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

CHAPTER 3: State Socialism Theories Weighed

Babeuf: the link Between the French Revolution and Socialism. The French Revolution, having proclaimed the right and the duty of every human individual to become a man, arrived in its ultimate conclusions at Babeuvism. Babeuf, one of the last energetic and pure-hearted citizens whom the Revolution created and then killed off in such a great number, and who had the good fortune to count among his friends such men as Buonarotti, combined in a singular conception the political tradition of antiquity with the altogether modern ideas of a social revolution.

Seeing that the Revolution was failing for lack of a radical change, which, in all probability, was then impossible in view of the economic structure of that period (and faithful, on the other hand, to the spirit of the Revolution, which ended by substituting the omnipotent action of the State for all individual initiative), he had conceived a political and social system, according to which the Republic -- the expression of the collective will of the citizens -- after having confiscated all individual property, was to administer it in the interest of all, allotting to everyone in equal shares: education, instruction, the means of existence, and pleasures, and compelling all, without exception, in the measure of each one's capacity, to do physical or mental labor.

Babeufs conspiracy failed, and he was guillotined with some of his friends. But his ideal of a Socialist republic did not die with him. Taken up by his friend, Buonarotti, the greatest conspirator of this century, that idea was transmitted by the latter as a sacred trust to new generations, and, owing to the secret societies which he founded in Belgium and France, Communist ideas blossomed forth in the popular imagination. From 1830 to 1848 they found capable interpreters in the persons of Cabct and Louis Blanc, who definitively established revolutionary Socialism.1

Doctrinaire Socialism. Another Socialist current, issuing from the same revolutionary source, and tending toward the same goal, but by altogether different means, a current which we should gladly call doctrinaire Socialism, was founded by two eminent men: Saint-Simon and Fourier. Saint-Simonism was expounded, developed, transformed, and established as a quasi-practical system, as a Church, by "Father" Enfantin, together with many of his friends, most of whom [later] became financiers and statesmen, singularly devoted to the empire. Fourierism found its exponent in Democratie Pacifique [Peaceful Democracy] , edited until December 2, 1852, by Victor Considerant.2 [278]

The Historic Role of Saint-Simonism and Fourierism. The merits of those two systems, differing from each other in many respects, consist mainly in the profound, scientific, and severe criticism of the present system, the monstrous contradictions of which they boldly uncovered and in the important fact that they attacked and shook Christianity in the name of rehabilitation of matter and human passions, calumniated and at the same time so widely practiced by Christian priests.

The Saint-Simonians wanted to replace Christianity with a new religion, based upon the mystic cult of the flesh, with a new hierarchy of priests, new exploiters of the multitude by the privilege of genius, ability and talent. The Fourierists, democrats to a much greater extent -- and one might say, more sincerely democratic -- conceived their phalansteries as being governed and administered by chiefs elected through universal suffrage, and in which, they believed, each would find the kind of work and kind of place most suitable to his natural passions. The fallacies of the Saint-Simonians are too evident to be discussed here.

The two-fold error of the Fourierists consisted, first, in believing sincerely that through the power of persuasion and peaceful propaganda they would be able to touch the hearts of the rich to such an extent that the latter would come themselves and lay down the surpluses of their riches at the doors of their phalaasterics; and their second error was that they imagined it would be possible to construct theoretically, a priori, a socal paradise in which humanity would settle down forever. They did not understand that all we can do now is to indicate the great principles of the development of humanity, and that we should leave it to . . . future generations to carry those principles into practice.

In general, regimentation was the common passion of all the Socialists. except one, prior to 1848. Cabet, Louis Blanc, the Fourierists, the Saint Simonians -- all these were possessed by the passion to indoctrinate and to organize the future; all of them were authoritarians to a greater or lesser extent.

Proudhon. But then came Proudhon: the son of a peasant, and, his works and instinct, a hundred times more revolutionary than all doctrinaire and bourgeois Socialists, he equipped himself with a point of view, as ruthless as it was profound and penetrating, in order to destroy all their systems. Opposing liberty to authority, he boldly proclaimed himself an Anarchist by way of setting forth his ideas in contradistinction to those of the State Socialists, and, in the face of their deism or pantheism, he had the courage simply to declare himself an atheist, or rather a positivist, like Auguste Comte.3

Proudhon's Socialism, -- based upon individual and collective freedom and upon the spontaneous actions of free associations, and obeying no other laws but the general laws of the social economy, those that alreagy had been discovered or would be discovered in the future; a Socialism [279] functioning outside of any governmental regulation and all State protection, and subordinating politics to the economic, intellectual, and moral interests of society -- that kind of Socialism was bound in the course of time to arrive at Federalism.4

Such was the state of social science prior to 1848. The polemics voiced through newspapers, leaflets, and Socialist pamphlets carried a multitude of new ideas into the midst of the working class; the latter became permeated with those ideas toward 1848, and when the revolution broke out in that year, Socialism emerged as a powerful force.5

The June Defeat of the Workers of Paris Was the Defeat of State Socialism, But Not of Socialism in General. It was not Socialism in general that succumbed in June, 1848, but only State Socialism, the authoritarian, regimenting Socialism which hoped and believed that the State would be able to satisfy the needs and the legitimate aspirations of the working class, and that, armed with full and unlimited power, it would be desirous and capable of inaugurating a new social order. Thus it was not Socialism that died in the month of June; on the contrary, it was the State that went bankrupt. Proclaiming itself incapable of paying the debt which it had contracted toward Socialism, the State attempted to kill the latter to rid itself in this easy manner of the debt it had incurred.

