General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century : Study 2 : Is there Sufficient Reason for Revolution in the Nineteenth Century?
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(1809 - 1865) ~ Father of Anarcho-Mutualism : ...he turned his talents instead to the printer's trade, a profession which gave birth to many anarchists, but the first to call himself an anarchist was Proudhon. By mid-century, Proudhon was the leading left intellectual in France or for that matter, all of Europe, far surpassing Marx's notoriety or Bakunin's. Proudhon... (From : Dana Ward Bio.)
• "The revolution, in that epoch, without abandoning its first given, took another name, which was already celebrated. It called itself philosophy." (From : "Toast to the Revolution," by Pierre-Joseph Proudh....)
• "What is your flag? Association! And your motto? Equality before fortune! Where are you taking us? To Brotherhood!" (From : "Toast to the Revolution," by Pierre-Joseph Proudh....)
• "Revolutions are the successive manifestation of justice in human history. — It is for this reason that all revolutions have their origins in a previous revolution." (From : "Toast to the Revolution," by Pierre-Joseph Proudh....)
A revolution is an act of sovereign justice, in the order of moral facts, springing out of the necessity of things, and in consequence carrying with it its own justification; and which it is a crime for the statesman to oppose it. That is the proposition which we have established in our first study.
Now the question is to discover whether the idea which stands out as the formula of the revolution is not chimerical; whether its object is real; whether a fancy or popular exaggeration is not mistaken for a serious and just protest. The second proposition therefore which we have to examine is the following:
Is there today sufficient reason in society for revolution?
For if this reason does not exist, if we are fighting for an imaginary cause, if the people are complaining because, as they say, they are too well off, the duty of the magistrate would be simply to undeceive the multitude, whom we have often seen aroused without cause, as the echo responds to one who calls.
In a word, is the occasion for revolution presented at the moment, by the nature of things, by the connection of facts, by the working of institutions, by the advance in needs, by the order of Providence?
It should be possible to determine this at a glance. If a long philosophical dissertation were necessary, a cause might exist, but it would be only in the germ, only potentially. To weigh arguments in such a cause would be prophecy, not practical history.
To solve this question I will take a rule, as simple as it is decisive, with which the occurrences in past revolutions furnish me. It is that the motive behind revolutions is not so much the distress felt by the people at a given moment, as the prolongation of this distress, which tends to neutralize and extinguish the good.
Thus the trial which is instituted by a revolution, and the judgment which later it puts into execution, are related to tendencies rather than to mere facts: society, as it were, paying little attention to principles, and directing its course solely toward ends…
Usually good and evil, pleasure and pain, are inextricably entangled in human dealing. Nevertheless, despite continual oscillations, the good seems to prevail over the evil, and, taking it altogether, there is marked progress toward the better, as far as we can see.
The reasoning of the masses is built upon this idea. The people is neither optimistic nor pessimistic; it admits the absolute not at all. Let is stay as it believes.
Always at each reform, each abuse to be destroyed, each vise to be combated, it confines itself to seeking for something better, something less evil, and works for its own sanctification by labor, by study, by good behavior. Its rule of conduct is therefore: A tendency toward comfort and virtue; it does not revolt until it can see nothing for it but A tendency toward poverty and corruption.
Thus there was no revolution in the seventeenth century, although the retrograde feeling which was manifested in 1614 was already the principle of royal policy, and although the poverty was frightful, according to the witness of La Bruyere, Racine, Fénélon, Vauban and Boisguilbert. Among other reasons for resignation was that it had not been proved that poverty was anything more than the accidental effect of some temporary cause: the people remembered having been much more wretched not very long ago. The absolute monarchy under Louis XIV could not have appeared to them worse than feudalism.
Nor was there any revolution under Louis XV, except in the intellectual realm. The corruption of principles, visible to philosophers, remained hidden from the masses, whose logic never distinguishes an idea from a fact. Popular experience, under Louis XV, was far from being at the level of philosophical criticism. The nation still supposed that with a well-behaved and honest prince, its ills might have an end. Louis XVI too, was welcomed with fervor; while Turgot, the unbending reformer, was received without sympathy. The support of public opinion was lacking to this great man. In 1776, one might have said that a worthy man, who wanted to bring about reforms peacefully, had been betrayed by the people. It was not within his power to accomplish the Revolution by action from above without disturbance, I had almost said, without revolutionaries.
Fifteen years more of chaos were needed, under a monarch personally irreproachable, to prove to the most thoughtless that the trouble was not accidental but constitutional, that the disorganization was systematic, not fortuitous, and that the situation, instead of improving, was according to the usual fate of institutions, daily growing worse and worse. The publication of the Red Book in 1790, demonstrated this truth by figures. Then it was that the Revolution became popularized and inevitable.
The question which we have taken for the text of this study:—Is there sufficient reason for a revolution in the nineteenth century?—resolves itself into the following:—What is the tendency of society in our day?
Hence, but a few pages will suffice to support the answer which I do not hesitate to point out now. Society, as far as it has been able to develop freely for half a century, under the distractions of ’89–’93, the paternalism of the Empire and the guaranties of 1814, 1830, and 1848, is on a road radically and increasingly wrong.
Let us take our point of view at the very beginning of present society, in 1789.
In 1798 the task of the Revolution was to destroy and rebuild at the same time. It had the old rule to abolish but only by producing a new organization, of which the plan and character should be exactly the opposite of the former, according to the revolutionary rule: Every negation implies a subsequent contradictory affirmation.
Of these, the Revolution, with great difficulty, accomplished only the first; the other was entirely forgotten. Hence this impossibility of living, which has oppressed French society for 60 years.
The feudal order having been abolished on the night of the 4th of August, and the principles of liberty and civil equality proclaimed, the consequence was that in future society must be organized, not for politics and war, but for work. What in fact was the feudal organization? It was one entirely military. What is work? The negation of fighting. To abolish feudalism, then, meant to commit ourselves to a perpetual peace, not only foreign but domestic. By this single act, all the old politics between State and State, all the systems of European equilibrium, were abrogated: the same equality, the same independence which the Revolution promised to bring about among individuals, must exist between nation and nation, province and province, city and city …
What was to be organized after the 4th of August was not the Government, inasmuch as in restoring government nothing but the ancient landmarks would be restored; it was the national economy and the balance of interests. It was evident that the problems of the Revolution lay in erecting everywhere the reign of equality and industry, in place of the feudal order which had been abolished; inasmuch as, by the new principles, birth no longer counted in determining the condition of the citizen, work was all, even property itself was subordinate: inasmuch as, in foreign affairs, the relations of nations among themselves had to be reformed upon the same principles, since civil law, public law and the law of nations are one in principle and sufficient. The progress in agriculture which was exhibited after the division of the national treasure, the industrial impulse which the nation experienced after the fall of the Empire, the growing interest in all countries since 1830 in economic questions, all these go to prove that it was really in the field of political economy that the efforts of the Revolution should be exerted.
