anarchy archives


About Us

Contact Us

Other Links

Critics Corner


The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
  William Godwin
  Emma Goldman
  Peter Kropotkin
  Errico Malatesta
  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
  Elisée Reclus
  Max Stirner
  Murray Bookchin
  Noam Chomsky
  Bright but Lesser Lights
  Cold Off The Presses
  Anarchist History
  Worldwide Movements
  First International
  Paris Commune
  Haymarket Massacre
  Spanish Civil War
  Art and Anarchy
  Education and Anarchy
  Anarchist Poets
  Music and Anarchy





The Knickerbocker Press 1897

Copyright, 1897
The Knickerbocker Press, New York



Biography — His Philosophic Standpoint — His Early Writings — The "Contradictions of Political Economy" — Proudhon's Federation — His Economic Views — His Theory of Property — Collectivism and Mutualism — Attempts to Put his Views into Practice — Proudhon's Last Writings — Criticism.

The man who had such a powerful, not to say fateful, influence upon the progress of the proletarian movement of our century was himself one of the proletariat class by birth and calling.

Pierre Joseph Proudhon was born 15th January, 1809, in a suburb of Besançon. His father was a cooper, his mother a cook; and Pierre Joseph, in spite of his thirst for knowledge, had to devote himself to hard work, instead of completing his studies; he became a proofreader in some printing works at Besançon, and as a journeyman printer wandered all through France. Having returned to Besançon, he entered the printing house again as a factor. In the year 1836 he founded, with a fellow-workman in the same town, a little printing shop, which, however, he wound up after his partner had died in 1838, being determined to change the occupation he had followed so far, for another for which he had already long been preparing by diligent study both during his wanderings and in his leisure hours in past years. Proudhon's activity as an author began in the year 1837. The Academy at Besançon had to award a three years' scholarship, which had been founded by Suard, the secretary of the French Academy, for poor young men of Franche-Comte who wished to devote themselves to a literary or scientific career. Proudhon entered as a competitor, and won the scholarship. In the memoir of his life, which he drew up for the Academy, he said: "Born and reared in the midst of the working classes, to which I belong with my heart and in my affections, and above all by the community of sufferings and aspirations, it will be my greatest joy, if I receive the approval of the Academy, to work unceasingly with the help of philosophy and science, and with the whole energy of my will and all my mental powers, for the physical, moral, and intellectual improvement of those whom I call brothers and companions, in order to sow amongst them the seeds of a doctrine which I consider as the law of the moral world, and hoping to succeed in my endeavours, to appear before you, gentlemen, as their representative." As to the studies to which he devoted himself in Paris for several years after receiving the scholarship, Proudhon relates himself that he received light, not from the socialistic schools which then existed and were coming into fashion, not from partisans or from journalists, but that he began with a study of the antiquities of Socialism, a study which, according to his opinion, was absolutely necessary in order to determine the theoretical and practical laws of the social movement.

It gives us a somewhat strange sensation to learn that Proudhon, the father of Anarchism, made these sociological studies in the Bible; and this Book of books is even to-day the most important source of empiric sociology. For no other book reflects so authentically and elaborately the development of an important social Individualism, and in Proudhon's time the Bible (in view of the complete lack of ethnographic observations which then prevailed) was also almost the only source of studies of this kind. And if also it must be admitted that these studies could not fail to be one-sided, yet it cannot be denied that Proudhon proceeded in a way incomparably more correct than most social philosophers have done either before or since, for they have built up their systems generally by deductive and dogmatic methods.

An essay which Proudhon wrote upon the introduction of Sunday rest, from the point of view of morality, health, and the relations of a family estate, brought him a bronze medal from the Academy, and he was able afterwards to say with truth: "My Socialism received its baptism from a learned society, and I have an academy as sponsor"; certainly a remarkable boast for one who denied all authority.

