Peter Kropotkin, Words of a Rebel , 1885.
When we observe human societies in terms of their essential characteristics, leaving aside the secondary and temporary manifestations, we realise that the political regime to which they submit is always an expression of the economic regime which exists at the heart of the society. Political organization does not change at the will of legislators. It can, indeed, change its name, can present itself today under the guise of a monarchy, tomorrow under that of a republic, but it does not undergo an equivalent modification in substance; it continues to be shaped by the economic system, of which it is always the expression and, at the same time, the consecration and the sustaining force.
Sometimes, in the process of its evolution, the political regime of a country finds itself lagging behind the economic changes that are taking place, and in that case it will abruptly be set aside and remodelled in a way appropriate to the economic regime that has been established. But if on the other hand the political regime during a revolution goes beyond the economic changes, it will remain a dead letter, a formula, inscribed in the charters but without any real application. Thus the Declaration of the Rights of Man, whatever may have been its place in history, survived as no more than a historic document, and those fine words, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, remain a dream, or at most an inscription on the walls of churches, and prisons, while neither liberty nor equality will become the foundation of real economic relations. Universal suffrage would indeed have been inconceivable in a society based on serfdom, just as despotism would be in a society that is based on what is called the freedom of transactions but is more truly the freedom of exploitation.
The working classes of western Europe know this very well. They know or divine that our societies will continue to suffocatejivithin existing political institutions so long as the contemporary capitalist system is not overthrown. They know that these institutions, no matter how they may be refurbished with fine names, still represent the corruption and domination of the most powerful transformed into a system that means the suppression of all freedoms and all progress; they know that the only way of shaking off these fetters would be to establish economic relations according to a new system, that of collective property. They know, in sum, that to accomplish a political revolution that is both deep and lasting, there must be an economic revolution.
But, by reason of the intimate links that exist between the political regime and the economic regime, it is evident that a revolution in the mode of production and the distribution of products could not operate if it did not occur parallel to the profound modification of those institutions that one generally describes as political. The abolition of individual property and the consequent end of exploitation, the establishment of a communist and collective system, would be impossible if we wanted to retain our parliaments or our kings. A new economic system calls for a new political regime, and that truth is so well understood by everyone that in fact the intellectual process going on among the proletarian masses at the present time oscillates indecisively between the two sides of the question that has to be resolved. Discussing the economic future, they think also of the political future, and as well as the words Collectivism and Communism we hear also the words: Workers' State, Free Commune, Anarchy, or, equally often, Authoritarian Communism or The Anarchist Collective Commune.
"General rule: Do you want to study fruitfully? Begin by shedding one by one the thousand prejudices that have been taught you!" These words, with which a celebrated astronomer used to start off his course, apply equally in all the branches of human knowledge, and even more in the social than in the physical sciences because, from our very first step into their domain we find ourselves faced by a mass of prejudices inherited from the past, of absolutely false ideas disseminated to deceive the people, of sophisms carefully elaborated to confuse popular judgment. We have thus a great preliminary task to undertake before we can proceed with any certainty.
But among these prejudices there is one that especially merits our attention, not only because it is the basis of all our modern political institutions, but also because we find its influence at work on almost all the social theories advanced by the reformers. It is that which consists in putting one's faith in representative government, which is government by proxy.
Towards the end of the last century the French people overthrew the monarchy, and the last of the absolute kings expiated on the scaffold not only his own crimes, but also those of his predecessors.
At that time, when all that the revolution contains of good and great and durable was accomplished by the initiative and energy of individuals or groups and, thanks to the disorganization and weakness of the central government, it seemed that the people had no wish to resume the yoke of a new authority, based on the same principles as the old and all the stronger because it was not rotted by the faults of the fallen regime.
Far from it. Under the influence of governmental prejudices and deceived by the apparent freedom and well-being offered -- as they were told -- by the English and American constitutions, the French hastened to give themselves a constitution, and then more constitutions which they kept on changing, varying them infinitely in detail but always basing them on a single principle: representative government.
Monarchy or Republic -- it mattered little -- the people was not governing itself; it was ruled by representatives, well or badly chosen. It may have proclaimed its sovereignty, but it has hurried to abdicate it. It elects -- for better or worse -- deputies who assume the regulation of the immense variety of intertwining interests, of human relations so complex in their entirety, over the whole surface of France!
Later on, the whole of continental Europe followed the same evolution. All countries overthrew their absolute monarchies and set out on the parliamentary route. Even the despotisms of the Orient are following the same route: Bulgaria, Turkey, Serbia are experimenting with constitutional regimes; even in Russia they are trying to shake off the chains of a camarilla, and replace them by the easier yoke of a delegate assembly.
What is worse is that France itself, which seemed to be opening new vistas, has continued to lapse into the same error. Disgusted by the sad experience of a constitutional monarchy, the people one day (in 1848) overthrew its government, but on the morrow it hastened to elect an assembly, merely changing its name and confiding to it the cares of government, which it would sell to a brigand43 who would provoke the invasion of the fair fields of France by foreign armies.
Twenty years later (1871) it would fall into the same error once again. Seeing the city of Paris free of the troops and authorities who had deserted it, the people did not set about experimenting with a fresh approach that would facilitate the establishment of a new economic regime. Happy at having subsumed the word Empire in the word Republic, and the latter in the word Commune, the people hastened to apply once again, in the heart of the Commune, the representative system and to falsify its new ideal by evolving the wormeaten heritage of the past. It abdicated its own initiative into the hands of an assembly of people elected more or less at random, and it confided to them the responsibility for that complete reorganization of human relationships which alone could have given strength and life to the Commune.
So the constitution is periodically torn into shreds that fly like dead leaves scattered on the river by an autumn wind! No matter; the people always seems to return to its first love; when the sixteenth constitution has been torn up they will remake it a seventeenth time!
And so, we see reformers who, dealing in economic theory, do not hesitate before a complete reshaping of existing forms, and propose to change from top to bottom both production and exchange and abolish the capitalist system, yet as soon as it is a matter of stating their political theory, they do not dare to touch the representative system; under the form of workers' State or free commune, they seek always to maintain, whatever the cost, this government by proxy. Whole peoples, whole races still cling obstinately to this system.
