Seventh Study. Absorption of Government by the Economic Organism

Seventh Study. Absorption of Government by the Economic Organism


Government [...] has for its dogmas:

              1. The original perversity of human nature;

              2. The inevitable inequality of fortunes;

              3. The permanency of quarrels and wars;

              4. The irremediability of poverty.

Whence it is deduced:

          5. The necessity of government, of obedience, of resignation, and of faith.

These principles admitted, as they still are, almost universally, the forms of authority are already settled. They are:

              a) The division of the people into classes or castes, subordinate to one another; graduated to form a pyramid, at the top of which appears, like the Divinity upon his altar, like the king upon his throne, AUTHORITY;

          b) Administrative centralisation;

              c) Judicial hierarchy;
              d) Police;
              e) Worship.

Add to the above, in countries in which the democratic principle has become preponderant:

              f) The separation of powers;
              g) The intervention of the People in the Government, by vote for representatives;
              h) The innumerable varieties of electoral systems, from the Convocation by Estates, which prevailed in the Middle Ages, down to universal and direct suffrage;
              i) The duality of legislative chambers;
              j) Voting upon laws, and consent to taxes by the representatives of the nation;
              k) The rule of majorities.

Such is broadly the plan of construction of Power, independently of the modifications which each of its component party may receive; as, for example, the central Power, which may be in turn monarchical, aristocratic or democratic; which once furnished publicists with a ground for classification, according to superficial character.

It will be observed that the governmental system tends to become more and more complicated without becoming on that account more efficient or more moral, and without offering any more guaranties to person or property. This complication springs first from legislation, which is always incomplete and insufficient; in the second place, from the multiplicity of functionaries; but most of all, from the compromise between the two antagonistic elements, the executive initiative and popular consent. It has been left for our epoch to establish unmistakably that this bargaining, which the progress of centuries renders inevitable is the surest index of corruption, of decadence, and of the approaching dissolution of Authority.

What is the aim of this organisation?

To maintain order in society, by consecrating and sanctifying obedience of the citizen to the State, subordination of the poor and to the rich, of the common people to the upper class, of the worker to the parasite, of the layman to the priest, of the bourgeois to the soldier.

As far back as the memory of humanity extends, it is found to have been organised on the above system, which constitutes the political, ecclesiastical or governmental order. Every effort to give Power a more liberal appearance, more tolerant, more social, has invariably failed; such efforts have been even more fruitless when they tried to give the People a larger share in Government; as if the words, Sovereignty and People, which they endeavoured to yoke together, were as naturally antagonistic as these other two words, Liberty and Despotism.

Humanity has had to live, and civilisation to develop, for six thousand years, under this inexorable system, of which the first term is Despair and the last Death. What secret power has sustained it? What force has enabled it to survive? What principles, what ideas, renewed the blood that flowed forth under the poniard of authority, ecclesiastical and secular?

This mystery is now explained.

Beneath the governmental machinery, in the shadow of political institutions, out of the sight of statesmen and priests, society is producing its own organism, slowly and silently; and constructing a new order, the expression of its vitality and autonomy, and the denial of the old politics, as well as of the old religion.

This organisation, which is as essential to society as it is incompatible with the present system, has the following principles:

              1. The indefinite perfectibility of the individual and of the race;
              2. The honourableness of work;
              3. The equality of fortunes;
              4. The identity of interests;
              5. The end of antagonisms;
              6. The universality of comfort;
              7. The sovereignty of reason;
              8. The absolute liberty of the man and of the citizen.

I mention below its principal forms of activity:

              a. Division of labour, through which classification of the People by INDUSTRIES replaces classification by caste;
              b. Collective power, the principle of WORKERS COMPANIES, in place of armies;
              c. Commerce, the concrete form of CONTRACT, which takes the place of Law;
              d. Equality in exchange;
              e. Competition;
              f. Credit, which turns upon INTERESTS, as the governmental hierarchy turns upon Obedience;
             g. The equilibrium of values and of properties.

The old system, standing on Authority and Faith, was essentially based on Divine Right. The principle of the sovereignty of the People, introduced later, did not change its nature; and it is a mistake to-day, in the face of the conclusions of science, to maintain a distinction which does not touch underlying principles, between absolute monarchy and constitutional monarchy, or between the latter and the democratic republic. The sovereignty of the People has been, is I may say so, for a century past, but a skirmishing line for Liberty. It was either an error, or a clever scheme of our fathers to make the sovereign people in the image of the king-man: as the Revolution becomes better understood, this mythology vanishes, all traces of government disappear and follow the principle of government itself to dissolution.