Proudhon appears to have travelled very quickly along the road which led from the regions of faith to the metaphysics prevailing at that time; and already he took for his criterion—as he tells us later in his Confessions—the proposition (drawn up according to the Hegelian theory, that everything when it is legalised at the same time brings its opposite with it), "that every principle which is pursued to its farthest consequence arrives at a contradiction when it must be considered false and repudiated; and that, if this false principle has given rise to an institution, this institution itself must be regarded as an artificial product and as a Utopia." This proposition Proudhon later on formulated as follows: "Every true thought is conceived in time once, and breaks up in two directions. As each of these directions is the negation of the other and both can only disappear in a higher idea, it follows that the negation of law is itself the law of life and progress, and the principle of continual movement." Here, indeed, we have Proudhon's whole teaching; with this magic wand of negation of law he thought he could open the magic world of social problems, and heal up the wounds of the social organisation.

"My masters," said Proudhon to his friend Langlois in the year 1848, "that is those who woke fruitful ideas in me, are three: first of all, the Bible, then Adam Smith, and finally Hegel." Proudhon always boasted of being Hegel's pupil, and Karl Marx maintained that it was he who, during his stay in Paris in the year 1844, in debates which often lasted all night long, inoculated Proudhon (to the latter's great disadvantage) with Hegelianism, which he nevertheless could not properly study owing to his ignorance of the German language. A well-known anecdote attributes to Hegel the witty saying that only one scholar understood him and he misunderstood him. We do not know who this scholar was, but it might just as well have been Marx as Proudhon, for that which both of them took from the great philosopher, and applied as and how and when they did, is common to both: namely, the dialectic method applied to the problems of social philosophy.

The similarity between them in this respect is so striking that one might call both these embittered opponents the personal antitheses of the great master, Hegel. As for the rest, Proudhon's inoculation with Hegelianism, which was afterwards continued by K. Grün and Bakunin, must have been very marked and continuous, for we shall constantly be meeting with traces of it as we go on. Powerful as was the influence of Hegel upon Proudhon, the Anarchist was but little affected by the fashionable philosophy of his contemporary and fellow-countryman, A. Comte; which is all the more remarkable since it is Comte's Positivism which, proceeding along the lines of Spencer's philosophy, has in no small degree influenced modern Anarchism, while echoes of the Comtian individualist doctrine are even to be found in the German contemporary of Proudhon, Stirner; echoes which, although numerous, are perhaps unconscious. Proudhon attached himself, as already mentioned, specially to the Hegelian dialectic and to the doctrine of Antitheses. Using this criterion, Proudhon proceeded to the consideration and criticism of social phenomena; and just as beginners and pupils in the difficult art of philosophy, instead of contenting themselves with preliminary questions, attack the very kernel of problems, with all the rashness of ignorance, so Proudhon also attacked, as his first problem, the fundamental social question of property, taking it up for the subject of his much-quoted though much less read work, What is Property? (Qu'est-ce que la Propriété?—First essay in Recherches sur le Principe du Droit et du Gouvernement). Proudhon has been judged and condemned, though, and wrongly, yet almost exclusively, by this one essay, written at the beginning of his literary career. Friends and foes alike have always contented themselves with regarding the celebrated dictum there uttered, Property is Theft, as the Alpha and the Omega of Proudhon's teaching, without reading the book itself. And because it has been thought sufficient to catch up a phrase dragged from all its context, so it has happened that Proudhon to-day, although he is one of the most frequently mentioned authors, is hardly either known or read. Although the question of property forms the corner-stone of all Proudhon's teaching, yet it would be wrong to identify it with his doctrine entirely. And it is no less wrong to represent the first attempt which Proudhon made to solve so great a problem as the whole of his views about property, as unfortunately even serious authors have hitherto done almost without exception, and especially those who make a special study of him, such as Diehl. As a matter of fact, Proudhon has carefully and elaborately set forth his theory of property in several other works which are mixed up for the most part with his other numerous writings, and has left behind a fragment of a book on the theory of property, in which he meant to produce a comprehensive theory of property as the foundation of his whole work. We must, therefore, in order not to anticipate, leave a complete exposition of Proudhon's theory of property to a later portion of this book, hence we will merely glance at the work, What is Property? and also at another study which appeared in 1843 called The Creation of Order in Humanity, which shows the second, or I might say, the political side of Proudhon's train of thought in its first beginnings, and of which Proudhon himself said later, that it satisfied neither him nor the public, and was worse than mediocre, although he had very little to retract in its contents. "This book, a veritable infernal machine, which contains all the implements of creation and destruction," he said in his Confessions, "is badly done, and is far below that which I could have produced if I had taken time to choose and arrange properly my materials. But however full of faults my work may now appear, it was then sufficient for my purpose. Its object was to make me understand myself. Just as contradiction had been useful to me to destroy, so now the processes of development served me to build up. My intellectual education was completed, the Creation of Order had scarcely seen the light, when, with the application of the creative method which followed immediately upon it, I understood that in order to obtain an insight into the revolution of society the first thing must be to construct the whole series of its antitheses, or the system of opposites."