This so manifest, so inevitable conclusion from the act of the 4th of August, 1789, was not understood by those who made themselves its interpreters, even up to 1814.
All their ideas were of politics only. The counter-revolutionary forces aiding, the revolutionary party forced for the moment to place itself on the defensive and to organize itself for war, the nation was again delivered into the hands of the warriors and lawyers. One might say that nobility, clergy and monarchy had disappeared, only to make way for another governing set of Anglomaniac constitutionaries, classic republicans, militaristic democrats, all infatuated with the Romans and the Spartans, and above all, very much so with themselves; on the other hand, caring but very little for the real needs of the country; which, understanding nothing of what was going on, permitted itself to be half destroyed at their leisure, and finally attached itself to the fortune of a soldier.
To put my thought in one word, however little edifying it may seem, the revolutionaries failed in their mission after the fall of the Bastille, as they have falied since the abdication of Louis Philippe, and for the same reasons: the total lack of economic ideas, their prejudice in favor of government, and the distrust of the lower classes which they harbored. In ’93, the necessity of resistance to invasion demanding an enormous concentration of forces, the error was consummated. The principle of centralization, widely applied by the Committee of Public Safety, passed into dogma with the Jacobins, who transmitted it to the Empire, and to the governments that followed it. This is the unfortunate tradition which, in 1848, determined the retrograde movement of the Provisory Government, and which still constitutes the whole of the science which nourishes the politics of the republican party.
Thus the economic organization called for as a necessary consequence of the complete abolition of feudalism, left without guidance from the first day, politics taking the place of industry in the minds of everybody, Quesnay and Adam Smith giving way to Rousseau and Montesquieu; it necessarily followed that the new society, scarcely conceived, should remain in embryo; that, instead of developing according to economic laws, it should languish in constitutionalism, that in place of the orderly condition which is characteristic of it, it should exhibit everywhere systematic corruption and legal inefficiency; finally, that the power which is the expression of this society, reproducing with the most scrupulous fidelity the antinomy of its principles, should find itself continually in the position of fighting with the people and the people in continual need of attacking power.
To sum up: the society which the Revolution of ’89 should have created, does not yet exist. That which for sixty years we have had, is but a superficial, factitious order, hardly concealing the most frightful chaos and demoralization.
We are not in the habit of looking so long beforehand for the causes of social disturbances and revolutions. Above all, economic questions are repugnant to us. The people, after the great struggle of ’93, has been so distracted from its real interests, men of brains so thrown off by the discussions of the legislative chamber, of public meetings and of the press, that one may be almost sure, in leaving politics for economics, to be in turn immediately abandoned by readers, and to have only the paper for a confidant. Nevertheless we must understand that outside the sphere of parliamentarism, as sterile as it is absorbing, there is another field incomparably vaster, in which our destiny is worked out; that beyond these political phantoms whose forms capture our imagination, there are the phenomena of social economy, which, by their harmony or discord, produce all the good and ill of society. Will the reader deign to follow me for a quarter of an hour among the broad considerations into which I am obliged to enter? That done, I promise to come back to politics.
I call certain principles of action economic forces, such as the Division of Labor, Competition, Collective Force, Exchange, Credit, Property, &c., which are to Labor and to Wealth what the distinction of classes, the representative system, monarchical heredity, administrative centralization, the judicial hierarchy, &c., are to the State.
If these forces are held in equilibrium, subject to the laws which are proper to them, and which do not depend in any way upon the arbitrary will of man, Labor can be organized, and comfort for all guaranteed. If, on the other hand, they are left without direction and without counterpoise, Labor is in a condition of chaos; the useful effects of the economic forces is mingled with an equal quantity of injurious effects; the deficit balances the profit; Society, in so far as it is the theater, the agent, or the subject of production, circulation, and consumption, is in a condition of increasing suffering.
Up to now, it does not appear that order in a society can be conceived except under one of these two forms, the political and the industrial; between which, moreover, there is fundamental contradiction.
The chaos of industrial forces, the struggle which they maintain with the government system, which is the only obstacle to their organization, and which they cannot reconcile themselves with nor merge themselves in, is the real, profound cause of the unrest which disturbs French society, and which was aggravated during the second half of the reign of Louis Philippe.
Seven years ago, I filled two octavo volumes with the story of these disturbances, and of the terrible conflicts which spring from them. This work, which remained unanswered by the economists, was received no more favorably by the Social-Democracy. I permit myself to make this remark, merely to show by my own experience how little favor researches in political economy obtain, how little revolutionary therefore is our epoch.
I shall limit myself to recalling very briefly some of the most general facts, in order to give the reader a glimpse of this order of forces and phenomena, which has been hidden from all eyes until now, and which alone can put an end to the governmental drama.
Everybody has heard of the division of labor.
It consists of the distribution of the hand work of a given industry in such a manner that each person performs always the same operation, or a small number of operations, so that the product, instead of being the integral product of one workman, is the joint product of a large number.
According to Adam Smith, who first demonstrated this law scientifically, and all the other economists, the division of labor is the most powerful lever of modern industry. To it principally must be attributed the superiority of civilized peoples to savage peoples. Without division of labor, the use of machines would not have gone beyond the most ancient and most common utensils: the miracles of machinery and of steam would never have been revealed to us; progress would have been closed to society; the French Revolution itself, lacking an outlet, would have been but a sterile revolt; it could have accomplished nothing. But, on the other hand, by division of labor, the product of labor mounts to tenfold, a hundredfold, political economy rises to the height of a philosophy, the intellectual level of nations is continually raised. The first thing that should attract the attention of the legislator is the separation of industrial functions—the division of labor—in a society founded upon hatred of the feudal and warlike order, and destined in consequence to organize itself for work and peace.
It was not done thus. This economic force was left to all the overturns caused by chance and by interest. The division of labor, becoming always more minute, and remaining without counterpoise, the workman has been given [over] to a more and more degrading subjection to machinery. That is the effect of the division of labor when it is applied as practiced in our days, not only to make industry incomparably more productive, but at the same time to deprive the worker, in mind and body, of all the wealth which it creates for the capitalist and the speculator. Here is how an observer, who is not suspected of sympathy with labor, M. de Tocqueville, sums up on this grave subject:
In proportion to the more complete application of the principle of the division of albor, the workman becomes weaker, more limited and more dependent.
