If Stirner combats Feuerbach, the “immortal” Proudhon imitates Kant. “What Kant did some sixty years ago for religion what he did earlier for certainty of certainties; what others before him had attempted to do for happiness or supreme good, the Voice of the People proposes to do for the Government,” pompously declares “the father of Anarchism.” Let us examine his methods and their results.
According to Proudhon, before Kant, the believer and the philosopher moved “by an irresistible impulse,” asked themselves, “What is God!” They then asked themselves “Which, of all religions, is the best!” “In fact, if there does exist a Being superior to Humanity, there must also exist a system of the relations between this Being and Humanity. What then is this system! The search for the best religion is the second step that the human mind takes in reason and in faith. Kant gave up these insolvable questions. He no longer asked himself what is God, and which is the best religion; he set about explaining the origin and development of the Idea of God; he undertook to work out the biography of this idea.” And the results he attained were as great as they were unexpected. “What we seek, what we see, in God, as Malebranche said ... is our own Ideal, the pure essence of Humanity ... The human soul does not become conscious of its Ego through premeditated contemplation, as the psychologists put it; the soul perceives something outside itself, as if it were a different Being face to face with itself, and it is this inverted image which it calls God. Thus morality, justice, order, law, are no longer things revealed from above, imposed upon our free will by a socalled Creator, unknown and ununderstandable; they are things that are proper and essential to us as our faculties and our organs, as our flesh and our blood. In two words religion and society are synonymous terms, man is as sacred to himself as if he were God.”
Belief in authority is as primitive, as universal as belief in God. Wherever men are grouped together in societies there is authority, the beginning of a government. From time immemorial men have asked themselves, What is authority? Which is the best form of government? And replies to these questions have been sought for in vain. There are as many governments as there are religions, as many political theories as systems of philosophy. Is there any way of putting an end to this interminable and barren controversy? Any means of escape from this impasse!” Assuredly! We have only to follow the example of Kant. We have only to ask ourselves whence comes this idea of authority, of government? We have only to get all the information we can upon the legitimacy of the political idea. Once safe on this ground and the question solves itself with extraordinary ease.
“Like religion, government is a manifestation of social spontaneity, a preparation of humanity for a higher condition.”
“What humanity seeks in religion and calls God, is itself.” “What the citizen seeks in Government and calls king, emperor, or president, is again himself, is liberty.” “Outside humanity there is no God; the theological concept has no meaning: – outside liberty no government, the political concept has no value.”
So much for the “biography” of the political idea. Once grasped it must enlighten us upon the question as to which is the best form of government.
“The best form of government, like the most perfect of religions, taken in a literal sense, is a contradictory idea. The problem is not to discover how we shall be best governed, but how we shall be most free. Liberty commensurate and identical with Order, – this is the only reality of government and politics. How shall this absolute liberty, synonymous with order, be brought about? We shall be taught this by the analysis of the various formulas of authority. For all the rest we no more admit the governing of man by man than the exploitation of man by man.”
We have now climbed to the topmost heights of Proudhon’s political philosophy. It is from this that the fresh and vivifying stream of his Anarchist thought flows. Before we follow the somewhat tortuous course of this stream let us glance back at the way we have climbed.
We fancied we were following Kant. We were mistaken. In his Critique of Pure Reason Kant has demonstrated the impossibility of proving the existence of God, because everything outside experience must escape us absolutely. In his Critique of Practical Reason Kant admitted the existence of God in the name of morality. But he has never declared that God was a topsy-turvey image of our own soul. What Proudhon attributes to Kant, indubitably belongs to Feuerbach. Thus it is in the footsteps of the latter that we have been treading, while roughly tracing out the “biography” of the political Idea. So that Proudhon brings us back to the very starting point of our most unsentimental journey with Stirner. No matter. Let us once more return to the reasoning of Feuerbach.
It is only itself that humanity seeks in religion. self, it is liberty that the citizen seeks in Government ... Then the very essence of the citizen is liberty? Let us assume this is true, but let us also note that our French “Kant” has done nothing, absolutely nothing, to prove the “legitimacy” of such an “Idea.” Nor is this all. What is this liberty which we are assuming to be the essence of the citizen? Is it political liberty which ought in the nature of things to be the main object of his attention? Not a bit of it ! To assume this would be to make of the “citizen” an “authoritarian” democrat.