This was done in the book which appeared at Paris in two volumes in 1846, The System of Economic Contradictions, or the Philosophy of Misery, which deserves to be called his masterpiece, both because it contains the philosophic and economic foundations of his theory in a perfectly comprehensive and clear exposition, and because it is impossible to understand Proudhon without a knowledge of these contradictions. In his first work upon property, Proudhon had represented it as something equivalent to theft. But now we have another doctrine proposed: that Property is Liberty. These two propositions were thought by Proudhon to be proved in the same way. "Property considered in the totality of social institutions has, so to speak, two current accounts. One is the thought of the good which it produces, and which flows directly from its nature; the other is the disadvantages which it produces, and the sacrifices which it causes, and which also result directly, just as much as the good, from its nature. In property evil, or the abuse of it, is inseparable from the good, just as in book-keeping by double entry the debtor is inseparable from the creditor side. The one necessarily implies the other. To suppress the abuse of property means to extinguish it, just as much as to strike out an entry on the debtor side means also striking it out on the creditor side of an account." He proceeded in the same way with all "economic categories." Labour, he tells us in the Contradictions more explicitly, is the principle of wealth, the power which creates or abolishes values, or puts them in proportion one to another, and also distributes them. Labour thus in itself, at the same time, is a force that makes for equilibrium and productivity, which one might think should secure mankind against every want. But in order to work, labour must define and determine itself—that is, organise itself. What are, then, the organs of labour, that is, the forms in which human labour produces and fixes values and keeps off want? These forms or categories are: division of labour, machinery, competition, monopoly, the State or centralisation, free exchange, credit, property, and partnership.

However much labour in itself is the source of wealth, yet those means which are invented for the purpose of increasing wealth, become, through their antagonism and through that antithetical character, which, according to Proudhon, lies in the very nature of all social forms, just as many causes of want and pauperism. Labour gains by its division a more than natural fertility, but, at the same time, this divided labour, which debases the workman, sinks, owing to the manner in which this division is carried out, with great rapidity below its own level and only creates an insufficient value. After it has increased consumption by the superfluity of products, it leaves them in the lurch owing to the low rate of pay; instead of keeping off want it actually produces it.

The deficiency caused by the division of labour is said to be filled by machinery, which not only increases and multiplies the productivity of labour, but also compensates for the moral deficiency caused by the division of labour, and supplies a higher unity and synthesis in place of the division of labour. But according to Proudhon this is not the case; with machinery begins the distinction between masters and wage-earners, between capitalists and workmen. Thus mankind, instead of being raised up by machinery from degradation, sinks deeper and deeper. Man loses both his character as a man, and freedom, and becomes only a tool. Prosperity increases for the masters, poverty for the men; the distinction of caste begins, and a terrible struggle becomes manifest, which consists in increasing men in order to be able to do without them. And so the general pressure becomes more and more severe; poverty, already heralded by the division of labour, at last makes its appearance in the world, and henceforth becomes the soul and sinews of society.

