Sébastien Faure 1934

Exerpts from “The Anarchist Encyclopedia”

Source: L'Encyclopédie Anarchiste, under the direction of Sébastien Faure. Paris, Editions de la Librairie Internationale, 1934;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2005.

The four volumes of the Encyclopédie Anarchiste, edited by Sébastien Faure and written by dozens of anarchists of all stripes, was dedicated “to all those who, braving privations, slander, and persecution, work wherever they might be in order to ensure and hasten the coming of an anarchist society.”

Faure wrote in its introductory note that “the Anarchist Encyclopedia is aimed at the millions of pariahs of all nationalities who suffer from the detestable social organization of which they are, materially and morally, victims.

“They will find enlightenment here, and will find the energy necessary for the time when, animated by the Spirit of revolt, they will have resolved to liberate themselves.

“Neither gods nor masters!”

Deify: verb. Put at the rank of a god. Attribute to an animal or an object a supernatural power. Deification is a sign of ignorance and it is understandable only in the backward ages of humanity, when man had not yet pierced the mysteries of nature and was inclined to deify that which he didn’t understand. It is thus that through ignorance or terror the first men adored the thunder and in order to demonstrate their joy or their recognition they glorified the sun and the stars that brought them light.

Afterwards, when humanity had left the darkness into which it had been plunged and when man, through seeking, arrived at determining the causes of certain phenomena, it elevated itself from the deification of objects, of things to the deifications of his like. It considered as gods the great men of his generation, the kings, the inventors and those who singled themselves out by their discoveries. In a word man, during these centuries, infallibly believed in the power of external forces and made divine those it considered benefactors or capable of exercising a favorable influence on the collective life of humanity.

Even though progress in science and philosophy have in a large measure abolished the practices to which the populations of ancient societies delivered themselves, deification still subsists and we frequently witness the adoration of a noted personality of an era by a people. Just as the ancients placed above all and adored after their deaths — and sometimes when they were alive- certain of their great men, modern populations exalt as gods beings whose value cannot be disdained, but who were men, and only men. In France did we not make of Jaurès a veritable god, and isn’t the same being done in Russia with Lenin? To be sure, we are not so ridiculous as to address prayers to these deified men, but nevertheless the belief of the people is such that during periods of difficulty they imagine that only the presence of these individuals is capable of resolving a material or moral crisis. Pious pilgrimages are organized to the tombs of these new gods, and the cult dedicated to them is such that no one is permitted to doubt their past, present and future power.

Montaigne said: “Those things the least known are those most likely to be deified,” and it is because humans have no confidence in their own force that they always take refuge in some kind of belief or another and they hope that others will do that which seems impossible to them. There is no providence and nothing can be modified by supernatural means or forces. We must have confidence only in ourselves. Unite our efforts: nothing is superior to the living being! Suppress the gods, all the gods. Preserve the memory of those men who, by their will, their foresightedness, or their courage brought their tribute to humanity. But we must not deify them unless we want to fall back into those errors that were so harmful to the evolution of humanity.

Emancipation: Of Latin origin, emancipatio, from the root, mancipium, slave. To emancipate someone is to remove from him the yoke that enslaved him, to free him, to set loose from any form of servitude. To emancipate oneself is to free oneself, to set oneself loose through one’s own efforts. The word emancipation means the passing from the state of enslavement to that of freedom, the act of liberation of an individual, a nation, a class.

The bourgeois give this word a meaning different from that which, for us, has to do with the famous prophecy of Karl Marx: The emancipation of the workers will be the task of the workers themselves. This simple and clear meaning has been adopted by all the true emancipators of the proletariat, by those who don’t contradict themselves by participating in electoral politics after having proclaimed the doctrine of auto- emancipation.

All anarchist propaganda is aimed at this goal: the economic and social liberation of individuals, their individual emancipation.

All the propaganda of revolutionary unions is aimed at the same goal in specifying that they want the complete liberation of the workers, the collective emancipation of the producers.

Both thus want the complete emancipation of those who are exploited and enslaved by the capitalist system. Which is to say that they both identically tend towards a social emancipation that can only end in a revolution such as has never been seen, since the Commune of 1871 was defeated and the Russian Revolution was only able to arrive at the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

Advocating libertarian education, guiding the working masses of the cities, the sea and the fields to administer themselves through agreements is to create a popular mentality appropriate to the concept of a free society of emancipated producers. It means training a generation of individuals capable of organizing a free life for free men.

We think that it is thus that the social emancipation of all should be conceived. But in order to emancipate others it is indispensable to first emancipate oneself, by ridding oneself of all the prejudices concerning hierarchy, discipline, etc, that have nothing to do with Freedom, Accord, and Union for Life.