It is the absolute liberty of the individual, which is at the same time commensurate and identical with Order, that our citizen seeks in Government. In other words, it is the Anarchism of Proudhon which is the essence of the “citizen.” It is impossible to make a more pleasing discovery, but the “biography” of this discovery gives us pause. We have been trying to demolish every argument in favor of the Idea of Authority, as Kant demolished every proof of the existence of God. To attain this end we have – imitating Feuerbach to some extent, according to whom man adored his own Being in God – assumed that it is liberty which the citizen seeks in Government. And as to liberty we have in a trice transformed this into “absolute” liberty, into Anarchist liberty. fins, zwei, drei; Geschwindigkeit ist keine Hexerei!
Since the “citizen” only seeks “absolute” liberty in Government the State is nothing but a fiction (“this fiction of a superior person, called the ’State’”), and all those formulas of government for which people and citizens have been cutting one another’s throats for the last sixty centuries, are but the phantasmagoria of our brain, which it would be the first duty of free reason to relegate to the museums and libraries. Which is another charming discovery made “en passant.” So that the political history of humanity has, “for sixty centuries,” had no other motive power than a phantasmagoria of our brain !
To say that man adores in God his own essence is to indicate the origin of religion, but it is not to work out its “biography.” To write the biography of religion is to write its history, explaining the evolution of this essence of man which found expression in it. Feuerbach did not do this – could not do it. Proudhon, trying to imitate Feuerbach, was very far from recognizing the insufficiency of his point of view. All Proudhon has done is to take Feuerbach for Kant, and to ape his Kant-Feuerbach in a most pitiful manner. Having heard that Divinity was but a fiction, he concluded that the State is also a figment: since God does not exist, how can the State exist? Proudhon wished to combat the State and began by declaring it nonexistent. And the readers of the Voix du Peuple applauded, and the opponents of M. Proudhon were alarmed at the profundity of his philosophy! Truly a tragi-comedy!
It is hardly necessary for modern readers to add that in taking the State for a fiction we make it altogether impossible to understand its “essence” or to explain its historical evolution. And this was what happened to Proudhon.
“In every society I distinguish two kinds of constitution,” says he; “the one which I call social, the other which is its political constitution; the first innate in humanity, liberal, necessary, its development consisting above all in weakening, and gradually eliminating the second, which is essentially factitious, restrictive, and transitory. The social constitution is nothing but the equilibration of interests based upon free contract and the organization of the economic forces, which, generally speaking, are labor, division of labor, collective force, competition, commerce, money, machinery, credit, property, equality in transactions, reciprocity of guarantees, etc. The principle of the political constitution is authority. Its forms are: distinction of classes, separation of powers, administrative centralization, the judicial hierarchy, the representation of sovereignty by elections, etc. The political constitution was conceived and gradually completed in the interest of order, for want of a social constitution, the rules and principles of which could only be discovered as a result of long experience, and are even today the object of Socialist controversy. These two constitutions, as it is easy to see, are by nature absolutely different and even incompatible: but as it is the fate of the political constitution to constantly call forth and produce the social constitution something of the latter enters into the former, which, soon becoming inadequate, appears contradictory and odious, is forced from concession to concession to its final abrogation.” The social constitution is innate in humanity, necessary. Yet it could only be discovered as the result of long experience, and for want of it humanity had to invent the political constitution. Is not this an entirely Utopian conception of human nature, and of the social organization peculiar to it? Are we not coming back to the standpoint of Morelly who said that humanity in the course of its history has always been “outside nature”? No – there is no need to come back to this standpoint, for with Proudhon we have never, for a single instant, got away from it. While looking down upon the Utopians searching after “the best form of government,” Proudhon does not by any means censure the Utopian point of view. He only scoffs at the small perspicacity of men who did not divine that the best political organization is the absence of all political organization, is the social organization, proper to human nature, necessary, immanent in humanity.
