From: Alexander Berkman, Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism, New York: Vanguard Press, 1929.
What Is Communist Anarchism?
Church and School
Yes, my friend, it has always been so. That is, law and government have always been on the side of the masters. The rich and powerful have always doped you by 'God's will', with the help of the church and the school.
But must it always remain so?
In olden days, when the people were the slaves of some tyrant - of a tsar or other autocrat - the church (of every religion and denomination) taught that slavery existed by 'the will of God,' that it was good and necessary, that it could not be otherwise, and that whoever was against it went against God's will and was a godless man, a heretic, a blasphemer and a sinner.
The school taught that this was right and just, that the tyrant ruled by 'the grace of God', that his authority was not to be questioned, and that he was to be served and obeyed.
The people believed it and remained slaves.
But little by little there arose some men who had come to see that slavery was wrong: that it was not right for one man to hold a whole people in subjection and be lord and master over their lives and toil. And they went among the people and told them what they thought.
Then the government of the tyrant pounced upon those men. They were charged with breaking the laws of the land; they were called disturbers of the public peace, criminals, and enemies of the people. They were killed, and the church and the school said that it was right, that they deserved death as rebels against the laws of God and man. And the slaves believed it.
But the truth cannot be suppressed forever. More and more persons gradually came to see that the 'agitators' who had been killed were right. They came to understand that slavery was wrong and bad for them, and their numbers grew all the time. The tyrant made severe laws to suppress them: his government did everything to stop them and their 'evil designs'. Church and school denounced those men. They were persecuted and hounded and executed in the manner of those days.
Sometimes they were put on a big cross and nailed to it, or they had their heads cut off with an axe. At other times they were strangled to death, burned at the stake, quartered, or bound to horses and slowly torn apart.
This was done by the church and the school and the law, often even by the deluded mob, in various countries, and in the museums to-day you can still see the instruments of torture and death which were used to punish those who tried to tell the truth to the people.
But in spite of torture and death, in spite of law and government, in spite of church and school and press, slavery was at last abolished, though people had insisted that 'it was always so and must remain so'.
Later, in the days of serfdom, when the nobles forded it over the common people, church and school were again on the side of the rulers and the rich. Again they threatened the people with the wrath of God if they should dare to become rebellious and refuse to obey their lords and governors. Again they brought down their maledictions upon the heads of the 'disturbers' and heretics who dared defy the law and preach the gospel of greater liberty and well- being. Again those 'enemies of the people' were persecuted, hounded, and murdered - but the day came when serfdom was abolished.
Serfdom gave place to capitalism with its wage slavery, and again you find church and school on the side of the master and ruler. Again they thunder against the 'heretics', the godless ones who wish the people to be free and happy. Again church and school preach to you 'the will of God': capitalism is good and necessary, they tell you; you must be obedient to your masters, for 'it is God's will' that there be rich and poor, and whoever goes against it is a sinner, a non-conformist, an anarchist.
So you see that church and school are still with the masters against their slaves, just as in the past. Like the leopard, they may change their spots, but never their nature. Still church and school side with the rich against the poor, with the powerful against their victims, with 'law and order' against liberty and justice.
Now as formerly they teach the people to respect and obey their masters When the tyrant was king, church and school taught respect for and obedience to the 'law and order' of the king. When the king is abolished and a republic instituted, church and school teach respect for and obedience to republican 'law and order'. OBEY! that is the eternal cry of church and school, no matter how vile the tyrant, no matter how oppressive and unjust 'law and order'.
OBEY! For if you will cease obedience to authority you might begin to think for yourself! That would be most dangerous to 'law and order', the greatest misfortune for church and school. For then you would find out that everything they taught you was a lie, and was only for the purpose of keeping you enslaved, in mind and body, so that you should continue to toil and suffer and keep quiet.
Such an awakening on your part would indeed be the greatest calamity for church and school, for Master and Ruler.
But if you have gone thus far with me, if you have now begun to think for yourself if you understand that capitalism robs you and that government with its 'law and order' is there to help it do it; if you realize that all the agencies of institutionalized religion and education serve only to delude you and keep you in bondage, then you might rightly feel outraged and cry out, 'Is there no justice in the world?'
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