and the ministry would have to be negotiated with — that is, it would be necessary to behave exactly as the middle classes did. This appeared monstrous to men who had been brought up on a catastrophic theory of Socialism. Many times had the tricks of the middle class politicians been denoimced, their astuteness contrasted with the candour and disinterestedness of the SociaHsts, and the large element of artificiality and expediency in their attitude of opposition pointed out. It could never have been imagined that the disciples of Marx might follow in the footsteps of the Liberals. With the new poUcy, heroic characters, sublimity, and convictions dis- appear ! The Germans thought that the world - was turned upside do\vn.

It is plain that Bernstein was absolutely right in not wanting to keep up a revolutionary semblance which was in contradiction with the real state of mind of the party ; he did not find in his own country the elements which existed in France and Italy ; he saw no other way then of keeping SociaUsm on a basis of reaUty than that of suppressing all that was deceptive in a revolutionary programme which the leaders no longer believed in. Kautsky, on the contrary, wanted to preserve the veil which hid from the w^orkmen the real activity of the Socialist party ; in this way he achieved much success among the poUticians, but more than any one else he has helped to intensify the Socialist crisis in Germany. The


THE ETHICS OF VIOLENCE 251

ideas of Socialism cannot be kept intact by diluting the phrases of Marx in verbose commentaries, but by con- tinually adapting the spout of Marx to facts which are capable of assuming a revolutionary aspect. The general strike alone can produce this result at the present day.

One serious question must now be asked. " ^Vhy is it that in certain countries acts of violence grouping them- selves round the idea of the general strike, produce a SociaHst ideology capable of inspiring subUmity, and why in others do they seem not to have that power ? " Here national traditions play a great part ; the examination of this problem would perhaps help to throw a strong light on the genesis of ideas ; but we will not deal with it here.


CHAPTER VII

THE ETHICS OF THE PRODUCERS

I. Morality and religion — Contempt of democracies for morality — Ethical preoccupations of the " new school."

II. Renan's uneasiness about the future of the world — His con- jectures — The need of the sublime.

III. Nietzsche's ethics — The rdle of the family in the genesis of morality ; Proudhon's theory — The ethics of Aristotle.

IV. Kautsky's hypothesis — Analogies between the spirit of the general strike and that of the wars of Liberty — Fear in- spired in the Parliamentarians by this spirit.

V. The artisan employed in progressive and inventive production, the artist and the soldier in the wars of Liberty : desire to surpass previous models ; care for exactitude ; abandon- ment of the idea of exact recompense.


Fifty years ago Proudhon pointed out the necessity of giving the people a morality which would fit new needs. The first chapter of the preliminary discourses placed at the beginning of Justice in the Revolution and in the Church is entitled " The State of Morals in the Nineteenth Century. Invasion of moral scepticism ; society in danger. What is the remedy ? " There one reads these noteworthy sentences : " France has lost its morals. Not that, as a matter of fact, the men of our generation are worse than their fathers. . . . When I say that France has lost its morals I mean that it has ceased to

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THE ETHICS OF THE PRODUCERS 253

believe in the very principles of morality, a very difEerent thing. She has no longer moral inteUigence or conscience, she has almost lost the idea of morals itself ; as a result of continual criticism we have come to this melan- choly conclusion : that right and wrong, between which we formerly thought we were able to distinguish dogmatic- ally, are now vague and indeterminate conventional terms ; that all these words. Right, Duty, Morality, Virtue, etc., of which the pulpit and the school talk so much, serve to cover nothing but pure hypotheses, vain Utopias, and unprovable prejudices ; that thus ordinary social behaviour, which is apparently governed by some sort of human respect or by convention, is in reaUty arbitrary." ^ However, he did not think that contemporary society was mortally wounded ; he believed that since the Revolution, hmnanity had acquired an idea of Justice which was sufficiently clear to enable it to triumph over temporary lapses ; by this conception of the future he separated himself completely from what was to become the most fundamentad idea of contemporary ofl&cial Socialism, which sneers at moraUty. " This juridical faith . . . this science of right and duty, which we seek everywhere in vain, that the Chiu-ch has never possessed, and without which it is impossible for us to hve, I say that the Revolu- tion created all its principles ; that these principles, unknown to us, 'rule and uphold us, but while at the bottom of our hearts affirming them, we shrink from them through prejudice, and it is this infidehty to ourselves that makes our moral poverty and servitude."* He

^ Proudhon, De la justice dans la revolution ei dans I'eglise vol. i. p. 70.

  • Proudhon, loc. cit. p. 74. By juridical faith Proudhon here

understands a triple faith, wliich dominates the family, contracts, and political relations. The first is " the conception of the mutual dignity (of husband and wife) which, raising them above the level of the senses, renders them more sacred to the other even than dear, and makes their fertile community a rehgion for them, sweeter than love itself " — the second " raising the mind above egoistical appetites, is made happier


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maintains the possibility of bringing light to our minds, of presenting what he calls *' the exegesis of the Revolu- tion " ; in order to do this, he examines history, showing how humanity has never ceased to strive tow^ards Justice, how religion has been the cause of corruption, and how

  • ' the French Revolution by bringing about the pre-

dominance of the juridical principle (over the religious principle) opens a new epoch, an entirely contrary order of things, the different elements of which it is now our task to determine. ' ' ^ Whatever may happen in the future to our worn-out race, he says at the end of this discourse, '* posterity will recognise that the third age of humanity ^ has its start in the French Revolution ; that an under- standing of this new law has been given to some of us in all its fulness ; that we have not been found quite wanting in the practice of it ; and that to perish in this sublime childbirth was, after all, not without grandeur. At that hour the Revolution became clear, then it lived. The rest of the nation (i.e. those who had not understood the Revolution) does not think at all. Will that part which lives and thinks he suppressed by that which does not? "^

I said in the preceding chapter that the whole doctrine of Proudhon was subordinated to revolutionary enthusiasm and that this enthusiasm has been extinct since the Church has ceased to be formidable ; thus there is nothing astonishing in the fact that the undertaking which Proudhon considered so easy (the creation of a moraUty absolutely free from all rehgious belief) seems very un- certain to many of our contemporaries. I find a proof

by respect for the right of another than by its own fortune " — without the third " citizens submitting to the attraction of indiWdualism could not form, whatever they did, an>'thing other than a mere aggregate of incoherent and repulsive existences that the first wind will disperse like dust " {loc. cit. pp. 72-73). In the strict sense of the word, juridical faith would be the second of these three.

  • Proudhon, loc. cit. p. 93.
  • The two first epochs are those of paganism and of Christiamty.
  • Proudhon, loc. cU. p. 104.


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of this way of thinking in a speech by Combes delivered during a discussion of the budget of PubHc Worship, January 26, 1903 : *' At the present moment we look upon the moral ideas taught by the Church as necessary ideas. For my part I find it difficult to accept the idea of a society composed of philosophers like M. Allard,^ whose primary education would have sufficiently guaranteed them against the perils and trials of life." Combes is not the kind of man to have ideas of his o^^'n ; he repro- duced an opinion current in his circle.

This declaration created a great commotion in the Chamber. All the deputies who prided themselves on their knowledge of philosophy took part in the debate ; as Combes had referred to the superficial and narrow instruction of our primary schools, F. Buisson felt that as the leading pedagogue of the third Republic, he ought to protest : " The education that we give to the child of the people," he said, "is not a half education, it is the very flower and fruit of civilisation gathered during the centuries, from among many peoples, in the religions and legal systems of all ages and of all mankind." An ethic of this abstract kind must be entirely devoid of efficacy. I remember having read, in a manual by Paul Bert, that the fundamental principles of morahty are based on the teachings of Zoroaster, and the Constitution of the year III. These do not seem to me the kind of principles

  • This deputy had made a very anticlerical speech irom which I

quote this curious idea that " the Jewish religion was the most clerical of all religions, possessing the most sectarian and narrowest type of clericalism." A little before this he said, "I mj'^elf am not an anti-Semite, and only make one reproach to the ]evrs, that of ha\Tng poisoned Aryan thought, so elevated and broad, with Hebraic monotheism." He demanded the introduction of the history of religions into the curriculum of the primary schools in order to ruin the authority of the Church. According to him the Socialist party saw in " the intellectual emancipa- tion of the masses the necessary preface to the progress and social evolution of societies." Is it not rather the contrary which is true ? Does not this speech prove that there is an anti-Semitism in free-thinking circles quite as narrow and badly informed as that of the clericals ?


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which would be powerful enough to influence a man's conduct.

It might be imagined that the University had arranged its present programme in the hope of imposing moral conduct on its pupils by means of the repetition of precepts ; moral courses are multiplied to such an extent that one might ask oneself if (with a sHght difference) the weU- known verse of Boileau might not be appHed :

Aimez-vous la muscade ? On en a mis partout.*

I do not think that there are many people who share the naive confidence of F. Buisson and the members of the University in this ethic. Exactly like Combes, G. de Molinari believes that it is necessary to have recourse to religion, which promises men a reward in the other world, and which is thus, " the surety of justice. ... It is religion which in the infancy of humanity, raised the edifice of morality ; it is religion which supports and which alone can support it. Such are the functions which religion has filled and which it continues to fill and which, unpleasant as it may be to the apostles of independent morality, constitute its usefulness." ^ " We must look for help to a more powerful and more active instnunent than the interests of society, to effect those reforms demonstrated by political economy to be necessary, and this instrument can only be found in the religious senti- ment associated with the sentiment of justice." ^

G. de Molinari expresses himself in intentionally vague terms ; he seems to regard religion as do many modem Catholics (of the Bruneti^re type) ; that is, as a means of social Government, which must be suited to the needs of the different classes ; people of the higher classes have always considered that they had less need of moral discipline than their subordinates, and it is by making this

  • So do like musk ? It has been put everywhere.