A man who all his life has performed but one operation certainly learns to execute it more quickly and more skillfully than another; but at the same time he becomes less capable of every other operation, whether physical or intellectual; his other faculties are extinguished, and degeneration results in him, considered as an individual. It is a sad account to offer of himself that he has never made more than the twenty-sixth part of a pin… In result it may be said that the division of labor is a skillful mode of employing the power of a man; that it adds prodigiously to the products of a society; but that it subtracts something from the capacity of each man taken individually.
All the economists are in accord as to this fact, one of the most serious which the science has to announce; and, if they do not insist upon it with the vehemence which they habitually use in their polemics, it must be said, to the shame of the human mind, that it is because they cannot believe that this perversion of the greatest of economic forces can be avoided.
So the greater the division of labor and the power of machines, the less the intelligence and skill of hand of the worker. But the more the value of the worker falls and the demand for labor diminishes, the lower are wages and the greater is poverty. And it is not a few hundreds of men but millions, who are the victims of this economic perturbation.
In England, through the division of labor and the power of machinery, the number of workmen has been observed to diminish by a third ,by a half, by three-quarters, by five-sixths; and the wages decreasing in like proportion, fall from 60 cents a day to 10 cents and 6 cents. Throughout entire provinces the proprietors have driven out useless mouths. Everywhere first women, then children, have taken the place of men in manufacture. Consumption being unable to keep pace with production among an impoverished people, the latter is obliged to wait; and regular out-of-work periods are the result; of six weeks, three months and six months out of each year. Statistics of these periods of idleness by Parisian workmen have recently been published by one of them, Pierre Vincard; the details are heartrending. The smallness of the wages being in proportion to the time of idleness, the conclusion is reached that certain workwomen who earn 20 cents a day, must live on 10, because they are idle for six months. This is the rule to which a population of 320,000 in Paris must submit. And the situation of the class of working women everywhere throughout the Republic may be judged from this sample.
Philanthropic conservatives, admirers of ancient customs, charge the industrial system with this anomaly. They want to go back to the feudal-farming period. I say that it is not industry that is at fault, but economic chaos: I maintain that the principle has been distorted, that there is disorganization of forces, and that to this we must attribute the fatal tendency with which society is carried away.
Competition, next to the division of labor, is one of the most powerful factors of industry; and at the same time one of the most valuable guaranties. Partly for the sake of it, the first revolution was brought about. The workmen’s unions, established at Paris some years since, have recently given it a new sanction by establishing among themselves piece work, and abandoning, after their experience of it, the absurd idea of the equality of wages. Competition is moreover the law of the market, the spice of the trade, the salt of labor. To suppress competition is to suppress liberty itself; it is to begin the restoration of the old order from below, in replacing labor by the rule of favoritism and abuse, of which ’89 rid us.
Yet competition, lacking legal forms and superior regulating intelligence, has been perverted in turn, like the division of labor. In it, as in the latter, there is perversion of principle, chaos and a tendency toward evil. This will appear beyond doubt if we remember that of the thirty-six million souls who compose the French nation, at least ten millions are wage workers, to whom competition is forbidden, for whom there is nothing but to struggle among themselves for their meager stipend.
Thus that competition, which, as thought in ’89, should be a general right, is today a matter of exceptional privilege: only they whose capital permits them to become heads of business concerns may exercise their competitive rights.
The result is that competition, as Rossi, Blanqui, and a host of others have recognized, instead of democratizing industry, aiding the workman, guaranteeing the honesty of trade, has ended in building up a mercentile and land aristocracy, a thousand times more rapacious than the old aristocracy of the nobility. Through competition all the profits of production go to capital; the consumer, without suspecting the frauds of commerce, is fleeced by the speculator, and the condition of the workers is made more and more precarious. Speaking of this, Eugene Buret says:
I assert that the working class is turned over, body and soul, to the sweet will of industry. And elsewhere he says:
The most trifling speculation may change the price of bread one cent a pound, which means $124,100,000 for thirty-six million people.
It was recently seen how little free competition could do for the people, and how illusory it is as a guaranty with us at present, when the Prefect of Police, yielding to the general demand, authorized the sale of meat at auction. Nothing less than all the energy the people could muster, aided by governmental power, could overcome the monopoly of the butchers.
Accuse human nature, say the economists, do not accuse competition. Very well, I will not accuse competition: I will only remark that human nature does not remedy one evil by another, and ask how it has mistaken its path. What? Competition ought to make us more and more equal and free; and instead it subordinates us one to the other, and makes the worker more and more a slave! This is a perversion of the principle, a forgetfulness of the law. These are not mere accidents; they are a whole system of misfortunes.
Pity is expressed for those who work in dangerous or unwholesome occupations: it is desired that civilization should do without their services, out of compassion for their lot. These sad occurrences, inherent in certain occupations, are nothing in comparison with the scourge of economic chaos.
Let us cite one more example.
Of all economic forces, the most vital, in a society reconstructed for industry by revolution, is credit. The proprietary, industrial, trading business world knows this well: all its efforts since ’89 have tended, at the bottom, toward only these two things, peace and credit, all through the Constituent and Legislative Assemblies, the Convention, the Directory, the Empire, the Restoration, the monarchy of July. What did it not do to win over the unmanageable Louis XVI? What did it not pardon in Louis Philippe?
The peasant also knows it: of the whole of politics, he, like the business man, understands only these two things, taxes and interest. As for the working class, so marvelously fitted for progress, such is the ignorance in which it has been kept as to the true cause of its sufferings, that it is hardly since February that it has begun to stammer the word, credit; and to see in this principle the most powerful of revolutionary forces. In the matter of credit, the workingman knows but two things, his account with the baker and the pawnbroker’s shop.
In a nation devoted to labor, credit is what blood is to an animal, the means of nutrition, life itself. It cannot be interrupted without danger to the social body. If there is a single institution which should have appealed before all others to our legislators, after the abolition of feudal privileges and the leveling of classes, assuredly it is credit. Yet not one of our pompous declarations of right, not one of our constitutions, so long drawn out, not one of these has mentioned it at all. Credit, like the division of labor, the use of machinery and competition, has been left to itself; even the financial power, far greater than that of the executive, legislative and judicial, has never had the honor of mention in our various charters. Handed over by a decree of the Empire of the 23rd of April, 1803, to a company of revenue farmers, it has remained until now in the condition of a hidden power: hardly anything can be found relating to it, except a law of 1807, fixing the rate of interest at five percent. After the Revolution as before it, credit got along as best it could; or rather, as it pleased the largest holders of coin. It is only fair to say that the Government, while sacrificing the Country, did not spare itself; it treated itself as it treated others: we have nothing against it on this score.
