The greatest excitement has prevailed in Russia for the last few weeks since it became known that representatives of the Zemstvos of thirty-four provinces of the Empire were going to meet at St. Petersburg in order to discuss the necessary reforms in the general political organization of the country. The very fact that such an authorization had been granted was equivalent to an invitation to discuss a scheme of a Constitution; and so it was understood everywhere. When the Zemstvo delegates were leaving their respective provincial towns they were sent off by groups of enthusiastic friends, whose parting words were: ‘Return with a Constitution!’
Their original intention was to make of their conference a solemn official gathering which would speak to the Government in its official capacity, but at the last moment the Minister of the Interior refused to grant the necessary authorization; and as the Zemstvo delegates declared that they were decided to meet nevertheless, they were informed that they could do so only in private, and that their conference would be treated as a private gathering, but that their resolutions could be handed by a few delegates to the Minister of the Interior, and through his intermediacy to the Emperor. This is how this Conference, which surely will become an important historical date, took place on the 19th, 20th, and 21st of November at St. Petersburg.
The decisions of the Conference were expressed in eleven resolutions, which, as will be seen presently, are now becoming the program of an agitation which is gradually spreading all over Russia. Moreover, in contrast with all the petitions addressed to the Czar on previous occasions by certain Zemstvos, the present memorandum is couched in far more dignified language and in definite terms. It begins by mentioning ‘ the abnormal character of State government which has developed since the beginning of the eighties , and consists in a complete estrangement of the Government from the people, and the absence of that mutual confidence which is necessary for the life of the State’ (Section 1). ‘The present relations hetween the Government and the people’—they say further on—’ are based on a fear of the people’s self-administration, and on the exclusion of the people from the management of State affairs’ (Section 2). The result of it is that while the bureaucracy separates the Supreme Power [read The Emperor] from the nation, it thus creates the very conditions for an entire lawlessness in the administration, in which the personal will of every functionary takes the place of law (Section 3). This destroys confidence in the Government and hampers the development of the State (Sections 3 and 4). Consequently, the Zemstvos express the following desiderata, which deserve to be given in full, because in such historymaking documents as this the wording is almost as important as the general idea:
(5) In order to put an end to this lawlessness of the Administration, the inviolability of the individual and the private dwelling must be proclaimed and thoroughly carried out in life. Nobody can have a punishment or any restriction of his rights inflicted upon him without a sentence having been pronounced to this effect by an independent magistrate. For this purpose it is moreover necessary to establish such a responsibility of the members of the Administration as would allow of their being legally prosecuted for each breach of the law, in order thus to secure legality in the actions of the functionaries.
(6) For the full development of the intellectual forces of the nation, as also the expression of the real wants of society and the free exercise of public opinion, freedom of conscience, religion, speech, and press, as also of meeting and association, must be guaranteed.
(7) The personal and political rights of all the citizens of the empire must be equal.
(8) Self-administration being the main condition for the development of the political and economical life of the country, and the main body of the population of Russia belonging to the class of the peasants, these last must be placed in the conditions that are necessary for the development of self-help and energy, and this can only be obtained by putting an end to the present subordinate and lawless position of the peasants. Therefore it is necessary: (a) to equalize the rights of the peasants with those of all other classes; (6) to free them from the rule of the Administration in all their personal and social affairs; and (c) to grant them a regular form of justice.
(9) The provincial and the municipal institutions which are the main organs of local life must be placed in such conditions as to render them capable of performing the functions of organs of self-administration, endowed with wide powers. It is necessary for this purpose: (a) that the representation in the Zemstvos should not be based on class principles, and that all forces of the population should be summoned, as far as possible, to take part in that administration; (6) that the Zemstvo institutions should be brought nearer to the people by instituting a smaller self-administrative unit; (c) that the circle of activity of the Zemstvos and the municipal institutions should include all the local needs; and (d) that these institutions should acquire the necessary stability and independence, without which no regular development of their activity and their relations to the organs of the Government is possible. Local self-government must be extended to all the parts of the Empire.
(10) For creating and maintaining a close intercourse between the Government and the nation, on the basis of the just-mentioned principles, and for the regular development of the life of the State, it is absolutely necessary that representatives of the nation, constituting a specially elected body, should participate in the legislative power, the establishment of the State’s budget, and the control of the Administration. [The minority of the conference, consisting of twenty-seven persons, accepted this paragraph only as far as the words ‘should participate in the legislative power.’]
(11) In view of the gravity and the difficulties of both the internal and external conditions which the nation is now living through, this private conference expresses the hope that the supreme power will call together the representatives of the nation, in order to lead our Fatherland, with their help, on to a new path of national development in the sense of establishing a closer union between the State’s authority and the nation.
This memorandum, signed by 102 delegates out of 104—two abstaining—was handed to Prince Sviatopolk Mirsky, and through him to the Emperor. Four more resolutions were taken later on by the same Conference, and they offer a special interest, as they represent a first attempt at legislation upon a definite subject in the form, well known in olden times in this country, of a Royal petition. Three of these resolutions, which concern education, blame the Government for its negative attitude in this matter, and ask full freedom for the Zemstvos to deal with it; while the fourth demands the abrogation of the state-of-siege law and an amnesty in the following terms:
Considering that the Law of the 26th of August 1881, embodying the Measures for the Maintenance of Order in the State [state-of-siege law] is one of the chief causes which favor the development of lawlessness in the Administration and breed popular discontent, which both stand in the way of mutual confidence and unity between the Government and the population, the Conference finds that the repeal of this law is desirable. Besides, taking into consideration that the system of administratively inflicted penalties, which has been applied lately on a large scale in virtue of that law, has produced a great number of victims of the arbitrary actions of the Administration who are now suffering various penalties and limitations in their legal rights, the Conference considers it its duty to express itself in favor of a complete remission of all penalties inflicted by mere orders of the Administration. It expresses at the same time the hope that the Supreme Power will introduce pacification in the country by an act of amnesty for all persons undergoing penalties for political offenses.
The Press was not permitted to mention the Zemstvo Conference, or to discuss its resolutions; but the latter were hectographed in thousands of copies at St. Petersburg, reprinted in a more or less clandestine way in many cities, and spread broadcast all over Russia. On the other side, as soon as Sviatopolk Mirsky had made his declarations about the need of ‘confidence between the Government and the nation’—confirming his declarations by the release of a small number of ‘administrative’ exiles—the Press at once adopted quite a new tone. The need for a new departure, under which the nation would be called to participate in the government of the country, began to be expressed in a very outspoken way. All the main questions concerning the revision of taxation, the necessity of not merely returning to the original law of the Zemstvos (altered in 1890), but of revising it in the sense of an abolition of the present division into ‘orders’; the necessity of reestablishing the elected Justices of the Peace, and of granting a thorough self-government to all the provinces of the Empire; the equality of political rights of all citizens, and so on—these and numbers of similar questions are discussed now with the greatest liberty in the daily Press, and nobody conceals any longer his disgust of the reactionary r&eactue;gime which has swayed Russia for the last thirty years.
Of course, censorship continues to make its victims. The review Law (Pravo) has already received two warnings, and of the two new dailies, one (Son of the Fatherland), which came out under a new ‘populist’ editorship, is already suppressed for three months; while the other (Our Life), which has Social Democratic tendencies, has its sale in the streets forbidden. With all that, the Press, with a striking unanimity, support the Zemstvo resolutions, without naming them. Even the Novoye Vremya, which has always vacillated between ultra-Conservative and Liberal opinions, according to the direction of the wind in the upper spheres, is now Constitutionalist. As to the ultra-reactionary Prince Meschersky, owner of the Grazhdanin, he has published some of the most outspoken articles against the old régime—only to turn next day against those who demand a Constitution. Since 1861, this gentleman’s house has been the center of a semi-Slavophile but chiefly landlord and bureaucracy opposition to the reforms of Alexander the Second. Hold was adroitly taken in this center of the two successive heirs to the throne, Nikolai Alexandrovitch and his brother, who became later on Alexander the Third, in order to secure, through them, an overthrow of all the reforms made by their father. Now, the Grazhdanin reflects the unsettled condition of mind in the Winter Palace spheres. The Moscow Gazette is thus the only consequent defender of the old régime. At the same time, the provincial Press acquires a new importance every day, especially in Southern, South-Western, and South-Eastern Russia. I have several of these papers before me, and cannot but admire the straightforward and well-informed way in which they discuss all political questions. They reveal quite a new provincial life.
It would be impossible to render in a few words the depth and breadth of the agitation provoked in Russia by the Zemstvo Conference. To begin with, ‘the Resolutions’ were signed at once by numbers of persons of high standing in St. Petersburg society, who do not belong to the Zemstvos. The same is now done in the provinces, so that the memorandum of the Zemstvos becomes a sort of ultimatum—it cannot be called a petition—addressed by the educated portion of the nation to the Emperor. In most provincial cities the return of the Zemstvo delegates is being made the occasion of influential meetings, at which the members of the Provincial Assemblies (the District Assemblies will follow suit) send to St. Petersburg their approval of the resolutions; while numbers of landlords and other influential persons in the provinces seize this opportunity for adding their signatures to those of the Zemstvo delegates.
Wherever a few educated persons come together, nothing is spoken of but the coming Constitution. Even the appalling war has been relegated to the background, while the constitutional agitation takes every day some new form. In the universities, both professors and students join it. The former sign the resolutions, while the latter formulate similar resolutions, or organize street demonstrations to support them. Such demonstrations have taken place already at St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Kieff, and they surely will be joined by working men as soon as they spread southwards. And if they are dispersed by force they will result in bloodshed, of which none can foresee the end.
Another important current in the movement was created by the celebrations of the fortieth anniversary of the Judicial Law, which was promulgated on the 2nd of December 1864. Large meetings of lawyers (avocats), followed by banquets, at which all professions of ‘intellectuals ‘ were represented, including members of the magistracy and, occasionally, of the administration, have been held at St. Petersburg, Moscow, Saratoff, Minsk, Tomsk, and so on; and at all these meetings the program of the Zemstvos, reinforced by strong resolutions requiring the repeal of the exceptional state-of-siege law and condemning the whole régime under which Russia is now, was voted and transmitted to the Minister of the Interior. At Moscow the resolutions passed at the meeting of the lawyers were worded very strongly, as may be seen from the following characteristic abstracts:
1 (1) The fundamental principles of Right, expressed in the Judicial Law of the 2nd of December 1864, and which recognize only such a form of State life, in which all the actions of all are submitted to law, equal for all, and applied by the Courts with no regard to any outside influence, are incompatible with the principles of the bureaucratic lawlessness which endeavors to take hold of every manifestation of life and to submit it to its uncontrolled power.’ . . . ‘(4) The principle of religions tolerance, proclaimed in this law, was brought into nonexistence by a series of by-laws and circulars, by means of which large portions of the population were placed into special categories, and deprived of important personal, family and property rights—and this, not for crimes of theirs, and not in virtue of legal sentences, but merely for the expression of the dictates of their conscience, and by mere orders of the Administration.’ . . . ‘(7) The principle of an independent Justice, equal for all, has been reduced to naught by the abolition of all guarantees of independence ‘ ; and the declaration enumerates the main by-laws by means of which this purpose was achieved.
And, finally, their last resolution expresses what every educated Russian is thinking, while at the same time it contains a reply to the Czar’s manifesto of April 1903. It runs as follows:
It appears from all the life of Russia for the last forty years that it is absolutely hopeless to endeavor to introduce in our country the reign of Right, so long as the arbitrary rule of bureaucracy continues to exist, even though all sorts of rights may be inscribed in our code.
Nothing short of a thorough reform in the fundamental laws of the State can secure the ends of justice and law—such is the conclusion of the Moscow lawyers.
Striking facts were produced at these meetings. Thus, the following figures just published by The Messenger of Law will illustrate the lawlessness which prevails under Nicholas the Second in all matters concerning political offenses. From 1894 till 1901, not one single political affair was brought before a court of justice or an examining magistrate. All inquests were dealt with by police officers or functionaries of the Ministry of the Interior. As to the numbers of such cases, they are simply extravagant. Thus in 1903 no fewer than 1988 political cases, concerning 5590 persons, were opened, in addition to all those which were pending. In the same year, 1522 inquests, involving 6450 persons, were terminated. Out of this number 1583 persons were liberated, 45 were sent before courts-martial, and no fewer than 4867 persons were submitted to various penalties, including imprisonment, inflicted by the Administration, without the interference of any magistrate. Out of these, no fewer than 1502 were sent into exile, for terms up to ten years, to various remote provinces of Russia and Siberia! Nothing on this scale was done even under Alexander the Third, the corresponding figure for the last year of his reign being only 55 (in 1894).
The Judicial Law of 1864 contained certain guarantees against the arbitrary action of the police. But, as has been indicated during the last few days, already in 1870 and 1875 the preliminary inquest was taken out of the hands of independent examining magistrates and was handed to the ordinary police and the State police officers. No fewer than seven hundred by-laws have been issued since 1864 for tearing the Judicial Law to pieces—limiting the rights of the courts, abolishing trial by jury in numerous cases, and so on; so that—to use the expression of the Saratoff lawyers’ meeting—’ all the principles of the law of Alexander the Second have been annihilated. This law exists only in name.’
At the same time the exceptional laws promulgated during the last two reigns have given to every police officer, in every province of the Empire, the right to arrest every Russian subject without warrant, and to keep him imprisoned as a suspect for seven days— and much longer under various other pretexts—without incurring any responsibility. More than that. It was ‘publicly vouched at one of the lawyers’ meetings that when arrests are made en masse, simple policemen receive in advance printed and signed warrants of arrest and searching, on which they have only to inscribe the names of the persons whom they choose to arrest! Let me add that all these resolutions and comments have been printed in full, in both the provincial and the Moscow papers, and that the figures are those of official reports.
At St. Petersburg the fortieth anniversary of the Judicial Law was celebrated by nearly 700 persons—lawyers, literary people, and soon—and their resolutions were equally outspoken.
The martyrology of the Judicial Law [they said] is a striking illustration of the fact that under the autocratic and bureaucratic régime which prevails in Russia the most elementary conditions of a regular civil life cannot be realized, and partial reforms of the present structure of the State would not attain their aim.
The Assembly confirmed therefore the resolutions of the Zemstvo representatives, only wording the chief ones still more definitely, in the following terms:
3. That all laws be made and taxes established only with the participation and the consent of representatives, freely elected by all the nation.
4. That the responsibility of the Ministers before the Assembly of Representatives of the nation should be introduced, in order to guarantee the legality of the actions and the orders of the Administration.
For this purpose, and in view of the extremely difficult conditions in which the country is now involved, the Assembly demanded the immediate convocation ‘of a Constituent Assembly, freely elected by the people,’ and ‘a complete and unconditional amnesty for all political and religious offenses,’ as well as measures guaranteeing the freedom and the possibility of responsible elections, and also the inviolability of the representatives of the people. This declaration was signed by 673 persons, and sent to the Minister of the Interior.
The anniversary meetings of the Judicial Law being over, the agitation has already taken a new form. It is the municipalities, beginning with Moscow and St. Petersburg, which now pass the same resolutions. They ask for the abolition of the exceptional laws and for the convocation of a representative Assembly, and they insist upon holding a general Conference of representatives of all the Russian cities and towns, which would certainly express the same desires.
It is evident that the reactionary party is also at work, and a meeting of reactionists took place at the house of Pobiedonostseff, in order to discuss how to put a stop to the constitutional movement. They will leave, of course, not a stone unturned to influence the Czar in this direction, and, to begin with, they hit upon the idea of convoking meetings of the nobility in different provinces. They expected that such meetings would vote against a Constitution. But, beginning with Moscow, they met with a complete fiasco; the Moscow nobility adopted the same resolutions as the Zemstvos. More than that. A new movement was set on foot, in the old capital, in the same direction. A few days ago, at a meeting of the Moscow Agricultural Society, one of the members proposed a resolution demanding the abolition of the exceptional state-of-siege law promulgated in 1881. He met with some opposition, but after brilliant speeches had been pronounced in support of the resolution it was voted with only one dissentient.
One may expect now that many other societies, economic and scientific, will follow the example of the Moscow agriculturists. In the meantime the public libraries, both municipal and supported by private contributions, have inaugurated a movement for demanding a release from the rigors of censorship. There is in Russia a special censorship for the libraries, and even out of those books which have been published in Russia with the consent of the censorship many works, chiefly historical and political, are not permitted to be kept in the circulating libraries. The Smolensk public library has now petitioned the Minister of the Interior asking for the abolition of these restrictions, and this petition is sure to be followed by many others of a similar kind, the more so as simply prohibitive restrictions are imposed upon the village libraries, the public lectures, and, in fact, in the whole domain of popular education.
It will be noticed that in all the above resolutions the form to be given to representative government has not yet been defined. Must Russia have two Houses or one? Will she have seven or nine Parliaments (like Canada) and a Federal Senate? What extension is to be given to the federative principle? And soon. All these matters have not yet been discussed in detail. It is only known that some Zemstvo delegates, under the presidency of M. Shipoff, are discussing these vital questions. However, as the Zemstvos exist in thirty-four provinces only, out of fifty, of European Russia proper, and there are besides Finland, Poland, the Caucasus, Siberia, Turkestan, and the Steppe Region, no scheme of representative government can be worked out without the consent of these units. This is why the idea of a Constituent Assembly is gaining ground. All that can be said in the meantime is, that the Jacobinist ideas of the centralizers find but little sympathy in Russia, and that, on the contrary, the prevailing idea is that of a federation, with full home rule for its component parts, of which Finnish home rule may be taken as a practical illustration.
Such are, then, up to the 18th of December, the main facts of the constitutional agitation which is going on in Russia. And from all sides we hear the same questions: ‘Is it really the end of autocracy that is coming? Is Russia going to pass from autocracy to representative government, without a revolution similar to that of 1789 to 1793 in France? Is the present movement deep enough to attain its goal? And, again, are the Czar and his nearest advisers prepared to make the necessary concessions, without being compelled to do so by popular uprisings and internal commotions?
