ANARCHY by Élisée Reclus

The following text was originally a talk presented in Brussels on June 18, 1894 to the members of “The Philanthropic Friends,” Masonic lodge (“Les Amis Philanthropes”, Lodge No. 5 of the Grand Orient of Belgium*). It was published as “L’Anarchie” in Les Temps nouveaux 18 (May 25-June 1, 1895).

Jacques Élisée Reclus (15 March 1830 – 4 July 1905)

Anarchy is far from being a new theory. The word itself, in its accepted meaning of “the absence of government” and “a society without leaders,” is of ancient origin and was used long before the time of Proudhon.1 Besides, what difference do words make? There were “acratists” before there were anarchists, but the acratists were not given their name — a learned construction — until many generations had passed. In all ages there have been free men, those contemptuous of the law, men living without any master and in accordance with the primordial law of their own existence and their own thought. Even in the earliest ages we find everywhere tribes made up of men managing their own affairs as they wish, without any externally imposed law, having no rule of behaviour other than “their own volition and free will,” as Rabelais expresses it, 2 and impelled by their desire to found a “profound faith” like those “gallant knights” and “charming ladies” who gathered together in the Abbey of Thélème.

But if anarchy is as old as humanity, those who represent it nevertheless bring something new to the world. They have a keen awareness of the goal to be attained, and from all corners of the earth they join together to pursue their ideal of the eradication of every form of government. The dream of worldwide freedom is no longer a purely philosophical or literary utopia, as it was for the creators of the Cities of the Sun and the New Jerusalems.3 It has become a practical goal that is actively pursued by masses of people united in their resolute quest for the birth of a society in which there are no more masters, no more official custodians of public morals, no more jailers, torturers and executioners, no more rich or poor. Instead there will be only brothers who have their share of daily bread, who have equal rights, and who coexist in peace and heartfelt unity that comes not out of obedience to law, which is always accompanied by dreadful threats, but rather from mutual respect for the interest of all, and from the scientific study of natural laws.

No doubt this ideal will appear chimerical to some of you, but I am sure that it will also seem desirable to most, and that you can see in the distance the ethereal image of a peaceful society in which men, henceforth reconciled with one another, will let their swords go to rust, melt down their cannons, and disarm their ships. Besides, aren’t you among those who have long (for thousands of years, you say) worked to build the temple of equality? You are “masons,” and the goal of your masonry is to construct an edifice of perfect proportions into which will enter only those who are free, equal and fraternal, who work ceaselessly to improve themselves, and in whom the power of love awakens a new life of justice and goodness. Isn’t this your goal? And is it not true that there are others who share it? You claim no monopoly on the spirit of progress and renewal. Indeed, you do not commit the injustice of forgetting your express enemies who curse you and excommunicate you, the rabid Catholics who condemn to hell the enemies of the Holy Church but who themselves no less than you prophesy the coming of an age of lasting peace. Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Sienna, Theresa of Avila, and so many other adherents of a faith not at all your own certainly loved humanity with a most sincere love, and we must count them among those who lived for an ideal of universal happiness. And today there are millions upon millions of socialists, regardless of the school to which they belong, who also struggle for a future in which the power of capital will be broken, and in which men will finally be able to call themselves “equals” without irony.

The anarchists thus have a final goal in common with many other magnanimous persons belonging to a great diversity of religions, sects, and parties. But they distinguish themselves sharply from the others by their means, as their name indicates in the clearest terms. The conquest of power has almost always been the great preoccupation of revolutionaries, including the best intentioned of them. The prevailing system of education does not allow them to imagine a free society operating without a conventional government, and as soon as they have overthrown their hated masters, they hasten to replace them with new ones who are destined, according to the ancient maxim, to “make the people happy.” Generally, no one has dared to prepare for a change of princes or dynasties without having paid homage or pledged obedience to some future sovereign. “The king is dead! Long live the king!” cried the eternally loyal subjects — even as they revolted. For many centuries this has been the unvarying course of history. “Flow could one possibly live without masters!” said the slaves, the spouses, the children, and the workers of the cities and countryside as they quite deliberately placed their shoulders under the yoke, like the ox that pulls the plough. One is reminded of the insurgents of 1830 who proclaimed “the best of republics” 4 embodied in the person of a new king, and the republicans of 1848 quietly repairing to their hovels after having undergone “three months of misery in the service of the provisional government.”5 During the same period, a revolution broke out in Germany and a popular assembly met in Frankfurt: “the old authority is a corpse,” proclaimed one of the representatives. “Yes,” replied the chairman, “but we will revive it. We will summon new men who know how to exercise power to restore the strength of the nation.” On this topic it might be appropriate to repeat the line from Victor Hugo: “There is an age-old human instinct that leads to turpitude.”6