What has been the result of this incredible negligence?
In the first place, forestalling and usury being practiced upon coin by preference, coin being at the same time the tool of industrial transactions and the rarest of merchandise, and consequently the safest and most profitable, dealing in money was rapidly concentrated in the hands of a few monopolists, whose fortress is the Bank.
Thereupon the Country and the State were made the vassals of a coalition of capitalists.
Thanks to the tax imposed by this bankocracy upon all industrial and agricultural industry, property has already been mortgaged for two billion dollars, and the State for more than one billion.
The interest paid by the nation for this double indebtedness, with costs, renewals, commissions and discounts on loans included, amounts to at least 240 million dollars.
This enormous sum of 240 millions does not yet express all that the producers have to pay to the financial exploitation: we should add from 140 to 160 million for discounts, advances, delays in payments, dividends, obligations under private seal, court expenses, &c.
Property, fleeced by the Bank, has been obliged to follow the same course in its relations with industry, to become a usurer in turn toward labor; thus farm rent and house rent have reached a prohibitive rate, which drives the cultivator from the field and the workman from his home.
So much so that today they whose labor has created everything cannot buy their own products, nor obtain furniture, nor own a habitation, nor ever say: This house, this garden, this vine, this field, are mine.
On the contrary, it is an economic necessity, in the present system of credit, and with the growing disorganization of industrial forces, that the poor man, working harder and harder, should be always poorer, and that the rich man, without working, always richer, as one may easily convince himself by the following.
If we may believe the estimate of a skilled economist, M. Chevé, out of two billions of value produced every year, one and one-fifth billions are taken away by parasites; that is to say, by finance, by predaceous property, and by the budget and its satellites: the balance, perhaps four-fifths of a billion, remains for the producers. Another able economist, M. Chevalier, divided the estimated product of the country by its thirty-six million inhabitants, has found that the income per head per day was an average of 13 cents; and, as from this figure must be deducted enough to pay interest, rent, taxes, and the expenses which they involve, M. de Morogues, yet another learned economist, has concluded that for a large part of the population daily consumption was less than 5 cents. But since rents, the same as taxes, continually increase, while through economic disorganization work and wages diminish, it follows that, according to the aforesaid economists, the material comfort of the working classes follows a decreasing progression, which may be represented by this series of numbers: 65, 60, 55, 50, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25, 20, 15, 10, 5, 0, −5, −10, −15, &c. This law of impoverishment is the corollary of the Malthusian law; its fundamental fact may be found in every book of statistics.
Some utopians attack competition; others refuse to accept the division of labor and the whole industrial order; the workingmen, in their crass ignorance, blame machinery. No one, to this day, has thought of denying the utility and legitimacy of credit; nevertheless it is incontestable that the perversion of credit is the most active cause of the poverty of the masses. Were it not for this, the deplorable effects of the division of labor, of the employment of machinery, of competition, would scarcely be felt at all, would not even exist. Is it not evident that the tendency of society is towards poverty, not through the depravity of men, but through the disorder of its own elementary principles?
It may be said that this is a misuse of logic, that capital, land, houses, cannot be let for nothing, that every service should be paid for, &c. Possibly. I will admit that lending wealth, as much as creating it, is a service that merits recompense. When it is a question of the advantage of others, I would rather exceed justice than stop short of it; but that does not alter the facts. I maintain that credit is too dear; that it is with money as it is with meat, which the prefect of police supplies us with today from 3 to 5 cents cheaper than the market stall keepers; as it is with transportation, which would cost 80 percent less than present rates, if the railroads would permit the country to use their immense resources. I say that it would be possible, yes, easy, to lower the price of credit from 75 to 90 percent, without wronging the lenders, and that it depends upon the nation and the State that this should be done. Let there be no argument as to a pretended legal impossibility. It is with the seigniorial rights of capitalists as it was with those of the nobles and monasteries, nothing easier than to abolish them; and, I repeat, that for the safety of property itself they must be abolished.
Can it be believed that the revolutionaries of ’89, ’92, ’93, ’94, who swung the ax with such ardor against the feudal tree, would not have uprooted it to its last fibers, if they had foreseen that, in the shadow of their half-way governmentalism, such sprouts would grow?
Can it be believed that, instead of reestablishing the seignorial courts and the parliaments under other names and other forms, of reerecting abolutism after baptizing it with the name of the Constitution, of enslaving the provinces as before, under the pretext of unity and centralization, of sacrificing all liberties, by giving them for an inseparable companion a pretended public order, which is but confusion, corruption and brute force—can it be believed, I say, that they would not have welcomed the new order, and completed the Revolution, if their sight had penetrated the organism which their instinct sought, but the state of knowledge and the distractions of the moment did not permit them to conceive? ….
It is not only that our present society, though having forsaken its principles, tends continually to impoverish the producer, to subordinate labor to capital—a contradiction in itself—but that it tends also to make of workingmen a race of helots, inferior to the caste of free men as of old; and it tends to erect into a political and social dogma the enslavement of the working class and the necessity of its poverty.
A few facts, selected from among millions, will exemplify this fatal tendency.
From 1806 to 1811, according to Chevalier, the annual consumption of wine in Paris was 170 quarts per head: it is now only 95 quarts. Abolish the duties, which with the accessory expenses, amount to at least 6 to 7 cents a quart with the retailer, and the consumption will increase from 95 to 200; moreover the vine grower, who does not know what to do with his products, will be able to sell them.
But in order to do this, it would be necessary either to reduce the amount of the budget, or to place the taxes upon the rich; and, as neither the one nor the other seems practicable, and besides as it is not well that the workingman should drink too much, seeing that the use of wine is incompatible with the modesty which is becoming in men of that class, the duties will not be lowered, neither will they be raised.
According to Raudot, a writer whose conservative opinions relieve him from any charge of exaggeration, France is reduced to buying annually in foreign markets nine million head of sheep and cattle for the slaughter house, despite the high tariff. Notwithstanding this importation, the quantity of meat offered for sale does not exceed an average of 40 lbs. per head per annum, a trifle less than 2 ounces a day. But if we recall that 85 cities, towns and capitals of provinces, with a total population of not more than 3 millions, absorb a quarter of this, the conclusion is reached that he majority of Frenchmen never eat meat; which is in fact true.
It is by virtue of this policy that wine and meat are today excluded from the list of articles of first necessity, and that so many people, in France as in Ireland, eat only potatoes, chestnuts, buckwheat or oatmeal.