First of all, let it be well understood that there is nothing unforeseen in the demand of a Constitution, so unanimously expressed by the representatives of provincial self-government. Over and over again, for the last forty years, they have expressed the same desire, and it is for the third or fourth time that they now address similar demands to the Emperor. They did it in 1880-1881. They repeated it in 1894, as soon as Nicholas the Second came to the throne, and again in 1902 in connection with the Committees on the depression of agriculture. At the beginning of this year, when the war broke out and the Zemstvos decided to send their own field-hospitals to the seat of war (these hospitals, by the way, are described as the best in Manchuria), representatives of all the Zemstvos demanded the permission to meet together, to agree upon joint action in the organization of relief for the wounded, as well as for the families of the Reservists. On both occasions the authorization was refused and the meetings forbidden; but on both occasions the Zemstvo delegates held secret conferences at Moscow and discussed their affairs in spite of the menaces of Plehve (Shipoff went for that into exile). And in both cases they concluded that the convocation of a National Assembly had become an imperative necessity. The present move is thus a further development of several former ones. It is the expression of a long-felt need.
The necessity of a representative government for Russia was spoken of immediately after the death of Nicholas the First, and we are informed by Prince Tatischeff (Alexander The Second and his Times) that as early as in 1856 Alexander the Second had had a plan of a Constitution worked out. However, precedence had to be given then to the abolition of serfdom and the terrible corporal punishments then in use (which meant a judicial reform); besides, some sort of local self-government had first to be created. These reforms filled up the years 1859-1866. But in the meantime the Polish revolution broke out (in 1863), and it was then believed at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the uprising was supported by promises of intervention given to its leaders by the Western Powers.
This revolution had the worst imaginable consequences for Russia. It closed the reform period. Reaction set in—the reaction which has lasted up to the present day, and which has cost Russia hecatombs of her best and most devoted men and women. All schemes of constitutional changes were abandoned, and we learn from the same author that the reason which Alexander the Second gave for this abandonment was his fear for the integrity of the Empire. He came to Moscow in 1865, and there, at his Illynsky Palace, he received Golohvastoff—that same President of Nobility in one of the districts of the Moscow province who had forwarded to the Czar an address, in the name of the nobility he represented, demanding a Constitution. The words which Alexander is reported to have said to Golohvastoflf during the interview are most characteristic: ‘I give you my word,’ he said, ‘that on this same table I would sign any Constitution you like if I were sure that this would be for the good of Russia. But I know that if I did it to-day, to-morrow Russia would go to pieces. And you do not desire such an issue. Last year you yourselves [the Moscow nobility] told me that, and you were the first to say so.’ There is no reason to doubt the authenticity of these words. They are just what Alexander the Second would have said, and while he was uttering them he was quite sincere. But, as I have explained in my Memoirs, his was a very complicated nature, and while the menace of the Western Powers, ready to favor the dismemberment of the Empire, must have strongly impressed him, the Autocrat also spoke in him, and still more so the man who demanded above all to be trusted implicitly. On this last point he was extremely sensitive.
Be that as it may, the idea of giving Russia a Constitution was temporarily abandoned; but it cropped up again ten years later. The great movement ‘towards the people’ was then in full swing. The prisons were overflowing with political prisoners, and a series of political trials, which had taken place with open doors, had produced a deep impression on the public. Thereupon Alexander the Second handed in a scheme of a Constitution, to be reported upon to the Professor of Civil Law and the author of a book much spoken of on this subject—K. P. Pobiedonostseff!
What the appreciations of Pobiedonostseff were, we do not know; but, as he has expressed his views on representative government in a number of works, we may be certain that his report was negative. His ideal is a Church, as strongly organized as the Catholic Church, permeating all the life of society and assuming, if need be, a fighting attitude against the rival Churches. Freedom and Parliamentary rule are the enemies of such a Church; consequently, he concludes, autocracy must be maintained; and Russia is predestined to realize the happiness of the people under the rod of the Church. The worst was that Pobiedonostseff succeeded for years in maintaining a reputation for honesty, and only lately has it become evident that, although he does not care for wealth, he cherishes power and is most unscrupulous as to the means by which he maintains his influence at Court.
In 1876 Alexander the Second was thus besieged with doubts. But then came the uprising in Servia, the Turkish War, the Berlin Treaty, and once more the inner reforms were postponed. The Turkish War revealed, however, such depths of disorganization in the State machine that, once it was over, the time had apparently come for making a serious move in the constitutional direction. Discontent “was general, and when the trial of ‘The Hundred and Ninety-three’ began at the end of 1878, and full reports of it were given in the papers, the sympathies of the educated classes went all in favor of the accused, and all against their accusers. The moment was opportune; but one of those omnipotent functionaries who had teen nurtured in the atmosphere of the Winter Palace, Trépoff, gave a different turn to affairs.
The history of the years 1878-1881 is so fresh in the memories of all that it need not be retold. How, immediately after the excitement produced at St. Petersburg by the above trial, Trépoff, the head of the St. Petersburg Police, ordered one of the ‘politicals’ to be flogged in prison; how thereupon Véra Zasulitch shot at Trépoff, and wounded him; how Alexander the Second, inspired by the Chief of the State Police, Mézentsoff, revised the relatively mild sentences pronounced by the Court in the trial of ‘The Hundred and Ninety-three,’ and rendered them very much heavier; how, in reply to this, Mézentsoff was killed in broad daylight; and how this was the beginning of a fearful straggle between the Government and the revolutionists, which ended in a wholesale slaughter and transportation to Siberia of the best elements of a whole generation, including children sixteen years old, and in Alexander the Second losing his life—all this is well known. It is also known that he was killed the very day that he had made a timid and belated concession to public opinion by deciding to submit to the State Council a scheme for the convocation of an Assemblée des Notables.
This scheme is often described as a Constitution. But Alexander the Second himself never attributed to it this meaning. The proposal of Loris Melikoff, which received the approval of the Czar on the 17th of February (March 1), 1881, consisted in this: the Ministries were to bring together by the next autumn all the materials which they possessed concerning the reorganization of the Central Government. Then special Committees, composed of representatives of the different Ministries, as well as of persons invited by the Government for this purpose, would prepare schemes for reform of the Central Government’ within the limits which would be indicated by the Emperor.’ These schemes, before submitting them to the State Council, would be discussed by a general Commission composed as follows: (a) Persons nominated by the Emperor out of members of the above Committees ; (6) delegates from the provinces in which the Zemstvos have been introduced—two delegates per province, elected by the provincial Zemstvos—as also delegates from a few important cities; and (c) members nominated by the Government to represent the provinces which had no Zemstvo institutions. Only the members mentioned under (a) would have the right of voting; the others, (6) and (c), would only express their opinions, but not vote. The Commission itself would have no legislative power; its resolutions would be submitted to the State Council and the Emperor in the usual way.
This measure had to be made public, and on the 1st (13th) of March Alexander the Second approved the draft of a manifesto which had to be issued to this effect. He only desired it to be read at a meeting of the Committee of the Ministers on the following Wednesday. He was killed, as is well known, a few hours later, and the next Committee of Ministers, which took place on the 8th (20th) of March, was presided over by his son, Alexander the Third. The meeting fully approved the manifesto, which had now only to be printed. But Alexander the Third hesitated. Old Wilhelm the First had advised him to yield; but the reactionary party, headed by Pobiedonostseff and Katkoff, was very active in the opposite direction. Katkoff was called from Moscow to exert a pressure on the Czar by the side of Pobiedonostseff, and Alexander was easily persuaded by Count Ignatieff and such a specialist in police matters as the Préfet of Paris, M. Andrieux, that the revolutionary movement could easily be crushed. Whilst all this was going on the Liberal Ministers, who were in favor of constitutional reforms, undertook nothing decisive, and Alexander the Third, who had already written to his brother: ‘I feel so happy: the weight is off my shoulders, I am granting a Constitution,’ yielded the other way. On the 29th of April (11th of May) he issued his autocratic manifesto, written by Pobiedonostseff, in which he declared: ‘Amid our affliction, the voice of God orders us to vigorously take the ruling power in our own hands, with faith in Providence and trust in the truth and might of the Autocratic Power which we are called upon to reinforce and to protect against all attacks, for the welfare of the nation.’
One of the first acts of this personal power was the promulgation of that state-of-siege law which, as we saw, handed all classes of Russia to the now omnipotent police officials, and made of Bussia one great State prison. Thus began those gloomy years 1881-1894, of which none of those who lived them through can think otherwise than as of a nightmare.
To tell the truth, Alexander the Third was not exactly a despot in his heart, although he acted like one. Under the influence of the Slavophile, Konstantin Aksakoff, he had come to believe that the mission of autocracy in Russia is to give a certain well-being to the peasants, which could never be attained under a representative government. Towards the end of his life he even used to say that there were only two thorough Socialists, Henry the Fourth and himself. What induced him to say so I do not know. At any rate, when he came to the throne he adopted a program which was explained in a French review, in an article generally attributed to Turguéneff. Its main points were: a considerable reduction of the redemption tax which the ex-serfs paid for their liberation; a radical change in the system of imperial taxation, including the abolition of the ‘poll-tax,’ and the excise on salt; measures facilitating both the temporary migrations of the peasants and emigration to the Urals and Siberia; rural banks, and so on. Most of these measures were carried through during his reign; but in return the peasants were deprived of some of the most elementary personal and civil rights which they had obtained under Alexander the Second. Suffice it to say that instead of the Justices of the Peace, formerly elected by all the population, special police officers, nominated by the Governors, were introduced, and they were endowed with the most unlimited rights over the village communities, and over every peasant individually. Flogging, as in the times of serfdom, was made once more an instrument of ‘educating’ the peasants. Every rural policeman became a governor of his village. The majority of the schools were handed over to Pobiedonostseff. As to the Zemstvos, not only were they gradually transformed more and more into mere boards of administration under the local Governor, but the peasants were deprived of the representation which they hitherto had in that institution. The police officers became even more omnipotent than ever. If a dozen schoolmasters came together they were treated as conspirators. The reforms of 1861-1866 were treated as the work of rank revolutionists, and the very name of Alexander the Second became suspect. Never can a foreigner realize the darkness of the cloud which hung over Russia during that unfortunate reign. It is only through the deep note of despair sounded in the novels and sketches of Tchéekoff and several of his contemporaries—’ the men of the eighties’—that one can get a faint idea of that gloom.
However, man always hopes, and as soon as Nicholas the Second came to the throne new hopes were awakened. I have spoken of these hopes in the pages of this Review, and shown how soon they faded away. Since then Nicholas the Second has not shown the slightest desire to repair any one of the grave faults of his father, but he has added very many new ones.
Everywhere he and his Ministers have bred discontent—in Finland, in Poland, in Armenia (by plundering the Armenian Church), in Georgia, in the Zemstvos, among all those who are interested in education, among the students—in fact, everywhere. But that is not all. There is one striking feature in this reign. All these last ten years there has been no lack of forces which endeavored to induce the ruler of Russia to adopt a better policy; and all through these ten years he himself—so weak for good—found the force to resist them. At the decisive moment he always had enough energy to turn the scales in favor of reaction by throwing in the weight of his own personal will. Every time he interfered in public matters—be it in the student affairs, in Finland, or when he spoke so insolently to the Zemstvo delegates on his advent to the throne—every time his interference was for bad.
However, already during the great strikes of 1895, and still more so during the student disturbances of 1897, it had become apparent that the old régime could not last long. Notwithstanding all prosecutions, a quite new Russia had come into existence since 1881. In the seventies it was only the youth which revolted against the old régime. In our circles a man of thirty was an old man. In 1897 men of all ages, even men like Prince Viazemskiy, member of the Council of State, or the Union of Writers, and thousands of elderly men scattered all over the country, joined in a unanimous protest against the autocratic bureaucracy.
It was then that Witte began to prepare the gradual passage from autocracy to some sort of a constitutional régime. His Commissions on the Impoverishment of Agriculture in Central Russia were evidently meant to supply that intermediate step. In every district of the thirty-four provinces which have the Zemstvo institutions, Committees, composed of the Zemstvos and of local men invited ad hoc, were asked to discuss the causes of this impoverishment. Most remarkable things were said in these Committees, by noblemen and functionaries, and especially by simple peasants—all coming to one conclusion: Russia cannot continue to exist under the police rule which was inaugurated in 1881. Political liberties and representative government have become a most urgent necessity. ‘We have something to say about our needs, and we will say it’—this was what peasant and landlord alike said in these Commissions. The convocation of an Assembly of the representatives of all provinces of Russia had thus become unavoidable. But then Nicholas the Second, under the instigation and with the connivance of Plehve, made his little coup d’etat. Witte was shelved in the Council of State, and Plehve became an omnipotent satrap. However, it is now known that in 1902 Plehve had handed to Nicholas the Second a memoir in which he accused Witte of preparing a revolutionary movement in Russia, and already then the Czar had decided in his mind to get rid of Witte and his Commissions. This he did, handing Russia to that man whom the worst reactionists despised, even though they called upon him to be their savior.
An orgy of insolent police omnipotence now began: the wholesale deportation of all discontents; massacres of the Jews, of which the instigators, such as the Moldavian Krushevan, editor of the Bessarabets, were under the personal protection of the Minister; an orgy of wholesale bribery, general corruption, and intimidation. And Nicholas the Second had not one word to say against that man! Only now, when Plehve’s successors have brought to the Czar the copies of all his Majesty’s correspondence with the Grand Dukes, which Plehve opened and had carefully copied for some unknown purpose— only now they go about in the Winter Palace exclaiming: ‘It is Plehve who is the cause of all that agitation! It is he who has brought upon us all this odium!’ As if Plehve was not their last hope—the last card of autocracy! Truly has the lawyer Korobchevsky said before the Court, in defense of his client Sazonoff: ‘The bomb which killed the late Minister of the Interior was filled, not with dynamite, but with the burning tears of the mothers, sisters wives, and daughters of the men whom he sent to the gallows or to die slowly in prison or in Siberia!’
But who are these new men of the Zemstvos—it will be asked— who come now so prominently to the front? Are they capable of playing the responsible part which history seems to bestow upon them?
When provincial self-government was introduced forty years ago there certainly was among the promoters of this reform some sort of idea like this: ‘Let the landlords, the merchants, the peasants, familiarize themselves, through the provincial and the district assemblies, with representative government and the management of public affairs.’ This is also how the reform was understood on the spot, and this is why the Zemstvos attracted at the outset so many of the best provincial forces.
The mode of composition of these assemblies is original. Russia, as is known, is divided into provinces, and each province into ten to twelve districts. Leaving aside Poland (ten provinces), Finland (which has its own Parliament), Caucasia and Asiatic Russia (Siberia, Turkestan, the Steppe Region), European Russia is divided into fifty provinces, out of which thirty-four have now the institution of the Zemstvo. This means that in these provinces each district has an assembly, elected by all the inhabitants, for the management of quite a number of local matters. Each assembly nominates its own executive, and all the district assemblies nominate a Provincial Assembly, which also has its executive, and is presided over by the provincial President of the Nobility. The towns have their own municipal government. The district elections, however, are made separately by the three ‘orders’—the nobility, the mixed landowners (merchants and peasant proprietors), and the peasants belonging to the village communities. Besides, as the foundation of the electoral rights is the value of landed property owned by each person in the district, and the nobility are the chief landowners, the result is that in most assemblies the number of peasant representatives is inferior to those of the other two orders taken together. Only in certain north-eastern provinces such as Vyatka have the peasants a dominating voice. This is, at least, how the Zemstvos were constituted till 1890, when the would-be ‘Peasant Czar’ further reduced the number of peasant delegates.
It would seem that under such an organization the Zemstvos would soon become mere administrative boards, on which the country squires would find a number of well-paid positions. So it was indeed at the outset in some central provinces, where the landlords of the old school had the upper hand. But on the other hand there were also provinces, such as Tver (an old nest of ‘ Decembrists’), Voronezh, Poltava, partly Ryazán, etc., in which the nobility, owing to various circumstances, took the lead of the reform movement. In these provinces, as also in the north-eastern ones, in which the peasants dominate, the Zemstvos became an active force for introducing in the villages all sorts of useful institutions on a democratic basis. These two sorts of Zemstvos became the leaders of the others. This is why, notwithstanding all the obstacles opposed to them by the Central Government, the Zemstvos, as a rule, have accomplished something. They have laid the foundation of a rational system of popular education. They have placed sanitation in the villages on a sound basis, and worked out the system which answers best the purpose of free medical help for the peasants and the laboring classes. They elected Justices of Peace who were decidedly popular. And some of the Zemstvos are doing good work by spreading in the villages better methods of agriculture, by the supply of improved machinery at cost price, by spreading co-operative workshops and creameries, by mutual insurance, by introducing school gardens, and so on. All this, of course, within the narrow limits imposed by the present economical conditions, but capable, like similar beginnings in Western Europe, of a considerable extension.
Another important feature is that the Zemstvos draw into their service a considerable number of excellent men, truly devoted to the people, who in their turn exercise a decided influence upon the whole of the Zemstvo institution. Here is a country district in North-Western Russia. Its district assembly consists of twenty noblemen elected by the nobility, one deputy from the clergy (nominated by the Church), one functionary of the Crown (who sits by right), five deputies elected by the second ‘order’ of mixed landowners (merchants, peasant proprietors, etc.), and nine peasants from the third ‘order,’ representing the village communities. They decide, let us say, to open a number of village schools. But the salaries of the teachers are low, the schoolmasters’ houses are poor log-huts, and the assembly people know that nobody but a’ populist,’ who loves the people and looks upon his work as upon his mission, will come and stay. And so the ‘ populist’ comes in as a teacher. But it is the same with the Zemstvo doctor, who is bound to attend to a number of villages. He has to perform an incredible amount of work, traveling all the year round, every day, from village to village, over impassable roads, amid a poverty which continually brings him to despair—read only Tchékoff’s novels! And, therefore, nobody but a ‘ populist’ will stay. And it is the same with the midwife, the doctor’s aid, the agricultural inspector, the cooperator, and so on. And when several Zemstvos undertook, with their limited budgets, to make house-to-house statistical inquests in the villages, whom could they find but devoted ‘populists’ to carry on the work and to build up that wonderful monument, the 450 volumes of the Zemstvo inquests? Read Ertel’s admirable novel, Changing Guards, and you will understand the force which these teachers, doctors, statisticians, etc., represent in a province.