The State did not succeed in destroying Socialism, but it did kill the faith in the State entertained by Socialism. By this very act the State annihilated the theories of authoritarian or doctrinaire Socialism, some of which, like Cabet's Icaria and Louis Blanc's The Organization of Labor, counseled the people to repose full confidence in the State, while others demonstrated their absurdity by a number of ridiculous experiments. Even Proudhoun's bank, which might have prospered under more favorable circumstances, succumbed under the crushing weight of the universal hostility of the bourgeois.

Why Socialism Lost Out in the Revolution of 1848. Socialism lost this first battle for a very simple reason: It was full of instinctive drives and negative ideas, it was a thousand times right when it fought against privilege. But it still lacked positive and practical ideas necessary to build a new system, a system of popular justice, upon the ruins of the bourgeois system. The workers who fought in June for the emancipation of the people, were united by instinct and not by ideas -- the ideas which they did have formed a veritable tower of Babel, a chaos from which nothing could come out. Such was the principal cause of their defeat. Should one on that account doubt the present and future power of Socialism? Christianity, which set for itself the task of founding the Kingdom of Justice in Heaven, needed several centuries to conquer Europe. Is it to be wondered then that Socialism, which set for itself a more difficult task -- the founding of the Kingdom of Justice upon the earth -- has not triumphed in a few years?8 [280]

The Ruined Petty Bourgeois Will Be Swept into the Social Struggle Under the Leadership of the Proletariat. . . . At the present time the petty bourgeoisie, small industry, and petty trade begin to suffer almost as much as the working masses, and, if things continue moving in the same direction and at the same rate, this respectable bourgeois majority will, in all probability, soon merge with the proletariat. Large-scale commerce, big industry, and above all, big and dishonest speculation, crush the petty bourgeoisie, devour, and push it toward the abyss. Thus the the position of petty bourgeoisie becomes more and more revolutionary, and its ideas, which have been reactionary until now, must take an opposite direction. The most intelligent of its members begin to understand that no other salvation remains for the honest bourgeoisie but to ally themselves with the people -- and that the petty bourgeoisie is interested in the social problem no less than and in the same manner as the people.7

This progressive change in the climate of opinion among the petty bourgeoisie in Europe is a fact as consoling as it is indisputable. We should not, however, entertain any illusions on that score: the initiative in this new development will belong to the people and not to the petty bourgeoisie; in the West, to the factory and city workers; and in Russia, Poland, and most of the Slavic countries, to the peasants. The petty bourgeoisie has become too cowardly, too timid, too skeptical, to take any initiative whatever; it lets itself be carried away, but it does not show initiative in this respect, for it is poverty-stricken in regard to ideas to the same extent that it lacks faith and social passion. The passion which sweeps away all obstacles and creates new worlds can be found now only among the people. Therefore it is with the people that the initiative of this new movement will belong in the future.8

The Party of Reaction and the Party of Social Revolution. In our time, everywhere -- in America, and throughout Europe, as well as Russia -- there exist only two serious, truly strong parties: the Party of Reaction, embracing the whole world of State and class privilege and resting upon personal, inheritable property and the resulting exploitation of the people's toil, resting upon divine right, family authority, law, and State law, and the Party of Social Revolution, which steadfastly aims at the final annihilation of this decrepit, criminal world, in order to build upon its ruins a world in which no special privilege will exist, a world based upon common labor obligatory for all, upon free human right, and upon human truth illuminated by science.9

Thus, without hesitation, we include in the hostile party of reaction not only outspoken reactionaries and Jesuits, but likewise Liberal Constitutionalists and also the Radical Party -- the party of political republicans.

Bourgeois Socialism. Let us turn now to the Socialists, who divide into three essentially different parties. First of all, we shall divide [281] them into two categories: the party of peaceful or bourgeois Socialists, and the party of Social Revolutionists. The latter is in turn subdivided into revolutionary State Socialists and revolutionary Anarchist-Socialists, the enemies of every State and every State principle.10

The party of peaceful bourgeois Socialists or, political social Jesuits, belongs by its essence to the party of reaction. It comprises men of various political categories, who are flirting with Socialism only with the view of strengthening their own party. There are conservatives who are Socialists, there are Socialist priests, and liberal and radical Socialists. All of them recognize in Socialism a formidable rising force, and every one of them pulls it in his direction, hoping with its aid to restore the sinking ind decrepit vitality of his respective party.