The effects of this state of affairs are such as might be expected from theory. Everywhere in Europe the constitution of the laborer is weakened. In France, the Council of Revision has established that within fifty years the average stature has diminished by half an inch, and this reduction bears chiefly upon suffering humanity, the working class. Before ’89, the required minimum height for the army was 5 feet 1 inch. Afterwards following the diminution of stature and the weakening of health, as well as the excessive destruction of life, this was reduced to 4 feet 10 inches. As for exemptions from service for deficient height and health, they were, from 1830 to 1839, 45½ percent, and from 1839 to 1848, 50½ percent.
The average length of life, it is true, has increased, but at the expense of the same laboring class, as is proved, among other proofs, by the tables of mortality of Paris, in which the death rate for the 12th precinct is 1 in 26, while for the 1st precinct it is only 1 in 52.
Can it be doubted that there is a tendency toward ill in existing society, at least among the working people? Does it not seem that society has been made, as Saint Simon says, not for the amelioration of the people, physically, morally and intellectually, but for their impoverishment depravity, and ignorance?
The average number of students received each year by the Polytechnic School is, I believe, 176. According to Chevalier, it would not be exaggeration to say that twenty times as many might be received. But what would our capitalist society do with the 3520 graduates which the School would turn out at the end of each school year? I insist upon this question: What would it do?
When the management ordered that only 176 scholars should be received in place of the 3520 who could be received, it was because it was not possible for the government, with its still feudal-industrial system, to make proper provision for more than 176 of these young people.
Science is not cultivated for the sake of science: one does not study chemistry, integral calculus, analytical geometry, mechanics, in order to become a mechanic or a laborer. Superabundance of ability, far from being of service to the country and the State, is an inconvenience to them. In order to avoid dangerous upsetting of classes, it is necessary that instruction should be given in proportion to fortune; that is should be slight or none at all for the most numerous and lowest class, moderate for the middle class, superior only for a small number of the well-to-do, destined to represent by their talents the aristocracy whence they sprang…. That is what the Catholic clergy, faithful to its principles, faithful to its feudal traditions, has always understood: the law placing the University and the schools in their hands was only an act of justice.
Thus, instruction cannot be universal, and, most of all, it cannot be free, in a still feudal society: that would be nonsense. It is necessary, in order to maintain the subordination of the masses, to restrain the flowering-forth of ability, to reduce the too numerous and too unmanageable attendance at colleges, to keep in systematic ignorance the millions of workers doomed to repugnant and painful labor, to make use of the instruction by not making use of it, that is to say, by turning it toward the brutalization and exploitation of the lower classes.
And, as if the evil as well as the good must have its sanction, pauperism, thus foreseen, provided for, organized, by the economic chaos, has found its own; it is included in the criminal statistics. Here is the progression for 25 years past, of the number of arrests and of cases prosecuted at the request of the public prosecutor:
In the district courts the progression has increased in the same way:
When the workingman has been brutalized by the division of labor, by attending machines, by teaching that does not teach; when he has been discouraged by small wages, demoralized by being out of work, famished by monopoly; when he has neither bread nor dough, neither cash nor credit, neither fire nor hearth; then he lies, he thieves, he robs, he assassinates. After having passed through the hands of the plunderers, he passes through those of the dealers in justice. Is that clear?
Now I return to politics.
It is by contrast with error that truth impresses itself upon the understanding. In place of liberty and industrial equality, the Revolution has left us a legacy of authority and political subordination. The State, growing more powerful every day, and endowed with prerogatives and privileges without end, has undertaken to do for our happiness what we might have expected from a very different source. How has it acquitted itself of its task? What part has the government played during the last fifty years, regardless of the particular form of its organization? What has been its tendency? That is now the question.
Up to 1848, statesmen, whether belonging to the ministry or the opposition, whose influence directed public sentiment and governmental action, did not seem to have been aware of the mistaken course of society in what especially concerns the laboring classes. Most of them indeed made it a merit and a duty to busy themselves in the amelioration of the workers’ lot. One would cry out for teachers; another would talk against the premature and immoral employment of children in manufactories. This one would demand the lowering of duties upon salt, beverages and meat; that one called out for the complete abolition of town and custom house tariffs. In the lofty regions of power there was a general impulse toward economic and social questions. Not a soul saw that, in the present state of our institutions, such reforms were but innocent chimeras; that, in order to bring them about, nothing less than a new creation was necessary; in other words, a revolution.
Since the abdication of Louis Philippe, on the 24th of February, the governmental set, participants in privilege, have changed their opinion. The policy of oppression and impoverishment which they formerly followed without knowing it, I had almost said in spite of themselves, has been accepted by many of them, this time with full knowledge.
The government is the organ of society.
That which goes on in the social body most secretly, most metaphysically, shows itself in government with a quite military frankness, a fiscal crudity. A long time ago a statesman said that a government could not exist without a public debt and a large budget. This aphorism, to which the opposition was wrong in taking exception, is the financial expression of the retrograde and subversive tendency of Power: we may now measure the depth of it. It means that Government, instituted for the guidance of society, is but the reflection.
April 1st 1814, the interest on the public debt was $12,661,523.
July 31st 1830, the interest on the public debt was $39,883,541.
Jan. 1st 1847, the interest on the public debt was $47,422,671.
Jan. 1st 1851, the interest on the public debt was $54,200,000.
The public debt, for both the State and the towns, which it is fair to regard here as parts of the central authority, is about half of the sum total of mortgages and notes of hand, which weigh down the country: both of these, under the same impulse, have grown along with each other. The tendency is unmistakable. Whither is it leading us? To bankruptcy.
The first regular budget since the Directory is that of 1802. Dating from this time, the expenses have continually grown, in the same progression as the debt of the country and of the State.
In fifty years, the budget of expenses has almost tripled; the mean annual increase is about five millions. It would be too foolish to attribute this increase to the incapacity of ministers, to their more or less intelligent and liberal policy, as has been done under each successive change: the Restoration and the monarchy of July, the dynastic opposition and the republican conspiracy. To explain a phenomenon as constant and regular as is the growth of the budget by the inefficiency of men, especially when it has its correllative in the increase of mortgages and of notes of hand, is as absurd as it would be to explain the Oriental plague and the yellow fever by the incapacity of physicians. It is the hygiene that must be attacked; it is your economic order that calls for reform.
Thus the Government, which is called the instrument of order and the guaranty of our liberties, keeps step with society, falls more and more into difficulties, incurs indebtedness, and tends toward bankruptcy. We are about to see how, as society, given over to the disorganization of its elements, tends to reestablish the former castes; the Government, on its side, tends to unite its efforts with this new aristocracy and to complete the oppression of the lower classes.