In contrast to this instinct, anarchy truly represents a new spirit. One can in no way reproach the libertarians for seeking to get rid of a government only to put themselves in its place. “Get out of the way to make room for me!” are words that they would be appalled to speak. They would condemn to shame and contempt, or at least to pity, anyone who, stung by the tarantula of power, aspires to an office under the pretext of “making his fellow citizens happy.” Anarchists contend that the state and all that it implies are not any kind of pure essence, much less a philosophical abstraction, but rather a collection of individuals placed in a specific milieu and subjected to its influence. Those individuals are raised up above their fellow citizens in dignity, power, and preferential treatment, and are consequently compelled to think themselves superior to the common people. Yet in reality the multitude of temptations besetting them almost inevitably leads them to fall below the general level.

This is what we constantly repeat to our brothers — including our fraternal enemies, the state socialists — “Watch out for your leaders and representatives!” Like you they are surely motivated by the best of intentions. They fervently desire the abolition of private property and of the tyrannical state. But new relationships and conditions change them little by little. Their morality changes along with their self-interest, and, thinking themselves eternally loyal to the cause and to their constituents, they inevitably become disloyal. As repositories of power they will also make use of the instruments of power: the army, moralizers, judges, police, and informers. More than three thousand years ago the Hindu poet of the Mahabharata expressed the wisdom of the centuries on this subject: “He who rides in a chariot will never be the friend of the one who goes on foot!”

Thus anarchists have the firmest principles in this area. In their view, the conquest of power can only serve to prolong the duration of the enslavement that accompanies it. So it is not without reason that even though the term “anarchists” ultimately has only a negative connotation, it remains the one by which we are universally known. One might label us “libertarians,” as many among us willingly call themselves, or even “harmonists,” since we see agreement based on free will as the constituting element of the future society. But these designations fail to distinguish us adequately from socialists. It is in fact our struggle against all official power that distinguishes us most essentially. Each individuality seems to us to be the centre of the universe and each has the same right to its integral development, without interference from any power that supervises, reprimands or castigates it.

So you understand our ideal. The next question that arises is the following: “Is this truly a noble ideal? Does it justify the sacrifice of dedicated men and all the terrible risks that revolutions inevitably bring in their wake? Is anarchist morality pure, and if a libertarian society is created, will man be better off than in one based on fear of power and of the law? I reply with complete confidence (and I hope that soon you will join me in this response), “Yes, it is anarchist morality that is most in accord with the modern conception of justice and goodness.”

The foundation of the old morality was, as you know, nothing but fear, that “trembling” of which the Bible speaks, and which was instilled in you through various teachings during your youth. “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” was formerly the starting point for all education. In other words, society as a whole is founded on terror. Men were not citizens, but rather subjects or members of a flock. Wives were servants and children slaves over whom the parents retained vestiges of the ancient law of life and death. We find everywhere, in all social relations, positions of superiority and subordination. In short, even in our own time the guiding principle of the state itself and of all the particular states that make it up is hierarchy, by which is meant “holy” archy or “sacred” authority, for that is the true meaning of the word.7 This sacrosanct system of domination encompasses a long succession of superimposed classes in which the highest have the right to command and the lowest have the duty to obey. The official morality consists in bowing humbly to one’s superiors and in proudly holding up one’s head before one’s subordinates. Each person must have, like Janus, two faces, with two smiles: one flattering, solicitous, and even servile, and the other haughty and nobly condescending. The principle of authority (which is the proper name for this phenomenon) demands that the superior should never give the impression of being wrong, and that in every verbal exchange he should have the last word. But above all, his orders must be carried out. That simplifies everything: there is no more need for quibbling, explanations, hesitations, discussions, or misgivings. Things move along all by themselves, for better or worse. And if a master isn’t around to command in person, one has ready-made formulas — orders, decrees, or laws handed down from absolute masters and legislators at various levels. These formulas substitute for direct orders, and one can follow them without having to consider whether they are in accord with the inner voice of one’s conscience.