The more the Zemstvos develop their activity, the more this ‘third element’ grows; and now it is they—the men and women on the spot, who toil during the snowstorm and amid a typhus-stricken population—who speak for the people and make the Zemstvo speak and act for it. A new Russia has grown in this way. And this Russia hates autocracy, and makes the Zemstvos hate it with a greater hatred than any which would have sprung from theories borrowed from the West. At every step every honest man of the Zemstvo finds the bureaucracy—dishonest, ignorant, and arrogant—standing in his way. And if these men shout, ‘Down with autocracy!’ it is because they know by experience that autocracy is incompatible with real progress.
These are, then, the various elements which are arraigned in Russia against the old institutions. Will autocracy yield, and make substantial concessions—in time, because time plays an immense part under such conditions? This we do not know. But that they never will be able any more to stop the movement, this is certain. It is said that they think at the Winter Palace to pass a few measures in favor of the peasants, but to avoid making any constitutional concessions. However, this will not help. Any improvement in the condition of the peasants will be welcome. But if they think that therefore they will be able to limit their concessions to the invitation of a few representatives of the provinces to the Council of State, where they may take part in its deliberations, this is a gross mistake. Such a measure might have pacified the minds in 1881, if Alexander the Third had honestly fulfilled the last will of his father. It might have had, perhaps, some slight effect ten years ago, if Nicholas the Second had listened then to the demand of the Zemstvos. But now this will do no longer. The energy of the forces set in motion is too great to be satisfied with such a trifling result. And if they do not make concessions very soon, the Court party may easily learn the lesson which Louis Philippe learned in the last days of February 1848. In those days the situation at Paris changed every twenty-four hours, and therefore the concessions made by the Ministry always came too late. Each time they answered no longer to the new requirements.
In all the recent discussions nothing has yet been said about the terrible economical conditions of the peasants and the working men in the factories. All the resolutions were limited to a demand of political rights, and thus they seem to imply that the leading idea of the agitation was to obtain, first, political rights, and to leave the discussion of the economical questions to the future representative Government. If this were so, I should see in such a one-sidedness the weak point of the agitation. However, we have already in the resolutions of the committees on the Impoverishment of Central Russia a wide program of changes, required by the peasants themselves and it would be of the greatest importance to circulate this program at once in the villages.
It is quite certain that every Russian—even the poorest of the peasants—is interested in the destruction of the secular political yoke to which all Russia is harnessed. But the destruction of that yoke, if it has to be done in reality, and not on paper only, is an immense work, which cannot be accomplished unless all classes of society, and especially the toiling classes, join in it. Autocracy has its outgrowths in every village. It is even probable that no progress in the overthrow of that institution will be made so long as the peasant masses do not bring their insurrections to bear upon the decisions of the present rulers. They must be told, therefore, frankly and openly by the educated classes, what the intentions of the latter are concerning the great problem which is now at this very moment facing millions of Russian peasants: ‘How to live till the next crop?’ Let us hope, therefore, that those who have started the present agitation with so much energy will also see that they must tell the ninety million Russian peasants the improvements in the economical conditions of the toiling masses which they can expect under the new régime, in addition to the acquisition of political rights.
 The smallest self-administrating unit is now the district (uyezd), which embodies from 100,000 to 200,000 inhabitants. The next unit below it, the canton (volost), has also a self-administration, but only for the peasants. The Zemstvo resolution asks for a self-governed canton, composed of all the inhabitants, while the peasant self-government would be limited to the village community. It must be said that all the peasant self-government, introduced in 1861, had been entirely wrecked under Alexander III. by the introduction of special ‘land-chiefs,’ nominated by the Governor of the Province, and endowed with unlimited rights.
 The Memoirs of Prince Meschersky contain extremely instructive data in this respect.
 Here is the resolution passed on the 9th of December by the Zadneprovsk public library at Smolensk, and published in the Russian papers:—’ After having heard the statement of the committee concerning the difficulties standing in its way the meeting decided to ask from the Minister of Interior: (1) The abolition of the by-laws according to which the administration and the helpers of the library have to receive the investiture of the Government; (2) that all books allowed to circulate in Russia be allowed to be kept in the library; (3) the abolition of censorship; (4) to permit educational societies to be opened after a mere notification. At the same time the meeting has entrusted its committee to inform the Minister of the Interior of its deep conviction that the spreading of education in the country is quite impossible without the rights and the dignity of the individual, and the liberty of conscience, speech, the Press, the associations and meetings being guaranteed.’
 They had asked indeed that the integrity of the Empire should be maintained, and that Poland should not be separated from Russia.
 See, for instance, his article in the North American Review, September 1901, in which he threw the responsibility for the law in virtue of which students, for university disturbances, were marched as private soldiers to Port Arthur—a law of which, we now know, he himself was the promoter, and which led to such serious disturbances—upon the Minister of Public Instruction, already killed by a student, .and the Minister of the Interior, who was killed soon after that by Balmashoff.
 After the Council has voted, the Emperor decides himself whether he accepts the. opinion of the majority or that of the minority. This opinion becomes the law.
 See Stepniak’s “King Stork and King Log: a Study of Modern Russia.” 2 vols. London (Downey & Co.), 1896, pp. 22 “seq.”
 Taking a district of North-Eastern Russia where, owing to the small number of nobles, the first two ‘orders’ vote together, we have three functionaries of the Crown sitting by right, twelve members elected by the first two orders (three nobles, the remainder are merchants, etc.), and seven peasants representing the village communities.
“The Constitutional Agitation in Russia.” The Nineteenth Century, January, 1905.
If I were asked to give my opinion, as a geographer, on the pending conflict on the Afghan frontier, I should merely open the volume of Elisée Reclus’s Geographie Universelle L’Asie, Russe, and show the pages he has consecrated under this head to the description of the Afghan Turkistan. Summing up the result of his extensive careful and highly impartial studies of Central Asia, Reclus has not hesitated to recognize that, geographically, the upper Oxus and all the northern slope of the Iran and Afghan plateaux belong to the Ural-Caspian region, and that the growing influence of the Slavonian might cannot fail to unite, sooner or later, into one political group, the various parts of this immense basin. And, surely, nobody who has studied these countries -without being influenced by political or patriotic preoccupations will deny that the Afghan Turkistan cannot be separated from the remainder of the Ural-Caspian region. Afghanistan proper may remain for some time the bone of contention between England and Russia; and if it be divided, one way or the other, into two parts by the two rivals-no geographical or physical reasons could be alleged for the partition; but the vassal Khanates of Maimene, Khulm, Kunduz, and even the Badakshan and Wahkran certainly belong geographically and ethnographically to the same aggregation of tribes and small nations which occupies the remainder of the basin of the Amu-daria. Arrangements concluded by diplomatists may provisorily settle other frontiers: these frontiers will be, however, but provisory ones; the natural delimitation is along the Hindoo-Kush and the Paropamisus; Afghan Turkistan must rejoin the now Russian Turkistan.
The necessity, in Central Asia, of holding the upper courses of rivers which alone bring life to deserts, and the impossibility of leaving them in the hands of populations which to-morrow may become the enemies of the valleys; the necessities of traffic and commerce; the incapacity of the population,, settled on the left bank of the Upper Amu to defend themselves against raids after they have lost in servility their former virile virtues; nay, even the national feelings of the Uzbeg population, however feeble–all these and several other reasons well known to the explorers and students of those regions contribute to connect the whole of the basin of theAmn and the Murghab into one body. To divide it for political purposes would be to struggle against physical, ethnographical and historical necessities. As to the Wakhran, the Shugnan the Badakshan and even the small khanates west of the Pamir, perhaps they could struggle some time for their independence if they were able to rise in arms like the Circassians; but they would necessarily succumb before the power which already holds the high pasture-grounds of the Pamir, since it has taken a footing on the Trans-Alay and about Lake Kara-hul. The fact is, that the Roof of the World already belongs to the generals of the Russian Czar. As soon as the Russian Empire bad stepped into the delta of the Amu, the conquest of the whole of the, basin of the Oxus with its thinly scattered oases, with its populations which have not yet succeeded in constituting themselves into national units, became a said necessity. The march oil Khiva already implied the occupation of Merv; an(], as soon a,; a footing was taken on the eastern coast of the Caspian, the conquest of Geok-Tepe, of Merv, and of the last refuges of the Saryks at Penj-deh were unavoidable. The advance no longer depended on the will of the rulers: it became one of those natural phenomena which must be fulfilled sooner or later. Notwithstanding its seeming incoherence its floating population its small tribes now at war with one another and to-morrow allied together for a common raid; notwithstanding the continuous wars between the desert which besieges the oasis-the whole of the Steppe is one organism. The separate parts are perhaps still more closely united together than the settled populations of valleys separated by low ranges of hills. Owing to the impressionability of its populations, the Steppe may remain for years together as quiet, is an English village; but suddenly it will be set on fire, be shattered in its farthest unapproachable Parts, be covered with outbreaks stopping all intercourse for thousands of miles. African travelers know well how rapidly the physiognomy of the desert changes: the same is true with the Central Asian Steppe. Its internal cohesion cannot be destroyed by frontiers colored on our maps. Those who have entered the Steppe with their military forces have no choice; either they must retire immediately, or they will be compelled to advance until they have met with the natural limits of the desert. This is the case with England in the Soudan, and so it is with Russia. She cannot stop before she has reached the utmost limits of the Steppe in the Indian Caucasus and the Hindoo-Kush.
Such is the opinion which a geographer, whatever his nationality, ought to give, and which I should give, but with sadness of heart. For, during the years I spent in Eastern Siberia I was enabled closely to appreciate what the anomalous, monstrous extension of the frontiers of the Russian Empire means for the Russian people. One must have stayed in one of our colonies to see, to feel, and to touch the burden, and the loss of strength which the population of Russia in Europe have to support in maintaining it military organization on the absurdly extended frontiers of the Empire; to reckon the heavy costs of the yearly extension of the limits of the Empire; the demoralization which repeated conquests steadily throw into the life. (if our country; the expense of forces for assimilating ever new regions the loss resulting from emigration, as the best elements abandon their mother-country instead of helping her to conquer a better future. The expansion of the Russian Empire is a curse to the metropolis We must recognize that. But life in our Asiatic colonies teaches us also that this continual growth is taking the character of a fatality: it cannot be avoided; and even if the rulers of Russia (lid nothing to accelerate it, it still would go oil until the whole of the process is fulfilled.
Of course the expansion might have been slower; it, ought to have been slower. When the St. Petersburg Geographical Society was besieged in 1870-73 with schemes of exploration of the Amu basin, it was in the power of Government either to lavour them or to abandon them to their proper destiny. Abandoned to itself, private initiative would have done but very little; and none of the scientific expeditions which used to be the precursors of military advance, would have started at all were they not literally, very literally, supported and patronized by Government. While geologists, botanists engineers, and astronomers came to us every day to offer themselves for penetrating further and further into the Transcaspian region; while we naively interested ourselves in discussions about the testimonies of Greek and Persian writers as to the old ]led of the Amudaria and planned detailed explorations, the Government took advantage of this scientific glow for planning its advance into the Turcoman Steppes. never refusing either money or Cossacks and soldiers to escort the geographers who dreamed of resolving the long debated question as to the Uzbegs. While the Irkutsk geographers and geologists were compelled to start with a few hundred rubles and a broken barometer for the exploration of the great unknown Siberia, thousands of rubles were immediately voted by all possible Ministries for pushing forward the learned pioneers into the Transcaspian. This willingness to support scientific exploration, precisely in that direction, wag obviously the result of a scheme long ago elaborated at the Foreign Office for opening a new route towards the Indian frontier. Far from checking the advance-as it does on the Mongolian frontier- the Government favored it by all means.
Recently, we have been told by the enfant terrible what was the real meaning of this advance, I via I lei-at, to Constantinople ‘-such, we are told, is the watchword of a group of Russian politicians; and when we consider the energy and consciousness displayed by Government in that matter, instead of the formerly quite unsystematical advance in Central Asia we cannot but recognize that the advance in the Transcaspian region has been really made with a determined aim-the seizure of Herat. But in this case, the Afghan frontier question is no more a, geographical or ethnographical question. It is not a question of more or less rapidly aggregating into one political body the loose populations scattered north of the ‘Indian Caucasus’ and the Hindoo-Kush: it becomes a political question, and, as such, an economical one.
There was a time when so-called national jealousies were nothing more than personal jealousies between rulers. Nations were moved to war and thousands were massacred to revenge a personal offense, -or to satisfy the ambition of an omnipotent ruler. But, manners have changed now. The omnipotent despots are disappearing, and even the autocrats are mere toys in the hands of their camarillas which camarillas however personal their aims, still submit to some influence of the opinions prevailing among the ruling classes. Wars are no longer due to personal caprices, and still they are as, numerous as, and much more cruel than, they formerly were. The Republican faith which said, Suppress personal power, and you will have no wars,’ proved to be false. Thus, for instance, in the pending Conflict between England and Russia no personal causes are at work. The Russian Czar entertains personally quite friendly relations with English rulers, and surely he dreads war much more than any of his soldiers who would he massacred on the battle-fields. As to the English Premier, it is a secret to nobody that be tenderly, much too tenderly, looks on the ‘Czar of All the Russias,’ and still both countries are ready to fight. Not, that the eighty millions of our peasants sing very warlike songs just now, as they are asking themselves how they will manage to keep body and Sold together until the next harvest, the last handful of flour already having been swept tip and eaten, together with dust and straw. Not that the English miners or weavers, who also ask themselves how to go through the industrial crisis, are inspired with much hatred towards the famine-struck Russian peasants. But it is so: gunpowder smells in the air, and a few weeks ago we were so near fighting that if we escape from war, it surely will be. a very narrow escape. The reason is very plain. Wars are no more fought, for personal reasons, still less are they occasioned by national idiosyncrasies: they are fought for markets
What is, in fact, the chief, the leading principle of our production? Are we producing in order to satisfy the needs of the millions of our own countries? When launching a new enterprise, when creating a new branch of industry, when increasing an old one, and introducing therein the I iron slaves’ we are so proud of-does the manufacturer ask himself whether his produce is needed by the people of his country? Sometimes he does; but, as he produces merchandise only for selling, only to realize certain benefits oil selling, he seldom cares about the needs of his own country-he merely asks himself whether he will find customers in any quarter of the earthball or not . The English people need some less cottons, and want some cheaper shoes-for instance, for the 110,585 boys and girls under thirteen years of age employedi n Great Britain’s texthe industries – less velveteen and some More cheap clothing for the inhabitants of Whitechapel; less fine cutlery, and some more bread. His only preoccupation is to know whether the Indian, the CentralAsian, the Chinese markets will absorb the cottons, the velveteen, and the cutlery which lie will manufacture; whether new markets will be opened in Africa or New Guinea. And the producers themselves the laborers being reduced to live on twenty, on fifteen, and even twelve and ten shillings a week for a whole family’ are no customers for the riches produced in England; so dial English produce goes in search of customers everywhere: among Russian landlords and Indian rajahs, among Papuans and Patagonians, but not among the paupers of Whitechapel, of Manchester, of Birmingham And all nations of Europe, imitating England, cherish the same ambition.
To produce for exportation-such is the last word of our economical progress, the watchword of our pseudo-economical science. the more a nation exports of manufactured ware, the richer it is; so were we taught in school, so are we told still by economists. All this, however, was very well with regard to England as long as England’s manufacturing development was by a whole fifty years in advance of that of other countries of’ Europe, and all markets were open to her produce. But now, all other civilized countries are entering the same line of development; they endeavor, too, to produce their merchandise for selling throughout the world; they also produce for exportation; and, therefore, all our recent history becomes nothing but a steeple-chase for markets, a struggle for customers on whom each European nation may impose the produce which her own producers are rendered unable to purchase. The ‘ colonial polities’ of late years mean nothing more. England has in India a colony to which she can export 20,000,000l. of cottons, and whence she can export 11,000,0001. of opium, realizing on both some twentymillions of profits. No wonder that the ruling classes of France, of Germany, and of Russia try in their turn to find anywhere advantageous customers, that they endeavor to their own manufactures, also for exporting-no matter that their own, people may go barefoot, or starve for want of a Mehlsuppe or of black bread. Russia is now beginning to enter on the same road. Per manufacturess being Dot yet sufficiently developed, site exports the corn taken from the months of her peasants. When the tax-gatherer comes, our peasant is compelled to sell so much of his harvest that the remainder hardly do to give him a scanty allowance of black bread for nine months out, of twelve. Ile will mix grass, straw, and bark with his flour; each spring one-third of our provinces will be on the verge of starvation; -Nit the exports will rise, and the economists will applaud the rapid economical development (if the Northern I Empire ‘; they will foretell the time When the peasants, I having been liberated from the burden of land,’ will gather in towns and feed the ever-growing manufactures; when Russian merchants also will send their steamers on the oceans in search of customer-, and good profits. A new mighty runner joins thus the steeple-chase for markets and colonies.
Of course we may foresee that this anomalous organization of industry, being not a physical necessity, but the result of a wrong direction taken by production, cannot last for ever. Already we bear voices raised against this anomaly. We begin to perceive that, not to speak of countries so thinly peopled as Russia is, even the, United Kingdom with its 300 inhabitants per square mile, Could yield for the whole of its population the necessary agricultural produce, and give them, together with a healthy occupation, a wealth not to bo compared with the actual poverty of the millions. Already Belgium nearly nourishes her 197 inhabitants per square mile with her own produce, and needs to add to her own yearly crops but onetwentieth of their amount, imported from other countries. Yet Belgian agriculture is still very far from the pitch which might be reached, even under the present conditions of agricultural knowledge, not to speak of further improvements. Those are surely not far from the truth who say that, if all Great Britain were so cultivated as some of her estates are, if all ameliorations of her machinery were employed, not for weaving cottons for the earthball, but in producing what is necessary to her own people, she would give to all her children wealth such as only the few may Dow dream of. The time will come when it will be understood that a nation which lives on her colonies and on foreign trade is subject to decline, like Spain and Holland, and when applying their experience, their industry, their genius to the benefit of their own people, the civilized nations of Europe will no more consider the Far East and West as I markets,’ but as fields for diffusing the trite principles of humanity and civilization.