This absolute incompatibility of the two systems, so often proved, still does not convince writers who, while admitting the dangers of authority, nevertheless hold to it, as the sole means of maintaining order, and see nothing beside it but empty desolation. Like the sick man in the comedy, who is told that the first thing he must do is to discharge his doctors, if he wants to get well, they persist in asking how can a man get along without a doctor, or a society without a government. They will make the government as republican, as benevolent, as equal as possible; they will set up all possible guaranties against it; they will belittle it, almost attack it, in support of the majesty of the citizens. They tell us: You are the government! You shall govern yourselves, without president, without representatives, without delegates. But to live without government, to abolish all authority, absolutely and unreservedly, to set up pure anarchy, seems to them ridiculous and inconceivable, a plot against the Republic and against the nation. What will these people who talk of abolishing government put in place of it? they ask.

We have no trouble in answering.

It is industrial organisation that we will put in place of government, as we have just shown.

In place of laws, we will put contracts. — No more laws voted by a majority, nor even unanimously; each citizen, each commune or corporation, makes its own.

In place of political powers, we will put economic forces.

In place of the ancient classes of nobles, burghers, and peasants, or of bourgeoisie and proletariat, we will put the general titles and special departments of industry: Agriculture, Manufacture, Commerce, &c.

In place of public force, we will put collective force.

In place of standing armies, we will put industrial associations.

In place of police, we will put identity of interests.

In place of political centralisation, we will put economic centralisation.

Do you see now how there can be order without functionaries, a profound and wholly intellectual unity?

You, who cannot conceive of unity without a whole apparatus of legislators, prosecutors, attorneys-general, custom house officers, policemen, you have never known what real unity is! What you call unity and centralisation is nothing but perpetual chaos, serving as a basis for endless tyranny; it is the advancing of the chaotic condition of social forces as an argument for despotism — a despotism which is really the cause of the chaos.

Well, in our turn, let us ask, what need have we of government when we have made an agreement? Does not the National Bank, with its various branches, achieve centralisation and unity? Does not the agreement among farm workers for compensation, marketing, and reimbursement for farm properties create unity? From another point of view, do not the industrial associations for carrying on the large-scale industries bring about unity? And the constitution of value, that contract of contracts, as we have called it, is not that the most perfect and indissoluble unity?

And if we must show you an example in our own history in order to convince you, does not that fairest monument of the Convention, the system of weights and measures, form, for fifty years past, the corner-stone of that economic unity which is destined to replace political unity?

Never ask again then what we will put in place of government, nor what will become of society without government, for I assure you that in the future it will be easier to conceive of society without government, than of society with government.


The People is a collective entity.

They who have exploited the People from time immemorial still hold it in servitude, stand upon this collectivity of its nature, and deduce from this its legal incapacity, which requires their personal control. We, on the contrary, from that collectivity of the People, draw proof that it is completely and perfectly capable, that it can do anything, and needs no one to restrain it. The only question is how to give full play to its powers.


The judiciary too has gone. What is Justice? Mutual guaranties; that which for two hundred years we have called the Social Contract. Every man who has signed this contract is fit to be a judge: justice for all; authority for none. As for procedure, the shortest is the best. Down with tribunals and jurisdictions!

Last came administration, accompanied by the police. Our decision was taken quickly. Since the People is multiple and unity of interest constitutes its collectivity, centralisation comes about through this unity; there is no need of centralisers. Let each household, each factory, each association, each municipality, each district, attend to its own police, and administer carefully its own affairs, and the nation will be policed and administered. What need have we to be watched and ruled, and to pay, year in and year out, 25 millions? Let us abolish prefects, commissioners, and policemen too.

The next question is of schools. This time there is no idea of suppression, but only of converting a political institution into an economic one. If we preserve the methods of teaching now in use, why should we need the intervention of the State?

A community needs a teacher. It chooses one at its pleasure, young or old, married or single, a graduate of the Normal School or self-taught, with or without a diploma. The only thing that is essential is that the said teacher should suit the fathers of families, and that they should be free to entrust their children to them or not. In this, as in other matters, it is essential that the transaction should be a free contract and subject to competition; something that is impossible under a system of inequality, favouritism, and university monopoly, or that of a coalition of Church and State.