Between equals, the task is more difficult but also more exalted. We must search fiercely for the truth, discover our own personal duty, learn to know ourselves, engage continually in our own education, and act in ways that respect the rights and interests of our comrades. Only then can one become a truly moral being and awaken to a feeling of responsibility. Morality is not a command to which one submits, a word that one repeats, something purely external to the individual. It must become a part of one’s being, the very product of one’s life. This is the way that we anarchists understand morality. Are we not justified in comparing this conception favourably with the one bequeathed to us by our ancestors?

Perhaps you will now concede that we are right. But here again, some of you will speak of a “chimera.” Though it pleases me that you will at least concede that ours is a noble dream, I wish to claim more than this and assert that our ideal, our conception of morality, is fully in accord with the logic of history, brought about naturally through the evolution of humanity.

Long ago, haunted by their fear of the unknown as well as by their feeling of powerlessness to discover the real causes of things, men created out of their intense desire one or more helpful divinities that represented both their formless ideal and the basis for an entire mysterious world of things, both visible and invisible, that surrounded them. These phantoms of the imagination, invested with supreme power, also became in the eyes of men the principle of all justice and authority. These masters of the heavens needed interpreters on earth — magicians, counsellors, and war chiefs before whom one learned to prostrate oneself as if before emissaries from on high. This was quite logical; however, man endures longer than his own works. For this reason the gods that he created never stop changing, like shadows cast into infinity. At first visible and driven by violent and fearsome human passions, they retreated little by little into an immense distance. Finally they became abstractions; sublime ideas that were no longer even assigned a name, and then merged with the natural laws that govern the world. They once again became part of a universe that they supposedly caused to burst forth out of nothingness. And now man finds himself alone on the earth, above which he once erected the colossal image of God.

Our entire conception of things changes simultaneously. If God disappears, those who derived from God their right to demand obedience will see their borrowed lustre become tarnished. They will be obliged to return gradually to the ranks, adapting as best they can to the way things are. Today one can no longer find a Tamerlane, 8 who commanded his forty courtesans to jump from the top of a tower, certain that in the blink of an eye he would observe from the crenels forty bloody, broken corpses. Freedom of thought has made all men anarchists without their knowing it. Who today does not set aside a small corner of the brain for reflection? This is precisely the crime of crimes, the sin par excellence, symbolized by the fruit of the tree that revealed to men the knowledge of good and evil. From this came the hatred of science that the Church has always professed. From this came the rage that Napoleon, a modern Tamerlane, always harboured against the “ideologues.”

But the ideologues have come. They have blown away the misty illusions of the past, undertaking once again the work of science through observation and experimentation. One of them, a nihilist before his time, an anarchist in word if not in deed, commenced by making a “tabula rasa” of all that he had learned.9 Today there is scarcely a single scientific or literary scholar who does not claim to be his own master and model, the thinker of his own original thoughts, the moralist for his own morality. As Goethe said, “If you wish to blossom, blossom on your own.” Do artists not seek to render nature as they see it, feel it, and understand it? One might see this as a kind of “aristocratic anarchy” that demands freedom only for the chosen people who consort with the muses, 10 those who climb Parnassus. Each of them wants to have freedom of thought and pursue his own ideal, without any limits, just as he pleases — while at the very same time saying that there must be “religion for the people.” fie wants to live as a fully independent man, but thinks that “obedience is designed for women.” He wants to create original works of art, but thinks that “the crowd below” must remain in debasing, machine-like subservience to the operations of the division of labor! In any case, these aristocrats of taste and thought are powerless to close the floodgates against the coming deluge. If science, literature, and art have become anarchistic, if all progress and every new form of beauty are the result of the flourishing of free thought, this thought must also be at work within the depths of society. Today it is no longer possible to contain it. It is too late to stop the flood.