But we are still in that period when manufacturing for exportation is considered the only means of giving wealth to a country, and Russia’s rising industry follows the example it has in its predecessors. Her manufactures are rapidly developing, and, notwithstanding many obstacles, her exports are steadily increasing. A free issue to the ocean becomes a necessity under these conditions; but this outlet in precisely what fails to the young competitor. The outlet of the Baltic may be shut up at a moment’s notice, and that of the Black Sea depends on the good-will of those who will rule at Constantinople’ At the same time Southern Russia is daily acquiring more and more importance, not only in consequence of the richness of the soil and the, rapid growth of population, but, also on account of the development of industry. The commercial and industrial center of’ gravity of Russia slowly move, towards the south; but this south has no outlet to the ocean. Under more normal conditions the circumstance would be of’ no moment, though in foreign hands the Bosphorus still would remain open to pacific navigators. But with the actual nonsensical competition for markets the want of a free issue becomes a real danger. And it is obvious that the Russian Empire will never cease to struggle to conquer the outlet it is in need of. It will recoil before no sacrifices, no difficulties. It is already planning to reach this issue through Asia Minor, perhaps through the valley Of the Tigris and Euphrates,; it will bleed itself nigh to death, but it will still endeavor to reach its aim: and there will be no peace in Europe and Asia until the problem has been solved it) One way Or another.
Three times during our century in 1828, 1853, and 1877 Russian statesmen have tried the direct, way –that of conquering the Balkan Peninsula. Happily enough for civilization, they have not yet succeeded; but it must be acknowledged that, if they failed, it was not on account of the obstacles put in their way by English diplomatists. These last, to speak frankly, have been very awkward. Lord Beaconsfield found nothing better to oppose to Russian advance than the disintegrating body of the Turkish Empire, or so fantastic a scheme-at least it is attributed to him-as that Of initing Turkey, Persia, and Afghanistan into a common action ! As to the Liberal Ministry, they patronized the Russian Czar during the war and Opposed him only when his decimated armies were unable to move farther. The Liberal Ministry came into power, to some extent, in consequence of the sympathies with the revolted and massacred Selavonians which were awakened in the people of England. But the Selavonians were forgotten as soon as Mr. Gladstone was in office. Obeying the influences which represented to him the Russian Czar as a liberator, lie confounded the cause of the Selavonians with that of the Moscow manufacturers and St. Petersburg diplomatists; as to the Servians, the Bulgarians, the Bosnians, and the herzegovinians they were banded over, manacled, to Russian despotism and Austro-Hungarian Militarism. Neither Conservatives nor Liberals perceived the only right way of preventing once for all any further attempt of Russia, and of Austria too, on the Balkan Peninsula: that of recognizing the rights of the South Selavonians to independence, that of helping them to conquer it, that of opposing to Russian autocrats-a South Selavonic Federation. Neither France nor England understood at that time that a South Selavonic Federation would be the best darn against Russian and Austrian encroachments; that if the Servians and the Bulgarians accepted Russian intervention surely it was not from mere sympathy: they would have sold themselves to the devil himself, provided lie would promise to free them from the Turkish yoke. Once free, they -would care is little about Russian protection ‘ as about Turkish rule. But apart from a, few war correspondents, who eared in England about Selavonians?
Therefore, even the partial success of the Russian Empire during the last war brought about such sad consequences that several generations will hardly repair the evil already done. The Russian people gave the lives of their best children to help the oppressed Bulgarians,and they succeeded only in giving them new oppressors Worse. than the former. ‘file intervention of the Russian autocracy in Servia, its rule in Bulgaria, have killed in the bull all the excellent germs of healthy development which were growing up in Servia, and even in Bulgaria, before the war. It has lighted up internal war, it has opened an era of internal discords, which will not be pacified for twenty or fifty years. The heart bleeds when one learns what it; now going )it in Servia, since Russian generals, inspire the Court and diplomatists struggle for ‘influence.’ Will it then Dever lie understood in Europe that the Only Wily Of resolving ‘the Eastern question ‘ is to guarentee a South Selavonic Federation a free life? As to the question of a free issue for Russian merchants, It is quit,-, different front Chat of keeping Constantinople, and the former can be, resolved without endangering anybody’s liberty in Europe.
And now, to return to Afghanistan. After having said so Much about European interests, is it not time to say a few words, at least, about the interests of the Mohammedan population of Central Asia and of the 250,000,000 inhabitants of British India, for the possession of whom we are -so ready to fight? Surely the loose aggregations of Central Asia will finally fall tinder The influence or the rule, of some. European Power. But, at the risk of shocking some of my readers, I must avow that it seems to me most desirable to see them remain as they are, free of that influence, as long as possible-until the Europeans, more civilized themselves, will be able to come to them, not as conquerors, but as elder brethren, more instructed and ready to help them by word and deed to ameliorate their condition. Two years ago the benefits of Russian ‘civilization’ were ably enumerated before the London Geographical Society, and the fact was dwelt upon that Russia had liberated slaves wherever they were found. The statement is quite true, and we have good reason to believe M. Petrusevitch when he says that the slaves in the Turcoman Steppes immediately left their masters -as soon as a Russian traveler made his appearance, Surely the liberation of slaves is a great progress, but all is not yet done by saying to a slave, IYou are free; go away;’ for the thus liberated prisoner will return to his former or to another master if lie has nothing to eat. Let any one read the elaborate work published by
the TiflisGeographical Society on the liberation of slaves in the Caucasus, and he will see how the Russian Government has accomplished it; and we have no reason to suppose that it has been accomplished better in Central Asia.
As to the agrarian relations, perhaps nowhere in Europe have they the same importance as in Central Asia, on account, of the necessities of co-operative work and common agreement for the digging out and utilization Of irrigation-canals In such countries, theslightest error of the administration in agrarian contests may Lave, and often has had on the Caucasus and in Russian Turkistan, countless consequences; a simple error, a counfirmation of supposed rights, turns t rich garden into a desert. All European administrations are liable to such errors as soon as they come into contact with the Mohammedan agrarian law, and their consequences are too well known with regard to India to dwell upon. True that, as a rule, the Russian Administration, familiarized ,it home with village communities, does not interfere much with agrarian questions ‘UnOng (lie Mohammedan population which falls under its rule. But the direction prevailing at St. Petersburg with regard to agrarian questions is continually changing. For tell years the St. Petersburg rulers may favor self-government in villages, they may take the village communities under their protection; but for the next twenty years they wilt abandon the peasants; they will rely in the newly-conquered region, upon an aristocracy they will try to create at the expense of the laborer. The history Of the Caucasus is nothing but, a series of such oscillations, which resulted in the growth of the Kabardian feudal system and file servitude of the Ossetians.
In Russian Turkistan, too, the reckless confirmation of imaginary Tight,; in land which was carried on on a great scale at the beginning (we do not know if it, continues) endangered the very existence of the Uzbeg villages. And one cannot, but remember, when speaking on this subject the scandalous robbery of Bashkir lands which was carried oil for years at Orenburg and became known only when the Bashkir people were deprived of their means of existence. Of course, the cruelties of a khan at Khiva, or of a Persian shah, will. Dot ,be repeated under Russian rule; but the creation of a Turcoman, a Khivan, and a Bokharian aristocracy, adding the temptations of European luxury to Asiatic pomp, surely will be a much greater evil for the Central-Asian laborers than the atrocities of a khan. With regard to Russian administration itself itself, we must certainly admit, that during the first years after a conquest the choice of administrators is not very bad; but as time goes oil and all enters into smooth water one will be perplexed to make his choice between them; and the officials of a khan. Finally, the time is not far off when Russia will send to Central Asia her merchants, who will ruin whole populations, of which we may see plenty of proofs in Siberia, and not only in Siberia, but also everywhere else where Europeans have made their appearance.
And what, on the other side, could England give? It is time, quite time, to cease repeating load words about civilization and progress, and closely to examine what British rule has done in India. Progress is not measured by the lengths of railways and the bushels of corn exported. It is time to examine what the creation of the class of zamindars, followed by the sub-infeudation and subdivision of rights, which is so well described by Sir John Phear, has produced in Bengal. It is time to ask ourselves whether the millions of Bengal have, each of them, even the handful of rice they need to live, upon. It is not enough to admire at the Indian Museum in London the ivory chairs and chess-boards brought from India by Mr. A. and Mr. B., and each piece of which represents a human life. It is time that the English people should consider and meditate over the model of an Indian bazaar exhibited at the same Museum, and ask themselves how it, happens that, the incredible riches exhibited in the rooms were brought about by the same naked and starving people who are represented in the bazaar around a woman whose whole trading-stock consists of a few handfuls of rice in a bowl. Perhaps they will discover that the very origin of the above riches must lie sought for in the nakedness of the starving human figures whose portraits were exhibited in 1877 at the doors of the Mansion House. And perhaps they will agree then that, before carrying our present civilization to Central Asia and India, we might do better to carry it to the savages who inhabit the den-holes of Moscow and Whitechapel.
Makassar, Indonesia, August 21st, 2019: Dozens of Makassar citizens took direct action (blocking the road) in front of the Hasanuddin University to convey solidarity with West Papuans who received racist acts and violence from the military, police and ultra-nationalist civil militias.
As for what is written on the banner:
MAKASSAR CITIZENS SOLIDARITY FOR PAPUA
1. STOP TORTURING PAPUANS RIGHT NOW!
2. PAPUANS ARE FREE TO CHOOSE THEIR OWN WAY (TO FREEDOM)
3. TNI (Indonesian Armed Forces), POLRI (Indonesian Police Force) AND FASCIST CIVIL MILITIAS, STOP YOUR RACIST ACTS, YOU DICK SHIT!
via Anarchists Worldwide.
21.08.19: On Monday night, we set fire to several construction vehicles on the grounds of the Zwickau Marienthal Prison construction site. An excavator was burned out completely, the other four excavators and a front end loader were damaged by our fire and made partially unusable. We would like to dedicate this action especially to Loic, the Park Bench 3 and the Basel 18. They are missing from our side.
In Zwickau-Marienthal, construction work on a joint new prison complex for the states of Saxony and Thuringia began recently. At the beginning of 2020, a 6 meter high wall will surround the 10ha area. The concrete complex, which is to be completed by 2024, will then hold 820 people within its walls. In its workshops more than two-thirds of the prisoners will be forced to work.
One of the contractors and profiteers of this major project in Zwickau is the company Hentschke Bau GmbH from Bautzen. The Reichsbürger (name for followers of a reactionary movement in Germany that believes in the ‘German Empire’) and owner Jörg Drews, donated 19500 euros to the AfD (far-right political party Alternative for Deutschland) in 2017, making him one of the party’s single largest donors during this election campaign. Also, Drews attends Identitarian Movement events and demonstrations, organizes far-right events on behalf of his company, is a member of “We are Deutschland” from Bautzen and supports the far-right magazine “Denkste Mit?”. It is not especially surprising that fascists like Drews support the construction of prisons and can still line their pockets with money.
The beginning of construction of the Zwickau-Marienthal Prison is only a few months behind the opening of the new Saxon Deportation Prison in Dresden and the extension of Leipzig Prison. Despite its planned size, the enemies of freedom are still crying out for more prisons and so an additional building is already being discussed in Thuringia. Furthermore, more prisons are being erected everywhere, such as the planned deportation prison in Glücksstadt in Schleswig Holstein, the Rottweil prison in Baden Württemberg, the Billwerder youth prison in Hamburg, the Klagenfurth prison in Austria and the Bässlergut II deportation prison in Basel.
Prison is one of the institutions that very clearly shows us the absurdity of our society. The value of property is placed above all, even above that of a human being. The Statistics Office of the European Union lists crimes as “acts which harm or are intended to harm a person, acts of sexual violence and acts of violence against property” in one and the same classification. A huge number of prisoners are sentenced for property offences.
Approximately 30 to 40 percent of prisoners serve alternative terms of imprisonment for being unable to pay fines imposed upon them. Even people who have fallen into poverty in old age are not protected from having to go to prison at the age of 70 for fare evasion. Sadly, we see this again and again in the newspapers. The society that we live in causes poverty and divides us between above and below. Attempting to escape from poverty ends for many with exclusion from society. It is a tool of the powerful to keep us in check. While some earn millions by exploiting people and the environment or speculating on food and housing, others are called criminals for expropriating what capitalist society denies them.
In order to maintain this world of oppression and exploitation, the State needs the opportunity to rid itself of those who rebel against its injustices. Repression is directed against those who escape from the system, who seek alternative ways of living and survival, who escape control and oppression, or who rebel against it. When surveillance and control are no longer effective, the end result is deprivation of liberty, isolation from society, along with physical and psychological violence.
Our society supports, demands and encourages this perversion. We live in a world in which the profits of the few determines our lives and autonomy is constantly criminalized. In such a world, nobody is free.
The responsibility for the mass imprisonment of people lies with the assertion that this will reintegrate them into society. They claim that they are trying to reintegrate them into society. The true function of the prison system, however, is ultimately to break the individuals who have lost their way and rob them of their autonomy. Their willpower, which opposes capitalist normality, is to be destroyed. In doing so, the prison resorts to various repressive and “non” repressive measures. In open detention, with day leaves, parole and a more humane facility and freedom of movement, one is permanently under the threat of being imprisoned if one does not behave in a conforming manner. In closed detention, benefits are granted which are withdrawn in the event of bad behavior. For particularly rebellious individuals, there is isolation – 23 hours alone in a cell and a 1 hour courtyard walk. In addition, a contact ban can be imposed, so you have to do your walk alone. This total isolation is aimed to physically and psychologically destroy the individual. If one does not submit fully, indefinite detention for safety reasons can be imposed, like what happened to our comrade Thomas Meyer-Falk.
To speak of socialization in the context of captivity is pure farce, considering the isolation in which the prisoners find themselves. The violence of the State against human beings is more direct than in any other form of domination. In total heteronomy, decisions about obedience or rebellion must be made in a matter of seconds. Rebelling is punished immediately. The deprivation of liberty is no more and no less than an absolute necessity for the preservation of power.
For us, when we fight against prisons, it means always fighting against the cruel reality that imprisons us every day, even in the outside world. It means to fight for an autonomous and domination-free life, to tackle every authority and oppression and to attack all structures, institutions and mechanisms that maintain them. These include not only institutional and social structures and constructs, such as States and corporations, religions and the logic of exploitation or racism and existing gender relations, but also interpersonal approaches based on greed, envy and competition.
We see this attack as a contribution to the upcoming International Week of Solidarity with Anarchist Prisoners. Our hearts are always with those who have to sit behind the walls of our enemies and with those who have to flee their environment because they are doing everything to get their greedy hands onto them.
Burning hearts cannot be imprisoned!
Freedom for all prisoners!
Autonomous Commando Thomas Meyer-Falk
via Anarchists Worldwide.
I. The word Revolution is upon all lips and one feels its first vibrations. And, as always, at the approach of great commotions and great changes, all who are dissatisfied with the actual regime — how small may be their discontent — hasten to adopt the title of revolutionaries, hitherto so dangerous, now so simple. They do not cling to the actual regime; they are ready to try a new one; that suffices for them.
This affluence, to the ranks of the revolutionaries, of a mass of malcontents of all shades, creates the force of revolutions and renders them inevitable. A simple conspiracy in the palace, or of Parliament, more or less supported by what is called public opinion suffices to change the men in power, and sometimes the form of government. But a Revolution, to effect any change whatever in economic order, requires the agreement of an immense number of wills. Without the agreement, more or less, active of millions, no revolution is possible. It is necessary that everywhere, in each hamlet even, there should be men to act in the destruction of the past; also that other millions remain inactive in the hope of seeing something arise to improve their future condition.
And it is precisely this vague, undecided, discontent, which is very often inconscient, surging in the minds of men at the eve of great events, and that loss of confidence in the existing order, which permits true revolutionists to accomplish their immense task — the titanic task of reconstructing in a few years institutions venerated for centuries.
But this is also the rock upon which most revolutions split and become exhausted.
When a revolution takes place, overturning the established outlines of daily life; when all good and bad passions flash out freely and are seen on the housetops; when weakness and great devotion are side by side, poltroonery here, heroism there, — shabby antipathies and personal intrigues alongside of great self-sacrifice; when in fact the institutions of the past fall, and new ones are designed with difficulty in the midst of continual changes, — when the immense majority of those who yesterday gloried in the name of revolutionaries hasten to pass into the ranks of the defenders of order: the general commotion, the instability of struggling institutions, the insecurity of the morrow, fatigues them soon. They fear, on the one hand, that the slight alterations that have been affected should sink in the tempest; and they do not perceive that the smallest change in economic institutions implies already a profound modification in all conceptions of society and that this can only be brought about after much larger changes. And seeing the counter-revolution approach they hasten to conform to it. Popular passions, sometimes coarsely expressed, cause them aversion; still more so the shabby passions of leaders. Soon they have had enough of the revolution and run to join those who call for rest and peace.
Among such the past recruits its most ardent defenders, all the more so if they have sustained slight losses. They bate those who endeavor to go further, and they are so much the more dangerous for being able to seize upon previous revolutionists, and to put them to the service of the past.. They dare in a manner in which the reaction would not dare without them, and they strike precisely those who sap more deeply the foundations of the ancient institutions and desire to advance afresh towards the future.
These persons become the Robespierres and the Saint Justs — who guillotine the mad ones — under pretext of saving the revolution, but in reality to check it.
Friends of revolution cannot be distinguished from its enemies during a period of struggle. But it is necessary to note that the historians of the past have done their utmost to throw into chaos all ideas of these facts.
To consider only the great French revolution. The ideal of some is Mirabeau, perfectly satisfied holding a portfolio in the constitutional ministry of Louis XVI. Of others it is Danton the patriot with daring against Germans but without a trace of daring in economic questions, the tribune who to resist the invasion, made use of a constitutional king, of peasants serving bourgeois proprietors, and of stock-jobbing under landed proprietors, all wonderfully mixed — with revolutionary talk. For others it is Robespierre the just, who guillotined revolutionists, who talked of equality of fortunes and published their atheism, the man who in the summer of 1793, at the moment the people of Paris suffered famine, insisted that Jacobins should discuss the advantages of the English constitution! For others, finally, it is Marat who one day demanded the heads of two hundred thousand aristocrats but who had not a single word upon the subject which impassioned two thirds of France namely the question, to whom should belong the land cultivated by the peasants. And for several tricksters, last by all, the ideal is the attorney of the republic who furiously demanded the heads of the duchesses and their servants — particularly the servants, because the duchesses were at Coblentz — while black dens of traders pillaged France, starving the workmen and making from what they had stolen from the duchesses the scandalous fortunes which were seen to appear under the “Directoire.”