Fortunately the day of reckoning on this subject is approaching. Representative government is now applied in countries of which we know nothing. It functions or has functioned here on the great arena of western Europe in all its varieties from limited monarchy to the revolutionary Commune, and one nonces that, hailed first with great hopes, it has become everywhere an instrument of intrigue, of personal enrichment, of hindrance to popular initiative and ongoing development. One begins to learn that the creed of representation projects the same values as those of aristocratic superiority and royal personage. More than that, one begins to understand that the faults of representative government do not depend only on social inequalities; applied in a setting where all men had an equal right to capital and work, it would produce the same disastrous results. One can easily foresee the day when that institution, born -- according to the apt saying of John Stuart Mill -- from the desire to protect ourselves against the beak and claws of the king of vultures -- will give place to a political organization born of the true needs of humanity and from the realization that the best way of being free is not to be represented, not to abandon affairs -- all affairs -- to Providence or to the elected ones, but to handle them ourselves.
This conclusion will also be reached -- we hope -- by you, the reader, when we have studied the intrinsic faults of the representative system, whatever may be the name or the size of the human group within which it is applied.
"Though our modern attitudes make us distrustful of the prestige i absolute monarchy" -- wrote Augustin Thierry in 1828 -- "there are ye other systems against which we should be on our guard, those of lega order and the representative system."44 H Bentham45 said almost the same thing. But at that period their warnings went unheard. People ther believed in parliamentarism, and replied to those few critics by this argument: "The parliamentary system has not yet said its last word; it should only be judged where it is based on universal suffrage."
Since then, universal suffrage has become part of the pattern of 01 lives. After having been so long opposed to it, the bourgeoisie have in the end understood that this change will in no way threaten their domination, and they have decided to accept it. In the United States universal suffrage has been functioning in full freedom for nearly a century, and it is making headway in France and Germany. But the representative system has not changed; it remains what it was in the days of Thierry and Bentham; universal suffrage has not ameliorated it, and its faults are no less glaring. That is why today it is not merely the revolutionaries like Proudhon46 who overwhelm it with their criticism; it is also the moderates, like Mill47 and Spencer48 who cry out: "Keep an eye on parliamentarism!" One can also sense this feeling among the broad public. Using facts generally known and recognized, one could at this moment fill whole volumes with explaining the drawbacks of representative government, sure of finding an echo among the vast mass of readers. It has been judged -- and condemned.
Its partisans -- and they include people of good faith if not good judgment -- do not fail to boast of the services that, according to them, this institution had rendered to us. To listen to them, it is to the representative system that we owe the political liberties we possess today, unknown under the former absolute monarchies. But is it not taking cause for effect to argue in this way, or, rather, one of two simultaneous effects for the cause?
In the last resort, it is not the representative system that has given us -- or even guaranteed -- the various freedoms we have conquered in the past century. It is the great movement of liberal thought, emerging from the revolution, that has seized them from government at the same time as it insisted on national representation; and it is still this spirit of liberty, of revolt, that has been able to sustain them despite the constant infringements by government and even by the parliaments themselves. Of its own -accord, representative government does not offer real liberties, and it can accommodate itself remarkably well to despotism. Freedoms have to be seized from it, as much as they do from absolute kings; and once they have been gained they must be defended against parliament as much as they were against a king, day by day, inch by inch, without ever letting down one's guard; this succeeds only when there is a leisure class in the country, jealous of its freedoms and always ready to defend them by extra-parliamentary agitation against the least infringement. Where such a class does not exist, and where there is no unity above defending political liberties, they will not exist, no matter whether there is a nation-wide system of representation. Parliament itself becomes the monarch's ante-chamber, as in the Balkans, in Turkey, and in Austria.
The freedoms of England are often cited and thoughtlessly associated with the institution of parliament. It is forgotten by what means -- all of them insurrectional -- each of them was snatched from the very same parliament. Freedom of the press, criticisms of the laws, freedom of meeting and association -- all were extorted from parliament by force, by agitations that threatened to become rebellions. It was by establishing trade unions and practising strike action despite the edicts of Parliament and the hangings of 1813, and by wrecking the factories hardly fifty years ago, that the English workers won the right to associate and to strike. It was by beating with the Hyde Park railings the police who denied them access that the people of London once again recently affirmed its right to demonstrate in the streets and parks of the capital even against a constitutional ministry. It has not been by parliamentary jousting but by extra-parliamentary agitation, by calling out a hundred thousand people to growl and yell before the houses of aristocrats and ministers, that the English middle class has defended its liberties. As for Parliament, it impinges continually on the country's political rights, and is ready to suppress them with a stroke of the pen if it does not find itself faced by a mass of people ready to rebel. But what in fact happens to the inviolability of the home and the secrecy of correspondence, when the bourgeoisie chooses to renounce it in order to obtain from the government a pretence of protection against the revolutionaries?
To attribute to parliaments what is due to general progress, to imagine that having a constitution is sufficient for the enjoyment of freedom, is to sin against the most elementary rules of historic judgment.
Besides, the question does not lie in that direction. It is not a matter of knowing whether the representative system does not offer a few advantages over a pack of flunkeys exploiting for their profit the caprices of an absolute master. If the representative system has taken root in Europe, it is because it has accorded better with the phase of capitalist exploitation which we have gone through during the nineteenth century but which draws towards its end. It certainly offered more security to the industrial operator and the merchant, to whom it transferred the power that had fallen out of the hands of the nobility.
But monarchy also, as well as its formidable inconveniences, could offer certain advantages over the reign of the feudal lords. It also was the necessary product of its age. But for that reason should we remain for ever under the authority of a king and his lackeys?
What is important to us, men at the end of the 19th century, is to know whether the faults of representative government are not as glaring and as insupportable as those of absolute power were in the past; whether the obstacles it offers to future development are not just as troublesome, so far as our century is concerned, as the obstacles offered by the monarchy in the last century? Finally, whether a simple "representative" patching up of the political scene will be enough to meet the new economic phase whose outcome we foresee. This is what we have to study, rather than endlessly discussing the historical role of the bourgeois political regime.
Once the question is posed in these terms, there is no longer any doubt of the answer.
Certainly the representative system, that compromise with the old regime which has retained in its government all the prerogatives of absolute power while subordinating them to a more or less fictional popular control, has had its day. Now it has become a hindrance to progress. Its faults no longer depend on men alone, on the individuals in power, they are inherent in the system, and are so profound that no modification can adapt it to the new needs of our epoch. The representative system was organized by the bourgeoisie to ensure their domination, and it will disappear with them. For the new economic phase that is about to begin we must seek a new form of political organization, based on a principle quite different from that of representation. The logic of events imposes it.