Isn’t the loss of respect a quality par excellence of contemporary society? Some time ago I saw a crowd of thousands rush forward to gaze upon the empty carriage of a great lord. I no longer see such things. In India, pariahs once came devoutly to a halt the prescribed 115 paces from the haughty Brahmin. Since people began crowding into train stations, nothing has separated them but a partition in the waiting room. There are still more than enough examples of baseness and vile grovelling in the world, but there has nevertheless been progress in the direction of equality. Before showing respect, one sometimes asks whether the man or the institution in question is truly respectable. One now considers the value of individuals and the importance of their deeds. Faith in greatness has disappeared, and when that faith no longer exists, the institutions that depended on it will in turn disappear. The abolition of the state is a natural implication of the dying out of such respect.

The anti-authoritarian critique to which the state is subjected applies equally to all social institutions. The people no longer believe in the sacred origin of private property, produced, as the economists have told us (though one doesn’t dare repeat it today), by the personal labor of the property owners. They are well aware of the fact that the toil of one individual could never create by itself a fortune of millions upon millions, and that such a monstrous accumulation of wealth is always the result of defective social conditions, in which the product of the labor of thousands is allocated to a single person. They will always respect the hard-earned bread of the worker, the hut that he builds with his own hands, and the garden that he plants, but they are certainly going to lose their respect for the multitude of artificial holdings symbolized by various pieces of paper locked up in bank vaults. I have no doubt that the day will come when they will calmly reclaim possession of all the products of their common labor: mines and estates, factories and castles, railroads, ships, and cargo. When these masses, debased by their ignorance and the weakness that it inevitably produces, no longer deserve the terms with which they are insulted, when they come to know with complete certainty that the monopolization of these immense assets rests solely on fictitious scribbling and the sanctity of red tape, the prevailing social order will indeed be in danger! Considering the deep and irresistible evolution occurring in all human minds, the fanatical railing now directed against the innovators will seem so inane and devoid of sense to our descendants. What matters the filth spewed out by a press that has to pay back in choice prose the stipends of its patrons? What matters even the abuse heaped upon us quite sincerely by the “saintly but simple” religionists who would have gladly carried wood to burn John Huss at the stake! 11 The movement that enthrals us is not the work of dull-witted troublemakers or pathetic dreamers, but that of the whole of society. It is necessitated by the progression of thought, which has now become as inevitable and ineluctable as the rotation of the heavens and earth.

Nevertheless, some doubt may remain in your minds whether anarchy has ever been any more than a mere ideal, an intellectual exercise, or the subject of dialectic. You may wonder whether it has ever been realized concretely, or whether any spontaneous organization has ever sprung forth, putting into practice the power of comrades working together freely, without the command of any master. But such doubts can easily be laid to rest. Yes, libertarian organizations have always existed. Yes, they constantly arise once again, each year in greater numbers, as a result of advances in individual initiative. To begin with, I could cite diverse tribal peoples called “savages,” who even in our own day live in perfect social harmony, needing neither rulers nor laws, prisons nor police. But I will not stress such examples, despite their significance. I fear that some might object that these primitive societies lack complexity in comparison to the infinitely complicated organism of our modern world. Let us therefore set aside these primitive tribes and focus entirely on fully constituted nations that possess developed political and social systems.

Granted, I am unable to point to a single one throughout the course of history that has been constituted in a purely anarchistic manner, for each found itself in a period of struggle between diverse elements that had not yet been joined together with one another. But one finds that each of these fragmented societies, though not yet merged into a harmonious totality, was all the more prosperous and all the more creative to the degree that it had expanded freedom and accorded greater recognition to the value of each individual as a person. Since the point at which human society emerged from prehistory, awakened to the arts, sciences, and industry, and was able to hand down its experience to us through written records, the greatest periods in the lives of nations have always been those in which men, shaken by revolution, have suffered least under the long-lasting and heavy burden of a duly-constituted government. Judged by the progress in discovery, the flowering of thought, and the beauty of their art, the two greatest epochs for humanity were both tumultuous epochs, ages of “imperilled liberty.” Order reigned over the immense empires of the Medes and the Persians, but nothing great came out of it. On the other hand, while republican Greece was in a constant state of unrest, shaken by continual upheavals, it gave birth to the founders of all that we think exalted and noble in modern civilization, it is impossible for us to engage in thought or to produce any work of art without recalling those free Hellenes who were our precursors and who remain our models. Two thousand years later, after an age of darkness and tyranny that seemed incapable of ever coming to an end, Italy, Flanders, and the Europe of the Free Cities reawakened. Countless revolutions shook the world. Ferrari12 counted no less than seven thousand upheavals for Italy alone, in addition, the fire of free thought burst forth and humanity began once again to flourish, in the works of Raphael, da Vinci, and Michelangelo it felt the vigor of youth once more.