As for the so-called higher education, I do not see how the protection of the State is needed, any more than in the former case. Is it not the spontaneous result, the natural focus of lower instruction? Why should not lower instruction be centralised in each district, in each province, and a portion of the funds destined for it be applied to the support of higher schools that are thought necessary, of which the teaching staff should be chosen from that of the lower schools. Every soldier, it is said, carries a marshal’s baton in his knapsack. If that is not true, it ought to be. Why should not every teacher bear in his diploma the title of university professor? Why, after the example of what is done in workers companies, as the teacher is responsible to the Academic Council, should not the Academic Council be appointed by the teachers?

Thus even with the present system of instruction, the university centralisation in a democratic society is an attack upon paternal authority, and a confiscation of the rights of the teacher.

But let us go to the bottom of the matter. Governmental centralisation in public instruction is impossible in the industrial system, for the decisive reason that instruction is inseparable from apprenticeship, and scientific education is inseparable from professional education. So that the teacher, the professor, when he is not himself the foreman, is before everything the man of the association of the agricultural or industrial group which employs him. As the child is the pledge, pignus, between the parents, so the school becomes the bond between the industrial associations and families: it is unfitting that it should be divorced from the workshop, and, under the plea of perfecting it, should be subjected to external power.

To separate teaching from apprenticeship, as is done to-day, and, what is still more objectionable, to distinguish between professional education and the real, serious, daily, useful practice of the profession, is to reproduce in another form the separation of powers and the distinction of classes, the two most powerful instruments of governmental tyranny and the subjection of the workers.

Let the working class think of this.

If the school of mines is anything else than the actual work in the mines, accompanied by the studies suitable for the mining industry, the school will have for its object, to make, not miners, but chiefs of miners, aristocrats.

If the school of arts and crafts is anything but the art or craft taught, its aim will soon be to make, not artisans, but directors of artisans, aristocrats.

If the school of commerce is anything but the store, the counting house, it will not be used to make traders, but captains of industry, aristocrats.

If the naval school is anything but actual service on board ship, including even the service of the cabin boy, it will serve only as a means of marking two classes, sailors and officers.

Thus we see things go under our system of political oppression and industrial chaos. Our schools, when they are not establishments of luxury or pretexts for sinecures, are seminaries of aristocracy. It was not for the People that the Polytechnic, the Normal School, the military school at St. Cyr, the School of Law, were founded; it was to support, strengthen, and fortify the distinction between classes, in order to complete and make irrevocable the split between the working class and the upper class.

In a real democracy, in which each member should have instruction, both ordinary and advanced, under his control in his home, this superiority from schooling would not exist. It is contradictory to the principle of society. But when education is merged in apprenticeship; when it consists, as for theory, in the classification of ideas; as for practice, in the specialisation of work; when it becomes at once a matter of training the mind and of application to practical affairs in the workshop and in the house, it cannot any longer depend upon the State: it is incompatible with government. Let there be in the Republic a central bureau of education, another of manufactures and arts, as there is now an Academy of Sciences and an Office of Longitude. I see no objection. But again, what need for authority? Why such an intermediary between the student and the schoolroom, between the shop and the apprentice, when it is not admitted between the worker and the employer?

The three bureaus, of Public Works, of Agriculture and Commerce, and of Finance, will all disappear in the economic organism.

The first is impossible, for two reasons: 1st, the initiative of communes and departments as to works that operate within their jurisdiction; 2nd, the initiative of the workers companies as to carrying the works out.

Unless democracy is a fraud, and the sovereignty of the People a joke, it must be admitted that each citizen in the sphere of his industry, each municipal, district or provincial council within its own territory, is the only natural and legitimate representative of the Sovereign, and that therefore each locality should act directly and by itself in administering the interests which it includes, and should exercise full sovereignty in relation to them. The People is nothing but the organic union of wills that are individually free, that can and should voluntarily work together, but abdicate never. Such a union must be sought in the harmony of their interests, not in an artificial centralisation, which, far from expressing the collective will, expresses only the antagonisms of individual wills.

The direct, sovereign initiative of localities, in arranging for public works that belong to them, is a consequence of the democratic principle and the free contract: their subordination to the State is an invention of ’93, and a return to feudalism. [ . . . ]

I may add that, contrary as is the supremacy of the State to democratic principles in the matter of public works, it is also incompatible with the rights of workers created by the Revolution.