As opposed to its aristocratic tendencies, society places freedom or competition. Competition emancipates the workman and produces an incalculable growth in wealth. By competition the productions of labour continually sink in price, or (what comes to the same thing) continually increase in quality: and since the sources of competition, just like mechanical improvements and combinations of the division of labour, are infinite, it may be said that the productive force of competition is unlimited as regards intensity and scope. At last, by competition, the production of wealth gets definitely ahead of the production of men, by which statement Proudhon destroys the dogma of Malthus, which, we may remark, was no more proved than his own. But this competition is also a new source of pauperism, because the lowering of prices which it brings with it only benefits, on the one hand, those who succeed, and, on the other, leaves those who fail without work and without means of subsistence. The necessary consequence, and, at the same time, the natural antithesis of competition is monopoly. It is that form of social possession without which no labour, no production, no exchange, and no wealth would be possible. It is most intimately connected with individualism and freedom, so that without it we can hardly imagine society, and yet it is, quite as much as competition, anti-social and harmful. For monopoly attracts everything to itself—land, labour, and the implements of labour, productions and the distribution thereof—and annihilates them; or it annihilates the natural equilibrium of production and consumption; it causes the labourer to be deceived in the amount of his reward, and it causes progress in prosperity to be changed into a continual progress in poverty. Finally, it inverts all ideas of justice in commerce.

The State, in its economic relations, should, according to Proudhon, eventuate in an equalisation between the patricians and the proletariat; its regulations (such as taxation) should, in the first place, be an antidote against the arrogance and excessive power of monopoly; but even the institution of the State fails in its purpose, since taxes, instead of being paid by those who have wealth, are almost exclusively paid by those who have not; the army, justice, peace, education, hospitals, workhouses, public offices, even religion,—in short, everything which is intended for the advance, emancipation, and the relief of the proletariat being first paid for and supported by the proletariat, and then either turned against it or lost to it altogether.

It would be useless to repeat what Proudhon says about the beneficial, and at the same time fateful, consequences both of free-trade and its opposite. Who does not know the arguments which even to-day are used by politicians and savants in the still undecided controversy for and against it?

In this system of contradiction, then, in this antithesis of society, Proudhon believed he had discovered the law of social progress, while as a matter of fact he had only given a very negative proof (though he certainly would hardly have acknowledged it) that there is not in economics any more than in ethics anything absolute, and that "benefit" and "harm" are relative terms which have nothing in common with the essence of things; and it is just as wrong in the one case to regard the existing social order as the best of all possible worlds, as it is in the other to regard any one economic institution as a social panacea, or to blame one or the other for all the evils of an evil world. Such a confession of faith might easily be considered trivial, and it might even give rise to a supercilious smile if it required nothing less than the doctrine of antithesis taught by Kant and Hegel to be brought in to prove what are obviously matters of fact. But perhaps it is just this superficial smile which is the justification of Proudhon, who had to fight a severe and not always victorious battle for an apparently trivial cause. We do not forget how helplessly the age in which he lived was tossed to and fro in all social questions, from casuistical Agnosticism to arbitrary Dogmatism; from extreme Individualism to Communism, from the standpoint of absolute laisser faire to the uttermost reliance on authority. In placing these two worlds in sharp contrast one to another, Contradictions, with all its acknowledged faults and errors, performed an undeniable service; and this book—against which Karl Marx has written a severe attack—will retain for all time its value as one of the most important and thorough works of social philosophy. In any case, the net result of the lengthy discussion, in view of the purpose which Proudhon had before him, was absolutely nil. Proudhon certainly endeavoured in his dialectic method to find a solution of antitheses, and to come to some positive result; but even this solution, which was to have been the great social remedy, is, when divested of its philosophical garments, such a general and indefinite draft upon the bank of social happiness that it could never be properly paid.