— G. Yvetot

Heresy: (from the Greek hairesis; from hairen to choose.) Doctrine condemned by the Catholic Church

As soon as it was in possession of a certain power thanks to its recognition by kings and emperors, the Roman church forgot all of the persecutions suffered by its founders.

As soon as it was armed with its redoubtable influence over monarchs and lords, it delivered a pitiless and bloody war against those men who didn’t bow to its commands. The fifteen centuries during which it reigned as the uncontested master in Europe are nothing but a long series of crimes that it perpetrated and committed in the name of religion. There were veritable massacres of entire populations.

The most famous are: the massacre of the Albigensians (13th century), the wars of the Reformation, St. Bartholomew (1572), the dragonnades of the Cevennes, the Massacre of the Innocents.

The Council of Verona (1183) ordered the bishops of Lombardy to deliver to justice those heretics who refused to convert. A little later a secret tribunal was established: the Inquisition, for the seeking out and punishment of heretics. Up till the last century this tribunal sent to the stake, after horrible tortures, people suspected of heresy. In 1766 a young man of 19, the chevalier de La Barre, was decapitated, then burned, for not having saluted a procession and on suspicion of having mutilated a crucifix.

Over the past fifty years the Church has lost much of its influence and aside form Spain, where it still spreads terror, it is almost completely disarmed in confronting heresy. Which is a great good.

Everything that constituted a step towards progress was considered a heresy by the church. Did we not see the Italian mathematician Galileo, for having written a book in which he explained that the sun is the center of the solar system and not the earth, that the latter circled around the sun like the other planets that reflect its light, did we not see this 70 year old man forced to abjure on bended knee in 1633 his so-called heresy? And did he not die blind because of the nine years of semi-captivity inflicted on him by the Inquisition?

At the Council of Trent (1545-1563) the church created a Congregation of the Index, which has as object the examination of published books and their condemnation if they are judged dangerous. Up till the 19th century the effect of its condemnation was to have the book burned...and sometimes its author! This congregation still exists; fortunately its judgments are inoperative.

As we have seen, a heresy almost always contained a large measure of truth.

What is more, the definition given by bourgeois dictionaries suffices to affirm the revolutionary character of heresy.

“False or absurd opinion,” is written in the Larousse.

Is it not thus that all the privileged have qualified the opinions of thinkers who concluded that revolt and the total reorganization of society were necessary?

Anarchism is thus considered a heresy by all political parties, because it demonstrates the harmfulness and duplicity of all the so-called doctrines of all colors.

But it is a heresy that will succeed in prevailing and which will finish by ruining all the commandments of all religious and political churches.

Iconoclast: Means breaker of images (the name image in antiquity applied to all figures, either painted or sculpted). It particularly designates those persons or sects opposed to the adoration of images and pursuing their destruction. Due to this iconoclasm belongs to the history of those religions which admitted and practiced the cult of images.

Around the first quarter of the 8th Century a religious sect was founded which had as its objective the smashing of all the images of saints and the banning of the their cult, This sect of “iconoclasts” was at first approved by the Council of Constantinople in 754.

Approving these acts meant making in large part impossible the task of the Roman church, which has a whole army of more or less miraculous saints to propose to the veneration of the faithful. So the Council of Trent (787) and those that followed pitilessly condemned the sect, which disappeared at the beginning of the following century. Later the Albigensians, the Hussites, the Vaudois and the Calvinists took up the practices of the iconoclasts, for they didn’t recognize the “sanctity” of the apostles.

Extending the meaning of the word, giving it a fuller meaning, the anarchists call themselves iconoclasts. The Compagnon Percheron, in the song La Ronde des briseurs d'images, very precisely explained the why of such an affirmation. Wanting to destroy not only the images of saints, but those of all false gods, of all idols, of all prejudices; bowing before no moral or material authority, the anarchists want to destroy from top to bottom the old society that rules over us. This is why with all their disrespect for established things they are so attached to smashing all images (state, religion, politics, property, bosses, fatherlands, etc) with which the people are still today fooled, and which make slavery last.

Recognizing the high moral import, the great beneficial value of the lives of certain men devoted to science, philosophy, the Revolution, the anarchists sometimes cite as an example and a teaching the works of these precursors. But not wanting to see any kind of predestination in any man, they rise up against any attempt, from wherever it comes, to make legendary personalities of some of them. And they smash all the images of all the secular or revolutionary gods that some- yearning for adoration, and for not very reputable ends- propose to the veneration of the crowd

Individualism: Along with their partisanship and insufficiencies, I love the very stupidities of dictionaries. So I went through the small and great Larousse dictionaries looking for the definition of the word individualism. In both dictionaries I found this by the same author: System of isolation of individuals in society. But in the great Larousse the author specifies: ENCYCLOPEDIA. SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY. Subordinating the good of others to one’s own good, living as much as possible for oneself is to be an individualist. He adds a few superficial notes in order to show that he has read Spencer and Nietzsche.