As for the great number of revolutionists, they unhappily know only of the theatrical side of former revolutions as related with forced effect by historians, and they scarcely suspected the immense work accomplished in France during the years 1789-93 by millions of obscure persons — work which caused France to be in 1793 quite a different nation from what she was four years previously.
It is to assist actual revolutionists in guiding themselves somewhat in this chaos that we undertake these studies. We wish to demonstrate the necessity of distinguishing well beforehand those who call themselves our friends and who will soon be our enemies. We shall try to show to revolutionists the immense task they have to accomplish, to inform them of the troubles which will overtake them if they picture to themselves the next revolution on the model of what historians have told us of past revolutions. We wish finally to show them what display of energy, what boldness of thought, what intensely energetic work the revolution will require from those of its children who desire to give to it from day to day their life and their strength, much more important for its success than the rifle shots exchanged at the critical moment.
II. Boldness of thought and example to induce the masses to put into execution what they dare think — this is what has been wanting in the actors in past revolutions. It is still what is likely to be wanting in the next.
Who has not asked with grief, when studying the revolutions of the past, “why such effort, such sublime devotion, so much bloodshed and families in mourning, so much destruction, for such poor results?” This question constantly turns up in literature, in conservative and in revolutionary propaganda.
It is partly because we do not make allowance for the immense obstacles experienced in every revolution from blind or conscient partizans. Their power is overlooked, as is their stubbornness in becoming turncoats to save their privileges; we forget their conspiracies and intrigues when we are no longer face to face with them. We forget, in fine, that revolutions are made by minorities.
And we forget also that if the revolutionists have generally exhibited courage and formidable rashness in their acts, they have always failed in boldness of thought, aim, and conception of the future. They dreamed of that future as assuming the form of that past against which they revolted. The past even held them bound in their enthusiasm for their future.
They dared not strike the decisive blow and kill the ancient regime in that which created its true strength: its religion, its fortune, its obedience to law, its centralization, its army, its police, its prisons and all that sort of thing. They dared not destroy enough to open the wide gates of a new life, and of that new life their conceptions were so vague and consequently so timid, so narrow, that they dared not, even in their dreams, touch the fetishes which they had adored in their past slavery.
Could we expect great results from a timid brain, even when associated with an heroic heart?
When we reflect upon the events of the great revolution we cannot avoid being struck — as Quinet has so well said — with the rashness of the acts of our grandfathers and the timidity of their thoughts. Proceedings, ultra-revolutionary thoughts, timid and conservative. Prodigies of bravery and energy, supreme conception of life and its joys — and incredible timidity in the conception of the near future. Months and years elapsed before the people dare touch one of the chimeras which they surrounded with respect, before they compel their leaders — the men whom they venerate and obey — to make the sacrifice of a single one of the institutions of the past. This is the distinctive feature of the revolution. It is the image of the soldier who proves courage and invincible rashness in capturing a battery from the enemy without daring to consider beyond the battery, without daring to cast a general glance at the war.
The unarmed people attack the thick walls and cannon of the Bastille; the women run to Versailles and bring back a prisoner; everywhere, in each little town men armed with the clubs seize the municipalities without caring if they are hanged the next day by the municipality or “returned to legality.” A crowd of people over-run the Tuileries and capture the king and crown him — with cap of liberty, and two months later, defying the Swiss guard and the national bourgeois guard, they take the Tuileries by assault; ignoring the convention the obscure people take upon themselves the massacres of September. The republic, without armies, undermined by the royalists at home, resist the allied-powers. Danton demands boldness as the supreme means of saving the revolution. The scaffolds of the convention, the drownings in the Vendee, the death-carts even, do not stop these revolutionists in their revolutionary proceedings, yet throughout this grandiose drama it is timidity of thought, not boldness of conception, which hovers over all. Mediocrity of thought destroys noble efforts, grand passions, and immense devotions.
Then when royalty became nothing more than a memory and was obeyed only by a few Swiss — Danton, Robespierre and even the Cordeliers, feared the republic more than they feared the king. Not until France was invaded by foreigners, managed and commanded in point of fact from the Tuileries, did they dare to think that France could dispense with a crowned sham.
When the clergy covered the whole of France with its vast conspiracy against the new regime, when that conspiracy included two thirds of the population, the revolutionists surrounded the church with their respect; they took it under the protection of the revolution, and shortly they guillotine the Anarchists who dare to insult the Catholic worship.
It is evident that in regard to economic questions their timidity is greater still said even more odious. The feudal system had ceased, the lord of the manor, hunted by the peasants, had gone over the frontier; the seignoral forests had been pillaged and the game exterminated; feudal quit-rents were no longer paid. But the leaders of the revolution, even in the convention, struggled to preserve the last wreck of the feudal rule to transmit it to the next century. And when the brilliant Girondins or the austere Robespierre heard the words equality of fortune, they trembled at the simple idea that private property would no longer be respected by the people. Because — (they had owned some in the past) — the state is based upon private ownership of property.
The leaders it is true are more backward than the people. The people are ahead of them in respect of emancipation from the past — they go further than the leaders. But their vision is so vague, so obscure, so wavering! In the heart of the people, even, ideas are so divided that this vagueness and hesitation spreads to the chiefs of the revolution. The butcher Legendre who led the people in the attack upon the Tuileries on 20. June dare not even dream of dethroning the king — tightly the people might hold the king under their pikes, they dare not push the point a little further and have done with royalty.
And later when the Baboeuf conspiracy was discovered the Montagnards are taken by surprise. They have beard of vague popular aspirations towards Socialist equality, but they are quite thunderstruck at finding a program. Their thought bad never dared go so far. But the people, none the more, did not know how to put their hopes into form.
The same happens in 1848.
After all the Socialist Propaganda of 15 years, after Fourier and Cabet, after all that was said at a thousand meetings and printed in hundreds of pamphlets in favor of Communism — of the right to life and happiness — the revolutionists, that is to say those who believed themselves to be and passed for such, and even the most advanced of these, are ready to shoot anyone who should speak of Communism. All they dare think is Republican Democracy, that is association upheld by the State; and they leave to a Bonaparte exploiter the vague aspirations of the people, from which he makes himself a throne.
Repetition of the scene in 1871. These revolutionary heroes who are not stopped in their revolt by a hundred thousand men have not one single revolutionary thought. They know nothing but previous revolutions — they believe only in turning against the old government the same weapons which it had used against its adversaries. But they could not bring forth any true Revolutionary Idea. They did not even know how to dispense with the policemen of the empire, its courts martial, and its tinsel. They dreamed of the Commune, reproducing in miniature the State which they overthrew; and while ideas of equality worked confusedly in the minds of the people they only dreamed of equality in submitting to their dictation. Had not Marat dreamed, before them, and Marx the modern God of the Socialists, had he not also preached popular dictation!
In short, no new idea, none of the thoughts which revolutionize the old world, sprang up in these minds, so revolutionary in their acts, so timid in their ideas, kneaded as they are into the models of the past, against which they declared war.
Are we better placed today, at the eve of the next revolution! Have we the boldness of thought and the force of the initiative which make revolutions! In face of this past against which we rebel, in face of its submissiveness, of its authoritative organization, its hypocrisy, its lies, have we the revolutionary thought which will know how to disown this past, not alone in its entirety, but in all its daily manifestations. Shall we know how to take the ax, not only to actual institutions but to the ideas even which preside in their development! Are we Revolutionists in word, in our thoughts as much as in our methods and, our acts! Will our revolutionary energy come to the service of a revolutionary ideal?
We will inquire into this in the next article.
III. Are we prepared to face the Revolution which approaches? Shall we have the audacity of thought which our fathers lacked, to frankly decide the immense economic, politic, and moral problems in face of which history has placed us? These were the questions which we put at the close of the preceding article.
It is certain that many things contribute to give to the men of our century a boldness of thought which was wanting in our grandfathers.
The great discoveries of natural science in which our generation has assisted or taken part is a fact to give thought a daring without precedent. Entire sciences created but yesterday have just opened to us immense horizons which our fathers could not perceive. The unity of physical force explaining the whole of the phenomena of nature including the physical life of animals and man, is a fact to permit us to have bold conceptions of the whole of natural phenomena.
The criticism of religions is made with a depth and sometimes a boldness hitherto unknown and impossible. All the scaffolding of venerated prejudices concerning the divine origin of human institutions and the so-called laws of providence which served to explain and to perpetuate slavery — all that scaffolding has fallen, under the criticism of science. And that criticism has already penetrated to the depths of the masses.
Man has been able to understand his place in nature. He has been able to perceive that he, himself, has made his institutions and that he alone can re-make them.
Besides which, the idea of stability which was hitherto attached to everything which man saw in nature, is broken down, destroyed and put to naught! Everything changes in nature, everything is incessantly modified: systems, wages, planets, climates, varieties of plants and animals, the human species. Why should human institutions perpetuate themselves!
Nothing remains, everything modifies itself, from the rock which appears to us immovable and the continent which we call “terra firms,” to the inhabitants, their manners, their customs, their ideas.
What we see around us is only a passing phenomenon which ought to modify itself, because immobility would be death. These are the conceptions to which modern science accustoms us.
But this conception dates almost from yesterday. [François] Arago is almost our contemporary. And yet when he spoke one day of continents which sometimes arose out of the seas and were sometimes submerged by the waves, a learned friend made this remark “But your continents spring, up then like mushrooms,” so much was the idea of immobility, of stability in nature, rooted in the mind at this epoch, to-day continual change, evolution, is one of the most popular terms.
And we now begin to understand, however vaguely, that revolution is only an essential part of evolution, that no evolution is accomplished in nature without revolutions. Periods of -very slow changes are succeeded by periods of violent changes. Revolutions are as necessary for evolution as the slow, changes which prepare them and succeed them.
Life is a continual development, and the plant, the animal, the individual, the society which sticks fast, and remains in the same state, will perish and die. This is the mother-idea of modern philosophy, and we may judge from it how much encouragement we have for daring sufficient to change everything.
And beside all this, consider the rapidity of the conquests of the human mind during this century, behold in it — Boldness!
“DARE!” Such is the order of the day in modern mechanical art. Dare to conceive an arch of 650 yards span, thrown across an arm of the sea at a height of 110 yards — and you will succeed, as they have succeeded on the Firth of Forth. Dare to conceive a tower 325 yards high and you will have it. Dare to cut through Suez or Panama, to unite France and England by a tunnel, to bore the Alps. Dare to start a “cockle-shell” of 200 tons with a wide expanse of sail and you will cross the Atlantic in a fortnight by no other force than the wind. Dare to compress steam fourfold, dare to put an explosive under the piston of your motor; fear nothing. Dare to throw the human voice from Paris to London and you will transmit the feeble vibrations of the human voice across the twenty miles of the Channel.
All the history of modern mechanism is only a series of variations of the words of Danton De Vaudace et encore de Vaudace (Dare and always dare.)
And this daring has already invaded literature, art, the drama and music. Dare to speak, to write, to paint, to compose, as the heart bids you; and if you have thought knowledge and talent, you will be listened to and understood, whatever be the novelty of style.
All this gives to our century and its revolution immense advantages. All this stimulates audacity of thought in the revolutionist.
But unfortunately the same daring has failed, up to now, in the domain of politics and social economy. Here, in ideas as in application, timidity reigns supreme.
It is true that in all the course of the century, political history has had to record defeats only. Victories, gained here and there, have even all the character of defeats.
When one remembers all the heroism displayed before 1848 by Italian, Hungarian, Polish and Irish patriots to acquire national independence, and that it is proved that it all ended in defeat — one finds nothing of encouragement.
When one sees how the independence of Italy and Hungary was finally acquired one blushes for the patriots for concessions to imperialism, shameless speculation, and retrograde movements by which their ideal was realized.
Hecatombs of victims in June 1848 and in May 1871, Militarism in Germany, Reaction in France under the Empire, fruitless efforts of the Russian youth — all these are not facts to arouse and sustain audacity.
The century does not count one single fact like the Independence of the United States, which gave to the French revolutionist the example of a revolution crowned with success, and increased by distance.
And when we dream of the grandiose promises made by the International at its commencement, of the hopes which it aroused in the hearts of the workers — and that it resulted in the debasement of the Partis Ouvriers (Labor parties) who are proud of being its successors — we can understand the despair that reaches the workman’s heart that he loses faith in the future, that he ends by demanding some trifling ameliorations instead of taking his freedom.
And yet, nothing is more erroneous than that manner of view spread and maintained by those disgusted by politics. For as soon as we think of the causes of the want of success and the defeats of our century we perceive at once that what has led to defeat is that no one dared advance; they always had their eyes turned backwards.
Even at the time the revolutionary fever seized the people. They did not seek their ideal in the future. They sought it in the past.
Instead of dreaming of a new revolution they sighed for those of the past. In 1793 they dreamed of establishing a Rome or an ancient Sparta. In 1848 they wished to re-commence at 1792. In 1848 they admired in secret the Jacobins of 1793. The German revolutionist of our days dreams of reproducing 1848, and the executive committee of Petersburg take Blanqui and Barbes for their ideal.
Even in constructing an Utopia of future life, none dare break through the laws of antiquity. Ancient Rome presses with all its weight on our century.
While the engineer, the scholar and the artist boldly throw the past overboard — the politician and the economist seek their inspirations in the past.
Where, in fact, would be the engineer’s art if he sought his elements in ancient art. Should we have surpassed the bridges and aqueducts of the Romans if engineers had not availed themselves of new forces and new materials placed at their service to arrive at new conceptions. Without availing themselves of new forces the engineers of the Forth bridge would only have conceived a Cyclopean masonry to block up an arm of the sea and to produce an arch which would have surpassed the Roman arches only in its dimensions. Without daring they would not have opened a new era of architecture by devising to throw across an arm of the sea two Eiffel towers, 300 meters each, laid horizontally, each fixed at its base and joining at their summits.
And what would the science of the evolution of plants and animals have done if Wallace and Darwin had not insisted on overturning the facts and ideas of old books. These pioneers understood that a new science required new observations, and they went to Nature to question her and draw out her secrets; they went to find new bases for new deductions.
Now, this is not what is done in the domain of politics and economics; it is this which explains the timidity of conceptions and consequently the defeats of our century.
We shall not construct a new society by looking backwards. We shall only do so by studying, as Proudhon, has already advised, the tendencies of society to-day and so forecasting the society of tomorrow.
The only basis upon which it is possible to construct the society of the future is the new conceptions which germinate in men’s minds. And these alone can give the revolutionist, aided by his revolutionary fire, the boldness of thought necessary for the success of the Revolution.
IV. When we glance at the mass of Revolutionists, Marxists, Possibilists, Blanquist, or even bourgeois — because everyone partakes in the revolution which is now growing; when we see that the same parties (who answer, each, to certain manners of thinking, and not to personal differences, as is sometimes said) are found in each nation, under other names, but with the same distinctive characteristics; and when we analyze their principles, their aims and their methods — we find with dismay that they are all looking backward; that none dare face the future, and that each of these parties has but one idea — to reproduce Louis Blanc or Blanqui, Robespierre or Marat; they are all strong on the question of government, but equally powerless to bring forth a single idea capable of revolutionizing the world.
All dream of dictatorship: the dictatorship of the Proletariat, said Marx, — that is to say “of Tribunes, of ourselves,” say the majority of the Blanquists and Possibilists, which comes to the same thing.
All dream of the revolution as the legal massacre of their enemies; of the revolutionary tribunal, the public prosecutor, the guillotine, and their own employes-the hangman and the jailer.
All dream of acquiring power in an omnipotent, omniscient State, treating the nation as its subjects, governing the subjects, by thousands and millions of functionaries who have received the authority of the State. Louis the sixteenth and Robespierre, Napoleon and Gambetta dreamed of nothing more than Government.
All dream of representative government as crowning the edifice which is to succeed the revolution after a period of dictatorship.
All preach obedience to the law made by dictators.
All have only one dream, that of Robespierre: to massacre whosoever dare think otherwise than the chiefs of power. The Anarchist revolutionist and the reactionary would have to perish if he dare think and act contrary to their wishes.
All wish, under one form or another the maintenance of property, whether private or administered by the State, and the right of using and abusing it; of payment by results; of charity organized by the State. All dream, in fine, of killing all initiative of individuals and the people. “To think,” they say, “is a science, an art which is not made for the people.” If, at a later stage, it should be permitted for the people to express themselves and try solutions which have not been discussed by our high priests. Marx and Blanqui have thought enough for our century as Rousseau did for the eighteenth, and that ‘Which has not been foreseen by a schoolmaster will not have any reason to exist.’
This is the dream of 99 per cent of those who usurp the name of revolutionists. The Jacobin tradition stifles them, as the monarchial tradition stifled the Jacobins of 1793.
Likewise, if you attend a meeting of workmen who have received a so-called revolutionary education, but who have no idea of Anarchist propaganda, and if you ask them “What is to be done during the revolution? How many replies will you receive some what as follows: “To take possession of the houses of the wealthy; to burn the waste paper of the banks, the ministers and the counting houses of the bourgeois; to destroy the prisons; to distribute food and to hand over a spade to every policeman and banker, and so forth.”
How many so-called revolutionists dare publish these ideas without first referring to their leaders! There will be only one thing upon which all will speak at the first onset. This will be the massacre of the “enemies of the revolution” and he who promises to massacre most will be acknowledged on the spot as a true revolutionist none the less for being as timid as a babe in speaking of the smallest measures which make revolutions. Food for powder yesterday, food for powder tomorrow — the people need not go beyond this, all the rest will be thought out in high places.
We have previously said that when a people avenge themselves upon those who have oppressed them so long no one has the right to intervene and say what they should do. He alone, who himself has suffered. All that the people have suffered has the right to intercede with them on such an occasion.
He alone who has heard his children cry from hunger and seen them die of starvation, he who has slept under bridges and submitted to all the pangs, all the humiliation of misery, who has tramped the roads with out lodgings or food or rambled hungry in the snow during a Bourbaki retreat, while gentlemen slept in hotels — such a one, alone, has the right of pitying popular vengeance and interceding therein, — he the outcast of yesterday, — in favor with his oppressors — and then!