Then came the great century of the Encyclopedists, with its proclamation of the rights of man and the world revolutions that ensued. One is hardly capable of listing all the advances that have been achieved since this great upheaval of humanity. It almost seems as if the greater part of all human history has been concentrated in this last century. The human population has increased to over half a billion. Commerce has increased more than tenfold. Industry has been transformed. The art of modifying natural resources has been wonderfully enriched. New sciences have appeared on the scene, and regardless of one’s assessment of it, a third period in the history of art has begun. A conscious, worldwide socialist movement has begun to flourish. At the very least, one has the feeling of living in the century of great problems and enormous struggles. Imagine the hundred years that came in the wake of eighteenth-century philosophy being replaced with a period without history, such as that in which 400 million peaceful Chinese lived under the tutelage of a “father of the people,” a ritualistic court, and mandarins armed with diplomas. Far from living with the great vigor that we have seen, we would have gradually fallen into a condition of inertia and death. Galileo, while locked away in the prisons of the Inquisition, could only murmur secretly, “Still, it moves!” But thanks to the revolutions and the fury of free thought, we can today cry from the housetops and in the public squares, “The world moves, and it will continue to move!”

In addition to this great movement that gradually transforms all of society in the direction of free thought, free morality and freedom of action, in short, toward the essentials of anarchy, there has also existed a history of direct social experimentation that has manifested itself in the founding of libertarian and communitarian colonies. These might be looked upon as a series of small tests that are analogous to the laboratory experiments of chemists and engineers. These efforts to create model communities all have the major failing of being created outside the normal conditions of life, that is to say, far from the cities where people intermingle, where ideas spring up, and where intellects are reinvigorated. Nevertheless, one can point to quite a number of such projects that have fully succeeded, for example, “Young Icaria,” which is a transformation of Cabet’s colony, founded almost half a century ago on principles of authoritarian socialism.13 After repeated migrations, the group of communards has now become entirely anarchist and leads a simple life in the countryside of Iowa, near the Des Moines River.

But where anarchist practice really triumphs is in the course of everyday life among common people who would not be able to endure their dreadful struggle for existence if they did not engage in spontaneous mutual aid, putting aside differences and conflicts of interest. When one of them falls ill, other poor people take in his children, feeding them, sharing the meagre sustenance of the week, seeking to make ends meet by doubling their hours of work. A sort of communism is instituted among neighbours through lending, in which there is a constant coming and going of household implements and provisions. Poverty unites the unfortunate in a fraternal league. Together they are hungry; together they are satisfied. Anarchist morality and practice are the rule even in bourgeois gatherings where they might seem to be entirely absent. Imagine a party in the countryside at which some participant, whether the host or one of the guests, would put on airs of superiority, order people around, or impose his whims rudely on everyone! Wouldn’t this completely destroy all the pleasure and joy of the occasion? True geniality can only exist between those who are free and equal, between those who can enjoy themselves in whatever way suits them best, in separate groups if they wish, or drawing closer to one another and intermingling as they please, for the hours spent in this way are the most agreeable ones.