The nature of this social constitution is absolutely different from, and even incompatible with, that of the political constitution. Nevertheless it is the fate of the political constitution to constantly call forth and produce the social constitution. This is tremendously confusing! Yet one might get out of the difficulty by assuming that what Proudhon meant to say was that the political constitution acts upon the evolution of the social constitution. Hut then we are inevitably met by the question, Is not the political constitution in its turn rooted – as even Guizot admitted – in the social constitution of a country? According to our author no; the more emphatically no, that the social organization, the true and only one, is only a thing of the future, for want of which poor humanity has “invented” the political constitution. Moreover, the “Political Constitution” of Proudhon covers an immense domain, embracing even “class distinctions,” and therefore “non-organized” property, property as it ought not to be, property as it is today. And since the whole of this political constitution has been invented as a mere stop-gap until the advent of the anarchist organization of society, it is evident that all human history must have been one huge blunder. The State is no longer exactly a fiction as Proudhon maintained in 1848; “the governmental formulas for which people and citizens have been cutting one another’s throats for sixty centuries are no longer a “mere phantasmagoria of our brain,” as the same Proudhon believed at this same period; but these formulas, like the State itself, like every political constitution, are but the product of human ignorance, the mother of all fictions and phantasmagorias. At bottom it is always the same. The main point is that Anarchist (“social”) organization could only be discovered as the result of “many experiences.” The reader will see how much this is to be regretted.
The political constitution has an unquestionable influence upon the social organization; at any rate it calls it forth, for such is its “fate” as revealed by Proudhon, master of Kantian philosophy and social organization. The most logical conclusion to be drawn therefrom is that the partisans of social organization must make use of the political constitution in order to attain their end. But logical as this deduction is, it is not to the taste of our author. For him it is but a phantasmagoria of our brain. To make use of the political constitution is to offer a burnt offering to the terrible god of authority, to take part in the struggle of parties. Proudhon will have none of this. “No more parties,” he says; “no more authority, absolute liberty of the man and the citizen – in three words, such is our political and social profession of faith.”
Every class-struggle is a political struggle. Whosoever repudiates the political struggle, by this very act gives up all part and lot in the class-struggle. And so it was with Proudhon. From the beginning of the Revolution of 1848 he preached the reconciliation of classes. Here, e.g., is a passage from the Circular which he addressed to his electors in Doubs, which is dated 3rd April of this same year: “The social question is there; you cannot escape from it. To solve it we must have men who combine extreme Radicalism of mind with extreme Conservatism of mind. Workers, hold out your hands to your employers; and you, employers, do not deliberately repulse the advances of those who were your wage-earners.”
The man whom Proudhon believed to combine this extreme Radicalism of mind with extreme Conservatism of mind, was himself – P.J. Proudhon. There was, on the one hand, at the bottom of this belief a “fiction,” common to all Utopians who imagine they can rise above classes and their struggles, and naively think that the whole of the future history of humanity will be confined to the peaceful propagation of their new gospel. On the other hand, this tendency to combine Radicalism and Conservatism shows conclusively the very “essence” of the “Father of Anarchy.”
Proudhon was the most typical representative of petty bourgeois socialism. Now the “fate” of the petty bourgeois – in so far as he does no: adopt the proletarian standpoint – is to constantly oscillate between Radicalism and Conservatism. To make more understandable what we have said, we must bear in mind what the plan of social organization propounded by Proudhon was.
Our author shall tell us himself. It goes without saying that we shall not escape a more or less authentic interpretation of Kant. “Thus the line we propose to follow in dealing with the political question and in preparing the materials for a constitution will be the same as that we have followed hitherto in dealing with the social question.” The Voix du Peuple while completing the work of its predecessors, the two earlier journals, will follow faithfully in their footsteps. What did we say in these two publications, one after the other of which fell beneath the blows of the reaction and the state of siege? We did not ask, as our precursors and colleagues had done, Which is the best system of community? The best organization of property? Or again: Which is the better, property or the community? The theory of St. Simon or that of Fourier? The system of Louis Blanc or that of Cabet? Following the example of Kant we stated the question thus: “How is it that man possesses’ How is property acquired? How lost? What is the law of its evolution and transformation? Whither does it tend? What does it want? What, in fine, does it represent?.....Then how is it that man labors? How is the comparison of products instituted? By what means is circulation carried out in society? Under what conditions? According to what laws?” And the conclusion arrived at by this monograph of property was this: Property indicates function or attribution; community; reciprocity of action; usury ever decreasing, the identity of labor and capital (sic!). In order to set free and to realize all these terms, until now hidden beneath the old symbols of property, what must be done? The workers must guarantee one another labor and a market; and to this end must accept as money their reciprocal pledges. Good! Today we say that political liberty, like industrial liberty, will result for us from our mutual guarantees. It is by guaranteeing one another liberty that we shall get rid of this government, whose destiny is to symbolize the republican motto: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” while leaving it to our intelligence to bring about the realization of this. Now, what is the formula of this political and liberal guarantee? At present universal suffrage; later on free contract ... Economic and social reform through the mutual guarantee of credit; political reform through the inter-action of individual liberties; such is the programme of the Voix du Peuple.” We may add to this that it is not very difficult to write the “biography” of this programme.