"I have shewn," said Proudhon, at the close of his Contradictions, "how society seeks in formula after formula, institution after institution, that equilibrium which always escapes it, and at every attempt always causes its luxury and its poverty to grow in equal proportion. Since equilibrium has never yet been reached, it only remains to hope something from a complete solution which synthetically unites theories, which gives back to labour its effectiveness and to each of its organs its power. Hitherto pauperism has been so inextricably connected with labour, and want with idleness, and all our accusations against Providence only prove our weakness." This solution of the great problem of our century by the synthetic union of economic and social antithesis, or, as Proudhon calls it in another place, by a scientific, legal, immortal, and inseparable combination, is certainly a beautiful and noble philosophy. It cannot be denied that herewith Proudhon, who, in all his works, raged furiously against Utopians, has none the less created a Utopia of his own, not, indeed, by forcibly urging mankind through an ideal change, but by attempting to mould life into an ideal shape without, like others, appealing to force, or venturing to organise the forces of terror, in order to accomplish his ideal.

Just as Proudhon differed from the ready-made Socialism of his age by a conception which he opposed to pauperism, so, too, he differed in the method which he recommended should be adopted for the removal of pauperism. He certainly accepted the proposition that poverty could only be removed by the labourer receiving the entire result of his labour, and that social reform must, accordingly, consist of an organisation of labour. In this he was quite at one with Louis Blanc, but only in this; for while Louis Blanc claimed for the organisation of labour the full authority of the State, Proudhon desired it to arise from the free initiative of the people, without the interference of the State in any way. This is the parting of the roads between Anarchism and authoritative Socialism; here they separate once for all, never to meet again, except in the most violent opposition. This was the starting-point of Proudhon's Anarchist views. The experiences of the Revolution of 1848, which, from the social standpoint, failed entirely, might well have fitted in with these views of his. Proudhon had taken a very active part in the occurrences of this remarkable year, as editor of the People, and as a representative of the Department of the Seine, and in other capacities, and thought that the cause of the fruitlessness of all attempts to solve the social problem and to reap the fruits of the Revolution lay in the fact that the Revolution had been initiated from above instead of from below, and because the revolutionary principle had been installed in power, and therefore had destroyed itself. But ultimately the opposition of Proudhon to Blanc goes back to the fundamental difference alluded to above.

Society, as Proudhon explains in his Contradictions, and as he applies his doctrine of politics in his book called the Confessions of a Revolutionary, written in prison in 1849, is essentially of a dialectic nature and is founded upon opposites, which are all mingled one with another, and the combinations of which are infinite. The solution of the social problem he finds in placing the different expressions of the problem no longer in contradiction but in their "dialectic developments," so that for example the right to work, to credit, and to assistance, rights whose realisation under an antagonistic legislation is impossible or dangerous, gradually result from an already established, realised, and undoubted right; and so instead of being stumbling-blocks one to another they find in their mutual connection their most lasting guarantee. But since such guarantees should lie in the institutions themselves the authority of the State becomes neither necessary nor justifiable for the carrying out of this revolution.

But why should revolution from above be impossible? The doctrine of antithesis, applied to politics, implies freedom and order. The first is realised by revolution, the second by government. Thus there is here a contradiction; for the government can never become revolutionary for the very simple reason that it is a government. But society alone—that is, the masses of the people when permeated by intelligence—can revolutionise itself, because it alone can express its free will in a rational manner, can analyse and develop and unfold the secret of its destination and its origin, and alter its beliefs and its philosophy.

"Governments are the scourge of God, introduced in order to keep the world in discipline and order. And do you demand that they should annihilate themselves, create freedom, and make revolutions? That is impossible. All revolutions, from the anointing of the first king to the declaration of the Rights of Man, have been freely accomplished by the spirit of the people. Governments have always hindered, oppressed, and crushed them to the ground. They have never made a revolution. It is not their function to produce movements but to keep them back. And even if they possessed revolutionary science—which is a contradiction of terms—they would be justified in not making use of it. They must first let their knowledge be absorbed by the people in order to receive the support of the citizens, and that would mean to refuse to acknowledge the existence of authority and power."

It follows through this that the organisation of work by the State—as was attempted by Fourier, Louis Blanc, and their followers in a more or less remote degree—is an illusion, and on this theory revolution can only take place through the initiative of the people itself—"through the unanimous agreement of the citizens, through the experience of the workmen, and through the progress and growth of enlightenment."