Please permit me at this point to relate to you a personal experience. We were sailing along in one of those modern ships that cleave through the waves at a speed of fifteen to twenty knots and trace a direct path from continent to content regardless of wind and tide. The air was calm, the evening pleasant, and the stars sparkled one by one in a black sky. We were conversing on the poop deck, and came inevitably to the eternal social question, which grabs us and seizes us by the throat like the Riddle of the Sphinx. The reactionary of the crowd was assailed by his interlocutors, who were all socialists, more or less. He turned suddenly toward the captain, our leader and master, hoping to find in him a born champion of the conventional wisdom. “You are the commander here! Isn’t your authority sacred? What would happen to this vessel if it were not under the constant direction of your will?” “How naive you are,” replied the captain. “Just between us, I can tell you that for the most part I’m completely useless. The man at the helm keeps the ship on course, and in a little while another pilot takes his place, and later, still others, and we consistently follow our charted route, without my intervention. Below, the stokers and engineers do their work without my help or opinion, and do it betters the less I meddle and give advice. And all the top men are sailors who also know the jobs they have to do, and only occasionally do I have to coordinate my small part of the work with theirs, which is harder and less lucrative than mine. To be sure, I am charged with guiding the ship. But isn’t it obvious that this is pure fiction? We use maps, but I didn’t draw them. The compass guides us, but I didn’t invent it. Someone dredged the channel of the port we left and the channel of the port to which we are heading. And this superb vessel, its ribs hardly groaning at all under the pressure of the waves, majestically rocking in the swell, powerfully steaming ahead — I didn’t build it. What am I compared to the great men of the past, the scientists and inventors, our predecessors who taught us how to cross the seas? We are all their partners, including my comrades the sailors, and also you the passengers. After all, it is for you that we ride the waves, and in case of peril, we count on you to assist us fraternally. We have a common endeavour and we are united with one another!” Then everyone became silent, and I added to the treasury of my memory the precious words of this captain, the likes of whom is rarely encountered.

And so this vessel, this floating world in which, moreover, punishment is unknown, carries a model republic across the oceans, despite all the hierarchical labyrinths of the world. And this is hardly an isolated example. Each of you knows, if only by hearsay, of schools in which the professor, disregarding harsh regulations, treats all the pupils as friends and cordial colleagues. Everything required to get the little rascals under control is provided by the proper authorities, but their big friend has no need for all that paraphernalia of repression, he treats the children like human beings, constantly appealing to their good will, to their understanding of things, and to their sense of justice. And they all respond joyfully. A miniscule society that is anarchistic and truly humane is thus created, even though everything in the larger world seems to be in league to prevent its being born — laws, regulations, bad examples, and public immorality.

Anarchistic groups thus spring up constantly, despite all the old prejudices and the heavy weight of ancient customs. Our new world springs up all around us, like new flora sprouting up from the refuse of the ages. Not only is it not a mere dream, as some often claim, but it already manifests itself in a thousand different forms. One has to be blind not to notice it. On the other hand, if there is any form of society that is illusory and impossible, it is the pandemonium in which we now live. I hope that you will grant me that I have not gone overboard in my critique, though it is not difficult to do so in regard to the world we live in, which has given us the so-called principle of authority and the cut-throat struggle for survival. But in the end, by its very definition a society is a collection of individuals who come together and deliberate in pursuit of the common good. However, one cannot state unambiguously that the chaotic mass that we find around us constitutes a society. According to its proponents — and every bad cause possesses them — the goal of our society is supposed to be the attainment of perfect order through the satisfaction of the interests of all. But isn’t it ludicrous to look for a well-ordered society anywhere in the sphere of European civilization, with its unending succession of internal conflict, murder and suicide, violence and shootings, depression and famine, theft, fraud, and deception of every kind, bankruptcy, collapse and ruin? Which of you, on leaving, will not see rising up around you spectres of hunger and vice? In our own Europe there are five million men who are but waiting for the signal to kill other human beings, to burn houses and harvests. Ten million others on reserve outside the barracks are consciously committed to carrying out the same work of destruction. Five million wretches live, or at least vegetate, in prison, condemned to a variety of sentences; ten million die prematurely each year; and of 370 million persons, 350 million, that is to say nearly the whole, shudder in justifiable fear of the future. Despite the immense wealth of society, who among us could deny that an abrupt reversal of fortunes might take away his assets? These are the facts that no one can deny, and which ought I think inspire in us all the firm resolve to change the present state of things, which is ripe for permanent revolution.

I once had the opportunity to converse with a high-level bureaucrat, well trained by the daily routine of enacting laws and imposing penalties. “Go ahead, defend your society,” I said to him. “How do you expect me to defend it?” he replied. “It is indefensible.” Nevertheless it is defended, but with arguments that need no justification: with flogging, solitary confinement and the scaffold.