In a society of producers of commodities, the exchange of commodities is carried out according to the labor socially necessary for their production. Labor is the source and the measure of their exchange-value. Nothing could seem more “just” than this to any man imbued with the ideas engendered by a society of producers of commodities. Unfortunately this justice is no more “eternal” than anything else here below. The development of the production of commodities necessarily brings in its train the transformation of the greater part of society into proletarians, possessing nothing but their labor-power, and of the other part into capitalists, who, buying this power, the only commodity of the proletarians, turn it into a source of wealth for themselves. In working for the capitalists the proletarian produces the income of his exploiter, at the same time as his own poverty, his own social subjection. Is not this sufficiently unjust? The partisan of the rights of the producer of commodities deplores the lot of the proletarians; he thunders against capital. But at the same time he thunders against the revolutionary tendencies of the proletarians who speak of expropriating the exploiter and of a communistic organization of production. Communism is unjust, it is the most odious tyranny. What wants organizing is not production but exchange, he assures us. But how organize exchange? That is easy enough, and what is daily going on before our eyes may serve to show us the way. Labor is the source and the measure of the value of commodities. But is the price of commodities always determined by their value? Do not prices continually vary according to the rarity or abundance of these commodities? The value of a commodity and its price are two different things; and this is the misfortune, the great misfortune of all of us poor, honest folk, who only want justice, and only ask for our own. To solve the social question, therefore we must put a stop to the arbitrariness of prices, and to the anomaly of value (Proudhon’s own expressions). And in order to do this we must “constitute” value; i.e., see that every producer shall always, in exchange for his commodity, receive exactly what it costs, private property not only cease to be theft, it will become the most adequate expression of justice. To constitute value is to constitute small private property, and small private property once constituted, everything will be justice and happiness in a world now so full of misery and injustice. And it is no good for proletarians to object, they have no means of production: by guaranteeing themselves credit gratis, all who want to work will, as by the touch of a magic wand, have everything necessary for; production.
Small property and small parcelled-out production, its economic basis, was always the dream of Proudhon. The huge modern mechanical workshop always inspired him with profound aversion. He says that labor, like love, flies from society. No doubt there are some industries – Proudhon instances railways – in which association is essential. In these, the isolated producer must make way for “companies of workers.” But the exception only proves the rule. Small private property must be the basis of “social organization.”
Small private property is tending to disappear. The desire not merely to preserve it, but to transform it into the basis of a new social organization is extreme conservatism. The desire at the same time to put an end to “the exploitation of man by man,” to the wage-system, is assuredly to combine with the most conservative the most radical aspirations.
We have no desire here to criticize this petty bourgeois Utopia. This criticism has already been undertaken by a master hand in the works of Marx: La Misere de la Philosophie, and Zur Kritik der Politischen Oekonomie. We will only observe the following: –
The only bond that unites the producers of commodities upon the domain of economics is exchange. From the juridical point of view, exchange appears as the relation between two wills. The relation of these two wills is expressed in the “contract.” The production of commodities duly “constituted” is therefore the reign of “absolute” individual liberty. By finding myself bound through a contract that obliges me to do such and such a thing, I do not renounce my liberty. I simply use it to enter into relations with my neighbors. But at the same time this contract is the regulator of my liberty. In fulfilling a duty that I have freely laid upon myself when signing the contract, I render justice to the rights of others. It is thus that “absolute” liberty becomes “commensurate with order.” Apply this conception of the contract to the “political constitution” and you have “Anarchy.”
“The idea of the contract excludes that of government. What characterizes the contract, reciprocal convention, is that by virtue of this convention the liberty and well-being of man are increased, while by the institution of authority both are necessarily decreased.