" G. de Molinari, Science et religion, p. 94. » G. de Molinari, op, cit. p. 198.


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fine discovery the basis of their theology that the Jesuits have had so much success in contemporary middle classes. Our author distinguishes four motive forces capable of assuring the accompHshment of duty — "the power of society invested in the Governmental organism, the power of public opinion, the power of the individual conscience, and the power of reUgion " ; and he considers that this spiritual mechanism perceptibly lags behind the material mechanism.^ The two first motive forces may have some influence on capitalists, but none in the workshop ; for the workers the last two motive forces are alone effective, and they will become every day more important on account of " the growth of responsibihty in those who are charged with the direction and surveillance of the working of machinery/* ^ g^t according to Molinari we could not conceive the power of the individual conscience without that of religion .3

I believe, then, that G. de Molinari would be inclined to approve of the employers who protect religious institu- tions ; he would only, however, like it done with a Uttle more circumspection than Chagot used at Monceaules Mines.*

The Socialists for a long time have been greatly pre- judiced against morality, on account of these CathoUc institutions that the large employers estabUshed for their workpeople. It seemed to them that, in our capitalist society, morality was only a means of assuring the docihty of workmen, who are kept in the fear created by super- stition. The literature which the middle class have admired for so long describes conduct so outrageous, so scandalous even, that it is difficult to credit the rich

1 G. de Molinari, op. cit. p. 61.

' G. de Molinari, op. cit. p. 54.

» G. de Molinari, op. cit. pp. 87 and 93.

« I have already mentioned that in 1 883 Y. Guyot violently denounced the conduct of Chagot, who placed his workmen under the direction of the priests, and forced them to go to Mass {Morale, p. 183).


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classes with sincerity when they speak of inculcating moraUty in the people.

The Marxists had a particular reason for showing themselves suspicious in all that concerned ethics ; the propagators of social reforms, the Utopists and the democrats, had so abused the idea of Justice that it was only reasonable to consider all discussions on such a subject as an exercise in rhetoric, or as sophistry intended to mislead those who were interested in the working-class movement. This is why, several years ago, Rosa Luxem- burg called the idea of Justice " this old post horse, on which all the regenerators of the world, deprived of surer means of locomotion, have ridden ; this imgainly Rosinante, moimted on which so many Quixotes of history have gone in search of the great reform of the world, bringing back from these journeys nothing but black eyes." ^ From these sarcasms about a fantastic Justice springing from the imagination of Utopists, they often used to pass, too easily, to coarse f acetiousness about the most ordinary moraUty ; ^ rather sordid selection could easily be made of para- doxes supported by the official Marxists on this subject. Lafargue distinguishes himself particularly from this point of view.'

The principal reason which prevented the Socialists from studying ethical problems as they deserved was the democratic superstition which has dominated them for so long and which has led them to beUeve that above everything else the aim of their actions must be the acqvdsition of seats in poUtical assemblies.

  • Mouvetmnt socialiste, June 15, 1S89, p. 649.
  • Sec, for example, the Socialiste of June 30, 1901. " As in a com-

munist society the morals which clogs the brains of the tivilised will have vanished like a frightful nightmare, perhaps to be replaced by another ethic, which will incite women to flutter about like butterflies, to use Ch. Fourier's expression, instead of submitting to being the property of a male. ... In savage tribes and among barbarous communists women are much more honoured when they distribute their favours to a great number of lovers."


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From the moment one has anything to do with elections, it is necessary to submit to certain general conditions which impose themselves unavoidably on all parties in every country and at all times. If one is convinced that the future of the world depends on the electoral pro- gramme, on compromises between influential men and on the sale of privileges, it is not possible to pay much attention to the moral constraints which prevent a man going in the direction of his most obvious interests. Experience shows that in all countries where democracy can develop its nature freely, the most scandalous corrup- tion is displayed without any one thinking it even necessary to conceal his rascality. Tammany Hall of New York has always been cited as the most perfect type of demo- cratic life, and in the majority of our large to\\Tis politicians are found who ask for nothing better than to follow the paths of their confreres in America. So long as a man is faithful to his party he only commits peccadilloes, but if he is unwdse enough to abandon it, he is immediately discovered to have the most shameful vices. It would not be difficult to show, by means of well-known examples, that our Parliamentary Socialists practise this singular morality with a certain amount of cynicism.

There is a great resemblance between the electoral democracy and the Stock Exchange ; in one case as in the other it is necessary to work upon the simplicity of the masses, to buy the co-operation of the most important papers, and to assist chance by an infinity of trickery. There is not a great deal of difference between a financier who puts big sounding concerns on the market which come to grief in a few years, and the politician who promises an infinity of reforms to the citizens which he does not know how to bring about, ^ and which resolve

  • On June 21, 1907, Clemenceau, replying to Millerand, told hira

that in introducing the bill to establish old age pensions, without con- cerning himself with where the money was to come from, he had not


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themselves simply into an accumulation of Parliamentary papers. Neither one nor the other know anything about production, and yet they manage to obtain control over it, to misdirect and exploit it shamelessly ; they are dazzled by the marvels of modem industry, and it is. their private opinion that the world is so rich that they can rob it on a large scale without causing any great outcry among the producers ; the great art of the financier and the politician is to be able to bleed the taxpayer without bringing him to the point of revolt. Democrats and business men have quite a special science for the purpose of making the deUberative assemblies approve of their swindling ; the ParUaments are as packed as share- holders' meetings. It is probable that they both imder- stand each other as perfectly as they do because of pro- f oimd psychological affinities resulting from these methods of operation ; democracy is the paradise of which un- scrupulous financiers dream.

The disheartening spectacle presented to the world by these financial and political parasites ^ explains the success which anarchist writers have had for so long ; these latter founded their hopes of the regeneration of the world on the intellectual progress of individuals ; they never ceased urging the workmen to educate them- selves, to realise more fully their dignity as men, and to show their devotion to their comrades. This attitude


acted as " a statesman nor even as a responsible person." Millerand's reply is quite characteristic of the pride of the political parvenu : " Don't talk about things that you know nothing about." Of what then does he himself speak ?

  • I am pleased here to be able to support myself in the incontestable

authority of Gerault-Richard who in the Petite Repuhlique on March 19, 1903, denounced the " intriguers, people who wish to get on at all costs, starvelings and ladies' men (who) are only after the spoils " and who at that time were trying to bring about the fall of the Combes ministry. From the following number we see that he is speaking of Waldeck- Rousseau's friends, who, like him, were opposed to the destruction of the congregations.


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was imposed on them by their principles : in fact, how was the formation of a society of free men conceivable if it was not taken for granted that individuals had not already acquired the capacity of guiding themselves ? Politicians assert that this is a very naive idea, and that the world will enjoy all the happiness it can desire on the day when messengers of the new Gospel are able to profit from the advantages that power procures ; nothing will be impossible for a State which turns the editors of HumanitS into princes. If in that time it is considered useful to have free men, they will be manufactured by a few good laws ; but it is doubtful if the friends and share- holders of Jaur^s will find that necessary ; it will be sufficient for them if they have servants and taxpayers.

The new school is rapidly differentiating itself from official Socialism in recognising the necessity of the im- provement of morals.^ It is thus customary for the dignitaries of Parliamentary Socialism to accuse it of anarchical tendencies ; for my part, I should not object to acknowledge myself as an anarchist in this respect, since Parliamentary Socialism professes a contempt for morality equalled only by that which the vilest representatives of the stockbroking middle class have for it.

The new school also has sometimes been reproached with returning to the dreams of the Utopists. This criticism shows how much our adversaries misunderstand the works of the old Socialists as well as the present situation. The aim of the early Socialists was to build up ethical ideas capable of influencing the feelings of the upper classes, in such a way as to make them sympathise with those who in pity are called " the disinherited classes," and of inducing them to make some sacrifice in favour of their unfortunate brethren. The writers of

  • This is what Benedetto Croce pointed out in the Critica of July 17,

1907, PP- 317-319- This writer is well known in Italy as a remarkably acute critic and philosopher.


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that time picture the manufactory of the future in a very different light from that which it may have in a society of proletarians carrying on industry in a technically pro- gressive and inventive way ; they suppose that it might resemble drawing-rooms in which ladies meet to do em- broidery ; in this way they gave a middle-class setting to the mechanism of production. Finally, they credited the proletariat with feelings closely resembling those which eighteenth- and nineteenth-century explorers attributed to savages — goodness, simplicity, and an anxiety to imitate a superior race of men. With such hypotheses it was an easy matter to conceive an organisation of peace and happiness ; it was only necessary to make the rich better and the poorer class more enlightened. These two operations seemed easily realisable, and then the fusion of the drawing-room and the factory, which has turned the heads of so many Utopists, would be brought about. ^ The *' new school *' never conceives things on an idyllic, Christian, and middle-class model ; it knows that the pro- cess of production requires entirely different qualities from those met with in the upper classes ; it is only on account of the moral qualities, which are necessary to improve production, that it deals so much with ethical questions. The new school, then, resembles the economists much more than the Utopists ; hke G. de Molinari, it considers that the moral progress of the proletariat is as necessary as material improvement in machinery, if modem industry is to be hfted to the increasingly higher levels that technical science allows it to attain ; but it descends farther than this author does into the depths of this problem, and does not content itself with vague recom- mendations about religious duty.^ In its insatiable

^ In the New-Harmony colony founded by R. Owen the work done was little and bad, but amusements were abundant ; in 1826 the Duke of Saxe-Weimar was dazzled by the music and the balls (Dolleans, Robert Owen, pp. 247-268).