We here have laid bare the yawning gulf which lies between Proudhon and the State Socialism of his time, and over this gulf there is no bridge. We see how from these premises has been developed gradually and logically that which Proudhon himself has called Anarchy (An-arche, without government). The Socialists have made the statement that the political revolution is the means of which the social revolution is the end. Proudhon has inverted this statement and regards the social revolution as the means and a political revolution as the end. It is therefore a great mistake to consider him, as is always done, as a political economist, for he was first and foremost a social politician. The Socialists place as the ultimate object of revolution, the welfare of all, enjoyment; but for Proudhon the principle of revolution is freedom, that is:

(1) Political freedom by the organisation of universal suffrage, by the independent centralisation of social functions, and by the continual and unceasing revision of the constitution.

(2) Industrial freedom through the mutual guarantee of credit and sale. In other words "no government by men by means of the accumulation of power, no exploitation of men by means of the accumulation of capital."

.          .          .          .          .          .          

Proudhon thought that the fault of every political or social constitution, whether it was the work of political or social Radicalism, that which produces conflicts, and sets up antagonism in society, lies in the fact that on the one hand the division of powers, or rather of functions, is badly and incompletely performed, while on the other hand centralisation is insufficient. The necessary consequence of this is that the chief power is inactive and the "thought of the people," or universal suffrage, is not exercised. Division of functions then must be completed, and centralisation must increase; universal suffrage must regain its prerogative and therewith give back to the people the energy and activity which is lacking to them.

The manner in which Proudhon proposed this constitution of society by the initiative of the masses and the organisation of universal suffrage cannot be better or more simply explained than in the words and examples which he himself has used in the Confessions in order to interpret his views. He says:

"For many centuries the spiritual power, according to the traditional conception of it, has been separated from the temporal power. I remark, by the way, that the political principle of the division of powers, or functions, is the same as the principle of the division of the departments of industry or of labour. Here already we see a glimpse of the identity of the political and social constitution. But now I say that the division of the two powers, the spiritual and temporal, has never been complete; and that their centralisation, which was a great disadvantage both for ecclesiastical administration and for the followers of religion, was never sufficient. A complete division would take place if the temporal power never mingled in religious solemnities, in the administration of the sacraments, in the government of parishes, and especially in the nomination of bishops. There would then be a much greater centralisation, and consequently still more regular government, if in every parish the people had the right to choose their clergymen and chaplains themselves, or even not to have any at all; if the priests in every diocese chose their bishops; if the assembly of bishops alone regulated religious affairs in theological education and in divine worship. By this division the clergy would cease to be a tool of tyranny in the hands of the political power against the people; and by this application of universal suffrage the Church Government, centralised in itself, would receive its inspiration from the people, and not from the Government or from the Pope: it would continually find itself in harmony with the needs of society and with the spiritual condition of the citizens. In order thus to return to organic, economic, and social truth, it is necessary (1) To do away with the constitutional accumulation of power, by taking away the nomination of bishops from the State, and separating once for all spiritual from temporal affairs; (2) To centralise the Church in itself by a system of elective grades; (3) To give to the ecclesiastical power, as to all other powers of the State, the right of voting as its foundation. By this system, that which to-day is 'government' becomes nothing more than administration. And it will be understood if it is possible to organise the whole country in all its temporal affairs, according to the rules which we have just laid down for its spiritual organisation, the most perfect order and the most powerful centralisation would exist without there being anything of what we now call the constituted authority of a government.

"One other example: formerly there existed besides the legislative and executive powers a third, the judicial power. This was an abolition of the dividing dualism, a first step towards the complete separation of political functions as of the departments of industry. The judicial functions—with their different specialties, their hierarchy, their irremovability, their union in a single ministry—testify undoubtedly to their privileged position and their efforts towards centralisation. But these functions do not arise from the people upon whom they are exercised; their purpose is the administration of executive power; they are not subordinated to the country by election, but to the Government, president, or princes, by nomination. The consequence is that the liberties of the people who are judged are given into the hands of those who are supposed to be their natural judges, like parishioners into the hands of their pastor, so that the people belong to the magistrates as an inheritance, while the litigants exist for the sake of the judge, and not the judge for the sake of the litigants. Apply universal suffrage and the system of elective grades to judicial functions in the same way as to ecclesiastic; take away their irremovability which is the denial of the right of election; take away from the State all action and influence upon the judges; let this order, centralised in and for itself, arise solely from the people, and you have taken away from the State its most powerful implement of tyranny. You have made out of justice a principle of freedom and order, and unless you suppose that the people from whom, by means of universal suffrage, all power must proceed is in contradiction with itself, and that it does not wish in the case of justice what it wishes in the case of religion, or vice versa, you may rest assured that the division of power can produce no conflict. You can confidently establish the principle that division and equilibrium will in future be synonymous.