On the other hand, those who attack this society can do so with a completely clear conscience. It is certain that the movement of social transformation will involve violence and revolution, but isn’t the world around us nothing but continual violence and permanent revolution? And between the two sides in the social struggle, which of the two sides will consist of responsible men? Those who proclaim an era of justice and equality for all, without distinction between classes and individuals, or those who wish to perpetuate the separation and consequently the hatred between castes, who add repressive law to repressive law, and whose only solution to social problems consists of infantry, cavalry, and artillery? History allows us to state with full confidence that a politics of hatred always begets more hatred, inevitably aggravates the overall situation, and may even bring on ultimate destruction. How many nations have gone to ruin in this way, oppressors as well as the oppressed! Will we in turn also go to ruin?

I hope that we will not, thanks to the anarchist thought that manifests itself ever more strongly, renewing human initiative. Aren’t you yourselves, if not anarchists, then at least strongly tinged with anarchism? Who of you, in your heart of hearts, would call yourself the superior of your neighbour, and would not recognize in him your brother and your equal? The morality that has often been proclaimed here in words that are more or less symbolic will certainly become a reality. For we, as anarchists, know that this morality of perfect justice, liberty, and equality is surely the true one, and we live it with all our hearts, whereas our adversaries are uncertain. They are unsure of being right. At bottom, they are even convinced that they are wrong, and hand over the world to us in advance.

 

NOTES 1 The anarchist philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809—65) is usually credited with popularizing the term and first associating it with a large-scale social movement.   2 In Gargantua and Pantagruel (Book 1, Chapter 57), Rabelais says of the inhabitants of the Abbey of Thélème “their lives were governed not by laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their own volition and free will [vouloir et franc arbitre].” François Rabelais, Gargantua et Pantagruel (Paris: G. Jeune, 1957), 1:142.3 One of the best known of these philosophical and literary utopias is La Citta del Sole: Dialogo Poetico / The City of the Sun: A Poetical Dialogue, trans. Daniel J. Donno (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981), by Tommaso Campanella (1568—1639). 4 In July of 1830, Lafayette, recently named commandant of the National Guard, greeted the Duke of Orleans, the new king, with the words, “Here is the best of republics!” Despite these rousing words, Lafayette soon became disillusioned with the new regime and resigned his post.5 The French working class fought for the Republic in the revolution of 1848, only to have its interests ignored by the new bourgeois regime, which nevertheless thanked the workers for their three months of misery on its behalf. The regime crushed a workers’ rebellion in June of that year.6 Hugo’s words are from “A Juvenal” in Les Châtiments, Oeuvres Completes de Victor Hugo, vol. 4 (Paris: Hetzel-Quantin, 1882), 4:344.7 The term “hierarchy” derives specifically from the Greek hieratikos, or “rule of the high priest,” and ultimately from hier, “sacred,” and archia, rule.8 Timur Lenk, Tartar conqueror of southern and western Asia, who ruled Samarkand from 1369 to 1405. 9 Reclus refers to Descartes’ strategy of methodological scepticism in which one begins by doubting everything, after which knowledge can be reconstituted “scientifically” and with certitude, founded on “clear and distinct” ideas. 10 Reclus says, “le peuple choisi des Musantes.”11 John Huss (1369? — 1415) was a Bohemian religious reformer and martyr.12 Giuseppe Ferrari (1812—76) was an Italian philosopher, historian, and political activist. He wrote The Philosophy of Revolution (1851) and The History of Revolution (1858).13 The Icarians were followers of the French utopian socialist Etienne Cabet (1788—1856), who was influenced by the British utopian Robert Owen. Cabet’s Voyage en Icarie (1840) inspired a large movement to create Icarian communities. A disastrous attempt was made to create a vast colony on the Red River in Texas in 1848. Later communities were established in Nauvoo, Illinois, and Corning, Iowa, with remnants surviving until 1898.

* During WWII, two members of the ‘Philanthropic Friends’ Lodge, Jean Sugg and Franz Rochat, were among the seven Belgian freemasons and resistance fighters who founded one of the few Masonic lodges — Loge Liberté chérie — set up inside a Nazi concentration camp (Hut 6 of Emslandlager VII). Themed meetings included the future of Belgium and the position of women in Freemasonry.