We have already had occasion to show, especially in connection with the establishment of a National Bank and the formation of workers companies, that in the economic order labour subordinated to itself both talent and capital. This the more, because that under the operation, sometimes simultaneous, sometimes independent, of the division of labour and of collective power, it becomes necessary for the workers to form themselves into democratic societies, with equal conditions for all members, on pain of a relapse into feudalism. Among the industries which demand this form of organisation, we have already mentioned railroads. We may add to these the construction and support of roads, bridges and harbours, and the work of afforestation, clearing, drainage, &c., in a word, all that we are in the habit of considering in the domain of the State.

If it becomes thenceforth impossible to regard as mere mercenaries the workers who are closely or distantly connected with the associations for buildings, for waters and forests, for mines; if we are to be forced to see this low mob as sovereign societies; how can we maintain the hierarchical relations of the minister to the heads of departments, of heads of departments to engineers, and of engineers to workers; how, in short, preserve the supremacy of the State?

The workers, much elated by the use of the political rights conferred upon them, will desire to exercise them in their fullness. Associating themselves, they will first choose leaders, engineers, architects, accountants; then they will bargain directly, as one power with another, with municipal and district authorities for the execution of public works. Far from submitting to the State, they will themselves be the State; that is to say, in all that concerns their industrial speciality, they will be the direct, active representative of the Sovereign. Let them set up an administration, open credit, give pledges, and the Country will find in them a guaranty superior to the State; for they will be responsible at least for their own acts, while the State is responsible for nothing.


After the Revolution has been accomplished at home will it also be accomplished abroad?

Who can doubt it? The Revolution would be vain if it were not contagious: it would perish, even in France, if it failed to become universal. Everybody is convinced of that. The least enthusiastic spirits do not believe it necessary for revolutionary France to interfere among other nations by force of arms: it will be enough for her to support, by her example and her encouragement, any effort of the people of foreign nations to follow her example.

What then is the Revolution, completed abroad as well as at home?

Capitalist and landlord exploitation stopped everywhere, wage-labour abolished, equal and just exchange guaranteed, value constituted, cheapness assured, the principle of protection changed, and the markets of the world opened to the producers of all nations; consequently the barrier struck down, the ancient law of nations replaced by commercial agreements; police, judiciary administration, everywhere committed to the hands of the workers; the economic organisation replacing the governmental and military system in the colonies as well as in the metropolises; finally, the free and universal commingling of races under the law of contract only: that is the Revolution.

Is it possible that in this state of affairs, in which all interests, agricultural, financial and industrial, are identical and interwoven, in which the governmental protectorate has nothing to do, either at home or abroad, is it possible that the nations will continue to form distinct political bodies, that they will hold themselves separate, when their producers and consumers are mingled, that they will still maintain diplomacy, to settle claims, to determine prerogatives, to arrange differences, to exchange guaranties, to sign treaties, &c., without any object?

To ask such a question is to answer it. It needs no demonstration; only some explanations from the point of view of nationalities.

Let us recall the principle. The reason for the institution of government, as we have said, is the economic chaos. When the Revolution has regulated this chaos, and organised the industrial forces, there is no further pretext for political centralisation; it is absorbed in industrial solidarity, a solidarity which is based upon general reason, and of which we may say, as Pascal said of the universe, that its centre is everywhere, its circumference nowhere.

When the institution of government has been abolished, and replaced by the economic organisation, the problem of the universal Revolution is solved. The dream of Napoléon is realised, and the chimera of the Dean of St. Peter’s[7] becomes a necessity.

It is the governments who, pretending to establish order among men, arrange them forthwith in hostile camps, and as their only occupation is to produce servitude at home, their art lies in maintaining war abroad, war in fact or war in prospect.

The oppression of peoples and their mutual hatred are two correlative, inseparable facts, which reproduce each other, and which cannot come to an end except simultaneously, by the destruction of their common cause, government.


If then science, and no longer religion or authority, is taken in every land as the rule of society, the sovereign arbiter of interests, government becoming void, all the legislation of the universe will be in harmony. There will no longer be nationality, no longer fatherland, in the political sense of the words: they will mean only places of birth. Whatever a man’s race or colour, he is really a native of the universe; he has citizen’s rights everywhere. As in a limited territory the municipality represents the Republic, and wields its authority, each nation on the globe represents humanity, and acts for it within the boundaries assigned by Nature. Harmony reigns, without diplomacy and without council, among the nations: nothing henceforward can disturb it.


End Notes

[7] Charles Irénée Castel, abbé de Saint-Pierre (1658-1743), radical thinker, author of a Projet de paix perpétuelle (1713). (Editor)


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