... Contract is thus essentially synallagmatic; it lays upon the contracting parties no other obligation than that which results from their personal promise of reciprocal pledges; it is subject to no external authority; it alone lays down a law common to both parties, and it can be carried out only through their own initiative. If the contract is already this in its most general acceptation and in its daily practice, what will the social contract be – that contract which is meant to bind together all the members of a nation by the same interest? The social contract is the supreme act by which every citizen pledges to society his love, his intellect, his labor, his service, his products, his possessions, in exchange for the affection, the ideas, the labor, products, service, and possessions of his fellows; the measure of right for each one being- always determined by the extent of his own contribution, and the amount recoverable being in accordance with what has been given ....The social contract must be freely discussed, individually consented to, signed “manu propria,” by all who participate in it. If its discussion were prevented, curtailed or burked; if consent to it were filched; if the signature were given to a blank document in pure confidence, without a reading of the articles and their preliminary explanation; or even if, like the military oath, it were all predetermined and enforced, then the social contract would be nothing but a conspiracy against the liberty and well-being of the most ignorant, the most weak, and most numerous individuals, a systematic spoliation, against which every means of resistance or even of reprisal might become a right and a duty.
... The social contract is of the essence of the reciprocal contract; not only does it leave the signer the whole of his possessions; it adds to his property; it does not encroach upon his labor; it only affects exchange. .....Such, according to the definitions of right and universal practice, must be the social contract.”
Once it is admitted as an incontestable fundamental principle that the contract is “the only moral bond that can be accepted by free and equal human beings” nothing is easier than a “radical” criticism of the “political constitution.” Suppose we have to do with justice and the penal law, for example? Well, Proudhon would ask you by virtue of what contract society arrogates to itself the right to punish criminals. “Where there is no compact there can be, so far as any external tribunal is concerned, neither crime nor misdemeanor. The law is the expression of the sovereignty of the people; that is, or I am altogether mistaken, the social contract and the personal pledge of the man and the citizen. So long as I did not want this law, so long as I have not consented to it, voted for it, it is not binding upon me, it does not exist. To make it a precedent before I have recognized it, and to use it against me in spite of my protests is to make it retroactive, and to violate this very law itself. Every day you have to reverse a decision because of some formal error. But there is not a single one of your laws that is not tainted with nullity, and the most monstrous nullity of all, the very hypothesis of the law. Soufflard, Lacenaire, all the scoundrels whom you send to the scaffold, turn in their graves and accuse you of judicial forgery. What answer can you make them?”
If we are dealing with the administration and the police Proudhon sings the same song of contract and free consent. “Cannot we administer our goods, keep our accounts, arrange our differences, look after our common interests at least as well as we can look after our salvation and take care of our souls?” What more have we to do with State legislation, with State justice, with State police, and with State administration than with State religion?”
As to the Ministry of Finance, “it is evident that its ’raison d’etre’ is entirely included in that of the other ministries. Get rid of all the political harness and you will have no use for an administration whose sole object is the procuring and distribution of supplies.”
This is logical and “radical;” and the more radical, that this formula of Proudhon’s – constituted value, free contract – is a universal one, easily, and even necessarily applicable to all peoples. “Political economy is, indeed, like all other sciences; it is of necessity the same all over the world; it does not depend upon the arrangements of men or nations, it is subject to no one’s caprice. There is no more a Russian, English, Austrian, Tartar, or Hindoo political economy than there is a Hungarian, German, or American physics or geometry. Truth is everywhere equal to itself: Science is the unity of the human race. If science, therefore, and no longer religion or authority is taken in all countries as the rule of society, the sovereign arbiter of all interests, government becomes null and void, the legislators of the whole universe are in harmony.”
But enough of this! The “biography” of what Proudhon called his programme is now sufficiently clear to us. Economically it is but the Utopia of a petty bourgeois, who is firmly convinced that the production of commodities is the most “just” of all possible modes of production, and who desires to eliminate its bad sides (hence his “Radicalism”) by retaining to all eternity its good sides (hence his “Conservatism”). Politically the programme is only the application to public relations of a concept (the “contract”) drawn from the domain of the private right of a society of producers of commodities. “Constituted value” in economics, the “contract” in politics – these are the whole scientific “truth” of Proudhon. It is all very well for him to combat the Utopians; he is a Utopian himself to his finger tips. What distinguishes him from men like Saint Simon, Fourier, and Robert Owen is his extreme pettiness and narrowness of mind, his hatred of every really revolutionary movement and idea.
Proudhon criticized the “political constitution” from the point of view of private right. He wished to perpetuate private property, and to destroy that pernicious “fiction” the State, forever.