» G. de Molinari appears to believe that a natural religion like that


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desire for reality, it tries to arrive at the real roots of this process of moral perfection and desires to know how to create to-day the ethic of the producers of the future.

II

At the beginning of any research on modem ethics this question must be asked. Under what conditions is regeneration possible ? The Marxists are absolutely right in laughing at the Utopists and in maintaining that morality is never created by mild preaching, by the ingenious constructions of theorists, or by fine gestures. Proudhon, having neglected this problem, suffered from many illusions about the persistence of the forces which gave life to his own ethics ; experience was soon to prove that his imdertaking was to remain fruitless. And if the contemporary world does not contain the roots of a new ethic what will happen to it ? The sighs of a whimpering middle class will not save it, if it has for ever lost its moraUty.

Very shortly before his death Renan was much en- grossed with the ethical future of the world : " Moral values decline, that is a certainty, sacrifice has almost disappeared ; one can see the day coming when every- thing will be syndicalised,^ when organised selfishness will take the place of love and devotion. There will be strange upheavals. The two things which alone until now have resisted the decay of reverence, the army * and the Church, will soon be swept away in the universal torrent . * ' ^ Renan showed a remarkable insight in writing this at the very

of J. J. Rousseau or Robespierre would suflSce. We know to-day that such means have no moral efl&cacy.

1 Renan is complaining that the corporative associations dominate society too much. It is clear that he had none of the veneration for the corporative spirit that so many contemporary idealists display.

  • He did not foresee that his son-in-law would agitate violently

against the army in the Dreyfus affair.

  • Renan, Feuilles dHoQh^cs, p. 14.

$


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moment when so many futile intellects were announcing the renascence of idealism and foreseeing progressive tendencies in a Church that was at length reconciled with the modem world. But all his life Renan had been too favoured by fortime not to be optimistic ; he believed, therefore, that the evil of the future would consist simply in the necessity of passing through a bad period, and he added : "No matter, the resources of humanity are infinite. The eternal designs will be fulfilled, the springs of life ever forcing their way to the surface will never be dried up."

He had finished, several months before, the fifth volume of his History of the People of Israel, and this voliune, having been printed from the unaltered manuscript, contains a more imperfect expression of his ideas on this subject ; (it is known that he corrected his proofs very care- fully) . We find in this the most gloomy presentiments ; the author even questions whether humanity will ever attain Its real end. " If this globe should happen not to fulfil its purpose, there will be others to carry on to its final end the programme of all life — Light, Reason, and Truth." ^ The times to come frightened him. " The immediate future is dark. The triumph of Light is not assured." He dreaded SociaUsm, and there is no doubt that by Socialism he meant the humanitarian idiocy which he saw emerging in the stupid middle-class world ; it was, in this way, that he came to think that Catholicism might perhaps be the accomplice of Socialism. ^

On the same page he speaks of the divisions which may exist in a society, and this is of considerable importance. " Judea and the Greco-Roman world were like two imi- verses revolving one beside the other under opposing influences. . . . The history of humanity by no means synchronises in its various parts. Tremble ! At this

  • Renan, Histoire du peuple d' Israel, vol. v. p. 421.
  • Renan, Iqc. cit. p. 42a.


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moment perhaps the religion of the future is being created . . . and we have no part in it. I envy wise Kimri who saw beneath the earth. It is there that every- thing is prepared, it is there that we must look." There is in these words nothing that the theorists of the class- war could not approve of ; in them I find the commentary to what Renan said a little later on the subject of " the springs of life ever forcing their way to the surface '* ; regeneration is being brought about by a class which works subterraneously, and which is separating itself from the modem world as Judaism did from the ancient world.

Whatever the official sociologists may think, the lower classes are by no means condemned to live on the cnunbs which the upper classes let fall ; we are glad to see Renan protest against this imbecile doctrine. Syndicalism claims to create a real proletarian ideology, and whatever the middle-class professors say of it, historical experience, as proclaimed by the mouth of Renan, tells us that this is quite possible, and that out of it may come the salvation of the world. The syndicalist movement is really being developed underground ; the men who devote themselves to it do not make much noise in the world ; what a difference between them and the former leaders of demo- cracy, whose sole aim was the conquest of power !

These men were intoxicated by the hope that the chances of life might some day make them republican princes. While waiting for the wheel of fortune to turn to their advantage in this way, they obtained the moral and material advantages that celebrity procures for all virtuosi, in a society which is accustomed to paying well those who amuse it. The chief motive force behind many of them was their immeasurable pride, and they fancied that, as their name was bound to shine with singular brilliancy in the annals of humanity, they might buy that future glory by a few sacrifices.

None of these motives for action exist for the SyndicaUsts


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of to-day ; the proletariat has none of the servile instincts of democracy ; it no longer aspires to walk on all fours before a former comrade who has become a chief magistrate, or to swoon for joy before the toilettes of ministers' wives.* The men who devote themselves to the revolutionary cause know that they must always remain poor. They carry on their work of organisation without attracting attention, and the meanest hack who scribbles for L'Humanite is much better known than the miUtants of the Confederation du Travail ;^ for the great majority of the French public, Griffuelhes will never have the notoriety of Rouanet ;^ and in the absence of the material advantages, which they could hardly expect, they have not even the satisfaction that celebrity can give. Putting their whole trust in the movements of the masses, they have no

  • The essence of democracy is concentrated in the wo/ attributed to

Mme. Flocon. "It is we who are the princesses." The democracy is happy when it sees a ridiculous creature like F61ix Faure, whom Joseph Reinach compared to the bourgeois gentilhomme, treated with princely honours {Histoire de I' affaire Dreyfus, vol. iv. p. 552).

  • Parliamentary Socialism is very keen on good manners, as we can

assure ourselves by consulting Gerault-Richard's numerous articles. I quote at random several specimens. On June i, 1903, he declared in the Petite Ripublique that Queen Nathalie of Servia should have been called to order " for having listened to the preaching of P. Coube at Aubervilles, and he demands that she be admonished by the police commissary of her district." On September 26 he is roused to indigna- tion by the coarseness and the ignorance of good manners exhibited by Admiral Marechal. The socialist code has its mysteries ; the wives of socialists are sometimes called ladies and sometimes citizenesses ; in the society of the future there will evidently be disputes about the order of precedence as there were at Versailles. On July 30, 1903, Cassagnac makes great fun in the A utorite of his having been taken to task by Gerault-Richaurd, who had given him lessons in good manners.

  • Griffuelhes, who had been a shoemaker, was at one time secretary

of the Confederation du Travail ; he was remarkably intelUgent ; cf. a pamphlet by him entitled Voyage revolutionnaire.

[Rouanet was Malon's principal disciple ; he was for some time a deputy, very much opposed to the Marxists, naturally a great ad- versary of the Confederation du Travail, a type of socialist politician who occupies a considerable place in journalism and in Parliament, but who does not count at all intellectually. — Trans.]


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expectation of a Napoleonic glory, and they leave the superstition of great men to the middle classes.

It is well that it is so, because the proletariat will be able to develop itself much more surely if it organises itself in obscurity ; Socialist politicians shun occupations which do not provide celebrity (and which are consequently not profitable) ; they are, then, not at all disposed to trouble themselves with the work of the syndicates, the object of which is to remain proletarian ; they make a show on the Parliamentary stage, but that, as a rule, does not amount to much. The men who do participate in the real working-class movement are an example of what have always been looked upon as the greatest virtues ; they cannot, in fact, acquire any of those things which the middle classes regard as especially desirable. If, then, as Renan asserts,^ history rewards the resigned abnegation of men who strive uncomplainingly, and who accomplish, without profit, a great historical work, we have a new reason for believing in the advent of Socialism, since it represents the highest moral ideal ever conceived by man. This time it is not a new religion which is shaping itself imderground, without the help of the middle-class thinkers, it is the birth of a virtue, a virtue which the middle-class Intellectuals are incapable of understanding, a virtue which has the power to save civilisation, as Renan hoped it would be saved — but by the total elimination of the class to which Renan belonged.

Let us now consider closely the reasons which made Renan dread a decadence of the middle-class ; ^ he was

1 Renan, op. cit. vol. iv. p. 267.

  • Renan pointed out one symptom of decadence, on which he did

not insist enough and which does not seem to have particularly im- pressed his readers ; he was irritated by the restlessness, the claims to originality, and the naive rivalry of the young metaphysicians: " But, my dear fellows, it is useless to give oneself so much headache, merely to change from one error to another" {Feuilles detachces, p. 10). A restlessness of this kind (which puts on nowadays a sociological, socialist, or humanitarian air) is a sure sign of anaemia.