In the first place, all of this proves that it is permitted to certain men to teach the French language, something they're in ignorance of, since this (anonymous) author doesn’t know that there are no synonyms, which leads him to give the word individualism the definition that applies to a certain egoism, this word being taken in its strictest, most unfavorable, pejorative sense.

This proves that certain men are capable of reading philosophical works without understanding them...unless we are dealing here with bad faith. Anything is possible. In any event, bad faith is nothing but a consequence of stupidity.

Like the word anarchy, the word individualism is a victim. Scribbling watch dogs malevolently use the one for the other the words egoism and individualism, and only give of individualism a skimpy, restrictive and petty conception.

We will here attempt to restore to the word its true meaning.

When the meaning of words isn’t vitiated, individualism is a system that has the individual as base, as subject or as object. Listen to the individualists and you will see that the three aspects of this definition are good. Individualism is thus a system based on the individual, which has the individual as end and the individual as agent.

Let us put that phrase in the plural and think it through. We want humanity’s happiness. But humanity is not a real entity, only the individuals who make it up are real entities. Thus, when I say I want humanity’s happiness I am implicitly saying: I want happiness for individuals. The individual is thus my object. I say individual, I don’t say me.

It could perhaps be opposed to this that looked at in this way all systems are individualist. This would be true if individualism were nothing but that. But in individualism the individual is not only the object, he is also the subject. But before dealing with the individual subject, let us finish with the individual as object.

I believe that everything having to do with the crowd is ephemeral, superficial, illusory and vain. If I were a talented orator it would be easy for me to have a crowd of three thousand people adopt my ably presented opinion. These three thousand people would applaud me “like one man.”

At that moment it is possible to have this crowd commit enormous acts, either heroic or odious. But I would have done nothing that was lasting, because once the enthusiasm had passed and the crowd dispersed, the individuals regain control of themselves or are once again taken over by their cowardice. Thus, if I want to do something lasting I must aim, not at the crowd but among these three thousand beings, at the few humans capable of becoming individuals. Individualism thus applies itself to seeking out, discovering, perfecting individuals.

Let us pass now to the individual agent or subject. It’s hardly necessary to say after what has preceded, that it is not crowds, or societies, but individuals who, each one working with the consciousness of his means and responsibilities, aim not at the entire society but at individuals for the realization of the greatest sum of happiness and the greatest sum of means.

It can be seen that the final goal is the happiness of all through the happiness of each.

Leader: English word (from to lead) passed into common usage. One of those words universally used.

In the English parliament the leader is the member of the assembly who groups around him the men of the same party, of the same opinion, who pursue the realization of the same program. We naturally distinguish the leader of the government from that of the opposition...the leader is the most visible personality of his party.

By extension, we call “leader” the main article of a newspaper. Also, the horse that leads a race, gallops at the head of the others.

In a party one must be careful not to take the leader for the most serious, the most cultivated, the most intelligent man. Often he is nothing but the most versatile, the lowest, the most ignorant. His “superiority” resides in his ability to raise himself to the leading position by the usual political means, i.e., intrigue and a lack of conscience. Being a repetitive loudmouth, or having a tireless flexibility are enough to make of a man the leader of his party. Rare are those who impose themselves through their talents or their convictions; and in the youngest and most enthusiastic movements — like socialism — the Jaurèses and Lenins are exceptions.

Almost all the political leaders of our era were and are nothing but incorrigible blabbermouths and outright scoundrels. And from palinodes to betrayals they have led the masses to discouragement when they haven’t delivered them through their double game to the blows of their adversaries.

— A Lapeyre

Reformism: “Reformism” is the doctrine of those who, while saying they are in favor of a social transformation having as it objective establishing society on principles and foundations opposed to that which exist, propose to arrive at this result by a more or less considerable series of more or less important partial reforms realized within the framework of legality.

“Reformist” is the name that serves to designate a person, group, organization or party that considers the whole of these successive and legal reforms as the best, if not the only means of transforming the social milieu, let us more precisely say, for substituting the collectivist or communist world for the capitalist world.

Those political parties who say they are of the “vanguard” and proclaim themselves revolutionary are all more or less reformist. The more reformist they are, the less revolutionary they are, and — and this is the logical consequence -the less revolutionary they are, the more reformist they are....