Guizot had already said that the political constitution of a country has its root in the conditions of property existing there. For Proudhon the political constitution owes its origin only to human ignorance, has only been “imagined” in default of the “social organization” at last “invented” by him, Proudhon, in the year of our Lord so and so. He judges the political history of mankind like a Utopian. But the Utopian negation of all reality by no means preserves us from its influence. Denied upon one page of a Utopian work it takes its revenge on another, where it often appears in all its nakedness. Thus Proudhon “denies” the State. “The State – no, no – I will none of it, even as servant; I reject all government, even direct government,” he cries “ad nauseam.” But, oh! irony of reality! Do you know how he “invents” the constitution of value? It is very funny.
The constitution of value is the selling at a fair price, at the cost price. If a merchant refuses to supply his merchandise at cost price it is because he is not certain of selling a sufficient quantity to secure a due return, and further he has no guarantee that he will get “quid pro quo” for his purchases. So he must have guarantees. And there may be “various kinds” of these guarantees. Here is one.
“Let us suppose that the Provisional Government or the Constituent Assembly ... had seriously wished to help along business, encourage commerce, industry, agriculture, stop the depreciation of property, assure work to the workers – it could have been done by guaranteeing, e.g., to the first 10,000 contractors, factory owners, manufacturers, merchants, etc., in the whole Republic, an interest of 5 per cent. on the capital, say, on the average, 100,000 francs, that each of them had embarked in his competitive business. For it is evident that the State” ... Enough! It is evident that the State has forced itself upon Proudhon, at least “as servant.” And it has done this with such irresistible force that our author ends by surrendering, and solemnly proclaiming:
“Yes, I say it aloud: the workers’ associations of Paris and the departments hold in their hands the salvation of the people, the future of the revolution. They can do everything, if they set about it cleverly. Renewed energy on their part must carry the light into the dullest minds, and at the election of 1852 [he wrote this in the summer of 1851] must place on the order of the day, and at the head of it, the constitution of value.”
Thus “No more parties! No politics!” when it is a question of the class struggle – and “Hurrah for politics! Hurrah for electoral agitation! Hurrah for State interference!” when it is a question of realizing the vapid and meagre Utopia of Proudhon!
“Destruam et aedificabo,” says Proudhon, with the pompous vanity peculiar to him. But on the other hand – to use the phrase of Figaro – it is the truest truth of all he has ever uttered in his life. He destroys and he builds. Only the mystery of his “destruction” reveals itself completely in his formula, “The Contract solves all problems.” The mystery of his “aedificatio” is in the strength of the social and political bourgeois reality with which he reconciled himself, the more readily in that he never managed to pluck from it any Of its “secrets.”
Proudhon will not hear of the State at any price. And yet – apart from the political propositions such as the constitution of value, with which he turns to the odious “fiction” – even theoretically he “builds up” the State as fast as he “destroys” it. What he takes from the “State” he bestows upon the “communes” and “departments.” In the place of one great State we see built up a number of small states; in the place of one great “fiction” a mass of little ones. To sum up, “anarchy” resolves itself into federalism, which among other advantages has that of making the success of revolutionary movements much more difficult than it is under a centralized State. So endeth Proudhon’s General Idea of the Revolution.
It is a curious fact that Saint Simon is the “father” of Proudhon’s anarchy. Saint Simon has said that the end of social organization is production, and that, therefore, political science must be reduced to economics, the “art of governing men” must give way to the art of the “administration of things.” He has compared mankind to the individual, who, obeying his parents in childhood, in his ripe age ends by obeying no one but himself. Proudhon seized upon this idea and this comparison, and with the help of the constitution of value, “built up” anarchy. But Saint Simon, a man of fertile genius, would have been the very first to be alarmed at what this Socialistic petty bourgeois made of his theory. Modern scientific Socialism has worked out the theory of Saint Simon very differently, and while explaining the historical origin of the State, shows in this very origin, the conditions of the future disappearance of the State.
“The State was the official representative of society as a whole, the gathering of it together into a visible embodiment. But it was this only in so far as it was the State of that class which itself represented, for the time being, society as a whole; in ancient times the State of slave-owning citizens; in the middle ages, the feudal lords; in our own time, the bourgeoisie. When at last it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection; as soon as class rule and the individual struggle for existence based on our present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from these are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a State, is no longer necessary. The first act by virtue of which the State really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society, the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society, this is, at the same time, its last independent act as a State. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The State is not ‘abolished.’ It dies out.”
Last updated on 19.7.2004