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struck by the decay of religious ideas : "An immense moral, and perhaps intellectual, degeneracy will follow the disappearance of religion from the world. We, at the present day, can dispense with religion, because others have it for us. Those who do not believe are carried along by the more or less beUeving majority ; but on the day when the majority lose this impulse, the men of spirit themselves will go feebly to the attack." It is the absence of the sentiment of sublimity which Renan dreaded ; like all old people in their days of sadness, he thinks of his childhood, and adds, Man is of value in proportion to the religious sentiment which he preserves from his first education and which colours his whole life." He himself had lived all his life under the influence of the sentiment of sublimity inculcated in him by his mother ; we know, in fact, that Madame Renan was a woman of lofty character. But the source of sublimity is dried up : " Religious people live on a shadow. We live on the shadow of a shadow. On what will those who come after us live ? " ^

Renan, as was his wont, tried to mitigate the gloom of the outlook which his perspicacity presented to him ; he is like many other French writers who, wishing to please a frivolous public, never dare to go to the bottom of the problems that life presents ; ^ he does not wish to frighten his amiable lady admirers, so he adds, therefore, that it is not necessary to have a religion burdened with dogmas, such a religion, for example, as Christianity ; the religious sentiment should suffice. Since Renan, there has been no lack of chatter about this vague religious sentiment which " should suffice " to replace the positive

1 Renan, Feuilles detachees, pp. 17-18.

  • Bruneti^re addressed this reproach to. French literature : " If you

wish to know why Racine or Moh^re, for example, never attained the depth we find in a Shakespeare or a Goethe . . . cherchez la femme, and you will find that the defect is due to the influence of the salons, and of women " {^volution des genres, 3rd edition, p. 128).


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religions which are coming to grief. F. Buisson informs us that " no religious doctrines will survive, but only religious emotions, which, far from contradicting either science, art, or morality, will steep them in a feeling of profound harmony with the life of the Universe/' ^ This, unless I am unable to see beyond my nose, is the merest balderdash.

" On what will those who come after us live ? " This is the great problem posed by Renan and which the middle classes will never be able to solve. If any doubt is pos- sible on this point, the stupidities uttered by the ofl&cial moralists would show that the decadence is henceforth fatal. Speculations on the harmony of the Universe (even when the Universe is personified) are not the kind of thing which will give men that courage which Renan compared to that of the soldier in the moment of attack. Sub- limity is dead in the middle classes, and they are doomed to possess no ethic in the future.^ The winding-up of the Dreyfus affair, which the Dreyfusards, to the great indigna- tion of Colonel Picquart,' knew how to put to such good account, has shown that middle-class sublimity is a Stock Exchange asset. All the intellectual and moral defects of a class tainted with folly showed themselves in that affair.

  • Questions de morale (lectures given by several professors) in the

Bibliothdque des sciences sociales, p. 328.

  • I must call attention to the extraordinary prudence shown by

Ribot in his Psychologie des sentiments in dealing with the evolution of morality ; it might have been expected that, on the analogy of the other sentiments, he would have come to the conclusion that there was an evolution towards a purely intellectual state and to the disappearance of its efficacy ; but has not dared to draw this conclusion for morality as he did for religion.

  • I refer to an article published in the Gazette de Lausanne, April 2,

1906, from which the Libre Parole gave a fairly long extract (cf. Joseph Reinach, op. cit. vol. vi. p. 36). Several months after I had written these lines Picquart was himself the object of exceptionally favourable treatment ; he had been conquered by the fatalities of Parisian life, which have ruined stronger men than he.


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III

Before examining what qualities the modern industrial system requires of free producers, we must analyse the component parts of morality. The philosophers always have a certain amount of difficulty in seeing clearly into these ethical problems, because they feel the impossibility of harmonising the ideas which are current at a given time in a class, and yet imagine it to be their duty to reduce everything to a unity. To conceal from themselves the fimdamental heterogeneity of all this civilised morality, they have recourse to a great number of subterfuges, sometimes relegating to the rank of exceptions, importa- tions, or survivals, everything which embarrasses them — sometimes drowning reality in an ocean of vague phrases and, most often, employing both methods the better to obscure the problem. My view, on the contrary, is that the best way of understanding any group of ideas in the history of thought is to bring all the contradictions into sharp relief I shall adopt this method and take for a starting-point the celebrated opposition which Nietzsche has established between two groups of moral values, an opposition about which much has been written, but which has never been properly studied.

A. We know with what force Nietzsche praised the values constructed by the masters, by a superior class of warriors who, in their expeditions, enjoying to the full freedom from all social constraint, retiun to the simpHcity of mind of a wild beast, become once more triimiphant monsters who continually bring to mind " the superb blond beast, prowling in search of prey and bloodshed," in whom " a basis of hidden bestiality needs from time to time a purgative." To understand this thesis properly, we must not attach too much importance to formulas which have at times been intentionally exaggerated, but should examine the historical facts ; the author tells us


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that he has in mind " the aristocracy of Rome, Arabia, Germany, and Japan, the Homeric heroes, the Scandina- vian vikings."

It is chiefly the Homeric heroes that we must bear in mind in order to understand what Nietzsche wished to make clear to his contemporaries. We must remember that he had been professor of Greek at the University of Bale, and that his reputation began with a book devoted to the glorification of the Hellenic genius {The Origin of Tragedy). He notices that, even at the period of their highest culture, the Greeks still preserved a memory of their former character of masters. " Our daring," said Pericles, " has traced a path over earth and sea, raising everywhere imperishable monuments both of good and evil." It Was of the heroes of Greek legend and history that he was thinking when he speaks of " that audacity of noble races, that mad, absurd, and spontaneous audacity, their indifference and contempt for all security of the body, for Hfe, for comfort." Does not *' the terrible gaiety and the profound joy which the heroes tasted in destruction, in all the pleasures of victory and of cruelty," apply particularly to Achilles ? ^

It was certainly to the type of classic Greek that Nietzsche alluded when he wrote " the moral judgments of the warrior aristocracy are foimded on a powerful bodily constitution, a flourishing health without forgetful- ness of what was necessary to the maintenance of that over- flowing vigour — war, adventure, hunting, dancing, games, and physical exercises, in short, everything implied by a robust, free, and joyful activity." ^

That very ancient type, the Achaean type celebrated by Homer, is not simply a memory ; it has several times reappeared in the world. " During the Renaissance there was a superb reawakening of the classic ideal of the

» Nietzsche, Genicdogie de la moral, trad, frang., pp. 57-59.

  • Nietzsche, op. cit. p. 43.


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aristocratic valuation of all things ; and after the Revolu- tion " the most prodigious and unexpected event came to pass, the antique ideal stood in person with unwonted splendour before the eyes and consciousness of hmnanity. . . . (Then) appeared Napoleon, isolated and belated example though he was." ^

I beUeve that if the professor of philology had not been continually cropping up in Nietzsche he would have per- ceived that the master type still exists under our own eyes, and that it is this type which, at the present time, has created the extraordinary greatness of the United States. He would have been struck by the singular analogies which exist between the Yankee, ready for any kind of enterprise, and the ancient Greek sailor, sometimes a pirate, sometimes a colonist or merchant ; above all, he would have established a parallel between the ancient heroes and the man who sets out on the conquest of the Far West.* P. de Rousiers has described the master type admirably. " To become and to remain an American, one must look upon life as a struggle and not as a pleasure, and seek in it, victorious effort, energetic and efficacious action, rather than pleasure, leisure embellished by the cultivation of the arts, the refinements proper to other societies. Every- where — we have seen that what makes the American succeed, what constitutes his type — is character, personal energy, energy in action, creative energy.'* ^ The pro- foimd contempt which the Greek had for the Barbarian is matched by that of the Yankee for the foreign worker who makes no effort to become truly American. " Many of these people would be better if we took them in hand,"

  • Nietzsche, op. cit. pp. 78-80.
  • P. de Rousiers observes that everywhere in America approximately the same social environment is found, and the same type of men at the head of big businesses ; but "it is in the West that the quahties and defects of this extraordinary people manifest themselves with the greatest energy \ ... it is there that the key to the whole social system is to be found "

{La Vie americaine : ranches, fermes, et usines, pp. 8-9 ; cf. p. 261).

» De Rousiers, La Vie amiricaine : Education et la sociiti, p. 325.


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an old colonel of the War of Secession said to a French traveller, but we are a proud race ; a shopkeeper of Pottsville spoke of the Pennsylvania miners as " the senseless populace." ^ J. Bourdeau has drawn attention to the strange likeness which exists between the ideas of A. Carnegie and Roosevelt, and those of Nietzsche, the first deploring the waste of money involved in main- taining incapables, the second urging the Americans to becoming conquerors, a race of prey.^

I am not among those who consider Homer's Achaean type, the indomitable hero confident in his strength and putting himself above rules, as necessarily disappearing in the future. If it has often been believed that the t3^e was bound to disappear, that was because the Homeric values were imagined to be irreconcilable with the other values which spring from an entirely different principle ; Nietzsche committed this error, which all those who believe in the necessity of unity in thought are bound to make. It is quite evident that liberty would be seriously compromised if men came to regard the Homeric values (which are approximate the same as the Cornelian values) as suitable only to barbaric peoples. Many moral evils would for ever remain unremedied if some hero of revolt did not force the people to become aware of their own state of mind on the subject. And art, which is after all of some value, would lose the finest jewel in its crown.

The philosophers are little disposed to admit the right of art to support the cult of the " will to power " ; it seems to them that they ought to give lessons to artists, instead

?

1 De Rousiers, La Vie arnericaine : ranches, fermes, et usines, pp. 303-

305-

  • J. Bourdeau, Les Maitres de la pensie contetnporaine, p. 145. The

author informs us on the other hand that " Jaur6s greatly astonished the people of Geneva by revealing to them that the hero of Nietzsche, the superman, was nothing else but the proletariat " (p. 139). I have not been able to get any information about this lecture of Jaurds ; let us hope that he will some day publish it, for our amusement.