"I pass over to another case, to the military power. It belongs to the citizens to nominate their military commanders in due order, by advancing simple privates and national guards to the lower grades and officers to the higher grades in the army. Thus organised the army maintains its citizen-like sentiment. There is no longer a nation in a nation, a country in a country, a kind of wandering colony where the citizen is a citizen amongst soldiers, and learns to fight against his own country. The nation itself, centralised in its strength and youth, can, independently of the power of the State, appeal to the public power in the name of the law, just like a judge or police official, but cannot command it or exercise authority over it. In the case of a war the army owes obedience only to the representative assembly of the nation, and to the leaders appointed by it.

"It is clear that in this, no judgment is passed upon the necessity of these great manifestations of the social mind, and that if we wish to abide by the judgment of the people, which alone is competent to decide as to the importance and duration of its institutions, we can do nothing better (as has just been said) than to constitute them in a democratic manner.

"Societies have at all times experienced the need of protecting their trade and industry against foreign imports; the power or function which protects native labour in each country and guarantees it a national market, is taxation in the shape of Customs. I will not here say anything at all about the morality, or want of it, the usefulness or the harm of Customs duties. I take it as I see it in society, and confine myself to examining it from the point of view of the constitution of powers. Taxation, by the very fact that it exists, is a centralised function. Its origin like its action, excludes every idea of division or dismemberment. But how does it happen that this function, which belongs specially to the province of merchants and those concerned with industry, and proceeds exclusively from the authority of the Chambers of Commerce, yet belongs to the State? Who can know better than industry itself wherein and to what extent it requires protection, where the compensation for the taxation which has to be raised must come from, and what products require bounties and encouragement? And as for the Customs service itself, is it not obvious that it is the business of those interested to reckon up the expenses of it, while it is not at all suitable for the Government to make of it a source of emolument for its favourites by procuring an income for its extravagances by differential taxes?

Besides the ministries of justice religion war and international trade the Government appoints yet others the ministry for agriculture public works public instruction and finally to pay for all these the ministry of finance Our so called division of powers is only an accumulation of all kinds of powers our centralisation is an absorption Do you not think that the agriculturists who are already all organised in their communities and committees would perform their own centralisation very well and could guide their common interests without this being done by the State Do you not think that the merchants manufacturers agriculturists the industrial population of every kind who have their books open before them in the Chambers of Commerce could in the same way without the help of the State without expecting their salvation from its good will or their ruin from its inexperience organise at their own cost a central administration for themselves could debate their own affairs in general assemblies could correspond with other administrations could pass all their useful decisions without waiting for the sanction of the President of the Republic and could entrust the execution of their will to one amongst themselves who would be chosen by his fellows to be the Minister It is clear that the public works which concern agricultural industry and trade or the departments and the communes might in future be assigned to the local and central administrations which have an interest in them and should no more be a special corporation in the hands of the State than is the army the customs or monopolies Or should the State have its hierarchy its privileges its ministry so that it may carry on a trade in mining canals or railways may speculate on the Stock Exchange grant leases for ninety nine years and leave the building of streets bridges dams water ways excavations sluices etc to a legion of contractors speculators usurers destroyers of morality and extortioners who live upon the public wealth by the exploitation of workmen and wage earners and upon the folly of the State

[56 on missing]




[Home]               [About Us]               [Contact Us]               [Other Links]               [Critics Corner]