Representative government shares all the inherent faults of every kindof government, and, far from mitigating them, it merely accentuates them and creates new faults. One of the most profound sayings of Rousseau on governments in general applies to elective government as much as to all the other kinds: If one is to abdicate one's rights into the hands of an elected assembly, must it not be composed of angels, of superhuman beings? And the claws and horns would be tearing at such ethereal beings, as soon as they tried to govern the human herd!
Like the rule of despots, representative government, whether it is called Parliament, Convention or Council of the Commune, or whether it gives itself any other more or less absurd title, and whether it is nominated by the prefects of a Bonaparte or arch-liberally elected by an insurgent city, will always seek to extend its legislation, to increase its power by meddling with everything, all the time killing the initiative of the individual and the group to supplant them by law. Its natural tendency will inevitably be to take hold of the individual from childhood, and to lead him, law by law, threat leading to punishment, from the cradle to the grave, without ever setting its prey free from its lofty surveillance. Have you ever heard of an elected assembly that declared itself incompetent of dealing with any kind of question? The more revolutionary it claims to be, the more it will seize hold of anything that is outside its competence. To legislate in every aspect of human activity, to meddle in the smallest details of the lives of its "subjects" -- that is the very essence of the State, of government. To create a government, constitutional or otherwise, is to constitute a force that will in the end set out to seize control of everything, to regulate all the functions of society, without recognizing any restraint but that which we are able to oppose to it from time to time by means of agitation or insurrection. Parliamentary government -- as it has amply proved -- is no exception to the rule.
"The mission of the State," we have been told in order to delude us, "is to protect the weak against the strong, the poor against the rich, the working classes against the privileged classes." We know how governments have fulfilled such missions; they have done the reverse. Faithful to its origin, representative government has always been the protector of privilege against those who set out to free themselves from it. Representative government in particular, with the connivance of the people, has organized the defence of the privileges of the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie against the aristocracy on one side and the exploited on the other -- showing itself modest, polite, well mannered to the first, and ferocious towards the others. That is why even the slightest of laws protecting the worker, no matter how harmless it may be, can be wrung from a parliament only by an agitation that goes near to insurrection. Remember merely the struggles it was necessary to wage, the agitations to which people had to devote themselves, in order to obtain from the British Houses of Parliament, the Swiss Federal Council, the French Chambers, a few wretched laws limiting the hours of work! The first legislation of this kind, voted in England, was extorted only by putting barrels of powder under the machines in the factories.
Elsewhere, in countries where the aristocracy has not yet been destroyed by the revolution, the lords and the bourgeois get along marvellously together. "Grant me the right to legislate, milord, and I will mount guards around your castle!" -- and he mounts the guard as long as he does not feel threatened.
It took forty years of agitation, which sometimes carried fire through the countryside, before the English parliament decided to guarantee to the farmer the benefit of improvements he made on land he held by lease. As to the famous "land law" voted for Ireland, it was necessary, as Gladstone himself admitted, for the country to rise in a general insurrection, openly refusing to pay rents and defending themselves against evictions by boycott, fires and the killing of landlords before the bourgeois would vote the wretched law that purported to protect the hungry land against the lords who starved it.
But if it is a matter of protecting the interests of the capitalist, threatened by insurrection or even agitation, then representative government, that organ of capitalist domination, will turn savage. It attacks, and it does so with more confidence and baseness than any despot. The law against socialists in Germany is the equivalent of the edict of Nantes; and not even Catherine II after the peasant rising of Pugachev49 or Louis XVI after the wheat riots displayed such ferocity as the two "National Assemblies" of 1848 and 1871, whose members shouted: "Kill the wolves, the she-wolves and their cubs," and unanimously, without a single opposing voice, rejoiced in their slaughter by soldiers drunken with blood! The anonymous beast with six hundred heads showed himself able to surpass Louis XI and Ivan the Terrible and their kind!
It will be the same wherever there is a representative government, whether it is elected in the regular way or is imposed in the lurid light of an insurrection. Either economic equality will prevail in the nation and the free and equal citizens will no longer surrender their rights into anyone else's hands and will seek out instead a new organization that will permit them to manage their own affairs; or, there will still be a minority who will dominate the masses on the economic level, and it is then that the masses must be watchful. Representatives elected by that minority will act appropriately. They will legislate to maintain its privileges and will act with violence and massacre against those who do not submit.
It is impossible for us to analyse at the present moment all the faults of representative government; that would take up whole volumes. In limiting ourselves entirely to what is essential, we can avoid the trap of pedantic classification. Yet there is still one fact that calls for discussion.
It is a strange fact indeed! Representative government had as its aim to put an end to personal government; it set out to place power in the hands of a class, and not of an individual. Yet it has always shown the tendency to revert to personal government and to submit itself to a single man.
The reason for this anomaly is quite simple. In fact, having armed the government with thousands of prerogatives which are still from the past; having confided to it the management of all matters that are important to a country, and given it a budget of billions, was it possible to confide to the mob in parliament the administration of such numberless concerns? Thus it was necessary to nominate an executive power -- the ministry -- which was invested with all these quasi-royal prerogatives. What a miserable authority, in fact, was that of Louis XIV, who boasted of being the State, in comparison with that of a constitutional chief minister in our day!
It is true that the Chamber could overturn such a minister -- but for what reason? To name a successor who would be invested with the same powers and whom it would be forced, if it were consistent, to dismiss in a week? So it prefers to keep the man it has chosen until the country cries out loudly enough, and then it discards him to recall the man it has dismissed two years ago. It becomes a seesaw: Gladstone-Beaconsfield, Beaconsfield-Gladstone. And basically it changes nothing, for the country is always ruled by one man, the head of the cabinet.
But when the choice falls on a clever man who guarantees "order" -- that is to say internal exploitation and external expansion -- then the parliament submits to all his caprices and arms him with ever new powers. However much contempt he may show for the constitution, whatever the scandals of his government, they are accepted, and even if there are quibbles over details, he is given a free hand with everything of importance. Bismarck is a living example of this; Guizot, Pitt and Palmerston were such in preceding generations.
That is understandable: all government has a tendency to become personal since that is its origin and its essence. Whether the parliament is elected by property-owners or by universal suffrage, even if it is named only by workers and consists only of workers, it will always search for the man on whom it can unload the cares of government and to whom in turn it will submit. As long as we confide to a small group all the economic, political, military, financial and industrial prerogatives with which we arm them today, this small group will necessarily be inclined, like a detachment of soldiers on a campaign, to submit to a single chief.
