Malatesta – Anarchy Part III

This is a continuation of Anarchy Part I and Anarchy Part II, which Errico Malatesta called his greatest work…


“…We know well how in social economy theories are too often invented to justify facts, that is, to defend privilege and cause it to be accepted tranquilly by those who are its victims. Let us here look at the facts themselves.

In all the course of history, as in the present epoch, government is either brutal, violent, arbitrary domination of the few over the many, or it is an instrument devised to secure domination and privilege to those who, by force, or cunning, or inheritance, have taken to themselves all the means of life, first and foremost the soil, whereby they hold the people in servitude, making them work for their advantage.

Governments oppress mankind in two ways, either directly, by brute force, that is physical violence, or indirectly, by depriving them of the means of subsistence and thus reducing them to helplessness. Political power originated in the first method; economic privilege arose from the second. Governments can also oppress man by acting on his emotional nature, and in this way constitute religious authority. There is no reason for the propagation of religious superstitions but that they defend and consolidate political and economic privileges.

In primitive society, when the world was not so densely populated as now and social relations were less complicated, if any circumstance prevented the formation of habits and customs of solidarity, or destroyed those which already existed and established the domination of man over man, the two powers, political and economic, were united in the same hands — often in those of a single individual. Those who by force had conquered and impoverished the others, constrained them to become their servants and to perform all things according to their caprice. The victors were at once proprietors, legislators, kings, judges, and executioners.

But with the increase of population, with the growth of needs, with the complication of social relationships, the prolonged continuance of such despotism became impossible. For their own security the rulers, often much against their will, were obliged to depend upon a privileged class, that is, a certain number of cointerested individuals, and were also obliged to let each of these individuals provide for his own sustenance. Nevertheless they reserved to themselves the supreme or ultimate control. In other words, the rulers reserved to themselves the right to exploit all at their own convenience, and so to satisfy their kingly vanity. Thus private wealth was developed under the shadow of the ruling power, for its protection and — often unconsciously — as its accomplice. The class of proprietors arose, and, concentrated little by little into their hands all the means of production, the very fountain of life — agriculture, industry, and exchange — ended by becoming a power in themselves. This power, by the superiority of its means of action and the great mass of interests it embraces, always ends by subjugating more or less openly the political power, that is, the government, which it makes its policeman.

This phenomenon has been repeated often in history. Every time that, by military enterprise, physical brute force has taken the upper hand in society, the conquerors have shown the tendency to concentrate government and property in their own hands. In every case, however, because the government cannot attend to the production of wealth and overlook and direct everything, it finds it necessary to conciliate a powerful class, and private property is again established. With it comes the division of the two sorts of society, and that of the persons who control the collective force of society, and that of the proprietors, upon whom these governors become essentially dependent, because the proprietors command the sources of the said collective force.

Never has this state of affairs been so accentuated as in modern times. The development of production, the immense extension of commerce, the extensive power that money has acquired, and all the economic results flowing from the discovery of America, the invention of machinery, etc., have secured the supremacy to the capitalist class that it is no longer content to trust to the support of the government and has come to wish that the government composed of members from its own class, continually under its control and specially organized to defend it against the possible revenge of the disinherited. Hence the origin of the modern parliamentary system.

Today the government is composed of proprietors, or people of their class so entirely under their influence that the richest do not find it necessary to take an active part themselves. Rothschild, for instance, does not need to be either M.P. or minister, it is enough for him to keep M.P.’s and ministers dependent upon him.

In many countries, the proletariat participates nominally in the election of the government. This is a concession which the bourgeois (i.e., proprietory) class have made, either to avail themselves of popular support in the strife against royal or aristocratic power, or to divert the attention of the people from their own emancipation by giving them an apparent share in political power. However, whether the bourgeoisie foresaw it or not, when first they conceded to the people the right to vote, the fact is that the right has proved in reality a mockery, serving only to consolidate the power of the bourgeoisie, while giving to the most energetic only of the proletariat the illusory hope of arriving at power…”

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