Among the great number of these malicious exploiters of Socialism are to be found, here and there, sincere and well-meaning people who really want to see an improvement in the lot of the proletariat, but who lack sufficient energy of mind and will to place before themselves the social problem in all its formidable reality, in order to recognize the absolute irreconcilability of the past with the future or even the present day with the morrow, and who waste their days in vain, idle efforts to reconcile those contradictions. They are sincere, it is true, but their sincerity causes great harm, covering up the insincerity of the malicious exploiters of Socialism.11

The peaceful Socialists of all denominations agree upon one essential point which determines quite concretely their reactionary trend and dooms even the most sincere among them to merge sooner or later with the party of deliberate and conscious reaction -- that is, if they do not prefer to throw in their lot beforehand with the party of revolutionary Socialism.12

Class Ties Stronger Than Convictions With Bourgeois Socialists. Life dominates thought and determines the will. Here is a truth which should never be lost sight of whenever we want to get our bearings in the realm of political and social phenomena. If we want to establish a sincere and complete community of thought among men, we must found it upon the same conditions of life, upon a community of interests. And since, by the very conditions of their respective existence, there exists a gulf between the bourgeois and the proletarian worlds, one being the exploiting and the other the exploited world, I conclude that if a man, born and raised in a bourgeois environment, wishes sincerely and without any phrase-mongering to become a friend and brother of the workers, he must renounce all the conditions of his past existence, all his bourgeois habits, break off all ties of feelings, vanity, and mind which bind him to the [282] bourgeois world, and, turning his back upon the latter, becoming its enemy and declaring relentless war upon it, plunge completely and unreservedly into the workers' world.13

If he does not find within himself a passion for justice sufficiently strong to inspire this resolution and courage, let him in that case not deceive himself and let him not deceive the workers: he will never become their friend. His abstract thoughts, his dreams of justice, may carry him away to the point of joining the cause with the exploited in moments of reflection, in moments of theoretic contemplation and calm when nothing is stirring, when quiet reigns in the world of exploiters. But let there come a moment of great social crisis when those two worlds opposed to each other meet in a supreme struggle -- and all the bonds tying him to his present life inevitably will pull him back into the world of exploiters. This already has happened to many of our former friends and always will happen to the bourgeois republicans and Socialists.14

The Intermediary Group of Socialists. In between the reactionary majority and the small minority of people wholly and sincerely devoted to the cause of freedom for the people, there is in the world of State and class privilege a category of persons, quite considerable in number and in the deleterious influence which it has exercised upon the toiling people. This category embraces all those who have devoted themselves, with their minds and hearts, to the cause of the people, but who, by their social position, by the material political advantages accruing from that position, and by their habits, and social and family ties, belong to a world which is dead set against that cause.

Those are unfortunate individuals, but they are harmful ncvertheless. Fooling themselves and the masses of people by the candor of their aspirations, and apparently motivated by a genuine love for the people, the best of them, obeying the iron law, according to which the social position of a given person outweighs as a determining factor his subjective wishes, they serve the cause of reaction, without even being aware of it, as it happens quite often, ever mouthing phrases conveying their alleged interest in the people's weal and the people's emancipation. It is such persons that crowd the ranks of the parties of political republicans and bourgeois Socialists, and also the ranks of the party of social-revolutionary dictatorship or the social-revolutionary State.16

Danger of the State Cult Among Socialists. Men belonging to this category, by joining the International, may become really dangerous to it. Like true demagogues, they aim to abolish the existing States only in order to create a new form of State -- that is, domination, if not for the benefit of their material interests, at least for the gratification of their ambition and vanity, and incidentally resulting in perceptible material benefits. Those persons are dangerous because they carry with them the masses of the people, conniving at the same time at a dangerous passion and [283] a dangerous prejudice on the part of the latter: the passion for revenge which makes the people seek, to its own detriment, self-satisfaction, emancipation, and salvation in the wholesale annihilation of persons but not of things, not of the regimes which constitute the power of the individuals belonging to the State and class hierarchy, whose moral degeneration can be laid directly at the door of this social order.

The dangerous prejudice on the part of the people consists in the bias, unfortunately deep-seated, in favor of a strong State power -- of the people, of course, and not of a class hierarchy -- as if the official power of the State can ever become the power of the people and as if such power is not in itself the unquestionable source and origin of classes and class hierarchy.16

The Distinguishing Characteristic of a Bourgeois Socialist. Here is in infallible sign by which workers can discern a sham Socialist, a bourgeois Socialist: If, in speaking to them of revolution, or, if you please, of social transformation, he tells them that a political change must precede the economic change; if he denies that both those revolutions have to take place at once, or even that a political revolution should be something else than the immediate and direct carrying out of a full social liquidation -- let the workers turn their back upon him, for he is nothing but a fool, or a hypocritical exploiter.17

One cannot really be a "free thinker" without being at the same time a Socialist in the larger sense of the word; it is ridiculous to talk about "free thought" and at the same time to aspire toward a unitary, authoritarian, and bourgeois republic.18