This happens even in undisturbed times. But let a war blaze on the frontier, let a civil struggle start up in the interior, and then the first ambitious newcomer, the first clever adventurer, seizing control of the machine with a thousand ramifications which we call the administration, will be able to impose himself on the nation. The parliament will no more be capable of preventing him than five hundred men picked by chance in the street; on the contrary, it will paralyse the resistance. The two adventurers who carried the name of Bonaparte did not succeed by chance. As to the efficacy of the parliamentary debating society in resisting coups d'Etat, France knows something about this. Even in our day, was it the Chamber that saved France from MacMahon's50 attempted coup? As we now know, it was the extra-parliamentary committees. Perhaps the example of England will be cited. But it should not boast too loudly of having retained its parliamentary institutions intact during the nineteenth century. It is true that it has managed throughout that century to avoid class warfare, but everything leads one to believe that it will break out there too, and that Parliament will not emerge intact from that struggle and will founder in one way or another during the march of the revolution.
If we want, at the time of the coming revolution, to leave the gates wide open to reaction, to monarchy perhaps, we have only to confide our affairs to a representative government, to a ministry armed with all the powers it possesses today. Reactionary dictatorship, first tinged with red, and then turning blue in proportion as it feels itself more securely in the saddle, will not be far behind. It will have at its direction all the instruments of domination; it will find them all at its service.
But even if it is the source of so much evil, does not the representative system at least render some services in the progressive and peaceful development of societies? Has it no perhaps contributed to the decentralization of power which has asserted itself in our century? Has it not perhaps helped to hinder wars? Has it not bowed to the exigencies of the moment and sacrificed to time certain antiquated institutions, so as to prevent civil war? Does it not offer at least certain guarantees, a hope of progress, of amelioration within the nation?
What a bitter irony is to be found in each of these questions and in so many others that nevertheless spring up as soon as one judges the institution! For all the history of our century is there to condemn it.
Faithful to the royalist tradition in its modern guise, which is Jacobinism, parliaments have done nothing other than concentrating powers in the hands of the governments. Bureaucracy carried to an extreme becomes the characteristic of representative government. Since the beginning of this century the talk is all of decentralization, of autonomy, and nothing is done but centralize and kill the last vestiges of autonomy. Even Switzerland is suffering from this influence, and England submits to it. If it had not been for the resistance of manufacturers and merchants, we should today be in the position of having to ask permission in Paris to kill a cow in Brive-la-gaillarde. Everything falls more and more under the high hand of government. All that is left to us is the management of industry and commerce, of production and consumption, and the social democrats -- blinded with authoritarian prejudices -- already dream of the day when in the parliament of Berlin they can regulate manufacturing and consumption over the whole surface of Germany.
Has the representative system, which we are told is so pacific, saved us from wars? Never has there been so much extermination as under the representative system. The bourgeoisie needs to establish its domination over markets, and that domination is gained only at the expense of others, by shot and shell. Lawyers and journalists like to talk of military glory, and there is nobody more warlike than stay-at-home warriors.
But is it not true that parliaments lend themselves to the needs of the moment and are ready to modify institutions that are in decay? As in the days of the Convention it was necessary to put a knife to the throats of the Conventioneers to extort from them nothing more than agreement to fails accomplis, so today we have to stage a full insurrection to tear from the "representatives of the people" the smallest of reforms.
As to the improvement of the elected body, never has there been seen a generation of parliaments like that in our day. Like every institution in its decadence, they carry on while their condition gets worse. People used to talk of the corruption of parliaments in the days of Louis Philippe. Speak today to the few honest men who have wandered into these morasses and they will tell you:" I am sick at heart with it all!" Parliamentarism inspires only disgust in those who see it close at hand.
But is it really impossible to improve it? Would not a new element, the working class element, infuse it with new blood. Very well, let us analyse the constitution of representative assemblies, study their functioning, and we shall see that such dreams are as naive as the thought of marrying a king to a peasant girl in the hope of being given a succession of good little kings!
The faults of representative assemblies should not in fact astonish us if we reflect for just a moment on the manner in which they are recruited and in which they function.
Must I offer again the picture, so disgusting, so thoroughly repugnant, which we all know -- the picture of what happens at elections? In bourgeois England and democratic Switzerland, in France as in the United States, in Germany as in the Argentine Republic, is not that sad comedy everywhere the same?
Must one tell how the agents and electoral committees contrive, canvass and carry out an election, making promises on all sides, political in meetings and personal to individuals: how they penetrate into homes, flattering the mother, the child, and if necessary caressing the asthmatic dog or cat of the "voter"? How they spread themselves around in the pubs and cafe's, trying to convert the voters and entrap them in their discussions just as their counterparts in roguery try to involve them in the "three card trick"? How the candidate, making himself desirable, appears among his "dear voters" with a benevolent smile, a modest look and a cajoling voice, like an old vixen of a London landlady trying to capture a lodger with her sweet smile and angelic looks? Need we enumerate the lying -- entirely lying -- programmes, whether socialist-revolutionary or merely opportunist in orientation, in which the candidate himself believes no more than he believes the predictions of an Old Moore's Almanac, yet which he defends with a spirit, a sonorous voice, a show of feeling, worthy of a clown or a wandering actor? It is no wonder that the popular theatre no longer limits itself to exhibiting Bertrand and Robert Macaire51 as simple rogues, Tartuffes or swindlers, but adds to these traditional types the representatives of the people, in quest of votes and pockets to pick.
Finally, must we talk about the cost of elections? Surely all the newspapers keep us well informed on this question. One has only to reproduce the expense lists of electoral agents, in which figure roasts of lamb, flannel waistcoats, and sedative waters sent by sympathetic candidates to the "dear children" of their voters. Need we also recall the cost of boiled potatoes and rotten eggs "to confound the opposing party" that occur in the electoral budgets of the United States, or the costs of libellous placards and "last minute tricks" that already play such an honourable role in our European elections.
Thus it is, and it cannot be otherwise so long as there are voters to give themselves masters. Think only of the workers, who are equal among themselves, taking it into their heads one day to pick rulers; it will be just the same as ever. Perhaps roast lamb will no longer be distributed, but praise and lies will, and there will be no shortage of rotten eggs! What better can people hope for when they are willing to put up their most sacred rights for auction?