Solely because the powers of society were left unorganized by the Revolution, there results an inequality of conditions, of which the cause is not, as formerly, the natural inequality of ability; but which finds a new pretext in the accidents of society, and adds, among the claims, the injustices of fortune to the caprices of nature. Privilege, abolished by law, is born again through lack of equilibrium: it is no longer a mere result of divine predestination: it has become a necessity of civilization.
Once justified as in the order of nature and of Providence, what does privilege lack in order to assure its triumph definitely? It has only to make laws, institutions, the Government, in harmony with itself: toward this end it is about to direct all its forces.
In the first place, as no law forbids, so far at least as it flows from one of these two sources, nature or accident, privilege may call itself perfectly legal: in this regard it may already claim the respect of citizens and the protection of Government.
What is the principle which rules existing society? Each by himself, each for himself. God and LUCK for all. Privilege, resulting from luck, from a commercial turn, from any of the gambling methods which the chaotic condition of industry furnishes, is then a providential thing, which everybody must respect.
On the other hand, what is the function of Government? To protect and defend each one in his person, his industry, his property. But if by the necessity of things, property, riches, comfort, all go on one side, poverty on the other, it is clear that Government is made for the defense of the rich against the poor. For the perfecting of this state of affairs, it is necessary that what exists should be defined and consecrated by law: that is precisely what Power wants, and what demonstrates from beginning to end our analysis of the budget.
I am talking at random.
The Provisory Government has made known that the increases of salary of Government functionaries from 1830 to 1848 amounted to the sum of 13 million dollars. Supposing that only half of this were used for the salaries of newly created offices, the average salary being assumed at $200, it follows that the Government added 32,500 employes during the reign of Louis Philippe. Today the total number of functionaries, according to Raudot, is 568,365: in every nine men there is one who lives on the Government, either of the Country or of the towns. Whatever outcry there may be made against waste, I shall never believe that the creation of 32,500 offices was anything but plunder.
What interest had the king or the ministers, or any of the individuals who already held office, in adding to their number? Is it not true that, the agitation of the working classes becoming more threatening with time, and consequently the danger greater for the privileged class, Power, the force that represses and protects, had to fortify itself in proportion, on pain of being overthrown at the first opportunity?
Examination of the budgets for the army and navy confirms this opinion.
From 1830 to 1848,—I borrow this detail from the periodical Europe and America—the united budgets of the navy and of war were gradually raised from $64,796,000 to $107,167,400. The average annual amount was $84,000,000; the average increase $2,400,000. The grand total for eighteen years, $1,501,000,000.
In the same period the budget for public instruction increased from $451,600 to $3,859,600. The grand total was $46,560,400. Difference between this and the warmaking budget, $1,454,439,000.
Thus while the Government spent an average of 2½ millions for fostering popular ignorance, under the name of public instruction, it spent 84 millions, thirty-two times as much, to restrain this ignorance by steel and fire, if the frenzy of poverty should cause it to burst forth. This is what the politicians of the day have called an armed peace. The same tendency is shown in the other budgets: I mean to say that the budgets have always increased in direct proportion to their services to the cause of privilege, and inversely to those which they could render to the producers. But when it is admitted that the lofty financial and administrative capacities which governed France during those eighteen years had no such intentions as are indicated by these comparisons of the budgets, which, after all, matter little, it would remain not that not the less true that the system of impoverishment and repression by the State developed with a spontaneity and certainty that might well dispense with any complicity on the part of statesmen.
Once again, there is here no question of persons.
Above the spirit of men there is the spirit of things; it is with this latter that the philosopher concerns himself, always well disposed towards his fellows.
If the composition of the budget of expenses is curious, that of the account of receipts is no less instructive. I will not enter into details; the general character will suffice. It is in generalization that truth is discovered.
Since 1848 it has been proved by figures that if the existing system of duties were replaced by a single tax on capital of say, one percent, the tax would be distributed with an almost ideal equality, uniting the advantages of proportionality and progression, without any of their drawbacks. By this system labor would be little if at all affected; capital, on the contrary, would be scientifically reached. Where capital was not protected by the labor of the capitalist, it would be exposed to levy; while the workingman, whose possessions did not exceed a taxable amount, would pay nothing. Justice in taxation would be the ne plus ultra of fiscal science. But that would be the reverse of government. The proposition, scouted by the practical politicians, served only to discredit and almost discourage its authors.
The system of taxation actually followed is just the opposite of that. It is planned in such a way that the producer pays all, the capitalist nothing. In fact, whenever the latter is put down on the books of the assessor for any amount whatever, or pays the duties established by the fiscal authority on objects of consumption, it is clear that, as his income is composed solely of the interest upon his capital, and not by the exchange of his products, his income remains free from taxation; inasmuch as it is only the producer that pays.
That injustice had to be; and Government was in this in perfect accord with Society. If the inequality of conditions which results from the economic disorganization be taken as an indication of the will of Providence, the Government cannot do better than to follow his will; for that reason, not content with defending privilege, Government comes to its assistance by asking nothing from it. Grant the time, and Government will make privilege an Institution, under the titles of Nobility, Burghers, or otherwise.
There is therefore a compact between Capital and Power to make the worker exclusively pay the taxes; and the secret of this compact is simply, as I have said, to place the taxes on products, instead of on capital.
Through this disguise the capitalist seems to pay on his land, on his house, on his furniture, on his securities, on his traveling, on his food, like the rest of the citizens. Also he says that his income, which without tax would be 600, 1,200, 2,000 or 4,000 dollars, is no more, thanks to the tax, than 500, 900, 1,600, or 3,000 dollars. And he complains against the amount of the budget with more indignation than his tenants.
A complete mistake. The capitalist pays nothing: the Government divides up with him; that is all. They make common cause. What one of the workers would not esteem himelf lucky if he were granted $400 income, upon the sole condition that he should give up a quarter of it in redemption?
There is one chapter in the accounts of receipts that has always seemed to me like a reminiscence of the old system, that of assessment.
It is not enough that the producer pays for the liberty to manufacture, cultivate, sell, buy or transport that the fiscal authority grants him; the assessments forbid him to hold property as far as possible. So much for an inheritance from a father, so much from an uncle, so much for a rental, so much for a purchase. It is as if the legislator of ’89 had had the intention of reenacting the inalienability of real estate, in exact correspondence with feudal rights! As if he had wanted to remind the wretch who had been freed by the night of the 4th of August that he was still of servile condition, that he had no right to own the soil, that every cultivator is only a tenant and distrainable by law, unless he has permission from the sovereign! We must take care: there are people who hold these ideas religiously: those people are our masters and the friends of all those who lend to us on mortgage.