The anarchists are frequently accused of professing the doctrine of “all or nothing.” In this accusation there is some truth, but only some. For it is exact that the Libertarians will not declare themselves satisfied and won’t be so until they will have forever smashed all the social obstacles that oppose themselves to their motto: well-being for each and for all; liberty for all and for each. From this point of view it is perfectly true they will fight until not even one stone remains on another of the authoritarian fortress that must be totally destroyed, so that no vestige remains. If it is thus that the doctrine of “all or nothing” is conceived, then it is true, I don’t deny that such is the libertarian doctrine. But it doesn’t at all follow from this that the anarchists don’t take account of the blows that can be delivered, in the efforts that can be accomplished, in the goal of attacking the fortress that they intend to bring down. And even less does it follow that they don’t appreciate the value of these efforts and blows which have as a goal, and could have as a result, the weakening of the solidity, and the diminution of the force of resistance of this fortress. The anarchists are reasonable people with a practical sense. They want 100 and that’s all. But if they can only have 10 they pocket this down payment and demand the rest. They note that the improvements toward which reforms tend are only agreed to by the capitalist and bourgeois rulers on condition that they don’t fundamentally infringe upon the authority of the rulers and the profits of the capitalists. They know from experience that after having been for a greater or lesser time being backed against a wall — buying time is a maneuver in which the leaders excel — the privileged class ends up by granting that which it is in no condition to refuse. They don’t ignore the fact that when a reform touches upon the very bases of the authoritarian mechanism, the state and capitalism, it runs into the desperate resistance of the established powers, and that resistance can only be smashed by a revolutionary outburst. They only put a price on the means directly employed by the proletariat working for its emancipation, and they are certain that in no case, in no conjuncture, will the latter truly free itself without having recourse to the sole instrument of its liberation: the triumphant Social Revolution...

— Sébastien Faure

Violence: The anarchists are tender, affectionate, sensitive. As such, they hate violence. If it were possible for them to hope that they would realize through gentleness and persuasion their concept of universal peace, mutual aid and free agreement, they would repudiate all recourse to violence and would energetically combat even the idea of having recourse to it.

But being practical and realistic — whatever their interested or ignorant detractors might say — the anarchists don’t believe in the magical virtue, the miraculous power of persuasion and gentleness. They have the well thought out certainty that in order to make a living reality of their admirable dream, they must before anything else have done with the world of cupidity, lies, and domination on the ruins of which they will build the Libertarian City. They have the conviction that in order to smash the forces of exploitation and oppression it will be necessary to employ violence.

This conviction is based on the impartial study of History, on Nature’s example, and on Reason.

History — I'm not talking about the history that the thurifers of triumphant force and despotic Power have written, but of that whose furrow the people has dug during the long centuries — that History teaches us that the tears and blood of the disinherited has abundantly flowed, that piled up there are the wounded bodies of countless and heroic victims of revolt; that every reform, amelioration, and improvement has been paid for with bloody battles placing the oppressed against the oppressors; that the masters have never renounced a parcel of their tyrannical power, that the rich have never abandoned a part of their thefts, a fraction of their privileges unless the revolutionary action of the enslaved and despoiled has obliged them to cede to threat, intimidation, or exacerbated public strength. That only riots, insurrections, and bloody revolutions have even a little weakened the chains with which the Powerful weigh down the Weak, the Great the Small, and Chiefs the Subjects.

Such is the lesson that can be drawn from a careful, impartial study of history.

Nature unites its great voice to that of History by placing before our eyes at a given moment the incessant spectacle of violence smashing the resistances that serve as obstacles to the birth or the development of the forces in the process of being transformed and of the forms constantly being renewed which comprises the eternal evolution of beings and things...

Finally, the data of Reason confirm those of Nature and History.

Elementary and simple Reason proclaim that counting on the good will of governments and the rich is pure folly. That the latter and the former, feeling that their privileges are just and that their safeguarding is indispensable for the public good, consider and treat those who attempt to take Power and Fortune from them as evildoers. That if they surround themselves with policemen, gendarmes and soldiers, it’s in order to throw them against their class enemies at the least sign of revolt. That if by chance they consent to curtail anything at all of their exploitation or domination, it’s in order to give up what has to be given up in order to save the rest. But never will they consent to lose everything, and consequently sooner or later this must be taken from them by force. This is what Reason says, in agreement on all points with Nature and History...

I could justify the recourse to anarchist violence by all the considerations tied to cases of legitimate defense.

I could demonstrate that in propagating the spirit of revolt in its many expressions, not excluding that of armed revolt, I remain faithful to the most distant origins of the anarchist movement and its constant tradition.

I could prove that the violence daily exercised by all governments is of a ferocity that could never be surpassed by that whose necessity we call for, and that it causes more misery, sufferings and death than could the most furiously unleashed anarchist violence which we call for.

I could cite the example of a surgeon who, in order to save the entire body amputates a member, and who no one would think of accusing of cruelty.

I could cite that lapidary declaration, that cynical but precise avowal, known by the whole world: Between the partisans and the enemies of the current regime it is nothing but a question of force.”

— S Faure