What, in fact, is asked of voters? To find a man to whom they can confide the right to legislate on everything they cherish most: their rights, their children, and their work! So why be surprised when two or three thousand Robert Macaires turn up to compete for these royal rights? We are seeking a man to whom we can confide -- in the company of others chosen in the same lottery -- the right to ruin our sons when they are twenty-one, or even nineteen if that is more convenient, and to shut them up for three years -- or even up to ten years -- in the pestilential atmosphere of a barracks! And to let them be massacred when and where the rulers want to start a war which the county will be forced to carry on to the bitter end once it has been started. Such rulers can close the universities at their will, and either force the parents to send their children to them or refuse entry. Like a new Louis XIV they can favour an industry or kill it if they prefer; sacrifice the North to the South or the South to the North; annex a province or give it away. They can dispose of something like three billion francs a year, which they snatch out of the mouths of the workers. They retain the royal prerogative of naming the executive power, a power which, however in agreement with parliament it may be, can at the same time be just as despotic and tyrannical as the former kings. For, while Louis XIV could command a few tens of thousands of officials, the new rulers can command hundreds of thousands; while, if the king could steal from the exchequer a few paltry bags of coins, the constitutional ministry of today can "honestly" pocket a few millions by a simple manoeuvre at the stock exchange.
It is astonishing to see what passions come into play, when there is a call for a master who can be invested with such powers! When Spain put its throne up for bids, it was not in the least surprising to see the brigands flocking in from every side. As long as this commerce in royal powers continues, nothing can ever be reformed; elections will be fairs at which vanities are traded for consciences.
Furthermore, even if one manages to reduce the power of the deputies, if one breaks power up by making each commune a State in miniature, everything will remain the same.
The question of true delegation versus representation can be better understood if one imagines a hundred or two hundred men, who meet each day in their work and share common concerns, who know each other thoroughly, who have discussed every aspect of the question that concerns them and have reached a decision. They then choose someone and send him to reach an agreement with other delegates of the same kind on this particular issue. On such an occasion the choice is made with full knowledge of the question, and everyone knows what is expected of his delegate. The delegate is not authorised to do more than explain to other delegates the considerations that have led his colleagues to their conclusion. Not being able to impose anything, he will seek an understanding and will return with a simple proposition which his mandatories can accept or refuse. This is what happens when true delegation comes into being; when the communes send their delegates to other communes, they need no other kind of mandate. This is how it is done already by meteorologists and statisticians in their international congresses, by the delegates of railway and post administrations meeting from several countries.
But what is being asked nowadays of the voter? Ten, twenty, even a hundred thousand men, who do not know each from Adam, who have never even seen each other and have certainly never met to discuss a common concern, are expected to agree on the choice of one man. Moreover, this man will not be mandated to explain a precise matter or to defend a resolution concerning a special affair. No, he will become an instant Jack of All Trades, expected to legislate on any subject, and his decision will become law. In such circumstances the nature of delegation is betrayed and it becomes an absurdity.
The omniscient being whom everyone is seeking nowadays does not exist. But suppose we can present an honest citizen of probity and good sense and a modicum of education. Is he the sort of man who will get elected? Obviously not. Hardly twenty people from his grammar school remember his excellent qualities. He has never sought the limelight, and he despises the means by which attention might be drawn to his name. He will never gather more than two hundred votes! He will not even be nominated as a candidate, but instead they will choose a lawyer or a journalist, a glib speaker or scribbler who will carry into parliament the ways of the bar and the newspaper office, and will add himself to one of the herds that vote with the government and the opposition. Or perhaps it will be some merchant, anxious to get the title of M.P., who will not hesitate about spending ten thousand francs to gain a scrap of fame. And where life is notably democratic, as in the United States, where committees spring up constantly to counterbalance the influence of great fortunes, the worst type of all is elected, the professional politician, that abject being who these days has become the plague of the great Republic, the man who makes politics an industry, and practices it according to the methods of great industry -- with display, pizzazz and corruption!
Change the electoral system however you like; establish the secret ballot; make elections in two stages, as in Switzerland, make all the modifications you can to apply the system with the greatest possible equality; arrange and rearrange the voting lists; the intrinsic faults of the institution will continue. Whoever manages to gather more than half the votes will always be a nonentity, a man without convictions but anxious to please everyone.
That is why, as Spencer has already remarked, parliaments are generally so badly composed. The members of parliament, he says in his Introduction,52 are always inferior to the average of people in the country, not only in terms of morality but also in terms of intelligence. An intelligent people always seems to demean itself in its choice of representatives, and betrays itself by choosing nobody better than the boobies who are supposed to act on its behalf. As for the honesty of the representatives, we know what that is worth. Merely read what is said about them by the ex-ministers who have known and understood them.
What a shame it is that there are no special trains to allow the electors to see their "Chamber" at work! They would soon be disgusted. The ancients used to make their slaves drunk to teach their children the evils of intoxication. Parisians, go to the Chamber and see your representatives at work so that you will become disgusted with representative government!
To this rabble of nonentities the people abandons all its rights, except that of dismissing them from time to time and naming others in their places. But since the new assembly, chosen by the same system and charged with the same mission, will be just as bad as the last, the great mass of the people end up losing interest in the comedy and restricting themselves to a bit of patching up here and there by accepting a few of the new candidates who thrust themselves forward.
But if the process of election is already marked with such constitutional and irredeemable faults, what is there to be said of the way parliament fulfils its mandate? Think for a moment, and you will see at once the insanity of the task you have imposed on it.
Your representative is expected to express an opinion, give a vote, on the whole infinitely various series of questions that surge up in that formidable machine -- the centralized State.
He must vote the dog tax and the reform of university instruction, without ever having set foot in a university of known a country dog. He must pronounce on the advantages of the Gras rifle and on the site to be chosen for the State stud farm. He will vote on phylloxera, on tobacco, on guano, on elementary education and on the sanitation of the cities; on Cochinchina and Guiana, on chimney pots and on the Paris Conservatory. Having never seen soldiers on parade, he will rearrange the army corps, and having never seen an Arab, he will make and remake the Moslem landholding laws in Algeria. He will protect sugar and sacrifice wheat. He will kill the vine, imagining he is protecting it; he will vote for reforestation against pasture, and protect the pastures against the forests. He will know all about railways. He will kill off a canal in favour of a railway without knowing in what part of France either of them may be. He will add new items to the Penal Code without ever having consulted it. An omniscient and omnipotent Proteus, today soldier, tomorrow pig breeder, in turn banker, academician, sewer-cleaner, doctor, astronomer, drug manufacturer, currier and merchant, according to the Chamber's orders of the day, he will never hesitate. Accustomed in his function of lawyer, journalist or public orator, to talking of things he knows nothing about, he will vote on all these questions, with the sole difference that in his newspaper he amused housemaids with his nonsense, and at the assizes he kept the sleepy judges and jurors awake with his voice, while in the Chamber his opinion becomes law for thirty or forty million people.