Have not the people been taught vengeance for thousands of years? Has it not been made a sacred right, blessed by religion, and imposed by law — a goddess who in mutilating the body of the malefactor “reestablishes justice by outraging him.” Has not everyone approved vengeance by legal assassination, and paid the hangman and the jailer.
Again, he alone would have full right to speak who has the courage, under the present system, to smash the head of the executioner and the judge in broad daylight on the scene of execution. More who have not done so have simply to keep silence, it is as much do they ought to dare to speak of pity. Because in their fearful days — like the days of September, those days of massacre — it is their education which speaks, it is their principle of legal vengeance which is but in practice, it is their contempt of human life that bears fruit.
It is a thousand years of Christian and Roman teaching, a thousand years of misery — the whole period of history — which speaks in these days. The rebel against all history has alone the right to protest against these terrible days.
But quite otherwise is the error which denies its vindictive character, which sets itself up as a State principle strutting in revolutionary garments. It is that done which is dear to the Jacobin. Because he knows that popular fury will subside with the first victims and soon gives place to pity. He also requires pity to fill the gap of revolutionary thought, legal terror, as incarnation of the revolution.
To massacre the bourgeois is always easier said than done.
Because, alas, they are the majority of the nation-without offense to the boobys who expect to see such a concentration of capital that, according to their opinion, it will belong to none other than the proletarian masses governed by half a dozen bourgeois. How many are there in France, bourgeois and wage receivers?
In counting all the wage receivers including the salaried functionaries and lackeys, the salaried swells of the large warehouses and banks, the uniformed swells of the railways — all the clique in fact of salaried persons more Bourgeois than the most arrant bourgeois — the census of 1881 only finds, all told, seven millions but of 37 millions of inhabitants. With their families they make less than 10 millions. And the remainder, perhaps 17 millions, are bourgeois with their families, those who possess, those who live by the work of others. If we deduct five millions of peasant proprietors, there will still remain twelve millions of bourgeois without counting their valets who live upon the labor of others.
Twelve millions in France, about fifteen millions in England*- the Jacobins intend to massacre the lot?
Marat demanded two hundred thousands aristocrat’s heads; later it appears he spoke of half a million. But he was then only taking account of the past, he did not wish to strike at more than the aristocrats. How many heads do the modern Jacobins demand? And yet Thiers who set himself up for the massacre of the masses on principle only succeeded in destroying 30,000 Parisians!
Thus it is seen Jacobinism reduces itself to absurdity.
“But we need not kill all the bourgeois,” it is customary to reply. “A few hundred thousand will suffice to reduce the others to inactivity. Terror will drive them into the earth.”
Well, this reasoning proves one thing, it is that, thanks to the fables set up by the Jacobins, the people have learned nothing of their own history.
In the first place, it is when the Jacobin revolution was already dead for want of daring to go further, then, when it drove the people, that the reign of Terror was inaugurated, and it was precisely under the Terror that the disappointed little dandies took up the methods of brute force to proclaim the counter revolution which has already established in three fourths of France.
Edgar Quinet has explained it. It was because democracy did not wish to work by Terror. In order to learn how to use Terror with such results as the Catholic church and kings have obtained, democracy would have to learn from Louis the Ninth, John the Terrible and the Czars of Russia. Democracy thought this a trifle too much; the people remained harmless even while they danced the Carmagnole round heads fixed upon pikes.
Kings and Czars do not in the least think it too much. They strike a blow and make others tremble for fear of worse… They do not promenade, their victims in the street; they stifle them in prisons. Alexander the third, when ascending the throne, chose five victims, one a woman, and had them hanged. And then he regretted having had them hanged in a public place, which has enabled Vereschaguine to immortalize them under a curtain. The remainder ate imprisoned at Schlusselbourg and so well imprisoned that for ten years no word or sign of life has come from them. He knows that the terror of the unknown acts more strongly upon minds than death in broad daylight in a public place.
Well, Quinet is a thousand times right when he says the people will never know how to manage such terror as this. It disgusts the people. And yet it is asserted that the people terrorize. They have pity on the victims, they are too sincere not to become soon disgusted. The public prosecutor, the death-cart filled with victims, the guillotine, soon inspire disgust. It is soon perceived that this terror prepares what it should prepare — Dictatorship — and the guillotine is abandoned.
The people do not reign by terror. Invented to forge chains, terror covered by legality forges chains for the people.
The Jacobin program reduces itself to this: Extermination impossible, uselessness of legal terror.
In order to conquer, something more than guillotines are required. It is the revolutionary idea, the truly wide revolutionary conception, which reduces its enemies to impotence by paralyzing all the instruments by which they have governed hitherto.
Very sad would be the future of the revolution if it could only triumph by terror. Happily it has other means otherwise powerful, and we will state them.
V. We have already said that the massacre of the bourgeois as a means to secure the triumph of the Revolution is a senseless dream. Their number even is opposed to it; because, over and above the millions who ought to disappear according to the hypothesis of modern Marats, there would still be millions of half-bourgeois ‘workmen who would fain succeed them. In effect these only ask to be allowed to become capitalists in their turn, and would aim to become such if class interests were attacked in their results and not in their causes. And as for organized and legalized Terror, it serves no other end, we have said, than to forge chains for the people. It kills individual initiative, which is the soul of revolutions; it perpetuates the idea of obedience to a strong government. It prepares the dictatorship which throttles the revolutionary tribunal and knows how to manage it with craft and prudence, in its own interest.
Terror, the arm of government serves, above all, the governing classes; it prepares the ground for the less scrupulous of them.
The Terror of Robespierre necessarily ended in that of Tallien, and this in the dictatorship of Bonaparte. Robespierre hatched Napoleon.
To overcome the bourgeoisie something totally different from brute force is required, other elements than those which it has so well learned to manage. This is why it is necessary first to see what creates its force and to oppose to it a superior force.
What is it that has allowed the middle classes, in effect, to juggle all the revolutions since the fifteenth century, to profit by them, to enthrall and enlarge their domination on a solid bases other than the respect for religious superstition — or of the rights — of birth of the aristocracy?
It is the State. It is the continual growth and enlargement of the functions of the State, based upon that foundation much more solid than religion and birth-right — the Law. And so long as the state lasts, so long as the law remains sacred in the eyes of the people, so long as future revolutions work for the maintenance and enlargement of the functions of the state and the law — the bourgeois will be sure to conserve power and dominate the masses.
Lawyers make the State omnipotent, it is the origin of the middle-classes, and further, it is the omnipotent State which constitutes the actual strength of the bourgeoisie. By the Law and the State they have become possesed of Capital, and have constituted their authority. By the Law and the State they maintain it. By the Law and the State they even promise to cure the evils which make society blush.
In fact, so long as the affairs of the country are entrusted to a few persons, and these affairs have the inextricable complexity which they have today — the bourgeois can sleep in peace. It is they who, adopting the Roman tradition of the omnipotent state, have created, constituted and elaborated this mechanism: it is they who were its support throughout history. They study it in their colleges and universities; they maintain it in their courts of law, they teach it at school, they propagate and inculcate it — by speech and pen.
Their minds are so much accustomed to State tradition that they never give it up in their dreams of the future. Their utopias even bear its seal. They cannot conceive anything beyond the principles of Roman law concerning the State and property; and if they meet with institutions developed beyond these conceptions, whether in the life of French peasants or elsewhere, they destroy them rather than acknowledge them. Thus the Jacobins continued Turgot’s work of destruction concerning the popular institutions of France. Turgot abolished village councils finding them too tumultuous and “disorderly,” the Jacobins abolished communities of families-the “compound families” which had escaped the Roman-ax — they gave the death blow. to communal possession of the land; they made Draconian laws against coalitions of workmen and their strikes; they preferred to drown the Vendeeans by thousands rather than give themselves the trouble to understand their popular institutions. And the modern Jacobins, on finding the commune and federation of tribes among the Kabyles, preferred to destroy these institutions by their tribunals rather than forfeit their conceptions of property and Roman hierarchy.
The English bourgeois have done the same in India.
Also from the day when the great Revolution of the last century embraced in its turn the Roman doctrine of the omnipotent State, sentimentalized by Rousseau and represented by him with the label of Roman Catholic Equality and Fraternity, from the day when it took for its base of Social organization, property and electoral government, — it was to the grandsons of the lawyers of the 17th century, to the middle classes, that the task fell of organizing and governing France according to its principles. The people had nothing to do with it, creative force was in quite another direction.
And if, unhappily, at the time of the next revolution, the people once more, do not understand that its historic mission is to break up the State, created by the codes of Justinian and the edict of the Pope; if they allow themselves once more to be dazzled by conceptions of Roman law, of state and property (that for which the State-Socialists labor so hard) — then they may again abandon the care of that organization to those who are its true historical representatives — the bourgeois.
If people do not understand that the true work of a popular revolution is to destroy the State, which is necessarily hierarchical, to endeavor to replace it by the free understanding of individuals and of groups in free and temporary federation (always with a determined aim), if they do not understand the necessity of abolishing property and the right to acquire property, to sweep away elected government which has substituted itself for the free consent of all; if the people renounce the traditions of the liberty of the individual, of voluntary groupment and of voluntary rules of conduct; if they remain passive if not consenting to the abandonment of these traditions which have been the essence of all preceding popular movements and of all the institutions of popular creation; if they give up all these traditions and adopt that of imperial and universal Rome, then they will do no more for the Revolution; they should leave everything to the middle classes, ending by asking for a few concessions. Because the conception of a State is absolutely foreign to revolution; happily revolution understands nothing of state-craft, it does not know how to use it. It remains the people; it remains imbued with conceptions of what is called the common right — conceptions based upon ideas of reciprocal justice between individuals, upon real facts, while the right of the State is based sometimes upon metaphysics, sometimes on fictions, sometimes on interpretation of words created at Rome and at Byzantium during a period of decomposition, to justify the exploitation and suppression of popular rights.
The people have tried at different times to become an influence in the State, to control it, to be served by it. They have never succeeded.
It always ended in the abandonment of this mechanism of hierarchy and laws to others than the people: to the sovereign after the revolutions of the sixteenth century; to the bourgeois after those of the seventeenth in England and eighteenth in France.
The middle classes, on the contrary, are absolutely identified with the right of States. It is the State that gives it its power. It is the State that gives it that unity of thought which strikes us at every moment.
In practice, a Ferry may detest a Clemenceau; a Floquet a Freycinet, a Ferry may meditate schemes to snatch the presidency from Grevy or Carnot; the pope and his clergy may bate the whole set and cut the ground from under their feet; the Boulangist may include in his hatreds the clergy, the pope, Ferry and Clemenceau. All this may be, and is. But something superior to these enmities unites all, from the rattle-brain of the Boulevards to the honeyed Carnot, from the minister to the last teacher in secular or religious school. This is the worship of authority.
They cannot conceive society without a strong and acknowledged government. Without centralization, without a hierarchy radiating from Paris or from Berlin as far as the most remote game-keeper, and ruling the most distant hamlet by orders from the capital, they would think everything was dropping to pieces. Without a code — the creation alike of the Montagnards of the Convention and of the princes of the Empire — they can see nothing but assassins, incendiaries, cut-throats in the streets. Without property guaranteed by the code they see nothing but deserted fields and ruined cities. Without an army, brutalized, to the point of blindly obeying its officers, they imagine the country the prey of invaders; and without judges, surrounded with the respect of the corpus dei, the stay of the middle ages, they perceive only the war of each against all. The minister and the pope, the gamekeeper and school-master are absolutely agreed on these points, and it is this which makes their common power.
They do not in the least ignore the perpetual robbery of civil and military officials. But it matters little, they say, these are only personal accidents, and so long as ministers exist, the stock-exchange and the country will not be in danger. They know that elections are managed with money, glasses of beer, and free festivities, and that in Parliament votes are bought by places and concessions of plunder. What matters? The law passed by the chosen of the people will be treated by them as sacred. They will elude it, they will violate it if it galls them, but they will make impassioned speeches on its “divine character.”
The chief of the executive power and the chief of the opposition can mutually insult each other in Parliament, but, the battle of words over they surround each other with respect; they are two chiefs, two necessary functionaries in the State. And if the public prosecutor and the advocate insult each other in the presence of the accused, and in moderate language, treat each other as liars and cheats — when the speeches are over they shake hands and compliment each other on their exciting perorations. This is not hypocrisy, it is business.
In the bottom of his heart the prosecutor admires the advocate; they see in each other something superior to their personalities: two functionaries, two representatives of Justice, of Government, of the State. All their education has prepared them for these views which permit the stifling of their humane sentiments under legal formulas. The people will never reach this perfection, and it were better they should never wish to try.
A common adoration, a common worship unites all the middle classes, all the exploiters. The chief of the State and the leader of the opposition, the pope and the bourgeois atheist adore equally the same god, and this god of authority resides in the inmost recesses of their brain. This is why they remain united in spite of their differences. The head of the State does not separate himself from the leader of the opposition, nor the prosecutor from the counsel until the one puts into doubt the institution of parliament or the other treats the tribunal as a true Nihilist would, that is to say, to deny its right of existence. Then, but then only they are implacable. And if the bourgeois throughout Europe have so cordially bated the workmen of the Commune of Paris — it is because they believed they saw in them true revolutionists ready to throw overboard the State, property, and representative government
It is easy to understand what a power this common worship of govern ment gives to the bourgeoisie. Although it may be decayed in three quarters of its representatives, yet it has a good quarter of persons who hold firmly the flag of State. Second only to business, they address themselves to the task, as well by their religion as by desire for power, and work without ceasing to affirm and propagate this worship. Quite an immense literature, all the schools without exception, all the press, are at their service and in their youth above all they work without relapse to combat all attempts to break up the conception of State Legality. And when trouble arises — all, the feeble as well as the strong, rally to this flag. They know that they will reign and go long as that flag waves. They understand also how absurd it would be to place the revolution under this flag, to try to lead the people against all tradition to accept this same principle, which is that of domination and exploitation. Authority is their flag, and so long as the people have not another flag which shall be the expression of its tendencies to Anarchist Communism, opposed to laws and State-craft, anti Imperial in a word, — shall be compelled to allow ourselves to be led and dominated by others.
It is here above all that the revolutionist should have boldness of thought. He ought to have audacity to break entirely from the universal imperial tradition, he needs the courage to tell himself that the People must elaborate all organization of communities upon bases of real justice, such as the comprehension of common popular rights.
VI. The abolition of the State is, we say, the task imposed upon the revolutionist — to him, at least, who has boldness of thought, without which no revolution can be made. In this task he has opposed to him, all the traditions of the middle classes. But he has with him all the evolution of humanity — which imposes upon us at the historic moment the business of setting ourselves free from a form of association rendered, perhaps, necessary by the ignorance of times past but become hostile henceforth to all ulterior progress.
Yet, the abolition of the State would remain a vain expression if the causes which to-day tend to produce misery continue to operate; these causes are, the wealth of powerful persons, the capital of exploitation. The State is created by the impoverishment of the masses. It has always been necessary that one part of society should fall into misery in consequence of migrations, invasions, plagues, or famines, so that others may become rich and acquire authority which henceforth increases and renders the means of existence of the masses more and more precarious.
Political domination cannot therefore be abolished without abolishing the causes of the impoverishment and misery of the masses.
For this — we have many times said — we see only one means.
It is, in the first place, to assure the existence and even the comfort of all, and to organize a method of producing which will insure comfort. With our present means of production it is more, than possible, it is easy. It is to accept what results from all modern economic evolution; that is to say to conceive our entire society as a whole which produces wealth without it being possible to determine the proportion which accrues to each in that production. It is to organize a communistic society — not for the consideration of absolute justice, but because it has become impossible to determine the share of the individual in that which is no longer an individual work.
Thus we see that the problem which presents itself before the revolutionist is immense. It will not be worked out by simple negations, the abolition of serfdom for example or renouncing the supremacy of the pope. It requires the opening of a new page of universal history, the elaboration of an entirely new order of things — based no longer on the solidarity of the tribe or of the village community or the city but on the solidarity and equality of all. The attempts of limited solidarity whether by the ties of parentage or by territorial limitations having failed we are led to work at the building up of a society widely different from that which served to maintain the societies of the middle ages and of antiquity.
The problem to be resolved has certainly not the simplicity under which it has so often been presented. To change the men in power and for each man to return to his workshop to resume the work of yesterday, to put into circulation manufactures and to exchange them against other manufactures — that would not suffice; it would not be final, since the present system of production is quite as false in the aims which it pursues, as in the means which it employs.
Created to maintain poverty it would not know how to assure plenty and it is plenty that the masses demand since they have understood their productive power. Elaborated with intent to hold the masses in a state bordering on misery, with the specter of hunger always ready to compel man to sell his strength to the holders of land, capital and power — how could the present organization of production give well being?
Constructed with the view of enslaving the workers, made to exploit the peasant for the benefit of the factory employee, the miner for the profit of the engineer, the artisan for the profit of the artist and so forth, while the civilized countries exploit the countries backward in civilization — how could agriculture and industry such as they are to-day assure equality.
The whole character of agriculture, industry, and work needs to be entirely changed, when society shall have arrived at the conclusion that the land, the machine and the warehouse should be the fields of application of work having for its object the well-being of all. Before returning to the daily routine it would be necessary to know if the factory were necessary, to know if the field ought to be sub-divided or not, if its cultivation ought to be done as by barbarians fifteen hundred years ago or if it ought to be done with view of obtaining the greatest quantity of produce necessary for man!
This is quite a period of transformations to traverse; a revolution to extend to the warehouse, the field, the cottage, the town house; to small tools as to fixed machinery; in the groupment of cultivators as in the groupment of workers in manufactures and the economic produce among all who work.
And it is necessary that everyone should live during this period of transformation, that everyone should feel more at ease than in the past.
When the inhabitants of the communes of the twelfth century undertook to found, in the revolted cities, a new society, free from the lord of the manor, they began by entering into a pact of solidarity extending to all the inhabitants. The rebels of the communes swore mutual support; they made what were called agreements of the communes.
It is by a pact of the same kind that the social revolution should commence. A pact for life in common — not for death. A pact of solidarity to consider all the inheritance of the past as a common possession, a pact to divide according to principles of equality all that could serve to get over the crisis; food-stores-habitations, tools, machines, knowledge and power — a pact of solidarity for the consumption of products, as well as for the use of the means of production.