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of receiving lessons from them ; they think that only those sentiments which have received the stamp of the Uni- versities have the right to manifest themselves in poetry. Like industry, art has never adapted itself to the demands of theorists ; it always upsets their plans of social harmony, and humanity has found the freedom of art far too satis- factory ever to think of allowing it to be controlled by the creators of dull systems of sociology. The Marxists are accustomed to seeing the ideologists look at things the wrong way round, and so, in contrast to their enemies, they should look upon art as a reality which begets ideas and not as an application of ideas.

B. To the values created by the master type, Nietzsche opposed the system constructed by sacerdotal castes — the ascetic ideal against which he has piled up so much invective. The history of these values is much more obscure and complicated than that of the preceding ones. Nietzsche tries to connect the origin of asceticism with psychological reasons which I will not examine here. He certainly makes a mistake in attributing a preponderat- ing part to the Jews. It is not at all evident that antique Judaism had an ascetic character ; doubtless, like the other Semitic religions, it attached importance to pilgrim- ages, fasts, and prayers recited in ragged clothes. The Hebrew poets sang the hope of revenge which existed in the heart of the persecuted, but, until the second century of our era, the Jews looked to be revenged by arms : ^ on the other hand, family life, with them, was too strong for the monkish ideal ever to become important.

Imbued with Christianity as our civilisation may be, it is none the less evident that, even in the Middle Ages, it submitted to influences foreign to the Church, with the result that the old ascetic values were gradually transformed. The values to which the contemporary

  • It is always necessary to remember that the resigned Jew of the

Middle Ages was more like the Christians than his ancestprs.


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world clings most closely, and which it considers the true ethical values, are not realised in convents, but in the family ; respect for the human person, sexual fidelity and devotion to the weak, constitute the elements of morality of which all high - minded men are proud ; morality, even, is very often made to consist of these alone.

When we examine in a critical spirit the numerous writings which treat, to-day, of marriage, we see that the reformers who are in earnest propose to improve family relations in such a way as to assure the better realisation of these ethical values ; thus, they demand that the scandals of conjugal life shall not be exposed in the law courts, that unions shall not be maintained when fidelity no longer exists, and that the authority of the head of the family shall not be diverted from its moral purpose to become mere exploitation, etc.

On the other hand, it is curious to observe to what extent the modem Church misunderstands the values that classico-Christian civilisation has produced. It sees in marriage, above all, a contract directed by financial and worldly interests ; it is unwilling to allow of the union being dissolved when the household is a hell, and takes no account of the duty of devotion.^ The priests are wonderfully skilful in procuring rich dowries for im- poverished nobles, so much so, indeed, that the Church has been accused of considering marriage as a mating of noblemen living as " bullies " with middle-class women reduced to the role of the women who support such men. When it is ^heavily recompensed, the Church finds un- expected reasons for divorce, and finds means of annulling inconvenient unions for ridiculous motives. Proudhon asks ironically : " Is it possible for a responsible man of a serious turn of mind and a true Christian to care for the love of his wife ? ... If the husband seeking divorce, or the wife seeking separation, alleges the refusal of the

  • Epistle to the Ephesians, v. 25-31.


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conjugal fight, then, of course, there is a legitimate reason for a rupture, for the service for which the marriage is granted has not been carried out." ^

Our civilisation having come to consider nearly all morality as consisting of values derived from those observed in the normally constituted family, two serious consequences have been produced : (i) it has been asked if, instead of considering the family as an application of moral theories, it would not be more exact to say that it is the base of these theories ; (2) it seems that the Church, having become incompetent on matters connected with sexual union, must also be incompetent as regards morality. These are precisely the conclusions to which Proudhon came. " Sexual duality was created by Nature to be the instnmient of Justice. ... To produce Justice is the higher aim of the bisexual division ; generation, and what follows from it, only figure here as accessory." ^ " Marriage, both in principle and in purpose, being the instrument of human right, and the living negation of the divine right, is thus in formal contradiction with theology and the Church." 3

Love, by the enthusiasm it begets, can produce that sublimity without which there would be no effective morality. At the end of his book on Justice, Proudhon has written pages, which will never be surpassed, on the role of women.

C. Finally we have to examine the values which escape

  • Proudhon is alluding sarcastically to the frequently very comic

nullifications of marriage, pronounced by the Roman coiu-ts, for physiological reasons. Proudhon, op. cit. vol. vi. p. 39. We know that the theologians do not Hke curious people to consult ecclesiastical writings about conjugal duty and the legitimate method of fulfilling it.

« Proudhon, he. cit. p. 212.

  • Proudhon, (Euvres, vol. xx. p. 169. This is extracted from the

memoir he wrote in his own defence, after he had been condemned to three years in prison for his book on Justice. It is worth while noting that Proudhon was accused of attacking marriage ! This affair is one of the shameful acts which dishonoured the Church in the reign of Napoleon III.


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Nietzsche's classification an^ which treat of civil relations. Originally magic was much mixed up in the evaluation of these values ; among the Jews, until recent times, one finds a mixture of hygienic principles, rules about sexual relationships, precepts about honesty, benevolence and national solidarity, the whole wrapped up in magical superstitions ; this mixture, which seems strange to the philosopher, had the happiest influence on their morality so long as they maintained their traditional mode of Uving, and one notices among them even now a particular exactitude in the carrying out of contracts.

The ideas held by modern ethical writers are drawn mainly from those of Greece in its time of decadence ; Aristotle, living in a period of transition, combined ancient values with values that, as time went on, were to prevail ; war and production had ceased to occupy the attention of the most distinguished men of the towns, who sought, on the contrary, to secure an easy existence for themselves ; the most important thing was the establishment of friendly relations between the better educated men of the com- mimity, and the fundamental maxim was that of the golden mean. The new morality was to be acquired principally by means of the habits which the young Greek would pick up in mixing with cultivated people. It may be said that here we are on the level of an ethic adapted to consumers ; it is not astonishing then that Catholic theologians still find Aristotle's ethics an excellent one, for they themselves take the consumer's point of view.

In the civilisation of antiquity, the ethics of producers could hardly be any other than that of slave-owners, and it did not seem worth developing at length, at the time when philosophy made an inventory of Greek customs. Aristotle said that no far-reaching science was needed to employ slaves : " For the master need only know how to order what the slaves must know how to execute. So, as soon as a man can save himself this trouble, he leaves it in the


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charge of a steward, so as to be himself free for a political or philosophical life." ^ A little farther on he wrote : '* It is manifest, then, that the master ought to be the source of excellence in the slave; but not merely because he possesses the art which trains him in his duties." 2 This clearly expresses the point of view of the urban consumer, who finds it very tiresome to be obUged to pay any attention whatever to the conditions of production.^

As to the slave, he needs very limited virtues. " He only needs enough to prevent him neglecting his work through intemperance or idleness." He should be treated with " more indulgence even than children," although certain people consider that slaves are deprived of reason and are only fit to receive orders.*

It is quite easy to see that during a considerable period the modems also did not think that there was anything more to be said about workers than Aristotle had said ; they must be given orders, corrected with gentleness, like children, and treated as passive instnunents who do not need to think. Revolutionary Syndicalism would be impossible if the world of the workers were under the

  • Aristotle, Politics, book L chap. vii. 4-5.
  • Aristotle, op. cit. book i. chap. v. 13, 14,
  • Xenophon, who represents in everything a conception of Greek

life very much earlier than the time in which he lived, discusses the proper method of training an overseer for a farm {Economics, pp. 12-14). Marx remarks that Xenophon speaks of the division of labour in the workshop, and that appears to him to show a middle-class instinct {Capital, vol. i. p. 159, col. i) ; I myself think that it characterises an observer who understood the importance of production, an importance of which Plato had no comprehension. In the Memorabilia (book ii. p. 7) Socrates advises a citizen who had to look after a large family, to set up a workshop with the family ; J. Flach supposes that this was something new {Legon du ig* avril igoy) : it seems to me to be rather a return to more ancient Customs. The historians of philosophy appear to me to have been very hostile to Xenophon because he is too much oi an old Greek. Plato suits them much better since he is more of an aristocrat, and consequently more detached from production.

  • Aristotle, op. cit. book L chap. v. 9 and 11.


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influence of such a morality of the weak. State Socialism, on the contrary, could accommodate itself to this morality perfectly well, since the latter is based on the idea of a society divided into a class of producers and a class of thinkers applying results of scientific investigation to the work of production. The only difference which would exist between this sham Socialism and Capitalism would consist in the employment of more ingenious methods of procuring discipline in the workshop.

At the present moment, officials of the Bloc are working to create a kind of ethical discipline which will replace the hazy religion which G. de Molinari thinks necessary to the successful working of capitalism. It is perfectly clear, in fact, that religion is daily losing its efficacy with the people ; something else must be found, if the in- tellectuals are to be provided with the means of living on the margin of production.


IV

The problem that we shall now try to solve is the most difficult of all those which a SociaHst writer can touch upon. We are about to ask how it is possible to conceive the transformation of the men of to-day into the free producers of to-morrow working in manufactories where there are no masters. The question must be stated accurately ; we must state it, not for a world which has already arrived at Socialism, but solely for our own time and for the preparation of the transition from one world to the other ; if we do not limit the question in this way, we shall find ourselves sti:a3mig into Utopias.

