The State: Its Historic Role : Section 9
(1842 - 1921) ~ Russian Father of Anarcho-Communism : As anarchism's most important philosophers he was in great demand as a writer and contributed to the journals edited by Benjamin Tucker (Liberty), Albert Parsons (Alarm) and Johann Most (Freiheit). Tucker praised Kropotkin's publication as "the most scholarly anarchist journal in existence." (From : Spartacus Educational Bio.)
• "...let us remember that if exasperation often drives men to revolt, it is always hope, the hope of victory, which makes revolutions." (From : "The Spirit of Revolution," by Peter Kropotkin, fi....)
• "Which side will you take? For the law and against justice, or for justice and against the law?" (From : "An Appeal to the Young," by Peter Kropotkin, 1880.)
• "The fatherland does not exist.... What fatherland can the international banker and the rag-picker have in common?" (From : "The Conquest of Bread," by Peter Kropotkin, 1906.)
"If in the town and the village you have common interests,., then ask the State or the church to deal with them. but for you to get together to deal with these interests is forbidden." This is the aathat eehoes throughout Europe from the sixteenth century
Already at the end of the fourteenth century an edict by Edward III, King of England, stated that "every allianee, connivance, gatherings, meetings, enactments and solemn oaths made or to t made between carpenters and masons,nd masons, are null and void". But it was only after the defeat of the villages and of the popttlar uprisings, to which we have already referred, that the State dared to interfere with all the institutions - guilds, brotherhoods, etc. - which bound the artisans together, to disband and destroy them. This is what one sees so clearly in England since the vast d L tatioby vliilable allows one to follow this movement ste b t ittle ttle the State takes over all the guilds and brotherhoods. It besets them, abolishes their conjurations, their syncs, which they replace by their officers, their tribunaIs and their banquets; and at the beginning of the sixteenth century under Henry VIII, the State simply confiscates all that the guilds possess without bothering with forrnalities or procedure. The heir of the protestant king completes his task.
It is daylight robbery, without apologies as ThoFold Rogers so weIl put it. And again, it is this theft that the so-ealled seientific eeonomists deseribe as the 'natural' deathral' death of the guilds under the influenee of 'economic laws'!
Indeed, could the State tolerate the guiId, the trade corporatian , with' its tribunal, its militia,. its treasury, its sworn organization? It was the State within the State'! The reaI State had to destroy it and this it did everywhere: in England, in France, in Germany, Bohemia and Russia, maintaining only the pretense for the sake of the tax eollector and as part of its huge administrative machine. And surely there is no reason to be surprised that once the guilds, and guild masterships were deprived of all that hitherto had been their Iives, were puf under the orders of the royal officials and had simply become eogs in the machinery of administration, that hy the eighteenth century they were a hindrance, an obstacle to industrial ctevelapment, in spite of the fact that for four eenturies before that they represented life itself. The State had destroyed them.
But the State was not satisfed with putting a spoke in the wheels of life of els of life of the sworn brotherhoods of tades which embarrassed it by placing themselves between it and its subjects. It was not satisfied with confiscating their funds and their propenies. The State had ta take over their functions as welI as their assets.
In a city of the Middle Ages, when there was a canilict of interests within a trade or where two different guilds were in disagreement, the only recourse was to the city. They were obliged to eome to an agreement, to any kind of compramise arrangement, since they were all mutually tied up with the city. And the latter never failed ta assen itself, either by arbitration or at a pinch by referring the dispute to another eity. From then on, the State was the only judge. A11 I^?al confliets including insignificant disputes in small towns with only a few hundred inhabitants, aceumulated in the form af documents in the offices of the king or of parliament. The English parliament was literally inundated by thousands of minor local squabbles. As a result thousaa result thousaands of officials were required in the capital - most af them corruptible - to read, classify, and form an apinion on all this litigation and adjudicate on the smallest details: for example how to shoe a horse, to bleach linen, to salt herrings, to make a barrel and so on ad infinitum, and the wave of questions went ou increasing in volume!