Strong in their conjurations, the bourgeois of the twelfth century set themselves to organize their societies of crafts-guilds and succeeded in guaranteeing a certain well-being to the citizens. Strong in this pact of solidarity which will have bound the entire society to got over happy times – -or difficult-to share in victories or defeats, the revolution could then undertake in full assurance the immense work of the reorganization of production which it would have before it. But it would have to conclude this pact if it meant to live.
And in its new work, which ought to be a constructive work, the masses of the people ought to depend first of all on their own strength, on their initiative and their genius, because all the education of the classes is done in the absolutely opposite way.
The problem is immense; but it is not in seeking to lessen it in advance that the people will find the necessary strength to settle it. It is on the contrary, by regarding it in all its greatness, it is carrying one’s inspiration to the difficulties of the situation that one will find the genius necessary to conquer.
All the really great progress of humanity, all the truly great actions of the people are done in this way, and it is in the conception of an the grandeur of its task that the revolution will use its strength.
Is it not then imperative that the revolutionist should be alive to the task which confronts him? Should he shut his eyes to its difficulties? Should he not seek to confront them?
VII. It was by making a compact against all masters, a compact to guarantee liberty to all and a certain well-being, that the revolted citizens commenced in the twelfth century. It will also be by a compact to guarantee food and liberty to all that the Social Revolution should begin. Because all, without any exception, seeking how to gain the revolution, will give their first thoughts to providing food, shelter, and clothing for the inhabitants of the city or the open country, — and in this single fact of general solidarity, the Revolution will find forces which have been wanting in preceding revolutions.
But for this end it is necessary to renounce the errors of the old political economy of the bourgeois. It will be necessary to be rid forever of wages under all possible forms and to regard society as a grand total, organized to produce the greatest possible result of well-being, with the smallest loss of human strength. It will be necessary to accustom oneself to consider personal remuneration of services as an impossibility, as an attempt which failed in the past, as an encumbrance in the future, if it should continue to exist.
And it will be necessary to be rid of the principle of authority, of the concentration of functions which are the essence of the present society, and this not only in principle but even in the smallest application.
Such being the problem it will be very, unfortunate if the revolted workmen have illusions as to its simplicity or if they do not seek forthwith to take account of the methods by which they intend to resolve it.
The “upper classes” are a force not only because they possess wealth but above all because they have profited by the leisure which gives them opportunity to instruct themselves in the art of governing and to elaborate a science which serves to justify domination. They know what they want, they know what is necessary to maintain their ideal of society; and so long as the workman himself does not know what he should know and does not understand how to gain this knowledge, it is likely that he will remain the slave of such as know.
It would certainly be absurd to wish to elaborate, in imagination, a society such as would result from a revolution. It would be Bysantinism to wrangle about the means of providing for the needs of future society, or to organize certain details of public life. The novels which are produced concerning the future are only destined to direct ideas somewhat, to demonstrate the possibility of a society without masters, to ascertain if the ideal can be applied without striking against insurmountable obstacles. Fiction remains fiction. But there are always certain great principles upon which it is necessary to come to agreement, before constructing anything whatever.
The bourgeois of 1789 knew perfectly well how vain it would be to discuss the details of the parliamentary government of which they dreamed; but they dreamed of a government, and this government necessarily became representative. More than that, it necessarily became very much centralized, having for its organs in the provinces a hierarchy of functionaries equally with quite a series of little governments in the municipalities, also elected. They knew perfectly well that in their idea of society private property would of necessity be beyond discussion, and that the so-called liberty of contract would be proclaimed as a fundamental principle of organization. And what is more, the better disposed of them believed in fact that this principle would really result in a regeneration of society and become a source of betterment for all.
They were the more accommodating as to details, as to be firm, upon essential principles, that they could in one or two years totally reorganize France according to their ideal and give her a civil code (usurpated later by Napoleon), a code which was afterwards copied everywhere by the European middle classes when they came to power.
They worked at this with a marvelous unanimity. And if afterwards terrible struggles arose in the Convention it was because the people, seeing themselves deceived in their aspirations, came with fresh demands which their leaders did not even understand, or sought in vain to reconcile with, the middle class revolution.
The middle classes knew what they wanted; they had contemplated it for a long time past. For long years they had fostered an ideal of government, and when the people protested they caused them to work out the realization of their ideal in conceding several secondary considerations upon certain points, such as the abolition of feudal rights and equality before the law.
Without confusing themselves with details, the bourgeois had established, long before the revolution the principal lines of the future. Can we say as much of the workers?
Unfortunately no. In all modern Socialism, and above all in its moderate section, we see a pronounced tendency not to search into the principles of society which they desire to redeem from the revolution. This explains itself. For “moderates” to speak of revolution is to compromise themselves, and they foresee that if they trace for workmen a simple plan of reforms they will lose their most ardent partizans. Also they prefer to treat with scom those who speak of a future society or seek to define the work of the revolution. This will be seen hereafter, they will choose the best men and these will do everything for the best! This is their reply.
And as for the Anarchists, the fear of seeing themselves divided upon questions of future society, and of paralyzing the revolutionary enthusiasm operates in a similar way; they prefer generally, among workers, to defer to some future time discussions which they wrongly call theoretical, and forget that perhaps in one or two years they may be called upon to give their advice upon all questions of organization of society, from the working of baker’s ovens, to those of the schools ‘in’ which the defense of territory is considered, and of which they have not even the knowledge of the ancient models which inspired the bourgeois revolutionists of the last century.
We are asked to consider revolution as a great holiday in which everything will arrange itself for the best. But in reality the day when the ancient institutions crash, the day in which all that immense machine — which, for good or evil,. supplies all the daily wants of such great numbers–shall cease to act, it will be most necessary that the people themselves charge themselves with reorganizing the broken-down machine. It will be different from 1848, when the Republican leaders in Paris had “Nothing more to do than issue orders, copies of the old republican stereotyped orders, known by heart for years-Lamartine and Ledru Rollin working 24 hours with the pen.”
But what say these orders? They only repent sonorous phrases invented in the time of the republican clubs, and they do not all treat of the essence of the daily life of the nation. Since the provisional government of 1848 touched neither property, wages, nor exploitation, it could very well end with sounding phrases, giving orders to do, in a word, what had been done in the state departments. It need only change the phraseology. And yet nothing but such work, almost mechanical, absorbed all the strength of the new-cowers.
For us, revolutionists, who understand that the people will have to eat and to sustain their children first of all, the task will be entirely different and otherwise difficult one. Is there enough flour! Will it come to the baker’s ovens! And how shall we secure the due arrival of meat and vegetables? Has everyone a lodging? Does clothing fail — and so on. This is what will preoccupy us.
But all this requires immense work — ferocious work, that is the word-for those who have the success of the revolution at heart. “Others have had the fever a week, or six weeks,” said an old Conventioner in his memoirs, “We have had it for four years without interruption.” And it is undermined by this fever, in the midst of hostility and trouble — for there will be these also — that the revolutionist will have to work. He will have to act. But how shall he act if be knows not from long time past what idea shall guide him, what great principles of organization, according with him, answer to the requirements of the people, its vague desires, its undecided will.
And will they still dare to say that there is no need of all this, that everything will arrange itself left alone! More intelligent than this, the bourgeois already study the means of managing the revolution, of juggling it, of turning it into a direction in which it will miscarry.
The Revolution will not be a holiday, then will be work for the enfranchisement of all; but in order to accomplish that enfranchisement the revolutionist will have to employ a boldness of thought, an energy of action, an eagerness for work of which people have given no proof in previous revolutions, but of which the forerunners began to be delineated in the last days of the Commune of Paris and in the first days of the Great Strike at the London Docks.
VIII. But where shall we take this boldness of thought, this energy in work of organization when the people have it not? Do you not admit yourselves — they will say to us — that if the force of attack does not fail the people, boldness of thought and eagerness for reconstruction have too often failed them?
We admit it entirely. But we do not forget the part of the men of initiative that we shall now speak in closing our studies.
Initiative, free individual initiative, and the possibility of each making use of that force at the time of popular uprisings, that is what has always made the irresistible power of revelations. It is this power which has made their grandeur, which has enabled them to march to the front, and which historians, always supporting authority, have taken great care to misrepresent. And upon this force we still count to undertake and accomplish the immense work of the social revolution.
If revolutions have accomplished something in the past, it is entirely due to men and women of initiative, to the obscure persons springing out of the crowd not fearing to assume, face to face with their brethren and the future, the responsibility of acts considered madly rash by the timid.
The great mass decides with difficulty to undertake anything which has not had a precedent in the past. We see this every day. If routine encrusts us with its mold at every step, it is because men fail to break with the traditions of the past and to boldly advance into the unknown. But if an idea start in some brain, although vague, confused, yet incapable of translating itself into reality, and if a man of initiative arises and sets himself resolutely to work, he is immediately followed if his work responds to these vague aspirations. And even when worn out by fatigue, he retires, his work, understood and approved is continued by thousands of imitators of whom he dared not even suppose the existence. This is the history of all the life of humanity — which everyone can prove for himself by his own experiences. And it is only those who have acted in opposition to the wishes and needs of humanity who have found themselves despised and abandoned by their contemporaries. Unhappily the men of initiative are rare in every day life. But they arise in numbers at revolutionary epochs and it is they, in reality, who do the enduring work of revolutions. In these are our hope and confidence in the next revolution. If only they have, a just and therefore wide conception of the future, if they have audacity of thought, and do not seek to revive a dead past, if a sublime ideal inspires them they will be followed. Never, at any epoch of its existence, has humanity felt the need of a grand inspiration so much as at this moment after having experienced a century of bourgeois corruption.
In these conditions, there is no need to fear for their work from enemies paralyzed by the decomposition which surrounds them.
But the envy of the oppressed themselves? Has it not often been remarked, and rightly, that envy is the stumbling block of democracies! That if the worker submits patiently to the arrogance of a masters in a frock coat, he regards with an envious eye the personal influence of a fellow workman. We do not deny the fact; nor do we shirk the conclusion of the argument, otherwise very correct, that envy always born in the conscience of a fellow workman, once having acquired influence, he will employ it to betray his fellow-workmen of yesterday, and that the sole means of paralyzing envy and treachery would be to forbid a comrade, as a bourgeois, the possibility of increasing the authority so as to become masters.
All that is right; but there is more. We all, with our authoritative education, when we see an influence arise, we only think of reducing it by annihilating it, and we forget that there are other means, infinitely more efficacious of paralyzing influences which are harmful or tend to become so. It is that of finding a better way of acting.
In a servile society this course is impossible and, children of a servile society, we do not even think of it. A king becomes unbearable; what means have we of getting rid of him if not by killing him! A minister who oppresses us, what is to be done, if not to seek a candidate to replace him and when a chosen of the people disgusts us we seek another to compete against him. This goes thus; but should it always be so?
What could the Conventionist do in the presence of king who disputed their power if not guillotine him, and what could the representatives of “La Montagne” do in the presence of other representatives invested with equal power, if it was not to send them in their turn to the executioner.
Well, this situation of the past remains with us still, while the only truly efficacious means of paralyzing a harmful initiative is to take, oneself, the initiative of acting in a better direction.
Thus when we hear revolutionists concur with the idea of stabbing or shooting the governors who could take authority during the revolution we are seized with terror in thinking that the forces of true revolutionists could waste themselves in struggles which would be, in effect, only struggles for or against the individuals who assumed authority. To make war upon them is to recognize the necessity of having other men possessing the same authority.
In 1871 one sees already in Paris a vague presentiment of a better means of agitating. The revolutionists among the people appeared to understand that the Council of the Commune ought to be considered a useless show, a tribute paid to the traditions of the past; that the people not only should not disarm, but that they should maintain concurrently with the Council, their intimate Organization, their federated groups, and that from these groups and not from the Hotel deVille should spring the necessary measures for the triumph of the revolution.
Unhappily a certain modesty of the popular revolutionists supported by authoritative prejudices, still very much persisted in at this period, prevented these federated groups from totally ignoring the Council and acting as if it had not existed at all.
We shall not be able to prevent the return of these attempts at revolutionary government at the time of the next revolution. Let us understand, at least, that the most efficacious method of annulling their authority is not to plot “Coups d’Etat ” which would only bring back power under another form ending in dictatorship, but to constitute in the people themselves a force powerful in its action and in the revolutionary deeds which it will have accomplished, ignoring power, under whatever name, and increasing always by its revolutionary initiative its revolutionary ardor, and its work of demolition and of reorganization.
A people who know how to organize the accumulation of wealth and its reproduction in the interest of the whole of society, no longer need to be governed. A people who will itself be the armed force of the country, and who will know how to give to armed citizens the necessary cohesion and unity of action will no longer need to be commanded. A people who will organize their railways, their commerce, their schools, can no longer be administered. Finally a people who know how to organize arbitraters to settle little disputes and of which each individual will consider it his duty to prevent a schemer from oppressing a weak citizen without waiting for the providential interference of the policeman will have no need for galley-sergeants, nor judges, nor jailers.
In the revolutions of the past the people took upon themselves the work of demolition; as for that of reorganization, they left it to the bourgeois. “Better versed than we in the art of governing, come sirs, organize us, order our work, so that we do not die of hunger, prevent us from devouring each other, punish and pardon according to the laws which you have made for us poor spirited persons.” And the middle classes knew how to profit by the invitation.
Well, the task which will present itself at the next upraising of the people will be to seize upon this function which has formerly been abandoned to the bourgeois. It will be to destroy, to organize at the same time as to destroy. To accomplish this task we shall need all the initiative power of all men of courage; of all their audacity of thought freed from the nightmares of the past, of all their energy; and we will take care not to paralyze the initiative of the most resolute among us — we will simply redouble initiative if that of others fails, if it becomes dull, if it takes a wrong direction. Boldness of thought, a distinct and wide conception of all that is desired, constructive force arising from the people in proportion as the negation of authority dawns; and finally — the initiative of all in the work of reconstruction — this will give to the revolution the Power required to conquer.
It is precisely these forces which the active propaganda of Anarchists as well as the philosophy of Anarchy tend to develop. Against discipline — the anchor of the safety of authority they oppose the full initiative of one and all. Against the weak conceptions of little reforms, extolled by the bourgeoisie they oppose the large and grand conception of revolution which alone can give the necessary inspiration. And to those who would like to see the people end in the policy of a pack of hounds attacking the government of the day, but always held back at times by the whip, we say: The part of the people in the revolution ought to be positive at the same time that it is destructive. Because this alone can succeed in organizing society on the bases of equality and liberty for all. To remit this care to others would be to betray the cause of the Revolution.
*We know little of France, but in England at least the working classes according to the census of 1881 number about four fifths of the population. We don’t believe in massacring the bourgeois, it is not necessary, but there is no need to exaggerate their numbers.
Kundgebung in Solidarität mit Grup Yorum!
Freitag, 23. August 2019, 18 Uhr
Kottbusser Tor – Kreuzberg
Grup Yorum im Hungerstreik. Am 25. August 2019 werden es 100 Tage sein.
Mitglieder der Musikband Grup Yorum begaben sich am 17. Mai 2019 in einen Hungerstreik. Ihre Hungerstreik-Erklärung enthielt diverse Forderungen, darunter die Freilassung der gefangenen Bandmitglieder und die Einstellung der Verfahren, die Beendigung der Polizeirepression gegen den Istanbuler Kulturverein İdil, die Streichung der Namen der Bandmitglieder von den “Terrorlisten” und die Aufhebung der Konzertverbote.
Dem Hungerstreik, der draußen von Grup Yorum-Mitgliedern begonnen wurde, schlossen sich im Laufe der Aktion die gefangenen Grup Yorum-Mitlgieder Bahar Kurt (Burhaniye T-Typ Gefängnis; im 61. Tag, Stand 13.8.), İbrahim Gökçek (Silivri-Gefängnis Nr. 9; im 58. Tag, Stand 13.8.), Helin Bölek (Geschlossenen Frauengefängnis von Gebze; im 57. Tag, Stand 13.8.) und Barış Yüksel (Silivri-Gefängnis Nr. 9; im 55. Tag, Stand 13.8.) als auch UnterstützerInnenkreise und Familienangehörige an.
Gegen die Band, die sowohl in der Türkei als auch in Europa ständig mit Repression konfrontiert ist, wurden seit Verhängung des türkeiweiten Ausnahmezustandes im Juli 2016 massive Maßnahmen und Verbote ergriffen.
So wurde das İdil Kulturzentrum, das sich im Istanbuler Stadteil Okmeydanı befindet und in dem Grup Yorum organisiert ist, achtmal (im Oktober und November 2016, im Mai und September 2017 sowie im Oktober und November 2018) von der Polizei gestürmt, wobei neben der Verwüstungen zudem Instrumente zerstört sowie Kompositionen entwendet wurden und insgesamt 30 Personen verhaftet wurden. In den letzten zwei Jahren wurden elf Bandmitglieder verhaftet und sieben befinden sich weiterhin in Haft. Sechs Bandmitglieder (İnan Altın, Selma Altın, Ali Aracı, İbrahim Gökçek, Emel Yeşilırmak und İhsan Cibelik) wurden durch das türkische Innenministerium auf eine “Terrorliste” gesetzt und es wird nach ihnen gefahndet.
Über Grup Yorum
Die Band wurde 1985 als ein revolutionäres Musikkollektiv in Istanbul ins Leben gerufen und veröffentlichte bis zum heutigen Tag über 30 Musikalben, auf denen sich revolutionäre Lieder u.a. in türkischer, kurdischer, arabischer und tscherkessischer Sprache befinden.
Grup Yorum beteiligte sich seit ihrem Bestehen an den Widerständen und Protesten der Massen und begleitete diese mit ihren Liedern, wofür die Band immer wieder mit Repression und Haftstrafen konfrontiert wurde.
Eines der staatlichen Maßnahmen gegen Yorum waren Konzertverbote, die es ihr erschweren sollten, sich mit den Massen zu vereinen. Die aktuellen Konzertverbote traten zu einer Zeit ein, als die Band es geschafft hatte, zwischen 2011 und 2014 mit ihren jährlichen „Konzerten für eine unabhängige Türkei“ Millionen Menschen zu erreichen. Mittlerweile sind Konzerte der Band in der Türkei wieder verboten.