Kautsky has given a great deal of attention to the question of the conditions immediately following a social revolution ; the solution he proposes seems to me quite as feeble as that of G. de Molinari. If the syndicates of to-day are strong enough to induce the workmen of to-day

T


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to abandon their workshops and to submit to great sacrifices, during the strikes kept up against the capitalists, he thinks that they will then doubtless be strong enough to bring the workmen back to the workshops, and to obtain good and regular work from them, when once they see that this work is necessary for the general good.^ Kautsky, however, does not seem to feel much confidence in the value of his own solution.

Evidently no comparison can be made between the kind of discipline which forces a general stoppage of work on the men and that which will induce them to handle machinery with greater skill. The error springs from the fact that Kautsky is more of a theorist than he is a disciple of Marx ; he loves reasoning about abstractions and believes that he has brought a question nearer to solution when he manages to produce a phrase with a scientific appearance ; the underlying reality interests him less than its academic presentment. Many others have committed the same error, led astray by the different meanings of the word discipline, which may be applied both to regular conduct founded on the deepest feelings of the soul or to a merely external restraint.

The history of ancient corporations furnishes us with no really useful information on this subject ; they do not seem to have had any effect whatever in promoting any kind of improvement, or invention in technical matters ; it would seem rather that they served to protect routine. If we examine English Trade Unionism closely, we find that it also is strongly imbued with this industrial routine springing from the corporative spirit.

Nor can the examples of democracy throw any light on the question. Work conducted democratically would be regulated ty resolutions, inspected by police, and subject to the sanction of tribunals dealing out rewards or imprisonment. The discipline would be an exterior

  • Karl Kautsky, La Rivolution sociale, French translation, p. 153.


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compulsion closely analogous to that which now exists in the capitalist workshops ; but it would probably be still more arbitrary because the committee would always have their eye on the next elections.^ When one thinks of the pecuHarities found in judgments in penal cases one feels convinced that repression would be exercised in a very unsatisfactory way. It seems to be generally agreed that light offences cannot be satisfactorily dealt with in law courts, when hampered by the rules of a strict legal system ; the establishment of administrative councils to decide on the future of children has often been suggested ; in Belgium mendicity is subject to an administrative arbitration which may be compared to the ** police des moeurs " ; it is well known that this police, in spite of innumerable complaints, continues to be almost supreme in France. It is very noticeable that administrative inter- vention in the case of important crimes is continually increasing. Since the power of mitigating or even of sup- pressing penalties is being more and more handed over to the heads of penal establishments^ doctors and sociologists speak in favour of this system, which tends to give the police as important a function as they had under the ancien regime. Experience shows that the discipline of the capitalist workshops is greatly superior to that maintained by the pohce, so that one does not see how it would be possible to improve capitalist dis- cipline by means of the methods which democracy would have at its dispos2d.*

I think that there is one good point, however, in

1 The managers of manufactories would constantly be busying them- selves with how to ensure the success of the government party at the next election. They would be very indulgent to workmen who were influential speakers, and very hard on men suspected of lack of electoral zeal.

» We might ask if the ideal of the relatively honest and enlightened democrats is not at the present moment the discipline of the capitalist workshop. The increase of the power given to the mayors and State governors in America seems to me to be a sign of this tendency.


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Kautsky's hypothesis ; he seems to have been aware that the motive force of the revolutionary movement must also be the motive force of the ethic of the producers ; that is a view quite in conformity with Marxist principles, but the idea must be applied in quite a different way from that in which he applied it. It must not be thought that the action of the syndicates on work is direct, as he sup- poses ; this influence of the syndicates on labour should result from complex and sometimes distant causes, acting on the general character of the workers rather than from a qu£Lsi-mihtary organisation. This is what I try to show by analysing some of the quaUties of the best workmen.

A satisfactory result can be arrived at, by starting from the curious analogies which exist between the most remarkable qualities of the soldiers who took part in the wars of Liberty, the qualities which engendered the propa- ganda in favour of the general strike, ajid those that will be required of a free worker in a highly progressive state of society. I beUeve that these analogies constitute a new (and perhaps decisive) proof, in favour of revolutionary S5mdicaUsm.

In the wars of Liberty each soldier considered himself as an individual having something of importance to do in the battle, instead of looking upon himself as simply one part of the military mechanism committed to the supreme direction of a leader. In the hterature of those times one is struck by the frequency with which the free men of the republican armies are contrasted with the auto- matons of the royal armies ; this was no mere figure of rhetoric employed by the French writers ; I have con- vinced myself as a result of a thorough first-hand study of one of the wars of that time, that these terms corre- sponded perfectly to the actual feelings of the soldiers.

Battles under these conditions could, then, no longer be hkened to ^ames of chess in which each man is com- parable to a pawn ; they became collections of heroic


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exploits accomplished by individuals under the influence of an extraordinary enthusiasm. Revolutionary litera- ture is not entirely false, when it reports so many grandilo- quent phrases said to have been uttered by the combatants; doubtless none of these phrases were spoken by the people to whom they are attributed, their form is due to men of letters used to the composition of classical declamation ; but the basis is real in this sense, that we have, thanks to these lies of revolutionary rhetoric, a perfectly exact representation of the aspect under which the combatants looked on war, a true expression of the sentiments aroused by it, and the actual accent of the tndy Homeric conflicts which took place at that time. I am certain that none of the actors in these dramas ever protested against the words attributed to them ; this was no doubt because each found beneath these fantastic phrases, a true ex- pression of his own deepest feelings.^

Until the moment when Napoleon appeared the war had none of the scientific character which the later theoretists of strategy have sometimes thought it incmnbent on them to attribute to it. Misled by the analogies they discovered between the triumphs of the revolutionary armies and those of the Napoleonic armies, historians imagined that generals anterior to Napoleon had made great plans of campaign ; such plans never existed, or at any rate had very little influence on the course of opera- tions. The best officers of that time were fully aware that their talent consisted in furnishing their troops with the suitable opportunities of exhibiting their ardour ; and victory was assured each time that the soldiers could give free scope to all their enthusiasm, unfettered by bad commissariat, or by the stupidity of representatives of the people who looked upon themselves as strategists. On

^ This history has also been burdened by a great number of adven- tures, which have been fabricated by imitating real ones, and which are very like those which later on The Three Musketeers rendered popular.


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the battle-field the leaders gave an example of daring courage and were merely the first combatants, like true Homeric kings ; it is this which explains the enormous prestige with the young troops, immediately gained by so many of the non-commissioned officers of the ancien regime, who were borne to the highest rank by the unanimous acclamations of the soldiers at the outset of the war.

' If we wished to find, in these first armies, what it was that took the place of the later idea of discipline, we might say that the soldier was convinced that the slightest failure of the most insignificant private might com- promise the success of the whole and the life of all his comrades, and that the soldier acted accordingly. This presupposes that no account is taken of the relative values of the different factors that go to make up a victory, so that all things are considered from a qualitative and individualistic point of view. One is, in fact, extremely struck by the individualistic characters which are met with in these armies, and by the fact that nothing is to be found in them which at all resembles the obedience spoken of by our contemporary authors. There is some truth then in the statement that the incredible French victories were due to intelligent bayonets.

The same spirit is found in the working-class groups who are eager for the general strike ; these groups, in fact, picture the Revolution as an immense uprising which yet may be called individualistic ; each working with the greatest possible zeal, each acting on his own account, and not troubling himself much to subordinate his conduct to a great and scientifically combined plan. This character of the proletarian general strike has often been pointed out, and it has the effect of frightening the greedy politicians, who understand perfectly well that a Revolu- tion conducted in this way would do away with all their chances of seizing the Government.


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Jaur^s, whom nobody would dream of classing with any but the most circumspect of men, has clearly recog- nised the danger which threatens him ; he accuses the upholders of the general strike of considering only one aspect of social life and thus going against the Revolution. ^ This rigmarole should be translated thus : the revolu- tionary Syndicalists desire to exalt the individuality of the life of the producer ; they thus run counter to the interests of the politicians who want to direct the Revolu- tion in such a way as to transmit power to a new minority ; they thus undermine the foundations of the State. We entirely agree with all this ; it is precisely this character- istic which so terrifies the Parliamentary Socialists, the financiers, and the ideologists, which gives such extra- ordinary moral value to the notion of the general strike.

The upholders of the general strike are accused of anarchical tendencies ; and as a matter of fact, it has been observed during the last few years that anarchists have entered the syndicates in great numbers, and have done a great deal to develop tendencies favourable to the general strike.

This movement becomes understandable when we bear the preceding explanations in mind ; because the general strike, just like the wars of Liberty, is a most striking manifestation of individualistic force in the revolted masses. It seems to me, moreover, that the official Socialists would do well not to insist too much on this point ; they would thus avoid some reflections which are not altogether to their advantage. We might, in fact, be led to ask if our official Socialists, with their passion for discipline, and their infinite confidence in the genius of their leaders, are not the authentic inheritors of the traditions of the royal armies, while the anarchists and the upholders of the general strike represent at the present time the spirit of the revolutionary warriors who, against

  • Jaur^s, Etudes socicUistes, pp. 117-118.


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all the rules of the art of war, so thoroughly thrashed the fine armies of the coalition. I can understand why the Socialists approved, controlled, and duly patented by the administrators of Humanite, have not much sympathy for the heroes of Fleurus,^ who were very badly dressed, and would have cut a sorry figure in the drawing-rooms of the great financiers ; but everybody does not adapt his convictions to suit the tastes of M. Jaurds's share- holders.