And since it is materially impossible to have his views on the thousand subjects on which his vote will make law, he will gossip with his seat mates, spend time in the bar, write letters to warm up the enthusiasm of his "dear voters," while a minister reads a report crammed with figures put together for the occasion by his administrative assistant; and at the moment of voting he will declare himself for or against the report according the nod of his party leader.
Thus a question of pigfood or soldier's equipment will be merely a matter of parliamentary bickering between the two parties of the ministry and the opposition. They will not ask themselves whether the pigs really need more food or whether soldiers are already as overloaded as desert camels; the only question that interests them is whether an affirmative vote will profit their party. The parliamentary battle is carried out on the backs of the soldiers, the farmers, the industrial workers, in the interests of the ministry and the opposition.
Poor Proudhon, one can imagine his disappointment when he had the childlike naivete', on entering the Assembly, to study profoundly each of the questions on the order of the day.53 He offered figures and ideas, but nobody listened to him. Parliamentary questions are all resolved well before the bills are presented by that very simple consideration: is it useful or harmful to our party? The scrutiny of votes is made; those submitted are registered and the abstentions are carefully noted. Speeches are made principally for the sake of effect; they are heard only if they have some artistic value or lead to scandal. Simple people imagine that Roumestand has aroused the Chamber by his eloquence, while Roumestand, after the sitting, works out with his friends how he can keep the promises he made to capture the vote. His eloquence was no more than a cantata for the occasion, composed and sung to amuse the gallery, and to maintain his own popularity by sonorous phrases.
"Capture the vote!" but who in fact are those whose votes are captured, so that the totals cause the parliamentary balance to lean one way or another? Who are those who overthrow and remake ministries and give the country a policy of reaction or of external adventurism, who decide between the ministry and the opposition?
They are those who have so justly been called "the toads in the marsh"! Those who have no opinion, those who sit always between two stools, who float between the two principal parties in the Chamber. It is precisely this group -- fifty or so nonentities, people without convictions of any kind, who sway like a weather vane between the liberals and the conservatives, who allow themselves to be influenced by promises, places, flattery or panic; it is this little group of nobodies who, by giving or refusing their vote, decide all the business of the country. It is they who pass the laws or pigeonhole them. It is they who support or overthrow ministries and change the direction of policy. Fifty or so nonentities making the law of the country, that is what, in the last resort, the parliamentary regime has been reduced to.
It is inevitable that whatever may be the composition of a parliament, even if it is stuffed with stars of the first magnitude and men of integrity -- the decision will belong to the toads in the marsh! Nothing in that can be changed so long as the majority makes the law.
After having briefly indicated the constitutional faults of representative assemblies, we should now show these assemblies at work. We should show that all of them, from the Convention to the Council of the Commune in 1871, from the English parliament to the Serbian Skoupchtchina, are plagued with incapacity; how their best laws -- according to Buckle's54 expression -- have been no more than the repeals of preceding laws; how these laws had to be torn from their hands by the pikes of the people, by insurrectional means. That would be a tale to tell, but it would go beyond the limits of our review.
Besides, anyone who knows how to reason without being misled by the prejudices of our vicious educational system will find for himself enough examples in the history of representative government in our age. And he will understand that, whatever the representative body may be, whether it is composed of workers or the middle class -- and even if it is wide open to social revolutionaries -- it will retain all the faults of representative assemblies. These do not depend on individuals; they are inherent in the institution.
To dream of a workers' State, governed by an elected assembly, is the most unhealthy of all the dreams that our authoritarian education inspires.
Just as one cannot have a good king, whether it is Rienzi55 or Alexander III, so one cannot have such a thing as a good parliament. The socialist future lies in a quite different direction; it will open to humanity new directions within the political order, in the same way as in the economic order.
It is above all in glancing over the history of the representative system, its origin and the way in which the institution became perverted as the State developed, that we may understand its time is over, its role is ended, and it should give place to a new form of political organization.
We need not go back too far; let us begin with the 12th century and the liberation of the Communes.
In the very heart of the feudal system there emerged a great libertarian movement. The towns freed themselves from the lords. Their inhabitants swore oaths of mutual defence; they organized themselves for production and exchange, for industry and commerce; they created the cities which for three or four centuries served as refuges for free work, for the arts, for the sciences, for ideas -- and in this way they laid the foundations for the civilization in which we glory today.
Far from being entirely Latin in origin, as Raynouard and Lebas pretended in France, followed by Guizot, in part by Augustin Thierry, and by Eichhorn, Gaupp and Savigny in Germany; far from being wholly Germanic in origin, as the brilliant school of "Germanists" has affirmed, the commune was a natural product of the middle ages and the steadily growing importance of the towns as centres of commerce and industry. That is why simultaneously, in Italy, in Flanders, in Gallic societies, in Germany, in the Scandinavian and the Slav worlds (where Latin influence is non-existent and Germanic influence hardly counts), we see emerging in the same era of the 11th and 12th centuries those independent cities that would fill three centuries with their active existence and later would become the foundation stones of modern States.
Leagues of the emergent bourgeoisie who armed themselves for their own defence and gave themselves an organization independent of temporal or ecclesiastical lords, as well as of the king, these free cities soon flourished behind their town walls, and even when they tried to substitute themselves for the lords and dominate the villages, they inspired the latter with the same breath of freedom. Nus sumes homes cum il sunt -- "We are men like them!" -- the villagers soon sang as they made one more step towards the enfranchisement of the serfs.
Asylums for the working life, the cities freely constituted themselves internally as leagues of independent guilds. Each guild had its own jurisdiction, its own administration, its own train-bands for defence. Each was in control of its own affairs, not merely in matters of occupation or trade, but in all the State would later arrogate to itself: education, public health, military defence. Political as well as industrial and commercial bodies, the guilds were linked with each other in the forum, the people assembled to the sound of the tocsin on great occasions, either to pass judgment on differences between the guilds, or to make decisions on matters concerning the city as a whole, or to reach agreement on the great communal enterprises that needed the support of all the inhabitants.
In the Commune, particularly in the early days, there was not yet any trace of representative government. The street, the quarter, the guild, the city as a whole, made its decisions -- not by majority votes but by discussing the matter until the supporters of one opinion ended up accepting with a good grace, even if only on trial, the view that gained the support of the greater number.