In der Türkei und in verschiedenen europäischen Ländern dauern Solidaritätsaktivitäten, darunter Solidaritätshungerstreiks an. Auch wir unterstützen den Protest von Grup Yorum und machen am 23. August eine Kundgebung am Kottbusser Tor, um den Forderungen Nachdruck zu verleihen.
Unterstützt die Kundgebung:
Freitag, 23. August 2019, 18 Uhr
Kottbusser Tor – Kreuzberg
Netzwerk Freiheit für alle politischen Gefangenen – Berlin
Just down the road from Kolonaki, the most fashionable district in central Athens, lies Exarchia, a bohemian city within a city, home to artists, students, intellectuals, shopkeepers, and, most notoriously, anarchists. The neighborhood is a shrine to the art of graffiti—block after block of it, in mere scribbles of slogans, in ambitious allegorical paintings, in protest and in reflection, in naiveté and wisdom, sometimes covering whole buildings from the ground floor up. The neighborhood is a shrine as well as to the deterioration of urban life in Athens since the crash of 2008: derelict houses, abandoned storefronts, decaying roads and crumbling sidewalks.
At night, young people congregate on run-down Exarchia Square, a small tree-lined triangular park surrounded by six-story apartment buildings, cafes, and restaurants, standing around to drink beer, smoke cannabis, listen to music if any is playing, and talk. I spoke to a handful of them the other night: polite, educated kids in their twenties, most of whom spoke passable English. All of them were unemployed; they lived with relatives in other parts of the city and they were broke. They said they were anarchists and that Exarchia was their real home. They call it an “autonomous” district.
After a string of riots, beginning in 2008, when a fifteen-year-old boy was shot and killed by an officer, the police have decided to keep out of the area. You find the police at the periphery, armed with automatic rifles, stationed by buses equipped with surveillance gear and more weaponry. The police will not venture into the heart of the district if they can help it, lest their presence incite more anti-establishment violence. But they are prepared, if any of the anarchists and fellow travelers embark on a demonstration and start marching, to keep them contained in the Exarchia. Posh Kolonaki is not the only major bourgeois district that abuts the Exarchia. Omonoia, a central shopping and business quarter is next door as well. Syntagma Square and the seat of the national government is not far off, either.
Greeks know that a chess game is being played in Europe, with their new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, playing the aggressive white knight. He has been in Paris and London, and will be going on to Rome and Berlin, trying to prepare the way for a defeat of austerity economics. The next turn in the game will decide whether or not the white queen will be put into play—which is to say, Spain. If Varoufakis and his Syriza Party win the concessions they are seeking, Spain’s sympathetic left-wing Podemos Party is likely to sweep into power by a large margin. And though tiny Greece, with 11 million people, can be pushed around easily enough, Spain has the fifth largest economy in the EU; its 47 million people could undo the whole Union.
A large majority of Greeks across the political spectrum probably support Varoufakis’s efforts. His government has pledged to cancel the privatization of the nation’s two main public seaports, re-hire 5,500 public workers (cleaners) who had been laid off at the command of the Troika, and raise the minimum wage by 200 Euros a month. It says it will turn the electricity back on in homes where residents had failed to pay the bills. If Varoufakis can win concessions from foreign bankers and government officials, few people in Greece are going to be left unhappy.
But many will be surprised—and many fear that Varoufakis is only going to make things worse, by forcing Greece out of the Eurozone and thereby cutting off its financial lifelines. “Where is the money supposed to come from if we leave the Euro?” one businesswoman asked me, rhetorically, although Varoufakis has repeatedly said that he has no intention of leaving the Euro. Anarchists are not sure whether to be hopeful, either. “We have heard a lot of promises,” one young man said to me. “Everybody makes promises.”
A lot of what Varoufakis has said and sworn to put into action thus far, however, is not all that radical. Varoufakis’s main position is that Europe should return to the Keynesianism that underlay its great economic expansion in the mid-twentieth century. He is not far off, in this respect, from American economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz. But Varoufakis also realizes, as he explains in his book The Global Minotaur, that we live in a post-Keynesian world. There is no way anymore to enforce the fiscal and financial controls through which Keynesians balance out matters like aggregate demand and monetary supply. A deeper connection between economics and the tissues of social life needs to be established—but what would that be?
Fun though it was to smoke cigarettes with the young anarchists, and as inspiring as it was to see them express themselves with angry, ugly but lively art and American-style folk music, I felt there was something retrograde and inadequate about their movement, just as Varoufakis has seen something retrograde and inadequate in the Keynesianism he admires. A way forward, yes—a way forward is what we need. But who in the crowd in Exarchia Square is ready to say what it would be?
San Francisco Cherán, is an indigenous community of the Purépecha town located in the state of Michoacán, Mexico. It has a territorial extension of 221,000 square kilometers and a population of 14,245 inhabitants, making it the largest Purépecha community in terms of territory. It originally counted some 27,000 hectares of forest. The main economic activities are agriculture, livestock farming and the production of wood and cork products.
Cherán is the only municipality inhabited mainly by indigenous Purépecha, a culture that seeks to preserve its identity and cultural traits, which are closely linked to concerns about the fertility of the land and care of resources. The community of Cherán has occupied this territory since before the colonization process. It has conserved its own institutions to organize itself in the political, cultural, economic and social sphere, and this has been reflected in its social dynamics. The inhabitants of the municipality have combined their own practices with the national law, in a dual law regime. The inhabitants of the municipality have combined their own practices with the national law, in a dual law regime.
However, recently, particularly between 2008 and 2011, this community experienced one of its worst periods of crisis due to the insecurity and violence arising from the municipal authorities’ complicity with organized crime. They cut down a wide swathe of Cherán’s forests unannounced and extorted, threatened, kidnapped and murdered the villagers. They carried out these activities in broad daylight.
The state and federal authorities showed no will to address the resulting mayhem and violence suffered by the community and to protect the common patrimony of the people (territory, forests and water). The Purépecha community of Cherán decided to take the problem into their own hands.
Beginnings of the movement
The movement of the indigenous community of Cherán emerged at dawn on April 15, 2011. Ordinary people decided to confront the criminal organizations that came down from the hill with several vans loaded with wood. Thus began the resistance of the Purepecha community of Cherán. Women and men, children and adults concentrated on the site named “Calvary” to defend life, their security, territory, forests and the dignity of the community. Regardless of political affiliation, belief or religion, all the inhabitants of Cherán joined together on that April 15 without thinking where their insurrection would lead them. Regardless of political affiliation, belief or religion, all the inhabitants of Cherán joined together on that April 15 without thinking where their insurrection would lead them.
From that day on, the “comuneros” decided to organize under their own scheme, driving away organized crime. After the expulsion of the municipal authorities, an “organizational structure” composed of a general coordination and 12 commissions took over the control of the entire community. They built barricades on all the accesses to the municipality and started to establish guard posts to enable comuneros to defend themselves in the four neighborhoods of the municipality. Some 200 campfires – of which several have remained active up to this day – were set up at these guard posts and became the symbols of the resistance, and the will of the comuneros to free themselves from organized crime and corrupted authorities. With the slogan “for the defense of our forests, for the safety of our comuneros” they aimed at defending their natural resources, valued as a heritage and as a sacred good of the community.
Cheran – no to political parties.At the same time, the problem of Cherán became visible to several sectors of Mexican society and resonated with them. Similar problems were suffered by indigenous communities throughout the country, including the devastation of natural resources, human rights violations and social exclusion. All of this was aggravated by the involvement of organized crime and the lack of will or any action on the part of the authorities to solve the situation.
From the spaces known as “campfires” and the “organizational structure”, the comuneros began to discuss, to reflect on alternative projects and actions to solve the problems they were suffering. They quickly identified that political parties did not guarantee the security and cultural continuity of Cherán. On June 1, 2011, the community general assembly decided not to take part in the elections for the state governors and legislators and the municipal presidents that were to be held in 2011 and not to allow the installation of polling stations in the municipality. Instead, they decided to exercise their right to appoint their own authorities through their own normative systems. Instead, they decided to exercise their right to appoint their own authorities through their own normative systems.
The rights to autonomy and self-determination had been recognized by international treaties as well as by the national legal system. Cheran thus decided to move forward along this path and to eliminate the local political party system, with the slogan of “No more political parties in the community”. It thus asked the electoral institute of the state of Michoacán to organize the appointment of new municipal authorities of the community under the traditional system of “uses and customs”.
The state authorities tried to stop the movement of Cherán. In September 2011, the Electoral Institute of Michoacan issued a negative response, declaring it had no authority to authorize such a mode of elections. To the social and political mobilizations that were the bases of the movement until then, the comuneros now decided to add the adoption of a legal strategy to defend its autonomy and alternative project.
“No more political parties in the community”.
The legal strategy of the movement
Cherán decided to mobilize the law as a political and legal strategy. They used state (and hegemonic) law in a “counter-hegemonic sense” to materialize their struggle for self-determination and to form their self-government. In response to the EIM (Electoral Institute of Michoacan), the community decided to judicialize its right to “autonomy and self-determination”. They demanded in the courts the right to choose their own authorities based on the system of “uses and customs”, through a “Trial for the Protection of the Political-Electoral Rights of the Citizen” in the Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Power of the Federation (ETJPF, or TEPJF by their initials in Spanish). Two months later, on November 2, 2011, the Superior Chamber of the ETJPF ruled in favor of the indigenous community of Cherán.
Two months later, on November 2, 2011, the Superior Chamber of the ETJPF ruled in favor of the indigenous community of Cherán. It recognized that Cherán had the right to request the election of its own authorities through its “uses and customs” and ordered the EIM to organize this election, after free and informed consultation with the entire community.
Following this triumph of a counter-hegemonic use of state law and the ETJPF decision, a “free, prior and informed consultation” was organized in the community to decide whether or not it wanted to appoint its new authorities through its “uses and customs”. The result of the consultation was positive. In January 2012, a democratic election was duly held, giving rise to the constitution of a new government figure: the first indigenous municipal government, called “Mayor Council of Communal Government” (Concejo Mayor de Gobierno Comunal), composed of 12 “K’eris” (seniors) chosen among the “comuneros” and “comuneras” (members of the community), three for each of four districts. There is no hierarchy among them, that is to say, all occupy the same position within the communal government. They were appointed for a 3-year period 2012-2015.
The first time, a “uses and customs” election was organized by the EIM and by the community itself, respecting its own procedures, through a kind of ritual, without ballot boxes and without political parties. It differs from the model of “uses and customs” in the Southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, as the later system only serves a procedural function in the election of its authorities. In the case of Cherán, there was a “transformation in the structure, logic and relations of the municipal government”, when the hierarchical figures of “president, elected representatives and councillor” disappears and the government becomes a genuinely collegial body.
The new communal government
Following these elections, the seat of the city council or municipal palace was transformed into the “Communal House of Government”. The police were replaced by a “community round”. The municipal president, representatives and councillors take part in a “Common Council of Communal Government”; Likewise, “operational councils” have been constituted as well as “commissions” for civil affairs, social development, procurement and conciliation of justice, education, culture, health, identity, campfires, water, cleanliness and youth. All them are aware that the maximum authority is the “General Assembly” composed of all the inhabitants of Cherán. All them are aware that the maximum authority is the “General Assembly” composed of all the inhabitants of Cherán.
From April 2011 to February 2012, Cherán’s social movement moved considerably forward, both in its political and legal struggles. Winning the right to elect its own authorities and exercise their right to self-determination allowed them to establish a solid basis – the communal government – for the continuation of the emancipatory movement. The path towards autonomy was set up. But the journey went far beyond constituting a government under the system of “uses and customs”.
Other legal struggles of the movement and the second Council
The second Council of Communal Government took charge on September 1st, 2015.In 2012, shortly after the appointment of the first mayoral council and already as Cherán’s authorities, the community returned to the courts to start another trial, this time in the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN), against the Governor and the Congress of the State of Michoacán. The latter had overhauled the Political Constitution of this region in matters of indigenous rights without having consulted the Cherán community, thereby overlooking another of the core rights of indigenous peoples and communities.
The ruling given by the SCJN in the trial of 2014 secured the dual character of Cherán, as both a municipality and as an indigenous community. This was officially recognized for the first time. As a result, the tribunal also established that in its capacity as an “indigenous municipality”, Cherán must be consulted on all legislative and administrative matters that interest or affect them as a community and as an indigenous municipality.
The issues brought to trial by Cherán and given legal backing by the highest courts in Mexico represent a major achievement. However, despite these judicial successes that have ratified the indigenous rights of the community, lawmakers in Michoacán have refused to amend the laws on matters integral to the municipality which involve recognition of Cherán’s indigenous municipality. Likewise, in electoral matters, the elections and authorities by “uses and customs” have also not been recognized.
Given the refusal of the state to cooperate, Cherán has continued to resist through communal organization in its campfires, neighborhood assemblies, and general assembly. Comuneros and comuneras get involved in the decisions of their community and support their local authorities. In 2014, Cherán had to go back to court once more, to remind the authorities of the rights it had won. Following that trial, the process of elections by “uses and customs” has finally been incorporated into the Electoral Law. Cherán made the consultation “binding”, which has opened a door for all indigenous communities in the state of Michoacan to get their voices heard in decision making processes.
In 2015, Cherán’s struggle succeeded in integrating “previous, free and informed consultation” into state law. It prevented the state Congress from approving a “Law of Mechanisms of Citizen Participation” which did not recognise the consultation rights of indigenous peoples and communities. This mechanism is essential to ensuring communities’ participation in decision-making processes through their traditional procedures. Cherán made the consultation “binding”, which has opened a door for all indigenous communities in the state of Michoacan to get their voices heard in decision making processes
2015 was also the year of the appointment of the second Mayoral Council of Communal Government. The community decided to continue with its project of autonomy, self-determination and self-government. The political parties tried to interfere in the process of the renewal of the Council. Their failure to do so and the successes of Cherán in the tribunals gave considerable strength to the second election of the local authorities and to the second Council of Communal Government that took charge on September 1, 2015.
5 years of resistance and struggle
On April 15, 2016, the movement of Cherán celebrated its fifth anniversary. They organized an event with a strong cultural dimension and forums of dialogue fostering conversations on topics such as dispossession and war against the peoples, women and territory, autonomy, education for the defense of the territory. The celebration was closed with an event on the main square of the community, where the inhabitants remembered their dead companions and recalled the difficult road that they had travelled, the fear of living under insecurity, the impotence they felt when their forests were devastated. They also remembered the purpose of their struggle, a movement “for justice, security and the reconstitution of their territory”. To build and rebuild a lifestyle based on a communal government through its “uses and customs” has been the major task of these five years. The road has not been easy.
The movement has found many allies and support, notably among indigenous communities and progressive movements in Mexico. It has notably been accompanied in its struggle by the “Collectivo Emancipaciones”, that gathers young researchers who share a “political position committed to progressive social movements and from judicial support of social processes where the defense of human rights is relevant”. Since 2011, this Collective has been providing judicial support to the indigenous community of Cherán and has been working benevolently with the community as well as with other indigenous communities in the state of Michoacán.
To build and rebuild a lifestyle based on a communal government through its “uses and customs” has been the major task of these five years. The road has not been easy. The community continues to face a broad list of systemic enemies including the administrative bureaucracy, political parties, organized crime and state resistance to recognizing the rights of indigenous communities. The achievements of the community of Cherán remain under constant threat.
We send our fraternal greetings to you all out there in New York in particular and the United States in general. It has indeed been a long time since the Awareness League last communicated with the WSA. Suffice it to say that the AL holds the WSA in special esteem and will continue to. We continue to look forward to improved relations and a deepening of our ties through future co-operation/collaboration.
The past two years have been a trying period for our organisation. There has been a noticeable fatigue after years of sustained struggle against the military dictatorship in Nigeria. With the advent of civil rule, many in our ranks have tended to lower their guards. The philosophical and ideological underpinning of the struggle for a truly free society remains at best, underdeveloped in these parts. And this coupled with the fact that life here is an everyday struggle, to be able to eke out a living or survive.
AL has entered a new phase in the struggle against the state, its institutions and structures, as the high hopes and expectations of transition to civil rule give way to frustration, cynicism, despair and discontent threatening to boil over. We are gradually and steadily returning to the trenches once again.
[During the month of March], we joined in the mobilisations of all Nigerian workers, activists and left groups against the government’s planned deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry, an euphemism for steep price increases. The protests [were] building towards a crescendo, with the University Teachers Union (ASUU) embarking on a nationwide strike from 2nd April, leading to a closure of the country’s 38 universities. More protests are in the offing, and AL is participating actively in these protests in Enugu, Owerri, Calabar, Umuahia, Lagos and Abuja. The tempo and scope of our struggle are bound to find a new lease in the next couple of months.
2. AFIKPO COMMUNITY RADIO
Afikpo Community Radio, a project undertaken with active support of groups and individuals intake United States and Canada has finally gone on air. The radio project has been stalled all the while by bureaucratic bottlenecks. We hope we have been able to summmont them for good. The radio transmits for between 4 to 6 hours daily, but power supply remains epileptic and highly unreliable We are trying to grapple with programming logistics difficulties. The radio is currently being run with collaboration with the Afikpo Town Union, a community-based organisatiom. They provide us with cartridges/CDs of local music in addition to other consumables at times diesel for power.
3. THE CHATTANOOGA 3
We … received with disgust and trepidation the … travails off Comrades Komboa Ervin, Damon Mc Gee and Ralph P. Mitchell, allowing a protest against the killings of two black men in 1998. Our members are fairly familiar with their case. At a personal level, I cannot forget in a hurry the wonderful reception accorded me in Chattanooga November 1998 by the duo of Lorenzo Komboa and Damon Mc Gee, in the course of my last tour of the United States. We held a solidarity rally in Enugu on their behalf of Saturday March 10, since we could not meet with the February 24 rally date. Our rally was attended by 19 persons at such short notice.
We condemn and denounce the unjust verdicts and sentencing in the Chattanooga 3 case. We uphold the fundamental right to freedom of the comrades.
We shall continue to count on your support as we commence the processes of repositioning the Awareness League for the challenges of the post-military era. It promises to be as daunting as the struggle against military rule itself. We look forward to your suggestions in this regard.
For Awareness League