I want now to point out some analogies which show how revolutionary syndicalism is the greatest educative force that contemporary society has at its disposal for the preparation of the system of production, which the workmen will adopt, in a society organised in accordance with the new conceptions.

A. The free producer in a progressive and inventive workshop must never evaluate his own efforts by any external standing ; he ought to consider the models given him as inferior, and desire to surpass everything that has been done before. Constant improvement in quality and quantity will be thus assured to production ; the idea of continual progress will be realised in a workshop of this kind.

Early socialists had had an intuition of this law, when they demanded that each should produce according to his faculties ; but they did not know how to explain this principle, which in their Utopias seemed made for a convent or for a family rather than for modem industrial Hfe. Sometimes, however, they pictiued their workers as possessed by an enthusiasm similar to that which we find in the Uves of certain great artists ; this last point

  • [The battle of Fleunis, won in 1794 by General Jourdain, was one of

the first decisive triumphs of the revolutionary army. The Chant du Dipart was written by J. M. Ch^nier shortly before this battle. — Trans.]


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of view is by no means negligible, although the early Socialists hardly understood the value of the comparison.

Whenever we consider questions relative to industrial progress, we are led to consider art as an anticipation of the highest and technically most perfect forms of production, although the artist, with his caprices, often seems to be at the antipodes of the modem worker.^ This analogy is justified by the fact that the artist dislikes reproducing accepted types; the inexhaustibly inventive turn of his mind distinguishes him from the ordinary artisan, who is mainly successful in the unending reproduction of models which are not his own. The inventor is an artist who wears himself out in pursuing the realisation of ends which practical people generally declare absurd ; and who, if he has made any important discovery is often supposed to be mad ; practical people thus resemble artisans. One could cite in every industry important improvements which originated in small changes made by workmen endowed with the artist's taste for innovation.

This state of mind is, moreover, exactly that which was found in the first armies which carried on the wars of Liberty and that possessed by the propagandists of the general strike. This passionate individualism is entirely wanting in the working classes who have been educated by politicians ; all they are fit for is to change their masters. These had shepherds 2 sincerely hope that it

1 When we speak of the educative value of art, we often forget that the habits of life of the modem artist, founded on an imitation of those of a jovial aristocracy, are in no way necessary, and are derived from a tradition which has been fatal to many fine talents. Lafargue appears to believe that the Parisian jeweller might find it necessary to dress elegantly, to ea{ oysters, and run after women in order to be able to keep up the artistic quality of his work {i.e. in order to keep his mind active ; the artistic quality of his work, destroyed by the wear of daily life in the workshop, will be reconstituted by the gay life he leads outside) {Journal des iconomistes, September 1884, p. 386). He gives no reasons to support this paradox ; we might moreover point out that the mentality of Marx's son-in-law is always obsessed by aristocratic prejudices.

  • [This is an allusion to a play by Octave Mirbeau with that title. —

Trans.]


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will be so ; and the Stock Exchange people would not provide them with money, were they not convinced that Parliamentary Socialism is quite compatible with financial robbery.

B. Modern industry is characterised by an ever- growing care for exactitude ; as tools get more scientific it is expected that the product shall have fewer hidden faults, and that in use its quality shall be as good as its appearance.

If Germany has not yet taken the place in the economic world which the mineral riches of its soil, the energy of its manufacturers and the science of its technicians ought to give it, it is because its manufacturers for a long time thought it clever to flood the markets with trash ; although the quality of German manufactures has much improved during the last few years, it is not yet held in any very great esteem.

Here again it is possible to draw a comparison between industry in a high state of perfection and art. There have been periods in which the public appreciated above all the technical tricks by which the artist created an illusion of reality ; but these tricks have never been accepted in the great schools, and they are universally condemned by the authors who are accepted as authorities in matters of art.^

This honesty which now seems to us to-day as necessary in industry as in art, was hardly suspected by the Utopists; ^ Fourier, at the beginning of the new era, believed that fraud in the quality of merchandise was characteristic

^ See the chapter in Ruskin's Seven Lamps of Architecture entitled " Lamp of Truth."

  • It must not be forgotten that there are two ways of discussing art ;

Nietzsche attacks Kant for having " like all the philosophers meditated on art and the beautiful as a spectator instead of looking at the esthetic problem from the point of view of the artist, the creator " {op. cit. p. 17S). In the time of the Utopists, esthetics was merely the babbling of amateurs, who were delighted with the cleverness with which the artist had been able to deceive the public.


THE ETHICS OF THE PRODUCERS 289

of the relations between civilised people ; he turned his back on progress and showed himself incapable of under- standing the world which was being formed about him ; like nearly all professional prophets this sham seer con- fused the future with the past. Marx, on the contrary, said that " deception in merchandise in the capitalist system of production is unjust," because it no longer corresponds with the modem system of business.^

The soldier of the wars of Liberty attached an almost superstitious importance to the carrying out of the smallest order. As a result of this he felt no pity for the generals or officers whom he saw guillotined after a defeat on the charge of dereliction of duty ; he did not look at these events as the historians of to-day do ; he had no means of knowing whether the condemned had really committed treason or not ; in his eyes failure could only be explained by some grave error on the part of his leaders. The high sense of responsibility felt by the soldier about his own duties, and the extreme thoroughness with which he carried out the most insignificant order, made him approve of rigorous measures taken against men who in his eyes had brought about the defeat of the army and caused it to lose the fruit of so much heroism.

It is not difficult to see that the same spirit is met with in strikes ; the beaten workmen are convinced that their failure is due to the base conduct of a few comrades who have not done all that might have been expected of them ; numerous accusations of treason are brought forward ; for the beaten masses, treason alone can explain the defeat of heroic troops ; the sentiment, felt by all, of the thorough- ness that must be brought to the accomplishment of their duties, will therefore be accompanied by many acts of violence. I dp not think that the authors who have written on the events which follow strikes, have sufficiently reflected on this analogy between strikes and the wars of

1 Marx, Capital, French translation, vol. iii., first part, p. 375.


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Liberty, and, consequently, between these acts of violence and the executions of generals accused of treason.^

C. There would never have been great acts of heroism in war, if each soldier, while acting like a hero, yet at the same time claimed to receive a reward proportionate to his deserts. When a colmnn is sent to an assault, the men at the head know they are sent to their death, and that the glory of victory will be for those who passing over their dead bodies enter the enemy's position. How- ever, they do not reflect on this injustice, but march forward.

The value of any army where the need of rewards makes itself actively felt, may be said to be on the decline. Officers who had served in the campaigns of the Revolution and of the Empire, but who had served under the direct orders of Napoleon only in the last years of their career, were amazed to see the fuss made about feats of arms which in the time of their youth would have passed un- noticed : "I have been overwhelmed with praise/' said General Duhesne, " for things which would not have been noticed in the army of Sambre-et-Meuse." ^ This theatri- cality was carried by Murat to a grotesque degree, and historians have not taken enough notice of the responsi- bility of Napoleon for this degeneracy of the true warlike spirit. The extraordinary enthusiasm which had been the cause of so many prodigies of valour on the part of the men of 1794 was unknown to him ; he believed that it was his function to measure all capacities, and to give

  • p. Bureau has devoted a chapter of his book on the Contrat de

Travail to an explanation of the reasons which justify boycotting of workmen who do not join their comrades in strikes ; he thinks that these people merit their fate because they are notoriously inferior both in courage and as workmen. This seems to me very inadequate as an account of the reasons which, in the eyes of the working classes themselves, explain these acts of violence. The author takes up a much too intellectualist point of view.

  • Lafaille, Mhnoires sur les campagnes de Catalogne de j8o8 d 18/4,

p. 336.


THE ETHICS OF THE PRODUCERS 291

to each a reward exactly proportionate to what he had accomplished ; this was the Saint -Simonian principle already coming into practice, and every officer was encouraged to bring himself forward. Charlatanism ^ ex- hausted the moral forces of the nation whilst its material forces were still very considerable. Napoleon formed very few distinguished general officers and carried on the war principally with those left him by the Revolution ; this impotence is the most absolute condemnation of the system.2

The scarcity of the information which we possess about the great Gothic artists has often been pointed out. Among the stone-carvers who sculptured the statues in the cathedrals there were men of great talent who seem always to have remained anonymous ; nevertheless they produced masterpieces. VioUet-le-Duc was surprised that the archives of Notre Dame had preserved for us no detailed information about the building of this gigantic monument and that, as a rule, the documents of the Middle Ages say very little about the architects ; he adds that " genius can develop itself in obscurity, and that it is its very nature to seek silence and obscurity." ^ We

^ The charlatanism of the followers of Saint Simon was as disgusting as that of Murat ; moreover, the history of this school is unintelligible if we do not compare it with its Napoleonic models.

  • General Donop strongly insists on the incapacity of Napoleon's

lieutenants who passively obeyed instructions that they never tried to understand, and the fulfilment of which was minutely overlooked by their master {op. cit. pp. 22-29 and 32-34). Napoleon's armies were valued in proportion to the exactitude with which they carried out the orders of their master ; initiative being little valued, it was possible to estimate the conduct of the generals like the ability of a good pupil who has learnt his lessons w^ll ; the Emperor gave pecuniary rewards to his lieutenants, proportionate to the measure of merit he recognised in them.

' Viollet-le-Duc, Dictionnaite raisonni de V architecture fratifaise, vol. iv. pp. 42-43. This does not contradict what we read in the article " Architect." From that we learn that the builders often inscribed their names in the cathedrals (vol. i. pp. 1 09-1 11) ; from that it has been concluded that these works were not anonymous (Br6hier, Les


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might even go farther and question whether their con- temporaries suspected that these artists of genius had raised edifices of unperishable glory ; it seems very probable to me that the cathedrals were only admired by the artists.