Was agreement really attained in this way? The answer lies in the great works which we never cease to admire yet which we are unable to surpass. All the beautiful things that survive from the end of the middle ages are the work of these cities. The cathedrals, those gigantic monuments which tell in carved stone the history and aspirations of the Communes, are the creations of these guilds, working because of piety, because of the love of art and of their cities (for the cathedrals of Reims and Rouen could not have been built out of municipal funds alone), and rivalling each other in the embellishment of their city halls and the raising of their town walls.
It is to the free Commune that we owe the Renaissance of art; it is to the guilds of merchants, often comprising all the citizens of town, each venturing his share in the equipment of a caravan or a trading fleet, that we owe the development of commerce that soon led to the Hanseatic League56 maritime discoveries. It is to the productive guilds, so stupidly desired recently by the ignorance and egotism of modern industrial entrepreneurs, that we owe the creation of almost all the industrial arts from which today we still benefit.
But the Commune of the Middle Ages was doomed to perish. Two enemies attacked it at the same time, one from outside and one from within.
Trade, and wars, and an unfeeling domination over the countryside, tended to increase the inequalities within the Commune itself, to dispossess some and enrich others. For a time the guilds hindered the development of the proletariat within the city, but soon they succumbed in the unequal struggle. Trade supported by piracy, enriched some and impoverished others; the emergent bourgeoisie worked to foment discord, to exaggerate the inequalities of fortune. The city became divided into rich and poor, into "whites" and "blacks"; the class struggle made its appearance, and with it the State in the heart of the Commune. As the poor became poorer, more and more enslaved to the rich by usury -- municipal representation, government by proxy which meant government by the rich, gained a foothold in the commune.
It formed itself into a representative State, with a municipal exchequer, a paid militia, armed condottiere, public services and bureaucrats. A true State, but a State in miniature, how could it avoid becoming the prey of the great State that was built up under the auspices of royalty? Undermined from within, it was in the end swallowed up by its external enemy -- the king.
While the free cities flourished, the centralized State was already coming into being at their gates.
It was born far from the noise of the market place, far from the municipal spirit that inspired the independent cities. It was in a new town, like Paris or Moscow, an agglomeration of villages, that the emerging power of royalty was consolidated. What was the king until that time? A bandit chief like the others. A chief whose power extended hardly beyond his own band of brigands and who found it hard to wring a tribute from those who wanted him to leave them in peace. So long as such a chief was enclosed within a town proud of its communal liberties, what could he achieve? As soon as, from a simple defender of the walls, he tried to make himself master of the city, the people of the market place chased him away. He took refuge in a neighbouring settlement, a new town. There, drawing wealth from the labour of serfs, and meeting no obstacles among the turbulent lower classes, he began with bribes, fraud, intrigue and arms the slow work of acquisition and centralization which the wars of the epoch, the continual invasions, favoured all too much and indeed imposed simultaneously on all the nations of Europe.
The Communes, already in decadence, already States within their own walls, served him as both models and targets. He need only absorb them little by little, take over their institutions, and make them serve the development of the royal power. This is what royalty did, with much caution to begin with, but more and more brutally as it felt its power growing.
Written law was born, or rather cultivated, in the charters of the Commune. It served as a basis for the State. Later on, Roman law would give it sanction at the same time as it gave sanction to kingly authority. The theory of imperial power, disinterred from Roman glossaries, was propagated to the king's benefit. The Church, on its side, hastened to add its benediction, and after having failed in its attempt to constitute the universal empire, rallied around whoever might be the intermediary through whom it hoped one day to reign on earth.
For five centuries the kings pursued their slow work of accumulation, inciting the serfs and the Communes against the lords, and later crushing the serfs and the Communes with the help of the lords, who became their faithful servitors. The kings began by flattering the Commune, while they waited until intestine quarrels opened its gates to them, when they stole and pocketed its funds and manned its battlements with their mercenaries. Yet the kings proceeded with caution against the Commune, and recognized that it retained certain privileges even when it had become their servant.
Leader of soldiers who obeyed him only while he assured them booty, the king was always surrounded by a Council of his under-chiefs, which in the 14th and 15th centuries became a Council of the Nobility. Later a Council of the Clergy would be added. And as the king succeeded in laying his hands on the communes, he would invite to his court -- especially in critical times -- the representatives of his "good cities" to demand subsidies from them.
This is how parliaments were born. Now we should observe that these representative bodies, like the kings themselves, had only very limited powers. What was asked of them was no more than pecuniary help for such and such a war, and once this help had been agreed on by the delegates it had to be ratified by the city. As to the administration of the Commune, that was in no way affected. "Such a town is ready to grant you a certain subsidy to repel an invasion. It agrees to accept a garrison to strengthen it against the enemy." Such would be the clear and precise mandate of a representative in that age. How different from the boundless mandate, embracing the whole world, which today we give our M.P.s!
Yet the breach had been made. Nourished by the struggles between rich and poor, the kingdom was created under the cover of national defence.
Soon, as they saw their subsidies squandered in the royal court, the representatives of the Communes sought to put things in order. They imposed themselves on the kings as administrators of the national exchequer, and in England, supported by the aristocracy, they gained acceptance as such. In France, after the disaster of Poitiers, they were very near to arrogating the same rights; but Paris, which had risen at the call of Etienne Marcel, was reduced to silence, at the same time as the Jacquerie,57 and the kingdom emerged from the struggle with renewed strength.
After that, everything contributed to the affirmation of royalty, to the centralization of powers in the hands of the king. Subsidies were transformed into taxes and the bourgeoisie hastened to put at the king's service its powers of order and administration. The decadence of the Communes which succumbed one by one to the royal power; the weakness of the peasants reduced more and more to servitude -- economic if not personal; the theories of Roman law exhumed by the jurists; the continual wars which meant a constant renewal of authority; everything favoured the consolidation of royal power. Inheritor of the organization of the communes, that royal power insinuated itself more and more into the lives of its subjects -- to such an extent that under Louis XIV it could proclaim, "The State -- it is I!"
Afterwards came the decay and debasement of royal power as it fell into the hands of the courtiers, and its attempt to revive itself under Louis XVI through the liberal measures of the beginning of the reign, until it succumbed under the weight of its misdeeds.
What caused the Great Revolution whose axe cut down the king's authority? What made that revolution possible was the disorganization of the central power, reduced in a period of four years to absolute impotence, to the role of a simple registrar of accomplished deeds; it was the spontaneous action of the towns and the rural areas tearing away from the royal power all its prerogatives, refusing it either taxes or obedience.