The partizans of governmental rule repel, with all the force of conviction, criticism which, instead of finding fault with men, attacks institutions, and endangers and threatens what they consider their hereditary rights.
Is it the fault, they cry, of our representative institutions? Is it the fault of the constitutional principle, or that of incapable, corrupt, wasteful ministers, if a portion of those millions, taken from property, from agriculture and from industry, at the price of so great sacrifices, have served only to support sinecures and to salve consciences? Is it the fault of this magnificent centralization, if the taxes, having become exorbitant, weigh more heavily upon the worker than on the proprietor; if, with a subsidy of 84 millions, our ports are bare of ships, our shops of materials; if, in 1848, after the revolution of February, the army was without provisions, the cavalry without horses, the fortifications in bad condition; if we could not put upon a war footing more than sixty thousand men? On the contrary, is it not a case in which not the system but the mode of carrying it out should be blamed? And then what becomes of your denunciations of the tendencies of society and of government?
Indeed! We may then add corruption to the intrinsic vises and feudal inclinations of the political order. Far from weakening my argument, it strengthens it. Corruption allies itself well with the general tendencies of Power; it forms a part of its methods; it is one of its elements.
What does the system demand?
That the capitalistic feudalism shall be maintained in the enjoyment of its rights; that the preponderance of capital over labor shall be increased; that the parasite class shall be reinforced, if possible, by providing for it everywhere hangers-on, through the aid of public functions, and as recruits if necessary, and that large properties shall be gradually reestablished, and the proprietors ennobled;—did not Louis Philippe, toward the end of his reign, devote himself to conferring titles of nobility?—that thus, by indirect ways, certain services, which the official list of offices cannot satisfy, shall be recompensed; finally, that everything shall be attached to the surpeme patronage of the State—charities, recompenses, pensions, awards, concessions, exploitations, authorizations, positions, titles, privileges, ministerial offices, stock companies, municipal administrations, etc., etc.
This is the reason for that venality whereof the scandals under the last reign so surprised us; but at which the public conscience would have been less astonished, if the mystery had been explained. This too is the ulterior aim of that centralization which, under pretext of the general interest, exerts pressure upon local interests, by selling to the last and highest bidder the justice which they claim.
Understand clearly that corruption is the soul of centralization. There is not a monarchy nor a democracy that is free from it. Government is unchangeable in its spirit and essence; if it takes a hand in public economy, it is to establish, by favor or by force, what accident tends to bring about. Let us take the custom house for an example.
Custom house duties, both import and export, but not including those on salt, produce 32 millions for the State. 32 millions to protect national industry! Do you perceive the jugglery? Suppose that the customs did not exist; that Belgian, English, German, American competition surrounded our markets on every side, and that then the State should make the following proposition to French industry: In order to protect your interests, which would you prefer to do, to pay me 32 millions or to receive them yourselves? Do you think that the industries would elect to pay them? That is just what the Government requires them to do. To the regular charges which foreign products and those which we send abroad cost us, the Government adds 32 millions, which serve it as drink-money; that is what the custom house amounts to. And the question today is so entangled, that there is not one person in the whole Republic who would dare to propose to abolish at one blow this absurd tribute.
Moreover this sum of 32 millions, said to be levied for the protection of national industry, is far from expressing all the advantage which the Government draws from the custom house.
The Department of Var is not well supplied with livestock; it lacks meat, and would ask nothing better than to import cattle from the Piedmont, a frontier province. The Government, the protector of the school-boy nation, will not permit it. What does this mean? That the lobbyists of the Camargue have more influence with the ministry than the would-be purchasers of Var: ask for no other reason.
The story of the Department of Var is that of the eighty-five remaining Departments. All have their special interests; are in consequence antagonists, and seek an arbitrator. It is these interests, far more than the army, which form the strength of the Government. Also, observe, the Government has made itself the grantor of mines, of canals, or railroads, in just the same way that the Court, before ’89, sold the ranks of colonel and captain, as well as clerical benefices.
I can believe that all the personages who have taken charge of affairs since 1830 remained pure, except one; but it is not evident that if, through the remarkable integrity of French character, peculators are rare, nevertheless peculation is organized: it exists.
Toulon, situated on the sea, has lost its right to fish; do you know how? The city of Marseilles desiring the monopoly of the lucrative industry, the Government pretended that the nets of the Toulon fishermen hampered the movements of national vessels! That is why the inhabitants of Toulon import their fish from Marseilles.
For a long time the shipping trade has asked for the abolition of transportation duties on the canals, which yield an insignificant amount for the customs, but are a disastrous fetter on commerce. The Government objects that it is not free, that it needs a law of redemption, that, moreover, it is engaged upon a project of farming out the duties. The gist of it is that there exist franchises which hope to sell out at a high price; moreover, if the duties on navigation were abolished, the canals would compete with the railroads, and the holders of the railroad franchises, very often members of the ministry, have no interest in reducing the railroad charges. Do you suspect that Messrs. Leon Faucher, Fould, Magne, even the President of the Republic, make money out of their position? I do not. I only say that, if the man in power wants to peculate, he can do so; and that, sooner or later, he will. What am I talking about? Venality will soon be made noe of the prerogatives of government. The tiger devours because he is built to devour, and you expect that a government built for corruption will not be corrupt?
Even charitable institutions serve the ends of those in authority marvelously well.
Charity is the strongest chain by which privilege and the Government, bound to protect them, holds down the lower classes. With charity, sweeter to the heart of men, more intelligible to the poor man than the abstruse laws of political economy, one may dispense with justice. Benefactors abound in the catalog of saints; not one law dispenser is found there. The Government, like the Church, places fraternity far above justice. A good friend of the poor as much as you like, but it hates calculators. In connection with the discussion on pawnbrokers, the Journal des Debats recalled that there would in time be hospitals everywhere. Loan offices, it added, showed the same progress; each town wanted one for itself, and would soon obtain it. I cannot conceive the indignation of the whole list of bourgeois delegates against the two honorable socialists who proposed to establish a loan office in each county immediately. Never was there a proposition more worthy of the favor of the Debats. The establishment for loans upon wages, even if the loan were gratuitous, is the antechamber of the hospital. And what is the hospital? The temple of Poverty.