This striving towards perfection which manifests itself, in spite of the absence of any personal, immediate, and proportional reward, constitutes the secret virtue which assures the continued progress of the world. What would become of modern industry if inventors could only be found for those things which would procure them an almost certain remuneration ? The calling of an inventor is much the most miserable of all, and yet there is no lack of inventors. How often in workshops have little modifica- tions introduced by ingenious artisans into their work, become by accumulation fundamental improvements, without the innovators ever getting any permanent or appreciable benefit from their ingenuity ! And has not even simple piece-work brought about a gradual but uninterrupted progress in the processes of production, a progress which, after having temporarily improved the position of a few workers and especially that of their employers, has proved finally of benefit chiefly to the consumer ?

Renan asked what was it that moved the heroes of great wars. " The soldier of Napoleon was well aware that he would always be a poor man, but he felt that the epic in which he was taking part would be eternal, that he would live in the glory of France. ' ' The Greeks had fought for glory ; the Russians and the Turks seek death because they expect a chimerical paradise. "A soldier is not made by promises of temporal rewards. He must have immor-

Eglises gothiques, p. 17), but what meaning had these inscriptions for the people of the town ? They could only be of interest to artists who came later on to work in the same edifice and who were familiar with the traditions of the schools.


THE ETHICS OF THE PRODUCERS 2g3

tality. In default of paradise, there is glory, which is itself a kind of immortality/' ^

Economic progress goes far beyond the individual life, and profits future generations more than those who create it ; but does it give glory ? Is there an economic epic capable of stimulating the enthusiasm of the workers. The inspiration of immortality which Renan considered so powerful is obviously without efficacy here, because artists have never produced masterpieces under the influence of the idea that their work would procure them a place in paradise (as Turks seek death that they may enjoy the happiness promised by Mahomet). The workmen are not entirely wrong when they look on reUgion as a middle- class luxury, since, as a matter of fact, the emotions it calls up are not those which inspire workmen with the desire to perfect machinery, or which create methods of accelerating labour.

The question must be stated otherwise than Renan put it ; do there exist among the workmen forces capable of producing enthusiasm equivalent to those of which Renan speaks, forces which could combine with the ethics of good work, so that in our days, which seem to many people to presage the darkest future, this ethic may acquire all the authority necessary to lead society along the path of economic progress.

We must be careful that the keen sentiment which we have of the necessity of such a morality, and our ardent desire to see it realised does not induce us to mistake phantoms for forces capable of moving the world. The abimdant " idyllic ** literature of the professors of rhetoric is evidently mere chatter. Equally vain are the attempts made by so many scholars to find institutions in the past, an imitation of which might serve as a means of

  • Renan, Histoire du peupie d' Israel, vol. iv. p. 191. Renan seems

to me to have identified too readily glory and immortality ; he has fallen a victim to a figure of speech.


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disciplining their contemporaries ; imitation has never produced much good and often bred much sorrow ; how absurd the idea is then of borrowing from some dead and gone social structure, a suitable means of controlling a system of production, whose principal characteristic is that every day it must become more and more opposed to all preceding economic systems. Is there then nothing to hope for ?

Morahty is not doomed to perish because the motive forces behind it will change ; it is not destined to become a mere collection of precepts as long as it can still vivify itself by an alliance with an enthusiasm capable of conquer- ing all the obstacles, prejudices, and the need of immediate enjoyment, which oppose its progress. But it is certain that this sovereign force will not be found along the paths which contemporary philosophers', the experts of social science, and the inventors of far-reaching reforms would make us go. There is only one force which can produce to-day that enthusiasm without whose co-operation no morality is possible, and that is the force resulting from the propaganda in favour of a general strike. The pre- ceding explanations have shown that the idea of the general strike (constantly rejuvenated by the feehngs roused by proletarian violence) produces an entirely epic state of mind, and at the same time bends all the energies of the mind to that condition necessary to the realisation of a workshop carried on by free men, eagerly seeking the betterment of the industry ; we have thus recog- nised that there are great resemblances between the sentiments aroused by the idea of the general strike and those which are necessary to bring about a continued progress in methods of production. We have then the right to maintain that the modem world possesses that prime mover which is necessary to the creation of the ethics of the producers.

I stop here, because it seems to me that I have accom-


THE ETHICS OF THE PRODUCERS 293

plished the task which I imposed upon myself ; I have, in fact, established that proletarian violence has an en- tirely different significance from that attributed to it by superficial scholars and by politicians. In the total ruin of institutions and of morals there remains something which is powerful, new, and intact, and it is that which constitutes, properly speaking, the soul of the revolutionary proletariat. Nor will this be swept away in the general decadence of moral values, if the workers have enough energy to bar the road to the middle-class corrupters, answering their advances with the plainest brutality.

I beUeve that I have brought an important contribu- tion to discussions on Socialism ; these discussions must henceforth deal exclusively with the conditions which allow the development of specifically proletarian forces, that is to say, with violence enlightened by the idea of the general strike. All the old abstract dissertations on the Socialist rSgime of the future become useless ; we pass to the domain of real history, to the interpretation of facts — to the ethical evaluations of the revolutionary movement.

The bond which I pointed out in the beginning of this inquiry between Socialism and proletarian violence appears to us now in all its strength. It is to violence that Socialism owes those high ethical values by means of which it brings salvation to the modem world.


u


APPENDIX

APOLOGY FOR VIOLENCE

Men who make revolutionary speeches to the people are bound to set before themselves a high standard of sincerity, because the workers imderstand their words in their exact and Uteral sense, and never indulge in any symbolic inter- pretation. When in 1905 I ventured to write in some detail on proletarian violence I understood perfectly the grave responsibility I asstmied in trying to show the historic bearing of actions which our ParUamentary Socialists try to dis- simulate, with so much skill. To-day I do not hesitate to assert that Socialism could not continue to exist without an apology for violence.

It is in strikes that the proletariat asserts its existence. I cannot agree with the view which sees in strikes merely something analogous to the temporary rupture of commercial relations which is brought about when a grocer and the whole- sale dealer from whom he buys his dried plums cannot agree about the price. The strike is a phenomenon of war. It is thus a serious misrepresentation to say that violence is an accident doomed to disappear from the strikes of the future.

The social revolution is an extension of that ware in which each great strike is an episode ; this is the reason why Syndi- caUsts speak of that revolution in the language of strikes ; for them Socialism is reduced to the conception, the expecta- tion of, and the preparation for the general strike, which, hke he Napoleonic battle, is to completely annihilate a con- demned regime.

Such a conception allows none of those subtle exegeses in which Jaur^s excels. It is a question here of an over- throw in the course of which both employers and the State would be set aside by the organised producers. Our

a97


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Intellectuals, who hope to obtain the highest places from democracy, would be sent back to their literature; the Parliamentary Socialists, who find in the organisations created by the middle classes means of exercising a certain amount of power, would bec(Jme useless.

The analogy which exists between strikes accompanied by violence and war is prolific of consequences. No one doubts (except d'Estournelles de Constant) that it was war that provided the republics of antiquity with the ideas which form the ornament of our modem culture. The social war, for which the proletariat ceaselessly prepares itself in the syndi- cates, may engender the elements of a new civilisation suited to a people of producers. I continually call the attention of my young friends to the problems presented by Socialism considered from the point of view of a civiUsation of pro- ducers ; I assert that to-day a philosophy is being elaborated according to this plan, whose possibiUty even was hardly suspected a few years ago ; this philosophy is closely bound up with the apology for violence.

I have never had that admiration for creative hatred which Jaur^s has devoted to it ; I do not feel the same indulgence towards the guillotiners as he does ; I have a horror of any measure which strikes the vanquished under a judicial disguise. War, carried on in broad daylight, without hypocritical attenuation, for the purpose of ruining an irreconcilable enemy, excludes all the abominations which dishonoured the middle-class revolution of the eighteenth century. The apology for violence in this case is particularly easy.

It would serve no purpose to explain to the poor that they ought not to feel sentiments of jealousy and vengeance against their masters ; these feelings are too powerful to be suppressed by exhortations ; it is on the widespread prevalence of these feelings thai democracy chiefly founds its strength. Social war, by making an appeal to the honour which develops so naturally in all organised armies, can eliminate those evil feelings against which morality would remain powerless. If this were the only reason we had for attributing a high civihs- ing value to revolutionary SyndicaUsm, this reason alone would, it seems to me, be decisive in favour of the apologists for violence.

The conception of the general strike, engendered by the practice of violent strikes, admits the conception of an irre- vocable overthrow. There is something terrifying in this


APPENDIX 2gg

which will appear more and more terrifying as violence takes a greater place in the mind of the proletariat. But, in under- taking a serious, formidable, and sublime work, Socialists raise themselves above our frivolous society and make them- selves worthy of pointing out new roads to the world.

Parhamentary Socialists may be compared to the officials whom Napoleon made into a nobility and who laboured to strengthen the State bequeathed by the Ancien Regime. Revolutionary Syndicalism corresponds well enough to the Napoleonic armies whose soldiers accomplished such heroic acts, knowing all the time that they would remain poor. What remains of the Empire ? Nothing but the epic of the Grande Arm^e. What will remain of the present Socialist movement will be the epic of the strikes.

Matin, May i8, 1908.


THE END



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