But how could the high-ranking bourgeoisie accommodate itself to this state of affairs? It saw that the people, after having abolished the privileges of the lords, would proceed to attack those of the urban and rural bourgeoisie, and it set out to take control of the movement. To that end it made itself the apostle of representative government, and for four years worked with all its might and its organizational abilities to inculcate that idea into the nation. Its idea was that of Etienne Marcel: a king who, in theory, is invested with absolute power, and in reality finds himself reduced to a zero by a parliament composed -- it goes without saying -- of representatives of the bourgeoisie. The omnipotence of the bourgeoisie through parliament, under the cover of royalty: that was its aim. If the people imposed a Republic on the bourgeoisie, the latter accepted it reluctantly and got rid of it as quickly as possible.
To attack the central power, to strip it of its prerogatives, to decentralize, to dissolve authority, would have been to abandon to the people the control of its affairs, to run the risk of a truly popular revolution. That is why the bourgeoisie sought to reinforce the central government even more, to invest it with powers of which the king himself would never have dreamt, to concentrate everything in its hands, to subordinate to it the whole of France from one end to another -- and then to make sure of it all through the National Assembly. This Jacobin idea is still, down to the present day, the ideal of the bourgeoisie of all European nations, and representative government is its arm.
Can this ideal ever become ours? Can the socialist workers dream of reconstituting in the same terms as before the bourgeois revolution? Can they in their turn dream of reinforcing the central government by surrendering to it the whole economic realm and confiding the direction of all their affairs -- political, economic, social, to a representative government? Should such a compromise between royal power and the bourgeoisie become the ideal of the socialist worker?
A new economic phase demands a new political phase. A revolution as profound as that dreamed of by the socialists cannot accept the mould of an outdated political life. A new society based on equality of condition, on the collective possession of the instruments of work, cannot tolerate even for a week either the representative system or any of the modifications with which people try to galvanise its corpse.
That system has had its day. Its disappearance in the present age is as inevitable as its appearance was in time past. It corresponds to the reign of the bourgeoisie.
It is through this system that the bourgeoisie have reigned for a century, and it will disappear with them. As for us, if we want the social revolution, we must seek a form of political organization that will correspond to the new method of economic organization. This political form, in fact, is in existence already. It consists in the formation from the most simple to the most complex level of groups that come freely into being for the satisfaction of all the multiple needs of individuals within society.
Modern societies are already moving in that direction. Everywhere the free grouping, the free federation, sets out to take the place of passive obedience. These free groups can already be counted in the tens of millions, and new ones are appearing every day. They are spreading constantly and already they affect all branches of human activity: science, the arts, industry, commerce, social assistance, even defence of territory and protection against theft and also against abuses of the law. Nothing escapes them, and their domain will spread until finally it embraces everything king and parliament have in the past arrogated to themselves.
The future belongs to the free grouping of interests and not to governmental centralization; it belongs to freedom and not to authority.
But before sketching out the kind of organization that will arise from such free groupings, we have yet to deal with the political prejudices with which we have up to now been imbued, and this is what we intend to do in the following chapter.
43. The "brigand" to whom Kropotkin refers is of course Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, grandson of Napoleon I, who was elected president in 1848, and in 1852 elevated himself to the rank of Emperor with the title of Napoleon III. Trans.
44. Augustin Thierry. See note. 8. Trans.
45. Jeremy Bentham. See note 28. Trans.
46. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), an early anarchist theoretician, the first actually to call himself "anarchist," who advocated mutualism, the interaction of people in small work and community groups, and federalism, by which he meant the replacement of the state by the free interplay of such groups. His most important works among many were probably What is Property? (1840) and The General Idea of the Revolution in the 19th Century (1851). Trans.
47. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). British philosopher who described himself as a Utilitarian and was an early advocate of women's rights. His best known work is On Liberty (1859) which is libertarian rather than liberal in approach. Trans.
48. Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) was a non-Darwinian evolutionist who coined the phrase, later wrongly attributed to Darwin, "the survival of the fittest." He was a libertarian thinker who criticized the institution of the state and warned of the dangers of parliamentary democracy, and many of the individualist anarchists accepted him as one of their own. Trans.
49. Emilian Ivanovich Pugachev (1726-1775) led a major rebellion of Cossacks and peasants in central Russia between 1773 and 1775 which Catherine the Greaf s armies defeated only with difficulty since Pugachev (who claimed to be the assassinated Tsar Peter HI) had instituted the abolition of serfdom over large areas. Pugathev was eventually captured and cruelly executed in Moscow, Trans.
50. General Marie Esme Patrice de MacMahon was a French monarchist chosen as president of the country in 1873. Instead of restoring the monarchy he seems to have intended a coup d'etat in his own benefit, but a newly elected republican chamber of deputies resisted his efforts, and MacMahon was forced to accept the principle of ministerial responsibility to parliament rather than to the president. Trans.
51. Robert Macaire was the picaresque hero of a play of the same name by Frederic Lemaitre and Benjamin Antier which was produced in the 1830s. He was, par excellence, the wholly amoral and charming rogue. Trans.
52. Herbert Spencer. See note 48. Trans.
53. Proudhon tells, in his Confessions d'un Revolutionnaire (1849) how, when he was elected to the French Constitutent Assembly in 1848, he found himself entirely isolated from public life and especially from that of the workers he set out to represent. Trans.
54. Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-62), set out to write a history of civilization instead of battles and kings. By his death he completed only the two volumes of his History of Civilization in England, but these profoundly influenced liberal historiography. Trans.
55. Cola di Rienzi (or Rienzo) (13137-1354) was the leader of a popular movement in Rome and tried, with wavering support from Pope Clement VI and Pope Innocent VI to create a popular empire in central Italy. However, power went to his head and his arbitrary rule led to a popular rising and his assassination. There is no real difference, Kropotkin is suggesting, between autocrats and demagogues. Trans.
56. Hanseatic League, an alliance of North Sea and Baltic German trading cities founded formally in 1358 and lasting into the 17th century. Hamburg, Lubeck and Breman were its leading cities; it dealt especially with trade to Scandinavia, Russia and England, where its establishments were called Steelyards. Trans.
57. Etienne Marcel (1316-1358) was an early French advocate of parliamentary government who in the period after the French king's defeat by the Black Prince at Poitiers managed to seize control of Paris and enter into allegiance with the peasant revolt of 1358. However, the peasant revolt was suppressed, Paris was isolated, and Marcel lost his popularity and was assassinated. Trans.