The Political Philosophy of Bakunin: Scientific Anarchism, compiled and edited by G. P. Maximoff, 1953.

PART II: Criticism of Existing Society

CHAPTER 1: Property Could Arise Only in the State

The doctrinaire philosophers, as well as the jurists and economists, always assume that property came into existence before the rise of the State, whereas it is clear that the juridical idea of property, as well as family law, could arise historically only in the State, the first inevitable act of which was the establishment of this law and of property.1

Property is a god. This god already has its theology (which is called State politics and juridical right) and also its morality, the most adequate expression of which is summed up in the phrase: "This man is worth so much."

The Theology and Metaphysics of Property. The property god also has its metaphysics. It is the science of the bourgeois economists. Like any metaphysics it is a sort of twilight, a compromise between truth and falsehood, with the latter benefiting by it. It seeks to give falsehood the appearance of truth and leads truth to falsehood. Political economy seeks to sanctify property through labor and to represent it as the realization, the fruit, of labor. If it succeeds in doing this, it will save property and the bourgeois world. For labor is sacred, and whatever is based upon labor, is good, just, moral, human, legitimate. One's faith, however, must be of the sturdy kind to enable him to swallow this doctrine, for we see the vast majority of workers deprived of all property; and what is more, we have the avowed statements of the economists and their own scientific proofs to the effect that under the present economic organization, which they defend so passionately, the masses will never come to own property; that, consequently, their labor does not emancipate and ennoble them, for, all their labor notwithstanding, they are condemned to remain eternally without property -- that is, outside of morality and humanity.

Only Non-Productive Labor Yields Property. On the other hand, we see that the richest property owners, and consequently the most worthy, humane, moral, and respectable citizens, are precisely those who work the least or who do not work at all. To that the answer is made that nowadays it is impossible to remain rich -- to preserve, and even less so, to increase [180] one's wealth -- without working. Well, let us then agree upon the proper use of the term work: there is work and work. There is productive labor and there is the labor of exploitation.

The first is the labor of the proletariat; the second that of property owners. He who turns to good account lands cultivated by someone else, simply exploits someone else's labor. And he who increases the value of his capital, whether in industry or in commerce, exploits the labor of others. The banks which grow rich as a result of thousands of credit transactions, the Stock Exchange speculators, the shareholders who get large dividends without raising a finger; Napoleon III, who became so rich that he was able to raise to wealth all his proteges; King William I, who, proud of his victories, is preparing to levy billions upon poor unfortunate France, and who already has become rich and is enriching his soldiers with this plunder -- all those people are workers, but what kind of workers! Highway robbers! Thieves and plain ordinary robbers are "workers" to a much greater extent, for in order to get rich in their own way they have to "work" with their own hands.

It is evident to anyone who is not blind about this matter that productive work creates wealth and yields the producers only misery, and that it is only non-productive, exploiting labor that yields property. But since property is morality, it follows that morality, as the bourgeois understands it, consists in exploiting someone else's labor.2

Property and Capital Are Labor-Exploiting in Their Essence. Is it necessary to repeat here the irrefutable arguments of Socialism which no bourgeois economist has yet succeeded in disproving? What is property, what is capital, in their present form? For the capitalist and the property owner they mean the power and the right, guaranteed by the State, to live without working. And since neither property nor capital produces anything when not fertilized by labor -- that means the power and the right to live by exploiting the work of someone else, the right to exploit the work of those who possess neither property nor capital and who thus are forced to sell their productive power to the lucky owners of both.

Property and Capital Are Iniquitous in Their Historic Origin and Parasitic in Their Present Functioning. Note that I have left out of account altogether the following question: In what way did property and capital ever fall into the hands of their present owners? This is a question which, when envisaged from the points of view of history, logic, and justice, cannot be answered in any other way but one which would serve as an indictment against the present owners. I shall therefore confine myself here to the statement that property owners and capitalists, inasmuch as they live not by their own productive labor but by getting land rent, house rent, interest upon their capital, or by speculation on land, buildings, and capital, or by the commercial and industrial exploitation of the manual labor of the proletariat, all live at the expense of the proletariat. (Speculation [181] and exploitation no doubt also constitute a sort of labor, but altogether non-productive labor.)

The Crucial Test of the Institution of Property. I know only too well that this mode of life is highly esteemed in all the civilized countries, that it is expressly and tenderly protected by all the States, and that the States, religions, and all the juridical laws, both criminal and civil, and all the political governments, monarchic and republican -- with their immense judicial and police apparatuses and their standing armies -- have no other mission but to consecrate and protect such practices. In the presence of these powerful and respectable authorities I cannot even permit myself to ask whether this mode of life is legitimate from the point of view of human justice, liberty, human equality, and fraternity. I simply ask myself: Under such conditions, are fraternity and equality possible between the exploiter and the exploited, are justice and freedom possible for the exploited?

The Gap in the Theoretic Vindication of Capitalism. Let us even suppose, as it is being maintained by the bourgeois economists and with them all the lawyers, all the worshipers of and believers in the juridical right, all the priests of the civil and criminal code -- let us suppose that this economic relationship between the exploiter and the exploited is altogether legitimate, that it is the inevitable consequence, the product of an eternal, indestructible social law, yet still it will always be true that exploitation precludes brotherhood and equality.

And it goes without saying that such relationship precludes economic equality.3

Class Monopoly of Means of Production Is a Basic Evil. Can the emancipation of labor signify any other thing but its deliverance from the yoke of property and capital? And how can we prevent both from dominating and exploiting labor so long as, while separated from labor, they are monopolized by a class which, freed from the necessity of working for a living by virtue of its exclusive use of capital and property, continues to oppress labor by exacting from it land-rent and interest upon capital? That class, drawing its strength from its monopolistic position, takes possession of all the profits of industrial and commercial enterprises, leaving to the workers, who are crushed by the mutual competition for employment into which they are forced, only that which is barely necessary to keep them from starving to death.

No political or juridical law, severe as it may be, can prevent this domination and exploitation, no law can stand up against the power of this deeply rooted fact, no one can prevent this situation from producing its natural results. Hence it follows that so long as property and capital exist on the one hand, and labor on the other hand, the first constituting the bourgeois class and the other the proletariat, the worker will be the slave and the bourgeois the master.

Abolition of Inheritance of Right. But what is it that separates [182] property and capital from labor? What produces the economic and political class differences? What is it that destroys equality and perpetuates inequality, the privileges of a small number of people, and the slavery of the great majority? It is the right of inheritance.

So long as the right of inheritance remains in force, there never will be economic, social, and political equality in this world; and so long as inequality exists, oppression and exploitation also will exist.

Consequently, from the point of view of the integral emancipation of labor and of the workers, we should aim at the abolition of the inheritance right.

What we want to and what we should abolish is the right to inherits a right based upon jurisprudence and constituting the very basis of the juridical family and the State.

Strictly speaking, inheritance is that which assures to the heirs, whether completely or only partly so, the possibility of living without working by levying a toll upon collective labor, whether it be land rent or interest on capital. From our point of view, capital as well as land, in a word, all the instruments and materials necessary for work, in ceasing to be transmissible by the law of inheritance, become forever the collective property of all the producers' associations.

Only at that price is it possible to attain equality and consequently the emancipation of labor and of the workers.4