But this was not all. In due eourse the State took over expan trade, seeing it as a source of profit. Formerly, when a differenee arose between two towns on the value of eloth that had been exponad, ar of the quality of wool or over the capacity of herring barrels, the towns themselves would remonstrate with each other. If the disagreement dragged on, more often than not they would invite another town to arbitrate. Alternatively a cangress af the weavers or coopers guilds would be summoned to decide on an international level the quality and value of eloth and the eapacity of barrels.
But henceforth it was the State in London or in Paris which undertook toich undertook too deal with these disputes. Through its offcials it controlg d the capacity of barrels, defined the quality of cloth , allowin for variations as well as establishing the number of threads and their thickness in the warp and the woof, and by its ordinances meddling with the smallest details in every industry.
You can guess with what results. Under such control indust in the eighteenth century was dying.
What had in fact come of Benvenuto Cellini's art under State tutelage? it had disappeared! And the architecture of those guilds of masons and carpenters whose works of art we still admire? J ust observe the hideous monuments of the statist eriod and at one glance you will come to the conclusion that archiptecture was dead , to such an extent that it has not yet recovered from the blows it received at the hands of the State.
What was happening to the textiles of Bruges and the cloth from Holland Where were these iron-smiths, so skilled in handling iron and who, in every important European villat European village, knew how to make this ungrateful metal lend itself to transformation into the most exquisite decorations? Where were those turners, those watchmak- ers, those fitters who had made Nuremberg one of the glories of the Middle Ages for precision instruments? Talk about it to James Watt who two centuries later spent thirty years in vain, looking for a worker who could produce a more or less circular c linder for his steam engine. Consequently his machine remained at the project stage for thirty years because there were no craftsmen able to construct it.
Such was the role of the State in the industrial field. All it was capable of doing was to tighten the screw for the worker depopulate the countryside, spread mize in the towns, reduce indult nal erfdomn beings to a state of starvation and impose
And it is these pitiful remains of the old guilds, these organisms which have been battered and over-taxed, these useless cogs of the administrative machine, which the ever scientific' economists are^M economists a re^M so ignorant as to confuse with the guilds of the Middle Ages. What the Great French Revolution swept away as harmful to indust was not the guild, nor even the trade union, but the useless and h mful cog in the machinery of State.
But what the Revolution was at pains not to sweep away was the power of the State over industry, over the factory serf.
Do you remember the discussion which took place at the Convention - at the terrible Convention - apropos of a strike? To the complaints of the strikers the Convention replied: "The State alone has the duty to watch over the interests of all citizens. By striking, you are forming a coalition, you are creating a State within the State. So - death!"
In this reply only the bourgeois nature of the Revolution has been discerned. But has it not, in fact, a much deeper significance? Does it not sum up the attitude of the State, which found its complete and logical expression in regard to society as a whole in the Jacobinism of 1793? "Have you something t you something to complain about? Then address your complaint to the State! It alone has the mission to redress the grievances of its subjects. As for a coalition to defend yourselves - Never!" It was in this sense that the Republic called itself one and indivisible.
Does not the modern socialist Jacobin think in the same way? Did not the Convention express the gist of Jacobin thought with the cold logic that is typical of it?
In this answer of the Convention was summed up the attitude of all States in regard to all coalitions and all private societies, whatever their aim.
In the case of the strike, it is a fact that in Russia it is still considered a crime of high treason. In most of Germany too where Wilhelm would say to the miners: "Appeal to me; but if ever you presume to act for yourselves you will taste the swords of my soldiers".
Such is still almost always the case in France. And even in England, only after having struggled for a century by means of secret societies, by the dagger for traitors ager for traitors and for the maste rs, by explosive powders under machines (as late as 1860), by emery powder poured into grease-boxes and so on, did British workers begin to win the right to strike, and will soon have it altogether - if they don't fall into the traps already set for them by the State, in seeking to impose compulsory arbitration in return for an eight hour day.