Through these three ministries, that of agriculture and commerce, that of public works, and that of the interior, through the taxes of consumption and through the custom house, the Government keeps its hand on all that comes and goes, all that is produced and consumed, on all the business of individuals, towns and provinces; it maintains the tendency of society toward the impoverishment of the masses, the subordinating of the laborers, and the always growing preponderance of parasite offices. Through the police, it watches the enemies of the system; through the courts, it condemns and represses them; through the army it crushes them; through public institutions it distributes, in such proportions as suit it, knowledge and ignorance; through the Church it puts to sleep any protest in the hearts of men; through the finances it defrays the cost of this vast conspiracy at the expense of workers.
Under the monarchy of July, I repeat, the men in power did not understand the thought which ruled them, any more than did the masses. Louis Philippe, Guizot and their associates did things with a simplicity of corruption which was natural to them, making use of ways and means marvelously well, but not perceiving the end directly. After the lower classes had made their formidable voice heard in the revolution of February, the system began to be understood; it was propounded with the effrontery of dogmatism, it was called by its surname Malthus, and by its given name, Loyola. At bottom, nothing was changed by the event of February, any more than by those of 1830, 1814, 1793, from the order of pretended constitutional things that had been founded in 1791. Louis Bonaparte, whether he knows it or not, continues the rule of Louis Philippe, the Bourbons, Napoleon, and Robespierre.
Thus, in 1851 as in 1788, and from analogous causes, there is in society a pronounced tendency towards poverty. Now, as then, the wrong of which the laboring class complains is not the effect of a temporary or accidental cause, it is that of a systematic diversion of the social forces.
This diversion dates from far back, even before ’89. It has its principle in the profundities of general economy. The first revolution, struggling against the most manifest abuses, could act only on the surface. After having destroyed tyranny, it did not know how to establish order; whereof the principles were hidden under the feudal ruins that covered the country. Moreover, that revolution of which the history seems so complete to us, was only a negation, and will appear to posterity as only the first act, the dawn of the great Revolution, which must occupy the nineteenth century.
The crash of ’89–’91 left no organic principle, no working structure, after having abolished, together with the monarchy, the last remains of feudalism, proclaimed equality before the law and for taxation, freedom of the press and of worship, and interested the people, as much as it could, by the sale of national property. It has not redeemed one of its promises. When the Revolution proclaimed liberty of the people, the subordination of power to the country, it set up two incompatible things, society and government; and it is this incompatibility which has been the cause or the pretext of this overwhelming, liberty-destroying concentration, called Centralization, which the parliamentary democracy admires and praises, because it is its nature to tend toward despotism.
We have seen the old society perish, and with it a swarm of democratic institutions and of independent magistracies, which it bore within its bosom, a strong combination of private rights, veritable republics within the monarchy. These institutions, these magistracies, did not share the sovereignty, it is true, but everywhere they placed limits to it, which honor defended obstinately. Not one has survived, and none other has been erected in their place; the Revolution has left only individuals. In this respect, the dictatorship in which it culminated, completed its work. From this society reduced to dust, sprang centralization; its origin need not be sought elsewhere. Centralization did not come like other doctrines, head erect and with the authority of principle. It crept in modestly, as a necessary consequence. In fact, where there are only individuals, all businss which is not theirs is public business, business of the State. Where there are no independent magistrates, there are only delegates of the central power. Thus we have become a bureau-ruled people, under the hand of responsible functionaries, themselves centralized in the power of which they are the ministers. In this condition, society was bequeathed to the Restoration.
The charter then had to reestablish Government and Society at the same time. Society was not forgotten nor neglected, indeed, but left out. The Charter reestablished only the Government; and did so by the division of sovereignty and the multiplicity of powers. But in order that a nation may be free, it is not enough that it be governed by several powers. The division of sovereignty brought about by the Charter, is, no doubt, an important accomplishment, and one which has mighty consequences, relatively to the royal power which it modifies; but the Government which results from it, although separated into its elements, is one in practice; and, if it meets no outside obstacle which it must respect, it is absolute: the nation and the nation’s rights are its property. It was only when it established liberty of thep ress, that the Charter restored Society to its own.
What M. Royer-Collard said of the royalty of 1814, is even more true of the Republic of 1848.
The Republic had Society to establish: it thought only of establishing Government. Centralization continually fortifying itself, while Society had no institution to oppose to it, through the exaggeration of political ideas and the total absence of social ideas, matters reached a point where Society and Government could not live together, the condition of existence of the latter being to subordinate and subjugate the former.
Therefore, while the problem propounded in ’89 seemed to be officially solved, at the bottom there was change only in the governmental metaphysics—what Napoleon called ideology. Liberty, equality, progress, with all their oratorical consequences, are written in the text of the constitutions and the laws; there is no vestige of them in the institutions. The ancient hierarchy of classes has been replaced by an ignoble feudalism, based on mercantile and industrial usury; by a chaos of interests, an antagonism of principles, a degradation of law: the abuses have changed the face which they bore before ’89, to assume a different form of organization; they have diminished neither in number nor gravity. On account of our being engrossed with politics, we have lost sight of social economy. It was in this way that the democratic party itself, the heir of the first Revolution, came to attempting to reform Society by establishing the initiative of the State, to create institutions by the prolific virtue of Power, in a word, to correct an abuse by an abuse.
All minds being bewitched with politics, Society turns in a circle of mistakes, driving capital to a still more crushing agglomeration, the State to an extension of its prerogatives that is more and more tyrannical, the laboring class to an irreparable decline, physically, morally and intellectually.
For many people it is to advance a scandalous and paradoxical proposition, filled with difficulty and disaster, to say that the Revolution of ’89, having established nothing, has freed us not at all, but only changed our sad lot; to say that, in consequence, a new revolution to organize and reconstruct is necessary, to fill the void left by the former. The more or less pledged partizans of the constitutional monarchy will not agree; the democrats attached to the letter of ’93, who are frightened at such a task, are opposed. According to one or the other, nothing is left but accidental grievances, due chiefly to the incapacity of the depositaries of power, which a vigorous democracy could cure. Thence the disturbance, not to say antipathy, with which the Revolution inspires them; and thence too this reactionary policy in which they have engaged since February.
Nevertheless, such is the evidence of facts, so greatly have statistics and investigations elucidated the matter, that it is more than folly or bad faith to argue in favor of a better policy, when everything shows the contradiction and the weakness of Government.
In place of this governmental, feudal and military rule, imitated from that of the former kings, the new edifice of industrial institutions must be built; in place of this materialist centralization which absorbs all the political power, we must create the intellectual and liberal centralization of economic forces. Labor, commerce, credit, education, property, public morals, philosophy, art, everything in fact require it of us.
There is sufficient cause for a revolution in the nineteenth century.
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