More than a century of bitter struggles! And what misery! how many workers died in prison, were transported to Australia, were shot or hanged, in order to win back the right to combine which - let it be remembered once more - every man free or serf practiced freely so long as the State did not lay its heavy hand on societies.
But then, was it the workman only who was treated in this way?
Let us simply recall the struggles that the bourgeoisie had to wage against the State to win the right to constitute itself into commercial societies - a right which the State only began to concede when it discovered a convenient way of creating monopf creating monoppolies for the benefit of its creatures and to fill its coffers. Tliink of the struggle for the right to speak, think or write other than the way the State decrees through the Academy, the University and the Church! Think of the struggies that have had to be waged to this day in order to be able to teach children to read - a right which the State possesses but does not use! Even of the struggles to secure the right to enjoy oneself in pubiic! Not to znention those which should be waged in order zo dare to choose one s judge and one's laws - a thing that was in daily use in other ti^?nes - nor the struggles that will be needed before one is able to make a bonfire of that book of infamous punishments, invented by the spirit of the inquisition and of the despotic empires of the Orient known under the name of the Penal Code!
Observe next taxation - an institution originating purely with the State - this formidable weapon used by the State, in Europe as in the young societies of the two Americas, to o Americas, to keep the masses under its heel, to favor its minions, to ruin the majority for the bene it of the rulers and to maintain the old divisions and castes.
Then take the wars without which States can neither constitute themselves nor maintain themselves; wars which become disastrous, and inevitable, the moment one admits that a particular region - simply because it is part of a State - has interests opposed to those of its neighbors who are part of another State. Think of past wars and of those that subjected people wiil have to wage to conquer the right to breathe freeiy, the wars for markets , the wars to create colonial empires. And in France we unfortunately know only too well that every war, victorious or not, is followed b slavery.
And finally what is even worse than all that has just been enumerated, is the fact that the education we all receive 1'rom the State, at school and after, has so warped our minds thaz the very notion of freedom ends up by being lost, and disguised in servitude.d in servitu de.
It is a sad sight to see those who believe themselves to be revolutionaries unleashing their hatred on the anarchist - jusl because his views on freedom go beyond their petzy and narro w concepts of freedom learned in the State school. And meanwhile, this spectacle is a reality. The fact is that the spirit of voiuntary servitude was always cleverly cultivated in the minds of the young, and still is, in order to perpetuate the subjection of the individual to the State.
Libertarian philosophy is stifled by the Roman and Catholic pseudo-philosophy of the State. History is vitiated from the very first page, where it lies when speaking of the Merovingian and Carolingian monarchies, to the last page where it glorifies Jacobinism and refuses to recognize the role of the people in creating the institutions. Natural sciences are perverted in order to be put at the service of the double idol: Church-State. Individual psychology, and even more that of societies, are falsified in each of their assertiof their assertiions in justifying the triple alliance of soldier, priest and judge. Finally, morality, after having preached for centuries obedience to the Church, or the book, achieves its emancipation today only to then preach servility to the State: "No direct moral obligations towards your neighbor, nor even any feeling of solidarity; all your obligations are to the State", we are zold, we are taught, in this new cult of the old Roman and Cesarean divinity. "The neighbor, the comrade, the companion - forget them. You will henceforth only know them through the intermediary of some organ or other of your State. And every one of you wiil make a virtue out of being equally subjected to it."
And the glorification of the State and of izs discipiine, for which the university and the Church, the press and the political parties labor, is propagated so successfuily that even revolutionaries dare not look this fetish straight in the eye.
The modern radical is a centralist. Statist and rabid Jacobin. And the sobin. And the soocialist falls into step. Just as the Florentines at the end of the fifteenth century knew no better than to call on the dictatorship of the State to save themselves from the Patricians, so the socialists can only call upon the same Gods, the diczatorship of the State, to save themselves from the horrors of the economic regime crcated by that very same State!
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